The Opinion Awards

COMPETITION - can YOUR company be the first to gain the mythical SIX star rating - cos I'm sure some bugger out there is bound to try...

Ski Equipe

Ski Equipe (No I'm NOT going to give out their bloody phone number) claim offer Skiing Holidays that are a cut above the rest. Well, boys, sorry to have to inform you that your brochure doesn't quite match reality.

Firstly, because we booked as a group, Ski Equipe wouldn't send out itineraries, tickets, or anything else to individuals. I'm not a lawyer, but I do know that because I paid individually Ski Equipe directly, privity of contract applies - why then should Dominic, a friend of a friend, who brought the group together - do Ski Equipe's job?

This led to the first cock up - I phoned up Martin at Ski Equipe who informed me that we returned on 25 March. Needless to say, I did take and keep notes of my conversation, as I needed to connect from Basel Switzerland. Well, you were almost right, guys, but actually we departed from BC on the 25th and arrived a day later. But hey, surely a day out is no big deal? It is when you've booked connecting flights.

At this point we give a thumbs-up award to Swissair, who let me amend my "non-negotiable" return ticket from Basel before we left - that's the sort of service that earns real customer loyalty.

So we arrive in Whistler after a nightmare journey through some of the worst snow to hit the I91 in years to find that the 13' x 10' (approx.) room Tricia (my sister) and I are sharing has a Queensize, and .... a sofa bed. And an uncomfortable one at that. What were we supposed to do for floor space with the bed down? This is what Ski Equipe call a "luxury" (35 supplement) room.

Now neither Trish and I are shrinking violets - if you want good service you often have to ask it. So we approached host, Trudy, who serenely informed us that if we didn't like it we could find another chalet. I guess that set the tone for the week.

OK guys, a few home truths:

Your brochure said: We got:
Fine Wines Wine from a box
Ski guiding No ski guiding
Gourmet food Chilli con Carne
Freshly baked speciality cakes Packet biscuits
We would get the opportunity to eat out on the evenings no chalet meal was to be provided No warning of which nights this would be to allow us to book restaurants

I've no doubt that in the past Haus Heidi has met expectations, however the chalet hosts are retiring shortly - and it seemed to us like they had already given up. Guys, your MD has admitted half these shortcomings in an extraordinarily arrogant reply to my letter of complaint - that probably earned you two stars on its own. So where's the make-good?


Cassidy Plumbing & Heating

Hats off to Cassidy Plumbing & Heating of Earls Court, London, for achieving the highest award ever.

It all started when I hired them to carry out the plumbing, heating and drainage work for the total refurbishment of my London Flat in June 96. The total cost of 4,000 was high, but the specification included a top notch high flow-rate Potterton boiler that cost 1,200 alone, as well as such luxuries as a 400 silent extract fan for the bathroom.

A deposit of 2,000 was paid, and we settled back to wait for Mr Cassidy and his happy team to turn up. And we waited.

Standard practice is for the sub-contractor to cut all openings for pipes and the such, but Cassidy's had asked the main contractor to do this job, which he foolishly agreed to. The problem is that the main contractor has to first hire a seriously large drill to cut the masonry holes, and then drill as instructed. No plumber on site = no instructions. For a the whole of July all work was held up as the plumbers made a series of excuses for not appearing on site. We even went as far as entrusting a set of keys with them to ensure that they had access at all times.

While all this was going on there was a serious knock-on effect - the remaining work required the floors to go down, which could not happen until the pipes had been laid; the builder was not able to make progress; so I wasn't paying him; so his cash-flow was being seriously affected...

On 19 August the builder left site for the summer holidays, and Cassidys finally turned up on site - to borrow the masonry drill for another job! While they were happily drilling holes on other sites, mine languished unattended.

