The Rip Off Britain team investigate viewers' holiday issues. A woman reveals how her break was ruined by bedbugs. Plus will a pricier sun cream provide superior protection?
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We asked you who's left you feeling ripped off
when it comes to your holidays.
And you came back with a catalogue of travel disasters.
I was absolutely mortified. I'm upset, I'm angry and I'm frustrated.
It's the inconvenience, it's the stress.
So whether it's a deliberate rip-off...a simple mistake or
a catch in the small print...
we'll find out why you're
out of pocket and what you can do about it.
Your stories. Your money.
This...is Rip-Off Britain.
Hello and welcome to Rip-Off Britain.
Along with a little sunshine from the lovely island of Lanzarote,
we'll be bringing you plenty of unmissable tips and advice -
particularly when it comes to making sure that your holiday isn't
interrupted by anyone or ANYTHING... that you didn't expect.
And believe me - some of the, how shall we put it,
"uninvited guests" you've been telling us about
are the last thing you'd want to be hosting wherever you are -
but especially when you've gone away for a well-deserved break.
You'll see exactly what we're talking about in a minute -
but just to give you a little hint,
-a few of the holiday gate-crashers are living creatures!
And you don't have to be holidaying abroad to come across these
particular critters - you could actually run into them
in the UK as well.
But fortunately, not everything that we're investigating today can
move or crawl...!
Because we're also going to be having the low-down on a
holiday essential that we guarantee you take whenever you go away.
But I bet the chances are that you're not actually using it properly.
Coming up... The seaside gets scary -
but are our favourite resorts REALLY under attack from above?
They're actually quite threatening large birds
-when they just come upon you out of nowhere.
-We see them
as a flying pest - sort of the same as rats.
And it's a summer holiday essential - but is there ANY
benefit in splashing out on a more expensive sunscreen?
If we have two SPF products that retail at different price points,
the SPF protection that you receive from them would be identical.
Now, let's be absolutely honest - one of the most unwelcome
intrusions on what should be a lovely, peaceful holiday is noise.
And when it's so bad that every moment by the pool is going
to be ruined by the distinctive drilling and banging
of building work, you might expect that you'd be warned in advance,
especially if you've splashed out to stay at a five-star hotel,
as the family in our next story had done.
When taxi driver Gary Griffiths decided to take his wife
and two daughters on a fortnight's holiday back in August 2015,
he was determined to do it in style.
And after saving up for two years, he found the perfect Florida break -
combining ten days' hectic activity in Orlando
and then a peaceful stay at a luxury beach resort in Miami.
The kids were so looking forward to going to the theme parks
and everything that goes with it all, the nice weather
and then going down to Miami for the last four days, to relax.
I was looking forward to sitting by the pool relaxing,
the kids would be in the pool and I could sit there
and read a book... and pass the time of day.
Sounds absolutely perfect!
And the first part of the holiday certainly lived up to the
Orlando was fantastic - it's out of this world.
The hotel we stayed in was fantastic.
That had eight or nine swimming pools and we had all
the theme parks to choose from, all the different rides to go on.
After all that excitement, lazing around the pool was what the
family was anticipating from the rest of their trip.
And that's why they'd chosen the five-star Eden Roc hotel in Miami.
But when they arrived, I'm afraid things weren't quite what they'd expected...
When we came into the foyer of the hotel, the ceiling to floor
was covered in dustsheets and there was building work going on,
grinding noise. And we were just, like, "What is going on here?
"What have we let ourselves in for?"
We just looked at each other as if...
"Are we really in the right hotel?"
You know, cos this is a five-star hotel to finish a holiday off on.
But there was no mistake. This WAS the correct hotel.
The receptionist told the family that it was undergoing
a major refurbishment programme, that indeed had started three months previously.
What's more, Gary says the hotel claimed that his
tour operator, Thomson, had been
informed about the extent of the building works MONTHS beforehand.
That was news to us, cos we'd actually booked the holiday
a year before, so they've had plenty of time to let us know.
Four days before we went on holiday, we went into the local travel agent's
to upgrade the room in Miami. They said we couldn't do it
because it was a package deal
but they never once mentioned about the building work going on.
