Moneywise fights for your rights - Thomas Cook, Enterprise and Travelodge
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Thomas Cook’s holiday from hell
Mt husband and I booked a holiday to Cuba with Thomas Cook in February.
When we arrived at the Signature five-star Melia Jardines del Rey in Cayo Coco, staff were unfriendly and didn’t even offer us a welcome drink after a 10-hour flight – but that was the least of our worries. Over the course of the next few days, we experienced problems in the hotel’s restaurants. For instance, fresh fish at the beach restaurant was served half-cooked and in the à la carte restaurants, food was often served cold – a steak main course and seafood pancakes, for instance.
Just a few days into our stay, we both were laid low with vomiting and diarrhoea. When we felt well enough, we asked the Thomas Cook rep if we could move to another hotel.
She suggested we visit the Pestana Hotel. We liked what we saw and decided to switch hotels straight away, but had been told we needed to fill in paperwork before we could move. Our rep was greeting new guests at the airport, so we had to phone Thomas Cook in the UK to get it sorted.
The remainder of our stay at the Pestana was a 100% better. The staff were friendly and the food was cooked how it should be – at least we could enjoy the last few days of our holiday. There was just one niggle – we found out that guests there had paid around £800 a couple less than we had.
We complained while we were there and filled in a customer feedback form. We then sent a letter of complaint to Thomas Cook on our return. When we didn’t hear back, we emailed its chief executive. He did reply the same day, stating that one of his team would contact me within 10 days – I am still waiting three weeks later.
The total cost of the holiday was £2,240 for two adults all-inclusive for 14 nights. We lost a week’s holiday through illness and the poor standards at the hotel. Surely we are entitled to some compensation?
When I contacted Thomas Cook, it responded quickly, offering HM a £1,000 refund within 24 hours. But it is a shame that the company’s customer services department was so slow in dealing with this complaint until Moneywise intervened.
A spokesperson for Thomas Cook says: “We’re very sorry that HM and her husband were unhappy with their holiday in Cuba. We regularly check all the hotels we offer to make sure that our customers experience the highest health and hygiene standards possible. While we are satisfied that the Melia Jardines del Ray Hotel scored highly in its most recent audit [in March 2016], we are addressing the couple’s concerns with the hotel and our team in the resort. We’re pleased that HM has accepted our goodwill gesture.”
HM says: “Someone from Thomas Cook phoned and was very apologetic. My husband and I are happy with the £1,000 refund; it’s just a shame that it has taken so long for the company to contact us, but I can only think that your involvement has helped. I did tell her that my faith in the company has been restored and that I would now consider using Thomas Cook again.”
Caught out by the €850 excess when renting a car abroad
In April, I booked a car online through Enterprise Rent-A-Car and hired it for two days, picking up an Opel Insignia at Avignon railway station in France. On the last day, I was driving along and I nicked something – a pot hole perhaps – and the tyre blew. I called Enterprise’s emergency assistance, who fitted the spare tyre and I drove back to Avignon.
When I got to the Enterprise office and explained that the tyre had blown, staff inspected the car and found no other damage. It was already holding a deposit of €250, but then took a further €600 off my credit card, saying that until its head office had looked into the incident, I owed them the full cost of the excess (€850 or £692 at the time of the accident).
I asked when I might receive a refund, the staff shrugged and said they didn’t know – maybe three weeks if at all. They wouldn’t be drawn on the likely cost. I’m anxious to get a refund. Can you help?
When you hire a car, rental companies will usually include a ‘collision damage waiver’, which is basically car insurance, but it comes with an excess of up to €1,000. If you damage the car, the rental firm will take the whole excess off your credit card, refunding some of it at a later date if the damage is less than the excess it has taken.
To avoid this, you can pay extra for an optional excess waiver, which will be offered by rental firms during the online booking process – £15 a day at Enterprise – though it can be cheaper to take this out yourself through specialist companies such as Insurance4carhire.com
However, the optional excess waiver usually doesn’t cover damage to tyres, which is the case at Enterprise. To protect against this, CR would have had to buy optional roadside assistance protection at £3.95 a day, which allows the renter to waive financial responsibility for glass repair and tyre damage (excluding the rim).
A spokesperson for Enterprise says: “Our terms and conditions make it clear that the renter is liable for the full excess should there be any damage to the vehicle. However, customers are offered excess protection [£15 a day] to reduce the excess from €850 to €150 during the booking process and when they pick up the vehicle.
“When a vehicle is damaged, we withhold a pre-agreed excess and put the vehicle in for assessment and repair by a specialist contractor. Once the repair has been made, we refund the excess minus the repair costs to the customer.”
The damaged tyre cost £266 to replace and, following our call, Enterprise refunded CR the balance of her excess within two weeks.
CR says: “At least I got some money back fairly quickly (Enterprise did say that though it aimed to carry out repairs as soon as possible, it could take up to 90 days). I got back £425.20 of the £692 excess I’d paid, plus the rental cost me £85 – an expensive two days’ hire!”
I want a refund for cancelled Travelodge room
I booked a double room in a Travelodge hotel on Blackpool South Shore, which cost £85.95 for two nights. However, I had to cancel at the last minute because I had to go to court that day on an ongoing case.
I took out cancellation insurance when I booked, but Travelodge has refused to give me a refund. How can I get my money back?
When I spoke to Travelodge, I was impressed with how quickly it handled MA’s case, and how keen it was to resolve the problem.
A spokesperson said that Travelodge had written to MA to explain that as she had purchased room cancellation insurance, she would need to contact the insurer to pursue a claim and that Travelodge simply couldn’t get involved until she had done so.
Its customer services representative also said that Travelodge would make an exception and if her insurance claim was unsuccessful, it would provide her with a complementary e-voucher.
Moneywise arranged for the insurer to send out the claim form, which MA submitted, along with a letter from her solicitor explaining about her court appearance.
However, the insurer said that although MA had an ongoing case at court, as she was not on jury service, her claim was not valid under the terms and conditions of the policy.
As promised, Travelodge offered MA an e-voucher for £85.95 as a goodwill gesture, which she has accepted.
MA said: “We have already used our e-voucher. Thanks for all your help in sorting this out.”
This is more usually a feature of car insurance but it can also crop up in contents, mobile phone and pet insurance policies. An excess is the amount of money you have to pay before the insurance company starts paying out. The excess makes up the first part of a claim, so if your excess is £100 and your claim is for £500, you would pay the first £100 and the insurer the remaining £400. Many online insures let you set your own excess, but the lower the excess, the more expensive the premium will be.
Used by the holder to buy goods and services, credit cards also have a monthly or annual spending limit, which may be raised or lowered depending on the creditworthiness of the cardholder. But unlike charge cards, borrowers aren’t forced to pay the balance off in full every month and, as long as they make a stated minimum payment, can carry a balance from one month to the next, generating compound interest. As the issuing company is effectively giving you a short-term loan, most credit cards have variable and relatively high interest rates. Allowing the interest to compound for too long may result in dire financial straits.