This situation dragged on until 14 October 96, when I travelled to England to have a word with our Mr Cassidy in person. I turned up unannounced, and amazingly managed to catch the elusive man at is Shop in Kenway Road. He promised to attend site that very afternoon, liaise with the builder, and get the job moving again. For some reason he couldn't explain why he hadn't attended site before...

He also mentioned lending the (now very skint) builder 350 from my deposit, which I thought was very generous of him, but for obvious reasons I didn't comment on this

October rolled into November, the builder left home suddenly after a confrontation with one of his many creditors, and disappeared, and I found out that the boiler that Mr Cassidy had delivered to site was an 800 Worcester boiler, that can't deliver nearly the flow rate that I needed. Meanwhile Mr Cassidy came up with a new excuse; because of the time elapsed (a rich line coming from him) a further deposit payment was due.

At this point I asked Mr Cassidy for a breakdown of costs, which he declined to produce. He decline to attend site. Having reached an impasse I terminated the contract for reasons of Mr Cassidy being in breach by supplying goods other than those specified.

The rest of this story continues with me employing a new builder who did a great job, including making the best of a shoddy plumbing installation.

Plumbing companies in London are a pretty tight bunch; stories spread, and my Architect was able to confirm that the boiler had been sabotaged by the people who were originally supposed to install it. Nice to see that Mr Cassidy has such a regard for Gas Safety.

As things stand I am waiting for an independent cost assessment of Mr Cassidy's work. I have no doubt that this will fall far short of the deposit paid and will claim the balance from him on the basis of quantum meruit (I pay for what I got). I challenge Mr Cassidy to accept these terms or meet me in court.


Note: In an entirely unrelated incident in August I came upon a continuation sheet from my credit card statement that person or persons unknown had retrieved from rubbish that I had previously discarded on site. Details on this sheet were used in perpetrating a fraud that cost my credit card company over 2,000. At this time the list of keyholders was strictly limited, and of course I wouldn't dream of suggesting that this has anything to do with Mr Cassidy or any of his employees. Kensington CID investigated this fraud but were unable to gather sufficient evidence to make an arrest.


The Hotel Berghof, Saas Fee

This award relates to our Summer Skiing trip to Saas Fee.

We had contacted The Hotel Berghof, who sent us brochures of their lovely new hotel, complete with superb facilities such as sauna, steam room, and Jacuzzi. The price of CHF65 advertised was good value, and so we booked our party in.

We arrived on Friday night, Left the Sharonmobile in the main car park (the town only has little electric taxis) and took the courtesy taxi to the hotel; then the fun began.

Some of early arrival in our party had got rooms in the hotel, but the hotel had overbooked and when we arrived at reception we were directed to some pretty grotty apartments nearby. We marched back to the hotel reception, and a typical "Swiss=Eat shit Auslander" exchange began.

We would have left there and then but the problem was that we couldn't find alternative accommodation, so in the end we accepted a rate of CHF45 for the apartments, without breakfast.

This might have been the end of the episode, but for the fact that two of our party, John Green and his girlfriend Teresa were told the next morning (after everybody else had left for the day) that their booking was only for the one night, and they had to move out (Needless to say this was utter bollocks) John and Teresa left for Zermatt where they had a great time!

The Hotel managed to stitch us up one last time as we were leaving. They organised our courtesy taxi back, we naturally confirming that this was the same taxi service that we had received on arrival. When we off-loaded the taxi driver demanded CHF20. Half of it was in his tone - you just knew he was part of the stitch-up, and after a few minutes of Simon and Simonne arguing, and me simmering, I flipped and told him just what I thought of his, and his town's attitude to hospitality. I probably haven't been that close to hitting somebody in years, and he was noticeably less arrogant after that. Needless to say, though, we still paid the fare.

In just two visits Saas Fee has demonstrated to me that it exemplifies the worst of the "Mountain Mafioso" attitude. I have a choice - and next time it won't be Saas Fee. As for the Hotel Berghof; we accept that you're Swiss Hoteliers and therefore better than everybody else, but you're still arseholes.