Pomeranian Coast

The retired Burnley couple were freezing in a ‘dingy’ hotel room after spending almost £1000 of their savings on ‘dream holidays’

An elderly couple from Burnley who had used up their savings for their dream holiday found themselves “stuck like prisoners” in a dingy room for a week.

John Robinson, 82, and his wife Sally spent many summers in Southport. The Lancashire couple, who have a history with Southport, say the seaside town is one they considered a dream holiday destination.

In September 2022, John and Sally finally used their savings for an extended stay at a hotel they had always dreamed of. The Royal Clifton Hotel in Southport has always been on the couple’s wish list, according to their son Kev Robinson, 43.

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Kev says his parents gave the hotel a prestigious reputation because of its history. Their desire to visit the Promenadenhotel was so great that it took them two years to make the decision to book, but finally this year they decided to make their dream come true.

At 82, Kev says his father, John, struggles with using the internet and “is not media savvy.” Instead of looking for the hotel online, he decided to call the front desk. John was told he would have to pay around £125 a night for his sea view room, even then the elderly man happily paid that amount hoping they would get a great room.

“They’ve always wanted to stay at this hotel because it has a long reputation,” Kev said. “For that generation it was felt to be quite grand, it’s the Royal Clifton so it was more of a tradition and meaning to them. They thought about it for about two years and then I walked over and they said they would. Finally they booked the Royal Clifton.

“I’ll be perfectly honest they don’t use the internet and my dad wouldn’t have looked online it was just what he wanted to do. They are not a wealthy couple, they are just living on their pension and this was a holiday for them.”

John and Sally had booked seven nights in a sea view room for mid-September. The hotel told John they would have to pay an additional £42 per night for a sea view room.

The Royal Clifton Hotel in Southport

The couple arranged for a local taxi company to take them to their hotel, but when they arrived they were checked into a room they hadn’t booked. Kev says that even at this point, his parents were trying to stay positive and chose not to “make a scene.”

“They got a different room, but they’re a couple who come from a generation where they don’t want to make a fuss and where they feel like they’re going to piss people off if they complain.”

The headboard of the bed in the couple's hotel room (Kev Robinson)
The headboard of the bed in the couple’s hotel room (Kev Robinson)

The room the couple was given “dated from the 19th century,” says Kev. While his parents were away, he had already planned to book a room for himself and his son to spend with his parents on a Friday.

Kev booked through a third party online system and only paid £49 for the night. When he compared his parents’ room to his, he said it was “a lot better” for more than half the price.

He said of his parents’ room: “There were stains on the wall, visible stains. The bed headboard looked like it was broken and the bedside table had stains all over it.”

Visible stains on bedroom wall (Kev Robinson)
Visible stains on bedroom wall (Kev Robinson)

Due to the age of the building, many windows are not double-glazed, says the 43-year-old, which meant the room stayed at a very low temperature. Also, the central heating in the room was not working for the duration of the couple’s stay.

After speaking to the staff on deck, John was able to inform them that their room was freezing and was powered by a heater. However, the size of the heater was not large enough to heat the entire room.

The heater provided to the couple (Kev Robinson).
The heater provided to the couple (Kev Robinson).

“The heating wasn’t working and when they went downstairs to tell them the heating wasn’t working they gave them this tiny radiator and said that’s all you have, it’s an old hotel, what do you expect? It was just in a state of disrepair, the lights were hanging off the wall, the bulbs in the lamps were actually broken so they didn’t work.

“The windows were dirty inside and out so even though they wanted a sea view you could only see the dirt. The windows were drafty so my parents said they sat in their coats in the evenings. When they got home they were bad, it was so cold they came back sick.

“When we saw her my son said nanny what’s up and she just said it’s terrible here we’re waiting for the taxi to pick us up earlier. My dad was mad at himself – he thought it was something special, but it was so awful.”

Stains on the bedside table next to the hotel room (Kev Robinson)
Stains on the bedside table next to the hotel room (Kev Robinson)

The room Kev was given shocked the couple, who saw what their son got or a fraction of the price they paid. Kev says the room is exactly what you were hoping for for what he paid but felt “ripped off” to his parents.

“My father’s room, he said he wouldn’t even put a dying dog in there. When he saw my room he immediately said he said they ripped us off. He said I feel like they took advantage of us,” Kev adds.

“When they saw the rooms in the brochure they looked fantastic. My parents are old school and I just feel like there are other older people who would use this hotel for the same reason and I’m just upset that older people could be treated that way.

Dirty windows in the hotel room (Kev Robinson)
Dirty windows in the hotel room (Kev Robinson)

“The room was dingy and I found it unsafe and depressing. They didn’t want to complain, they just got used to it and tried to spend their days outside, but they’re not very mobile in the evenings, so they just had to stay. You can’t underestimate what life is like at 82 and you know that people will say, oh, they should have done this and they should have done that, but they’re not of the generation that they’re doing this.

“They come from a generation where they get along and don’t make a fuss.”

Speaking on behalf of his parents, Kev says he is currently in a lengthy complaints process with the owners, Britannia Hotels, to try to get some form of response from the company to see “if they think the room is acceptable”. .

LancsLive contacted the Britannia Hotel, who confirmed “the guests were contacted directly”.

Kev told LancsLive that after an eight-week grievance process, Britannia Hotels have offered the couple a refund for the night they did not stay at the hotel. The company also offered a discounted stay for the future.

Kev adds that his parents will accept the refund.

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