When going on holiday I find that it is the little things that make all the difference, don’t you?

You know what I mean – the little extras that make your accommodation, and thus your trip, that much of a nicer place to be.  Those things that make your life that much easier, and a true break for you and your family.

We have just come back from a lovely holiday to Daylesford.

When we book a holiday, we always book self catering and we always book something with airconditioning.  Having a child on the spectrum means we have to think of these sorts of things.

But sometimes, things don’t go to plan.

We arrived at the booking agent to collect the keys to the villa we had booked.  We decided to stay close to town so that when Master J, nearly 17 now, wanted to go on one of his walks – three every single day – we weren’t in an isolated region where my paranoia would wreak total and utter havoc.  This came at a sizeable cost.

It was hot when we arrived, 38 degrees and climbing.  I could not wait to get into our air-conditioned villa and later soak in the hot tub that wouldn’t be that hot because we would have turned off the heating element.

Oh no, that villa isn’t air-conditioned,” the lovely lady sweetly told us.

It definitely said it had air-conditioning,” I protested.

No,” she said, looking at her computer screen, “it definitely says ceiling fans only.

Having a child on the spectrum means that planning is of the utmost importance.  A week of extreme temperatures were forecast, with fires raging through South Australia, the next state over, already.  As I let the words sink in of a week of such temperatures and nothing more than two measly ceiling fans to cool us, I started to get agitated.

I grabbed my phone to download the listing on the accommodation website through which we had booked.  I knew it would be futile.  At this time of year we would be really lucky to find somewhere else.  Being in the country meant very little reception and the website wouldn’t load.

But we booked an air-conditioned villa,” I protested again.

Don’t worry,” she said, again sweetly, “the ceiling fans have been on all day, and a lovely breeze will be blowing in there.

Mr C squeezed my arm, which is his way of saying “please don’t make a scene.”

Once in the car, hot and extremely irate, I expressed the fact that we should have pressed the matter and demanded a place with an air conditioner.

It will be fine,” he said.

We arrived at the villa and as soon as we opened the door a wall of heat greeted us.  True to her word, the villa ceiling fans were indeed going like the clappers.  But it didn’t matter, all they were doing was passing around 38 degree heat, that felt even hotter inside.

Master J felt it too.

It’s stinking hot in here.  And it’s so tiny.

It was true.  The photos on the online listing made it look so much bigger than it actually was.  The bedrooms were large, but the living space was tiny indeed.  It felt like we had been duped.

I managed to log on and get a copy of the features listed on the website.  Sure enough, there it was – AIR CONDITIONING!

Original Stayz Listing

Mr C reminded me that we were booked during peak season, that we were tired, that finding a place during the high season with our list of requirements was going to be nigh on impossible and we were NOT driving back to Melbourne after demanding a refund we were highly unlikely to get.

After a couple of hours, I phoned the booking agent.

I didn’t even try to hide my irritation.  “I’m sorry but the two ceiling fans are not going to cut it.  We would never have booked this villa had we known that there was no air conditioning.  Can you at least send over a couple of standing fans to create a bit of a cross breeze?

We tried to open the windows as a breeze had started outside.  Unfortunately there were no screens on the windows which meant that we were unable to open the windows if we wanted the inside to remain bug free.

A man arrived with the fans.  By this time, we had also tried the TV which didn’t work, so he set about trying to fix that too.

As we unpacked the food for a family of three/four we realised with dismay that the fridge was little more than a bar fridge and that in this heat the majority of what we brought would not go in the fridge and would likely spoil.

As we continued throughout the house, we realised that whilst it “looked” well appointed, it was in fact miserably lacking; the ironing board didn’t work, the shower leaked, the potato peeler didn’t work, the sharp knife wasn’t sharp, there was no bread knife.  In fact, despite appearances the entire accommodation made our stay far harder than it needed to be, especially for the money we paid.

I checked the listing again.  They had changed it!

Altered features listing

They had removed about half the features including the air conditioning.  Luckily, though I don’t know why really, I had taken a screen shot of the before features listing and now had an after features listing shot as well as well.

I have no idea what to do with it mind you.

Customer service is so woefully lacking in this country.  We whinge, we complain, but we have no teeth against the people that have our money and deliver far less than they promise.

We paid for Gold class tickets recently, and our host forgot to come and get us meaning we missed the start of the movie.  When I wrote to complain, I received a letter thanking me for letting them know.  Whilst I appreciated the letter of acknowledgement, what I rightfully expected was a refund since my experience was not Gold Class at all.

A couple of weeks ago I bought a rotating hair drier.  Such was the force of the rotation that I ran the risk of it  pulling the hair out of my wig.  I returned the drier, but not after I was humiliatingly interrogated in a shop full of people, as to why I had bought it in the first place if I knew it was a rotating drier and had I used it because then they couldn’t resell it and thus refund me the money.

I had to return a pair of glasses for the third time as the optometrist had given me the wrong prescription.  When I asked for a refund on lenses I no longer needed, I was accused of trying to garner a discount and that the reason I had been given the wrong prescription is that I had answered the questions incorrectly!!  When I responded with removal of my business I was met with “Well, that’s your choice.”

And therein lies the problem.  We are treated, as customers in this country, with disdain.  We are treated as if everyone is wondering around trying to get something for nothing, as if we are stealing something by asking to get what we actually paid for when it wasn’t delivered.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

I grew up in South Africa.  When I lived there, customer service was incredible.  It was valued and highly regarded.  It also garnered incredible customer loyalty, the lynch pin of any business.

Look at Apple.  How many of us oo and ah at the service you receive in that store.

My friend recently collected a new Ford and despite it being a small entry level car, they made her feel like a million dollars.  There was tea, cake, an unveiling of the car and a sign with her name on it.  You can bet your bottom dollar she will buy Ford again.

Customer service is about creating an experience for your customer that they will never forget.  It doesn’t cost a lot.  But it lasts a long time.  It creates life time loyalty. It is a worthy investment.  Believe me.

We ended up having a lovely holiday despite our accommodation.  I still feel cheated.  The nightly rate was in no way reflective of what we actually received, plus there was false advertising which the booking agent then tried to cover up.  It was dishonest and that soured the experience.  I will never use them again.  Ever.

Please know this:

If we buy something that is not “fit for purpose”, our statutory right says that we are allowed to return it within a period of time.  If we pay for a service that does not deliver what we paid for, we are entitled to a refund.  Please, please fight for your rights.  Please keep pushing for better service.  It will not change if we don’t push for change.  We are not asking for anything to which we aren’t entitled.  We are asking for the retail industry to stop, to stop not delivering what people have paid for.

How has your customer experience been lately?  Has it changed recently do you think?  And if so, why do you imagine that would be?

Have a super day,


SHW Signature