The Best Western Gatwick Skylane Hotel provided my wife and I with the worst hotel experience since the Grand Hyatt on Nathen Road in Hong Kong infected us with scabies in 1980. During the intervening thirty odd years we have, as film makers, business people, and traveler’s worked in over forty countries and have lived in hotels as much as six months a year. We know hotels and what is reasonable to expect.
Running water for example is a responsible expectation. It was not, however, availble in our room. It is also reasonable to expect that advertised WiFi actually be available. It was not available. I needed to send an assignment to my editor and went to the first desk to inquire about the lack of internet service. “I’m not an engineer,” the clerk informed me with a smile. Conversation revealed that WiFi was more of a concept in this hotel than a reality.
Having been constantly on the move in remote locations for the past week, we inquired about laundry service. There was none. Nor was there a laundry room. The Best Western Gatwick Skylane Hotel is not in fact located near Gatwick Airport. It is a 20 minute drive from the airport, in a roadside location with no restaurants, or services of any kind. Lacking a car you are isolated, or dependent on expensive taxis. A nearby town, Horley, about fifteen minutes by taxi from the hotel had a self service laundry, which we used.
There was no running water in our room during the night or early morning. The taps and shower did give forth with a trickle of cool water, after the breakfast charivari that almost degenerated into a physical altercation with the restaurant manager whose primary function appeared to be to prevent people from access to the buffet and from eating the meal for which they had paid.
An angry pit bull of a restaurant manager confronted us, rather than greeting us, at the entrance to the dining room at 08:40 and in a hostile tone of voice and with what was obviously meant to be intimidating body language ordered us to eat quickly because breakfast was over at 09:00, rather than the standard 10:00. He then followed me much too closely to the buffet line. As I attempted to find a clean glass he asked, in a challenging tone of voice, “Why are are setting those glasses aside?”
“They are dirty,” I said.
“They are clean enough,” he responded.
The state of being clean is, from my point of view, an either/or standard. An object is either clean or dirty. There is no such thing as ‘clean enough.’ The plates and tableware were smudged, greasy, some with food caked on them. After much searching I located a clean glass, cup, and plate, leaving stacks of filthy dishes behind me, and a fuming manager.
This manager creature continued to follow me along the buffet closely monitoring my selections, so closely he was touching my arm, until I shrugged him off and told him to back away. “Are you going to eat all of that? You must take only what you will eat,” he snarled. I had to think back to basic training in the Army to recall a person who had spoken to me this way. I ignored him and went to our table with a meager selection of leathery eggs, stale bread, and a cup of brown water passing for coffee.
As the manager continued to monitor our behavior, hovering over our table on his hind legs, and over the one next to ours where an English couple who greeted us pleasantly were seated, a young couple came in. The manager quickly scuttled over to confront them, “You cannot have breakfast,” he barked. “It’s two minutes after nine.” The couple protested, saying that by their phone it was about five minutes to nine, and that they had prepaid for the meal, and besides who ever heard of breakfast being over at 09:00. “Not my problem,” the manager growled. “I go by my time and the rules.”
While the disagreement continued and became louder and louder I checked the time on my phone and saw that it was 08:55. Evidently the manager operated on his own schedule. The manager and defender of the food continued to speak loudly and in a hostile manner, refusing to listen to the young couple’s perfectly reasonable point of view. At this point the lady at the next table spoke to the manager, “You should be ashamed of yourself,” she said. “What kind of example is this to greet visitors from another country.” This attack dog passing as a manger now turned on this couple, berating them, shouting that they should mind their own business. The lady replied, “I think this kind of behavior is my business.” By now she was standing and so was her husband. She spoke first to us and then to the young couple saying that she hoped we would not think badly of England and this person’s behavior was not normal or in any way acceptable. She then told the manage that his behavior was “unspeakably rude, and that the food was filthy.” They then left the room.
The manger continued to heap abuse on the young couple. With the wife almost in tears and the husband obviously at sea with no idea how to handle this. I told the bullying manager that he was behaving badly. The young couple departed. The manager once again moved into my personal space and challenged me. I got to my feet. Sometimes there’s only one way to deal with a bully. My intention must have been clear to him, and to my wife. The little beast quickly scooted away and got a table between us. My wife grabbed my shirt with both hands and said something to the effect that I should not physically chastise this person. Since I had some years ago resigned my position with the Emily Post School of Good Manners, Enforcement Division, I agreed with her, after some discussion.
We went directly to the front desk. The desk clerk was unconcerned about the restaurant manager’s behavior, or the fact we had no water in our room, or that the advertised WiFi did not work. We cancelled the balance of our stay and requested a refund of the days we had paid in advance, only to be told by the unhelpful clerk that a refund was not possible. With years of business negotiation at the international level behind her I was confident my wife could deal with this issue. I went to our room to pack our bags, and to see if a shower was possible. In this instance the lack of hot water might have been a plus. The trickle of cool water was in fact cooling.
When I returned with our bags I discovered my wife on the phone with some person who was still holding to the no refund position. My wife escalated into full corporate mode, promising legal action and criminal charges, and that she was going to at once call the police and charge the hotel with innkeeper fraud. She also mentioned that her husband was a professional writer and would be posting a review of the hotel on social media. The person on the other end of the conversation caved. He told her how she could obtain a refund, a complicated process involving international phone calls, email, and many days of delay.
While we were waiting for a taxi to take us to another hotel my wife told me of an incident I had, regretfully, missed. A woman with a young child in arm had entered the lobby and told the desk clerk that she had coasted into the parking lot when her engine died, and that she was calling the auto club to come get her. The desk clerk apparently notified the keeper of the parking lot who barged into the lobby yelling at the young mother that this was a private lot and that she must move her car back into the road at once. The parking lot is large, possibly larger than the hotel, and was mostly empty. The road in front of the hotel is very narrow with no shoulder and busy with high speed traffic. The young mother explained this to the parking person and pointed out that her car was disabled, she had a child in her arms, and was incapable of moving the car, and that in any event it would be dangerous to try and wait for help in a lane of high speed traffic. She spoke in a reasonable tone of voice, as this person loomed over her and yelled at her. Disregarding the obvious fact that this was an emergency, the parking person called for some of his minions to help push the woman’s car into traffic. As they were attempting to do this the auto club arrived and sorted out the situation. While I regret that I was not there to intervene, perhaps that was best. By this point I was fully prepared to resume my former obligations as Enforcement Officer of Good Manners, which might not have turned out well.
The desk clerk at out new hotel asked where we were coming from. We told her we were moving from the Best Western Gatwick Skylane Hotel. She rolled her eyes and said, “Oh no, not that place.” This hotel is apparently notorious locally.
After three days of online hassling and many phone calls we received a refund from Expedia for the two nights we cancelled. I do not recommend the Best Western Gatwick Skylane Hotel under any circumstances. If there is no place else to stay you would do better to sleep on the floor of the airport or under a tree. The best thing I can say about the Best Western Gatwick Skylane Hotel is that we did not get scabies.
I posted this review on Trip Advisor. It was deleted. More seriously, so was the report below deleted, as have many other negative reports. We no longer use Trip Advisor. You also might not want to rely on them.
TripAdvisor Apologizes for Deleting Review Detailing Rape at Mexican Resort
By Matthew Haag Nov. 2, 2017
“TripAdvisor said it was also introducing a notification “badge” on its business listings to warn travelers if there had been “health and safety or discrimination issues” reported at the business.”