Tales from the Riverbank

Comment, Journal

Tales from the Riverbank

When I made the reservation at the Park Plaza Riverbank a couple of weeks back I was booking rooms for myself and two colleagues at the same time. This shouldn’t have been a task of complexity for someone proficient in the handling of booking hotel reservations.

However, it didn’t come as a complete surprise when I called to check the booking to find that the person who had taken my original call had messed it up. In fact, it took three runs through the process during my check-up call to get the bookings as they should be. Hardly confidence inspiring, but hardly surprising, either, considering over 90% of the staff seem to originate from eastern Europe.

Now I have nothing against foreigners coming here in search of employment, but if they cant fully understand instructions – or at least understand them enough to be successful – then they end up being the cause of frustration. I wouldn’t expect to be successful if I went to, say, France and tried to get on without a firm grasp of the language.

So, I had checked in on Tuesday, and asked if there had been a cancellation that I could have for the coming Saturday night, which I wasn’t covered for because they’d been fully booked for that night when I originally made the reservation. The girl who served me was pleased to tell me that they had a room available now and my two seperate reservations could be rolled together, giving me a room until the following Wednesday. Perfect.

With that all going so well, I asked for a room change on Wednesday morning because I had been kept awake by trains running nearby. I had packed up all my belongings in anticipation of being granted the change, and was told by Diego at reception that my luggage would be moved to my new room for me.

When I got back to the hotel after work that evening, I was told by Tobius that my new room was in order, but that my luggage had not been moved because it was not packed as expected. So, off I went up to the tenth floor to move my own luggage down to the second floor, only to find that the key card for my original room did not work. Puzzled, I thought I’d check out my new room before going down to reception. The door for that opened fine with the new card and there inside sat my luggage. Hmmm.

Evidently there had been a failure in communication between two or more of the staff that led Tobius to believe my luggage was still in the other room. Other than a wasted trip in the elevator it hadn’t put me out, so I shrugged it off and sat down in the new room to do some work on my laptop.

A couple of hours later I decided to go down and return the key card for the old room and make arrangements for Fliss coming to visit for the weekend. I’d need a bed for Elisha, plus a spare key card and breakfast made available for Fliss. Franzeska (I kid you not) was able to organise this without too much trouble, although did have a bit of a problem trying to understand another foreigner when she called housekeeping to arrange the baby cot. Even so, it appeared to go well and I left with two key cards for my room.

The next day, Fliss was able to collect her card and get into the room, but in the process of her collecting the second card the staff had managed to deactivate my card. Never mind, I thought. These things happen. The cot was in the room and that was the important thing.

Everything was going well until today, when we had a knock at the door from somebody wanting to take the baby cot away. We told them they couldn’t because we were staying for a few days yet, and this particular foreigner went on his way. My suspicions were aroused at this point, because I remembered the trouble Franzeska had when she had tried to secure the cot for us. This would be the tip of the iceberg, I thought.

A short while later we received a call on the room phone from someone telling us to go and speak to Nadine on reception regarding our reservation. This had my “oh-oh” needle hitting the high values right away, but after going down to check, it turned out that Nadine did not know of any problem and said our reservation was fine. “Everything is fine.” She clearly said with an eastern European accent.

So we went out for a walk in the rain along the Thames, deciding that the queue for the Aquarium was too long to bother with and having a meal in The Mullberry Bush – a pub we’d been to a few times when we lived down here.

Upon our soggy return, we made our way to the room to discover that neither of our key cards worked. They’d gone and locked us out of our room with all of our stuff in there. Stomping back down to reception to tell Nadine that she was an idiot, we found the lobby completely over-run with people checking in for a wedding that was happening in one of the function suites.

Fortunately for Nadine I couldn’t be bothered waiting in line and went to the bar for a £4.50 pint of fresh orange and lemonade that the latest ‘fugee didn’t know how to make;

“You want one glass of orange and one glass of lemonade?”
“No. I want a pint glass with fresh orange and lemonade in it.” I explained.
“You want them in the same glass, mixed together?” He asked with a quizzical expression.
I glared in contempt and nodded.
“You want ice in it, too?” He asked.
“Why not. Yes. Ice would be good.” I said, originally thinking of breaking off communications after the first two words, but realising this would cause more trouble than it was worth.

After sipping for a while on my drink, I ventured round to reception to have it out with Nadine. I still had to queue, because despite having four staff on reception it was taking an age to deal with everyone because every single fucking transaction was being hamstrung by communication problems. Time and again I heard fellow guests struggle to make themselves understood as I waited patiently.

When I finally got to speak with Nadine it turned out that they wanted me to settle the bill for the first part of my stay because my reservation had originally been for two seperate stays.

“And you locked us out of our room for that?!” I said, incredulous. “We’re here until Wednesday, and you assured us earlier today that ‘everything was fine’.”
“I apologise for that sir.” She said, bereft of all charm.
“I’m sure you do, but it still happened and it’s absolutely ridiculous.”
“It should not have happened sir, but would you be able to settle the first part of your bill now?” She said, presenting me with an itemised bill – the first line of which comprised of “£169 for Banquet meals”.
“What on earth is that?” I asked.
“For the catering for the conference room you booked.” She replied coldly.
“Look. I did not book any conference room. I did not ask for any catering. But what I am getting is tired of this. I’d also like the orange juice charge removed from the bill, because that was actually a sour glass of milk left in the mini bar by the previous guest which I removed this morning because your housekeeping staff did not.” I seethed.
“Very well sir, I shall remove those items from your bill and investigate further. Would you like your bill in an envelope sir?” Nadine fumbled.
“Yes I would.” I answered.

Nadine printed out a new bill, which I settled with my credit card. She then stapled the receipt to it and handed it to me with a smile. A smile, for fucks sake.

“Will there be anything else I can do for you now, sir?”

“Yes.” I hissed. “Put it in an envelope.”

Nadine quickly did so, before I left her and the rest of the immigrants to get on with fucking up the stay of other people at the Park Plaza Riverbank. However, with four nights until we check out, I’m fairly certain I’ll be back down there dealing with yet more ineptness from the eastern bloc.