Skileb.com/ Grey Matter Mzaarville Chalets / Irresponsible booking agency and hotel
Complaint against Mzaarville Chalet and Skileb.com
Hotel: MzaarVille Chalets
Period : 23-26th Dec
Booking agent: SKILEB.com also known as GREY MATTER
Read this if you are considering using skileb.com to plan your vacation or staying at Mzaarville Chalet Faraya. This is written to warn fellow travellers and to let as many people as possible know about how we were taken advantage of. Although we may never get any money back; hopefully, we will help other innocent consumers avoid repeating the same mistake.
Via email communication, Skileb.com recommended us to spend our holidays in Mzaarville Chalets. We booked a one-bedroom apartment, consisting of 1 bedroom with 4 single beds, 1 living room with a sofa bed, 1 full bath and 1 half bath (toilet only). It was to have a “fully equipped” kitchen, flat screen TV, fireplace, heaters, etc. It looked like it was set up for families.
There was no proper welcome /check-in when we arrive. No parking space in the driveway so we waited on the main road for a while (more on parking later). We were standing in the cold, not knowing who to talk to or where to go. We asked the café and sports shop both situated on the ground level of the Mzaarville chalet building, but people showed disinterest to our enquiry or just asked us to wait. This has to be the first accommodation outfit in the world that I had stayed in without a proper check-in counter or reception. Even a US$10 backpacker’s hole-in-the-wall in third world countries has a small desk to check guests in.
Finally, someone showed up from nowhere and we were told to follow him up a long stairway on the side of the building. It was dark, there were no lights. We discovered later that there was no elevator in the whole building. I would feel very sorry for those who were on upper floors.
As we stepped into the room, something very unusual happened. Three big guys were trying to remove the main door to the apartment; i mean took out the hinges and screws etc. It was a strange sight as I watch the door of our apartment removed and taken away, out of our sight.
As we wondered about the missing door, we soon discovered there were a lot more things in the apartment that were broken/ not working. Before we knew, we were busy trying to get people to have the apartment “fixed”. In short, they were listed here:
- Lights/lamps in living room had no lights/ bulbs broken
- No overhead light/lamp in bathroom. The only lighting was inside the wall-unit medicine cabinet and those did not work either. So, no lights in bathroom.
- Nowhere to hang your clothes/jackets in the entire apartment (no hooks on any of the doors or walls. The only one place would have been in the only closet BUT the closet bar was broken.
- No main door
- Fireplace was dirty and filled with ash from previous use
- No TV reception
- No heat
- No hot water
- Dishware were not complete (some items were missing)
- No hairdryer even though it stated so on the website
We stood in cold in the apartment, still bundled up in our jackets, as we waited and watched different crew came and went, tracking in the apartment in their work shoes to make repairs. After waiting around a couple hours, they finally fixed most of the lights (bathroom “new” lights inside the medicine cabinet were very dimmed), and replaced the main front door - with a door from another apartment. As for the TV that had no reception, we were told to WAIT – “TV will come later” - the new TV receiver was on its way of being shipped in!! The heater will be turned on later (no not now, later)…. and they refused to fix the closet bar until we went next door, to an empty unit to borrow a part to fix it ourselves. By the time we finally brought our luggage into the apartment, that we’d already lost precious daylight hours of our time to go outside.
When we returned to the apartment in the evening, we realized there were no clothes hangers in the closet so all our cloaks and jackets had nowhere to go except on the floor. We then suspected that the fridge had not been working well. One of us walked upstairs and searched every floor until we found Alaa, who was working on the door earlier. We asked him for the clothes hangers. He said, “No”. He came by the apartment and wiggled the power socket of the fridge and insisted it was working fine.
When asked if he would change the sheets since we would be there a few days, he retorted, “USD$10; this is not a hotel”. We followed him back to a place upstairs and eventually found some hangers – they were new, stashed away somewhere; apparently they had no time to properly stock each apartment yet.
Nothing except static appeared when we switched on the TV remote. There was nothing Alaa could do.
It was dinner time and we couldn’t wait to try the restaurant that Mzaarville’s website boasted but it was closed.
We tried to make something to eat. Power went out at least 50 times (this is not an exaggeration) or more during this time and each time, we stood in darkness that lasted from 30seconds, a minute, two minutes…. up to nearly 15mins… We fumbled through the dark to finish making our food. It was pitch dark in both the bathrooms – no way to use the toilets. We broke a glass in the middle of the power outage which sent pieces shattering everywhere. We had to clean up the mess without any household tools in between intermittent light when power was on and off.
