On the evening of 23rd May 2012, I was looking to book TWO rooms for FOUR adults in a Houseboat in Srinagar for THREE Nights from 28th to 31st May on Travelguru.com but I couldn’t find any rooms available for my date range.. However, on the results page I could read a note stating that “Rooms may be available. Call us on +91 92222 72222″.. So out of curiosity I dialed this number and started speaking to a Sales Executive.. After inquiring about my requirements, she informed me that due to Heavy Traffic, Peak Season & some Server problem the website is not showing TWO rooms at a time and that if I try searching for ONE room at a time, I shall get the option to BOOK the rooms.. (I must be semi-conscious to fall for this response or because I couldn’t find a single room on any other travel site, I was willing to ignore my senses and try every option possible to freeze a space) So, I followed her advice and searched for ONE room for TWO adults and could now see FOUR Hotel listings with the BOOK button..
At this point, inside the Room details I could see the note “Hurry!! Last Room”, to which I re-confirmed from her that if it is the Last room then how will I be able to book the Second room during the second attempt.. The reply that she gave me for this was that there are THREE room types namely “Deluxe Room, Deluxe Room with Breakfast & Deluxe Room with All Meals” and that there is ONE room each available for each type and that I should book ONE room with Breakfast and the Second room with All meals in the second attempt..
I took her advice without any suspicion and completed the First booking with ONE room in Hollywood Houseboat, Srinagar.. But when I started booking my Second room, to my Horror the Book button did not appear again for Hollywood Houseboat.. At this point, I got an incoming call from the same Sales Executive inquiring about my First booking.. I confronted her that I am unable to book the Second room in the same Houseboat now and that I want to Cancel the booking if I don’t get the Second room in the same Houseboat.. To this she informed me that there is another houseboat called Aristotle which is also owned by the Owners of Hollywood Houseboat and that the two Houseboats are located pretty close to each other and that she will put a note in the system so that the Owner of the Houseboat will try and accommodate you by switching one of your rooms with some other guest and place all of you under one roof..
Again at this point, I asked her to re-confirm the same, to which she kept me on hold and called up the Houseboat Owner for a confirmation.. After a pause of 4-5 minutes she informed me that the Owner too has agreed for the same and that you can go ahead and do the second booking.. I trusted her and the Travelguru brand and did the second booking as advised.. (I still regret this decision)
After receiving the Travel voucher for the above bookings, I decided to call-up the Houseboat owner and talk to him about accommodating me and my family together in one Houseboat.. I dialed the number provided in the Voucher and spoke to a person named Gulam Chacha.. After listening to my case, he assured me that he will do the needful and behaved very nice and caring.. He would keep telling me not to worry a bit about anything etc etc..
My ordeal started the very day I reached Srinagar.. I met Gulam Chacha, who informed me that because we wanted to stay together, he took a decision on his own and has arranged for two other rooms near each other in a separate Houseboat named Plato.. Now, one of the two rooms in Plato was of a little lower quality than what quality I had paid for.. And the other room was nowhere in the league.. The second room was sub-standard and didn’t even have an attached bathroom.. I denied this arrangement and demanded to see my Original rooms.. To which the Owner told me that you will need to commute in a Shikara everyday to reach each other and that it will cost you Rs. 200 every time you do and that the Shikara may not be available to cater this request at all times.. (For those who don’t know what a Shikara is, its a small boat used to commute between Houseboats parked in the Dal Lake of Srinagar) To this, I confronted him that the Shikara ride to pick-up and drop-off the Guest is always included in the cost of the room.. To which he told me that it only covers pick-up and drop from the Main Road to the respective Houseboat and doesn’t cover travel between one Houseboat and the other.. And when I inquired what he had done to the Original rooms that I had booked, he told me that because we wanted to stay together and would anyways not occupy rooms situated at a distance, he had sold my room to another guest (which I suspect was given at a Premium rate per night)..
I felt trapped.. I couldn’t start my sight-seeing and the other itinerary planned for the day because of all this mess.. I had an elderly couple along with me on the trip, who started feeling scared hearing the arguments and just wanted it to end.. I wanted to call-up Travelguru to intervene, but my elder family member stopped me and said that even if we would make them to vacate our Original rooms, we won’t be able to spend time together and out of vendetta the Owner could deny or limit access to the Shikara for us to commute to each other.. I was helpless.. I requested the owner to at least give me the Second room too with attached bathroom, forget the same quality Deluxe room.. To which he agreed after much persuasion and gave the room with attached bathroom only on the second night..
Now, all this was uncalled for.. Me & my family didn’t deserve to be fooled and taken for a ride like this despite paying the premium price.. And this wouldn’t have happened if the sales person would have been Honest in her approach and hadn’t cheated me in the first place to earn that incentive..
I reported this entire case to Travelguru Customer Support and I got an email back from them stating that we have conducted our investigation and would like to inform you that our Sales Executive had informed you about the distance between the two Houseboats and the booking was processed after your consent.. WTF!! Where did I say that I wasn’t aware of the distance.. My point is that why can’t your Sales people just turn-down a Customer if you don’t have the exact quantity of rooms in the same Hotel.. Why trick them like this.. To add Salt to my wound, they attached a Discount Voucher of Rs. 500 as a customer service gesture.. Is that comparable to the Holiday experience gone wrong..[ P.S. – These Houseboat Owners had a field day playing with my Booking because they realized that I was with an Elderly couple.. Had we been two young couples, we would have coordinated our way-out despite the distance.. ]
Originally posted on TheRodinhoods..