A British couple hoping for a memorable holiday in Skiathos returned to the UK with nothing but bad memories and a bill for a sea-view apartment they never even got to stay in.
Skiathos is popular island which seems to appeal particularly to the British holidaymaker. Miles of golden sand, almost sixty beaches in total, and shallow bays have made it an ideal place for families and couples wanting a relaxing break.
Ken and Dorothy Marlow from Sunderland, were all set to enjoy the delights of this island having spent weeks planning their perfect getaway, leafing through the beautiful pictures in Thomas Cook's glossy brochures. Eventually they decided on 14 nights at the Belvedere Hotel, a popular choice on the island.
Having made their decision, they were disappointed to be told by tour operator Thomas Cook that the hotel was fully booked up. The sales rep then offered the couple a bungalow for an additional £580, explaining that they would have to pay a premium as the building would be under-occupied.
Having read the brochure from cover to cover, Mr Marlow was confident that Belvedere was the place they wanted to be, so agreed to pay the additional charge. The couple agreed that it would be nice to have somewhere larger to 'spread out', and decided the experience would be well worth the extra cash. In total the holiday which started off around £1,118 came to just under £2,000.
On arrival at the Belvedere Hotel & Bungalows at Achladies, Mr and Mrs Marlow were shocked to discover that not only were the Bungalows now not available, there were double rooms in abundance and they were duly marched into the hotel instead.
"This, of course, was what we had wanted all along" commented Mr Marlow, "but a holiday that should have cost £1,118 cost me, somehow, £1,696.86, meaning I was overcharged by £578.86."
Following the couple's return to England, they immediately contacted a representative at Thomas Cook to get a refund for the Bungalow they never got to stay in. Assuming this would be a routine procedure, Mr Marlow happily waited on the phone, before being told that a refund wouldn't be possible. Despite Thomas Cook agreeing that the brochure was misleading, they refused to refund the cost of an apartment which the couple didn't really want, and were never able to even stay in.
This is when the Marlow's contacted their local paper. In our opinion this is always a good step for disgruntled travellers. Even the largest of companies will have a PR team who are determined to uphold a positive image of their company. Once the media starts snapping at ankles, those with a legitimate grievance are often quickly appeased.
This is what finally happened with the Marlows, especially when the Daily Mail online ran the story in full within it's dedicated travel section. Thomas Cook suddenly seemed incredibly keen to help, and not only refunded the Marlows, but rounded up the refund to £700.00. It seems a shame that often companies only react to requests for refunds, when customers contact a media outlet or an ombudsman.
Thomas Cook commented that that the difference between what Mr Marlow was charged and what he should have been charged had been fully refunded, and had occurred due to a data problem between themselves and the Belvedere Hotel & Bungalows at Achladies.
Whatever a 'data problem' actually is, it seems to be a growing problem, with numerous holidaymakers complaining of additional charges, and a disparity between what appears in the brochure and what actually exists in reality. We recommend reading comments from likeminded travellers on the web. A quick search on Google Images can give one a much more accurate picture of a hotel or apartment. Savvy travellers with good IT skills may be able to avoid disappointment with a little bit of online detective work. However, it is arguable whether this would have helped the Marlows in this case.