Unwilling to accept genuine negative feedback

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InthelandoftheBard's review of Simpson Travel - www.simpsontravel.com

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“Unwilling to accept genuine negative feedback”

Written on: 01/01/2014 by InthelandoftheBard (1 review written)

We had travelled to Crete with Simpson in 2012 and were very impressed with the accommodation, reps, etc and hence didn't think twice about booking with them for a holiday in Corsica in 2013. Sadly our experience on the second trip was not so good.

We stayed in two rental properties. One was beautiful but unfortunately it turned out to lie directly under the flightpath into the airport. As the weekend approached the number of planes increased enormously and on the Friday, Saturday & Sunday there was the constant buzz of planes arriving, some large jets, but mostly small private jets. These were no no more than a couple of hundred feet above our heads. We had a lovely pool but as we had to drive to a beach to find peace we might as well have not had the pool. The other property had clearly seen better days but had been very carefully photographed (or maybe they were very old) to hide a kitchen that was falling apart and a ancient and filthy dralon armchair that no-one in their right mind would want to sit on. The pictures in the brochure of the pool and terrace on that property bore no relation to the reality of an untended, scruffy area in need of maintenance - the furniture shown didn't even exist. Neither property had been properly cleaned and checked - there were still old coffee grounds in the machine (both houses) and in one mould was growing on a colander from old food waste still on it whilst the other had an oven tray that was caked in grease and had clearly not been cleaned in aeons (yuk!). The reps did sort out some issues with missing or broken items, although one of them did so with a pretty poor attitude.

A few days after we arrived home I received an email asking me to complete a questionnaire (this is standard practice with Simpsons). I gave my honest feedback on the good and the bad. A few days later I received another email following up the points I had made and seeking to rebut them. It was quite obvious that they thought we were trying to get compensation for the problems we had experienced - we hadn't even thought of this and had simply chalked it up to experience. What really irritated me was that having asked for our opinions, they weren't really interested. In my view if a business asks for feedback then they have to be prepared for both positive and negative comments and act upon them, otherwise why bother. I was so incensed by the response that I fired off another email. This is the last paragraph from that email:

"I was merely disappointed with our holiday originally but the tone of your response and the casual dismissal of the issues has actually made me angry. I note your offer of a discount, however that would not influence our decision whether to re-book even if the offer had not been so limited in scope. The issue for us is one of trustworthiness, in particular whether the photos and descriptions on your website properly reflect the style & quality of the accommodation on offer. We might have considered another holiday with Simpsons had the response to our reasonable comments been a simple apology or straightforward acknowledgement of the issues. Instead we received a mealy-mouthed defence with a tawdry attempt to blame the customer and to deny or ignore legitimate complaints. The website constantly refers to 'luxury' villas: I am still trying to equate the word 'luxury' with furnishings which included a kitchen on its last legs and a sitting room with a grubby brown dralon armchair (La Vigna Maggiore) and being directly underneath a flightpath (La Vigne). Clearly we have differing takes on the meaning of luxury."

The next email from Simpsons did at least produce a somewhat grudging apology and suggested that in relation to the aircraft noise issue they would amend the property description and ensure that anyone booking was made aware - apparently we should have been told during the booking process but weren't. I cannot comment on whether the issue is now highlighted during booking, but six months later the website description hasn't changed.

The pity is that the mis-handled response to our feedback in the questionnaire they asked us to complete has put us off travelling with Simpson in future. There is no point asking for comments if you only want to hear good things and if you are going to ignore or dismiss the negatives.

Simpsontravel's Response to InthelandoftheBard's Review

Written on: 31/01/2014

It is very important to us for our guests to share their experiences with us. As mentioned we ask for feedback from everyone returning from their holiday, so that we know which aspects are working well and where we need to improve. We apologise our initial response caused some offence and when there are short comings we do accept responsibility. I would like to reassure this reviewer that their comments were taken seriously at the time and apologise this was not conveyed in a more appropriate manner.

