The Tale of Two Accommodations in Croatia

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…” –Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

 

It was the best of times, and yet the worst of times so far on my European trip. I faced the simple spring of hospitality from a hotel and the winter coldness of another. My intuition tends to cry out to me especially when I doubt an upcoming hotel choice. Yesterday morning, I woke up and began re-researching where again I had booked my next night in Croatia. The complicated driving directions had me worried, along with the fact that the accommodation website had completely different pictures than the booking agent I used. Again, my intuition was in alert mood and I suppressed it.

I arrived to freezing Rovinj, Croatia, what is said to be the most photographed city in the country. Its beauty was clear upon arrival. I made my way through the pedestrian-only zone for my allotted 30 minutes to have a car, just to drop off baggage. I found my accommodations, but they had not found me. Several buzzes at the door went unanswered, a traveler’s worst nightmare when you are ready to check in and relax. Aimless waiting outside in the biting cold produced a few stares from locals. Finally I dug through my purse to find the phone number of the owner, only to get no answer. I was beginning to think I would have to find other accommodations in a mostly boarded up city for the winter. This should be interesting.

Left out in the cold...

I went back down to the car to get warm and give my accommodations until 4PM to call. At 4PM on the button I received harsh phone call. The owner didn’t apologize and merely said she missed a call from this number. Who was it? (Obviously one of only two guests probably staying the night.)  I explained how I had rang the bell and had been waiting for 45 minutes. She told me she had been there and to come to the house. Put off from her rude response and lack of apology for not being present, I pressed for an apology.

Lugging my luggage back up the stairs, I met the ill-present owner and still no apology. So I said, “I was beginning to think I would have to find other accommodations since you didn’t answer.” Her response, “Oh! It wasn’t that bad. You didn’t wait that long in the cold. I was helping another guest with their satellite TV.” As I stood probably with a gaping mouth, shocked by her response, she quickly hurried me up the death defying stairs, no wider than a pre-teen.

By the time I was in the room, I think she could sense my dismay. She said, “Ma’am don’t be mad. I apologize”. I explained how off-putting it was to have someone in the hospitality industry not apologize to a guest for literally leaving them out in the cold. I had arranged my arrival time beforehand so she knew when to expect me. Suddenly she seemed to turn the tables, making me feel as though I was wrong in speaking up. She basically told me I could leave and she wouldn’t charge for the night. I said I would think about it, now visibly upset. As I sat in the room for a few minutes, the cold set in. Even with full hat, scarf, coat and gloves, the temperature matched those outside. I was faced with sleeping miserably physically and mentally in a place I did not feel welcome.

Quite the contrary to my first hotel in Rovinj, my welcoming hotel room in Munich

An hour later, I left for a hotel down the road, one I booked just minutes prior. Before I could even reach for the door handle, a woman was opening it for me with a giant smile on her face. I had clearly interrupted her dinner, but she didn’t bat an eye. She was ready for me, even though I had just given them a surprise 6PM booking. Checking in was efficient and I made my way to my heat radiating room.

While dated and lacking the bells and whistles of the first accommodation, I realized what truly matters in accommodations for me: clean sheets, good WiFi, heat, and most importantly hospitality. It was truly the day of two types of accommodations, one with all of the stainless steel appliances, grand art illuminated on the walls and owner who had never heard of apologizing to guests, and the other, simple, dated and yet covered in kindness from every staff member I met.

What I discovered from this unsettling exchange is that travelers should speak up when they are wrongly treated. Inspiring Travelers have also stressed the need for travelers to speak up if there is a problem. If we sit back and let hoteliers treat us poorly, shell out our money for rudeness, we are only contributing to the problem.

And so my night in Rovinj, I went to bed hungry. Unsettled, I just wanted to get some sleep at 8PM. It was the best of times and the worst of times. I woke up to a new day, a day I was proud of standing up for myself and travelers across the globe.

A new day in Rovinj, Croatia

 

Have you ever encountered such bad hospitality? Is it worth it to stand up for yourself or just avoid the confrontation when you travel?

