Here's my letter.... do you think this is good enough? I'm gutted.
I am writing to complain about my recent honeymoon in Thailand which was booked through yourselves.
I spent many months going through brochures to choose the perfect destination and hotels. This trip was booked from 14th May to 1st June to the Royal Orchid Sheraton in Bangkok and the Imperial Boathouse in Koh Samui.
Two days before our wedding, I received a message from Thomas Cook that I should ring them urgently which I did. I was informed that there was minor building work going on at the Imperial Boathouse, but I was assured that this would not affect us and that we had been moved to a room away from the noise. I was extremely concerned about this, however after being reassured and promised that the noise would not disrupt us, I agreed to continue with the holiday as booked. Two days before the wedding I did not have time to even think about looking for an alternative. This telephone conversation caused me increased anxiety due to the proximity in time to my wedding. We were offered no alternatives (cancellation/change to an alternative hotel) so I assumed that this was just a notification of something that wouldn’t affect us and that Thomas Cook were just being safe. With the wedding being so close and having other problems with wedding arrangements, I had no time to think about this. We were 100% assured everything was fine so I trusted Thomas Cook’s judgement.
We arrived in Bangkok on 15th May at about 6am. We were met by a Thomas Cook representative named Jinny. She took us to our hotel and before letting us get settled, started to sell us excursions. We were not particularly happy to consider excursions as soon as we arrived as we had been travelling for 11 hours and we were tired, however we agreed. Jinny arranged to meet us in the hotel foyer 4 hours later for our first excursion. We were very tired so went for a quick sleep. When we went to the lobby we were met by a taxi driver and not Jinny, which is what we agreed. We were taken to a tailors. This was not agreed in our itinerary. Jinny met us outside the tailors and we were then pressured inside by her and the shop staff. Once inside she left us. We were then pressured by staff into buying two shirts. We felt we could not leave without a purchase. We had not intended to buy any items of clothing, however the degree of persistence to purchase was so great, we felt we had no choice. After the purchase Jinny informed us that she would get a free sari because we had bought something. She then said that we should go to a jeweller, as she would get another gift if we did. We were very unhappy and thought her behaviour was very unprofessional. I had had enough by this stage. We said no, as we knew what her plan was.
During our time in Bangkok we felt bullied and pressured into booking the excursions. We also felt the same about the purchases we made whilst in her company. She was friendly and happy if we went along with her wishes, however if we disagreed with her she became hostile and pretended she did not understand. She basically would not take no for an answer. She also offered us an excursion to see the sex shows in which she wanted to charge us 1,000 bahts each. She said not to tell you that she had offered this. We declined this offer and were shocked that she had offered it. It obviously was not an excursion you provide. We felt that she treated us very badly.
When we left Bangkok we were really looking forward to the second part of our honeymoon. When we arrived at the Imperial Boathouse at about lunch time on 18th May, we fell in love with the place. It was exactly how we envisaged and we were very keen to start relaxing and enjoying our honeymoon. We quickly had a look around our room and then went down by the pool. Within half an hour, a loud, annoying banging sound started. It was a constant bang, bang, bang. I asked the staff what it was and they pointed to the building site next door. There were large pieces of construction machinery about 50m high set up along the perimeter and one of these machines was banging something into the ground. The staff said the work and noise went on all day, all week. We were furious. The noise could be heard all along the “quiet” beach, in our hotel room, around the pool, in the reception area, basically everywhere. This was not minimal noise which could be blocked out and there was no getting away from it. We walked around the cove, up into the hills to another hotel which was a good half an hour’s walk away and the noise could still be heard. I have recorded all of this on video on my mobile phone. After a couple of hours we could not stand it any more. I rang Nui our Thomas Cook representative who spoke very limited English and he arranged to meet us at the hotel later that afternoon. I also complained to the hotel manager who agreed to meet us as well.
When the hotel manager Celine met with us, she offered us an upgrade to a honeymoon suite which we looked at, however the noise in that suite was even worse. She sympathised with us. She said that it drove her mad for the first month however “you get used to it”. I asked her how long the work had been going on for and she said “since March”. I would like an explanation as to why we were only informed of the work 2 days before our wedding, and 4 days before our honeymoon was to start. At the time of the booking it was known by Thomas Cook that this was a honeymoon and it is unreasonable to telephone 2 days before our wedding day to inform us of the works, when this had been ongoing for approximately 2 months. Had we received reasonable and sufficient notice we would have chosen an alternative hotel. We were not provided with sufficient notice to choose.
Since this was not the case, when Nui, our Thomas Cook representative met us later in the day, the only solution he could offer to this problem was to move us to the Imperial Samui at the other end of Chaweng Beach. We were unhappy with this decision as we wanted to be in a quiet, secluded bay. The Imperial Samui was in a busy resort. Nui explained that the Samui was more expensive, and that we would have to pay, however he said that we could claim this back from Thomas Cook. He was adamant of this. The hotel receptionist was with him at the time and she agreed with him. By this point I was extremely distressed and unhappy. This was supposed to be a relaxing special holiday, given we had just married. They said we should look at the other hotel, which we did. The hotel was not what we wanted. It lacked the character of the Boathouse, it was in a busier area, it had 100 steps down to the pool and beach area, whereas the Boathouse had no steps. This hotel was not what we wanted – this was our honeymoon and we wanted something special like the Boathouse. We were given no other alternative. Our only options were to stay at the Boathouse with the terrible noise, or move to a hotel that would initially cost us more money, and we would be staying in a hotel that we didn’t like. We had to choose the latter as listening to the noise from 8am until 6.30pm for the rest of our honeymoon was not an option. On the reassurance of Bui that we could simply claim the additional costs back we moved to the Imperial Samui the following day. After this, we didn’t hear from Nui again. He never once contacted us to make sure we were happy. This was extremely poor customer service – there was no customer service.
