Tuesday, 9 August 2011

French holiday leaves sour aftertaste

Great holiday – shame about the aftertaste. Our pleasant memories of a summer break in France have been soured by an extraordinary letter from the owners of the house we rented.The property was in Charente, not far from the Cognac vineyards. It was superbly maintained and equipped and, fair to say, not unreasonably priced. We rented it for a week with our son and daughter in law and two small granddaughters. We liked it so much that on the drive home we discussed a repeat booking for next year – this time for for two or three weeks.I had paid a £200 security deposit. The owners warned, unsurprisingly, that there would be a charge if the place was not left clean and tidy. And so it was. But they deducted £50 from the deposit, claimed, ludicrously, that it took two of them three hours to render the property fit for the next guests and that it would not have been ready for those guests had they not been late – even though they were not scheduled to arrive for six hours after we departed.

The catalogue of justification from the owners was mind boggling. OK, hands up, we may have missed a couple of things in the scramble to get out with kids by the 10am deadline. We did forget to clean the gas barbecue and there might have been the odd wine stain somewhere (though not on anything which couldn't have been wiped clean in a flash). And we did forget to mention breaking a small, very cheap wine glass, a slip about which I immediately emailed and apologised on return. But to suggest there was food and crumbs through the ground floor, when we had vacuum cleaned and mopped, was fatuous. And fingers marks on top of the TV? Do me a favour.

We didn't care about the £50, even if we did feel it had been deducted under false pretences. But we were upset and outraged by the pettiness of it all. You'll just have accept on trust the truth of what I write. However it is worth noting that we have rented upwards of 30 self catering properties for holidays over the years – the latest before this a lovely house on a lake in Maine (north east US) – and have never hear a whisper of complaint.

The question we asked most often as this nastiness festered in our minds was: how do they ever expect to get any repeat business. We would have reurned. We would have told our friends and relatives. Though they weren't to know this, I would have given them a glowing testimony. All lost. We remain bewildered.

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