Lanzarote holiday from hell: Mosquitoes coming up the toilet but reader threatened with police
Pricewatch reader query: Rude and obnoxious staff made Lanzarote even worse
How would you fancy arriving in your holiday resort with a baby in arms only to find a swarm of mosquitoes buzzing around your room? And how you would you react if the hotel and the tour operator repeatedly let you down when you asked if something could be done to resolve the situation?
Hopefully you will never find yourself in such a place, but a reader called Arlene was not so lucky after she booked an all inclusive seven-day holiday with Thomson/TUI to a resort in Lanzarote at a cost of €2,400.
“My experiences can only be described as outrageous”, her mail to us started. “I was treated neither with respect nor courtesy, and the TUI and hotel staff were rude and obnoxious. I have never experienced such a discourteous attitude in any hotel or resort that I have previously stayed in.”
When she, her husband, and her 18-month old child checked into to their allocated apartment on the island they were dismayed to see it was infested with a swarm of large mosquitoes. “The bathroom ceiling was completely covered, towels were covered, they were coming up through the toilet, and hiding in toilet roll cover. The bedroom ceiling was covered, as was the child’s crib that our 18-month old daughter was supposed to sleep in.”
She telephoned hotel reception and was assured the apartment would be sprayed immediately. They left the apartment and hours later returned to find it was still not sprayed and all of the mosquitoes were still there. She spoke with to reception again and was again assured somebody would spray it immediately.
No one showed up so she rang again to be told cleaning staff had gone home for evening. She was assured somebody would spray the apartment first thing in the morning. She woke the following morning with a headache and many mosquito bites. Her husband had been badly bitten too but their daughter had, mercifully, escaped.
Still no-one arrived to spray the apartment. So she intercepted a cleaner and was told it would be sprayed soon. “We arrived back to the apartment some hours later and it was still not sprayed,” she says.
Eventually it was sprayed and “some but not all of the mosquitoes had been killed”.
Arlene tried and failed to make her concerns known to a Thomson rep. And throughout the second day her headache worsened and she started to develop feverish pain. She went a doctor and was prescribed two antihistamine injections plus a prescription. She was also given a bill for €270.
There was a row as to who should pay the bill: Arlene, the hotel or Thomson. She spoke to multiple people both in the hotel and with the tour operator without any satisfaction over the course of the seven days. No-one would cover the cost of her medical expenses which she said were as a direct result of the mosquito swarm in her room.
There was a row at one point and Arlene says she told hotel and Thomson staff that if she “did not receive my money I would make other guests aware of how I and my family had been treated.”
Bizarrely, she says she was told that if she did this, the police would be called and she would be arrested for slander. “This was extremely distressing and I felt victimised and bullied. It was completely uncalled for. It is important to stress that I was neither verbally abusive nor physically abusive to any TUI or hotel staff, yet for airing my grievances, which as a dissatisfied customer I am more than entitled to do, I was threatened with the police and told I would be arrested for slander.”
She mailed Thomson upon her return and without having received any satisfaction or even a response from the tour operator she contacted us a couple of weeks later.
We contacted the tour operator and received the following terse statement. “Thomson is currently investigating the complaint and will be responding directly to [Arlene].”
Almost simultaneously we received another email from Arlene which included a response she had been sent from Thomson.
We think it is worth including that response in full.
“I am really sorry to hear that there were some aspects of your holiday that you weren’t entirely happy with,” it starts. “A holiday is something we all look forward to and I completely understand how disappointing it is when it doesn’t live up to your expectations.
“There are many advantages to visiting a country with a hotter climate, but we also accept that not all experiences can be pleasant. Insects are unfortunately, inevitable in hotter climates and although they affect people to differing degrees, it is almost impossible to eradicate them altogether.
“Although these insects are a nuisance, it is important to remember that their presence does not mean the accommodation or the resort area is either dirty or poorly maintained. Many accommodation owners will actually arrange for rooms to be fumigated at times when the complex is closed, but this is never guaranteed to solve the problem entirely.
“I know that the sight or presence of such insects can be alarming to many people, and I hope you are feeling much better.
“I was sorry to read that you were not satisfied with the service offered in the hotel. It is crucial to understand how our customers feel about the service being offered. Therefore, your comments and observations are very important and I am truly sorry that you feel so let down on this occasion. This certainly would not have been our intention and I do extend my apologies.
“I would like to reassure you that all the points you have raised will be passed onto the relevant departments with our Holiday Experience Teams both here in the UK and Overseas. We take customer feedback very seriously and use all of the comments we receive to actively improve the service we offer on future holidays. I do hope that despite your experience on this occasion you will not be deterred from considering Thomson when making future travel plans.”
The mail concludes by asking our reader to fill in a customer satisfaction survey.
We contacted Thomson again and saying we did not believe it was an adequate response and was, by our reckoning, somewhat patronising. We pointed out that there is a difference between a few mosquitoes in a room and an infestation - which is what Arlene described. And we highlighted the fact that the communication failed to address in any meaningful way the multiple occasions our reader felt she was let down by both the hotel and by Thomson reps.
This is what they said.
“We are sorry to hear of [Arlene’s]recent experience on holiday with Thomson. As we are dealing directly with [her]through our official customer service channels, it would be inappropriate for us to comment further.”