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It’s long been said that a picture paints a thousand words, and that’s never truer than when your holiday accommodation turns out to be worlds apart from the way it was depicted on the establishment’s website.

Holiday stay gone wrong? Take photos!
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Listen to Wendy's on-air segment or read the full story below the podcast.


Many people complain to me about shoddy holiday accommodation - typically they make a booking and pay a deposit based on what they've seen and read on the establishment’s website, but when they get there, they are horrified by what they find.


Often the problems are quality issues - the pool has gone green, there’s damp on the walls, bedding and towelling is awful, security is lacking - missing burglar guards, windows not latching etcetera - and the furnishings are nothing like those they saw on the website.


The first question I always ask is: “Did you take photos?” and mostly they say: “No, sorry, we didn’t think to do that, we just wanted to get out of there". Or they say, yes, and send me really bad quality ones, which don’t prove much.


Nelville's less-than-luxurious holiday experience 

But Neville Petersen was different. He did take photos of the accommodation block he and family were put into for their weekend stay in November, to celebrate his wife’s birthday. Lots of them, and all excellent quality.


On November 26, having just returned home after checking out of Mont aux Sources hotel after just one night, Neville sent an email to the customer service division of Orion Hotels, which owns Mont aux Sources, copied to the hotel’s general manager, documenting his experience in words and photographs.

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“Help me out here, he wrote. Where on your website are the photos that reflect our experience?”

“How can you possibly allow any guests to stay in such a room, after they looked at the official imagery and imagined a stay that would've been unforgettable - now it is unforgettable due to all the wrong reasons.”

Blatant misrepresentation is what he called it. And if you look at the photos, it hard to disagree.

“Close that whole pathetic hovel to the public until such time as a complete upgrade and overhaul is possible,” he said.

“Do not rob me or any other member of the public of our hard earned cash and dump us in a mould infested, grotty room - while you claim to be a luxurious venue. 


“There are motels on the N2 which are in better shape.”

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The photos he took of that section of the hotel accommodation are indeed shocking.

Before they even got to the room this was evident, Neville told Consumerwatch.

“It was raining heavily when we arrived and that narrow entrance in my photo had a stream of water gushing through the broken gutter onto us and our luggage as we tried to enter..”

Neville got acknowledgments of his email from a couple of Orion employees, but nothing further - certainly no refund of his one night’s stay, R1250.

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Orion Hotels responds 

That’s when he forwarded that email to Consumerwatch. I raised the matter with Orion Hotels during the height of the festive season so it was some time before I got a response.


Finally, Orion Hotel’s PR officer Vishal Ramphal got back to me, and began by apologising for the fact that the complaint hadn’t been escalated to him earlier.

“We take the matters very seriously and I assure you that I will get to the bottom of this,’ he said.

“We accept responsibility for the matters raised. We would also like it to be known that we are hard at work rectifying such issues and complaints. This situation is truly regrettable.”

Neville has since been refunded in full.


He has also received a written apology from the hotel’s general manager, Andrew Smith.

The room in question was a standard room as opposed to a luxury room, he said, “possibly we need to differentiate more clearly between the two standards.”

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He also offered him a complimentary stay in the hotel, which Neville has declined.


“That whole wing needs a drastic revamp,” he told me. “It looks like an abandoned government hospital - mouldy and decrepit.”


The thing is, I would have had a hard time arguing the case had it not been for Neville’s photographic evidence.


So, always, always back up your consumer issues with evidence in the form of photos or videos or sound recordings, depending on the circumstances.


And before you make a booking and pay a deposit, do some detective work. Google the establishment’s name, check out TripAdviser and the like - don’t blindly trust the hotel, guesthouse or B&B’s website. 


It pays to be wary.

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