Why am I doing Air BnB in London you ask? My daughter lives here, she has a 2 bedroom flat – surely that should be enough. But I want to give my daughter, her fairly new husband and my adorable new grand-daughter space on their own – so I opted to stay near, but not too near.
Sharing space with family is a challenge – but surely sharing space with strangers would be easier.
And in many ways it has been. I’m on my 2nd Air BnB location – out of 5 or so that I thought looked acceptable, and I’ve been very pleased. What I haven’t been pleased about is how challenging it’s been to get an Air BnB booking.
Lets look at the process.
In theory, you go on line, you zoom in on the area you’d like to be in, you check out the options. There are pictures (often so amazingly amature that you wonder if they even look at their pictures before they post them), there are glowing descriptions (everyone loves their home of course), and there are reviews. And prices.
First off – the prices. What you see when you zoom in are prices that are never in fact what you will pay when you book. Never. For some reason, known I’m guessing only to the folks at Air BnB – they don’t include their fee in the displayed prices. And even so – the prices are often off. $50 Canadian a night on the dispaly turns into $55 Canadian a night when I try to book. And then the Air BnB fee is added on top. Why? It’s clearly a mystery, but it is consistent. Every single place I tried to book changed price between the initial look – and the actually – book me now phase.
2nd – the reviews. I know folks are desperate to get reviews – and if you are new – your options are limited. So often I suspect you ask your friends to book a stay – and for the price of the Air BnB fee – they get to ‘review’ you. Bottom line – beware the glowing reviews – particularly if there is only 1 or 2. These might not be real. It’s really a process of reading between the lines. If the reviewer has no ‘creds’, and the reviewed has no ‘creds’ – be careful.
But more interesting are the honest reviews – and the owner responses. One place I considered seriously mentioned that there were animals, and a tolerance for pets would be appreciated. I’m Ok with pets. So I read on. One of the reviews (very critical) mentions cat poop everywhere, urine everywhere, and continued with a complaint that the owner was exceeding slow to return her money. The owner response was typical – she had warned the guest that her cat was suffering kidney problems and wasn’t in control of her bowels. Wasn’t that enough?
Nope Hon, I don’t want to suffer thru your cat’s bowel issues. Even with a warning – I’m not that much of an animal lover. Take your unit out of Air BnB until the issue is cleared up. What were you thinking…
Ok – so lets say you’ve found a place that looks good, it’s in the right location, the reviews are ok, and the price hasn’t increased too much between first look and booking – so you click the ‘book now’ button. Only to find out from Air BnB that you don’t actually have a booking. The owner has 24 hours to respond.
Ok – so you wait. And in my case – twice – you wait and wait and wait. Do these people not check their email? Aren’t the messages Air BnB sends sufficient? Do they not look at their messages? Aren’t they serious about being hosts? What kind of hosts can they be if they just don’t respond to an inquiry. I’m trying to give you money – at least give me the respect of a response!
And I have to tell you – saying that you’ve been on holiday and are sorry it took so long doesn’t really make me feel that much better. All I can imagine is that you’ll ignore my emails as we get closer to my arrival date. Folks – if you are reading this and doring Air BnB – reply to inquiries. I beg of you.
My first stay was pretty painless – I was looking for a fairly long stay, the price was right, the location acceptable – they got back to me quickly – so I booked. Place was exactly as described – what wasn’t described were a couple of relatively small issues. The one bathroom, which we shared, had mold and water problems – which I was willing to ignore – and despite being in a large apartment building – the flat was on 4 floors! Enter on floor one, down a 1/2 flight to the living/dining/kitchen, down 1/2 flight to the bathroom, down 1/2 flight to the two oh so tiny bedrooms. Another oddity – they have lived here for 2 years – but there are empty picture hanging things on the walls. Everywhere. Did they take off art they thought would offend me? I asked – nope – they just hadn’t gotten around to putting pictures up on the hooks left by the last owner. Guess plaster and paint was too complicated. But I survived – and was willing to rebook for another 2 weeks. But after saying OK, I got an email saying that the host’s uncle had decided to visit – no room at the Inn for me.
Back to the Air BnB drawing board. I found several options that would work – and since I don’t want to double book – I pick one – and say book now. I wait the 24 hours – no response. So I go looking for another option. Not quite as convenient – but maybe they will answer. I say book now. Air BnB says – hey – you’ve tried to book two places for the same dates – it’s a risk that you shouldn’t be taking – so cancel one. So I cancel the first one.
And of course – the first one – who clearly reads cancelations faster than bookings emails me back – oh, I’m so sorry – blah, blah. So I say – You were my first choice for location – will you accept my booking – because if you will, I’ll cancel my 2nd choice (who is also ignoring my email) and book with you. Two attempts to get clarity later – and the answer is no. I’ve decided I need my space to work in for that period. Now I’m wondering – was it something I said? Because if I go back on Air BnB he’s still showing availability. I have 5 star ratings as a guest – so I don’t think that was the issue. Maybe it’s my desire for no smoking…?
Anyway – you don’t want me, I don’t want you! So I wait for the other guy. It says on the listing that smoking is permited, and I’m very non-smoking. So I ask about that. Turns out it’s a shared flat – all the bedrooms are occupied by guests (the host lives elsewhere), and one of the guests is a smoker. So Nope – that one isn’t going to work out either.
Back to the drawing board.
There is one unit that is located according to Air BnB in the middle of a waterway. Which is odd. But the waterway is close to my kids – so I decide to give them a try.
Turns out they are literally 50 yards from my kids – they just don’t know how to use the locate me option on Air BnB. That’s cool. And they sound good. I share a bathroom (bummerj), but I have my own bedroom – they both work all day so I have my run of the flat, the location is perfect – and they are non-smoking. No reviews – but I’m getting a bit panicy and no reviews is better than fake reviews – So I book it.
Some back and forth about how to get me the key ensues. They are firm about my coming only after 6:00 PM – they work – and they want to meet me. They won’t leave the key with the conceige, they won’t give the key to my daughter – they need to see me. I’m thinking new to Air BnB – and sure enough – I discover I’m their first guest.
But they are doing most things right. I’m actually impressed. They give me a shelf in the fridge for my use, they show me where the plates are kept (oddly – this is across from the kitchen in a side board thing), and they offer me a drink when I arrive. My room is lovingly furnished Ikea style – but there’s art, and a desk, and a nice double bed. I’d have loved a warmer blanket (I might ask for that tonight), and it would be nice if the pillows were firmer – and I have no where to hang my towel when it is damp – but otherwise – I’m happy.
And they seem quite friendly. It’s a BOYB (bring your own breakfast) place – but they supply coffee and milk, I can help myself to sugar, and there’s even Rice Krispies if I’m starving. It works.
So all is well that ends well. I didn’t get my first or 2nd choice – but I think that was for the best. This place is great.
Signing off to go hang out with Abigail Louise… The Soup Lady