Departures: Customers' rights

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The Independent Travel
IN Departures, 4 July, I wrote about how self-catering company SFV Holidays peremptorily dealt with a complaint from Marjorie Stanley of Kenilworth. In his letter to Mrs Stanley, John Cullom, SFV Holidays' managing director, wrote: 'There is nothing whatsoever wrong with the property and having spoken to the owners about their impressions of you, I fully understand why you were not offered much help or hospitality.'

Mr Cullom's letter concluded: 'Our offer of pounds 75 off a future holiday was generous and fair. This offer is now withdrawn and we have added your name to a list exchanged between us and our competitors. None of us accept bookings from clients who have proved to be irksome in the past.'

In his defence, Mr Cullom writes: 'We treat people the way we would expect to be treated ourselves. We do not, however, assume the client is always right, particularly when large financial claims are made for relatively minor complaints. Our position is based on organising villa holidays for over 25,000 families in the last 10 years. During this period we have seen some of the best and worst of human nature.

'Several years ago I was coming back from France on a ferry and met a man who boasted how easy it was to get cash back or a reduction if he complained. He had had a faultless holiday with another company and had no idea of my role. The strange thing was he thought his actions were socially acceptable when basically he was a common thief.

'Clients who are rude or aggressive should be dealt with firmly and politely and told there is no place for their unpleasant and undignified behaviour. We need to be able to assure our overseas property owners (who are equally clients of ours) that the tenant residing in their house will respect their property and be courteous towards them. It is better to lose a rude client than a good villa.'

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