The following tale is one of pure and unadulterated woe. It details how the wonders of modern technology and globalisation can fall flat on their face and cause some old-fashioned and extremely localized problems. The story begins in my girlfriend's apartment on her couch as we flicked between various websites in our search for hotels in Marseiile. It was an arduous process. We were looking for something modern and relatively close to both the train station and the Old Port - we also didn't want to pay too much. Eventually, we found a great deal - or what appeared to be a great deal - on hotels.com. We found the 3-star All Seasons Hotel (Part of the Accor chain) in Timone, which is just 10 mins from the main attractions in Marseille, for 65 Euros. That was with breakfast.
Having spied such a bargain, we were quick to book. We did this through hotels.com and quickly received confirmation via email. Everything was good. Or so we thought. As soon as our virtual transaction turned real, our problems began. The money had been charged to my girlfriend's account, when we arrived at the hotel, they had no record of our reservation. They had neither our names nor our booking reference on file. And, the hotel was fully booked.
The receptionist at the All Seasons - a very nice Korean lady named Clarisse - was very understanding about this. She checked all her bookings and even phoned hotels.com for us. This was where the problems began to escalate. Hotels.com had booked us into the wrong hotel. As my girlfriend argued with one of their customer service representatives they offered us a number of alternative hotels, none of which were as good as the All Seasons and none of which served breakfast. My girlfriend explained that we would not be happy unless we got something equivalent to what we had paid for. Hotels.com said they would call us back.
After 20 minutes or so, we received a call from the head office in the US. A customer service representative told us how sorry he was and claimed that he would do everything to fix the problem. He said he had made reservations for us in a suite at the Holiday Inn with a complementary buffet breakfast. This sounded great. So, I asked him where it was, "Three kilometers from where you are" he assured me. At this point I hung and googled the Holiday Inn on my phone. I got two nasty surprises. First, it was 20km away. Second, it was not a special rate. The regular price was actually less than the price at the All Seasons.
We called them again. The following hour was taken up with various different people putting us on hold and transferring us repeatedly. My girlfriend did extremely well to keep her cool as he was asked to explain the situation at least six times. Eventually, we decided that there was no other option than to simply cancel our reservation and find somewhere ourselves. It was a horrible process. It was made even worse by the fact that we were on a week-end break, which meant that time was very much an important issue for us.