Our kids were crying – from boredom, being sacred of the power going out, inability to use bathroom. We were angry and hungry because an attempt to make a simple quick eat turned out to be a disastrous long project because of no electricity and the accident. There was no one to call. There was a room phone but of course it didn’t work and no one came to check if we were ok.
It was cold; there was no hot water for shower or even to wash up.
We decided to just go to sleep. No sheets for the person on the sofa bed even though they were aware we had a person who would be using that bed. For the second time that cold evening, we walked around in dark to look for Alaa in the building. The stairways and corridor were dark, cold and wet.
We kept hoping but the heaters never come on during the entire night. We were cold through the whole night, especially the person on the floor/sofa bed in the living room.
- No hot water. It’s our second day in the chalet and we still could not take a shower
- TV still not fixed
- We realized the fridge was not working the previous night – because of the power outage. So, all our food – ham, cheese, milk, etc were spoilt.
We left the apartment and came back later in the afternoon. We had to sit around and wait for TV technician to fix the new TV box and tune the channels. After another hour plus of waiting, we finally have TV reception! However, reception was intermittent – just when the movie got to the exciting part, you get a “no signal” sign across the screen. We tried different channels, all the same. This happened for the rest of our stay.
- Late in the evening, boiler/heater finally came on. But sometime during the night, we woke up in cold to find that it was turned off or somehow there was no more heat. Power was out again! Needless to say, we could not use the bathrooms – pitch dark!
- First day we could take a shower but shower curtain was too short so water splashed and wet the entire bathroom.
Ronald from skileb.com arrived sometime after we walked into our apartment on DAY 1 and introduced himself. At that time, we were appreciative that finally someone who knew about our booking showed up but instead of briefing us on the fun things to do in town or making us feel welcome, Ronald was busy getting the room fixed to some decency so we could check in. As much as we were glad that upon request, Ronald searched for that “new batch of electric kettles that were just purchased and arrived”, and eventually handed us one, we felt that if the chalet owner had expected guests, such housekeeping matters, maintenance or upgrading should have been done way before guests arrived. It should never be the guests’ responsibility to go through their inventory lists for missing items!
When we checked in, it was shocking to see many apartments had NO windows on them! It was snowing, and freezing cold outside; the entire apartment building had no heat…. and yet there was no insulation from the outside!! One unit directly above us had no windows as well, no wonder we were so cold at night (we learnt later that they had intentionally switched off the temporary generator). By the time we left, there were a couple units that still had no windows on them – as seen in the photo.
In addition, when it snowed in Faraya, public roads had big snow ploughs that come by in the morning to clear the snow for vehicles to pass. Most private businesses/ establishments – restaurants, hotels, gas station etc had either a snow plough to clear the way or they get a crew of laborers to clear the snow in their front entrances for vehicles access. Only at Mzaarville Chalet, you’d see guests’ vehicles parked at the Mzaarville driveway buried deep in the snow. Some guests who had never driven in snow were totally helpless to what to do. We searched and found a shovel and dig the snow out EVERYTIME we exited the apartment parking. Digging (while it was raining or snowing) took concerted effort and ate up anything from half hour to an hour of your time. Photo showed across the street from us, vehicles were parked in front of buildings while in Mzaarville, snow heaped because the owner didn’t bother to clear their own parking.
Each time we returned to Mzaarville, we prayed that there will be a parking spot for us instead of having to double parked until a spot come free. When you have a whole carload including young children, this was not fun. Reality was, the few parking spots were always occupied – from guests dining at the restaurant or checking out the ski shop or public in the area... Plus, the apartment was barely 80% full when we were there – clearly, there was no planning or contingencies for parking when the chalet is at 100% occupancy. When double parked, there was hardly any room to maneuver as Mzaarville was right off the main street, near the busy junction to Jonction Slope Traffic came to a complete halt many times which meant a big headache to get in and out once you were in a jam. See photo.
We knew we were in Lebanon, and we knew parking lots getting full, during high season, was nothing uncommon and one should not be surprised. But skileb.com led guests to believe that Mzaarville avail “free parking” when in actual fact they did not have any designated parking lots for their guests. In fact, even if they had all the spots on their driveway allocated for their guests, it was barely enough for half of the total number of units in the whole building.
It would be more accurate to describe it as having limited parking, and expect to park at least 20-100m or more, in snow, away from the apartment’s entrance.
