Episode 4 Rip Off Britain


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Episode 4

The team investigate why a group of unconnected travellers at the same hotel had their complaints treated differently when they went through the same experience.


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Transcript


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We asked you who has left you feeling ripped off

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when it comes to your holidays

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and you came back with a catalogue of travel disasters.

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I thought it was a joke, I really did. I started laughing.

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I said, "You cannot be serious."

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They were saying it was not their fault.

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It was unbelievable. I can't even explain.

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So, whether it's a deliberate rip-off,

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a simple mistake or a catch in the small print,

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we'll find out why you're out of pocket and what you can do about it.

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Your stories, your money. This is Rip-Off Britain.

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Hello and welcome to Rip-Off Britain

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from the beautiful island of Tenerife

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and it's wonderful for us to be sitting by the sea

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with the waves crashing. It's gorgeous.

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And today, we're bringing you a classic crop of holiday disasters

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with one thing in common.

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Each of them involved a monumental letdown

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which really did leave the people involved

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feeling that they simply didn't get what they paid for originally.

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For instance, you've planned ahead,

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you've chosen your resort or your hotel

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because they really do seem to fit the bill,

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only you arrive and find that it does nothing of the kind.

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Clearly, you're going to feel thoroughly hacked off,

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especially if your lasting memories of that trip

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are going to be that you spent the whole time having to complain.

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I know, and it's going to make things even worse

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if your complaints appear to fall on deaf ears.

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All of the people we'll be meeting

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certainly feel that's what happened to them.

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Now, no-one expects every aspect of a trip to always go smoothly

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but these people would argue that it wasn't minor issues

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that left them so upset, but really fundamental problems

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which left their holidays in tatters.

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Coming up, how dreams of a holiday haven in Gran Canaria

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turned into this noisy nightmare.

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DRILLING

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We were greeted by the sounds of jackhammers.

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Electric saws, drilling.

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And a company that promises it's a cut above the rest,

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so why did these two pensioners pack and go home

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almost as soon as they got to the hotel?

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We took one look and she said, "This is not right, is it?"

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And I said, "No, it's not right at all."

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When we get almost identical letters from people

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who don't know each other, in fact, have never met each other,

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but who've all experienced exactly the same problem,

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you can bet that it makes us sit up and take notice,

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especially when they've got video footage

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that proves just how bad things really were.

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But one of the things that really stands out about this next tale,

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apart from, as you will see,

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what they had to put up with every morning, noon and night,

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is the fact that, while the people that we've heard from

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all went through the same thing at the same time in the same place,

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they did not all get the same response

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from the holiday company concerned.

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"Dear Rip-Off Britain..."

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"We don't know where to begin

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"regarding our recent horror holiday."

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"Dear Rip-Off Britain, I returned from the holiday from hell."

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"You can only imagine our horror when I was awoken at 7.45

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"on the Monday morning to the sound of up to 10 to 12 jackhammers."

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"We did not anticipate that we would suffer two whole weeks

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"of a craned jackhammer, drilling

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"and disc cutters relentlessly carrying out work."

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"I understand that other people on the same holiday and hotel

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"have already emailed you and I thought I would do the same."

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Three letters from three different couples, but just one complaint.

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They all had the same disastrous stay

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at a hotel on the island of Gran Canaria in May, 2016.

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Tony and Phil from Stockport, Andy and Stephen from Yorkshire

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and Carl and Brian from Gloucester had all timed their holidays

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to coincide with the annual Gay Pride celebrations

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in the popular resort of Maspalomas.

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Tony and Phil even took Tony's 79-year-old mother with them.

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It was the only holiday we got during the year,

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so we'd been saving up. Mum, who is, like, 79,

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always came away with us cos she felt safer being with us,

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so we just wanted to have a really nice, relaxing holiday.

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Meanwhile, Andy and Stephen - big fans of Gran Canaria -

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had been planning this trip for quite some time.

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We were excited. We'd booked it a year in advance.

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We were expecting, you know, fun, frolics,

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as much as you could eat food and drink,

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and just good times with good friends.

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As for Carl and Brian, getting away from it all should have been

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just what they needed to put a few difficult months behind them.

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We hadn't been away for two years before this holiday,

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-so it had been quite a big window.

-Yeah.

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We'd also had a personal bereavement the year before.

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A close friend had died, so it was really a way of getting away

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and just unwinding, really, which we needed to do.

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And the place that seemed to match everyone's requirements

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was the all-inclusive Servatur Waikiki hotel.

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With a huge pool, a range of restaurants

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and the beach just ten minutes away, there was something for everyone.

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But just days before they were due to fly out,

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TUI, the holiday group that owns the companies

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with which they'd all booked - First Choice and Thomson -

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got in touch with some bad news.

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"Dear Mr Bailey,

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"thank you for choosing to book your holiday with us."

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"The Riu Hotel next door to Servatur Waikiki

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"is undergoing a refurbishment project..."

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"Which will be ongoing during your stay."

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"And although most of the work is not visible,

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"work is likely to be audible from certain public areas..."

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"Including the pool terrace and from some balconies."

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"Hotel management will continue to do all they can to ensure

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"that this will not seriously impact your holiday enjoyment."

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Though the Servatur Waikiki hotel itself

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wasn't undergoing any refurbishments,

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the Riu hotel next door was.

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But, reassured by TUI's letter, the couples were confident

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that any disruption would be kept to a minimum.

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After reading the email, I had no reservations or concerns

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about going to the hotel and proceeding with the holiday.

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We thought, "It's not going to be that bad.

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"There's no point in sort of rushing around to change plans."

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So, they all jetted off, relatively unconcerned.

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But the following morning,

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it wasn't to the gentle sounds of the sunny resort that they woke.

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DRILLING

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We were greeted by the sounds of jackhammers.

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DRILLING

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-Electric saws, drilling.

