Nightmare in Nicaragua: Playa Yankee Power Outages

I’d been eyeing this place as a possible vacation spot since I had started planning our trip over a year ago. We had originally intended it to be a ten-day vacation but I splurged and extended it specifically so we could stay here. We stayed at the great Casa Las Mareas in Encanto del Sur, just north of San Juan del Sur. As good as our stay was there, we were excited to come here. I’d had visions of teaching our eldest daughter to swim in the pool here while my wife enjoyed the view with our younger daughter. We got there on a Wednesday. The view heading to the water was spectacular but immediately marred by the sight of the green pool; hornets were swarming in the shallow area as well as some elsewhere in the pool. My daughter was understandably freaked out. I asked Gilberto, the caretaker, about it and he said (translated quote), “It’s an open area, there’s nothing you can do about them”. I thought back to our stay at Casa Las Mareas and its pristine pool, also in an open area. I let the idea of asking him to put out wasp traps slide after I realized I didn’t want to dip my head in a pool that looked like this.

The first time the power went out was before 11:00 PM our very first night. My wife and I woke up within five minutes of one another, sweating and wondering why. The fan, our sole source of ventilation, had turned off. We chalked up this outage to the planned power outage the entire San Juan del Sur area goes through on Thursday, figuring maybe they were getting an early start. We had our girls (three years old, seven months old) with us in bed and sweltered through the rest of the night. The following morning, the power came back on briefly, then went out again after about thirty minutes. We (my wife, our two little girls, my uncle and I) took a day trip and came back to the house. The power stayed on for a little over one hour this time, just enough to give us hope that the power issues were behind us. The power went out again and we settled in for another sweltering night.

I arose before sunrise and walked outside. The houses below (known as Beach House Beauty when it was listed on the market) and Casa Alta both had power. A five-minute walk in the opposite direction revealed Casa Monet had power as did Orquídea del Sur. The next day I spoke to the caretaker at length about the issues. I asked him why we were having power issues if we had a solar power system (after I heard the humming and spotted the batteries and put two and two together). He explained to me that the “solar system” had broken six months ago and the panels had been removed. The main power appears to be inexplicably running through the solar power inverter and more than likely through the batteries, as they were humming.

I asked him if the owner was aware of this and he eventually admitted that the owner was in fact aware of the issue with the power going down constantly. It was on this day, our second-to-last full day of our time here, we were told there was a generator available for us. At this point we still weren’t sure if the power issues would continue. My wife and I thought about the sound of the generator and how it would decimate the sound of the ocean way down below, but at least we’d have power. I asked him to please set it up and he agreed to do so. Ten minutes later I heard an engine start and unfortunately for us it was his motorcycle’s and not the house’s generator. Gilberto took off and I didn’t see him again until the next day. My wife tallied our time without electricity and including a three-hour spurt, we had four hours of power and communications (no cell phone reception at the house, no wifi without electricity).

We ignored the groceries we had purchased and placed in the refrigerator for fear of letting out whatever cold air may have been left and spoiling our perishables (these ended up spoiling anyways). We reluctantly went out to dinner again, an hour roundtrip into town, so my uncle and I could get wifi and communicate with our respective jobs and clients. I grew up in El Salvador both during and after its civil war and it was a rare day that the power didn’t go out. I am well aware of the fragility of the power grid in this part of the world. So you can imagine my frustration when every house in the vicinity had power except for ours. This is a completely preventable issue of which the owner is absolutely aware, according to the caretaker.

The next day, Saturday, the caretaker was there and I asked him again, more urgently, to please set up the generator. We even discussed the best place to situate it. He said, “como usted quiera” (as you wish). Not five minutes later, I heard his motorcycle start and by the time I got out there all I saw was the dust rooster tail that disintegrated before my frustrated eyes. That dust cloud would be the last sign of Gilberto for the duration of our trip. Rather than enjoy our last vacation day, we planned our first of what would turn into three trips into town (down a VERY bumpy long stretch of dirt/rock road). We had to go there because the next day was our last day, and we had to confirm our trip to the Liberia airport in Costa Rica. We had no way of communicating from the house because of the power issues.

We didn’t know when and if or for how long the power would come back so we got ahead of the issue and drove into San Juan del Sur. We were able to message the shuttle company, the rental car pick-up person, and the surf shop from which I’d rented my surfboard to coordinate. We didn’t get to confirm with everyone, so another trip was necessary before our last trip in the evening to ensure nothing had changed for the next day and get dinner (more unnecessary gas and food costs we could have avoided had the owner cared). The power was out when we got back all three times, but came on for about four hours total again. We never saw Gilberto again. We left the keys hanging by the door hoping they’d make it back to him without issues. We never got any guidance on what to do with our trash and spoiled groceries. The shuttle came and we were relieved to be gone.

