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Last Updated: Friday, 6 February, 2004, 11:41 GMT
Hotel boss in hot water
Prunella Scales and John Cleese
Cleese based the series on the Gleneagles Hotel's owner
A hotel boss has been branded a "Basil Fawlty" by a customer after attempting to justify why he charged her 2 for a glass of drinking water.

Social worker Sally Burchell, 34, was refused a free glass of tap water at the Atlantic Hotel in Newquay, Cornwall and wrote to complain.

She was with more than 50 colleagues from the Cornwall Child Protection Unit on their pre-Christmas party.

But she was amazed to get a reply from the hotel's managing director, Anthony Cobley, listing all the costs involved with buying the tap water, and washing the glass.

Sally was told she would have to pay 80p for a small bottle of mineral water, or 2 for a litre.

I have read your letter and feel the need to enlighten you about the workings of the modern world
Anthony Cobley

The actual cost of a litre of tap water is less than a ten thousandth of a penny according to South West Water.

But Mr Cobley wrote: "I have read your letter and feel the need to enlighten you about the workings of the modern world.

"I buy water from the South West Water Company. I buy the glasses that the water is served in. I buy the ice that goes in the water and I buy the labour to serve the water.

"I provide the luxury surroundings for the water to be drunk in and again pay for the labour and washing materials to wash the glass after you have used it, and you think I should provide all of this free of charge.

"As regards your comment that you will not be returning to the Atlantic Hotel ever again leaves (sic) me to say that customers who only drink water and complain about paying for it I can certainly do without."

'Not polite'

Mrs Burchell said: "This is like a letter from Basil Fawlty. I find it appalling that a hotel or any other sort of business would talk to its customers like this.

"We had quite a pleasant meal at the hotel but I could not believe they would not give out free tap water.

"In many places they would have put a jug of water with some ice and a lemon on the table. I was so upset I decided to write a letter to the hotel."

She added: "The response I received is certainly not polite and it not what I would expect from an industry in which customer care ought to be paramount."

Mr Cobley declined to comment.

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