The family had no choice but to try and make the best of it,
hoping that the building works might not be as bad as they first appeared.
But as Gary was soon to find out, that would not be easy.
We got the keys to the room, we went up to the room, which was
fantastic - the views. And then, when we opened the patio doors,
the noise that hit us was amazing.
It was a grinding noise
coming from down below, but we were 17 floors up and it was just
really, really loud.
The noise was piercing, really, it was constant grinding noises
and there was pressure washers going off, stone cleaners.
Everywhere you turned, there was noise at different levels
Me and my wife spoke to each other and thought we best film it
and take pictures, cos no-one will believe
the level of noise that is going on, on such a luxury five-star hotel,
that they could put you there and expect you to be happy with it.
But the disruption wasn't just confined to their room.
The main swimming pool was closed - leaving only two smaller pools open.
And in any case, the noise from the building works meant
relaxing by the pool - indeed the whole point of staying at this
hotel in the first place - was looking highly unlikely...
Well, we went down to the pool and the noise was unbearable.
We were just, like...
And in between the pools they were doing building work as well.
Gary went down to reception to speak to the manager to complain.
But all the hotel could offer was eight drinks tokens for the bar...
Incidentally, by the pool.
Basically, "Go and sit there with the noise
"and have a free drink on us." Which is just a joke.
It was far from the relaxing end to the trip that they'd been hoping for.
We were annoyed and angry and the girls were upset cos they wanted to
sit by the pool and play in the pool all day. It was just an inconvenience
for everyone, you couldn't relax there, so it was a case
of going out of the hotel to get away,
which defeated the whole object of
coming to stay and relax by the pool.
It ruined the holiday, to be honest.
Once back in the UK, Gary got in touch with the holiday company, Thomson,
asking why he had not been told about the building work in advance -
as travel industry guidelines say he should have been.
The company replied saying it does TRY to advise holiday-makers
about building work and regretted not doing so in this case
but that such works are something over which they have limited control.
None of which washes with our travel expert, Simon Calder.
Here's a fact of holiday life, if you're going to a resort, well,
there's going to be some building or renovation work going on somewhere,
that's just the nature of the travel industry. But the crucial point is
how much is it going to affect your enjoyment of the holiday?
In cases like this, where there's building work going on,
there are two very simple tests -
does the holiday company know about it in advance and
is it likely seriously to impair the holiday?
This poor family did exactly the right things -
they took it up with the hotel, they took it up with the
tour operator, but they are still a long way from getting satisfaction.
A long way, indeed.
Thomson did offer the family £460 in holiday vouchers.
But Gary doesn't feel that makes up for the disastrous end to the trip.
Extremely disappointed that such a major holiday company
can wash their hands of a major complaint as if it's nothing.
It might be nothing to them, but they've ruined our luxury holiday
that we were so looking forward to.
Now, what should happen in a situation like this is not simply that
you're TOLD about any works... But if they're major ones you're
offered the opportunity to transfer your booking somewhere else.
So, in this case, what went wrong?
We asked Thomson exactly that, and it told us that it relies
on its resort partners advising on any building work, but that, in this case,
despite what Gary was told at the time...
The company told us that it does...
the progress of work to the hotels it works with.
And said that...
Thomson said it's...
caused to Gary and his family
and it's offered them £1,500
as a further gesture of goodwill, which Gary HAS accepted.
But despite that, Gary would still have preferred -
however late in the day - to have been warned about the building work
so that the family could have changed its plans.
Even if we would've got told in the travel agent's four days before
we went, when we were in there, "There's building work,"
we would've stayed in Orlando and enjoyed the luxury there
of the five-star hotel, and all the theme parks were on our doorstep.
So, we had no reason to drive 250 miles to a building site.
Now, if the stories in last summer's papers are to be believed,
something synonymous with the British seaside that we've
tended to regard as little more than an occasional nuisance has
now become a dangerous menace.
We're talking about seagulls.
They've been known in the past for stealing the odd chip here
and there, but stories in the tabloids recently
have accused them of attacking dogs and even people.
So - how worried should we be?
Is this just a silly-season exaggeration or are these
birds more of a pest than perhaps we'd realised?