-Dust was flying over.

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There were lorries going in.

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There were sparks flying from the building.

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-It was disheartening.

-It looked like a bombsite. We felt like going home.

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We started to think, "Is it a bad mistake staying here?"

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It was just a joke. The whole thing was a joke.

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The noise they suffered began before breakfast

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and continued all day and into the night.

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So, it's ten past eight at night and this is what's going on.

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LOUD DRILLING

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All three couples complained to the rep in the resort

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about the noise but were told the only thing they could do

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was raise a formal complaint when they got back to the UK

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because, although they also asked to change hotels,

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with such a big event going on,

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available accommodation elsewhere was very thin on the ground.

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So, they had no choice but to sit it out

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and enjoy what they could of their holiday,

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which wasn't easy for any of them.

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Tony's elderly mum found what she'd hoped would be

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a relaxing break particularly upsetting.

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To see my mum in tears... Mum's not really that...

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She doesn't show her emotions, but she was in bits over it,

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which had us quite tearful.

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We brought all three couples together for the first time

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to try and recreate a bit of the holiday atmosphere

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that they say they missed out on

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and, of course, to compare notes about their trip.

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DRILLING

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That's just one of many films that I took and even then,

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-you can't really appreciate how loud it was to actually be there.

-No.

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-That was all day long.

-Yeah.

-Non-stop, two weeks.

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It was the vibrations as well.

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-The shocking aspect, there wasn't even a break all day.

-No.

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DRILLING

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Yeah, by the pool as well. You can hear it even on this little phone.

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-It's atrocious.

-I was going insane with it.

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After struggling to relax during the day,

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the only chance of getting some peace and quiet was at night,

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but with the building work continuing into the evening,

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that, too, was proving impossible.

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-Did you wear your earplugs?

-We weren't given earplugs.

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We were given orange earplugs with a little note -

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complementary earplugs - when we arrived.

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-We got one each.

-I thought, "What are these for"

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There was one point when I wanted to go home

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and I said to Stephen, "Can we not look at flights to go home?",

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And they were too expensive.

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We did feel a bit desperate, didn't we, really, at the beginning,

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because we felt like we'd been cheated out of the holiday.

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What's more, even though the couples paid

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for all-inclusive accommodation,

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they all say they ended up going out for meals to escape the noise,

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defeating the object of the all-inclusive package

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for which they'd prepaid.

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As soon as they all arrived home,

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the three couples all sent complaints

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to the holiday company TUI which, of course,

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though not directly responsible

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for the works at the neighbouring hotel,

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had assured them it would try and limit the disruption.

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And whilst they each had identical holiday experiences,

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the same can't be said of the way the company's responded

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to their individual complaints.

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Andy and Stephen have been sent

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a voucher for £130 to spend on a future holiday

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with the company but, for the moment, they are still undecided

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about what to do and feel that their complaint is still open.

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But Tony and Phil have received

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£282 off their next holiday with the company

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and they, too, are considering what to do next.

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While Carl and Brian, well, they've said no to their offer

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of a £139 voucher.

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Well, when we contacted TUI,

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the company told us it's sorry that these customers were unhappy

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with their holiday but it relies on its hotel partners to advise

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on any maintenance work and it...

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It reiterated that,

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as the situation did impact on guests more than had been advised,

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it has offered a gesture of goodwill

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and apologised for the inconvenience caused.

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We also got in touch with the ClubHotel Riu Papayas,

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the one that was responsible for the works.

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It insisted the project...

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But if you find yourself in an unexpectedly noisy resort

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when you were expecting something altogether more peaceful,

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travel expert Simon Calder has this advice.

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Various people, including ABTA, the travel association,

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have come up with guidelines about how,

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if there is a certain amount of disruption,

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then the holiday provider must offer alternative accommodation

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or even a full refund.

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The tour operators most certainly have a duty

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to make sure that you are given an enjoyable holiday

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and if there's just noise and dust and building work going on,

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then that's not going to be very enjoyable

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and they are going to have to sort it out.

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But for Tony and Phil, Carl and Brian, Andy and Stephen,

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while they know TUI itself wasn't to blame for the noise,

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they still feel let down by the way the company handled

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the situation and believe they should have been moved elsewhere,

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as soon as the extent of the problem became apparent.

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No human being should put another human being through that

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and expect them to pay for the displeasure of a holiday like that.

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The whole experience has left me disillusioned.

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It's left me feeling like I don't trust tour companies.

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You do put a huge amount of trust into these companies and, sadly,

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on this occasion, it's been a very big lesson that we've learnt

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and, no, I wouldn't be happy to book with Thomson again.

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DRILLING

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Now, as millions of Brits will enthusiastically testify,

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a trip away doesn't have to involve going abroad,

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as we have to Tenerife, and it's reckoned that last year,

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more of us than ever took some sort of break within the UK.

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But several of you have been in touch with the programme

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after choosing to do that with one particular company.

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Now, it's a tour operator which makes big claims on its website,

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not just about being a leading specialist in coach holidays,

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but about putting customers' needs right at the core of its business.

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Well, I'm afraid the people we've spoken to

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would completely disagree with that.

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They'd say the opposite is true

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and their needs weren't considered very much at all.

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Although 86-year-old John Essex from Hove is now registered blind,

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he doesn't let that stop him exploring as many sights as he can

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with his long-time friend Stephen Dyson.

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Unfortunately, since I lost my sight,

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I can't see the landmarks too clearly, as such,

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but there's always audio descriptions

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in all these museums or famous places, palaces, whatever,

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and we've always had fantastic holidays.

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And they hoped that that would be the case again

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when they booked a two-day trip to London -

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one that took in tours of the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace

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and, indeed, a night in a three-star hotel for just £149 per person.

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It appealed to us because it was fairly local, as such,

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you know, from Brighton to London, which is no effort.

