On a recent return trip home from a European holiday my partner and I were in transit for almost 30 hours. Mid way through the trip, we were stuck waiting in Beijing Airport.
We cleared customs and wandered dazedly into the vast transit terminal, and were greeted by the sweetest sign – “showers”.
It was like an oasis.
At $AUD25 per person it was an expensive oasis, but the thought of a long, hot, high pressured soak was too tempting to pass up. We handed over the credit card.
Once inside the cubicle I blasted the water, waiting impatiently for that sweet rush of steam fogging over mirrors. And waiting, and waiting and waiting. “It must be broken,” I thought to myself. I pathetically dragged my clothes on and headed back to the front desk with my partner, who had also been doused in a lukewarm spray.
We raised our issues with a friendly-looking desk clerk.
“There is no hot water in Beijing Airport,” he said, sounding bemused. “No one has had a problem with it before.”
Excuse me? $50 for a lukewarm shower? Not on my watch.
I told him that I wanted a refund, but he was more interested in offering up useless contra deals.
“I’ll tell you what, let’s split the difference. You can use a suite in our hotel for an hour.”
“Does the suite have a hot shower?” I asked.
“No hot water in Beijing Airport. But you can watch tv,” he replied.
In the end, the back and forth games were too much for me. I told the desk clerk that I would either get my refund then and there, or I would get it back in 15 hours – the moment I landed in Sydney, I’d be on the phone to the credit card company.
The threat worked, though I’m fairly certain the point didn’t get through. There’s no shortage of bedraggled travellers who’ll pay good money for a bad shower.