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Lodging Nightmare in B&B listed in Best of Spain, Barclona, page 115

I have trusted RS guides over the course of five trips to Europe including an amazing 100 day journey in the fall of 2018. Lodging recommendations have reliably ensured comfortable, welcoming, culturally enriching, certainly safe clean hospitable resting accommodations.Unfortunately, based on our trust, backed by a .com reviews displaying a 4.5 rating, we arranged lodging.This B&B required a 5 night minimum over the holiday season at Fashion House.We landed late at night, around 10:30, with four exhausted children ages 4 to 10. The taxi driver delivered us to the address.Even he appeared confused, uneasy, and we felt the same.Yet we unloaded our luggage and he drove off leaving us in the dark.We faced a door with no signage.I located the metal frame with the lodging noted at the bottom of the list, covered by a pealing piece of faded plastic for entry to find a drab, stark entry way. A tired marble half stairway offered the option to take to an elevator big enough for two.The rest of our family climbed the full stairway, towing sleepy children and luggage.This hike led to a door.Knocking led to our host who greeted us with a gracious welcome.The reception room was a bit shabby with covered furniture that made me wonder what they were covering. The room had obviously been dressed up for the photos shown on the website.A stack of boxes hid behind a door haphazardly overflowing with papers.The computer desk for documenting our reservation and passport verification rested by the fireplace you see in the site photos, wires dangling under the small table.A man dressed in less than formal attire appeared out of nowhere, plopped himself on the couch and appeared to be checking up on our host, perhaps to make sure we signed everything before we ran for the exit. Then he disappeared.Once all was signed sealed we were about to learn a hard lesson; if your suspect You made a mistake, don't sign anything until you have seen your accommodations! Escorted to the room set for our daughter's family, we encountered the bed for the children, a double size mattress flush on the floor in a room smelling like cleaning fluid masking the odor of smokers.The drab floor appeared to be superficially mopped.At this point I announced to our greeter, "These accommodations are unacceptable."He looked me, paused and said something like "OK."Then he proceeded to take us to our room reeking of that masking cleaning fluid.The humble bathroom included a simple outdated sink and a shower that fitted tighter than what we refer to as a MRI enclosure rather common in Europe, but this one was lined with drab tiles needing a more diligent scrubbing. After explaining handing of the dangling collection of keys he said good night and left us to our despair and suspecting microscopic insects awaited us.Our sons-in-law promptly combed the dark and scary neighborhood for alternative lodging.I was consumed with worry about our guys who eventually found one boutique hotel three blocks away, and escorted my husband and I, thankfully unmolested, to the one room available for one night only.Our guys lovingly forced my husband and I to check in.I was distraught leaving my precious family at Fashion House for the night.At least the children were able to sleep, while our daughter and her husband were horrified and nauseated, forced to listen through the thin wall to the sounds of some poor soul wrenching his guts out.Needless to say, the rest of our family made their escape first thing in the morning.Left with over $1000's expense, the price you might pay for deceptive advertising.We miraculously found wonderfully suitable lodging for our family, enjoying a memorable experience in this magnificent city. I have notified RS staff of this nightmare. Now we are wondering who wrote the .com reviews praising Fashion House? 4.5 out of 5? This is a travesty! Travelers, beware!

Posted by
5010 posts

Sorry to hear of your bad experience.

Whether it's on amazon, one of the many accommodations websites, or anyplace else, one always needs to read all "user reviews" and other comments posted by individuals (including this one and others here) with a critical eye and apply some common-sense "BS filters" to what we see. Always.

Good to inform the Rick Steves staff of your experience. Hope the rest of your trip is/was better.

Posted by
11847 posts

What is the ".com" website with the 4.5 star reviews?

Posted by
2252 posts

My gosh, zagfam, are you the reincarnation of Charles Dickens? Your post reads like a Dickens saga. I guess you can be glad your family does not need to live their lives under those circumstances. Sorry that you and your family had that experience, and happy that you all recovered to enjoy wonderful Barcelona. I trust Booking.com most about lodging, in part because all their reviews come from people who have stayed at the lodging, unlike TA. I looked at Booking.com and all the most recent reviews were positive, for the past 6 months at least. Overall, Booking.com guests rate it “8.6 of 10, Excellent”. A few mention noise from the street or due to thin walls. One reviewer said that if you like the atmosphere of traditional local homes, you will enjoy the B & B, and if not, you will not. What can I say, just different strokes for different folks, I guess. Coincidentally, on my last trip to Barcelona I stayed at a hotel very nearby, on the same street. It was very nice, a real hotel, in a mostly residential neighborhood,

Posted by
243 posts

Thank you for your recognition of my sincerely diligent effort to covey our family’s experience at Fashion House. Bleak House by Charles Dickens May serve as an analogy.