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The whole package seemed very tempting.

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The company behind the trip

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was Leicestershire based Diamond Holidays,

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which proudly declares on its website

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that it's a cut above the rest.

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The holiday company's website looked very impressive, very professional.

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It just looked like a good deal, great price.

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So, Stephen booked.

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There was still a full six months before the trip

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but the company promised to send through a final itinerary

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a fortnight before they were due to leave.

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Unfortunately, however, when that itinerary arrived,

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their great deal no longer looked quite so appealing.

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Instead of the expected two hours or so to get from Brighton to London,

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the journey was going to take six and a half hours.

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From Brighton to London's 58 miles.

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The way the holiday company were going to take us

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would have been 170 miles

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and it's three times the distance

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and also three times the amount of time,

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so I just could not believe

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that they were going to take us all that way.

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So, John called the company to ask if it would be possible

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to travel to London by train instead

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and pick up the tour when they arrived.

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He was told that someone would get back to him,

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but when that didn't happen, with the departure date looming,

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Steve called Diamond Holidays' customer services manager

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to see if they could get a refund.

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But it seemed that that wouldn't be possible, even though, of course,

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it was only at this late stage that the problem had come to light.

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They said that we would lose our money if we cancelled the trip.

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The frustrating part of this is,

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had we realised this within a couple of weeks of booking the holiday

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or the trip, we could have cancelled with no penalty whatsoever.

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But because you don't get the itinerary

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till two weeks before you go on the trip,

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there's no way you can cancel and not lose all your money.

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John called the company again to explain his predicament

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but, despite its website promising a personal touch

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and great customer service, Diamond Holidays just wouldn't budge.

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I told them that I was 86 and I was registered blind

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but they weren't interested.

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They said, "You should have told us at the beginning."

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Feeling that they had no choice,

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John and Steve cancelled the trip, losing all of the £298 they'd paid.

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They just didn't care.

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To ignore you and just take no interest and say, "That's it,"

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you know, like you've got no comeback.

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And the shine from Diamond Holidays has also faded for Janet Compton.

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She'd planned a trip to ensure

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that her recently widowed friend, Patricia,

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didn't spend Christmas all alone, and they'd found what seemed

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to be an ideal package - the five-day "Christmas in Torquay".

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For a total of £798,

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they would get four nights at The Norcliffe Hotel in Torquay,

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which the Diamond Hokidays website boasted

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had seaside views with a private pool

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and where they would have a traditional Christmas dinner.

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We could spend the afternoon round the town, if we wanted.

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Then we'd go back and have sherry and mince pies.

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And then we'd have an evening meal.

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Evening meal and breakfast was included, plus the Christmas Day.

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A perfect mix of celebration and relaxation.

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It was just what the friends were looking for.

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But two weeks before the pair were due to leave,

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Diamond Holidays got in touch

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to say that The Norcliffe Hotel had changed hands

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and was no longer accepting tour groups.

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Instead, they would be staying in a hotel

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which they were assured was of a similar standard.

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But when Janet checked it out online,

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it didn't have quite the same facilities

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that had led them to book in the first place.

0:17:370:17:39

I did look to see if it had the same facilities as the one we had

0:17:390:17:43

but it didn't. It had no swimming pool or anything like that,

0:17:430:17:47

but they said that we'd have the same itinerary and everything,

0:17:470:17:51

so we left it to them then.

0:17:510:17:53

With apparently no choice but to accept

0:17:530:17:56

what the company was proposing, when the date of the trip arrived,

0:17:560:17:59

Janet and Patricia boarded their coach to Torquay.

0:17:590:18:02

But when they reached the alternative hotel

0:18:020:18:05

that Diamond Holidays had arranged,

0:18:050:18:07

I'm afraid their Christmas sparkle quickly tarnished.

0:18:070:18:10

It didn't look anything like the hotel

0:18:100:18:12

that we were promised in the beginning.

0:18:120:18:14

It was nothing like a replacement

0:18:140:18:17

and it wasn't in the same area either.

0:18:170:18:20

We took one look and she said, "This is not right, is it?"

0:18:200:18:23

And I said, "No, it's not right at all."

0:18:230:18:25

Not only did the ladies feel

0:18:250:18:27

that this hotel was looking a little worse for wear,

0:18:270:18:30

they were also disappointed to discover

0:18:300:18:32

it was also a much further walk from the sea,

0:18:320:18:35

nor could they see any sign of the Christmas dinner

0:18:350:18:38

they had been so looking forward to.

0:18:380:18:40

The menu was cod and chips, vegetable bake and for pudding,

0:18:400:18:46

it was cheese and biscuits and rice pudding with a dollop of jam.

0:18:460:18:51

And that was what was on the menu - "a dollop of jam".

0:18:510:18:54

We weren't very impressed at all.

0:18:540:18:55

In fact, for a package sold as "Christmas in Torquay",

0:18:550:18:59

there were very few seasonal trimmings.

0:18:590:19:02

We were expecting to have carols playing,

0:19:020:19:05

looking very festive and warm, comfortable seating area,

0:19:050:19:11

but there was nothing like that.

0:19:110:19:12

It was just... No Christmas tree, nothing.

0:19:120:19:16

The final straw was that they couldn't even watch any Christmas TV

0:19:160:19:20

without paying a £10 deposit to use the remote

0:19:200:19:24

and, although it became clear

0:19:240:19:25

that there would be some activity in the bar area,

0:19:250:19:28

it was hardly what you would call typical festive entertainment.

0:19:280:19:32

They said it was the Weightwatchers session that was going to be there

0:19:340:19:37

in another hour's time,

0:19:370:19:39

so we would have had to have sat in the bar with that going on as well.

0:19:390:19:44

So, it was not a relaxing atmosphere at all.

