My Bad Experience with Lurline House (Katoomba, Blue Mountains, AUS)

Small-Town Girls, Midnight TrainsIf you go over my blog, you’ll see I’m not one of those people who immediately go on a rant on social media when they have a bad experience with certain establishments. I generally dislike and tend to avoid unpleasantness. While I’m generous with praise for people who deserve it, I don’t make the decision to criticize lightly. I also don’t get easily offended (because, to be honest, I don’t care that much) so the fact that I’m writing here about my bad experience with Lurline House means that I consider it really bad.

First of all, it must be said that Lurline House, a bed and breakfast in Katoomba in the Blue Mountains, seems to be generally well-regarded. Their rooms look lovely and they have great reviews in both Booking.com and TripAdvisor. It was for that reason that I booked two of their rooms for our family’s overnight stay in Katoomba.

However, the situation unraveled pretty quickly after my booking, to the point that I had to write an email containing the words “I will exhaust all possible options and legal remedies if I need to.” (In other words, nag-strong na ko, hehe.)

As you can read in the screenshot of my email below, this is what happened.

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Booking and Prepayment

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On 21 April 2017, I booked 2 rooms in Lurline House for an overnight stay from 20-21 June 2017. Their prepayment and cancellation policies, as documented in the booking confirmation, were as follows:

  • Prepayment: “You will be charged a prepayment of the total price within 1 day before arrival.”
  • Cancellation policy: “You may cancel free of charge until 7 days before arrival.”

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On 22 April 2017, Lurline House charged my credit card the amount of AUD 285, which I thought at first was simply a “hold” or “pre-authorisation” but which I learned a few days later was an outright prepayment.

On 26 April 2017, I asked Lurline House why they charged my card even though their policy was that prepayment will be done within 1 day before arrival.

On 27 April 2017, they replied: “As you indicate the policy states ‘within’ one day of arrival and not ‘one’ day prior to arrival. This does mean that it can be charged anytime from the date of booking one day prior to you arrival date, this does not effect any effect cancellation policies.”

Is it me or does this just not make sense?

If you were told that prepayment will be charged “within 1 day before arrival” would you expect to be charged:

  • Within the 24 hours prior to arrival; or
  • Anytime from the date of booking up to 1 day before arrival?

For me, the first interpretation makes more sense — especially when considered together with their policy of free cancellation until 7 days before arrival — because, by the day before arrival, it will be more difficult for them to fill the room with another guest if the booker doesn’t show up and therefore they would want to lock in the payment at that time.

If it were the latter interpretation, why not just say, “Prepayment will be charged anytime before arrival?” I mean, why stop the possibility of charging the prepayment at the day before arrival? And come to think of it, why not just charge directly upon booking?

Either way, as I told Lurline House, had I known that this would be their definition of “within 1 day before arrival” I would not have booked their property. So many things could happen between April and June. The trip might not push through. One of us could get sick and not be able to go. Or any other contingency, really.

Why book a property where you have to prepay and deal with the possibility of having to request a refund when there are plenty other properties that don’t make you go through the hassle?

And, as it turned out, that is just what happened.

Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains

Cancellation and Having to Request (Again and Again!) for a Refund

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Lurline House’s alternative interpretation of “within 1 day before arrival” left me feeling unsettled. I’ve since learned in travel to trust my gut and so I decided to cancel the booking.

This was perfectly within my rights:

  • Again, the property’s cancellation policy in Booking.com was: “You may cancel free of charge until 7 days before arrival.”
  • Lurline House’s own website also states: “Notice of cancellation must be received 48 hrs prior to your arrival date otherwise the first night’s accommodation will be charged.”

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The cancellation was done on 27 April 2017, a whopping 53 days before our intended date of stay, thus there would have been no grounds for Lurline House to charge for the cancellation or charge for the first night.

Knowing that refunds may take some time to be credited back to my account, I waited patiently for it.

The refund never arrived.

And so, on 10 May 2017, I wrote Lurline House an email through Booking.com inquiring if they had begun the refund process.

They did not reply.

On 11 May 2017 — 14 days after the cancellation — I wrote them another email to inquire (again!) if they had started the refund process. The message was sent to their Booking.com email, with a copy furnished to the email address displayed on their website.

They still did not reply.

And that’s why on 12 May 2017 I had had enough, reluctantly got my moxie on, and sent them that email above stating — and you can very well imagine me shaking with anger by this time — “I trust, I hope, I pray that you will do the right thing, honor the policies put forth in both Booking.com and your website, and refund the prepayment you charged to me immediately, so we can all get on with our lives. The alternative is too painful to contemplate but I will exhaust all possible options and legal remedies, if I need to.

That was no empty threat either. The reason I had gathered all the documents attached to that email was because I was truly ready to submit them and lodge a complaint with the NSW Fair Trading agency.

And still I tried to be nice. In my email, I added, “If, for some reason, you have an urgent need of this money — an unexpected hospitalization, for example — just let me know and we can agree on a date for the refund. But please treat me with respect and please do not ignore my emails again.”

Well, what do you know? They replied 23 minutes later.

Twenty-three minutes after my email, within which time they had managed to send me my refund. By way of explanation, they said they expected Booking.com would automatically send me the refund but come on — I send you two emails that you don’t bother to reply to and then you claim ignorance? Yeah, pull the other one. Your right to claim ignorance ended the very day I sent you my first (nice!) email inquiring if you’d begun the refund process. Ignoring that inquiry can very well be considered negligence and not deigning to reply to my email can very well be called arrogance.

And no matter how nice other people’s reviews are of Lurline House, that will always be the impression that they left me with.

Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains

P.S. I did a quick check just now on TripAdvisor — scrolling down to the reviews that have a “1” score on them — and it appears that other people have had problems with prepayment, refund, and Peter Noble’s behavior too. We are a minority but I think it’s fair enough to say that, though Lurline House management is nice to most, they’re definitely not nice to all. Buyer beware!

P.P.S. Okay, now I’m really fascinated with people’s experience at Lurline House. Seriously, check out the reviews at Booking.com and TripAdvisor. A lot of them are like, “Oh, great hosts!” “Fabulous!” “Wonderful!” And then seek out the negative reviews and they’re practically the same: most of them are about the same guy I had a bad experience with. Real-life Jekyll and Hyde, sounds like.

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