Last year for the Summer School I had to stay at the Indian YMCA due to the fact that Marylebone Hall of the University of Westminster was in the midst of being refurbish (to include the installation of en suite facitilities). Although it was not ideal, I had to put up with not only the excessive fee and extended time it took for me to get from there to the Royal Academy of Music. This year, I was excited that I would return to Marylebone Hall for its oh so comfy 5 minute stone’s throw walk away from the RAM and cheaper rates (compared to Indian YMCA). Ohhhhh no. Turns out they are STILL refurbishing the blasted place and now I dreaded to go back to the Indian YMCA (who in previous year ‘stole’ my towel and told me to ‘deal with it’)! But no, apparently they do not have the old £38 rooms available anymore but £50 ones! So, if I stayed the full five days I would have to fork out 250 shitting pounds! How nice.
I wasn’t going to pay that much so I had to find some place else. Unfortunately, in a moment of madness I decided to go for another YMCA! I selected the Barbican one purely because it was cheaper than Indian and because it was close to the tube. So, it was around £34 a night and that was better than 50 quid. Off I go to book it and all that. Now, they said that they accepted Visa Electron (my bank card) but then during the transaction process said that it wouldn’t go through! Remember this point for later. I used my credit card instead.
Fast forward a month and I’m at the reception of the Barbican YMCA and was checking in. Now, this is the bit it goes all wrong for me. The receptionist fumbles about with the paperwork and then checks the computer before splurting out ‘computer says noooooo…’ Oh dear. ‘Now, hang on’, I said, ‘I did book the bloody room and the proof is that you charged my card!’ (I did get my statement and it indeed said that they charged my card.) After squandering about, they eventually discovered that I did indeed make a booking but that they have no ‘record of payment!’ OK, now I was pissed. They charged my card and now said that they have no record of me bloody paying for the bloody room! Then they said that I have to produce evidence of payment in form of my credit card statement! The cheek of it! How am I going to magically make my statement appear out of thin air save flying back to Brum? I was not having any of it but without such evidence to flash in their faces I had no ground to stand on.
So, I then thought that I should trod to the nearest Barclays bank to try and obtain my Barclaycard statement. Unfortunately, again, there was no Barclays near the vicinity of the Barbican. I spent the next half hour dragging my luggage like a tramp around the area asking everyone where the nearest one is. Now, the pain begins to increase as an Officer of the Law informs me that the nearest one is in bloody Moorgate which is almost a mile away! And now you know the bloody pain I must endure to reach there dragging my load with me, cursing and ranting.
When I finally got there, lo, they threw water in my face! They told me that they can’t print me a credit card statement because they don’t have the facilities to do so. They can only print my bank statement which is of little use coz they didn’t charge my bloody bank card, did they? And phoning bloody Barclaycard to send me a statement is like telling me to hop on a train and pay for the ticket a few days later! So I went all the way there for bloody nothing! Pft!
After ploughing my way back to the Y-bloody-MCA (at this point, livid as hell), I could not do anything other than to cave in and pay the £160 AGAIN and wait till I get home to send them the evidence for a refund! By this time I wanted to throttle those scraggy wee shits! But I was forced to pay otherwise I would face sleeping in the streets of London. I gruggingly paid this surcharge. Now, here it gets weird. I used my debit card and it worked! For fuck’s sake, if it had been accepted in the first place, I would have been able to pull the statement off at the bank and we wouldn’t be in this situation in the first place! The whole thought that I could have avoided paying again drove me up the wall! How can they ‘pretend’ that I haven’t paid?! Bastards. Thankfully I decided to arrive early otherwise I would have been up shit creek…
After that hoo-harr, I was hot, sweaty and bothered. I wanted to get to my room, unpack and get ready for some shopping in the city. The downstairs business was unfortuantely not all that was weird and questionable about this place.
Upon arrival in my room, I was pleasantly surprised at how big it was:
There was the obligory basin and small window. Although it needed a clean at least it wasn’t small. But just because it’s big doesn’t mean there aren’t any flaws, oh no. There are certain things that are of issue and I haven’t began to explore the place yet.