Posted by
16807 posts

FYI for our readers, I have confirmed that the BCN Fashion House B&B was last in the 2017 edition of Rick Steves' Spain, but has not appeared since then. (It was a positive description, but also including the terms "basic rooms" on the "first floor of a nondescript building.") I can't say whether it was specifically reader feedback or staff review that ended up getting this one cut.

Posted by
243 posts

I referred to the March 2018 publication of Rick Steve’s The Best of Spain to plan our 2019 family holiday adventure in Barcelona. Unless a new edition has been released, the BNC Fashion House B&B continues as a $$ recommendation for Sleeping in the Eixample. See page 115.
Lodging we moved to for the remainder of our New Years holiday cost a bit, worth every dollar in quality in every way.

Posted by
7380 posts

Thank you zagfam for alerting everyone on this forum about this B&B.
I stopped using RS recommendations years ago after many were not good.
We only use Booking.com and Hotels.com now.
I would not use TA.

Posted by
243 posts

Over the course of 5 excursions to Europe we planned every step of the way, primarily staying at Rick Steve’s recommended locally owned B&B’s hosted with special care and pride, settings that naturally lend themselves to interaction with fellow travelers across the globe. This one experience was truly our only disaster. I will continue to trust RS recommendations, double checking guest reviews posted on hotels.com. Done with Trip Advisor. Never sourced them other than, mistakenly, checking reviews. I appreciate the shared commentary. And I just learned Fashion House was justifiably removed for 2020 RS publications.

Posted by
2527 posts

I will certainly not enter into discussing Fashion House -or any other accommodation offer- as I am not a user (nor am I related to the tourism industry in any way), but I must point out a couple of inaccuracies, maybe due to the distress of the poster.

L'Eixample is a classy neighbourhood, right in the middle of the city, with wide avenues/streets, Modernist buildings and some of the most upmarket stores, in the likes of Gucci, Louis Vuitton or Tiffany's among other, just around the corner, in Passeig de Gràcia, barely 200 yards away from this location... unlikely a taxi driver would appear "uneasy or confused" taking you there.

Equally, grossly unaccurate is to describe the area as "a dark and scary neighbourhood" because, precisely, one of the "problems" of the city is the high degree of "light pollution" to which the City Council has residents accustomed. I've lived in several European capitals and still can't understand why my home city cannot understand this one, less light is less pollutant and even more "romantic", if I may.

Other than that, I feel for the experience this family encountered and I encourage them to place a complaint to the ACC -the Catalan Consumer Agency, dependent on the Government of Catalonia. You can place your complaint/report online here http://consum.gencat.cat/ca/consultes-i-reclamacions/

Unfortunately, while any consumer, local or foreign, can request the intervention of this agency, its website and instructions are only in the official languages: Catalan and Spanish. One can, nevertheless submit a complaint in English and will be dealt with, and -to my knowledge- replied in English.

There are several types of "complaints", which in the Catalan language receive different names, so do Google translate this page to understand the differences. In your case, you want to place a "denúncia". Alternatively, if you had still been in the city, you could have gone to their HQ in http://consum.gencat.cat/ca/contacte/ which makes it easier presenting a complaint when you don't speak the language.

Note though this is not a court nor a law firm, it's an ombudsman-type of service, without cost for the users, so it takes several months for the cases to run their course. In the end, if it's determined any regulation was breached, the agency can issue fines -sometimes heavy ones.

Lastly to mention that it is compulsory for all public businesses to present, upon demand from a customer, the Llibre de Reclamacions (literally, a complaints book, albeit in reality is a sort of form) so the customer can lodge a complaint. A bit more detail on what it is and how it works here: https://ocuc.cat/reclamacions/

I also must add, as stressed in this website, that you make sure you're being presented an official form as there have been some reports of a few business owners, from specific "cultures", that don't seem to understand that one needs to follow the local laws when migrating to a different country. Yes, there are also a handful of locals ones doing that, but at least they're fully aware of the hefty consequences.

Posted by
7082 posts

After forty years of traveling in Europe, once I tried the RS guide book to choose hotels in Germany and decided the listings weren’t for us. I really like a wider choice. Like Susan, we use Booking.

However, one thing we’ve learned, no matter how you book, is that the late arrivals get the worst accommodations in a place. Mattress on the floor is outrageous.

Posted by
243 posts

I arranged our lodging for 3 rooms in August. Plenty early.

