Review of a Thistle Hotel's Extremely Costly Telecom and Internet Access Pricing Policies
"You've been Thistled".
by Joe Mehaffey
UPDATE as of 22 August 2009:
I am notified by the General manager of Thistle
Hotel/Euston-London that they have modified their policy somewhat.
His message follows:
above reflects about a 33% reduction from the rates for Internet
service I experienced in 2004. US$17 a day for Internet service
is still among the highest I have seen in my travels. I
sent an inquiry as to if, or not, the other high charges of £10
per minute (about $17) for "Premium Calls" such as my call to the local
Public Library had changed. Also if they now allow "free phone"
calls (similar to free 800 calls in the USA) now. Also, it was not
stated in Mr. Moffatt's email if the new system charges for "Connected
to the Wireless Network" time or if it only charges for minutes when
user data is passed. I have not received a response so I have to
conclude that the policy of blocking "free phone" calls is still in
effect until I hear differently.from Mr. Matthew Moffatt, General
Manger, Thistle Euston Hotel. Here in the USA I am happy to
report, we now have MOST (but not all) hotels offering
FREE-of-extra-cost Internet services to registered guests.
am delighted to be able to inform you that we have had installed here
in the hotel BT Openzone. The system is a wireless system where by you
purchase for £6 a voucher which will enable you to have 60 non
consecutive minutes access within a 24 hour period. We also sell a £10
voucher that enables you to have 24 hours access from when you first
system works extremely well and we have full coverage through out the
hotel. We do also have a computer terminal in the hotel lobby which
works on the same principal.
Can this be the Thistle Hotel (UK) general policy?
I had the pleasure of visiting London
UK for several days in October 2004. I looked for a "reasonably"
priced but quality hotel room. In London, this can take some
shopping but careful shopping usually pays. I was offered a
"Superior double room" at the Thistle Hotel Euston (TH) near Euston
Station in London for about US$200 per night and it did not sound too
bad.. The room turned out to be just fine.
But.. It was not the initial price, it was the "Pounding"
for the extras that ultimately got to me at Thistle Euston. Here are the most
costly and flagrant extra charges and policies of the hotel.
1) I specified to my agent that I
wanted a hotel with Internet capability. The TH advertised that
they had this. When I arrived, I read the brochure and
noted that the charge for Thistle Hotel high speed Internet for guests
was 50p (about 90 cents US) PER MINUTE for Internet access and with a
UK 15 Pound maximum charge per day. This means that if you browse
the Internet for just 30 minutes a day, you pay the 15 Pounds or
US$25 for the service. This is much more than twice the largest incremental cost per minute that
I have run into in any other hotel the world over. Am I just
2) As a result of item #1 above,
I opted to use my AOL dial up Internet service which provides a local
"FreeFone" number for London and for the UK in general.
This entitles AOL users in the UK to (supposedly) call AOL and log in
free of telephone line charges most anywhere in the UK.
BUT.. I plugged my laptop's modem into the telephone outlet using
my standard UK to RJ11 modem cable and.. No dial tone was
make life interesting, Thistle
has reversed the tip/ring pairs for line 1 and line 2 in their wall
plugs. This makes the active pair for the room telephone line
Thus, the standard UK(line 1) to RJ11 (line 1) phone cable to your
will not work when you plug it in. You must cut your standard UK
reverse the wire pairs from the standard. My guess is
frustrates all but the rather technical minded users who want to use
their laptop to connect to outside dial-up Internet from the
hotel. (Why not just pull the RJ11 plug out of the room phone and
use it? Because they had glued it in and it was not removable
from the telephone. Nice touch!)
After cutting the cable and reversing the wires in the modem cable,
I had dial tone on the modem and could dial the "FreeFone" AOL
London access number. But Wait! I kept getting a "number
error signal. I
tried the number from a pay phone and it worked fine. Then I
asked at the hotel desk and found out that the Thistle Euston telephone
has BLOCKED access to these "freefone" AOL numbers so that you
must use their
(about 50p or about US$1.00 per minute) regular local calling
service to access AOL or any other Dial-up Internet
fact, TH has a "block" on all "local FreeFone" numbers so that
will have to pay their large price per minute to make any local
in a city where many businesses offer their customers "FreeFone"
service in which the called business pays for the local
think someone at Thistle Hotel Euston gave this scheme a lot of thought
toward forcing customers to use their expensive Internet service and local phone services or do
without! With this scheme, it costs about 1 pounds
(US$1.80) for two minutes connect time to collect/send your email when
using Dial-up to a local London phone number. They have you
coming AND going! Think of the furor if a hotel in the USA
blocked free 800 number calls by guests!
