The Big Apple takes a Bite outta me...
Updated: Nov 10
My name is Joanna McBride and I am one of your Booking.com customers. I have used Booking.com for many years, countless trips, and so far, you have never let me down. Frequently, I recommend your services to other travellers.
In October of this year, I will be celebrating my 50th birthday. To commemorate such a momentous occasion, I have gathered a small group together, and we are all heading to New York for a week of sightseeing and fun. Through Booking.com, we have ALL booked the SoBeNY Blakely Hotel... which appears to have been recently bought out by LuxUrban. At the onset of planning, this hotel seemed to be both the perfect location and price range for our group. Well, what once appeared to be a dream vacation has recently turned into a bit of a nightmare, and we haven't even boarded the plane yet.
It seems that the Blakely was closed down and bought out by another hotel. Since then, the ratings have taken a disastrous turn for the worse. They have plummeted. Recent reviews use alarming words, such as; deceit, lie, scam, cancellation and fraudulent. There are severe warning, like: do not book, buyer beware and stay far away. Need I go on?
My word? Nightmare.
Despite trying to contact the new LuxUrban management team for fabricated reassurance on our booking, our initial fears are now manifesting. After a lengthy conversation with the manager, who assured us that no one would be cancelled, a room was subsequently cancelled. No refund has been issued.
I hate to do this, and I hate the hassle, but our reservations MUST be cancelled and our group MUST be refunded. In addition to this, the LuxUrban needs to be taken off your list of acceptable accommodation, should Booking.com wish to keep their high-standing reputation. Please look into this disaster and get back to me at your earliest convenience. I am encouraging the others to contact their credit cards, claiming fraud. We are ALL already booking new accommodation, as the thought of sleeping outside for a week is hardly appealing.
I would appreciate a phone call or email, as I am positive the others would as well. Thank you for taking the time and I look forward to hearing from you.
Yes... it's true.
I have certainly had my share of adventures.
In fact, many people comment on the abnormal amount of stress that seems to accompany each of my holidays. I heard, "I will never travel with you" on more than one occasion... and I get it.
I've flipped ATV's over myself.
I've been lost in the jungle.
I've been robbed, many times.
I've been followed.
I've been searched.
I've been held at gun point.
I've lost my passport and my wallet.
I've run out of money, completely.
I've been denied entry to countries without proper documentation.
I've ended up in brothels I thought were hotels.
I've fallen off buses.
The list goes on...
... and just when you think you've learned all the lessons, and you've had all the things & you've gone through all the stuff... another doozie pops up.
New York was/is no exception.
I'm not even there yet & already I'm navigating a nightmare. I'm supposed to be in packing bliss.
For as long as I can remember, I have always had a fascination with New York City. When 'Sex and the City' debuted, my desire to explore this cosmopolitan gem skyrocketed and I knew that one day, I absolutely HAD to go. I did have one stipulation though... I had to go with money.
I didn't want to go budget. I wanted to go BIG!!!
Manhattan's in Manhatten. Waving down taxis to take me to the latest & greatest bistro in Little Italy. Cosmo's in the Meat Market. The most grandiose hotel. The finest wines. The poshest of art galleries. Macy's shopping sprees. I wanted the Louis Vitton and Manolo Blahnik of New York vacations. Ritzy ritz.
And what better time to rendezvous with this luxurious delusion?
My 50th birthday, of course.
To get down to the nitty gritty of it all...
Am I going to New York in style? No.
Am I going to New York bourgeoisie-style? Again... no.
Am I going to New York as a pauper? ... bingo! Hit the nail right on the head. Yes.
Quoting Anna Sorkin, basic.
It's a long story, but I'll break it down from the letter above.
We booked a hotel. The SoBeNY Blakely Hotel ~ just off Broadway.
Steal of a deal. 7 nights for only $1400.00.
We booked in May.
Around August, it suddenly came to our attention that the hotel had switched ownership and it was then that the bad reviews started to accumulate.
In addition to the horrendous adjectives tied in with the recent reviews, as mentioned in the letter above, words like humid, dirty and smelly were popping up. Throw in the threat of cockroaches and our luxurious holiday suddenly took a turn for the worse.
To be honest, one part of me was completely appalled... while the other part was screaming, "How fucking New York is this!" THIS is the concrete jungle I was expecting. So very Mafia in the city that doesn't sleep. But anyway I look at it, having $1400 disappear from my bank account without a hope of coming back, isn't as fascinating as one might think.
Hotel Manager Tony... fitting name, I might add, who seemed more like a scamming adolescent than a prestigious hotel professional, never managed to put my mind at rest.
"We promise you that none of your rooms will be cancelled."
"But you just cancelled one of them."
"Ya... that was a mistake. Tell your fiends to call me and we'll re-book them."
"They've already booked somewhere else."
"They can cancel and come back here."
NO! Trust lost.
Finally, I couldn't take it anymore and decided to cancel. I asked Tony to cancel my reservation and fully refund me.
BUT FIRST... he asked me to cancel through Booking.com.
Then he told me it was a non-refundable room, so too bad, so sad. No refund.
I wasn't buying it.
He had promised me a refund if I cancelled my booking.
Then he hung up on me.
When I phoned him back, he told me it must have been an international glitch.
Then his team told me that they'd put an inquiry in, on my behalf, to their 'REFUNDS DEPARTMENT."
Ok... WHO has a refunds department.
THEN... then they told me their refund department was short staffed, so it may take 30 business days.
30 days to refund my money?
30 BUSINESS days.
Then I went to Booking.com again.
They wrote to the hotel and asked them to refund my money.
I wrote to the hotel again and asked for my refund.
They thanked me for bringing it to their attention and would ensure that an inquiry would be put in, on my behalf, to their refunds department immediately.
Hadn't this already been done???
The refunds department is very short staffed and my inquiry may take 30 business days to process.
This is exactly what they told me every time I wrote.
"They thanked me for bringing it to their attention and would ensure that an inquiry would be put in, on my behalf, to their refunds department immediately."
Over a month of this back and forth gobbledygook.
Finally... VISA to the rescue.
Actually, I phoned MasterCard first and was on hold for 45 minutes until I realized I had originally paid with my VISA.
I'm not here for my brains.
So... I'm out of the hotel and VISA has now credited me... but the others are still (fingers crossed) booked at this hotel. Time will tell...
Ahhh... New York.
Check out some of the reviews...
Can I afford a hot dog on the street?
Yes. Don't be silly.
Can I afford 2 hot dogs on the street?
That might be a stretch.