It's like a scene from a Hitchcock movie,
rather than the coastal resorts of Britain.
Tourists ducking for cover,
protecting their fish and chips and shading
their ice creams - all because of a terrifying threat from above...
I've had a couple of ice creams stolen within five minutes before.
They're actually quite threatening large birds
when they just come upon you out of nowhere.
We see them as a flying pest, sort of the same as rats.
If there's food everywhere, they're bound to come down and attack you.
The summer of 2015 saw reports of seagulls swooping down onto
people or animals all around the coast.
Most attacks were to steal food, but in the most serious ones
the birds killed a pet tortoise and a Yorkshire terrier in Cornwall.
Seagull panic in the county reached fever pitch and during a summer visit,
even the Prime Minister had something to say on the subject.
Reading the papers this morning about how aggressive the seagulls
are now in St Ives, for instance, I mean, we do have a problem
and I was listening to the MPs about this last night and I think
it's the start of a conversation about something needing to be done.
St Ives, nestled on the northern tip of the county,
has had its fair share of problems with gulls, but whilst
the council says things are no worse than they've been in previous years,
some of the town's business owners - such as Gordon Mackie,
who runs a fish-and-chip shop on the harbour front - disagree.
Well, I've lived with them now for over 30 years in St Ives
and I'm finding now that the increasing amount of attacks
can have a detrimental effect, particularly on businesses.
Gordon says the gulls have become a real pest for his customers.
I've seen my customers affected on various occasions.
It's more fixed on attacking food items rather than trying to
injure animals or humans.
There has been a lot of distress caused,
particularly to younger children
when they do lose an ice cream, or some chips or a pasty.
Because all gull species are protected,
there's a limit to what the council can do to combat the problem.
They've turned to some innovative solutions,
like broadcasting seagull distress calls through loudspeakers to
put them off, pricking seagull eggs so they don't hatch,
and even releasing birds of prey to scare them away.
But locals like Gordon still think this isn't enough.
There are a multitude of businesses around the town that have issues with seagulls,
right from people trading onto the street to people trading onto the beach.
There's no measure been put in place so far that has had any
real effect on problems with seagulls in the town.
MUSIC: Surfin' Bird by The Trashmen
Gull expert Peter Rock has been studying the birds for over
30 years, and in 2014 counted around 240 breeding pairs in St Ives alone.
Numbers are growing,
and as a consequence of that we are seeing more and more incidents.
Peter has spent years painstakingly monitoring the birds by putting
rings around their legs, and as of 2015 he recorded 498 colonies
on the British mainland, with one numbering almost 3,000 pairs.
Up and down the country there is certainly a large problem,
particularly in places where the colony size is very large.
Here in St Ives, the colony is only 240 pairs.
Bristol, for instance, is ten times that number.
Local authorities nationwide are keen to stop the gulls posing
a problem, but Peter's research has helped explain why many
deterrents don't seem to be having the desired effect.
We have a load of so-called tried and tested methods,
weird and wonderful things - and they don't really do very much.
We're dealing with birds which are at the high end
of avian intelligence, not the low end, which means
because they're smart they are quite easily able to overcome
most everything that's been thrown at them,
spikes and tension wires and plastic eagle owls.
Plastic eagle owls - for goodness' sake.
Whoever thought a plastic eagle owl was ever going to scare anything?
It's a piece of plastic.
True. Well, that deterrent is even less effective
when a gull is trying to protect its young,
something Peter blames for attacks
that have injured people and killed pets.
In the end, we're talking about parents
protecting their offspring, that's the be-all and end-all of that.
And they have no desire whatsoever to do anything aggressive to
human beings except for that reason.
Baby seagulls start to hatch at the same time as the tourist season
begins to peak, and this is when their parents will start
to target people who might look like they're posing a threat.
The birds will swoop at you but come to only about six feet away.
And it looks very, very aggressive
and lots of people think that's an attack. Actually, it isn't.
That's another way of them saying more forcefully that you need to go.
If you're not going, the next stage is
they will defecate all over you with surprising accuracy and...
Or regurgitate, or both at the same time.
Lovely(!) Well, nobody wants that on a day at the seaside, do they?
So, if you think a gull attack is imminent,
Peter has one key piece of advice.
