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‘Ho Ho Ho’ turns to ‘no no no’ as Fota cannot honour discounted Santa tickets – The Irish Times

A series of unfortunate events has turned what should have been a “Ho Ho Ho” into a “no no no” for a Cork holiday resort and more than 1,000 families who thought they had booked discounted visits to see Santa in the run up to Christmas.

Just over 1,200 people who this week booked and paid for visits through the Fota Island resort website at a discount of 50 per cent have been left fuming after learning the hotel is not going to let the bookings stand at the prices paid.

The Fota Island Resort in Cork told The Irish Times the discounts were applied in error as a result of a computer glitch and it is not able to honour the bookings.

At full price the Santa experience at Fota costs up to €28 for each child plus an additional €18 for each adult so a family of three children and two adults can expect to pay €120 at full price compared to €60 at the discounted rate.

Adopting a jolly festive tone on Facebook on Thursday morning, the Fota Island Santa experience said the discount code “will not apply to anyone that is not a Fota Island Resort member.”

“Santa is checking his list and will contact anyone who was ineligible to use the code. Sending you sugar and spice, Google Glitter Finger.”

If the resort had been hoping the festive language would make families learning that their bookings were at risk less angry, they will be disappointed.


The Facebook post was quickly flooded with comments from more than 600 people furious that their bookings – which they said had been made in good faith – were set to be cancelled.

“I put in all my details and paid the price that was given to me,” wrote Rebecca McCarthy. “This is your error as a company and you should really honour the price that we pay.”

“Santa will be checking his list??? That is in shockingly poor taste,” said Orla Holland. “Christmas spirit seems to be missing here big time.”

Charlie Barrett was equally enraged. “So parents who’ve booked already will have to tell their kids their bookings have been cancelled because Fota Island want more money. I’ll be booking somewhere more deserving for my kids thanks very much.”

Emily Oliver pointed out it was “pretty obvious that a discount code like this is going to be shared. If it was only for resort members, you should have issued them unique one-time use codes, as many companies do. Just because you cut corners doesn’t mean people who have already made bookings fair and square should lose their tickets!”

The hotel’s Marketing Director Seamus Leahy was apologetic and accepted full responsibility as he explained to The Irish Times what had happened.

He said in recent weeks the company had created a special discount code for people staying in a small number of lodges on the Fota Island property.

However, as a result of a glitch in the system which emerged in the middle of the week, anyone who clicked on the “submit code” button on the website at the start of booking process would have the 50 per cent discount automatically applied without having to enter any voucher code number.

The glitch was first discovered by a user at 10.05pm on Wednesday and the news spread rapidly on social media with 1,201 bookings made over the next 12 hours.


“You could see the bookings grow exponentially from 10.05pm,” Mr Leahy said.

Mr Leahy said he was made aware of the problem at 6.40am on Thursday but it took several hours for his team to discover exactly what was happening and why. “It was a genuine error,” he said.

He pointed out that if the hotel was to honour the discounted bookings for the 1,200 people who had been able to exploit the glitch, then several thousand others who had paid full price to see Santa would have cause to feel aggrieved.

He said to offer the discount to everyone would cost in excess of quarter of a million euro and would severely compromise the resort’s ability to host Santa this year.

He said what the resort was planning to do was offer a full refund to people who booked on Wednesday night and Thursday morning or to honour those bookings once the difference between the discounted and the full price was paid.

He said a third option was for people to move their appointment with Santa to a different day or time that might be more affordable.

Under EU rules, while contracts are in place when confirmation emails are sent and money changes hands, they are not typically enforceable if they are the result of genuine errors so demands that the hotel honour the discounted bookings are likely to fall on deaf ears.

“I know that not everyone will be satisfied with what we are proposing and will feel that they should be able to avail of the discount but we are not able to do that,” Mr Leahy said.

He said the hotel was holding its hands up and admitting it was responsible for the glitch and expressed remorse that what is a special event in the lives of families had been soured.

“This day is about making people happy and giving people the best possible experience, one they will remember and I think we do that really well here.”

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