In praise of Vueling

A few days before Jane was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, we’d booked a holiday in Barcelona. It’s somewhere neither of us has been. It was meant to be a sign that things were getting back to normal after my stem cell transplant last year …

Treatment obviously means that this trip has been postponed. Fortunately, we’d only booked the flights and hotel. The hotel was easy enough to cancel as we’d opted for a flexible booking (at the Catalonia Magdalenes, if you’re interested). The flights – non-refundable – looked as if they were going to be more tricky. We both have holiday insurance, but through different companies.

The flights were booked with Vueling, so I called their customer service desk to ask for a cancellation invoice. The call was answered promptly and I was offered the invoice, rescheduled flights or a full refund. The customer service advisor I spoke to was empathetic and helpful and I gratefully accepted the refund. All Vueling required was an emailed “fit note” and proof of our kinship. My credit card was refunded within 48 hours of these being provided.

Good customer service does exist, even on low-cost carriers, and Vueling now has two more customers for life.

Barcelona travel guides

I also needed to cancel arrangements for a weekend touring in Wales with the Seven at the same time. One of the hotels (a small, privately-run affair near the base of the Cader Idris) I’d booked was non-refundable. I emailed them to explain and hoped that the notice I’d given would enable them to sell the room to someone else. It’s tough being a small business owner and I thought this might be rather more useful to them than simply being a no-show. I said I understood that my booking didn’t allow refunds and that I didn’t expect one. Sadly, I never received even an acknowledgement of my cancellation from the hotel.

Bulb Energy: Impressive customer service

I had this email from Bulb Energy today. Impressive stuff – particularly as I’d rung off before the call had been answered. As it happened, I’d found the answer I needed on their website while I was waiting. Such a different experience to the unlamented Iresa Energy, who were nothing but trouble in the year we were with them. Fortunately I’d managed to switch from Iresa to Bulb a few weeks before they went under.

Bulb £10 credit email


If you’d like to switch to Bulb, using this link will get you a £50 credit towards your energy bill. Full disclosure – if you use it and switch, I’ll also get a £50 credit.

Exceptional customer service – take a bow Premier Inn, Bagshot

Having complained on here more than a few times about the way in which some organisations fail at customer service, it’s really good for a change to be able to write something praising an organisation that got it right. Take a bow Premier Inn, Bagshot.

I checked in there early yesterday evening and was told about a partial power failure they were experiencing, due to a problem earlier on in the day when a contractor had tried to replace a sign outside the hotel. SSE was already on site – in numbers – trying to fix the fault so the receptionist apologised, explaining that the restaurant would be closed that evening. I went into Camberley to eat instead and came back at around 9pm to find the hotel in darkness, lit only by emergency battery lighting!

It was impressive that a senior manager for Premier Inn was on site throughout. He and his staff did their very best to keep us informed of progress – and regularly. It was also impressive that one member of staff went home and brought back a couple of candles to help light up the bar area as a number of us sat there and watched SSE’s progress. Fortunately, power was restored sometime after 10.30pm.

Work continues to restore power to the Premier Inn, Bagshot
SSE working to restore power to the Premier Inn, Bagshot on 15th September 2015.

Sadly, that wasn’t the end of the problems, as around half past midnight the fire alarm went off. The member of staff on duty apologised to us all as we assembled in the car park, noting that we’d all had a rather difficult evening already (as had the staff, of course). I eventually got back to my room just before 1am.

Premier Inn offer a good night guarantee, offering a full no-quibble refund if they fail to give you a great experience. So when I checked out this morning, I smiled at their receptionist and suggested that she knew what I was going to say next. She smiled back and told me that they’d already refunded the room charge to my credit card and hoped that I’d stay with them again. With customer service as good as that, it’s certain that I will do.

In my experience, it’s only when organisations suffer problems that you see how well or badly they treat their customers. Premier Inn got it right last night – and their Bagshot staff deserve huge praise (and hopefully, cash bonuses) for the manner in which they responded to a crisis.

We are proud to accept only Visa

So says the sign in the window of the London 2012 shop at St. Pancras station. Before I caught my train home this evening, I had a quick look around inside. I do wonder if Visa are proud of them though. I couldn’t identify a single item that I would consider buying as it was all (a) too expensive or (b) amazingly ugly and tacky or (c) both. Maybe it’s because I’m old and grumpy, but I’ve never seen it looking very busy, so perhaps there are lots of other people who agree with me too.

I did mischievously wonder what the staff would do if I went and filled up a basket full of goodies and then offered them my MasterCard, but even I wasn’t feeling that mean or bored! But I’m willing to bet that it’s happened and that they’ve all been trained in what to do in such circumstances. Maybe they’d offer to sign you up for a Visa card on the spot? If not, then perhaps they and their sponsors are missing an opportunity.

I decided I didn’t want to hang around in there long enough to find out though.