Dear Mr Vocal,
Thank you very much for your reply to my email. I realise you are a busy man and have many more important things to do rather than to deal with my complaint.
Let me say I admire the fact that you fully support your management team and security people. They must be pleased to work under such support.
There are, however, a few points I would like to draw your attention to from the other side of the story. Although I have stayed at your hotel several times in the past I was not a resident on the night in question.
I have attended all the conventions run by the International Magic organisation for over thirty years which include all the recent ones held in your hotel. On every previous occasion we have always been informed when the bar was about to close in order to allow us to buy a last round and after the bar has shut we have been allowed to stay in the bar area discussing the problems of the world and the major events of the magic weekend into the early hours of the morning.
As I am sure you are aware the International Weekend of Magic is one of the most highly regarded events in the Magic World’s calendar. This is why so many stars of our world attend the event. After the main, organised events have finished, the informal, more social side of the weekend takes place. This has always happened at the Novotel before.
On that particular Sunday night I was sitting at a table with friends. A barrister, a University professor, the head of a department at the British Museum and a company owner from Stuttgart in Germany. I mention their positions not out of any ego but merely to allow you to realise that these were not a bunch of trouble makers.
The University professor had just purchased a round of drinks and, still being addicted to the evil nicotine, went out of the front door to have a cigarette. The company owner joined him.
After a little while my attention was drawn to the fact that the people outside the door were not being allowed back inside. At first I didn’t believe it. No one from the hotel had said anything to any of us that they were emptying the bar area. Nothing had been said to anyone there.
I went up to the reception desk. I knew that the organisers were not in the area at the time, I knew there had been a problem the night before regarding the serving drinks to the convention registrants, and as I have been involved with the International Magic Company for over thirty years and because I knew many of the people there I thought I might be of help.
As I asked to speak to the manager, an irate American magician asked me why his friend was not being allowed back into the hotel. He was very upset but in no way badly behaved. I told him I was working on it.
I was asked to sit down and told the manager would be with me in a minute. As it was only going to be a minute I said I would wait there by the desk.
There were no problems in the reception area of the hotel. The only “trouble” was at the door where people were getting a little frustrated by being denied access to the hotel in which they had drinks and personal belongings including coats. It was pretty cold out there.
The manager did not appear. I was asked again to sit down but felt that if had I done so I would have been ignored for longer. Again I said I would wait. No one came but I could now see more friends being blocked at the door. This was obviously silly especially as the door staff, who were so excellent at preventing entry, were so poor at communicating what was happening.
No one knew why they were being prevented from coming back in. Denied access to a London Hotel? Unbelieveable. The manager was needed here.
I went over to the door area and I did indeed put my foot in open door at one opportune moment preventing it being shut yet again. The people outside were incensed and asking me what was happening.
The doorman told me that unless I removed my foot he would call the management. I said I hope he had better luck than me because that was exactly what I had been trying to do for ages.
Although I am large, I am a life long pacifist and I allowed the door to be closed again at which point I saw the (as I discovered later) manager in what could be called a panic pacing about with her phone to her ear informing every one in earshot she had called the police.
I walked back towards my table after a friend told me he had called the convention organisers and they were on their way and I should leave it to them. Indeed they came into the hotel (they were residents) right then.
I had not at any time been abusive or threatening. I simply wanted to ask the manager to explain to me and my friends what was happening and why. I could then have helped by explaining to the confused people what was going on.
When the police arrived they were pointed in my direction. To the amazement (and amusement) of my friends I was called away from every body by the officer in charge and asked (very nicely) to explain what had happened. I was fully supported by one of the organisers and a few fellow magicians in my recounting of the events. The police instantly realised that there was nothing going on here that required their presence. Indeed when asked by the hotel management if they could go through the bar area and ask all the non residents to leave, the police had to tell your hotel people that this was nothing to do with them.
Further discussions took place as I rejoined my friends but it turned out that your manager wanted the police to escort me out of the hotel.
I was the only person to be treated this way. No one else was pointed out to the police.
Therefore it must have been me. I must have been the “difficult, abusive and threatening” element you refer to in your email.
I strongly protest to this. It is an insult to me (apparently fully supported by you.)
The police actually came over to me and asked “If I would do them a favour.” Could I allow them to be seen to escort me from the hotel?
Of course I complied with the police request. Once outside, we then learnt from the police that they had had similar trouble from this particular hotel (your hotel) before and they had been called out unnecessarily to you before more than once. It would, apparently, all be recorded in their police report and referred to at licensing time.
No matter what you choose to believe from your questioning of your staff and the viewing of the tapes, this ridiculous affair was totally mismanaged by your people in front of an international collection of guests who all now have a different perception of your hotel and group than they had before.
No doubt the strength of your corporation will not be affected by this in anyway and therefore be of little concern to you.
It will however bring me childlike pleasure to draw to the attention of the people who support our magazine through pictures, words and video, my views on the reception I and others got from Novotel, St Pancras.
Obviously I won’t be booking any more luxury rooms in the Novotel group…
Vive La France and praise be to the internet.
With sadness of times now past when service meant service and custom was appreciated whether it was from vast mutinational organisations or small family businesses…
JJ. Editor, Opus Magazine