Posted by
7380 posts

I believe Bets is saying when you arrive at an accommodation late at night, you’ll get the worst of their rooms. Nothing to do with when you booked it. I’ve found this to be true as well.

Posted by
6164 posts

Yes, unless you reserve a specific room (or rooms), the late day arrivals will get what's left roomwise. It is what it is. Especially in smaller inns and b&b's where there are different kinds of rooms. Doesn't matter so much in chain type hotels where rooms are all basically the same.

Posted by
243 posts

While I appreciate the avenues for lodging an official complaint, the “inaccuracies” denounce my perceptions as described in my posting. Please step into my shoes as the grandmother, mother, mother in-law who gladly embraced, with delighted anticipation, the responsibility of booking our family’s lodging in Barcelona with diligence and care based on a good deal of experience studying a RS guide, images, reviews and ratings (most probably which ever appeared and provided access). 100 days in Europe, Fall of 2018, personally researched beginning 2 years in advance, without an accommodation hitch or glitch. We made friends with many of our hosts. We exchange Christmas cards. We made recommendations to friends and family visiting many of these locations, and those hosts found joy in our connections and sent their kind regards to bring back to us. Our hearts are that much more filled with appreciation for humankind’s potential for caring for the comfort of strangers. Mine was not a haphazard effort.

I appreciate learning of a city’s environmental and citizen’s wellness considerations of minimum lighting on the streets, especially at midnight. I was unaware of this conscientious practice, but I would hope others would understand my anxiety for the safety of my family under the circumstances. Please know, you were not there to witness the taxi driver’s demeanor. I was, and he cared enough to do a double take, recheck the address, look around to see any evidence of a lodging existing there, shrugged his shoulders, then said, ”Well, this the correct address,” proceeded to help us unload our luggage and left. Thank goodness I had encountered a similar indication of a lodging set in a shared building such that a button is listed amongst other businesses for announcing and/or unlocking the entry, we would have been in the position to wander the streets searching for a place or sleeping on them. No instructions were provided by our host even though he asked for our arrival time, by email, which I provided, well in advance, apparently to arrange a greeter to be present in the office. This listing resided in the dark, recessed along the edge of the doorframe. When I located it, I had to use my iPhone flashlight to read the faint, slightly obstructed letters indicating the business name. The empty corridor awaiting us added little reassurance we were in the right place. This spot, at midnight, in this “fine location” did not appear to be a safe place for my family. I am retelling all this to counter your apparent lack of empathy. I am not a lawyer nor a business person. I am a retired educator. And, I have shared our experience to alert fellow travelers of the potential for a similar experience as they arrange and invest in their journeys. Obviously there are others who would not be daunted by the circumstance I have described. Our host reimbursed me for the nights and room charges he was able to fill with other travelers. In his communications expressed no resentment towards me and my decision to vacate.
I have shared my perceptions on Trip Advisor and Rick Steves staff who have responded to let me know in the 2020 publications this B&B has been removed, most likely in response to other similar comments by travelers. Again, apparently others are satisfied with their accommodations there. As another forum participant noted, “to each his own.” Others may employ the formal actions you diligently provided. I felt afraid for my family. I was sorely disappointed in the establishment and myself, felt responsible for this personally distressing circumstance, felt quite helpless, manipulated by what I saw as a false representation. I learned, for us, small town, B&B: big city, boutique hotel. My focus was to ensure my family’s sense of safety and their comfort. That night my 6 year old grandson whispered to his mom, “Why is Ama so angry?” The next morning he told her, “I think Ama is brave. She was making sure we are safe.”

Posted by
2382 posts

This is in no way a criticism, just advice for future trips. You can look at google maps street view and “walk” around the area where your hotel is before arriving. I always do this, this makes you a little familiar with the area and alerts you to things like there being no sign for the hotel. You can also use it to get a feel for the neighborhood. Not perfectly (things look different in real life) but enough to tell you a bit. Hopefully you won’t need it, but if you do this before booking you could rule out hotels that you didn’t feel comfortable with.

Reviews are so subjective. I think part of your issue was a bad hotel, part was bad luck (you got the worst room and a sick neighbor!), and part was a mismatch in expectations (I find that neighborhood nice, and wouldn’t care about the lack of signs/shared building).

FYI - many small hotels aren’t staffed late at night. The man who showed you your rooms was possibly just hired to hand out keys to late arrivals and couldn’t make changes or really do much besides let you in. Filtering your search to “24 hour reception” would also help if you want to be assured of a traditional reception desk etc.

