A Sketchy tale of Airbnb

Along our travels and adventures, my wife and I mostly use Airbnb instead of hotels. This is true about 70% of the time, since every now and then we will stay at a hotel. We both love the experience and concept of Airbnb; you can choose to “rent” an entire home, apartment, studio, guesthouse, and even single rooms. With proper researching, you can find single rooms with a private entrance and private bathroom; similar to what you get at a hotel but less expensive.

Besides the advantage of being cheaper than hotels most of the time, Airbnb’s are most of the time personalized to the owners’ own touch. Hotels get very boring with the same repetitive and bland decoration. Some Airbnb hosts even go above and beyond to make you feel comfortable; almost like having a personal butler!

Unfortunately, just as you can expect a rotten apple in your grocery any time, we had our first bad experience on our recent trip to the good ol’ Southwest area (coming soon). We booked five different Airbnb’s for this trip about four months in advanced. Our bad experience was with the Airbnb for our last night before heading back home from Phoenix.

For this last night, we found a private room with a king size bed, a private double vanity bathroom, and the room had a private entrance; meaning we didn’t need to go in through the living room or main entrance of the house. The 5 bedroom house was pretty much new, and had a nice pool and the price was right, just on par with other similar listings in the area.

As usual, we went over the pictures, looking over details, cleanliness, perks that we might like, we checked the last few reviews and the overall rating of the room and everything looked good. Being a fast reader, I glanced over the room and description of the place. And nothing unordinary stood out. The entrance had a lockbox in case we arrived after hours, and there were details on the house and a LONG disclaimer on the owners dogs (more on this later). I have no problem with owners having pets.

So far you are reading this and thinking what can go wrong? At the 110F weather in Phoenix in June, that place is perfect for the last night to relax in the pool! Well, I’ll explain.

This is what we expected, a nice clean room.

With about two hours left of the drive into Phoenix, I got a message from the host saying that our room would not be ready because his dog had gone into labor the night before. Because of the extreme heat during the month of June, the only place available for the dog to go through labor was the bedroom’s private bathroom, which was dirty after labor and was the bedroom we were going to rent.

I gave the host a call and the he explained the situation better; the dog suffered complications resulting in a bloody and dirty bathroom. This complication is obviously an emergency situation which isn’t necessarily expected or planned for. So the host offered to cancel our reservation and refund our money, but I was also given the option of staying in another available room (which was not bloody or dirty), the only catch being that this room didn’t have a private entrance and it shared a bathroom with another Airbnb guest.

With this offer, I reasoned that this new room and shared bathroom would be similar to the other room in terms of quality and perks. We would still have access to the pool and to the huge kitchen if we decided to cook anything. Since we were driving, I didn’t have time or patience to stop and look at the listing for that particular room, nor to consider other options. So after consulting it quickly with my wife, we said yes to the new room, only asking to be refunded the price difference since it was a bit cheaper than our original room.

So far not too bad right? You still have a room and you weren’t left stranded without a reservation! I’ll keep going.

… … …

When we arrived at the house, at about 5000sqft, it looked beautiful from the outside. Normally when you arrive at your place, the host is there to greet you or if not, there is a lockbox and detailed instructions on how to get checked in. Since we changed rooms, I hadn’t seen the listing for the new room. Also, the host never did the reservation transfer from the original room to the new room. At the moment, I didn’t realize this, but if a host ever offers another room, make sure the reservation is changed to that room through the Airbnb site as well.

I called the host to make sure I was parking in the correct spot, and then things started getting weird. He asked me what models of cars were parked in his house, and what color they were. After asking for a particular car model and color, I confirmed it was there and asked why I was being asked these questions; since they seemed completely random and odd.  The host told me he wanted to confirm the other Airbnb guest was at the home so the guest could open the house and let us in.

Since I had the lockbox combination from the original reservation, I told him not to worry about it. But he said the lockbox code would not work because he changed it so that past Airbnb guests wouldn’t rob and loot his place.

Why would you even give me a code that doesn’t work then? Shouldn’t you change it after every reservation and give a new code?

I wanted to say this, but I held out, waiting for some logical explanation. Instead, he told me the other Airbnb guest wasn’t picking up her phone, but since the car was there she probably fell asleep, so I needed to knock loudly on the door to be heard. Either way, he assured me he was 5 minutes away and would be there soon to receive me or open up for us if we still hadn’t managed to awaken miss sleeping beauty.

Instead of banging on the door as instructed, I tried the code on the lockbox… and it worked!!! But there was no key inside. Maybe he was right and past guest stole his key. If he only would’ve changed the code…

As I closed the lockbox, the door opened and some unknown female let us in and asked me which room we would be staying in. I told her I had no idea since we were switched due to the dog incident. Through all this mumbling, the owner arrived showed us our room. To our surprise, it was a much smaller room than our original reservation with bunkbeds and the bare minimums; not even a seat in the room for tying your sneakers.

The host left us after showing the room and disappeared. After checking out the shared bath, it was disgusting. The toilet paper was rolling around the floor, there were bags of wet, damp clothes on the floor, and it hadn’t been cleaned in a few weeks very likely. Also, the female that opened for us had a small kid, and they were both very loud, screaming to each other about being late for something.

I took this all in within 3 minutes of being shown to our room and felt very uncomfortable there. I checked out the kitchen and it was dirty. Everything was dirty. I asked the host if he had anything available but I was basically ignored since he was attending his dog, so I went back upstairs, packed up the few things I had removed from the bags and started to leave. I told the host that we were leaving, specifying that I felt uncomfortable and unsecure.

Instead the place was a mess. Not an actual picture of the Airbnb we were at.

We spent a few minutes on how to address the reason for the reservation cancelation through the Airbnb app since he didn’t know what to write. I told him to write what happened; the house isn’t ready and the host feels uncomfortable, but he ended up writing that his dog was dying. As soon as he hit submit and I got the refund, we were out of there like Speedy Gonzalez!

After this, we found out that the other “guest” that opened for us was actually a long term tenant renting the other room. But in the Airbnb listing, it had no mention of any long-term tenants. The listing only had a disclaimer that said that there “might or might not” be other Airbnb guests in the other rooms who might have children, and that children can be loud at times.

Eventually, we contacted Airbnb Customer support and they helped us find a great location, much better than what we originally had reserved. All this proves you can have bad experiences with Airbnb. I’m sure we would have been perfectly fine had we chosen to stay, but why risk it? If you feel a bit uncomfortable, or if you see red flags like we did, tell the host you are leaving and find another place.

Even after having this uncomfortable experience, we will keep using Airbnb when travelling. We will just need to be more careful and thorough when doing our research and reservations. Check out this article, which has some good tips for booking an Airbnb place.

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