Get up against a wall,
because in order to hit you they'd really have to do some majestical flying.
But rather than being an aggressive attack, it's usually
the case that a swooping seagull simply wants to snatch food
out of the hands of unsuspecting tourists.
And that's a message that St Ives Town Council
is keen to reiterate.
It told us that, short of banning people from eating
in the street - which it cannot and would not wish to do - and tackling
the problem of food litter, with solutions such as specially designed bins,
it has to rely on education and awareness among the public.
The council also urged food outlets to consider the amount of food
they sell as takeaways, and to warn their customers about taking
care about how they eat and dispose of their rubbish outside.
So, while it seems there's no sudden need to panic -
and certainly no reason to be put off going to the seaside -
if you'd rather not have to protect your pasties from greedy gulls,
then Peter has some common-sense advice.
Don't buy any food out in the open.
But if you're going to do that, then protect it.
Make sure that you don't wave it around a lot.
If you're going to eat it out in the open air,
why don't you get up against a wall?
Why don't you, if you're going to sit on the beach,
sit up against the sea wall?
In order to grab your food, the gulls would have then to do some
Still to come on Rip-Off Britain... the holiday-maker who found herself
both the bed AND breakfast for some unwanted guests...
When I woke up, I was really itchy, covered in bites all up my arms and legs.
There was just loads of black bugs crawling on me and on the sheets.
I was just like, "Oh, my God, what are these?"
Once again, we're ready to open up our
Rip-Off Britain pop-up shop.
Now this time we've come to one of the busy shopping centres
right in the heart of Nottingham.
For two days only, we've brought our team of experts out on the road
so that we can give advice face-to-face.
We've got a terrific team here that are ready to give you all
the tools and all the information you need
to ensure that the next time you
hand over your hard-earned cash you won't be ripped off.
Paul Mann came to see travel journalist Lisa Francesca Nand
after a family holiday was ruined due to the airline
cancelling their flight.
We could have gone with another airline but because it was
school holidays, the cost of the flight had trebled, quadrupled.
Give me a ballpark figure, what kind of sum are we talking about?
£2,500, £3,000 for the flights...
-Just for the air tickets?
And you'd paid how much for the accommodation?
I'd paid £1,000 and my daughter had paid just a bit more,
cos there was more of them.
And the owner, quite rightly, had said cos it was so close
to the departure date, he couldn't resell the apartment.
So we cancelled it, we never bothered.
-Yep, the whole lot.
Did you get any money back at all off this?
We got money for the flight tickets, but we didn't get any
compensation for the apartment that we'd already bought.
-Did you take out any kind of insurance?
-We certainly did.
So you would have expected then to have, what,
something back for the accommodation you'd paid, but you didn't?
-It's a tale of woe, Lisa, isn't it?
It is, and unfortunately this is one of the things when you don't
book a package holiday, which, by the way, I completely agree with.
I love booking things separately myself.
But unfortunately, one of the issues is your contract is
directly with the owner and you've got no backup if things go wrong.
I have had a look through your insurance policy and unfortunately
this one has a clause saying,
"We are not responsible if this happens."
The one thing I do have to ask you is,
how did you pay, on what sort of card did you pay for this?
-It was on a credit card.
You should, under the Consumer Credit Act,
have the right to claim anything between £100
and £30,000, you should have the right to
claim that back through your credit-card provider.
So that's your next course of action, contact your credit-card people
and hopefully they'll be able to sort it out for you...
Well, I'm about to book next year's holiday already this year, so...
-What lessons have you learnt?
-Book it on a credit card.
And have a wonderful holiday this time.
Thank you very much.
Outside the shop, we set up our gripe area, where you came along to
tell us about all the things that really get you steaming!
And holiday expert Simon Calder
couldn't resist sharing what winds HIM up, too!
It's a fantastic time to be a traveller but there's
some things I get really cross about!
First thing - roaming charges.
Sure, the European Union is very good at saying
you can't charge more than really a few pence a minute
or a few pence per text, but once you get outside Europe...
And that could just be as far as Turkey, suddenly you could be up to
£1 a minute or even more.
And it's worse still if you're downloading stuff from the internet,
so make sure you know how much you're going to be paying.