0:19:440:19:46

While the ladies knew the change in hotel had been unavoidable,

0:19:470:19:51

the replacement they'd been sent to felt a far cry

0:19:510:19:53

from the package that they had initially booked.

0:19:530:19:56

So, deciding it simply was not where they wanted to spend Christmas,

0:19:560:20:00

Janet got in touch with Diamond Holidays' head office

0:20:000:20:03

to see if there was an alternative place they could stay.

0:20:030:20:06

He was very sorry there was nothing he could do.

0:20:070:20:10

There was no rooms available for us to change

0:20:100:20:13

and we couldn't possibly go into another hotel,

0:20:130:20:16

so I said, "Well, we're not staying.

0:20:160:20:18

"We're going home tonight." And I left it at that.

0:20:180:20:21

Just six hours after they had arrived,

0:20:220:20:25

the ladies took the decision to leave the hotel

0:20:250:20:27

and make their way back home.

0:20:270:20:29

But that meant shelling out an extra £260 for taxis and trains

0:20:300:20:35

and they were bitterly disappointed

0:20:350:20:37

at how the company had handled the whole situation.

0:20:370:20:40

If they'd kept to the first hotel, it would have been fine,

0:20:400:20:44

but when they changed it, two weeks before we were due to go,

0:20:440:20:49

to this other hotel, um, this was all wrong.

0:20:490:20:54

Well, when we contacted Diamond Holidays,

0:20:560:20:58

it stressed that it takes the views of customers very seriously,

0:20:580:21:02

so were saddened that these particular customers

0:21:020:21:04

didn't get the service they'd expected.

0:21:040:21:06

However, in Janet and Patricia's case, it maintains that...

0:21:060:21:10

..and that it was in the same area

0:21:140:21:16

and it did offer the facilities outlined in the brochure.

0:21:160:21:19

As such, this wasn't deemed a significant change

0:21:190:21:22

to the holiday, so no refund was offered.

0:21:220:21:25

As for John and Stephen's case, Diamond Holidays says

0:21:250:21:28

that although all its trips are carefully planned,

0:21:280:21:31

the route is only decided when bookings have been finalised,

0:21:310:21:34

so at the time this particular trip was booked,

0:21:340:21:37

that hadn't yet happened.

0:21:370:21:38

It said it isn't always possible to run multiple coaches

0:21:380:21:41

from different pick-up points and in such instances,

0:21:410:21:45

coach routes may have to be combined,

0:21:450:21:47

which can impact on journey times.

0:21:470:21:49

But it told us that, having given

0:21:510:21:53

further consideration to the circumstances,

0:21:530:21:55

it feels a refund or alternative should have been offered

0:21:550:21:58

at the time and that it's sorry that was not the case.

0:21:580:22:02

It's now offered a full refund plus an additional 20% per person

0:22:020:22:06

to make up for the inconvenience caused.

0:22:060:22:09

And while that's very good news,

0:22:120:22:14

John and Stephen feel that that should have happened

0:22:140:22:16

without them needing them to get in touch with Rip-Off Britain

0:22:160:22:19

and both they and Janet and Patricia remain frustrated

0:22:190:22:22

at how their holidays turned out.

0:22:220:22:24

This upset John a lot.

0:22:240:22:26

We were very disappointed with the company,

0:22:260:22:29

that they weren't prepared to help in any way.

0:22:290:22:32

I think we can put it behind us but it's a hard lesson to learn,

0:22:320:22:36

very hard lesson, cos it's a lot of money we've lost.

0:22:360:22:41

Still to come on Rip-Off Britain,

0:22:470:22:49

the big names accused of getting things seriously wrong

0:22:490:22:52

for travellers with disabilities.

0:22:520:22:54

I was really upset, the family were upset.

0:22:540:22:57

We just didn't know what to do.

0:22:570:22:59

Our travel expert, Simon Calder, has all the secrets

0:23:030:23:06

to save you money on your travels, along with tips on everything,

0:23:060:23:10

from how to avoid the crowds

0:23:100:23:12

to the best way to steer clear of those tourist traps.

0:23:120:23:15

This time, it's Croatia.

0:23:160:23:18

Rugged, cultured, beautiful.

0:23:180:23:21

No, not me! The fine nation of Croatia,

0:23:210:23:24

which decorates the eastern coast of the Adriatic

0:23:240:23:27

and extends for hundreds of miles inland.

0:23:270:23:31

Over half a million British holidaymakers go to Croatia

0:23:310:23:35

every year, looking for cheap and cheerful sunshine.

0:23:350:23:38

However, the costs are rising.

0:23:380:23:40

So, Simon recommends Croatia's second biggest city, Split,

0:23:410:23:45

around halfway down the coast,

0:23:450:23:46

where prices are lower than elsewhere on the Adriatic shores.

0:23:460:23:50

The savings can start as soon as you touch down at Split airport.

0:23:520:23:56

Ignore the expensive airport bus

0:23:560:23:59

and instead step away from the terminal across the road

0:23:590:24:03

and catch the fast and frequent number 37 bus.

0:24:030:24:07

It costs half as much.

0:24:070:24:08

Because Croatia's part of the EU,

0:24:100:24:12

lots of visitors assume that they need to take euros.

0:24:120:24:16

In fact, the country still has its own currency.

0:24:160:24:18

The Croatian kuna is regarded by the foreign exchange business

0:24:180:24:23

as an exotic currency, which spells a possible rip-off.

0:24:230:24:28

If you enjoy handing rather too much money to financial institutions

0:24:280:24:32

then, by all means, get your Croatian currency

0:24:320:24:35

before you leave Britain.

0:24:350:24:37

But if, like me, you'd rather spend the difference

0:24:370:24:40

on a bowl of olives and a nice glass of wine,

0:24:400:24:43

then wait till you get there.

0:24:430:24:45

Simon says that island hopping along the Adriatic shore,

0:24:470:24:50

known as the Dalmatian Coast, is a must.

