Britain is famous for its eccentrics. And we met one recently…
… Mr John Dixon Hart, of the Minster Garth guest house – or the Beverley guest house as it appears sometimes to be known. It stands in the beautiful East Riding market town of Beverley.
The reason I feel confident to describe Mr Hart as eccentric is because that is the word his wife, Andrea, used about him when she phoned me up way back in April.
So, this is the story – in words and pictures – of how we got our money back off Mr Hart after refusing to stay in his guest house, despite it overlooking the medieval Beverley Minister and its tousled grounds.
This tale actually happened two months ago but in deference to Andrea we put off publishing the story because, she told us they were working hard on improving things at the B&B.
Last week, as promised, we phoned and asked how the improvements were going.
Mr Hart ordered his wife to hang up on us.
The problem we’d had in the first place was what we saw as the shock-value of the room he tried to rent us AND the strange letter-box chat we had when we dared to complain.
Room No 5 at the Minster Garth was very bad on the day we washed up on his doorstep …
dirt had been allowed to gather in the caste iron Victorian fireplace hidden behind a vase of old, untidy and dusty silk flowers, the pillows were stained, there were spots of something on the sheet, a piece of glass on a bedside table was broken and wind howled through the closed sash window.
Outside, buckets of cigarette ends and empty takeaway trays littered the garden – and the plunge pool was filled, not with water. No! It was filled with what looked like rubbish.
My own wife, Andrea, had gone in to what she assumed was reception when we arrived and reported it looked as if Mr Hart had turned that part of his guest house into a bicycle repair shop.
After viewing the accommodation we tracked down Mr Hart and politely told him that we couldn’t stay in the room he had offered.
This was his response … he slammed the door in our faces!
At first he kept our money and potentially left us stranded in Beverley without a bed for the night.
This is how things happened:
Chronology of a heart to heart with Mr Dixon Hart:
- We booked the room through laterooms.com based on the pictures being displayed … we didn’t notice that most of the pictures at that point dated back to 2012.
- We didn’t look at the reviews but saw that the site was describing the room he offered us as of Five Star quality – not a normal rating but one designed to instil confidence in the customer. Sadly, Mr Dixon Hart has already gone to court for misrepresenting his guest house to the public.
- We visit Beverley regularly and normally stay at the Premier Inn or, if we’re feeling flush, Tickton Grange. The Minster Garth was the only place displaying availability at the time we booked.
- The location of the Minster Garth is good and near where we wanted to be.
- However, the condition of the room was not good – the stench of cigarettes, the untidiness, stains on pillows, and the noise and wind coming through the closed window.
- When we complained about the room to Mr Dixon Hart he shut the door in our faces and went away without a word.
- He didn’t offer us a different room – he simply shut us out.
- The non-returnable room rate should not have covered him for offering what we saw as substandard and unusable. There are standards to be met and we felt he hadn’t met them on this occasion.
- He offered the refund after we told him practically how to do it on his card machine as I shouted through the letterbox.
- His wife called me later and said she did all the cleaning at the guest house and she was offended by my description of the room … she also said that they were trying to upgrade the business at Minster Garth and didn’t need bad publicity.
- This was confirmed by Hannah Robinson at the Hull Daily Mail who said she had similar conversations with the Harts and because of them she didn’t want to publish our story. She quite liked the place, she said.
- Two days later Mr Hart emailed us saying that we had lied to him and that he ‘had our card details’ and he would take the money off it again!
A. He shouldn’t have retained our card detail.
B. He was authorised to take only one payment.
C. He had no authorisation to take another.
D. We had to cancel the card.
- He has since accused us of going to his hotel covertly as journalists to capitalise on his bad reputation. I have worked as a daily newspaper journalist for more than 30 years and certainly, if I was doing that kind of job on him, I would have made sure I got usable photographs of the place.
- He claims he is out of pocket because of us – but it isn’t because of us, it’s because of the lack of service and consideration we received from him.
- We are actually out of pocket because we had to book into other accommodation.
A. He offered accommodation we didn’t find acceptable
B. Made no effort to remedy the situation, clean sheets, new pillows, a different room…
C. He slammed the door in our faces
D. He made a refund of his own volition
E. He then wrote to us making allegations of being lied to etc and of us costing him money
F. He tried to frighten us by threatening to take money off us without authorisation.
- We have a video which we are happy to pubish showing I am not threatening towards Mr Hart but use the old journalistic technique of ‘doorstepping’. And it worked.
- The video also shows that at no time did I suggest I wouldn’t write anything about him if he gave us our money back … I simply said ‘if you give us our money back, I’ll walk away …” funnily enough I was standing on his doorstep shouting through a crack in the door – so I probably meant exactly what I said. Not what he later imagined.
The film is not of good quality but reveals a customer who is affronted but not aggressive and a businessman who has gone into hiding.
- I’m not trying to cause Mr Dixon Hart any grief but what I am doing is trying to stop him causing anybody else the expense and angst he caused us by his actions.
- Simple question, why should he be allowed to get away with it?
- A couple of days after our visit we gave Mr Hart the chance to discuss what had happened … and he did call us on the Monday.
- He described me as an irritating little man – and then hung up!
- After keeping our pledge to his wife to allow them a few weeks to sort things out – he ordered her to hang up on us too!
Ecky thump A!