It is very disappointing that the reviewer has been discouraged from travelling with us again in the future, however, if they changed their mind I am confident they would have a much more positive experience. Nevertheless, I wish them all the best in their travels.

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Inthelandofthebard's reply to Simpsontravel's Comment

Written on: 14/02/2014

If my comments had been taken seriously I would have expected that the property descriptions would have been amended so that other clients could make an informed decision. There is still no reference to the aircraft noise issue at the first property, and the photos of the other are exactly the same as before - including pictures of the pool area complete with furniture that isn't there!

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K1Tty's Response to InthelandoftheBard's Review

Written on: 05/08/2014

We have just had an excellent holiday with Simpson but I do note your remarks on head office. I telephoned to ask a simple question as to what was available in the welcome pack in order not to duplicate purchases and was greeted with a sarcastic, dismissive observation from someone who obviously was of the opinion I had crawled out from under a stone. I am also now wary from your review that standard are not consistent across properties and service by reps. really useful

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Inthelandofthebard's reply to K1Tty's Comment

Written on: 19/08/2014

That's awful. How hard can it be to answer a simple question? You would like to think that they had a sort of standard-ish pack with variations according to country. It is actually quite appalling that, after having spent a no doubt reasonable sum of money with them, they should just dismiss you. Ultimately all those pesky holidaymakers are paying the wages of these 'customer service' people. I do though know exactly what you mean about being treated as if you had crawled out from under a stone. The email I received from Simpsons following the questionnaire made me feel exactly the same. I really resented (and still do) the strong implication that we were whingers out for compensation - something which genuinely hadn't even occurred to us - because we had the audacity to fill in THEIR questionnaire, which we didn't ask for, honestly. It was that attitude that put me off travelling with Simpsons in future.

The inconsistency is property standards is a real concern. Our first holiday with Simpsons was in a really lovely villa in Crete. We thought it was an excellent holiday, brilliant rep and so we expected similar standards when we went to Corsica. One of the villas did match up to expectations in one sense but was blighted by aircraft noise - if we had been told about this, as apparently we should have been, we would not have chosen to stay there.

The other villa was in need of a refurb. There were so many niggles with that property that indicated maintenance wasn't high on the owner's agenda. We were even told by the rep that the 'cleaner' was an old family retainer/friend and the owner wouldn't use someone else even though there had been complaints before! I am sure it is of benefit for Simpsons to offer accommodation that they know but they need to ensure that the standards are maintained and if the property isn't up to scratch it should be thrown off the programme. Loyalty to the owners of the properties they sell in their packages is all well and good but they need to keep the paying customer at the front of their mind!

As for the reps, the one we had in Crete with Simpsons was excellent, one of the Corsica reps was nice and was helpful. The other (in the villa with the maintenance issues e.g. one of the kitchen cupboard doors hanging off, a filthy old armchair, unkempt pool area full of old dead leaves, patio door lock broken so it couldn't be secured, etc.) just had a bad attitude. I don't think she could believe that we weren't leaping around for joy and no doubt had us down as demanding because we might want to lock all the doors when we were out! We are not by nature 'complainers' and this was the first time we had ever raised issues with a rep in more than thirty years of extensive travelling.

From the response we had from head office after answering the questionnaire that THEY sent to US, I doubt anything was done because they seemed to share this 'everything must be fine because we're Simpsons' attitude. There is still no reference to aircraft noise on the one property and no change to the photos of the other. That says it all to me.

If you are going to pay the premium that a tour operator gets for organising a holiday, in my view the least you can expect is that they can identify high quality properties commensurate with the price being paid, keep an eye on them to ensure standards don't slip and listen to their customers (without attitude) when they have legitimate complaints. If they can't do that, and can't ensure their staff are civil to people asking perfectly reasonable questions, then they don't deserve our business.

Ironically we went back this year to a simply stunning property which we found on a holiday lettings website - we were dealing with the owner, who was going to be staying in the property after us, and who happily answered all our questions. The place was immaculate.

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