Putting the Hell in holiday.

The following page was sent to Haven instead of a complaint letter.
For the outcome, scroll to the bottom.

In 2009 we booked a family holiday at Haven's flagship site at Devon Cliffs, Exmouth. The family has been bothering us for ten years to go with them, so we relented and went to a Haven site for the first time. There were four caravans booked in all, at a price that would have got us on a week's holiday to Greece. In hindsight I truely wish we had opted for the latter.

We booked a prestige caravan, the picture on their website looked really nice, I have included a comparison below so you can judge for yourselves. We arrived on Saturday morning after a very long drive, checked in and went to find our luxury 5 star caravan. What we found was the beginning of a week-long nightmare.
Picture taken from the Haven website

What 191 should have looked like

Photo of what we were given.

Bradley Bear's cave
Now you may look at that photo and say "Simon, it doesn't look that bad", and in fact Dave, the accommodation manager at the Haven site said much the same thing. The problem is that you can't smell what we smelled in that fetid box, and I think Dave's standards are well below mine. The Haven mascot is called Bradley Bear and I really think he'd been living in 191 Juniper close for some time before we arrived. The settee was stained and old, the carpet was filthy and sticky, the table was battered and old, with bits of plastic trim peeling off. The television was so small we could barely make out what was on. In short it was a shit hole and not fit for human habitation. Have a look at this link, you'll see that Haven have explained what we would get for our money. (click here)

We complained straight away and they sent round a bloke with a wet vac to shampoo the carpet, which he did. After he had thrown away a bucket of black sludge that came out of the carpet he went away and his supervisor arrived. I pointed out that the settee should be thrown in a skip and the carpet was now wet through as well as stained and stinking.

Dave, the accommodation manager turned up shorty after and told us "Haven has done everything that was expected of it" in putting us in what amounted to a large rabbit hutch. I disagreed vehemently and demanded to be moved to another caraven. Dave told us there wasn't one available as the park was full, and anyway "no one has complained about this caravan before". I told him we were going to pack our things and go home. At this point two things happened.

  • Tracy started crying.
  • Dave offered to move us.

    Unfortunately our move wasn't possible until Monday, we had to spend two nights in the stinking tin box. They offered to wet vac the settee, but the thought of the smells that would invariably eminate from it once it became damp were too much to contemplate. We opted for covers and resolved to spend as little time as possible in Bradley Bear's hutch. They draped duvet covers over the stinking, stain infested heap and left us to it.

    Very soon the rest of the family started to arrive, their caravans were very nice. They were clean and modern and quite close together. It seems that they had all been given caravans of private owners, whilst we had been given a Haven caravan. Considering we had all paid the same, our level of anger and disapointment increased exponentially. In an attempt to get through the first night I got drunk, but made the mistake of walking around our caravan with my (brand new) socks on. In less than a couple of hours they looked like this.
  • This was after the wet vac.

    When you see the next few photos you will understand why my socks looked like I'd been playing football in them.
    Unidentifiable stains on the settee.

    Dirty and frayed.

    This was after the wet vac.

    Should be in a skip.

    Just to put it in perspective, here are some photos of the caravans that the rest of the family were staying in. They were clean, modern and well looked after. Until we moved, other family members wouldn't bring their children round to see us because 191 was so filthy.
    Mick and Mary's.

    Vicky and Andy's.

    Maff and Bazza's.

    Monday arrived and we were given another caravan. It was clean and fairly modern, but most importanly it didn't smell like a large carnivorous mammal had been hibernating in it. Everything was okay for the majority of Monday, but then the boiler started tripping out every ten minutes so we couldn't have a shower or wash up. I called reception on Tuesday morning and they sent a bloke round. He was very nice and fixed it within five minutes. He also repaired the lights and extractors that had all tripped out and replaced the bulb that had caused the lights to trip out. He didn't even attempt to fix the fire that we also reported as not working. Maybe this is why our new caravan didn't smell, it was far too sodding cold for a bear to sleep in.

    Later that night the boiler went off again. I phoned reception and reported it, they said someone would be round to fix it, no one turned up. By this time I was heartily pissed off and really couldn't be arsed to argue with anyone else, it seemed I had taken on most of the park staff by this point. I was ground down. We went home on Friday, not even bothered that we missed a whole night and most of the next day. We just wanted to get home. The boiler and fire never did get fixed. Dave had also promised faithfully to bring round the contact details so we could complain on our return home. He failed to show up.

    Interestingly, we could see 191 from our replacement caravan, and we watched with interest as they tried to foist it on some other poor unsuspecting sap. They too refused to stay in it and went to stay in a friends caravan. We spoke to them before we left, It appears Mr and Mrs Proud had travelled all the way from the USA to stay in a stinking bear hut, and not suprisingly had opted not to. Funny though, they were told that no one had ever complained about 191 or been moved to another caravan. Dave and his team obviously have no problem lying to their customers.

    I don't accept Haven's arguement that the website picture is for illustration purposes only, we pointed out that if a picture of our caravan had been used on the website no one would book a holiday with them. I really think we were mis-sold our holiday and Haven just lied to us as they did to the Proud family.

    Haven relented within 24 hours - Result

    We got a half refund.

    We also got free upgrade for the whole party if we choose to book again for next year.