Goodnight, sleep tight, and don't let the bedbugs bite.
Well, we've probably all had that said to us
at some time in our lives.
We might have even said it ourselves!
But while most of us will then go on to have a very peaceful,
insect-free night, some people, I'm afraid, aren't so lucky
and end up sharing their beds with some VERY unwanted guests.
Now, that would be bad enough if it was at home,
but it's certainly not what you expect to find in the hotel beds
that you've booked for your holiday.
Fuerteventura - the second-largest of the Canary Islands,
and one that enjoys near year-round sunshine.
It's a popular choice for those wanting a slightly lower-key holiday
than on neighbouring Tenerife.
And it's the destination of choice for the Lorenz family -
mum Tracey, dad Karl and 12-year-old Sophie.
Their most recent trip - in October, 2014 - was a seven-night
all-inclusive stay at the two-star Alisios Playa, a complex
of apartments. They'd booked through online travel agent On The Beach,
paying £780 for flights, transfers and the accommodation.
Situated just 300 metres from the beach,
the family couldn't wait to relax and enjoy their holiday.
We unpacked. Went up to the beach.
A few hours later, come back,
I was a bit tired, thought I'd have a lay down in the room.
But things were about to go rapidly downhill...thanks to some
particularly unwelcome visitors.
When I woke up, I was really itchy, covered in bites all up my arms
and legs, I had bites up my face, in my ears, where my face was on
the pillow, across my back, my front, literally covered in bites.
And it wasn't just BITES that Tracey was covered in.
I lifted up the sheets, and there was bugs all in the bed,
it was just black bugs crawling on me
and on the sheets.
There was loads, too many to count.
I was just like, "Oh, my God, what are these?"
And sort of got up, sort of
brushing them off of me, called my husband in. He came in, he went,
"Oh, my God, what are they?"
I said, "I don't know, but they've bitten me all over."
Tracey was convinced that the unwanted visitors
to their apartment were bedbugs - small, bloodsucking insects
that TEND to come out at night.
And not wanting to spend another minute in their company, she headed
to the hotel reception to see what could be done to get rid of them.
They came in, stripped all the bedding off, took...
Put it in plastic bags and took it away,
took the whole bed unit away and put in a new bed.
But it seemed that the uninvited roommates were determined to
Later that night, just as Tracey
and her daughters were about to drop off to sleep...
We started seeing the bugs coming out from the headboards
and the sockets, and behind the pictures on the walls and everything again.
And we just said, "We can't stay in that room, you know,
"get more bites, we just can't."
By this time, it's nearly ten o'clock,
there's no-one on reception again, there's nothing we can do at that
time of night...
So there's no holiday reps for On The Beach there, so we
ended up, all three of us, sleeping on the sofa in the front room.
The following morning, the family were moved to another apartment.
And in the cold light of day,
it became clear to see the extent of the damage the bugs had caused.
It was terribly uncomfortable because of the itching and burning.
And the heat wasn't helping, because it made it,
you know, more irritating.
It was very upsetting because we, you know,
go on holiday to enjoy a break, get a bit of warmth from the winter weather,
and it just wasn't enjoyable at all.
Tracey was prescribed a steroid cream and injections to help relieve
the itching, but she couldn't get the bedbugs out of her mind...
It spoilt it completely, you know, it ruined the holiday for all of us.
But was Tracey right in thinking that the insects that had bitten her
Determined to get to the bottom of what had caused her
so much irritation,
she brought TWO of the undesirable bedfellows back to the UK.
These are the bugs that were in the bed when I woke up
and was itching.
Martin Harvey is the president
of the British Pest Control Association.
He knows a thing or two about creepy-crawlies.
So we asked him to take a look at the specimens that Tracey had
Bedbugs are around six millimetres long.
Their abdomen, which is their hindquarters,
is like a shield shape and they're rust red, brown type of colour.
There are certain signs that you can look for to spot a bedbug problem.
And those would be there's a characteristic smell
when there's a very heavy bedbug problem.
And that smell is a sickly-sweet, almondy smell.
You normally see blood spots around the headboard of a bed
but also around the buttons that hold a mattress together and around
the joints of a bed where the bed is actually bolted together.
