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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We asked you who has left you feeling ripped off
when it comes to your holidays
and you came back with a catalogue of travel disasters.
I thought it was a joke, I really did. I started laughing.
I said, "You cannot be serious."
They were saying it was not their fault.
It was unbelievable. I can't even explain.
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
from the beautiful island of Tenerife
and it's wonderful for us to be sitting by the sea
with the waves crashing. It's gorgeous.
And today we're bringing you a classic crop of holiday disasters
with one thing in common.
Each of them involved a monumental letdown
which really did leave the people involved
feeling that they simply didn't get what they paid for originally.
For instance, you've planned ahead,
you've chosen your resort or your hotel
because they really do seem to fit the bill,
only you arrive and find that it does nothing of the kind.
Clearly, you're going to feel thoroughly hacked off,
especially if your lasting memories of that trip
are going to be that you spent the whole time having to complain.
I know, and it's going to make things even worse
if your complaints appear to fall on deaf ears.
All of the people we'll be meeting
certainly feel that's what happened to them.
Now, no-one expects every aspect of a trip to always go smoothly
but these people would argue that it wasn't minor issues
that left them so upset, but really fundamental problems
which left their holidays in tatters.
Coming up, how dreams of a holiday haven in Gran Canaria
turned into this noisy nightmare.
We were greeted by the sounds of jackhammers.
Electric saws, drilling.
And the big names accused of getting things seriously wrong
for travellers with disabilities.
I was really upset, the family were upset.
We just didn't know what to do.
When we get almost identical letters from people
who don't know each other, in fact, have never met each other,
but who've all experienced exactly the same problem,
you can bet that it makes us sit up and take notice,
especially when they've got video footage
that proves just how bad things really were.
But one of the things that really stands out about this next tale,
apart from, as you will see,
what they had to put up with every morning, noon and night,
is the fact that, while the people that we've heard from
all went through the same thing at the same time in the same place,
they did not all get the same response
from the holiday company concerned.
"Dear Rip-Off Britain..."
"We don't know where to begin
"regarding our recent horror holiday."
"Dear Rip-Off Britain, I returned from the holiday from hell."
"You can only imagine our horror when I was awoken at 7.45
"on the Monday morning to the sound of up to 10 to 12 jackhammers."
"We did not anticipate that we would suffer two whole weeks
"of a craned jackhammer, drilling
"and disc cutters relentlessly carrying out work."
"I understand that other people on the same holiday and hotel
"have already e-mailed you and I thought I would do the same."
Three letters from three different couples, but just one complaint.
They all had the same disastrous stay
at a hotel on the island of Gran Canaria in May, 2016.
Tony and Phil from Stockport, Andy and Stephen from Yorkshire
and Carl and Brian from Gloucester had all timed their holidays
to coincide with the annual Gay Pride celebrations
in the popular resort of Maspalomas.
And Tony and Phil even took Tony's 79-year-old mother with them.
It was the only holiday we got during the year,
so we'd been saving up. Mum, who is, like, 79,
always came away with us cos she felt safer being with us,
so we just wanted to have a really nice, relaxing holiday.
Meanwhile, Andy and Stephen - big fans of Gran Canaria -
had been planning this trip for quite some time.
We were excited. We'd booked it a year in advance.
We were expecting, you know, fun, frolics,
as much as you could eat food and drink,
and just good times with good friends.
As for Carl and Brian, getting away from it all should have been
just what they needed to put a few difficult months behind them.
We hadn't been away for two years before this holiday,
-so it had been quite a big window.
We'd also had a personal bereavement the year before.
A close friend had died, so it was really a way of getting away
and just unwinding, really, which we needed to do.
And the place that seemed to match everyone's requirements
was the all-inclusive Servatur Waikiki hotel.
With a huge pool, a range of restaurants
and the beach just ten minutes away, there was something for everyone.
But just days before they were due to fly out,
TUI, the holiday group that owns the companies
with which they'd all booked - First Choice and Thomson -
got in touch with some bad news.
"Dear Mr Bailey,
"thank you for choosing to book your holiday with us."
"The Riu Hotel next door to Servatur Waikiki
"is undergoing a refurbishment project..."
"Which will be ongoing during your stay."
"And although most of the work is not visible,
"work is likely to be audible from certain public areas..."
"Including the pool terrace and from some balconies."
