The first few hours of our Phuket trip were a dizzying series of unfortunate events, thanks to a booking mishap with Agoda.com. Here’s a detailed account of what transpired early in the morning of December 6th, 2016.
With cost being the primary consideration, we used Agoda.com to find a budget-friendly hotel for our 4D3N stay in Phuket. The final choice was Artha Guesthouse, booked and confirmed about three months before our flight.
Based on 70 reviews, Artha is an “excellent” 1-star hotel. It’s clean, it’s within walking distance to Patong beach, and the owner – a fan of Manchester United – has been described as a great host. To us, as long as it has a decent bed and a clean toilet, all other positive comments are just an added bonus. After all, we didn’t go to Phuket to staycation. The plan was to spend as much time as possible outdoors.
But when we got to the hotel at 12:30 in the morning, all our excitement turned into disbelief. Artha Guesthouse was deserted. Its bar, Mally’s Bar, was closed, and on its door was a “Do Not Enter” sign in bold uppercase.
See for yourself.
My friends and I spent a few minutes debating whether or not we were dropped off at the correct address. Maybe there’s another branch that we didn’t know about. Can we check the images on Agoda? Maybe there’s another entrance to the hotel. Perhaps we’re too early? They know we’re checking in at this hour, right?
But soon after, the reality sank in. We were duped.
NOTE: As of this writing, Artha Guesthouse is still listed on Agoda. But when I tried booking a room, it returned this message: “Sorry, we have no rooms at this property on your dates.” (See screenshot below.)
Agoda: Yes, Artha Guesthouse is No Longer Operational
There were three things that made fixing this booking mishap easier – (1) Reich‘s local SIM card, which she purchased at the airport, (2) Lenn‘s quick thinking, and (3) our Thai bahts, which we bought in the Philippines.
Using Reich‘s phone, Lenn tried anxiously (yet hopefully) to get in touch with Artha‘s listed numbers. It wasn’t a surprise that both numbers were dead, so the next step was to call Agoda.
According to Lenn, Agoda’s CS rep confirmed that Artha Guesthouse was indeed no longer operational, but unfortunately, Agoda wasn’t informed about this. The rep was apologetic with what had happened, and he promised to immediately find and book another hotel for us, even though the price may be higher than what we initially paid.
This good news toned down our anxious feelings a bit, but we knew better than to relax. Sure enough, when the rep called again 30 minutes later to say he finally found a hotel – “It’s The Beach Boutique House Hotel, and it comes with a pool,” he gushed – we had to call him back because upon checking, we discovered that Beach Boutique House is located in Kata, some 17 kms. from where we were.
We calmly and kindly asked the rep to find us another hotel within Patong, but instead of granting our request, he made us choose between (1) taking a full refund, which meant we were on our own from thereon, and (2) heading over to The Beach Boutique House Hotel. Reluctantly, we chose the second option.
At this point, it was already 2:30 in the morning, and we had just finished eating at a buffet restaurant across the street from Artha. All those waiting made us hungry and crave for Thai food, and we needed a safe place to stay while Agoda dealt with the problem.
At The Beach Boutique House Hotel, Kata
A 30-minute, 400-baht taxi ride later, we arrived at the Beach Boutique House.
Judging from its lobby alone, the hotel is definitely a step-up from Artha. I wanted to take a look around, but I didn’t have much energy left in me, so while Lenn and the receptionist worked out the details of the booking, I decided to just sit and wait. Any minute now, I thought, we are finally getting some sleep.
But just when we thought it was going to be a happy ending, another bad news rolled in. The new booking didn’t come through.
Once again, Lenn made a call to Agoda, and once again, Agoda promised to fix the problem. For about 10 minutes, the rep – a different guy this time – tried to sort things out with the hotel’s rude receptionist, but the latter wouldn’t budge. Eventually, the rep had to say what we hated to hear – sit tight while he finds us another hotel.
Did I mention that the receptionist was rude? Apparently, he wasn’t just rude. He also tried hard to trick us into booking into the more expensive Beach Heights Resort. There were rooms available, all we had to do was pay for our entire stay. “You’ll get a refund in the morning when the manager comes in,” he said.
Of course we didn’t say yes. Doing so would mean we decided on our own and would let Agoda off the hook. “That’s okay. We’ll wait for Agoda’s call.”
Fifteen minutes later, the rep called to say he had just found a hotel in Patong – the Hotel Ginger House. “We’re going back to Patong? But didn’t the other rep say all hotels are booked?”
The situation was obviously getting frustrating, but although our patience was running thin, we had to fully cooperate with Agoda.
“Can you give us a full refund for our taxi fare?” Lenn asked the rep. He said yes, provided we give him a receipt. We asked Beach Boutique House if their transport service issued a receipt. A much nicer receptionist said yes, but the rude one said no.
We couldn’t take any more rudeness, so we just walked away.
Hotel Ginger House… Finally!
30 minutes later, we found ourselves in front of an alleyway leading to the Hotel Ginger House. The taxi fare was 500 baht with no receipt.
I wish I could say everything went smoothly from this point on. True, we were given two Deluxe Double Rooms, which had a balcony, a king-sized bed, towels that smell good, and a clean toilet. (Watch the video below.) True, we were finally able to catch some much-needed sleep before our tour in the afternoon.
But in the evening, when we got back from the tour, the receptionist at the Hotel Ginger House informed us we needed to pay 1,000 baht for early check-in.
We didn’t give in at first, but when we saw the voucher, we realized it was another Agoda mistake.