xo (slapband) wrote in bad_service,

Has anyone heard of Hostels United Worldwide?

I ask because there's some potential ridiculous bad service going on here, or maybe I'm completely off the mark.

In February I went to New York for a week, and being 20 and on a budget, I picked Urban Oasis Hostel. Great location, I got to have my own room, not as expensive as a hotel.

Unluckily, my flight landed in LA on the day those snowstorms hit the east coast, and I had to reroute myself and managed to get there by 11 AM the next morning, keeping them in the loop the whole time.

I got there and the hostel was fine, not disgusting like a lot of the hostels I've stayed in. I was a bit irked to find they were still charging me for the night I was unable to get there rather than a mistake on my part causing me to arrive late, but I digress.

The walls were less than paper thin, so I got to hear people watching TV and listening to scary metal music until well after midnight, had the staff vacuuming right outside my door at 9 AM, and even got a private show and heard the people in the room next to me get intimate. Nice!

The showers were ice cold the entire week I stayed there, no matter what time of the day I showered, so it wasn't as if I got in the shower late and everyone else had used the hot water. Icy showers are so much fun in February!

What made me really uncomfortable was the security: a glass-fronted, single-lock door got access into the elevator foyer straight off the street, which was on the corner of 31st and 5th. Not exactly low-profile. I know New York has got a lot safer in the last few years, but it's not as though it's a sleepy little town. There was a PIN-code system to get inside the hostel itself, but when guests would open for a knock at the door, well, that's a bit unsettling, particularly for a young girl traveling alone.

All of these things together made my stay fine, good-average but not amazing fantastic wonderful. Combined with the fact that I've stayed in tons of other hostels where the facilities have been better, the staff friendlier, the atmosphere better, daily sheet-changes and rooms cleaned etc, I gave Urban Oasis a 60% rating. Aware that they usually had a 90% or more rating, I realise this is a bit low. But it's not a bad rating, right? It's average, and my stay was average. It's a C! C is a pass!

Cut to several weeks later, when I get an email from Hostels United Worldwide. Saying that Urban Oasis has disputed my rating, and as a result, I have been blacklisted from all hostels in North America. Wait, what? Because I didn't love their hostel, I'm never allowed to stay in one again??

I disputed my blacklisting, listing out my reasons for a lower rating than they expected, and they forwarded my email to the hostel itself, rather than continuing contact with me.

The email I got back from Urban Oasis was the most childish, petty thing I have ever read. It included things like:

"If things like [the security] terrify you, you definitely should not travel without an adult guardian until you reach the age of maturity, especially not to big busy cities like New York." Actually, I lived in the scary bit of London alone for a year! I've lived in Paris! And Sydney! Age of maturity? No, I'm just not hot on the idea of subpar security right next to a huge main street in a big city.

"Your rating came as a bit of a shock to our staff. Honestly, I'm quite surprised too, now that I've learned that actually nothing upsetting happened during your stay."

"To summarize, I find most of your comments pretty ridiculous and telling more of yourself than our property."

"I understand you are a very young and inexperienced traveler, and as you mentioned to our receptionist, this trip to big cities far away from home was challenging for you." This is the opposite of what I told the receptionist. We chatted. I talked about traveling Europe. She had lived in London too, we talked about it for 5+ minutes.

Since that email barely deserved a response from me, I contacted Hostels United Worldwide directly, explaining my frustrations and asking if nothing could be done, then was this blacklisting a lifelong thing, and how could I get it lifted. I'm planning on moving to Toronto next year, I need to be able to stay in hostels!

I got no response, even after sending the email again.

Upon further research, I've noticed that their email address is a gmail address, which wouldn't be suspicious if they didn't claim to be an Organisation that Links All the Top-Rated Hostels Internationally. They also have no website. In fact, the only thing that comes close to referencing them online is hostelsunited.com, strange considering I booked through hostelworld.com and have never heard of Hostels United anything.

I understand Urban Oasis banning me from staying again, but all hostels? Apparently now, if I try to make a booking under the name I used for Urban Oasis, my booking will be immediately cancelled and my deposit will not be refunded. If I travel with a friend and book it under their name, I will be denied access upon arrival and made to pay cancellation fees.

Right, so... all of these hostels are refusing my money because I didn't like another hostel. For the rest of my life.

Does this seem like BS to any of you, too?
Or in any case, does anyone else agree that the email from the hostel was petty and unnecessarily rude?

ETA: The hostel itself hasn't banned me from all hostels, rather, the Hotels United Worldwide organisation has. They claim to be a "chain of small property owners sharing valuable business information and a central database". As I can't find anywhere on the internet that says that this organisation exists at all, I'm still questioning it.
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