Inside track: Neil Rankin stays at the Catfish hotel

18 August 2020 by
Inside track: Neil Rankin stays at the Catfish hotel

While certain services might be impossible right now, it's vital that you manage customers' expectations and keep them informed of the truth, says Neil Rankin.

One of the drawbacks of modern single life is the need to create cringe-inducing dating app profiles.

While I've participated in this more than I'm comfortable admitting, I've never excelled at it. I'm incapable of taking flattering selfies, and I don't much like having my photo taken by someone else. I often turn to the professional photos I've done for press, usually coming across as some sort of Z-list, narcissistic wannabe model or failed rock star.

While I include occasional embellishments and omit the more realistic pictures of me lying on the couch with a bottle of wine, resting a cheese board on my belly, the overall impression falls within the realm of acceptable marketing. No one has asked for a refund or tried to call the police yet.

Unbelievably, I'm not single right now, and instead of searching dating apps, I've found myself searching for ways to get out of London and escape the past four months of staring at the same four walls.

We settled for a weekend in a spa hotel just outside of Bath, which will remain nameless. What attracted me to this hotel were the much talked-about treatment facilities, two fantastic- looking swimming pools, unbelievable views and outdoor activities in the ample grounds. The rooms were lavish, with fayne dayning to match – all in all, we would never have to leave the grounds.

I had my suspicions that all might not be as advertised on Expedia, but I checked their website and social media to make sure that everything was still as promised.

Unfortunately, all did not go to plan. The restaurant was fully booked, and I was told that room service wasn't possible. There were no spa treatments at the spa hotel and the swimming pools had been reserved for the whole weekend (though we may be able to have a small swim early Sunday morning, if we "were lucky"). The rooms were stripped back to Travelodge basic mode with one pillow, with the mini bars removed for ‘safety' reasons.

We had no idea if any of the activities were on offer, as all advertising has been removed, as had any staff that knew anything about their existence.

Much of our trip was spent travelling to Bristol, eating tapas and pizza and drinking sherry with friends, before coming home to a dirty room, because they currently don't offer a cleaning service. In fact, the only thing that resembled the offer pre-Covid, as far as I could tell, was the price, which they'd proudly kept ‘as was'.

This was my worst ever hotel experience, and I've stayed (by accident) at a brothel in Finsbury Park with cigarette-burned sheets. I was woken up by a pimp being shot outside my window.

We need to do better than this. Yes, we are fighting for survival, and yes, services have been affected more than is in our control. But we need to balance customers' expectations, just as we did pre-Covid. I'll never step foot in this hotel again, but it has also made me suspicious of booking elsewhere. The same goes for restaurants or any hospitality service. If we create a sea of distrust in the industry by advertising outside of the realms of acceptable marketing, then we will lose the fragile amount of consumer faith on which we are hanging everything right now.

If we create a sea of distrust in the industry by advertising outside of the realms of acceptable marketing, then we will lose the fragile amount of consumer faith on which we are hanging everything right now

Embellish a little if you must – people expect that – but please don't catfish your customers. We need their support and trust right now, more than ever before.

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