"Hotel management will continue to do all they can to ensure
"that this will not seriously impact your holiday enjoyment."
Though the Servatur Waikiki hotel itself
wasn't undergoing any refurbishments,
the Riu hotel next door was.
But, reassured by TUI's letter, the couples were confident
that any disruption would be kept to a minimum.
After reading the e-mail, I had no reservations or concerns
about going to the hotel and proceeding with the holiday.
We thought, "It's not going to be that bad.
"There's no point in sort of rushing around to change plans."
So they all jetted off, relatively unconcerned.
But the following morning,
it wasn't to the gentle sounds of the sunny resort that they woke.
We were greeted by the sounds of jackhammers.
-Electric saws, drilling.
-Dust was flying over.
There were lorries going in.
There were sparks flying from the building.
-It was disheartening.
-It looked like a bombsite. We felt like going home.
We started to think, "Is it a bad mistake staying here?"
It was just a joke. The whole thing was a joke.
The noise they suffered began before breakfast
and continued all day and into the night.
So, it's ten past eight at night and this is what's going on.
All three couples complained to the rep in the resort
about the noise but were told the only thing they could do
was raise a formal complaint when they got back to the UK
because, although they also asked to change hotels,
with such a big event going on,
available accommodation elsewhere was very thin on the ground.
So they had no choice but to sit it out
and enjoy what they could of their holiday,
which wasn't easy for any of them.
Tony's elderly mum found what she'd hoped would be
a relaxing break particularly upsetting.
To see my mum in tears... Mum's not really that...
She doesn't show her emotions, but she was in bits over it,
which had us quite tearful.
We brought all three couples together for the first time
to try and recreate a bit of the holiday atmosphere
that they say they missed out on
and, of course, to compare notes about their trip.
That's just one of many films that I took and even then,
-you can't really appreciate how loud it was to actually be there.
-That was all day long.
-Nonstop, two weeks.
It was the vibrations as well.
-The shocking aspect, there wasn't even a break all day.
Yeah, by the pool as well. You can hear it even on this little phone.
-I was going insane with it.
After struggling to relax during the day,
the only chance of getting some peace and quiet was at night,
but with the building work continuing into the evening,
that, too, was proving impossible.
-Did you wear your earplugs?
-We weren't given earplugs.
We were given orange earplugs with a little note -
complementary earplugs - when we arrived.
-We got one each.
-I thought, "What are these for?"
There was one point when I wanted to go home
and I said to Stephen, "Can we not look at flights to go home?"
And they were too expensive.
We did feel a bit desperate, didn't we, really, at the beginning,
because we felt like we'd been cheated out of the holiday.
What's more, even though the couples paid
for all-inclusive accommodation,
they all say they ended up going out for meals to escape the noise,
defeating the object of the all-inclusive package
for which they'd prepaid.
As soon as they all arrived home,
the three couples all sent complaints
to the holiday company TUI which, of course,
though not directly responsible
for the works at the neighbouring hotel,
had assured them it would try and limit the disruption.
And whilst they each had identical holiday experiences,
the same can't be said of the way the company's responded
to their individual complaints.
Andy and Stephen have been sent
a voucher for £130 to spend on a future holiday
with the company but, for the moment, they are still undecided
about what to do and feel that their complaint is still open.
But Tony and Phil have received
£282 off their next holiday with the company
and they, too, are considering what to do next.
While Carl and Brian, well, they've said no to their offer
of a £139 voucher.
Well, when we contacted TUI,
the company told us it's sorry that these customers were unhappy
with their holiday but it relies on its hotel partners to advise
on any maintenance work and it...
..for customers. It reiterated that,
as the situation did impact on guests more than had been advised,
it has offered a gesture of goodwill
and apologised for the inconvenience caused.
We also got in touch with the ClubHotel Riu Papayas,
the one that was responsible for the works.
It insisted the project...
But if you find yourself in an unexpectedly noisy resort
when you were expecting something altogether more peaceful,
travel expert Simon Calder has this advice.
Various people, including ABTA, the travel association,
have come up with guidelines about how,
if there is a certain amount of disruption,
then the holiday provider must offer alternative accommodation
or even a full refund.
The tour operators most certainly have a duty
to make sure that you are given an enjoyable holiday
and if there's just noise and dust and building work going on,
then that's not going to be very enjoyable
and they are going to have to sort it out.
