I feel desperately sorry for all those exhibitors and retailers who lost out on The CLA Game Fair. For many of the smaller traders, this would have been their big chance to make up for what has been, for a lot of them, yet another dismal year of recession. Will the recession, like the rain, ever end?

It?s not just the would-be exhibitors who took a knock; the local economy, in the form of hotels, B&Bs and so forth also deserve our sympathy. But then again, not all hotels are alike. And there is one international hotel group in particular, for whom I shall not be shedding any tears.

I won?t mention the name of the group in question. The fact is that, like the banks, many of the commercial operators in the multinational hotel trade are alike in their business practices, so what I say about one might equally apply to another. I shall leave you to make up your own mind, based on your own experiences.

The pre-paid sting

But here are the facts in my own cases, m?lud. Being of sound mind and highly organised for perhaps the first time ever, I decided to pre-book accommodation for the Game Fair in good time. That is to say, I went on to the Internet, found a good deal at a major hotel chain, entered all my details, paid via debit card, and duly received an emailed confirmation. And all this several weeks before the great event.

Part of the deal was that I had to pay up front. In other words, I had not merely made a reservation, I had actually paid for my room in advance. At this point, I hear you chuckling with unseemly glee. But wait ? I haven?t got to the good bit yet.

Returning home late one night, just a few days before the Game Fair, I happened to switch on my home PC. And there, nestling among the assorted spam emails, was a missive from the hotel group in question.

It read as follows: Apologies for contacting you by e-mail only I don?t have a contact telephone number for you. Unfortunately we have had a large system error with accommodation for next week, therefore, and we are no longer able to accommodate your booking on 19/20 July 2012. I have secured a room at another local hotel for you. Please call/e-mail me to confirm that you would like me to book this other hotel or if you will be making your own alternative arrangements. Please accept my sincere apologies for any inconvenience this may have caused. Yours sincerely, Lynne. Meetings & events sales manager.

Bouncer or bouncee?

Now, I have to say that my immediate reaction to this was not good. There may have been swearing. These people had made an offer, which I had accepted. Money had changed hands. We had a contract. Now they were breaking it. And just imagine if I had been away all week before the Game Fair, or hadn?t checked my emails. I would have turned up at the hotel late at night, tired and hungry at the end of my journey, and then what?

What made it all the more galling was that it became obvious that the real reason they were bouncing me was that they were intending to milk some more lucrative business from a block booking associated with ? yes ? the Game Fair!

As it happened, within hours of my speaking to the hotel, news came through that the fair had been cancelled. I got back in touch with the hotel and informed them that I would no longer be needing their services. And of course, as it was they who had cancelled our contract, I was entitled to a full refund. (This arrived a few days later.)

I can confirm, from this experience, that it is definitely better to be a bouncer than a bouncee.

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