Posted by
2940 posts

I have developed my own loose set of criteria for choosing lodgings. Shared bathrooms, even if private ones are available, is a red flag for me, warning that the place may be too “basic” for my taste. Another is a very low price compared to what rates are in comparable places.
I also look at specific complaints by reviewers, not just aggregate scores. A number of the reviews on TA and on booking.com mention thin walls or noise. A dealer breaker for me. There are also enough comments about dirty bathrooms, lack of clean towels, etc. to ensure I wouldn’t consider Fashion House.
I will say, regarding reviews, that it’s quite common to find them spanning the spectrum from raves to rants, leaving me wondering if the reviewers actually stayed in the same hotel.

Posted by
5010 posts

I will say, regarding reviews, that it’s quite common to find them spanning the spectrum from raves to rants, leaving me wondering if the reviewers actually stayed in the same hotel.

TA "reviews" are highly suspect. I would never put much stock in any of those (I do have a higher degree of trust in booking.com reviews, but still take those with a grain of skepticism).

Posted by
17636 posts

I'm another traveler who ignores TripAdvisor reviews and uses those on booking.com. In popular, high-cost cities, the less expensive places can be rather basic. Some reviewers temper their expectations when they are paying a bargain rate, so a rating of 8.4 for a budget hotel doesn't mean you're likely to get as nice a room as you'd find in an 8.4-rated three-star hotel. Your experience at the Fashion House was below what I would have expected from the (not-that-many) booking.com reviews I skimmed through. I do wonder about the late arrival and whether you were assigned rooms not so often used.

Posted by
243 posts

Your point considering $$ effecting expectations influencing traveler’s reviews is informative for all of us. Readers should keep that in mind.

Also, a number of responders have mentioned the idea that due to our late arrival we probably were given the bottom of the barrel, left over rooms. Yet, I have noted a number of times in my notes that I arranged the rooms in August, 4 months in advance, communicating with the host directly, specifying each family’s needs considering children and private bathrooms for each of our 3 rooms. He reassured me that he has reserved the rooms accordingly. He also asked and confirmed his awareness of our arrival time. Now I realize that in spite of our rather extensive travel experiences in the past, I should have known, perhaps, that a lodging with a small amount of rooms, with primarily shared bathrooms and $$ in a large city would most likely be exactly what we encountered. And, what you see in the photos might not be what you’ll get. I wish I had taken photos of what we got. I was too distressed to do just that.
Wishing all savvy traveling.

Posted by
17636 posts

I think you were unlucky, because you did more research than I typically do, and I haven't ended up in such a sub-marginal place since the advent of the Internet. Most of the places I stay in I don't recommend on this forum, because most folks have higher standards than I do, but all have been neat and clean--just typically very small and often with what I call "dorm-room décor".

Posted by
4509 posts

Reviews are very important and I read through several prior to booking with a B&B or hotel. We do B&Bs more than hotels and have never had a bad experience.

The key is not to just look at the star rating. You must read several of the reviews.
For example, I wanted a hotel for one night by the Miami airport where I could leave my car for four weeks for free while we took a cruise to Europe and then flew home. Reviews averaged 2.5, but after reading many, it became apparent to me that the hotel was under renovation and that most of the poor reviews were posted in unrenovated rooms or prior to the renovation.

I booked the hotel and our room was newly renovated with modern facilities and great. This was a Holiday Inn, not a Hilton. Still, it was almost a Marriott. The restaurant at the top floor with a great view was wonderful. We paid a very modest fee and had free parking for a month.

Posted by
7082 posts

This thread is a learning experience for all of us, and probably all of us have booked bad hotels. So some takeaways:

*Pictures can look much better than the actual property.

*Economy price-range can impact satisfactory reviews (My pre-cruise BCN hotel was 3x the price, and for what I paid, it was a dump).

*TripAdvisor reviews can be unreliable, use booking.com reviews.

*Booking for beloved family members exacerbates the situation; we feel so responsible for those we love. We’re juggling needs, wants, and cost.

*Last arrival might get what’s leftover even when good rooms were arranged in advance. One’s reservation should be respected—but this is too common unfortunately.

*Check Google street view for a look at the surroundings.

Other takeaways?