Comments

  1. says

    Oh my yes!!! At a tiny resort in Florida we were 5 min late for the check in time because of bad directions. It took 20 minutes to get someone who could check us in. They then overcharged our card and very rude the entire time. I was cutting into his beer time. We finally get sent to our cabin and it is not the one we reserved. So a trip back to the office and other 20 minute wait to get help. I explain that this cabin will not do and they need to give us one that we reserved and had paid for half in advance.

    At this point I said if you can’t give us the cabin we want we can just leave, but I want a full refund. Lucky for me we got it.

    Called another hotel on our way back to town and got a free upgrade to a suite and a kind desk clerk.

    Our incident was also after a long day on the road with lots of issues.

    Abigail

  2. says

    Well, living in Croatia as an expat, i have (till now) not experienced landlords like the first one you found, but I am aware there are quite a few of them.

    I think what is happing, it that the accommodation market is and a transformation face, which divides the landlords in too two categories.

    Category 1: Are those who are longing for the times when the same guest used to come year after year, these landlords have a hard time adjusting to the fast and all internet world we have today.

    Category 2: These are the ones, who did not experience “how it used to be” or the ones who are generally open for change, accept it and adapt to it.

    As a tenant we lucky today have reviews, forums, blogs and other places where we can seek advice, this of course is not a guarantee that one would completely avoid experiences like the one you had, but it for sure can limit the risk!!

    Anyway the good news is, that most Croatians adapt after some time, when the Category 2 landlords starts getting more and more bookings, the Cat 1 landlords will follow, those who do not will disappear from the market.

    Cheers from Split

    Morten

  3. says

    We found service in Croatia to be very hit or miss. Even in places like shops – it’s like people went out of their way to be unfriendly. But when they were nice they really shined.

  4. says

    Sorry to hear you had to go through that ordeal Suzy. I absolutely think travelers should speak up, however, I do believe we should use some discretion. I know many times where friends or colleagues of mine have spoken up for legitimate reasons (one time the ceiling of a hotel room had caved in!) However, I have other colleagues who will complain about anything and everything with the sole purpose of being awarded bonus points from the hotel loyalty programs. I think that is taking it a little too far.

  5. says

    Sorry to hear your first night there got off to such a bad start! But good for you for speaking up and just leaving. It’s true that the hospitality business these days has to deal with a lot of spoiled customers who will do everything to save a few bucks (even if it means complaining just to complain), but that’s doesn’t give them the right to act rude, especially if they are actually at fault in the situation. Sounds like that first woman needs to be reminded what the definition of “hospitality” is!

  6. says

    I have had so far pretty good luck with hotels. I had a hotel in Bologna that put me in a room with a beautiful view but no shower (nor one nearby). But they were ok moving me to another room with a crappy view but a shower.

    Where I tend to get bad service from restaurants. I get that cultures and speeds are different in different places. But it is unacceptable for a waitress to take an order from half of our table and ignore us completely. I guess there is proportionately less money at stake with dinner than with a hotel, but it doesn’t excuse rudeness there either.

  7. says

    The people that work at a hotel are the absolute most important part of it, I think. When I’m researching accommodations I always, always choose places where prior guests have positive things to say about the owners and staff. A nice, clean room and delicious breakfast don’t mean anything if the people are rude and unhelpful. If a room has dirty sheets in a hotel run by nice, helpful people, they’ll fix the problem. If that happens in a hotel run by the opposite end of the spectrum, forget it.

  8. says

    Glad you spoke up… I had similar experiences in Croatia. People were always visibly annoyed and rude if we had to break large bills (which I understand, but the cash machines don’t let you withdraw less than 20 kuna, so that sort of poses a dilemma). One server glanced at our 20, sighed heavily, and proceeded to take thirty minutes to bring us our change. She also had a leisurely smoke break within our view, letting us know we just weren’t a priority. I usually tip fabulously having a restaurant background, and she did not get one. Way to stand up!

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