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“Worst customer service in 6 weeks in S. Africa”

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Brown Sugar Backpackers
Reviewed August 1, 2012

I would have given them 3 stars if it weren't for the staff. They had terrible customer service. In 6 weeks of South African travel, this was the most expensive double room (400 rand) and the smallest, and by far the worst customer service in the country. I did meet the owners for 5 minutes and they seemed to really care that you were having a good stay, but the rest of the time (4 days, 3 nights) the staff would never offer a smile, even though we were extremely polite and always said thank you whenever they did anything for us (like sold us Internet time, accepted our payment for another night, etc). They do have a good breakfast included on the price of the room, but you do pay for it with the high price. The showers lack hooks, so good luck with your clothes and towel not falling on the floor. The wifi did not work at all while we were there and the Internet went out as well. It costs 20 rand for an hour. They do not keep track of your Internet time, but are happy to tell you that you have been on for too long or tell you that you did not pay even though you have a receipt to prove you did. We were accused of using all of our time earlier in the day, even though we said "we will use our last 15 minutes later, okay?" and they agreed that it would be fine. Later, three of them argued with me over and over that we had used it all up, even though we kept track of it and even though I explained it calmly (and had bought 4 hours of time-it's not like we weren't willing to pay for internet!). It was very offensive how rude they were, especially because they were in the wrong. The power went out one night around 8 pm, and they did not offer a candle or torch nor apologize the next day. They also refused to put our luggage in the huge, locked, half-empty luggage storage area and just set it behind the desk instead, which is sometimes staffed with a person and often times is not. They did not empty the trash every day. There were rodents outside in the courtyard. Here is the worst part: there was a drunk fist fight between guests one night (one of the guys involved even had stolen small items from another guest in the dorm room and been caught when he was patted down by staff and not asked to leave at that point) and the police were not called and the guests were not asked to leave because the staff did not want the lodge to get a bad reputation. So, the rest of us just stayed in our rooms so as to not ET involved in the drunken mess, and had to avoid the drunk, fighting thief every time he walked by and started saying crazy stuff to us (which he did while wearing nothing but a loosely draped towel around his waist), even though we did not attempt to talk to him.  Do not stay here. The staff needs to be replaced. There are way too many people who  would be grateful for their job. Go to Diamond Digger's instead! (Where we moved to and were so grateful for). 

Stayed: July 2012, traveled as a couple
3  Thank kpcharlier
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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88 - 94 of 137 reviews

Reviewed July 22, 2012

Stayed a couple of days in Brown Sugar before and after the 11 day Livingstone Trials tour (see my review on them also here on TA) which has a pickup from Brown Sugar.
First contacts were via e-mail and they were swift, friendly and very correct. The place itself is huge, but still gives you a pleasant feeling to it. It’s not too big or impersonal. Crew is (mostly) very fun and correct. Providing information, tour arrangements, and more than ok food during the day and evenings. Breakfast is average, but it’s included for free.
Accommodations come in many different options. And were perfect value for money. Showers come with good hot water (nice during the cold winters) and rooms were equipped with extra blankets and even electrical blanket for the cold nights. The free pickup service was nice and very convenient.

Central living room / bar is a nice place to meet fellow backpackers and to share tips and stories while traveling. Or watch movies or sport on the big tv. Bit aught though that they do not have a full license to sell beer from the bar. But they’ve found a work-a-round to solve that. Prices for internet access / WIFI are way too expensive. And should be offered for free, as we live in 2012.

Because of the multiple day Livingstone Trails tour on return Brown Sugar offered a free night, free dinner and free transportation to the airport! This was really amazing and very appreciated. The option to safely store remaining bags there for free was very convenient.

So the stay in Brown Sugar was pleasant and good value for money. The place is safe (you are staying in Joburg after all) and clean. And the location is good. Although the city is huge, so driving will take you some time. It’s a good place to stay.

