Auckland family feel 'catfished' by 'disgusting' room at troublesome Barcelona Motel in Taupō

An Auckland family has said they feel "catfished" and "conned" after staying in a "disgusting" room at a Taupō motel which made headlines earlier this week.

The mother told Newshub the room was not only "horrible", but also "dangerous". 

Their family had travelled from their Auckland home for a weekend away to the ski fields and had planned to stay at the Barcelona Motel in Taupō.

Sarah*, who wished to remain anonymous, told Newshub the issues began when they arrived to find no one at reception, despite calling ahead and being assured someone would be there to greet them.

"On the way up my hubby checked the rating and asked me, 'are you sure it's a good place?' and I said, 'yeah, na it looked fine'... When we got there, there was no one there to greet us, just a sign on reception saying 'reception unattended, we will be back in 30 minutes'."

Sarah said the woman returned after about 10 minutes and checked them in. The family walked up the private entrance to their room, which they said looked awfully "dangerous".

"We opened the door up and it stunk of damp, like it hadn't been aired out in a long time. We looked around it and it just looked really run-down. It kind of looked like the condition [of the house] on Once Were Warriors."

The Barcelona Motel.
The Barcelona Motel. Photo credit: GoogleMaps

Sarah and her husband James* told Newshub they were shocked to discover the "horrible" state of the room, which cost $242 per night.

"It wasn't until we settled in that we noticed dirt everywhere, dust, the shower was disgusting, the toilet seat was broken, the curtains were mismatched, there was netting missing, the towels and sheets were clean and the beds were made," Sarah said.

"There were mould spots on the window sills, broken latches on the windows. We went to turn the heater on because it was freezing and a commercial heater in the lounge but it had a big dent in it and it made a really loud noise when you put it on blast. There were just so [many issues]."

The shower curtain and heater in the motel room.
The shower curtain and heater in the motel room. Photo credit: Supplied

Sarah said she broke down after seeing the room and felt like they had been "catfished".

"I was devastated because it's just not something you want to go to after a long day at the snow. You just want to relax was horrible.

"I actually cried. I'm not someone who can get conned very easily… it wasn't anything like what the pictures on looked like." 

The couple told Newshub they are "quite cheap" and decided to stay the night, but asked for a refund for the remainder of their stay.

"We went to book somewhere else for the following night because they were going to give our money back on the second night. We lied, we said our kids are sick, we need to go back to Auckland. But by the time we went to do that, there was no accommodation left to book for Friday night, so we had to stay there again."

The window sill and bathroom floor.
The window sill and bathroom floor. Photo credit: Supplied

Not the first complaint

Sarah decided to speak out about her experience at the Barcelona Motel after seeing a story Newshub wrote earlier in the week about another disgruntled customer.

On Tuesday, Whanganui mother Karen Nicol shared footage from her stay in room five on July 16, which showed a mouldy shower curtain and bathroom fittings, stained bedsheets, and filthy surfaces and furnishings, with grime and dirt visible on the skirting, carpet and walls. Also featured in the video was a gaping crack in the front door, allowing in a cold winter draught, and a toilet with a broken seat.

"It's just disgusting," Nicol told Newshub. "It's just gross."

Sarah said she was surprised to see the story, but it confirmed that her unpleasant experience wasn't a one-off event.

"I laughed [when I saw it] because this is the same as what happened to us. It was nice to see someone else had issues because we didn't want to make too much fuss because we thought it was just us."

The broken toilet seat and window clasp.
The broken toilet seat and window clasp. Photo credit: Supplied

The Motel

Newshub contacted the Barcelona Motel's owner for further comment, however the owner didn't return the call before publication.

In their response to Newshub's previous story, a staff member - a man who did not identify himself, but is understood to be the owner -  said he was aware of Nicol's video, and the police were "dealing with it".

The man also alleged the dirtiness had been "created" by Nicol and was not an accurate representation of their accommodation.

"The lady came, she was in the room for four hours, and then she went to reception to try and get half-price. They stayed the night and in the morning they did this video. The room she showed online is the room she created, so this is falsified information. The council has inspected the room, and the council has no problem with it," he said.

"If the room was like that in the first place, she would not have stayed there."

He admitted a wall plug was broken - "there's no excuse for that" - and said the stains on the bed may have been "an oversight" by staff.

"It's not as bad as what this lady has done," the man said. "About 10am the next day, she's done all of this. Those blood and things on the pillowcases and sheets, it's inappropriate."

He then went on to claim that customers had been responsible for mess in other rooms. 

"All the rooms are like that when the guests have checked out - even yesterday, I went through the rooms, taking pictures [after] guests' stays, and they stained the blood and everything. We have proof of everything. The council has been and we have no more to say about it."

When Newshub questioned him about reviews dating back six months which expressed similar sentiment, the man said "everyone is entitled to their views". 

"We have no issue with what we have. The customers do make a mess and we do take pictures from now on to show people that the customers leave these kinds of messes in the rooms."

An environmental health worker from the Taupō District Council inspected the hotel following Niccol's complaint, but all rooms appeared to be clean.

But James and Sarah told Newshub the motel owner's comments were "total lies".

"It doesn't take one day for mould to build up, especially with our experience and the dirtiness, that definitely wasn't ours," James said.

"That can't be done overnight," Sarah agreed. "There could be some argument to the stains on the sheets but as far as the mould on the side of the bed, that can't happen overnight."

James said they just hope the motel gets the repairs needed along with a big clean or doesn't "catfish" new customers. 

"I think their prices need to reflect the actual state of the accommodation. It's more like a hospital type situation to a hotel. They also definitely need better cleaning."

A spokesperson for told Newshub accommodation providers are responsible for the information and photos on their platform.

"Our local teams support and work closely with them from their first day on the site onwards to ensure that all information they choose to list is accurate and up to date, which is an ongoing and iterative process. 

"In the rare instance that we detect or are alerted to any potential misrepresentations either by guests or partners, we immediately look into it, and if necessary, work with the property to take any necessary actions to help ensure accurate expectations are set for our customers. We also encourage travellers to read the reviews from recent guests to get an authentic picture of the real guest experience at each accommodation."

The spokesperson said the customer service team is available 24/7 if customers need support.

* Names have been changed.