Our complaint was if the chalet was not ready for guests use, skileb.com should never had recommended and put us there. It was wrong to expect guests to put up with a room or worse, a building that was not ready. Upgrading or changing of power supply works should be done during off peak season. Why did they wait till last min/in-season to decide to change the TV satellite /cable network? We were paying in-season rates and it is not acceptable to use our vacation time to wait for the chalet to be fixed, changed out, furnished etc.
We understand this was a self-catered apartment. The chalet had a modern feel with fairly new furnishing. Most of the items from sheets, pillows, dish rack and even the medicine cabinet with the broken bulbs seemed replaced lately. At the time of booking, we had decided to pay extra to stay in an apartment with bigger space, with an equipped kitchenette – we chose self-catered option and forgo a serviced-hotel room. But, what good is an apartment if you cannot help yourselves? What good is a flat screen TV when nothing comes on? What good is a kitchen when you have no electricity to power it? What good is a fridge if it does not stay cold? What good are two bathrooms when you cannot shower or use the toilets? What good are radiators throughout the chalet when they do not put out heat? Instead of spending time in the chalet which we were hoping it to be our home-away-from-home during our stay in Faraya, we left the chalet every day because of fear of power outage.
When we raised this issue to skileb.com, they responded that Mzaarville Chalets had their power cut for 4 consecutive days and during our stay, they resorted to using their generator. As the generator could only be turned on several hours a day hence it was “normal for guests to experience the on-and –off power outages”. So, if you decide to stay there, you need to have the grateful attitude for their kind supply of a generator for minimal power and be expected to be “understanding” since their generators needed breaks.
As Skileb.com admitted later, they were fully aware of Mzaarville’s power problem, and that they had been using a generator. They knew this even before we arrived but instead of putting us elsewhere, or contacting us to offer an alternate solution or even to give us a warning when we checked in, they had pretended everything was fine and used us as guinea pigs to “test and fix” all their problems.
Mzaarville was not ready for occupancy in every way. Opting for a self-catered apartment, we did not expect the need to call for service like in a hotel but when the chalet management is experiencing frequent and extended blackouts while there are guests in their rooms, the least they could do was to offer a flash light so we could at least move around in the dark when the power keep failing without notice! And, stop charging guests full rates when they are nowhere near delivery of everything they advertised!
Well, in the end we paid to stay in an apartment that had no heat, no lights, no power, no TV and we could not take a shower or use the toilets. It was not a $50 hotel room, it cost us US$250 a night, which was the highest rate in the entire year. Skileb.com, which was very good at collecting full payment in advance, just gave excuses after excuses when we requested them to address the inconveniences and frustration we had been subjected to. I had read other reviews complaining about their partner websites. Skileb.com, also known as GREY MATTER, and their partners are swift in answering emails enquiries to nail customers’ advance payment but once paid, when services or goods were not delivered, don’t expect to get any customer service let alone get back a nickel. They have a phone line in their website that is never manned or answered..
Unfortunately, we also used skileb.com to book a rental vehicle. No map, no GPS and worse, a big surprise – a tire with a leak that forced us to stop by gas stations throughout our trip to keep filling it. A day driving in the snow nearly killed it.
If you think you will be saving money staying in a self-catered apartment like Mzaarville, think again. Plus at this price tag, no towels are provided. When the big IF happens (which apparently is a common issue they experience), you will have no power, and get ready to freeze in your room or wear your thick wet ski jackets and boots to sleep in a room you paid full price for. Forget about sipping the hot chocolate in your warm cozy room, or sitting in the nice café they boasts about….nothing operates the way they had advertised. And no game room like mentioned on its website. If you want a stress-less holiday, don’t take this chance. No one cares once your credit card number is given to them. If you think skileb.com is good (which they are excellent at the time of collecting your money), pray that nothing goes wrong in what they arranged for you once your trip started as they cannot be reached after that and if you were lucky enough to get hold of them, you will be given nothing except excuses.
Be forewarned and do not be their guinea pigs. Look elsewhere like Booking.com or Varionos Travel to get professional booking agents to assist with your holiday needs.
www.varianostravel.com - look for Alecos. This guy was very professional and gave me straight answers, didn’t hide any details and even offered additional useful info downright to the last moment even though he knew he was not going to get a sale from me. For some reason, he does not deal with Mzaarville –we could now guess why.
We also wrote to DailyStar, the national newspaper, the Lebanese Tourist Board and many international tourist networks. We are hoping the publicity will penalize such bad operators and establishments with malpractices, false advertisements, and poor customer service like such ought to be condemned. These types of businesses that only have in their selfish mind profit making but do not care for the welfare of tourists bring shame and embarrassment to Lebanon.