0:24:500:24:53

Every day in summer,

0:24:530:24:55

big cruise ships deposit thousands of passengers

0:24:550:24:59

and it makes the old town impossibly crowded.

0:24:590:25:03

My advice is to take the little ferry

0:25:030:25:06

that shuffles across the harbour in about 45 minutes

0:25:060:25:10

to the fine little fishing port of Cavtat

0:25:100:25:13

and you can spend the day there

0:25:130:25:15

enjoying the relaxed, unhurried ambience.

0:25:150:25:18

The further away from the coast, the better value Croatia becomes,

0:25:180:25:22

so it's worth heading inland to the capital, Zagreb.

0:25:220:25:26

Oh, and one other thing.

0:25:260:25:27

If you happen to have the good fortune of being under 24,

0:25:270:25:30

then you are not allowed to drink anything before you drive.

0:25:300:25:35

The blood-alcohol limit is zero.

0:25:350:25:38

You often tell us that, for various reasons,

0:25:420:25:44

the accommodation you booked didn't live up to expectations.

0:25:440:25:47

Maybe it didn't have the facilities you'd read about

0:25:470:25:50

or it wasn't quite suitable for your needs.

0:25:500:25:52

But if you or someone you're travelling with have a disability,

0:25:520:25:55

not getting what you needed can have a huge impact on your holiday

0:25:550:25:59

and for the family we're about to meet,

0:25:590:26:01

it may even have put them off going away altogether.

0:26:010:26:04

Who was your favourite character, Phoebe? Can you remember?

0:26:040:26:08

Phoebe, along with the rest of her family, loves Disneyland Paris,

0:26:080:26:12

so much so, they've visited the theme park five times.

0:26:120:26:16

Oh, yeah.

0:26:160:26:18

And in May, 2016, the family decided to take a sixth trip.

0:26:180:26:23

-That was really good, even in the wet.

-Yeah.

0:26:230:26:26

But, as the family has grown up, so have their requirements

0:26:260:26:29

when it comes to where they're going to stay.

0:26:290:26:31

That's especially the case for Phoebe,

0:26:310:26:33

who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair to get around.

0:26:330:26:37

This year was really important that we got the accommodation right.

0:26:370:26:41

Phoebe was getting bigger. She's harder to handle

0:26:410:26:45

and we needed to make sure we could get in the cabin with a ramp

0:26:450:26:48

and we needed to make sure she had a bed that we could do cares on.

0:26:480:26:52

As well as access for the wheelchair,

0:26:520:26:55

Phoebe needs to have a single bed with access from all sides,

0:26:550:26:59

so she can be lifted and cared for properly.

0:26:590:27:01

So, keen to have everything confirmed before they left,

0:27:010:27:05

Amanda asked the travel agent they were using

0:27:050:27:07

to check that this type of bed would be available.

0:27:070:27:10

I requested what facilities were there

0:27:100:27:13

and was told that we had four beds, two shower rooms

0:27:130:27:18

a roll-in shower and then a ramp to go in, which was fantastic.

0:27:180:27:22

A few days before they were due to travel,

0:27:240:27:26

with everyone's excitement mounting, they went onto the Disney website

0:27:260:27:30

to look for photos of the cabin they'd booked.

0:27:300:27:32

But Amanda couldn't find details of the disabled accommodation.

0:27:340:27:37

All she could see was the standard cabins,

0:27:370:27:40

so she rang the resort direct to double-check

0:27:400:27:42

that what she thought she was getting was definitely available.

0:27:420:27:45

It then became apparent that it wasn't what we wanted.

0:27:480:27:51

It was a bunk bed and a double bed. My whole world caved in.

0:27:510:27:55

SQUEALING

0:27:550:27:57

Though the room did have enough beds for everyone to sleep in,

0:27:570:28:01

there wasn't the all-important single bed for Phoebe

0:28:010:28:04

and, without it, Amanda feared they wouldn't be able to lift

0:28:040:28:07

and properly care for her during their stay.

0:28:070:28:10

-Good girl.

-Good girl.

0:28:100:28:13

I was really upset, the family were upset.

0:28:130:28:16

We just didn't know what to do.

0:28:160:28:17

Good girl.

0:28:170:28:20

Ah!

0:28:200:28:22

The Disney rep confirmed that, though the travel agent had booked

0:28:220:28:26

a disabled room, there weren't any images of the property online

0:28:260:28:30

which, as far as Amanda was concerned,

0:28:300:28:31

meant that neither she nor the agent had much chance

0:28:310:28:34

of accurately working out

0:28:340:28:36

if the accommodation was right for their particular needs.

0:28:360:28:39

Good girl, Honey.

0:28:400:28:43

Amanda and Sean felt they couldn't let the children down

0:28:430:28:47

and went ahead with the trip.

0:28:470:28:49

But, as Amanda had feared,

0:28:490:28:51

the only bed that was remotely suitable for Phoebe

0:28:510:28:54

was a pull-out bed in the living room

0:28:540:28:56

and with it being so low down and against a wall,

0:28:560:28:59

lifting and caring for Phoebe was a real struggle.

0:28:590:29:02

It was really frustrating

0:29:040:29:06

that we were having to do all these extra lifts

0:29:060:29:09

that we were hoping to avoid.

0:29:090:29:11

We were really, really upset and I went to reception

0:29:110:29:14

and I was upset and did have a few tears.

0:29:140:29:17

Although Disney has since refunded Amanda £600 of her £2,000 trip,

0:29:180:29:24

it's not the money she's worried about.

0:29:240:29:27

My main concern with Disney

0:29:270:29:28

is the lack of information on their website,

0:29:280:29:31

so when you're browsing as a customer with disabilities,

0:29:310:29:34

there's absolutely no information on there at all,

0:29:340:29:37

telling you what you will be getting.

