Tony Hetherington is Financial Mail on Sunday’s ace investigator, fighting readers’ corners, revealing the truth that lies behind closed doors and winning victories for those who have been left out-of-pocket. Find out how to contact him below.
Mrs J.T. writes: I used booking.com to make a reservation at the Carlton Hotel in Folkestone, trusting the description on the website. What a nightmare.
The room was awful, with a horribly stained carpet, a cracked basin held together with tape, and spores visible in the shower.
We asked for a different room, but this reeked of marijuana. The manager took almost an hour to appear, and told us he was not allowed to refund the £126 we had paid as the reservation was made through booking.com. We returned home to Lowestoft.
Much-maligned: The Carlton Hotel in Folkestone is the subject of many poor customer reviews
I rarely get involved in problems about holidays and hotels. One person’s nightmare might be another’s dream vacation. But when I looked to see what others had said about the Carlton Hotel, I could not resist stepping in.
True, there are some complimentary reviews. But they seem to focus on the sea view, car park and local walks. When it comes to the hotel itself and its rooms, TripAdvisor’s customer rating says 138 guests rated it ‘poor’, while 455 rated it ‘terrible’.
One guest went out and bought a new shower curtain, a fresh toilet brush and a lot of bleach. Another reported: ‘Room was damp, bed was damp… toilet not bolted to floor properly, bathtub had unexplainable stains’.
Mould, smells and stains gain frequent mentions. One guest detected ‘curry, mould and cannabis in both our rooms’. Another wrote: ‘The carpet was so horrible that I didn’t walk barefoot even for a minute.’ And a third tops this with: ‘The most disgusting room we have ever seen. Vomit and blood on walls.’
One review condemns the Carlton as an ‘absolute hell hole’, saying: ‘I’ve just walked out of this hotel after being given a room that had not been serviced after the last guest departed… filthy, bed unmade, used towels on the floor, even the toilet was unflushed.’
More than one guest slept fully dressed on top of the bed rather than get into it. And one reviewer recommended the hotel for fans of the horror film The Shining, adding: ‘We decided not to bother showering as we felt we would have come out dirtier.’ In that vein, another guest said: ‘Maybe I will book again for Halloween.’
Grim hospitality? One guest detected ‘curry, mould and cannabis in both our rooms’
Some reviewers resorted to dark humour: ‘As we live in a damp, cold cave in Mongolia, this hotel was just like being at home. We were worried it would be too homey and clean, but thank goodness we have a room as clean as a Kenyan mud hut.’
Another says: ‘Would definitely recommend to all people who want to stop in a hotel in Folkestone with the atmosphere and amenities of a shed in Beirut.’
If anything, these comments seem unfair to Kenyan mud huts and Beirut sheds. So, is this Britain’s most horrid hotel? The Carlton failed to comment. But for me, the puzzle was why using booking.com meant the hotel could not refund you.
Well, booking.com said it was incorrect to say it had any control over refunds.
‘This is entirely a matter for the hotel,’ the agency told me.
However, in view of your experience, a full refund is on its way, courtesy of booking.com.
Surely Avis wouldn’t forge a signature…
J.H. writes: I read with interest your report about extra car hire charges imposed by Avis at Girona airport in Spain.
I have a similar tale of £542 charged by Avis at Nice airport in France for services and insurance that I did not order, but for which I supposedly signed.
Driving people crazy? Previous customers have complained of extra car hire charges in Spain
You have given me photocopies of two pages from Avis, both carrying your signature, one verifying the booking, the other authorising costs.
What stands out is that the signatures are absolutely identical, down to the size of the letters and even including a tiny blot. And while the first signature is time stamped at 10.35am, the second shows 11.28am.
Despite this, Avis insists that your signature was not copied, that you did sign both documents and that you requested lots of expensive extras.
The hire company told me: ‘The difference in time was due to Mr H signing the rental agreement at local time in France, and our third party verification company processing the signature in UK time.’
It would be interesting to know if other readers have had a similar experience.
I’ve never used a credit card, yet I owe Barclaycard £6,000
N.T. writes: For more than three years, I have been hassled by Link Financial, wanting me to part with almost £6,000. Statement after statement says I owe £5,897, borrowed from Barclaycard.
But I have never even used a credit card, nor obtained any loan, except my mortgage with Halifax. Link will never receive a penny from me, but am I to put up with this for the rest of my life?
Mysterious debt: Stolen identity and a pre-Christmas shopping spree likely occurred in 2012
According to Barclaycard, your account was opened in October 2012 but was used only up to December of that year, when the card company says you made one payment towards the balance due.
In August 2013, Barclaycard sold to Link the right to collect whatever it could from you, though you do not appear to have heard from Link until 2016.
I had hoped that Barclaycard could produce your application, but apparently it was made online, so was never signed. And your bank statements for 2012 show no record of any payment to Barclaycard, deepening the mystery.
Even more curious is that Barclaycard told me it spoke to you on the phone in 2013, and you allegedly said you were in difficulties with your creditors. But when it called back, the number was unavailable. The most obvious explanation is that someone stole your identity back in 2012 and went on a pre-Christmas shopping spree before vanishing.
Link did not offer any comment, but I can report that it has an address for you in Manchester, where you have never lived.
In light of this, Barclaycard has now written off the debt entirely and informed Link.
The debt was shown on your credit agency file, but this has been removed and you should hear no more about it.
If you believe you are the victim of financial wrongdoing, write to Tony Hetherington at Financial Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TS or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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