Causing confusion – misinformation from the YHA of all people

Published on 23 March 2010 in , , ,

Walking in Britain can be cheap – staying overnight not always so, which is where youth hostels come in. We’re soon to be finishing off the Pennine Way, and had booked in at a number of YHA hostels for the trip.

With not long to go before our trip, you can imagine my surprise and panic upon finding the terse message that “This location has now closed” on the page for a YHA hostel in Greenhead we were booked in at.

Screenshot of the Greenhead hostel on the YHA's website

When we had booked the place in January we hadn’t been able to use the standard YHA online booking process, but phoning them direct we knew that the hostel had had some flooding problems, however they’d promised to let us know if there was a problem. We assumed that the online booking was offline due to that. With days to go, suddenly it was apparently closed and we knew nothing. If I hadn’t tried to find out its location, I may never have known!

Searching the YHA site revealed absolutely nothing about the Greenhead “closure”. There was nothing online that I could see. I wondered if there was anywhere else we could stay…

Eventually I found an answer buried – and I mean buried – in the YHA site. It was posted on their forum of all places, which is only accessible if you’re logged in so non-searchable.

It gave the cryptic message that

Screenshot of YHA Forum announcing changes at Greenhead

From January 1st 2010 YHA Greenhead will cease to be involved in the YHA’s Enterprise scheme.

As one poster on the YHA forums said…

Err..sorry, but what on earth does “cease to be involved in the YHA’s Enterprise scheme” mean? Something to do with Star Trek? Why is it “leaving the network”?

As it happens, I know that the YHA Enterprise Scheme is where the hostel is independently owned, but operated as a YHA franchise. Greenhead Hostel had merely gone independent. Thanks to the thread, I found their contact details on the Independent Hostel Guide, gave them a quick ring (under the guise of checking out their flooding problems!) and discovered all was well.

All in all it was a prime example of the worry that mis-information and mis-communication can cause – even if it was all sorted out in fifteen minutes there is no doubt that the YHA should have done the following:

  • mention Greenhead was leaving the YHA’s network in it’s news section (which right now is 404’ing anyway, but a check of Google’s cache of the page reveals no such story)
  • put a more helpful message on the former YHA hostel page. Full contact details for the still-open hostel would be preferable but even “This hostel is no longer part of the YHA” would be more helpful
  • remove it’s former locations from the site faster. We booked at the end of January and the site was still firmly mentioned on the YHA site – leading us to believe it was still a YHA hostel.
  • And most importantly of all, it needs to not bury news like this on a password protected forum so that no one knows about it!

I do believe the YHA is a great organisation, but the way they handle occurrences like this really does need to be much improved. Whilst they’ve no longer any duty to the hostel in Greenhead, putting misleading information about its status online – even if done accidentally – really isn’t going to do the YHA’s reputation any good.

Meanwhile I’ll be looking forward to visiting the now YHA-less Greenhead and its hostel in a few weeks time, safe in the knowledge that I at least have somewhere to stay.

Update: Since this post was written YHA’s website has been updated to state that “This location is no longer a YHA hostel” – which is good news.