0:29:370:29:38

Well, when we checked the Disneyland Paris website, as Amanda says,

0:29:400:29:44

there were plenty of photos of the standard accommodation

0:29:440:29:47

but no pictures, just a description, of the disabled rooms,

0:29:470:29:51

which Amanda thinks isn't good enough.

0:29:510:29:53

When we put that to Disney,

0:29:530:29:55

it said it regrets any distress the family experienced,

0:29:550:29:58

telling us it offered the refund of £600 as a gesture of goodwill

0:29:580:30:02

after what it calls a "miscommunication"

0:30:020:30:05

between Amanda and the travel agent.

0:30:050:30:07

It went on to list all sorts of ways

0:30:070:30:09

the park caters for disabled visitors.

0:30:090:30:12

But on the accommodation front, it says it always recommends guests

0:30:120:30:15

who want to discuss individual needs call its dedicated team in advance.

0:30:150:30:20

But Amanda worries that, if things can go wrong

0:30:220:30:25

with a big name like Disney,

0:30:250:30:26

disabled guests are likely to run into problems

0:30:260:30:29

with many other holiday companies too.

0:30:290:30:31

The industry totally needs to be overhauled and really looked at.

0:30:310:30:36

It needs to be detailed information,

0:30:360:30:38

not just, "We offer disabled accommodation".

0:30:380:30:41

We need so much more than that.

0:30:410:30:43

And that's an opinion we know a lot of you share.

0:30:430:30:47

Many of you have emailed us over the last 12 months

0:30:470:30:50

to say you've found it very difficult

0:30:500:30:52

to get accurate or useful information

0:30:520:30:54

about a resort's facilities for disabled people

0:30:540:30:57

before you travelled.

0:30:570:30:59

Like Karen and Brian Smart from Manchester.

0:30:590:31:02

In 2012, Karen had a stroke.

0:31:030:31:05

She's since had to learn to walk and talk again

0:31:050:31:08

and needs a wheelchair to get about.

0:31:080:31:11

There's no two ways about it,

0:31:110:31:12

we've had to tough since Karen had her stroke.

0:31:120:31:15

I was fine before, nothing wrong with me,

0:31:150:31:19

and then I just had a stroke when I was in my sleep.

0:31:190:31:24

It wasn't until early 2015

0:31:240:31:26

that Karen felt well enough to go on holiday.

0:31:260:31:29

The couple booked one for August that year

0:31:290:31:32

through their local high street branch of Thomson.

0:31:320:31:34

They felt they made it clear that Karen had disabilities

0:31:340:31:38

and were reassured by the sales staff.

0:31:380:31:40

When I asked her about accessibility needs, she said,

0:31:400:31:44

"I can tell you it's a little bit hilly on Greece,

0:31:440:31:47

"but everybody recognises the need

0:31:470:31:49

"for accessibility requirements these days,

0:31:490:31:51

"and so there'll be lifts and ramps."

0:31:510:31:54

But that wasn't the experience that Karen and Brian say they had.

0:31:540:31:58

Photo number one shows the picture of the toilet.

0:31:580:32:02

There's no grab rails in the bathroom at all.

0:32:020:32:05

Number seven shows something like an eight-inch high kerb,

0:32:050:32:09

which is the only possible way to get to the restaurant,

0:32:090:32:13

impossible to get a wheelchair over.

0:32:130:32:15

And number nine shows the stairway,

0:32:150:32:18

the only means of access to the apartment

0:32:180:32:21

that we were originally assigned and which we couldn't accept.

0:32:210:32:25

Now, as this was the couple's first holiday

0:32:250:32:28

since Karen became a wheelchair user,

0:32:280:32:30

they accept that their lack of experience

0:32:300:32:33

meant everything was a struggle.

0:32:330:32:35

Even so, they firmly believe Thomson should have been more aware

0:32:350:32:38

of a disabled traveller's needs.

0:32:380:32:41

It just was not suitable and I feel that Thomson failed

0:32:410:32:46

in recognising the disability needs for somebody at that resort.

0:32:460:32:53

When we spoke to Thomson about Karen and Brian's experience,

0:32:550:32:58

it said it was disappointed to hear that they were unhappy

0:32:580:33:01

with their holiday experience.

0:33:010:33:03

It said it had reviewed the booking

0:33:030:33:05

and that its staff feel they clearly explained

0:33:050:33:07

that not all their requirements could be guaranteed.

0:33:070:33:11

But it did add that it would take their feedback on board

0:33:110:33:14

to review its processes, as appropriate.

0:33:140:33:17

But the couple say the whole experience

0:33:220:33:24

has put them off attempting another trip.

0:33:240:33:26

Well, we wanted to help restore their confidence in travelling,

0:33:260:33:29

so we asked former wheelchair rugby Paralympian Steve Brown,

0:33:290:33:33

who's an avid traveller himself, to call in to help.

0:33:330:33:36

I've had some terrible experiences travelling.

0:33:360:33:39

I can't pretend I haven't.

0:33:390:33:41

Despite setbacks, Steve goes abroad at least four times a year

0:33:410:33:45

and a key part of his preparation

0:33:450:33:47

is to listen to fellow disabled friends' holiday recommendations.

0:33:470:33:51

What I do now is I spend an awful lot more time

0:33:520:33:55

speaking to other people that have been in the same situation

0:33:550:33:58

and hearing that from the horse's mouth,

0:33:580:34:01

rather than the travel agent's, has got so much more weight for me.

0:34:010:34:06

If somebody else with my disability, in a wheelchair, says that,

0:34:060:34:10

-then I'm going to go with it.

-That is a very valid point.

0:34:100:34:13

-Yeah, make it a bit better, wouldn't it?

-Mm.

0:34:130:34:16

But if your friends can't help,

0:34:160:34:18

there are other ways of finding out about disabled-friendly resorts.

