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Spiders, mice, bugs, poo in bins – hotels raise eyebrows

July 2, 2014 Headline News, Hotel News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59Spiders and mice in the bed linen; dirty, greasy spa baths that caused itching and a rash; being billed for missing towels; aggressive, brawling neighbours; hair and mould in the shower; smoke detectors running rampant; arguments over debited security deposits; faeces lying in a backpacker hostel room rubbish bin; bedbugs and cockroaches – it’s enough to put you off hotels for life.

Fortunately, it’s just a few properties that generate such complaints. Fair Trading NSW has detailed some of the problems it encountered in the most recent period of review. That list of nasties in the first paragraph is almost verbatim from the release that accompanied the report on complaints about NSW hotels, motels and resorts.

NSW Fair Trading Commissioner Rod Stowe said between January 2013 and May 2014, Fair Trading received 589 enquiries and 530 complaints about hotels, motels and resorts.

The majority of enquiries and complaints were about refunds, cancellation rights and unsatisfactory accommodation.

Stowe said the variety of vermin-related complaints was dismaying, as was the refusal of some accommodation providers to offer appropriate recompense.

The list of cases is hair-raising, ranging from mice in a sofa to guests apparently  defecating in waste-paper bins. Here are some of the cases. Brace yourself!

  • Earlier this year a family paid AUD 175 for a night’s accommodation in Holbrook. When they entered the room they discovered numerous spiders in all the beds. The husband immediately complained to the manager who advised that an exterminator had attended the premises two weeks earlier. The manager then sprayed the room with fly spray and reassured the family it would be ok. They refused to stay in the room. Their daughter was terrified. The manager said he would take a 50 percent cancellation fee, despite the payment having been made onlyminutes earlier. After 10 minutes of argument, he reduced the fee to AUD 25.
  • In another case, a family booked into a motel in Moree and soon found mice droppings through all the bed linen and along bedside tables. Two employees were sent to change the sheets and clean up the droppings, but without a vacuum cleaner. When one was asked why they were kicking the sofa, he replied: “That is where the mouse usually goes!” A refund was provided only after Fair Trading intervention and after the consumer suffered stalling by the manager for many weeks.
  • A family who booked into a motel in Macksville found their room invaded by bugs and ended up leaving their accommodation the following day, despite having paid for a second night. Mother and daughter both suffered nasty bites but when the mother reported the bug infestation to management, she was shown no sympathy but instead was treated rudely and provided with only a AUD 40 refund on a AUD 300 accommodation bill, she told Fair Trading.
  • Another consumer on a road trip sought a bed for the night in Wollongong and checked into a local hotel. When he switched off the light to retire for the night, he was kept awake by loud scratching. He turned on the light to discover two gigantic cockroaches in the bathroom. Although he rolled up a towel to block their access to the bedroom he had a sleepless night due to the persistent sound of the pests.
  • Stowe said in a further case, a consumer was accused of stealing four towels after he left his hotel room in Newcastle. The man told Fair Trading he had left the key in the door of the room on departure and was surprised to be later charged for the missing towels. Fair Trading managed to negotiate a refund of the charge.
  • In an additional distasteful complaint, a couple booked into a motel in Cootamundra and upon using the spa bath, found a black substance oozing from the filter. The husband ended up with an itchy rash but was told by the manager the black substance was rubber. When they complained and were moved to another room the following day they suffered the same experience – a black substance emerging from the filter. This time the manager told the couple they were “dirty people”, even though they hadn’t even entered the spa this time. They were only offered a AUD145 refund on one night.

Stowe said many accommodation traders were willing to provide redress particularly when contacted by Fair Trading.

“It’s in consumers’ best interests to come to Fair Trading for help if they are unable to resolve disputes with traders,” he said. “Some traders refuse to budge but in most cases a call from Fair Trading can help elicit a more positive response.”

The list of nasties goes on:

  • A couple from Ingleburn booked two nights at a hotel in Wallsend, Newcastle, but after losing sleep due to a violent confrontation between another couple in the corridor outside their room, they cancelled their second night’s stay and requested a refund. It was originally refused but after intervention by Fair Trading, the refund was made.
  • Another couple complained to Fair Trading after the AUD 100 security deposit they paid to a resort in the Hunter Valley was deducted from their credit card. When they complained to the business they were told to contact their bank, which then referred them back to the resort. The resort refused to cooperate and refunded the deposit only after Fair Trading intervened.
  • Sleepless nights caused real headaches in a holiday house in the Barrington region after five smoke detectors went off repeatedly. The consumer’s concerns were compounded by dirty tissues on the floor, dirty plates in the cupboard, a filthy, smoking oven, hair clumps in the shower drain, thick mould on the tiles and sanitary product wrappers on the window sill, not to mention malfunctioning air conditioning and out-of-date food products in the pantry. Fair Trading negotiated an acceptable refund on the accommodation costs but the consumer won’t be holidaying there again.
  • Finally, a late and particularly vile entry – a group of four friends from Melbourne stayed in an inner city backpacker hostel in Sydney in early June this year. After a two night weekend stay in a four-bedroom room, they discovered a pile of faeces in the room’s rubbish bin. They complained to Fair Trading after the hostel management failed to follow up on their complaint and provide them with any explanation. The group were not seeking financial recompense but instead wanted to ensure “their matter wasn’t treated lightly” (in the words of the Fair Trading release). Fair Trading contacted the hostel management, who insisted it was either discarded or regurgitated food. Ascertaining that fact must have been a profoundly disgusting experience for the employee concerned.

Stowe said most consumers voted with their feet and traders should know that superior products and services were the key to maintaining reputation and income.

“People tend to talk to their friends and neighbours when they’ve had a bad experience and will also often take to social media platforms to make complaints,” he said. “That invariably impacts on the bottom line of any business, so making sure your visitors are happy and satisfied is the best bet.”

Stowe said anyone experiencing problems with hotels, motels and resorts was covered by the consumer guarantees that apply under the Australian Consumer Law.

“These require services to be provided with due care and skill and are fit for the specified purpose,” he said.

“People should in the first instance try to resolve disputes with the provider of the accommodation or service.

“If that doesn’t work then call Fair Trading on 13 32 20 or lodge a complaint online at”

The Traveller Consumer Helpline is a service for visitors to NSW experiencing consumer-related difficulties. The Helpline operates between 8.30am – 5pm Monday to Friday on 1300 552 001. Users pay the price of a local call for any call made within NSW. Consumers can also email for help anytime to:

The Traveller Consumer Helpline can help tourists who experience problems such as: shopping problems (eg. refunds, consumer guarantees and faulty goods); misleading or deceptive advertising; overcharging; poor quality products or services; and, tourist scams (eg. unfair employment schemes)

The Helpline provides tourists with: a rapid response to requests for help on consumer problems; access to information about consumer rights and government regulations; assistance solving consumer problems quickly and effectively; quick referrals to other relevant support services (eg. health); access to translators for non-English speakers; and, access to public and private sector complaint handling systems.

Edited by : Peter Needham

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