But for Tony and Phil, Carl and Brian, Andy and Stephen,
while they know TUI itself wasn't to blame for the noise,
they still feel let down by the way the company handled
the situation and believe they should have been moved elsewhere,
as soon as the extent of the problem became apparent.
No human being should put another human being through that
and expect them to pay for the displeasure of a holiday like that.
The whole experience has left me disillusioned.
It's left me feeling like I don't trust tour companies.
You do put a huge amount of trust into these companies and, sadly,
on this occasion, it's been a very big lesson that we've learnt
and, no, I wouldn't be happy to book with Thomson again.
You often tell us that, for various reasons,
the accommodation you booked didn't live up to expectations.
Maybe it didn't have the facilities you'd read about
or it wasn't quite suitable for your needs.
But if you or someone you're travelling with have a disability,
not getting what you needed can have a huge impact on your holiday
and for the family we're about to meet,
it may even have put them off going away altogether.
Who was your favourite character, Phoebe? Can you remember?
Phoebe, along with the rest of her family, loves Disneyland Paris -
so much so, they've visited the theme park five times.
And in May, 2016, the family decided to take a sixth trip.
-That was really good, that was, even in the wet.
But, as the family has grown up, so have their requirements
when it comes to where they're going to stay.
That's especially the case for Phoebe,
who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair to get around.
This year was really important that we got the accommodation right.
Phoebe was getting bigger. She's harder to handle
and we needed to make sure we could get in the cabin with a ramp
and we needed to make sure she had a bed that we could do cares on.
As well as access for the wheelchair,
Phoebe needs to have a single bed with access from all sides,
so she can be lifted and cared for properly.
So, keen to have everything confirmed before they left,
Amanda asked the travel agent they were using
to check that this type of bed would be available.
I requested what facilities were there
and was told that we had four beds, two shower rooms
a roll-in shower and then a ramp to go in, which was fantastic.
A few days before they were due to travel,
with everyone's excitement mounting, they went onto the Disney website
to look for photos of the cabin they'd booked.
But Amanda couldn't find details of the disabled accommodation.
All she could see was the standard cabins,
so she rang the resort direct to double-check
that what she thought she was getting was definitely available.
It then became apparent that it wasn't what we wanted.
It was a bunk bed and a double bed. My whole world caved in.
Though the room did have enough beds for everyone to sleep in,
there wasn't the all-important single bed for Phoebe
and, without it, Amanda feared they wouldn't be able to lift
and properly care for her during their stay.
I was really upset, the family were upset.
We just didn't know what to do.
The Disney rep confirmed that, though the travel agent had booked
a disabled room, there weren't any images of the property online
which, as far as Amanda was concerned,
meant that neither she nor the agent had much chance
of accurately working out
if the accommodation was right for their particular needs.
Good girl, Honey.
Amanda and Sean felt they couldn't let the children down
and went ahead with the trip.
But, as Amanda had feared,
the only bed that was remotely suitable for Phoebe
was a pull-out bed in the living room
and with it being so low down and against a wall,
lifting and caring for Phoebe was a real struggle.
It was really frustrating
that we were having to do all these extra lifts
that we were hoping to avoid.
We were really, really upset and I went to reception
and I was upset and did have a few tears.
Although Disney has since refunded Amanda
£600 of her £2,000 trip,
it's not the money she's worried about.
My main concern with Disney
is the lack of information on their website,
so when you're browsing as a customer with disabilities,
there's absolutely no information on there at all,
telling you what you will be getting.
Well, when we checked the Disneyland Paris website, as Amanda says,
there were plenty of photos of the standard accommodation
but no pictures, just a description, of the disabled rooms,
which Amanda thinks isn't good enough.
When we put that to Disney,
it said it regrets any distress the family experienced,
telling us it offered the refund of £600 as a gesture of goodwill
after what it calls a "miscommunication"
between Amanda and the travel agent.
It went on to list all sorts of ways
the park caters for disabled visitors.
But on the accommodation front, it says it always recommends guests
who want to discuss individual needs call its dedicated team in advance.
But Amanda worries that,
if things can go wrong with a big name like Disney,
disabled guests are likely to run into problems
with many other holiday companies too.
The industry totally needs to be overhauled and really looked at.
It needs to be detailed information,
not just, "We offer disabled accommodation."
We need so much more than that.
And that's an opinion we know a lot of you share.
