The Barossa Valley is justly beloved of wine buffs and travellers to South Australia, but from time to time, a local hostelry will just not come up to scratch. Best to shrug philosophical shoulders and move on, but we are all prone to cut up after particularly poor experiences, which stick like a bone in the throat.
Many years ago, friends of The Varnished Culture suffered such an experience, having bought a couple of nights via an ill-advised travel auction. R felt compelled to write a letter of complaint. Redacted appropriately, this letter, dated 28 February, said as follows:
My wife and I recently stayed at your accommodation through a package purchased through ________ Auctions on the 8th and 9th Feb. We paid $160.00 odd for 2 nights accommodation and continental breakfast and this also included a complimentary bottle of wine, a dinner for one person and a tour of the ________ winery.
I am writing to advise that this birthday “celebration” for my wife was a complete fiasco and one of the worst accommodation scenarios I have experienced within Australia.
On the Saturday evening I did not want to select a limited choice from your “package menu” but offered to pay for a more expensive selection from your a la carte menu. My wife wanted the choice provided under the limited menu. This request was met with hostility from your staff and from what I can gather after sufficient punishment being made to wait for 40 minutes, you as management also decided that this request was unreasonable. Why it would make a difference is beyond me as I was quite prepared to pay for the dearer options. The wine was never forthcoming and so for the 40 uncomfortable minutes we were provided with no drinks, no food and hostile behaviour. We subsequently chose to leave and eat elsewhere.
This in itself, is reason to complain, but this was just the pinnacle of an entirely unsatisfactory stay. I had opted to upgrade to a spa suite for an additional $60.00. The spa is cleverly constructed to avoid the jets having any contact with your body no matter which way you sit in the thing. We had one noisy unpleasant spa for $60.00. The accommodation itself is basically not 3 1/2 stars. The blankets are synthetic, the lights in the bathroom failed to work properly, the toilets gurgle when other occupants in a separate carriage use their bathroom and the water literally rises, bubbles and splashes the walls! The TV barely works on only 2 channels and is impossible to tune [I tried] and the walls are in a sad need of more than one coat of paint. The décor, while I appreciate is personal taste lacks any in my opinion.
The in ground pool and spa is in a dirty old shed with no ventilation and rusted metal chairs. The attempt at a live garden in this fluorescent lit, oxygen-limited shed has resulted in sick and spindly plants that add to the already dilapidated environment. The overwhelming smell of chlorine and next to no air makes anything other than a quick dip most unlikely.
Breakfast is provided as simply as possible with no attempt at making the experience anything more than perfunctory along with music that is not possible to avoid with speakers directly overhead. We skipped the experience on the second day and chose to pick up our children earlier than planned.
It seems that as we had booked the package through “__________ Auctions” we were somehow less important than other guests and not worthy of anything but the basics. If this is your view it would be better not to participate in the program rather than do so in a begrudging manner.
Given we did not eat anything other than one breakfast, had nothing to drink, had one spa and paid $220.00, I think you got the better end of the deal. I hope that you are able to improve your standards, offer better service and give people a more positive view of the Barossa. If this were the only experience of an interstate [or worse overseas] visitor they would hold a dim view of South Australia and particularly the Barossa Valley. This view is neither reasonable, nor accurate but understandable if the accommodation of choice is The ___________________ Motel.
TVC happens to know the establishment, regretfully, (it no longer operates) and is willing to vouch completely for the truth and fairness of R’s account, at least c. 2002. Nevertheless, it was a concern that R may have stuck his neck out unduly; that such a comprehensive, in fact, encyclopaedic missive might un-bottle the acid and prompt a tart response. R spoke of the matter a couple of months later and then emailed us a copy of his letter for our amusement.
Sure enough, only days later, R was electrified to receive a response in the mail.
I have decided, after much hesitation, to respond to your letter, which was originally thrown in the bin. In my opinion, arrant nonsense such as your complaint should not go unanswered.
If you think we get “the better end of the deal” by hosting your kind for two nights plus complimentary package for $220.00, then frankly I feel sorry for you. Where else have you stayed recently?
In view of the pungent content of your letter, I made a personal point of investigating your complaint about rude and inadequate service in our restaurant. My staff have told me that you (and your female companion) were the problem on the evening of Saturday 9th February. Specifically, you dithered over selecting from the menu for almost half an hour and then changed your order twice! Surely you do not expect timely service to include getting your meal before you decide what you want.
The complimentary bottle of wine included in our travel auctions package means the one located in your suite, which no doubt you imbibed before leaving in a huff. You did not ask for wine at the restaurant, I am reliably informed.
It seems hardly necessary to deal with your other points, which are quite trivial. Nevertheless:
In conclusion, I feel that your letter displays colossal nerve, in that you seem to expect five star service and ambience for a song. May I also point out that you and your friend left without accounting for phone calls, mini bar, two missing towels and a restaurant surcharge in respect of your order which was not rescinded in time.
We are quite happy with our standards of service and accommodation. We have had no complaints from guests local or overseas. May we respectfully suggest that you re-examine your own values and conscience before making ill-based and ridiculous accusations.
R phoned P to report that he’d had an incendiary letter from the establishment in question, and, as it indicated a cc had gone to the “_________ Auctions”, he had also been defamed. It took a little while to reassure him, which P managed to do by confessing that he, P, had concocted the letter.
R exacted a fearsome revenge some time later, but it was still worth it.