But wait! Then it is cheaper to use the high speed Internet
service as opposed to the dial up. Well, you might think
so. But the hotel charges for ALL time that your ethernet cable
is PLUGGED IN to your computer. Tricky aren't they! They
know that on a high speed Internet connection, the user does not
normally think to quickly unplug his ethernet cable when he completes a
data transfer. So.. You sign on for the service, use it for a
minute to collect your mail and go out for fish and chips and return
30 minutes later. You have been "plugged in" for 30 minutes
so you owe the hotel US$25. You do not pay for "megabytes
transferred" or "usage time". You pay for "plugged in" time.
Someone gave this system a lot of thought toward maximizing
THEIR revenue at the guest's expense!
3) Just when I thought I had witnessed
the biggest price gouge in the communications market, I got my
final hotel bill and it showed a charge of 42 UK Pounds (about US$75)
for ONE call to the British Library's Customer Help Line. The
call lasted just beyond 4 minutes. The British Library (in
50p (about US 90 cents) per minute for these calls but the TH manager
told me that it was Thistle Hotel policy to charge TEN POUNDS PER
MINUTE (about US$18.00) for "any premium call". Any call reflecting an extra cost
back to the hotel's PBX is deemed a "premium call". The user has no
awareness of this "premium call charge" or of the policy until he gets
his bill. The duty manger refused to make a
reasonable adjustment and so I have asked AMEX to attempt to intervene
on my behalf to get this charge reduced to a reasonable amount.
I have had pleasant and unremarkable
stays at many Thistle Hotels in the UK over the years. And...
This is my first encounter with unreasonable rates or policies at a
Thistle Hotel. I hope this is an isolated case of a rogue
managing one hotel and not Thistle Corporate Policy. If it
IS Thistle Hotel policy, I suggest considering other options unless you
intend to make no phone calls and not operate on the Internet during
your Thistle Hotel stay.
If the trend continues at Thistle, perhaps they can give
the rooms away and just charge for the use of the telephone and
Then again, "You've been THISTLED" may be the next new catch phrase.
If the above hotel policy should change or if anyone has new information or other comments about the above, please email me.
Should their policy change, I would like to change the writeup to
follow their revised policy. I cannot believe Senior Management will
leave the situation as-is once they are aware of it.
November 23, 2004 news: Thistle Hotels has offered to refund the
42 pounds they charged for my 5 minute local phone call. They
have also said that they are reviewing their entire policies regarding
their telephone and Internet access. If anyone would like to send
them an email to suggest how they might improve their offerings, click HERE. PLEASE give them SERIOUS suggestions. Lets assume these guys are trying to fix their policy.
Notes: On this four week
European trip, we stayed at a hotel every night. High Speed
Internet services varies from A) none available to B) Free-to-use in
the Business Center to C) Free to use WiFi in the lobby to D)
about $5 to $12 per day in the room to E) Thistle Hotel Euston's
remarkable $25 for
a half hour or day. Local telephone charges at hotels varied from
A) Free Local Calls to B) about 10 cents per minute to C) about
25cents per minute. Then there was Thistle Euston's Local
Calls at about US$1.00 per minute for local calls and a Whopping $18
per minute for the "premium" call noted above. NO HOTEL that we
stayed at in Ireland, UK, France or Germany blocked our calling to the
local AOL telephone number EXCEPT the Thistle Hotel Euston in
London. It is interesting to note that my LD telephone card
did have a number to call on which call TH did not make a charge.
If I had been thinking, I guess I could have used the LD calling card
(about US 4 cents per minute) to call the Atlanta Ga. AOL modem
access number! I do recommend a local LD calling card
wherever you go to "phone home". It is FAR cheaper than any hotel
LD rate. See HERE for more information about our experiences with finding Internet connectivity on our European holiday.
A copy of the Thistle Euston Telephone Call Invoice and the confirmation from the British Library of their call rates follow.