The Dangers of Booking Directly with Accor – the Saga of Mercure Heathrow

As an update, the Mercure hotel themselves have resolved the matter to my satisfaction, but I remain disappointed that Accor managed to ignore the issue for three months.


And here’s another saga and a story that I didn’t much want to write as I was hoping Accor would come through. What’s below is a mix of rant, annoyance and a reminder I want my money back   🙂   I wish I had the words of Jay Rayner, who completely destroyed a failing Dorchester Hotel. His description of a dish as “it tastes mostly of tomato ketchup and profit” is glorious. I rely on quotes from the Inbetweeners, but I’ve limited myself to just one below.

I alerted some other hotel companies about the situation over the last couple of weeks (Accor have spurned my loving advances, so I’ll have to find a replacement), who seem to be bemused at what on earth Accor are doing. Although they would say that….. Anyway, that allowed me to get some quotes that I’ll be using over the next few weeks as this debacle unfolds and I throw my affections elsewhere. I’ve also merrily told some Accor hotels about this situation (not many, primarily as I don’t know many) and it’s clear there are some tensions between Accor and their franchisees, which all adds to the excitement. But, let’s not get distracted as this is extra drama for future posts.

Before I go any further, I’d mention that I’m very aware that there are problems in the hospitality industry, but this situation was meant to be resolved on 2 June 2021 and Accor have ignored every message to their customer support since. Given that we’re now 10 weeks after that date and there has been no request for more time from Accor, I’ve run out of options.

I think it’s fair to say now that the lovely representative at Accor communications has been helpful (and they likely think I’m an idiot and they wouldn’t be the first…..), but that’s the only part of Accor that isn’t ignoring me. Which isn’t ideal since I’ve got a section on this blog about them and mentioned tens of times about why they’re a pretty good hotel chain (especially in Poland).

But let’s set the scene and I will accept this isn’t one of the most urgent problems in the world. But it’s annoyed me and it’s my blog, so I feel it’s fair to air my general annoyance.

On 15 March 2021, I booked three nights at the Mercure Heathrow for £98 from 1 to 4 June 2021. All really rather reasonable and Accor confirms by e-mail that payment has been taken successfully. This is going well…..

I think nothing more of this as Accor bookings are usually problem-free and on 27 May 2021 I get the pre-stay email from Mercure Heathrow saying they’re looking forwards to me staying. All rather lovely.

Then, I turn up on 1 June 2021 and the hotel is a bit shut, it’s become a quarantine hotel. I approach a team member who tells me that this is why it’s best to book with Accor directly rather than a third party agent. I explain I booked with Accor. There’s then confusion and the team member confirms the hotel has indeed got a live booking for me and says it’s best to get in touch with Accor so they can fix the problem. They apologise profusely and look very confused.

So, whilst standing at the outer perimeter of what is now a quarantine area, I phone the Accor Platinum support team, who answer immediately. After some confusion about how this has happened, they confirmed that I have a live booking at a closed hotel and take responsibility. They apologise numerous times, saying that they will fix the issue. The very helpful operator goes to check which hotels they can put me in and she says it’s best for them to replicate the booking for three nights at a nearby Accor hotel, rather than me find one night myself. I comment that I’m happy with the cheapest (secretly I want to be put in the Savoy, but I was expecting an Ibis Budget), but the staff member says that the Novotel Heathrow is the nearest and that this is the best option.

The Platinum team then phone the Novotel Heathrow who don’t answer, which we agree isn’t ideal. The Platinum team member then says she’s sure it’s fine to book the hotel, but I’ll need to pay for the room and get a refund from Accor. Now, at this point, Expedia and booking.com state they wouldn’t do this, they would take the hit for the new booking themselves. Ironically, if I had booked this Accor hotel with Expedia or booking.com, then I would have had the matter resolved immediately. By booking with Accor, I’m now lumbered with paying for two hotels and making a claim back. But it seems clear, I’ll pay the £255.55 to Heathrow Novotel and Accor will refund that to me, so that I only pay the £98 I was originally meant to.

On another aside, the IHG comms team have now sent me a message about their refund policy. It’s a bit more nuanced and I’ll return to the details, but, in short, they wouldn’t have double charged like this either. To add some excitement, Travelodge and Premier Inn also told me that they wouldn’t have charged again, they would have found me another hotel within their estate. Accor’s policy is clearly already unusual and perhaps really not fair on their customers.

I don’t normally take taxis anywhere, but the phone support suggest getting them and sending in the bills. I just walked, I didn’t want to run up anyone’s bills unnecessarily as I don’t normally take taxis anywhere. I was at that stage very pleased with Accor and I wrote about that at the time. I was told this was a substantial mistake for Accor and the Mercure Heathrow hotel and they treated this very seriously, so I would receive a phone call the following day, 2 June 2021.

I receive an e-mail from Accor when getting off the phone telling me that the request is in hand and including a reference number, so all seems well. And that was that, it’s all that I’ve heard from Accor, who have now started to ignore me. Novotel Heathrow won’t help, although Mercure Heathrow sent some Rewards Points which covered my minimal extra expenses in terms of buses. Amex have also confirmed that Mercure Heathrow have returned the £98 that was taken for this booking. That means I’m still just under £160 down on this deal and I did suggest to Accor that I’d accept this in Reward Point vouchers for future bookings at Accor. They’ve ignored that request as well.

In fairness, a communications officer for Accor has been helpful and tried to resolve the matter. I won’t name them, but it seems they’re passing on messages and the Accor senior staff are just ignoring them. I can’t stress the communications team any more, this isn’t their problem. This blog post is unlikely to get more than 2,000 views which makes it easier for Accor to ignore, which in fairness is what they’re doing without much concern.

To quote Will from the Inbetweeners:

“Why don’t we at least attempt to have a sophisticated conversation? I know it’s a tall order, and I’m not expecting sparkling, but let’s give it a go, eh?”

The real difficulty here is that the legally responsible party are Mercure Heathrow, operated by Crimson Hotels. It was their hotel that was shut, the booking was with them and they gave permission for Accor to deal with the matter. That means I’ll have to take them to the small claims court, an entirely ridiculous matter given Accor could have quite easily fixed this. I hope yet that Accor decide that they will fix this little issue before I have to commence legal action against Crimson Hotels. If Accor had asked for a few more weeks to look at the matter, I would have been entirely happy, but they’re just merrily entirely ignoring me…..

As it stands, and I really don’t think Accor could disagree with this in the circumstances, it is currently safer to book hotels using a third party aggregator site (hotels.com from Expedia or booking.com) as booking directly with Accor comes with the very real chance of being left financially worse off. I’m not a fan of Trustpilot, but Accor seem to be having problems in a similar vein from other customer, https://uk.trustpilot.com/review/all.accor.com.

I shall update if Accor resolve the matter and I can put this down to a slight oversight….. Or indeed, I’ll update with my continued complaining at Accor, so either way, I suspect my limited blog readership will have to read about this on far more occasions than they’d want to. And I need to find a new hotel chain to pour my affections on.