These are small gaps where this very flat insect can hide and can breed.
So, was Tracey's hunch correct?
In my opinion, having had a good look at these samples,
there is no doubt in my mind that Tracy's been bitten by bedbugs.
After being virtually eradicated in the developed world
in the 1980s, the bedbug population is once more on the rise.
Though still rare, it's thought an increase in travel and movement
around the world, and the possibility that the bugs have grown resistant
to chemicals used to treat them, are to thank for their growing numbers.
And Dr James Logan from
the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
says they're not in the slightest bit fussy
about the standard of accommodation in which they find themselves.
It doesn't matter whether it's a five-star hotel or one of the cheapest hostels that
you can find, bedbugs can invade pretty much anywhere like that.
The best thing you can do is just be aware, when you're travelling,
especially in tropical countries, that there might be
bedbugs around and minimise the risk of them getting into your luggage
and you bringing them home. Make use of the luggage racks,
because that keeps your luggage off the ground. And one of the classic ways that
bedbugs can be transported is that they climb inside your luggage that's
on the ground or in your clothes, so the key is to be neat and tidy,
keep your luggage off the ground and zipped up, so the bedbugs can't get in.
Those are certainly good tips for the rest of us,
but I'm afraid they're too late for Tracey.
She complained to On The Beach when she returned to the UK
and was offered a refund of £173 - half the cost of the accommodation.
But as far as she was concerned,
this really didn't make up for what happened.
It did ruin the holiday.
Because we wanted to go and relax, and we couldn't do that.
You know, having to spend twice a day
traipsing up to the doctor's to get injections,
three times a day putting cream on,
couldn't go in the pool, couldn't sunbathe.
When we contacted On The Beach,
the website Tracey used to book her break, the company told us that,
on the rare occasions customers experience problems on holiday, it
always advises them to get in touch while they're still at the resort.
As Tracey didn't do this,
it was unable to help resolve the situation at the time.
But after we got involved, On The Beach liaised with the
hotel provider it used to arrange the accommodation,
and this provider has now offered Tracey
a full refund of the hotel cost.
And on top of that, On The Beach has offered a further £220
as a gesture of goodwill.
We also contacted the Alisios Playa Apartments,
who told us that this is the first time a situation like this
has occurred, and the affected areas were cleaned with steam
and a high-pressure vacuum following the complaints.
The management also pointed out it had covered
the cost of Tracey's medical treatment while on holiday.
But for Tracey, while the bites have now gone, the memories
of her trip to Fuerteventura will last a lot longer.
Never in my life have I experienced anything like that.
I wouldn't wish it on anybody, it's horrible.
Our travel expert Simon Calder is sharing his top tips
on favourite destinations across the globe.
This time, Copenhagen,
a city where Simon knows how to start saving money
as soon as you arrive.
Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen.
The Danish capital is a real beauty,
best seen from the canal that cuts through the city.
You could take an expensive harbour tour,
or hop aboard one of the little yellow water buses
that run every 10 or 20 minutes.
And the best time to do that is as soon as you arrive.
That's because a ticket from the airport into town
is valid for two hours.
The train ride only takes 12 minutes, giving you bags of time
to get more value out of the ticket. Best invested in boat transport.
With one of the longest pedestrianised shopping streets
in Europe, Copenhagen is retail heaven.
But there are also plenty of places to wander for free
and give your credit card a well-earned rest.
Like the trampolines built into the walkway on the Havnegade promenade.
Both children and adults can bounce for free.
And if you get tired of jumping, cross the bridge
and go for a free swim instead.
Open-air swimming with the city's skyline in view is a real experience.
The harbour baths of Copenhagen open all summer long
and are completely free.
The water's sparkling clean
and there's everything from diving towers
to pools dedicated entirely to children.
You might be reluctant to leave this European highlight,
but when you do, there's one final way to save a few Danish kroner.
Have you noticed that at airports worldwide,
the price of eating and drinking tends to treble
compared with outside?
Well, at Copenhagen airport, terminal two, middle of the ground floor,
there's a supermarket selling food and drink at normal prices.
And they provide tables and chairs for you to enjoy a drink
and something to eat before your flight.
