A couple looking forward to a special holiday to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary have been left facing a shock bill from hotel booking website Alpharooms to secure their room.
In mid-October last year, Gilbert Brooman, 46, from Morpeth, booked a hotel for him and his wife Lynn, 44, in Gran Canaria, later this month having secured flights from Newcastle Airport separately.
However, with just three weeks until they are set to jet off, Alpharooms contacted Mr Brooman to inform them the price was going up by a whopping 23 per cent – or £320 – due to a ‘technical glitch’ which has taken some five months to come to light.
He was also given just 72 hours to agree to the extra charge or else lose the booking.
Gran Canaria: The couple had booked the trip as part of their 20th wedding anniversary celebrations – but face paying more, or finding another hotel at the last minute
When he booked in October, the agreed price on the website – which sponsors League One football club Sheffield United – was £1,392.48 which he would pay on arrival at the hotel.
The seven night stay at Marina Suites Hotel was secured with a £1 deposit deal offered by Alpharooms.
But in an e-mail dated 2 February 2017, it said thanks to a ‘technical glitch’ the price was going up to £1,712.27 – a difference of £319.79.
HOW THIS IS MONEY CAN HELP
The couple were given just three days to agree to the extra or cancel, free of charge.
Mr Brooman contacted the firm which claimed it was within its rights and pointed him to its terms and conditions.
He said: ‘We spent a lot of time researching hotels and decided on this hotel for our special holiday, but simply can’t afford the increase.
‘Further to this there is very little accommodation left in Gran Canaria to book especially hotels suitable for our needs.
‘Had we been informed last October we may have been able to book suitable alternative accommodation.’
Sponsor: Alpharooms are the shirt sponsor of football team Sheffield United
This is Money found it difficult to contact the firm, which has no visible press relations presence, despite boasting a £100million turnover.
We contacted its call centre and finally spoke to a customer services member of staff who said upon investigation that the hotel was to blame, not Alpharooms, for the sudden increase.
He passed on our query while we also e-mailed the customer services centre. We asked what the reason for the price rise was and if it was really a ‘glitch,’ what caused it.
We argued that if it was a glitch, why had it only just been found with just three weeks until the couple fly?
We also asked whether other customers had been hit with such steep increases and for the firm to point to its terms and conditions which allow it to do this.
PROBLEM WITH ALPHAROOMS?
Have you been left disappointed after a price hike from Alpharooms ahead of a trip, or turning up to a hotel only to find the booking hadn’t been paid for?
However, despite repeated attempts, Alpharooms has not contacted This is Money with a reply.
Instead, Mr Brooman contacted us on 6 February to say that Alpharooms had been in touch with a change of tune.
In an e-mail, Alpharooms said: ‘This issue was because the rate was pay direct and it was working around this that was causing the issues.
‘From looking into it the best option would be for when you arrive pay the booking directly to the hotel and collect a receipt from them.
‘Then send the receipt to ourselves so that we can refund the difference in cost.’
The company has agreed to cover the difference and we have told Mr Brooman to get back to us if he has any problems receiving the money.
This is Money searched for the hotel on Google.
One of the adverts that topped the search engine results was from Alpharooms, offering up to ’55 per cent’ off the hotel, which has a sea-theme, along with infinity pool.
Big promise: Alpharooms advertising Marina Suites Hotel in Puerto Rico, Gran Canaria – along with its £1 deposit promise in green at the top of the screenshot
Last October, Alpharooms came under fire from some customers after it seemingly failed to pass on payments to hotels.
Travellers were turning up to hotels booked through the website only to be told their rooms hadn’t been paid for after Alpharooms failed to pass on payment, meaning they had to pay again or seek alternative accommodation.
The firm said that around 50 customers had their bookings ‘mistakenly cancelled’ due to a ‘technical issue’.
In December 2016, holiday firm Mark Warner started adding a ‘Brexit tax’ on trips already booked for Europe citing the falling pound, however there is nothing to suggest that this case is in relation to Brexit or rising costs.