It took us a few days to settle into our new surroundings as we were both upset and distressed by the trouble we had. We telephoned Thomas Cook in the Bull Ring, Birmingham to explain what had happened. I was telephoned by Matt the Supervisor who assured me that we would get our money back and that if there was any extra charge it would be minimal and to “just pay it” and we could claim it back upon our return. We telephoned a few times during the holiday to see whether anything had been agreed with the Imperial Samui over the extra charge however nobody called us back from Customer Services, the Bull Ring branch or Thomas Cook in Bangkok. We tried to discuss this with the staff at the Imperial Samui however they did not understand our problem.
As our honeymoon came to an end, I rang Thomas Cook on several occasions to try to find out what was happening with regards to the extra charge. I had to call numerous times and it seemed that we were just being left to sort out the problem by ourselves. No one helped us at all. I should not have had to spend so much time trying to sort out these issues, which were caused by yourselves, during a trip which was supposed to be memorable and relaxing.
I did receive a voicemail back from Dan, another Supervisor at the Thomas Cook branch in the Bullring who said that if there was a charge we should pay it, however he didn’t think there would be and told me not to worry. This was completely incorrect as we knew for definite that there was going to be a considerable charge and I was phoning for help! I feel that he was just trying to demonstrate to his manager that he had called. He said he’d left notes on the booking which to me suggested he was covering his back. He offered us no help, advice or useful information whatsoever. The purpose of the call seemed to be to stop my calls by providing false reassurance.
By the last night, I was extremely upset. We had received no help from anybody. The English spoken by the staff, and the Thomas Cook representative was minimal. We were just left to sort this out. I was promised that someone would call us back that night to discuss the situation before we were to check out the following day. We waited up until 2 in the morning for a return phone call which never came. It was unacceptable.
On the morning of our last day, we had to check out at 12 noon. I telephoned again for Customer Services to intervene and was told to pay any additional cost. Customer Services informed me on this occasion that the notes on the booking said that we had moved of our own accord. At this point I burst into tears. We had not moved on our own accord. We were advised to move by the Thomas Cook representative. At no point were we told not to by any of your representatives. We trusted Thomas Cook to help us in this situation and at every point that we needed help we were let down. In our eyes our honeymoon was ruined. We had saved up for 2 years so that we could have a special honeymoon. We didn’t take a holiday for 2 years so that we could save to go to Thailand for our dream honeymoon. Instead it turned into a nightmare. The extra cost of our honeymoon was £780. Nearly half of what we had originally paid. I had to telephone my mum for her to pay on her credit card. She is now extremely upset as this large sum of money is sat on her card. We had no other way to pay this. She was our only option. If my mum had not been there to provide assistance, we would not have had anybody else to rely on so I dread to think what would have happened. I am sure Thomas Cook would have been much more interested in communicating with us in this situation.
I am furious with the inaccurate information we were given before we left. Especially as the building work had been going on for a considerable time previously. I am also furious that we were told the noise was minimal when it was anything but! I am so upset and disappointed with the treatment we received while we were away - from every representative of your company. If your representatives in Thailand do not speak good English how can they be expected to resolve serious problems such as this? It seemed that all Nui was capable of doing as a representative was to sell excursions. The behaviour was totally unprofessional and unacceptable.
Based on the above I am demanding that you reimburse us for the cost of the excursions in Bangkok which amounted to approximately £150. I also demand the £780 that my mum had to pay for on her credit card and any interest that accrues from the payment being made to the time this problem is resolved. I also request the cost of the telephone calls made from ourselves to Thomas Cook and also between myself and my mum from our mobile phone when discussing these issues. I am also expecting some form of compensation for the stress, upset, inconvenience and loss of enjoyment caused to what was supposed to be the best holiday of our lives. Our honeymoon was ruined and I hold Thomas Cook responsible.
The reason that we booked through Thomas Cook was for peace of mind. I worked for Thomas Cook for over a year as a travel agent. I could have booked this trip independently. I was more than capable of doing this. However I chose to book through Thomas Cook Signature to ensure that our honeymoon was perfect. This did not happen. When we think of our honeymoon all we can think of are the problems we had and the upset it caused.
If you do not rectify this to our satisfaction I will have no alternative but to contact the Consumer Affairs Department at the Association of British Travel Agents and proceed down that route instead. If necessary we will appoint an Arbitrator and claim against both the travel agent and the tour operator.
I recognise that you are entitled by law to have 28 days to respond to my letter. I trust I will hear back within this time.
Enc. CD footage of building works
c.c. Manny Fontenla-Novoa, Thomas Cook, Chief Executive (inclusive of CD)
Consumer Affairs Department, Association of British Travel Agents (inclusive of CD)
Allan Holland, Producer, BBC Watchdog (inclusive of CD)