This is the sixth in a series of posts documenting my January 2019 trip around the world, which took me to Victoria Falls, Cape Town, Chiang Mai, and Hong Kong. You can read my last post, which covered my flight on Kenya Airways from Victoria Falls to Cape Town, here.
There are a ton of reasonably-priced hotels in Cape Town. At first, I was going to stay at the Protea Victoria Junction, where I stayed the last time I was in Cape Town, and had a good stay. The Radisson Blu Le Vendome was a lot cheaper, though, so I figured I’d stay there, in a different part of town near the beach. Close in to my stay, though, I decided to switch to one of the five other Radisson family properties in Cape Town, the Park Inn by Radisson Cape Town Foreshore, in the CBD. Reader, this was a big mistake, as it was one of the most stressful hotel experiences I’ve ever had.
Things started out okay. The agent who checked me in was very friendly, and referred to me as “Mr. Gold Member” (phrasing?), suggesting that mid-level elite Radisson members were unusual. I was also given an iced tea as a welcome.
The hotel is 11 stories, and I was sent to my room on the third floor. I had splurged and booked a junior suite (which the hotel also refers to as a “Business friendly room”), the third cheapest room category at the hotel. I had thought about spending a little more for a junior suite with a view, but decided not to, since I had a short stay and was one person, and since I was eligible for a one-category upgrade anyway as a Radisson Rewards Gold member. Alas, no upgrade for me, and I was sent to my regular junior suite.
On first impressions, the room was very nice. It was modern, and had a nice lounge area with a pullout sofa and coffee table, as well as a king-size bed. There was a long wall with a desk and a Nespresso-type machine, in addition to a more standard coffee/tea kettle setup. There was a small fridge, and a welcome amenity awaiting me – a saran-wrapped plate of cheese and crackers. Not anything special, but a nice touch. The bathroom was fairly large, with a range of individual Dove toiletries, as well as a pump of hand and body wash. There was also a box of tissues and hand sanitizer.
But something was off, namely a very loud sound. As I prepared to take a nap, it got even louder. You see, reader, directly outside my window was a fully operational crane in motion. And it was loud, and continuously operating. I took a short video, which doesn’t fully show just how loud it was, but, yes, I tried closing the curtains and no, it did not get better.
As I’ve said before, perfection is not required to be a good hotel; rather how you handle things that come up demonstrate customer service. And what happened the next two days (and, spoiler alert, several weeks), did not.
It was a Saturday afternoon, and though I wanted a nap, it wasn’t a huge deal if I couldn’t get one. But I called down to the front desk to ask when the construction would stop. They told me it would be from 7am to 5pm. I asked them if that included on Sunday, and they said yes. At that point, I asked for another room, because not being able to sleep past 7, on a Sunday, is really not acceptable.
The manager called back a few minutes later and said there was nothing available in the category I booked “on the other side” (although really, just not directly in front of a moving crane would have been fine), but he could downgrade me to a lower category room on the other side of the hotel. I asked him what the difference was between the rooms, and he said “just size.” Given I was tired, and this room really wasn’t usable, I said okay. (I checked online and they were not selling any rooms in higher categories for the night either.)
He escorted me to my new room, and offered me a drink but I was just exhausted and tried to rest for a few minutes.
The new room, a “Superior View,” was indeed significantly smaller, just big enough for a king-size bed, but was still clean and modern. Looking straight out the window you saw an office building across the street, but if you turned there was a view of Table Mountain. Beyond a desk chair, the only other seating was cushions on the window seat, which were stained. There was a small empty fridge. In lieu of a Nespresso machine like the other room, there was just a tea kettle. No clock at the bedside.
The bathroom was the biggest difference, not just in layout, but in the fact that there were no toiletries whatsoever except a pump for hand wash mounted by the sink, and one for combination hair and body wash in the shower. No lotion, no shampoo conditioner, and, I realized, no facial tissues. Disappointing downgrade.