Firstly, they don’t give to a towel and soap. Problem: what am I going to use to wipe my feet with when I’m out the shower? I did bring my own towel and I’m not putting it on the floor to dry my feet as I plan to use it more than once. Tsk.
Then, I found out that they failed to offer me a bin! What am I going to do, use the drawer? That’s exactly what I did.
Oh, but it gets weirder. In fact, it gets freaky. By the basin, I noticed a wall panel and on that panel I noticed a sticker on it. I took a closer look and holy mother of shit, this is what it frickin’ said:
After that, I was in need of some ‘relief’. I have to know what facilities there are. Surely they wouldn’t be any worse? Ha.
The male toilets were located on the opposite side of my floor (10th) so I had to walk through two heavy metal-glass doors just to get there. When I opened the door and entered I got the shock of my life:
Now, there are several things wrong here which I can spot. First is the apparent lack of privacy that these showers have! They are the modern ones that you find in every a modern house except that they are ill fittingly installed in a public bathroom! The glass folding doors are not frosted but see-through! OMFG. This has got to be a fricking joke! I could not beileve it! How is one meant to have a proper shower with the constant thought that someone might walk into the room and see you in full frontal nudity?! This is not a bloody public bath house! Dear me. It might satisfy certain ‘fantasies’ for some but really… Bloody Village People YMCA indeed…
I was not having any of it. I will not shower in there, even if it meant not showering for the rest of the week! I decided to do a complete survey of the entire building’s bathrooms as I am adamant to find at least one that is acceptable. I started from the 15th floor and worked my way down. Here are my findings of this mini-survey:
1. The floors below me including mine have all been refurbished recently and that they all have shower blocks.
2. Old floor plans indicate that there were once baths which had been replaced by said shower blocks.
3. Only my floor’s shower glass panels where see-through, the rest of the floors were frosted (though this is little consolation as when you finished showering, you still have to get out to get your towel!)
4. The five floors above me had baths but they did not have showers with them and some had no plugs! How are you going to wash then? Fling water over you with your cupped hand?!
5. These said floors’ showers had opaque shower curtains, but some had none at all which means you bear all if you use it!
6. Some showers where of the ‘squat down’ variety…
7. Most showers had either no hook, rail or hanger to hang your towel/clothes meaning you have to put them on the floor!
8. Some had curtains but no hooks and some had hooks but no curtain.
9. The aforementioned floors’ bathrooms are UNISEX. Taking into account the points above, this is a peeping Tom’s paradise…
My survey found me an acceptable shower cubicle located on the 15th floor. It has a curtained shower cubicle followed by a section with hooks which was concealed by another shower curtain. This is the one I used for the next few days of my stay.
Naturally, I would have liked to taken more photographic evidence of my findings but I risk being caught and arrested as a peeping Tom…
After this ordeal, you can be forgiven for feeling that I will never, ever stay in this shit hole again, not even if it was for free and handed to me in on a silver plater. Heed well my dear tomodachi-sans. Avoid this place like a plague unless you want to pay your bill again and risk being molested…
Good riddance to this fuckwit of a place. I have never been so pissed off in my life.
Oh, I miss Marylebone Hall sooooooooo much!
Nothing compares to you.”
UPDATE: After I returned from London, I proceeded to start my claim for the refund. I sent them a letter and a photocopy of my bank statements and the receipt of the double payment on the day (I do not want the originals to get lost and thankfully I was correct in assuming this) to them. After a few weeks, nothing, so I e-mailed them and asked what the fuck are they doing? They replied telling me to phone them up to ‘discuss’ it further. Erm, no bloody way! I’ve already submitted my evidence; what else do they want from me? Does it take that frickin’ long to issue me a refund? Had enough. I decided to claim the money back from the credit card company. Filled in all the paperwork and sent the photocopied evidence to them. A few weeks later, my credit card account was credited with the £160 that they initially took from me and pretended that they didn’t. Hoo-bloody-rah! Since they denied that they charged me, they shouldn’t complain or block this refund or I’d have taken even more drastic action…
Moral of the story: YMCA Barbican is a shithole of bumfodder! AVOID AT ALL COSTS!