Reality Check in London: The avoidable and downright lousy Park Plaza Riverbank

March 18, 2011

The Park Plaza Riverbank fancies itself a nice hotel. Sadly, that could not be much father from the truth. Even a supremely well-situated location across from Parliament on the Thames River can’t salvage poor service and a generally worn down property.

Why is it that big chains spend all of their money on an opulent lobby leaving nothing for staff training and room maintenance? How is it that a hotel charging more than 400 pounds per night has “theft proof” hangers and charges for a bottle of water? Why is it that the eastern European staff is always indifferent to the fact that you, in fact, pay their salary? Why do chains like the Park Plaza worship the television?

Room 941 is a river front suite with a great view of London. The view is particularly gorgeous at night. Room 941 also has scarred furniture, stained rugs, and two televisions blaring noise pollution into the scene as you enter. Cacophony does not mask the decay.

The bathroom is nicely designed and appointed but scaled with hard water stains which covered the glass shower. That may demote the shower down past plastic walmart shower rods (almost). The grossest thing of all? The lotion had been opened and used.

With a decent staff, we could overlook these maintenance details. But that is not how it is meant to be. Instead the staff is indifferent, undertrained, and unwilling to solve problems. Case in point the first: we arrived way early and our rooms were not ready (happens all the time). However, convincing the bell staff to take our suitcases up to our rooms when they were ready was like moving rocks. And then, they lost my suitcase somewhere during the process (I was out running between meetings in the city) and had no idea what to do to find it. My colleague and I were forced to escalate to the duty manager (a really nice guy named Mario Garcia-Vao who wields no power whatsoever to make things right).

Just for kicks, a second story: Whatever you do, don’t try to get a drink or a power adapter at the business center without your room key sleeve (something it turns out you don’t have if you can’t check in yet). And just try getting the Berzerkistan-trained bureaucrat to adjust for reality instead of sticking obstinately with policy. Hah.  It has been many years since I have experienced such a terrible staff. Even the bar waitresses were awful and unwilling to play creatively. (On the other hand, the bartender had fun making a Seelbach or three. Learn something from a guest?! Horrors.)

London was certainly not the best of the six cities in this otherwise exquisite ten day tour. The restaurant we went to—Gaucho—was too hip for its own good and clearly run to maximize throughput and tabletop revenue. In my little world you do NOT interrupt a story at the table to wave around cuts of uncooked meat. You do that after the story ends. Good food and great wine, but not worth the hassle. I guess I would rather have Argentinian food in Argentina.

Things ended on a mixed note at the Park Plaza. The pathetic limits of Mario Garcia-Vao’s power resulted in a “massive” 38 pound discount applied to my friends’ room and a bottle of grocery store wine.  At least Mario’s note was nice.  In final analysis, this is absolutely unacceptable in my view and a really worse than doing nothing. You can bet I will go up the chain with my thoughts on this one. I’ll keep you posted. [ed. See the comments.]  On the other hand, the driver who took me to the airport was a friendly ex-bodyguard with a hearty laugh and a good heart.

So an all time low one showerhead for the lowly Park Plaza Riverbank. Do not stay here. In fact, lets just scratch off the entire Park Plaza chain, what say mate?

3 Responses to “Reality Check in London: The avoidable and downright lousy Park Plaza Riverbank”

  1. showertaker Says:

    The saga continues…

    After a long back and forth of courteous, but ultimately unsatisfying emails with Steven Sands (Mario’s boss) and Greg Hegarty (Regional General Manager UK…whose email address is easily obtained through LinkedIn), I have given up hope that this situation will be properly righted. Here is a copy of the last email I sent to Mr Hegarty:
    Mr Hegarty,

    Thank you for your prompt response and (much more importantly) for your
    attention to this situation. I wish you the best as you work to improve
    your well-situated property on the Thames.

    From an executive perspective, I might suggest that you allow people like
    Mario (and perhaps Mr Sands) more power and authority to make things
    right. I believe Mario did what he was able as the situation unfolded,
    but his authority was severely limited leaving me even less satisfied than
    before his involvement. For the record, I still have not received what I
    requested the night of my stay (comping my friends’ room while I paid full
    price for the suite which in my opinion was certainly not worth over 400
    pounds). Instead, a series of small (and in the end unsatisfying)
    gestures is what I have experienced. Bold actions sometimes salvage
    situations. The placement of pennies on the scale in an attempt to fix
    the balance does not.

    In any case, this is much less about money and much more about alerting
    you to deficits in service levels. Once again, thanks for your attention.

    Mr Sands upped the original and laughable 38 pound ante all the way to 50% of the cost of my colleague’s room (around 100 pounds), leaving me still feeling ripped off and still paying well over 500 pounds.

    The most ridiculous part of all of this is that all three of these fellows somehow believe that I will ever set foot in their hotel chain again so that they can “make up” for such a bad experience. As if. In my book, you rectify the broken situation first and then gain a second chance. Simply put…they blew it.

    Park Plaza hotel joins the avoidable ranks of the Holiday Inn Express right in the middle of the Bell curve of awful. Stay somewhere else.

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