Possibly the best budget airport bar in the world.
Saving money is a piece of kage.
That's Danish for cake.
Well, as you can see, lots of people
are having a wonderful holiday down there on the beach.
But coming up, a holiday essential that I guarantee
you don't know quite as much about as you think you do.
Or at least not yet.
Sun cream is something you may think you've got the measure of,
but get ready for some surprises.
Not just about how you should use it,
but especially when it comes to what you pay for it.
Because if you reckon you're getting better protection by slapping
on all the stuff you've splashed out more for,
well, that's not generally the case.
If I could offer you only one tip for the future,
sunscreen would be it.
We've been told for years that, before hitting the beach,
we need to slap on the sunscreen.
And it's estimated that UK consumers spend over £180 million a year
on the white stuff.
But although we've got the message that we need to put it on,
even back in Blighty, how much else do we really know about sun cream?
And are we getting as much protection as we should do?
The Trafford Synchronised Swimming Club spends a lot of time
with their bodies on show.
So keeping their skin in tiptop condition is always a priority.
But how well do they look after it when they're out in the sun?
-OK, that's great, guys. Well done.
I've been burnt in the past, and obviously it's painful,
it doesn't look very nice.
So, yeah, I always make sure I put sun cream on.
It's very important to protect your skin,
especially because sometimes you don't realise how strong the sun is.
OK, good. Shoulders out, everybody.
The swimmers may think they know their onions
when it comes to sunscreen, but are they using it properly?
We asked sun-protection expert Professor Brian Diffey to test
them on the areas that he thinks most of us typically get wrong.
Starting with that all-important number on the front of the bottle.
Can anyone tell me what that number stands for?
How much protection it gives for your skin from the UV?
So, what number do you have on your bottle?
OK, but you don't know what the 50 really refers to?
The SPF, or sun protection factor,
is the key thing most of us look at.
It's the measure of how well a cream prevents UVB rays
from damaging the skin, in comparison to using none at all.
If you take an SPF 20, for example, and you put it on your skin,
you would end up with a 20th of the exposure
to the sun's ultraviolet, burning rays
that you would get if you hadn't applied the sunscreen.
But the SPF is not the only thing you need to understand.
Turn to the back of the bottle and you'll see a star rating.
Now, what's that all about?
Is it the quality of the SPF in the product?
No, not at all, no.
So nobody really knows what the star rating means?
What it does is to give a measure of the spectrum of protection.
That is, how broad the protection is
across the ultraviolet region of the sun's rays.
The higher the number of stars,
the greater the spectrum, or width, of protection.
The star rating acts as a guide to how widely the cream protects
you from all types of rays - including the ones that can
cause ageing and even lead to cancer.
To add to the confusion, there's no relation between the SPF
and the star system.
Some bottles with really high SPF
don't come with the best star ratings.
And that means that when you're choosing sun cream,
the SPF shouldn't be your first and only priority.
The first thing to do is to turn the bottle over,
and look for the star rating.
Choose one that has four or five stars.
That way, you're getting good spectrum, or breadth of protection.
And then turn it over and choose one...
Make sure it's at least medium, high or very high protection,
so you're getting good power of protection.
Seena Seka has been working in the sun-cream industry
for something like 20 years.
As chief product developer at this factory in Manchester, he's
the brains behind the formulation of over 12 brands of sun-care products.
And while there may be differences in the way they feel on the skin
and their exact composition,
fundamentally, they're all made the same way.
In a bottle of sun cream you have sun filters,
you have moisturisers, water-resistant ingredients.
Maybe one or two skin-conditioning ingredients.
And when you combine them all together with water and energy,
you have a sun cream.
All the brands of sun cream made at the factory have unique
formulations - and widely differing prices in the shops.
But the difference in cost rarely has anything to do with how
effective they are at blocking out those harmful rays.
This one sells for £1,
this one will retail for between £3-£5,
and this one will retail for £8-£9.
The difference in prices in sun-care products is
based around the things that you add in to the base material,
as well as the brand scope of the product.
But however much you pay, there's one thing that will not change.
If we have two SPF products that retail at different price points,
the SPF protection that you receive from them would be identical.
