With the coming of the digital and Internet age, everything seems to revolve around the internet these days. Be it booking train tickets online to buying a car battery online, and yes I did replace my car battery by ordering it online. Due to my habits and hobby of extensive travelling I have started doing everything on the net, initially it was with a computer then a laptop and now with my mobile. Things have become much smoother and any information or reference that you want can be easily looked and referred online.
I have been booking hotels and home stays since 2010 by using various aggregator portals. Usually, I would like to choose a locality which would be easily accessible from the airport or train station followed by the distance the place is from the tourist attractions in that particular city.
Apart from this I usually like to see the ratings and comments by other travellers. These are very helpful since these are a real first-hand report from actual travellers. Once I was about to book a hotel which claimed quite near to the railways station but a review from a traveller informed that the road in front of the hotel cannot be accessed by any vehicle directly and can only be accessed by a scooty or a two wheeler due to its close proximity to temple as traffic is barred. Without this key piece of information, I would have landed up in a mess middle of the night.
All these years my extensive research before booking any hotels proved critical in getting the best deals and also getting the right comfort. Only once in my life did I leave my guards down and boy I was in for a hell ride.
This incident happened recently when I had to reach Chennai for a short pit stop before catching a flight back to Kolkata. I was extremely busy during the trip and was unable to do the basic research about the hotel and its services.
So let me begin my ordeal…
The train reached Chennai Egmore station at around 5 AM in the morning, being the month of October the sun was yet to come out and dawn was just slowly breaking. The hotel was just hundred meters from the station so we just walked the way. It is to be noted here that the hotel on different travel websites is mentioned as a three-star hotel with an average but there were no reviews for this particular hotel.
As we were entering another big group with approximately thirty members in a bus who were transiting entered the hotel. With just one person in the reception, all hell broke loose. The tour operator with the bus wanted the pre-assigned room keys but the receptionist was unable since the pre-assigned rooms were already occupied. I waited for this commotion to come down and it took nearly thirty minutes for the receptionist to assign rooms to the group.
It was my turn finally and I approached the reception for a double bed air-conditioned room which was costing me Rs. 2000 for a day. This was good enough as I had planned to just use the hotel room to freshen up. At once I was assigned a room and after filling up the necessary forms was up along with my family in a rickety elevator to the second floor of the building.
The bell boy who was supposed to assist us was just standing with his hands inside the pocket, he never even offered to take the luggage from our hands. The room was opened and instantly the stench of moisture filled room hit my nose. This is forgivable as air-conditioned rooms do feel but stuffy if not used for some time. As I unloaded the bags from my shoulder and was about to sit on the bed I realised that the white bed sheets were yellow (which were supposed to be white) and the blankets had several holes of various diameter. Some were even hastily stitched with multi coloured threads.
These were nothing and what was coming next was a shocker. The toilet was equally dirty and the white tiles were mostly stained. As I tried to operate the flush I realised that the flush cistern was just a show and it did not function, in fact, there was no mechanism inside it.
At once I informed the reception of changing the room and after an apology, I was shifted to another room in the same floor, this was bigger but the stench and condition of the room were similar. Before settling, I decided to check the toilet and again the flush did not work. The attendant this time informed that the flush works and it’s just that overhead water tank was empty and the pump had just been started and the water would flow soon.
After the assurance, we unpacked limited luggage as our flight back was in the evening and decided to just have a quick shower. We have a relative and common friends in Chennai and had to pay them a visit so had decided to just take showers and head out.
Even after waiting for thirty minutes the water did not come, surprisingly the water in the wash basin was flowing but not in the shower or the cistern. Since we did not want to waste time we brushed our teeth and headed out for a quick breakfast and then would take a shower.
Even after our thirty minutes of breakfast could not solve the water issue. Water was only flowing from the wash basin. After repeatedly complaining the receptionist sent an attendant with another room key belonging to a suite. He requested us to use the shower of the other room till the water issue is sorted out. With no other option and a tight schedule we obliged.
At around nine in the morning, we left the hotel to meet our friends and relatives in Chennai and would only return at around five in the evening as we had to head towards the airport. Surprisingly the water was still missing in the taps.
Furious that I can be I headed straight to the reception and demanded that I get water in the toilet. At once, the receptionist called someone and within a minute a person with a bulb, electric tester, wire cutter and a wire plus arrive at our door. He is an electrician and I had no idea why he had come to fix the plumbing. For the next half an hour he tries a various trick and finally declared that the pipes are blocked. He then took another thirty minutes opening and closing various valves and finally the water arrives at six in the evening exactly at the time we were checking out of the room.
I thanked him for his quick service and headed to the reception for the checkout formalities. The receptionist makes the final bill and I am given a bill of Rs. 4800 inclusive of tax. Shocked I asked her about the price jump, it’s then she informs me that we were given a suite and that room was costing more. Initially, I tried to make her understand that the receptionist in the morning had given us the suite just to take a shower but she refused to believe that.
I could not take it any longer and the next ten minutes were just non-stop verbal attack. Once that stopped the receptionist agreed to settle for the original amount.
So this lesson in my life has taught me that everything at your fingertips is good but one needs to be careful and use personal judgement sometimes. I will still book hotel rooms online but would always double check with reviews and ratings from other travellers.
This is a personal rant thus I am not mentioning the name of the hotel here just to be neutral.