I hadn’t carried my welcome plate of $3 cheese and crackers with me from the old room, and asked at the front desk if I could get another one sent to the new room. Rather than just taking care of it, she made me go with her up to the old room, and when it had been taken since it had already been serviced, she said to me, “Well they probably threw it out, but if they haven’t, I’ll have them send it to your room.” Seriously? Needless to say, no replacement plate ever arrived.
The neighborhood around the hotel is not a neighborhood, and is a really unappealing place to stay. The convention center is nearby, but otherwise there is nothing at all open on the weekend, if at all, in the immediate vicinity. To get to any of Cape Town’s more charming neighborhoods, you have to Uber. (I walked in the afternoon, but it’s not recommended for safety purposes.) There’s a free hotel shuttle that is first-come, first-served within 3km, but an Uber was never more than a few dollars or a 10 to 15-minute drive away.
The next day, I explored Cape Town a bit in the morning, before coming back to change for the beach. The room hadn’t been serviced from 9am to noon. After I came back from the beach, I went down to the front desk, because I wanted to straighten everything out with billing in advance, as I didn’t want to be stressed on my way to the airport.
The woman at the front desk printed out my statement for me, which showed a charge for the junior suite. I nicely and calmly said that since I didn’t end up staying in a junior suite, I didn’t think I should have to pay for that room. The difference in prices was about $16 a night, so not a big deal, but that was like 20% of the room rate. She said I’d have to speak to the manager, and then I waited for nearly five minutes from him to come out.
I have never been spoken to by someone the way the manager proceeded to speak to me as a paying guest of a hotel. He raised his voice, and scoldingly told me that “We discussed this yesterday, you agreed to pay.” Certainly, payment was not discussed at all. He said something like, “You have to be kidding me, you said it was okay.” I felt my blood pressure boiling, and rather than have my day further ruined I said, “I will deal with someone else about this,” and left. He let a guest walk away very angry without offering a single thing.
I sent Twitter DMs to both Park Inn and Radisson Rewards and didn’t get responses for days. So, I decided maybe I’d vent some of my anger to the gym, which is a converted space on the third floor. On all the higher floors, the space is an open atrium, so I’m not sure if this was originally too. It was way too narrow to be a functional gym, and had so much equipment in it, with no room to use it. There were some very basic cardio machines; the bike squealed as I pedaled and was off-kilter such that I was afraid I’d go flying. There were no towels anywhere when I went that afternoon, although there were some when I went again in the morning. The hallways reeked of smoke.
Sunday evening, I peeked my head up to the roof, where there is a nice view, a bar, and a super tiny swimming pool that is basically in the bar.
When I went to check out Monday morning, the lobby smelled like vomit. At checkout, the agent didn’t ask me how my stay was, didn’t say thank you for your stay. I was torn whether to sign the credit card slip at all, but didn’t want to be an ass, so just did and went on my way.
I’d like to say that Radisson or the property itself apologized profusely, and promptly made it right. Well, it got worse. Two days after my initial DM, Park Inn got back to me on Twitter, and opened an “official complaint.” They told me I would have a response within “two working days.” When three days passed, I followed up, and they told me that the hotel had reported they had contacted me and resolved the situation. Which was a complete fiction. I followed up multiple times, and Park Inn kept saying it was up to the property, which said it had resolved the issue. Reader, it was fifteen days before the hotel manager actually emailed me. At that point, he offered me 28,000 Radisson Rewards points, which was the equivalent of one night’s stay at this hotel. While that would have been fine earlier, I was not going to take that. First, this was a cash stay. Second, I have been trying to burn all my Radisson points since the program has been consistently devalued and the ratio of positive to negative stays is worse than in any other program. Third, 28,000 points is not enough for a stay at most Radisson Blus, which is where I’d most likely want to use them. So, I countered, pointing out the length of time it took to get a response, and said I’d either take 56,000 points, or 28,000 points plus a refund of the 400 ZAR price differential between the room I paid for and the room I stayed in. He went with the former, which tells you something about how little hotels must pay for points.
Bottom line? Spend
extra money and avoid the Park Inn Cape Town Foreshore.