Unfortunately, it’s part of the work we do at This is Money that means our stories often focus on poor customer service.
When readers come to us for help, they’ve usually exhausted their patience trying to get a company or organization to solve their problem.
From our in-depth investigations, such as the work of Tanya Jefferies and Steve Webb on state pension issues, to the stories of our individual reporters and consumer advocates Tony Hetherington, Sally Hamilton and Helen Crane, fighting corners readership is a key part of what This is Money and our sister publications do.
But as well as holding companies to account, we also try to give praise where it belongs, to the extent that Helen’s Crane on Case column has a regular space for this.
In that spirit, I thought I’d share some great customer service I received this week. Especially since I had prepared myself for battle over the issue, but ended up resolving it quickly and fairly.
Last minute – after the host canceled our one night stay at short notice and we had to pay more for another place, I had to complain to Booking
Last weekend, I returned from my holiday on the south-west Atlantic coast of France with my wife and two daughters, taking a couple of days to road-trip back home.
On Saturday, we planned to dodge the madness of the changeover traffic by spending a day at the beach and then heading a few hours from where we were staying in Les Landes, a region of endless sandy beaches, sleepy towns, and great surf that I highly recommend. – to a town called St Jean d’Angely.
One of the great benefits of the internet for travelers is the ease of finding places to stay a bit off the beaten track these days and I’m a fan of using Booking.com to do that, offering self-catering properties to rent for the night. night, as well as hotels.
In the last week of June, I booked a lovely two-bedroom tiny house in the French town for Saturday night for £84 – pretty good value for a family of four, especially as with full ownership you can also avoid the cost. . of a meal out.
But late last week, I received a message from the property owner, telling me that the bed in the second bedroom was broken and, while hopefully it would be fixed in time, they wanted to let me know and offer me the opportunity to cancel and find somewhere else. place.
I replied that I did not want to do that anytime soon as it was difficult and expensive to find elsewhere. We agreed that we would still stay and use the sofa bed instead if necessary.
I sent a few more messages to check things out and was hoping to arrive as planned, but then at 2am Saturday morning the owner texted me and said I couldn’t stay and they would cancel.
I checked Booking and it didn’t show me as cancelled. So, I replied and said that we had to stay and that we were happy with the sofa bed, since we had no other accommodation at such short notice, only a few hours before our arrival.
The property owner claimed that he could not host us as he had made an insurance claim (presumably for lost income due to the damaged bed) and refused to let us stay.
We had no choice but to find alternative accommodation, which luckily we did nearby through Booking, but that cost us £171-£87 more than our original cost and we hadn’t even been refunded for the initial booking.
As you can imagine, I was determined to get both my money back and the additional difference in price for our night’s stay, which seemed fair.
However, I mentally prepared myself for one of those painful and lengthy customer service battles to do so, to the point that I told Helen Tuesday morning that I might have a Crane on the Case for her.
But here’s the thing: I contacted Booking via their customer service chat on Tuesday at 1:51 PM describing the situation and at 2:46 PM I received a message.
This apologized as the host did not honor our booking, refunded my card in full free of charge and said he would put the £87 difference into my Booking wallet which could be used on future bookings or withdrawn from my bank account.
This was a quick and simple resolution which meant I didn’t run out of money and although I know from strange past history that this isn’t always the case, hats off to Booking for their excellent customer service in this situation. . Bravo.
Gallic charm: our long-awaited night in the city of St Jean d’Angely did not happen
P.S. After my last Easter holiday, I wrote about how some overseas ATMs now seem to charge us hefty flat fees to withdraw money, even if you have a card that offers fee-free foreign withdrawals.
This happened both in Austria and France with my Starling bank card, which offers foreign spending and free cash. Readers responded that they had noticed this happening to them, too.
Some digging revealed that only a few foreign banks are doing this and taking advantage of a post-Brexit loophole to sting the British.
The last time it happened to me in France was with Credit Agricole, but the good news is that I found at least one French bank that doesn’t do this: I took money out commission-free at Societe General and got €100 for £85.93 with no fees.
A small victory, but a victory nonetheless.
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