I just got an email from the online agency where I had booked the Heathrow Lodge, the budget hotel I stayed in during last week’s brief London layover. They want my review of the experience.
Too late. This detailed indictment had already been drafted and was being made ready for publication when that request arrived.
This place, despite its low price, is otherwise a equally opportunity disaster. There is not a single aspect of my stay that was not horrible, starting even before I got there.
My British Airways flight from Mumbai reminded me that the low standards of US-based carriers are not worldwide. The BA food was better, the service more professional and even the seating was more comfortable. We landed on schedule close to 10pm.
However, given the long flight and the lingering effects of pneumonia that had laid me flat during the previous week, I arrived tired, eager for a good night’s sleep before returning for a departing flight at 8am.
I was counting on the Heathrow Lodge claim, on the net, to be 5 minutes away. I discovered once more that the lack of truth in advertising isn’t limited to just the borders of the USA. False advertising is everywhere.
I had only a carry-on bag, so within minutes of clearing customs I hit the first coin-operated phone in the terminal, using the pocket change I’d brought along for the purpose.
The hotel didn’t answer the phone. I thought, well maybe I’ve misdialed. Try again. Nope. No answer after at least one-solid minute of ringing.
If you think one minute is not giving them long enough, ask yourself, how long do you allow a phone to ring before you cannot resist answering it or at least shout at it, “Shut the xxxx up?”
I waited a while, circling the phone like a demented dervish, muttering words that were right at home in this Anglo-Saxon land, birthplace of all four-letter expletives. After three more similar attempts over the course of 5 minutes, the phone was answered by a woman who obviously was annoyed at being disturbed.
After she confirmed that I had a prepaid reservation and confirming where I was standing in the terminal, she told me to go upstairs, exit a certain door and there I would see the hotel van. “It’s white.”
It took another fookin hour and two more phone calls back to her, before I connected with the van. She’s given me the wrong directions each time and I found the van only with the help of a passing stranger who gave me perfect advice on where all vans wait for pickup.
The ride was 15 minutes, not 5. The room was dingy, squalled and cold. I never got my wakeup call, but my internal clock worked. The return ride to the airport was 20 minutes late.
To the Heathrow Lodge management and promotion people . . . aren’t you glad you asked???