Many of you have e-mailed us over the last 12 months
to say you've found it very difficult
to get accurate or useful information
about a resort's facilities for disabled people
before you travelled.
Like Karen and Brian Smart from Manchester.
In 2012, Karen had a stroke.
She's since had to learn to walk and talk again
and needs a wheelchair to get about.
There's no two ways about it,
we've had it tough since Karen had her stroke.
I was fine before, nothing wrong with me,
and then I just had a stroke when I was in my sleep.
It wasn't until early 2015
that Karen felt well enough to go on holiday.
The couple booked one for August that year
through their local high street branch of Thomson.
They felt they made it clear that Karen had disabilities
and were reassured by the sales staff.
When I asked her about accessibility needs, she said,
"I can tell you it's a little bit hilly on Greece,
"but everybody recognises the need
"for accessibility requirements these days,
"and so there'll be lifts and ramps."
But that wasn't the experience that Karen and Brian say they had.
Photo number one shows the picture of the toilet.
There's no grab rails in the bathroom at all.
Number seven shows something like an eight-inch high kerb,
which is the only possible way to get to the restaurant,
impossible to get a wheelchair over.
And number nine shows the stairway,
the only means of access to the apartment
that we were originally assigned and which we couldn't accept.
Now, as this was the couple's first holiday
since Karen became a wheelchair user,
they accept that their lack of experience
meant everything was a struggle.
Even so, they firmly believe Thomson should have been more aware
of a disabled traveller's needs.
It just was not suitable,
and I feel that Thomson failed
in recognising the disability needs
for somebody at that resort.
When we spoke to Thomson about Karen and Brian's experience,
it said it was disappointed to hear that they were unhappy
with their holiday experience.
It said it had reviewed the booking
and that its staff feel they clearly explained
that not all their requirements could be guaranteed.
But it did add that it would take their feedback on board
to review its processes, as appropriate.
But the couple say the whole experience
has put them off attempting another trip.
Well, we wanted to help restore their confidence in travelling,
so we asked former wheelchair rugby Paralympian Steve Brown,
who's an avid traveller himself, to call in to help.
I've had some terrible experiences travelling.
I can't pretend I haven't.
Despite setbacks, Steve goes abroad at least four times a year
and a key part of his preparation
is to listen to fellow disabled friends' holiday recommendations.
What I do now is I spend an awful lot more time
speaking to other people that have been in the same situation
and hearing that from the horse's mouth,
rather than the travel agent's, has got so much more weight for me.
If somebody else with my disability, in a wheelchair, says that,
-then I'm going to go with it.
-That is a very valid point.
-Yeah, make it a bit better, wouldn't it?
But if your friends can't help,
there are other ways of finding out about disabled-friendly resorts.
Another point is that, on the internet,
there's hundreds of websites
designed purely with disability in mind
and travel with different disabilities.
And that is something that I use an awful lot.
Steve says it's not just the hotel that needs checking up on.
He calls ahead to make sure of every single stage of the holiday.
The travel is no less important than the accommodation.
Making sure that things like taxis, meet and greet and, of course,
the airports are all accessible and as easy as possible for you.
Steve hopes his advice will go at least some way
towards encouraging Karen and Brian to go away again.
What it has made me think about is to not do the package holiday
but to organise flights ourself,
to organise, um, accommodation
and to do it all ourselves.
Steve believes the extra effort and calls
that he typically puts into planning a trip is worth it
and, indeed, it's the best way to be confident
you'll get the facilities you need.
Happy holiday hunting, Karen!
'It really upsets me and I suppose it frustrates me, really,'
that people, good people like Brian and Karen,
don't have good holiday experiences,
holiday experiences that they deserve,
despite having their disabilities,
and I just hope that they try again and give it another go.
And, though not entirely convinced,
Karen and Brian are definitely coming round to the idea.
It was very useful meeting Steve today
because he's given us a whole different way
of looking at travelling abroad.
I've always just thought, you know,
you speak to the travel agent and the travel agent sorts it.
But, having heard Steve's experiences,
it makes sense for us, specifically,
to do it ourselves.
For us, the best part of our annual Rip-Off Britain pop-up shop
is that we get to meet so many of you in person.
-Just recognised you.
-Yeah, I said, "She's off the telly."
And we hope the best part for you is having the chance
to get on-the-spot advice from our top experts.
