Continued from below...Part 3...
Last week I went online to The Ritz website and tried to book a table for two for Tea at the Ritz giving more than the indicated 12 weeks notice. First I looked at the current month of August 2011 on their Tea reservation system and I found that a number of dates have a red cross through them. I presume this means that these dates are fully booked. I then moved on through the online Ritz Tea booking calendar to the month of November 2011 where there are no red crosses blocking out dates. I then clicked randomly on November 19th 2011 with the intention of seeing if it was possible to book a standard Tea for Two. A notice appeared stating, “Unfortunately there are no more tables available online for your requested time and date.” November 19th was my first random choice to attempt to make a test Tea reservation at the Ritz at more than three months notice after reading on their website that booking 12 weeks ahead is advised. November 19th was in fact more than 14 weeks in advance! What is going on? I wonder just how many Tea at the Ritz vouchers, valid for only one year, have been sold and not redeemed? I wonder why they have such a short valid date window for people paying for Tea in full, in advance when it is clearly so difficult to book for Tea at The Ritz? The M.D. of The Ritz has declined to answer.This senior Ritz executive has claimed to me that demand for Tea at the Ritz is managed "efficiently.” I can only assume following my own experience, that this means that they are doing so in a way to maximise profits for the owners. Their methods certainly are “efficient”..........Tea at the Ritz appears to be run conveyer belt style, as if it was a Disneyland attraction. Other top hotels in London allow customers to take as long as they like over tea. Tea at the Ritz is big business. I calculate that it brings them around £11,000,000 per annum….there are 5 of what their M.D. calls “Traditional Afternoon Tea” sittings per day, every two hours from 11.30am to 5.30pm. Given this massive income they can easily afford to make vouchers valid for far longer than one year.
In the UK, the purchase of goods and services over the Internet, by phone or by mail order generally is subject to the Distance Selling Regulations. One of the most important implications of these regulations is a cooling off period of 7 days during which you have the right to cancel. My friend should have been informed by The Ritz at time of purchase of the voucher that there was a 7 day “cooling off” period but he was not. I’m now advised by a department within the Office Of Fair Trading that it is illegal not to inform consumers of their rights when buying over the telephone that there is a 7 day cooling off period.The frantically busy Ritz Tea Operation provides 2 hour time slots in which to have your Traditional Afternoon Tea in the posh setting of the London Ritz, starting at 11.30am with the last slot being at 7.30pm. Oscar Wilde's Lady Bracknell would surely have considered the socially acceptable hour for Afternoon Tea at The Ritz to be half past 3 o'clock. Many people would. As for Tea at The Ritz at 7.30 in the evening, this is ludicrous. I consider even 6.00pm to be a time for cocktails, not Afternoon Tea! The only times and dates that I was ever offered when I tried to use my voucher were totally useless to me.
I’m hardly surprised that there is a “high demand” for Tea at the Ritz service given they accept reservations: on the internet; via travel agents; via various web-sites; via agents; they cater to residents; accept telephone bookings.....as well as selling unlimited gift vouchers to unfortunate people who have to then scramble around trying to reserve tables before the voucher expires.Every single time I tried to reserve a table in advance for my wife and I, the Ritz staff told me that none were available for when I wanted when in fact it seems that tables are always available. I understand that The Ritz keep tables available for hotel guests who may decide to take tea at very short notice. Perhaps the Ritz should suggest to hotel guests at the time they make reservations for accommodation that if they hope to enjoy Tea at the Ritz they also book it early, instead of taking full payment in advance from those purchasing gift vouchers and then considering such people third class citizens, to fill in the gaps. A senior manager has suggested that I should have kept calling in the hope of picking up a cancellation! Does he not realise that people have a life?I do not feel it is acceptable for my wife and I to have to travel up to London to have tea at a date and time to suit The Ritz and furthermore I would expect to enjoy tea at The Ritz when I plan to be in London in the first place, as part of our day. Given how very difficult it is to reserve tea at The Ritz, it makes the limited 12 month validity period rather unfair.
Be careful before buying a Tea At The Ritz voucher as a gift. This is my experience of The Ritz Hotel and their arrangements for reserving a table for their famous Afternoon Tea. My wife had not been very well and so a very dear friend gave us a kind gift, being a voucher for Tea for Two At The Ritz. I think he got his idea from seeing The “Ritz” Cow that we bought at a Sothebys charity auction to support the wonderful helpline for distressed and “at risk” children known as ChildLine. The “Ritz” cow is now positioned on a lawn at our home. Prior to this it used to stand directly outside of The London Ritz Hotel as part of London’s “Cow Parade.” It is blue and gold. Every time I see it, I'm now reminded of the Tea At The Ritz we have never received.I tried to book Tea at the Ritz using the voucher but there was never availability when I tried to arrange to use it. Tea at The Ritz is clearly big business and a very busy affair. There is a 12 month expiry date on the voucher and it has to be used before this fairly short expiry date. Why is that I wonder? I mean….The Ritz were paid for the Afternoon Tea when the voucher was bought….they enjoyed the use of the purchase money…..why should it have an early expiry date? Why should these vouchers not be valid for five years or even ten years? Even London parking vouchers once purchased from local councils can be used for years.Anyhow, when I finally managed to book, after my wife had been too ill for some months to go out anywhere…..and told The Ritz that we were using our voucher, a snooty sounding woman, in a tone that could freeze the entrails off a rabbit, informed me that we could not use our voucher which was now useless, because it had expired. I was so irritated that I did not proceed with the booking as I had no intention of allowing the Ritz to charge twice and she was clearly not prepared to budge. I then spoke to a more senior manager who politely but firmly put me in my place.All I now have is a worthless piece of paper and the Ritz has my friends’ payment IN FULL for an Afternoon Tea.When my friend purchased the voucher for me, he paid by credit card. I have only just informed him that we were never able to use the voucher. He has confirmed to me that when buying the voucher he was certainly not advised by The Ritz that he had a 7 day “cooling off” period nor was he advised that the voucher was only valid for 12 months. He has now told me that had he realised that, then he “would not have wished to impose such a gift on me, knowing how poorly my wife then was and that we also don’t live in London and rarely visit London together.In the UK, the purchase of goods and services over the Internet, by phone or by mail order generally is subject to the Distance Selling Regulations. One of the most impo
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