If you like wasting your money, being disappointed, using stained towels, eating from broken plates and receiving poor customer service, then fill your boots! This is the place for you!
We booked four nights for a party of five adults at Cherry Blossom Cottage, Stratford-upon-Avon, through Sykes Cottages at a total cost of £1226.00. The purpose of our trip was to spend a few days as a family, in a town we love, to celebrate our silver wedding anniversary (yay!). The cottage is described as suitable for five ‘people’ but it is, more accurately, suitable for a maximum of four adults and a child – although a small child (and perhaps older adults) would struggle with the tiny, dark, steep staircase. There were a number of small irritations when we arrived: we had requested two single beds but a double had been provided; there were only four cups for tea/coffee when they knew there were five of us; the living room has just four proper chairs with a footstool to seat the fifth person; one of the sofas was covered in dog hair.
Soon, more serious problems arose. The dining table had been set for five people but when we picked up one of the plates to use, not only did it have a large chip out of the edge but it had at some point been broken in two and glued back together – a slick of dried glue was clearly visible across the middle – and this had been set on the table for us to use. We looked in the cupboard for a replacement only to find a stack of other broken and chipped crockery left for us to enjoy. Also, an unidentified sticky, gel-like substance was smeared across the back of one of the dining chairs.
Upstairs in the single bedroom, the bed was covered in tiny black flies which had entered through the gap in the ill-fitting window-frame (presumably no recent checks had taken place). The bedlinen itself had unpleasant brown stains (resembling hair dye) on the pillowcases and a lump of something like earwax adhering to the duvet cover. Of the towels provided for the whole group, only one was unmarked. The others all bore a variety of black, brown and yellow stains. The overall impression of the cottage was one of an unsavoury, penny-pinching carelessness.
We attempted to contact Sykes. When we finally got hold of them (the following day, my daughter having spent an uncomfortable night on the non-dog hair sofa: she had brushed the dead flies off her bed but didn’t fancy cuddling up to the earwax. £300.00 per night, remember), they contacted the owners who came to the property. The owners changed the double bed for two singles, changed the linen on the single bed, cleaned up the dining chair and took away the glued plate. They decided, however, to leave the rest of the broken crockery with us and did not see any problem with the stained towels, offering the explanation that the laundering process ‘doesn’t always get all the marks out.’ Is it reasonable for customers paying £300.00 per night to expect such casual grubbiness? Surely, if you know your laundering is inadequate, you would change the wash cycle, or the detergent, or the launderer, or replace the soiled linen! We have certainly never encountered anything like it, having only ever previously experienced owners who care about their guests and/or their own professional standards.
We complained to Sykes in writing. They abdicated responsibility and passed the complaint to the owners, who were sorry we had been unhappy but wished to ‘make it clear’ that they would not countenance any refund. Evidently, they considered that the product they provided had been entirely satisfactory. Had Sykes been more helpful or if the owners had offered a goodwill gesture of even a partial refund, we would have felt less aggrieved. As it is, our opinion of both is as low as can be.
Happy anniversary to us!