  • Stayed: June 2012, traveled solo
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Thank Rogier v
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 28, 2012

After several months in West Africa it was a delight to arrive at Brown Sugar. The staff were helpful and friendly, it was clean, had all the facilities you wnat, lots of areas for relaxing indoors or out and extra touches like the sale of postcards and stamps which they then took to the post box for you.
The breakfast was great and the kitchen had all the things you need to prepare your own food or they do good pub lunches and a set meal at night.
The efficient airport pickup service was a pleasure and while it is located in a quiet pleasant suburb, they will arange transport to wherever you want to go or tell you how to use local transport.
A brilliant start or finish to your travels in South Africa

  • Stayed: April 2012, traveled with family
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Thank Liam H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 19, 2012

Spent the last 2 nights of our stay in SA in this backackers. Didn't really enjoy Johannesburg too much, riots all over the city and depressed about leaving the country :)
Ok backpackers, good service, nice food, calm neighbourhood.

  • Stayed: March 2012, traveled with friends
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Thank AnkiUppgard
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 20, 2012

I was grateful to have a prompt airport pickup and a courteous driver waiting at arrivals after an overnight flight. The design of the house and garden was nice from the outside, really impressive driving in. It's perched on a hill and the back of the house offered nice views of the area.

Other than that, this place left a lot of room for improvement. The front desk staff averaged at apathetic. Friendly in some exchanges, nickeling and diming at others, visibly annoyed at times, but mostly just apathetic. I got more courtesy and saw more enthusiasm from the cleaning staff.
The WIFI was down, the internet was only accessible during front desk hours. There was a cockroach walking across the table as I sat down to a not so good dinner. The cooking staff seemed to take pride in their work, I might have had some bad luck on the dish they served that night. The "newly renovated" areas were hard to come by. The facilities were adequate, but the claims on the internet just set me up for disappointment. The house had a strange, old, nostalgic, italian grandma's feel to it. The upstairs smelled like it hadn't been aired out since the 70's, the pictures, furniture, design all added up to a strange vibe.

The free transport is a huge upside, but other than that, with so many other options out there, this will now be my last resort for joburg. Luckily, their biggest weakness can be addressed more easily with some training and/or personnel changes, but I can't really recommend this place as it is now.

  • Stayed: February 2012, traveled solo
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1  Thank GilaMonsterAntidote
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 2, 2012

Location is inconvenient; the area is not at all safe after dark. But the transfers were handled well, and the staff was helpful, if not terribly friendly. WIFI was down, and only one computer was working. Rooms and showers were adequate.

  • Stayed: January 2012, traveled with friends
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Thank roberts885
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed June 17, 2011

The building itself is cool (old mafia mansion) and my airport pick up was satisfactory. Also, the multi bed dorm room was a decent size and the bathrooms were sufficient. Unfortunately, not a great area if you don't have your own transit, the free breakfast was so unappealing I didn't even eat it, and I agree about staff being unfriendly. One of them had a small child there who actually booted me in the shin for no reason and no one told the kid to stop. Was much happier when I switched accom.

Stayed: November 2010, traveled solo
2  Thank MKSimons
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Brown Sugar Backpackers

Address: 75 Observatory Avenue | Observatory Extension, Johannesburg 2198, South Africa
Location: South Africa > Gauteng > Greater Johannesburg > Johannesburg
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free Breakfast Free Parking Pets Allowed ( Dog / Pet Friendly ) Shuttle Bus service Suites Swimming Pool Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
Ranked #11 of 121 Specialty Lodging in Johannesburg
Price Range: $27 - $30 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Number of rooms: 15
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
This 'Ex-Mafia Mansion' offers clean, spacious, comfy and secure accommodation from camping, dormitories, family rooms, doubles, twin, triples and singles with shared or privite bathrooms. We are the largest hostel in Johannesburg and offer the following freebies: A Scrumptious breakfast, Free pick up from OR Tambo Airport or Park Station, Wi-Fi and internet, safes in all private rooms and private lockers in dorms, day and long term storage, tea and coffee. Print, scan and postage facilities available. Self service coin operated laundry room and swimming pool with amazing views. We have credit card facilities and our own ATM on site. We have our own drivers and vehicles for cheap shuttles to the shops and other locations. Our in-house tour guide is available daily for the most popular local tours of Joburg. The staff can assist you with a Kruger Park Tour, Victoria Falls or Chobe National Park tours. We are a Baz Bus stop and just waiting to welcome you. ... more   less 

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