Posted by
2252 posts

Just to add a very basic lodging experience, many years ago when I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Brazil, I arrived around sunset in a very small town, to do some work the next day. There was one small inn in town, very basic. This was not a much-visited town. Of course I was there alone, without family or children, and not for tourism or vacation, but for work and some adventure. The inn was full, but somehow the owner vacated her own room to fit me in, likely for a buck or two. Once settled in, I needed to use the facilities, and was directed to the outhouse out back. It was now getting dark, and I went to the outhouse and found it totally dark inside, I couldn’t see a thing. So, I went back into the inn, and found the young fellow who had directed me to the outhouse. I told him It was so dark inside, I couldn’t even find my way. He gave me a kerosene lantern to light my way, and I returned to the outhouse only to find it was not just dark, but was totally filled with black chickens, covering the”facility”. I returned to the fellow, and said something like “hey man, your bathroom is filled up with black chickens, that’s why it’s all dark.” “No problem” he replied, “just go on in, they’ll get out of your way”. So I did, and they did. This occurred during the days well before internet reservations and reviews of lodging.

Posted by
7082 posts

Now that’s a shared toilet. Wow.

Posted by
2869 posts

We use multiple sources for choosing lodging, RS, Booking, Expedia, and TA, are the usual ones. We dismiss many of the glowing reviews and the bad ones where a person was just being picky. We really have to sort reviews (and read between the lines in some cases) from all sources to come up with a determination whether a particular accommodation its right for us. For poor reviews, we also check to see if they are recent or years old. Sorry you had a poor experience.

Posted by
2115 posts

I rely heavily on Trip Advisor reviews to pick hotels, both in the States and in Europe. Of course I Google and do other research, but my sweet spot is the highest rated hotel in my target neighborhood and price range. I ignore the "one and done" reviews by people who post one time to rave or rant about a place.

I've been doing it this way since 2006 and have yet to end up in a less than great hotel.

Posted by
7380 posts

I read 30-50 reviews on Booking.com or Hotels.com before deciding. Their reviews are super helpful.

Posted by
2527 posts

@zagfam.... maybe this is one of those "lost in translation" moments as English is not my mother tongue :))).... my earlier post did not intend to either criticize yours nor to question your misadventure and, believe me, I do perfectly understand your anxiety. I didn't say anything further regarding that accommodation because, as I said, living here I don't "use" them so I honestly "couldn't say".

As in any major concentration of people and businesses, there's bound to be a few rotten apples so I am not surprised to learn about your experience I only feel sorry you had to encounter it, precisely in my home city. And it really p*** me off you came across it, that's why I pointed you to the complaint procedures. If, when travelling, everybody that came across such a disgraceful "service" was to put a complaint, me included, we'd push out of business these cowboys

And to add injury to insult it seems, by your description, you came across one of those semi-illegal taxi drivers too because in order to get your taxi license you need to pass a sort of exam regarding your knowledge of the city. This one is not, by far, as good and as complex of that in London -often described as the most complete in the planet- but it requires some basic knowledge on local languages and a bit of English and the geography of the city -and, as pointed, your accommodation's address is in one of the main/most frequented areas of the city. So, my (poor) deduction would suggest this driver, while he might or might not have been a good driver, he did not know much about the structure of the city which points that he's a "substitute" driver of some sort.

Taxi licenses in this city are nominal, that is, assigned to specific individuals, not to companies. Furthermore, each driver/car has a compulsory "day off" in the week -indicated in the outside of the car. This is to ensure licenses are exploited just by their legally entitled owners -which have compulsorily passed all the requirements, including the geography exam, to be a taxi driver in the city.

HOWEVER, lately, there's a practice of "subletting" the cars, so-to-speak, to increase their cost-effectiveness and under-the-counter agreements are often reached with other non-taxi drivers, mainly migrants, to offer around-the-clock service. This translate in some taxis being driven at certain hours by people who, while in possession of a valid driving licence, they do not have a taxi driver's licence. Needless to say, this is illegal and we the users suffer this practice as you're being offered a substandard service with drivers that might not be too familiar with the city geography and sometimes not even mumble any of the local languages

Warm regards.

PS Not a lawyer either ;)

Posted by
11852 posts

Pictures can look much better than the actual property.

True. While I primarily use booking.com for scanning written property reviews (you can't post a review unless you've actually stayed at a place), I'll reference the candid shots on TripAdvisor that guests contribute. They can be more accurate than the glamour shots that the accommodations post themselves, and an asset TA has that most other review sites don't.

zagfam, glad you found an alternate lodging to suit for the rest of your stay! Judging from the pictures and reviews of the accommodation under discussion here, it sounds like it's a hostel-type, shared-bath budget property; nothing wrong with that unless that sort of basic-ness is not one's personal style. It does seem to have more than adequately fit the bill - especially regarding location - for the majority of booking.com guests who've reviewed it but that might not mean that it's the ticket for every sort of traveler. :O)