booking gone wrong

Well everyone has heard me sing the praises of our experiences with Airbnb, a few times we used VRBO and with no problems, then we tried and had a terrible, stressful, twilight zone (when you can’t believe this could be real) experience.  I will never, ever use again and want to pass on the warning if you feel like reading my rant about our experience.

I had a twilight zone experience with and have vowed to never use them again.!!!!  My wife and I are on a one year trip of a lifetime traveling through Europe so we have booked a lot of accommodations and are on our 8th month of traveling.  Most of our stays have been with Airbnb which we can’t say enough good things about.  We were excited to have our kids join us for three weeks and had a 3 night stay planned in Rome.  We couldn’t find anything right in the historic center (as we booked late) on Airbnb so my wife decided to try  The booking was easy and we got a confirmation with the details that required us to contact the owner 72 hours in advance of our stay as it is a private apartment (same as Airbnb’s) with no front desk.  One big negative is you get a price when you go to book but after you complete the booking they inform you of all the extras you have to pay, cleaning fees and city tax which amounted to an extra $92 euros for us.  That made it a lot more than we were looking at on Airbnb.  I think that’s bull because you’ve already confirmed and locked in the booking (with no cancelation) before you find out the extras.  Most of the others give you the full price up front, Airbnb gives you a breakdown before you book.

We made numerous calls and sent emails (I had to call to get an email address) that were unanswered by the owner and the night before our arrival we got concerned and called help line.  Over a half hour on the phone they said they tried calling and were also unsuccessful in reaching him but since it was almost 10pm in the evening they said maybe the front desk was closed.  I mentioned that there was no front desk, that it was an apartment and that the owner should be answering phone calls, even in the evening someone might be checking in late but I agreed to wait and try in the morning.  I asked if there would be a record of the call on our booking so the helpdesk would know the details when I call back  tomorrow and was assured there was.

The next morning still no replies to our emails or phone calls and we were very stressed about it so we called help desk.  They knew nothing about the previous call so I had to explain again and this was like explaining to a two year old…the agent kept asking if I wanted a late checkin or to cancel the reservation.  Finally, after explaining three or four times he said’ I understand ‘and said he would try calling the hotel.  He kept putting me on hold and said they were trying to contact the hotel.  I told him we didn’t have a lot of time as we had to leave our apartment in Naples to catch our train to Rome as our tickets had a set time.  This went back and forth for about 20 minutes and then he said they were unable to reach the hotel but that they had specialists to help in this area and transferred me to another department.  I was on hold for about 5 minutes when a woman came on and asked how could she assist us.  I asked her ‘didn’t the previous agent inform you of the substance of our call’ and like an automated loop she asked ‘how could she help’ and I had to start explaining all over.  It took a few tries with her too, she asked ‘if I wanted to cancel the reservation.’  Finally she said we’ll try and contact the hotel and put me on hold before I could tell her that that was what the last guy tried unsuccessfully.  About 3 more times back and forth on hold over another 15 minutes she kept telling me they were trying to contact the hotel.  The forth time she came back on like we had never spoken, I said we needed to catch a train and didn’t have much more time.  She said’ we will try and contact the hotel’, I said ‘isn’t that what you said you were doing the last 15 minutes’ and it was like this was the first time they had tried to call. 

It was like being stuck in an automated loop, the agent was completely incapable of doing anything (and this was apparently their specialist department}.  She kept repeating the same script over and over again and we were getting no where.  I finally told her we needed to go and catch our train but would have no where to go, we wanted to cancel the reservation and have them book another place.  She said the reservation was ‘no cancelations’ which we understood when booking but explained we had no apartment to go too without being able to reach the owner and retrieve the keys!  I said but it says ‘reservation guaranteed’ right on the confirmation and she said ‘yes, you would have received an email confirmation’.  I said ‘yes I did, I have the email confirmation but the owner isn’t responding’.  She read out the email and said ‘you must contact the owner 72 hours in advance…..’  and I said that is what we have been doing for the last three days and have had no response.  She said ‘check in is at 3pm, you should just go and pick up the keys at the front desk’, (is she for real, is this a real person, does she have a brain???????) My wife explained to her again that it was an apartment and there was no front desk that is why we are trying to call and make arrangements for the keys. I had enough of this loop, I said I wanted to cancel this one and rebook another.  She said ‘no problem, we will assist you in rebooking another hotel but it would be at your expense’.  Well I thought I was going to lose my mind!!!!!!  The loop continued for about another 5 minutes with me trying to explain to her thick skull what the problem was, that we had no apartment and needed a place to stay.  She wasn’t getting it so I asked to speak to a Manager, I said I needed someone quickly as we had to catch our train.  I was getting a bit frantic as we had to go.  She put me on hold and over the next 10 minutes I got more and more frantic until I just had to hang up, it was the last minute and we had to go.

We were planning on catching the subway to the train station but since our train was leaving in an hour we had to grab and pay for a cab instead.  We ran out of the apartment and luckily there was a cab stand right in front and we got one right away.  We squeezed into one and the kids had to have luggage on there laps so we could fit.  We had a great driver and he managed to get us to the train station 20 minutes before our train departed.  We ran and managed to catch our train on time, one problem completed but stressed throughout our journey on what we were going to do.  That wouldn’t help us, we’d have to double pay for another apartment and find something last minute.

After our two hour journey we arrived in Rome at 1:30 pm and walked through the chaos of Rome Termini to find a wifi zone and after some difficulty finally managed to get a connection.  We started frantically looking for other accommodations (not on and figuring we’d somehow have to fight with to get our money back.  About 10 minutes into our search I decided to check my emails and low and behold there was one from the apartment owner saying, ‘sorry for the late reply but my colleague will meet you at the apartment for the keys at 2:30’.

Well it was a major relief!  Hallelujah we had a place to stay, our problem was fixed but I was still really mad about it.  Especially mad at how wouldn’t do anything about helping us and that there guarantee meant we would be hosed for paying double to get a place to stay and how incompetent their help desk was.  I was also mad at the owner for putting us in this predicament which I told his helper at checkin.  He apologized and said he was on holidays and just got back the night before.  I was just happy to have a place but really- they should have taken their apartment off the site if they were unable to look after the bookings.  Besides you can check emails on holidays if you are a professional.  Also the apartment was not as nice as in the pictures, the worst place we have stayed in so far (light bulbs were missing, no garbage bags, the slats in one of the beds kept popping out, remote controls with no batteries, dirty) but it is in great location (Campo de Fiori), spacious and we had a place to stay. 

So all guarantee means is that you’ll receive an email, doesn’t mean you’ll have a place to stay.  If there is a problem they’ll do nothing at all, you can repay and try rolling the dice a second time.  Like hell, I’ll never, never use you again and I’ll let everyone know about our nightmare using you!!!!


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