You can say, "Oi, that's not what I booked."
One of the most common holiday complaints you tell us about
is flight delays. They can ruin any holiday,
so it's understandable that you might want compensation
to make up for the time spent waiting around at airports
instead of lounging on a beach.
Well, John Evans certainly does.
He spent a whole day waiting for his flight home
and, as he told Simon Calder, he wants a refund.
I was in Australia having a holiday and I wasn't feeling very well,
so I decided to come back early,
so I paid an additional 865 Australian,
about £440 at the time, to catch an earlier flight.
Everything was fine until John went
to catch his connection in Kuala Lumpur.
There was no flight there at 10 o'clock, no plane,
and we didn't get on till about midnight and then we sat there
for at least three hours till we took off
without a drink or anything.
In the end, I was 17 hours late
and I didn't pay 865 to get home 17 hours late.
If John had been flying within Europe,
he'd be entitled to compensation for any flight
delayed for more than three hours, provided the airline was at fault.
But, as he was outside Europe, those rules don't apply.
But Simon thinks there could be a simpler way to resolve this.
-Just a quick question. Did you book through a travel agent?
-OK, have you told them about what happened?
Well, can I suggest that you do? Here's why.
If it's a good, reputable travel agent...
-Is it one you've used before?
Good travel agents, which have relationships with airlines,
will probably, I hope, take your side and say,
"We're going to call the airline on your behalf."
And they'll phone up and say,
"We've got this customer, loyal man, been with us for years.
"You messed him around, you charged a change fee.
"Do you mind refunding him?"
Now, I can't guarantee that's going to work,
but a good agent will always be fighting your corner,
-so try your agent first and let us know what happens.
-I will do.
-Thank you for your help.
-OK, nice to see.
-Thanks for taking the time.
Meanwhile, another complaint we hear all the time
is about the hugely inflated prices that families are charged
to travel during the school holidays.
A lot of you feel really cheesed off about that one.
Holiday companies do take advantage of school holidays
-and they do hike the prices up.
-But what business are you in?
-I'm in the brewery business.
-Ah, OK, so you will be used to the idea
that actually you make lots of your money over Christmas,
so it's the same with the holiday companies.
They make all their money during the school holidays.
Most of the year, they're losing a fortune.
But our beer prices don't change according to the season.
Right, but you sell a lot more of it at Christmas.
Consumer, absolutely, will drink more.
Ah, OK, but that's because it's different.
The supply of holidays is fixed
because there's only a certain number of planes,
there's only a certain number of hotel rooms
so, therefore, you can make extra beer for Christmas
and you can keep selling it at the same price.
The holiday companies can't suddenly quadruple the number of holidays.
Everything is sort of finite, so, therefore, they put the prices up.
It's the way that the market works.
That's your opinion.
It's not my opinion, it's a true fact!
Mm, looks like they're going to have to agree to disagree on that one.
If you've got a story you'd like us to investigate,
then get in touch with us via our Facebook page,
BBC Rip Off Britain,
our website, bbc.co.uk/ripoffbritain
or e-mail us at...
Or if you want to send us a letter, our new address is...
I have to say, you can't help feeling sorry
for the people we've heard from today
and you can really understand why they were left feeling aggrieved,
not least because as far as they're concerned,
all the problems they faced could, perhaps, have been resolved
or at least raised before they'd got to their destination.
Because, of course, once they'd got there, in some cases,
it was way too late to do much about it.
So, our heartfelt thanks to everyone who shared their story with us today
because, I think we've all learnt so much from them.
Holidays are such an important time.
We spend months looking forward to them
and it really is a crushing disappointment
when they don't live up to expectations
or, indeed, when they don't deliver what you thought you had paid for.
And I think holiday companies sometimes lose sight of that
when they're dealing with their customers' complaints.
I mean, loss of enjoyment is hard to quantify,
but it probably puts you right off
rebooking with the same people again,
so you'd think it was in everyone's interest
to get things properly resolved.
Well, that's all from us for today
but we'll be looking into more of your stories very soon.
-Until then, from the three of us, goodbye.
More viewers' holiday disasters are exposed by Angela Rippon, Gloria Hunniford and Julia Somerville, with advice on what to do if the same things happen to you. Today, 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?
And Paralympian Steve Brown meets people who say even the biggest holiday names are getting it wrong when it comes to disabled travellers.