0:34:180:34:22

Another point is that, on the internet,

0:34:220:34:25

there's hundreds of websites

0:34:250:34:27

designed purely with disability in mind

0:34:270:34:29

and travel with different disabilities.

0:34:290:34:32

And that is something that I use an awful lot.

0:34:320:34:35

Steve says it's not just the hotel that needs checking up on.

0:34:350:34:38

He calls ahead to make sure of every single stage of the holiday.

0:34:380:34:42

The travel is no less important than the accommodation.

0:34:440:34:47

Making sure that things like taxis, meet and greet and, of course,

0:34:470:34:52

the airports are all accessible and as easy as possible for you.

0:34:520:34:57

Steve hopes his advice will go at least some way

0:34:570:35:00

towards encouraging Karen and Brian to go away again.

0:35:000:35:03

What it has made me think about is to not do the package holiday

0:35:030:35:09

but to organise flights ourself,

0:35:090:35:13

to organise, um, accommodation and to do it all ourselves.

0:35:130:35:18

Steve believes the extra effort and calls

0:35:180:35:21

that he typically puts into planning a trip is worth it

0:35:210:35:24

and, indeed, it's the best way to be confident

0:35:240:35:26

you'll get the facilities you need.

0:35:260:35:29

Happy holiday hunting, Karen!

0:35:290:35:31

'It really upsets me and I suppose it frustrates me, really,'

0:35:310:35:34

that people, good people like Brian and Karen,

0:35:340:35:37

don't have good holiday experiences,

0:35:370:35:40

holiday experiences that they deserve,

0:35:400:35:42

despite having their disabilities,

0:35:420:35:44

and I just hope that they try again and give it another go.

0:35:440:35:47

And, though not entirely convinced,

0:35:470:35:50

Karen and Brian are definitely coming round to the idea.

0:35:500:35:53

It was very useful meeting Steve today

0:35:530:35:56

because he's given us a whole different way

0:35:560:35:59

of looking at travelling abroad.

0:35:590:36:01

I've always just thought, you know,

0:36:010:36:03

you speak to the travel agent and the travel agent sorts it.

0:36:030:36:07

But, having heard Steve's experiences,

0:36:070:36:10

it makes sense for us, specifically, to do it ourselves.

0:36:100:36:16

For us, the best part of our annual Rip-Off Britain pop-up shop

0:36:260:36:30

is that we get to meet so many of you in person.

0:36:300:36:33

-Just recognised you.

-Did you?

-Yeah, I said, "She's off the telly."

0:36:330:36:37

And we hope the best part, for you, is having the chance

0:36:370:36:40

to get on-the-spot advice from our top experts.

0:36:400:36:43

You can say, "Oi, that's not what I booked."

0:36:430:36:46

One of the most common holiday complaints you tell us about

0:36:460:36:49

is flight delays. They can ruin any holiday,

0:36:490:36:52

so it's understandable that you might want compensation

0:36:520:36:55

to make up for the time spent waiting around at airports

0:36:550:36:58

instead of lounging on a beach.

0:36:580:37:00

Well, John Evans certainly does.

0:37:000:37:02

He spent a whole day waiting for his flight home

0:37:020:37:05

and, as he told Simon Calder, he wants a refund.

0:37:050:37:08

I was in Australia having a holiday and I wasn't feeling very well,

0:37:080:37:11

so I decided to come back early,

0:37:110:37:13

so I paid an additional 865 Australian,

0:37:130:37:17

about £440 at the time, to catch an earlier flight.

0:37:170:37:21

Everything was fine until John went

0:37:210:37:23

to catch his connection in Kuala Lumpur.

0:37:230:37:26

There was no flight there at 10 o'clock, no plane,

0:37:260:37:29

and we didn't get on till about midnight and then we sat there

0:37:290:37:31

for at least three hours till we took off

0:37:310:37:34

without a drink or anything.

0:37:340:37:35

In the end, I was 17 hours late

0:37:350:37:37

and I didn't pay 865 to get home 17 hours late.

0:37:370:37:41

If John had been flying within Europe,

0:37:420:37:45

he'd be entitled to compensation for any flight

0:37:450:37:47

delayed for more than three hours, provided the airline was at fault.

0:37:470:37:51

But, as he was outside Europe, those rules don't apply.

0:37:510:37:54

Even so, Simon says there are other options John could try.

0:37:540:37:58

There are some rules.

0:37:590:38:01

The airline itself - and I've had a look at it - terms and conditions.

0:38:010:38:04

They say, "If you're late, we will pay you compensation

0:38:040:38:08

"in accordance with our denied boarding compensation policy."

0:38:080:38:12

The trouble is I can't find anywhere

0:38:120:38:14

what that denied boarding compensation policy is,

0:38:140:38:17

so it might be something they keep to themselves.

0:38:170:38:19

So, the next thing you need to do, I'm afraid,

0:38:190:38:22

is pursue them under the Montreal Convention, 1999, which covers,

0:38:220:38:27

effectively, any international air journey anywhere in the world.

0:38:270:38:31

And that stipulates, in the case of a delay,

0:38:310:38:34

you are entitled to compensation

0:38:340:38:37

but only if you can prove that there was damage,

0:38:370:38:40

that you incurred some financial cost as a result

0:38:400:38:44

of the airline's inability to get you where you needed to be.

0:38:440:38:48

An alternative solution would be rather closer to home.

0:38:480:38:52

In your specific case,

0:38:520:38:54

I think there's something else that you could wish for which is,

0:38:540:38:59

if you were going through the small claims court,

0:38:590:39:01

Money Claim Online, and you said, "Here's the circumstances.

0:39:010:39:04

"I think it's wrong that I should have paid this extra money

0:39:040:39:07

"and I want to get it back", you might well find

0:39:070:39:09

that there's a sympathetic judge who says,

0:39:090:39:12

"Yes, even though this is beyond the scope

0:39:120:39:14

"of European passenger rights rules,

0:39:140:39:16

"I think John is entitled to that back."

