It appears many of my bizarre experiences begin with the words “my daughter bought me tickets for Christmas”. This particular incident happened in March this year (2015). After a nightmare few months I was looking forward to a nice little break going to see Usher with my Christmas tickets, in Birmingham with an overnight stay. I was lucky enough to also win tickets for Manchester the night before in a twitter comp, so was really looking forward to a 2 night break. We booked Travelodge for both nights as the budget was tight. Apart from the nightmare traffic unreliable ancient tomtom, and the smelly room with hair on our chips, the Manchester night went well, Usher was amazing we had fab seats, and the hotel was nice and close to the venue, an good and exceptionally uneventful night for us.
The next day my daughter woke up feeling really ill with flu, we travelled to Birmingham, did a bit of shopping in our favourite place The Bullring, but she really wasn’t up to going to another concert so we sold the tickets outside the venue for the princely sum of £20 and headed back to the hotel to chill out for the night, we were disappointed but we had been the night before, after 2 trips to reception with a broken remote and a Wi-Fi issue, which were dealt with by the friendly efficient staff, we settled in for the night. I had contemplated driving home and claiming for the room off insurance, but didn’t fancy rush hour traffic and thought staying over would be the least stressful option, boy was I wrong there.
I was just dozing off when I heard my daughter muttering about noise as she approached the window, within seconds out lives were spiralling out of control. All I could hear was my daughter repeating guns, guns, guns, when I looked up she was frantically tapping in 999 and demanding I turn the TV off. As my daughter is a bit of a wuss I didn’t think there was anything really bad going on and lifted the net to look, I couldn’t believe my eyes, there were 5 gunmen with about 20 people in front of them, they were dressed in black with balaclavas, and were barking orders at the people. By this time my daughter was connected to 999 and as I turned I could hear her saying “yes I am in London” she was in so much shock she didn’t even know we were actually in Birmingham. On the advice of the operator we got down on to the floor by the side of the bed, my daughter was beckoning for me to go under the bed but being a fatty there was no way I could have fitted under. I picked the phone up to ring my partner and my daughter hit it out of my hand growling “it’s too bright” she honestly thought somebody was about to burst through the door any minute. My poor daughter was struggling to breath and experiencing chest pains, typical panic attack.We stayed cowered on the floor for what seemed like hours but was actually 12 minutes, both seeing our life flashing before our eyes and wondering how we would protect the other if the situation worsened. I tried to think logically and sadly hoped they had who they had come for and would leave, how mean is that, to not care about them poor people to just think of our own survival. I thought it was possibly a robbery but reasoned “why on earth would they be robbing a Travelodge” The operator said the police were outside then informed us, that it was a theatre company that would be using the courtyard of the hotel right up until Easter 10 days away, she told us to ring reception.
I was still whispering when I rang reception and soon after the 2 friendly staff members were in the room apologising, I really could not believe they knew this was going on and had not warned guests, they told us about 2 ladies who had gone out for a cigarette and ran back in hysterical. The one lady said she had stood outside so customers could see her and feel safe, but my daughter had seen her and just assumed she was a hostage too, so scared her even more. Our night of peace was destroyed we were both traumatised, I got my laptop out and put a facebook status up, which received lots of attention, my niece was actually crying as her mother read the status but hadn’t got to the end bit, I started having a laugh with my friends over it but my daughter was still really distraught. We ended up having about 2 hours sleep and coming home in a bit of a shell shocked state. I was livid that they knew this was happening and didn’t tell us, my favourite phrase resounded in my head “failure in their overall duty of care” the manager had it both barrels but seemed annoyingly amused by it, he told us we were lucky we were not the night before as armed police had been through the hotel, I was flabbergasted he wasn’t ashamed to tell me that, how could that happen and they still fail to inform customers, he offered us a free night’s stay to which my daughter retorted “ I will never stay here again” I hadn’t known but when she initially looked out the gunman was dragging one of the people along the floor with the gun to their head, she was still traumatised even though she now knew it wasn’t real. I spoke to Birmingham Post as I was angry and wanted to name and shame, and took my complaint to Travelodge main website. I couldn’t believe it when 3 days later our story was on WalesOnline then in the Sun, and I discovered it had happened yet again the night after we left. Travelodge have refunded my stay and given me another stay and £100 account credit I still feel really angry that the manager didn’t find it very traumatic and he allowed it to go on 3 nights on the run, we probably will use Travelodge again, but will never ever return to the Birmingham Newhall street hotel.