Having been to Ironmonger Row Baths several years ago when it was in a Victorian state of repair, I was really looking forward to visiting the newly revamped spa with a friend to see the changes. I don't usually use this blog to write negative things about my adopted country, but from the beginning, this was a disastrous visit, though there were a few positive (+) things. Be sure to read to the end of this:-1. I tried to phone for an appointment but got the answerphone; no one ever called back like they said they would.
-2. I emailed for an appointment; they did indeed write back to say the time I chose was already fully booked. My second email requesting a different time went unanswered.
-3. So I had to go there in person to make the appointment. Done.
-4. We arrived on time for our appointment, 6–9pm Friday night. The desk is chaos; we had to wait 10 minutes to turn our shoes in, and another 10 to receive slippers (just back from the laundry). There went 20 minutes of our alloted three hours.
+5. We were able to book "pitta plates" for a snack at £5 a person; they asked what time we wanted them, and we specified 7.30.
+5. The towel and bathrobe were fluffy and nice, but
-6. The wrist bands didn't work very well to open doors and lockers.
+7. We didn't know where to go next, so we went back to the desk (in swimsuit under bathrobe) to ask for directions; the woman said she would be down shortly to show us around.
-8. She never showed up.
+9. We tried the Tepidarium, which was nicely appointed with fake marble benches and clean tiled walls,
-10 and then moved on to the Laconium – so hot we couldn't touch the benches and certainly couldn't lie on them.
+11 Took a dip in the Plunge Pool and sprawled on the loungers in the hallway. Felt that wonderful tingle coming on from a good hot/cold alternation.
-12 7.30 came and went; we didn't know where to collect our food. So, back to the desk for one of us to ask what we should do. Order? There is no order for food? But we paid. Sorry, no order in the computer. The desk person will try to contact the previous shift worker to see what happened and let us know.
+13 So we switch to the Relaxation Lounge – a darkened room with soft music. Nice
-14 Table set out with a bowl of 3 apples; coffee pots (empty), water jugs with lemon slices (empty), only one glass available anyway. Ok, it is getting towards closing time, but this is no way to (literally) treat customers.
+15 My friend eats an apple because she is starving.
-13 8.10, no word from the desk, so I go up and ask what's happening. Oh! no order, no food, no computer record. Me: Ok, so can I have my money back? Her: Yes, the manager will call me. Me: What do you mean, she'll call me; I don't have my phone in the spa. Her: Oh, she's not here now so she will call you to arrange a refund. Me: What do you mean, I'll have to come here again to collect my refund? Her: She'll call you. Me: Answer the question!! Her: Yes, you'll have to come back; I am not allowed to give refunds.
-14 I try to find my way back to the Relaxation Lounge and end up in the Treatment Rooms. I spy a bowlful of apples.
-15 Returning to the Relaxation Lounge, I find all the apples gone, so I sneak back to the Treatment Rooms and grab one for myself. This is dinner.
-16 I decide to try the Peppermint steam room; smells like sweat.
-17 I try the herbal steam room; all the steam is at the ceiling and I can't smell anything.
+18 I try the sauna. Really hot, really great! And the Monsoon Shower sending out cold mist afterwards is good, too.
-19 8.30 PA announcement for everyone to move to the showers. Including the trips back and forth to the desk worrying about our food, we had less than two hours in the spa.
- 20 Can't get through the women's locker room for all the towels and bathrobes discarded in a heap. Climb over them (don't they have a towel drop??).
-21 At the desk, again take up the issue with the desk person. She can't help, does nothing.
+22 So go upstairs and ask for the manager on floor duty. He's really nice, takes the money for our refund out of his own till, and says he will speak to the spa manager.
I say, this is no way to run a business! Yes, it was beautiful and clean, but understaffed, undersupplied, with ignorance of/ absence of procedure, no receipts, no adequate response to valid complaints. The desk person could have called up to the floor manager herself, but no, she just wanted us to go home and have it sorted out later, like next week.
Will we go back? I asked for the brochure to check the costs and noticed 'hammam' listed as an option. I asked, where was the hammam? Her: Oh, it's the bench. Me: What? Have you ever been to a hammam? Between me and my friend, we have been to hammams in Morocco, Istanbul, Paris and Paddington. If Ironmongers Row Baths thinks they can market a bench as a hammam, more power to them. No, I'm not going back, especially at £25 a throw when they don't even have a jacuzzi.
Later that week, I called the manager and she asked to meet so I could air my grievances. We did so, and she said she would mail me coupons to use for another visit. Do you think they ever arrived?
I wrote this blog when the new Ironmongers opened up two years or so ago but decided to wait and cool off before publishing. Now I wonder if these problems have been solved. Does anyone know? Have you been? Is it better?