0:39:160:39:18

Making a claim through the small claims court does incur a fee

0:39:180:39:22

but that can be as little as £25

0:39:220:39:24

and there's nothing quite like a letter

0:39:240:39:27

from a solicitor to get things moving.

0:39:270:39:29

But Simon thinks there could be a simpler way to resolve this.

0:39:290:39:33

-Just a quick question. Did you book through a travel agent?

-Yes.

0:39:330:39:37

-OK, have you told them about what happened?

-Actually, no.

0:39:370:39:41

Well, can I suggest that you do? Here's why.

0:39:410:39:44

If it's a good, reputable travel agent...

0:39:440:39:47

-Is it one you've used before?

-Oh, definitely.

0:39:470:39:49

Good travel agents, which have relationships with airlines,

0:39:490:39:53

will probably, I hope, take your side and say,

0:39:530:39:56

"We're going to call the airline on your behalf."

0:39:560:39:59

And they'll phone up and say, "We've got this customer, loyal man,

0:39:590:40:03

"been with us for years.

0:40:030:40:05

"You messed him around, you charged a change fee.

0:40:050:40:07

"Do you mind refunding him?"

0:40:070:40:09

Now, I can't guarantee that's going to work,

0:40:090:40:11

but a good agent will always be fighting your corner,

0:40:110:40:14

-so try your agent first and let us know what happens.

-I will do.

0:40:140:40:17

-Thank you for your help.

-OK, nice to see.

-Thanks for taking the time.

0:40:170:40:20

Meanwhile, another complaint we hear all the time

0:40:200:40:23

is about the hugely inflated prices that families are charged

0:40:230:40:27

to travel during the school holidays.

0:40:270:40:29

A lot of you feel really cheesed off about that one.

0:40:290:40:32

Holiday companies do take advantage of school holidays

0:40:320:40:35

-and they do hike the prices up.

-But what business are you in?

0:40:350:40:38

-I'm in the brewery business.

-Ah, OK, so you will be used to the idea

0:40:380:40:43

that actually you make lots of your money over Christmas,

0:40:430:40:46

so it's the same with the holiday companies.

0:40:460:40:48

They make all their money during the school holidays.

0:40:480:40:51

Most of the year, they're losing a fortune.

0:40:510:40:53

But our beer prices don't change according to the season.

0:40:530:40:55

Right, but you sell a lot more of it at Christmas.

0:40:550:40:58

Consumer, absolutely, will drink more.

0:40:580:41:00

Ah, OK, but that's because it's different.

0:41:000:41:03

The supply of holidays is fixed

0:41:030:41:07

because there's only a certain number of planes,

0:41:070:41:11

there's only a certain number of hotel rooms

0:41:110:41:13

so, therefore, you can make extra beer for Christmas

0:41:130:41:16

and you can keep selling it at the same price.

0:41:160:41:18

The holiday companies can't suddenly quadruple the number of holidays.

0:41:180:41:22

Everything is sort of finite, so, therefore, they put the prices up.

0:41:220:41:26

-It's the way that the market works.

-That's your opinion.

0:41:260:41:30

It's not my opinion, it's a true fact!

0:41:310:41:33

Mm, looks like they're going to have to agree to disagree on that one.

0:41:330:41:37

If you've got a story you'd like us to investigate,

0:41:420:41:45

then get in touch with us via our Facebook page,

0:41:450:41:48

BBC Rip Off Britain,

0:41:480:41:50

our website, bbc.co.uk/ripoffbritain

0:41:500:41:55

or email us at...

0:41:550:41:57

Or if you want to send us a letter, our new address is...

0:42:000:42:03

I have to say, you can't help feeling sorry

0:42:150:42:18

for the people we've heard from today

0:42:180:42:20

and you can really understand why they were left feeling aggrieved,

0:42:200:42:23

not least because as far as they're concerned,

0:42:230:42:26

all the problems they faced could, perhaps, have been resolved

0:42:260:42:29

or at least raised before they'd got to their destination.

0:42:290:42:32

Because, of course, once they'd got there, in some cases,

0:42:320:42:34

it was way too late to do much about it.

0:42:340:42:37

So, our heartfelt thanks to everyone who shared their story with us today

0:42:370:42:40

because, I think we've all learnt so much from them.

0:42:400:42:43

Holidays are such an important time.

0:42:430:42:45

We spend months looking forward to them

0:42:450:42:47

and it really is a crushing disappointment

0:42:470:42:50

when they don't live up to expectations

0:42:500:42:52

or, indeed, when they don't deliver what you thought you had paid for.

0:42:520:42:56

And I think holiday companies sometimes lose sight of that

0:42:560:42:59

when they're dealing with their customers' complaints.

0:42:590:43:02

I mean, loss of enjoyment is hard to quantify,

0:43:020:43:05

but it probably puts you right off

0:43:050:43:06

rebooking with the same people again,

0:43:060:43:09

so you'd think it was in everyone's interest

0:43:090:43:11

to get things properly resolved.

0:43:110:43:13

Well, that's all from us for today

0:43:130:43:15

but we'll be looking into more of your stories very soon.

0:43:150:43:18

-Until then, from the three of us, goodbye.

-Bye-bye.

-Bye-bye.

0:43:180:43:21

As a group of unconnected travellers come together to share extraordinary footage of the conditions at their hotel, why have their complaints been treated differently by the holiday company when they went through the same experience?

A company's boasts of being the best are questioned by disappointed customers, including a pair of pensioners who felt they had no choice but to pack up and go home almost as soon as they arrived.

Paralympian Steve Brown meets people who say even the biggest holiday names are getting it wrong when it comes to disabled travellers.

And travel expert Simon Calder has tips on visiting Croatia on a budget.