You won't get better protection by buying a more
expensive SPF 20 than a cheaper SPF 20.
So while you can save your pennies
and still get exactly the same protection, the one crucial thing
that does affect how well your sun cream works is how you put it on.
Back at the swimming pool, Professor Diffey's finding
out that that's where things can get really messy.
You'll only get the level of protection promised by SPF
if you apply a certain thickness.
So if you're not putting enough on,
it simply won't do the job you think it will.
I'd like you to take some sunscreen in the way you normally would,
and just put some on.
Brian has calculated how much sun cream our swimmers need to apply
on one arm to get the full protection promised on the pack.
And he's given them that exact amount in these little pots.
But we've only asked the swimmers
to apply as much as they think they need.
If you were about to go sunbathing now,
everybody would feel comfortable with that amount, is that right?
In fact, not one of our six swimmers
applied all the sunscreen we gave them.
April applied the smallest proportion - just 28% of what
she would need to apply to get the SPF on the bottle.
Jill was next - she applied a third of the sun cream.
Danielle and Sarah both put on around half
of their allotted sun cream.
And Jehan put on just a little bit more, at 60%.
Only Abi - who told us she burns easily,
and so is particularly careful -
came close to putting on the full amount, with 86% applied.
It means, in the end, that none of our swimmers
would be getting as much protection as they'd assumed.
Roughly, it worked out that they put on
about a half of what was in the pot.
What this means is that if the sunscreen was labelled SPF 30,
in reality, they'd only be getting protection equivalent
to about an SPF 15.
And if they'd used an SPF-labelled 20 sunscreen,
it meant they would have ended up with about only tenfold protection.
-Are you surprised by that?
-Did any of you know that before?
To see how much they'd need to use to get full SPF,
Brian asks the swimmers to apply the rest of the cream in their pots.
April, tell me, how does that feel?
It's horrible, it's really thick.
-And if you were on the beach would you put that much on?
The swimmers might be surprised by how much cream they really
need to put on, but the result is exactly what Brian had expected.
When people use a high-factor sunscreen
they will often get sunburnt, simply because of inadequate application.
People aren't putting on, and don't wish to put on,
the amount of sunscreen that is used in the laboratory.
So the SPF numbers that we see on the bottle really don't
reflect reality in the numerical value of protection that
people think they might be getting.
Regularly reapplying thin layers of cream will usually mean
you'll build up thicker layers of protection.
But for our swimmers, this has been an eye-opening experiment.
I was quite shocked at how much sun cream you have to put on to
just get the SPF that it says on the front of the bottle.
It's made me think. For many, many years
I've not been putting the right amount of sunscreen on myself,
and I've not really given myself as much protection as I should be doing.
If you've got a story you'd like us to investigate,
you can get in touch with us via our Facebook page -
our website - bbc.co.uk/ripoffbritain -
Or if you want to send us a letter,
then our new address is...
I don't know about you, girls, but I am still itching all over
from seeing those bedbugs earlier on in the programme.
Not, by the way, the souvenir you hope to bring back from your holiday.
So remember that advice -
do not leave your luggage on the floor of the bedroom.
Yes, another of those little gems of advice we've heard today.
So whether you're trying to avoid seagulls swooping on your food,
or working out if it's really worth shelling out for that
more expensive sun cream,
let's hope some of the tips we've heard today turn out to be useful.
They always are, Julia.
And, of course, you may have some holiday hints and tips of your own
so please do feel free to share them on our Facebook page.
But I'm afraid that's where we have to leave you for today.
We'll be back investigating more of your stories very soon.
But until then, thanks for joining us today, from all of us on the team,
Holidays disrupted by unwelcome guests and surprises are under the spotlight in this edition of the consumer investigation series, presented by Gloria Hunniford, Angela Rippon and Julia Somerville. A woman reveals how her longed-for break was ruined by bedbugs, and a family explains why they were horrified by what they were greeted with on arriving at their five-star hotel. Plus how worried should we be by reports of marauding seagulls around British seaside resorts? And a sun cream test reveals surprising facts about the products we rely on to keep safe, as well as how we use them. Will a pricier cream provide any better protection? Plus Simon Calder has tips on how to save money in a favourite European destination.