How terrible does one’s experience have to be when they can’t wait to get home from vacation? We were absolutely blissful at our first rental and are completely angry with the owners and manager for what amounts to fraud. The crystalline pool shown in the Airbnb listings was so inviting and we arrived to a hornet-blanketed science experiment. Lack of power to only this house meant stress for everyone involved. I couldn’t get in touch with work clients until I went into town. My uncle was dealing with an intricate project which he dealt with as best he could with the little time we had power and our too-frequent trips to San Juan del Sur.

This was supposed to be the absolute climax of our trip and it was an absolute nightmare. The pool was unusable (the owner did offer to have it “cleaned” our last afternoon there even though I’d sent him pictures where chemicals and time were clearly needed). Nicaragua is blessed with an almost constant wind thanks to Lake Nicaragua. Many houses are shrewdly built to take advantage of the natural ventilation possibilities. The roof eaves at Casa Pablo were short-sightedly dropped down to cover the ventilation holes throughout the house, including those facing the predominant wind direction. This means you won’t get the natural cooling effect as described above. If you have power issues approaching our massive ones, you will be soaking in sweat at night.

UPDATE: The owner wrote me to say I was lying about the generator. He said Gilberto told him he had hooked it up for us. He told me he had seen the above videos (presumably tipped off when I submitted a review) and he still insisted I was lying. Why would I write to him our second full day of our stay and complain if the generator was going and all was well? Why is there no power in the above videos? Why isn’t there the loud sound generators make in the video?

The listing still up on Airbnb as of this writing.

Superhost and Fellow Airbnb User Throws in the Towel

I was one of Airbnb’s greatest fans. I loved the service. I was both a Superhost and a regular traveler. I could not believe it when a last minute cancellation caused Airbnb to leave me stranded with my young children in a foreign city without any assistance. First, the case manager was unable to make outgoing calls. So, all she did was periodically send emails apologizing for all the trouble. In the meantime, I was on my own with my children waiting for an alternate reservation. It was like living through a bad dream all day long. Finally, I had to find my own hotel and paid a lot more than I was planning for a last minute reservation.

Airbnb will not do anything for you if you get into trouble with finding accommodation. All they do, at best, is reimburse you. By that point it’s too late to do anything. What you need is accommodation. They truly do not care about you or anyone else. Considering the fees they charge for bookings, they are pocketing all of the money and doing very little for those fees. I would not have believed it until it happened to me. As a result, I took my listing off Airbnb. There is no way I was going to take a chance that someone would trash my place. Now I knew Airbnb would do nothing to compensate me if something went wrong. I will not be fooled twice. I was stranded and they did not even help me get a hotel room. If someone trashed my place, I knew I would be on my own as well. This company cannot possibly last because eventually, something horrible will happen to all Airbnb users.

Airbnb Slumlord and Customer Service Torture me

I planned a trip to New York from Feb 23rd until May 31st. From the day I arrived the place was filthy. I brought my own linens and a shower curtain out of fear. Then mice and cockroaches started running through the place. We came home to a mouse just sitting on my son’s pillow. The fresh paint was a patch job and already caused mold to form. The heat didn’t work for three days. When it finally was turned on, the radiator was leaking and so loud you couldn’t even hear a person speak. The steam ruined the entire room, and the water caused the flooring to rot. My son must sleep in that room and the water shot all over our stuff.

I have now had to wait three different times for a repairman to come. This has messed up most of my days and the issue is still not fixed. A couple weeks after arriving, the hot water started turning off. I have had the city health department out here numerous times. Still, you never know when you can shower. For a month I tried to contact Airbnb; they always say a supervisor will call back. This of course never happens. I even sent pictures and explained about the mice. Still, there was no answer. I finally decided to do my own research. It was not hard to find who owned the building… the same guy who is our host. I Googled his name and his family is listed on the NYC worst landlord list. His mother was actually sued in court over being a slumlord.

Does Airbnb have no responsibility to at least investigate the product they are selling? They make money off me as well as the landlord, so does only the landlord deserve protection? I am now in fear of these people as Airbnb has notified them of my complaints. I wake up and, no hot water. He can now torture me if he wants. I just want out for my own safety. I feel there needs to be more responsibility or laws for Airbnb as they are making a fortune and do not have to comply with rules we apply to hotel owners. My entire trip has been destroyed.

In regards to Airbnb customer service, I finally have just been continually calling as I have not only been to the hospital because the property made me sick, but now I have an eye infection from the filth. They still refuse to help. I have been through ten case workers in two days. Most of them lack knowledge or even decency. If I sue I will request all taped calls as most have admitted to the terrible conditions and that they themselves would not stay here. I even will have a tape of one of the agents who forgot to put me on hold, and was discussing me with the supervisor, who refused to get on the phone. They had a nice conversation about how their break was more important and were laughing about me. I have sent videos, pictures, hospital notes, health department notices, all the text messages between the host and myself, and even the articles on the host’s reputation, and they are still giving me the runaround. I need to get out but they have all my money. Anyone that can help, please give me some suggestions.

Airbnb can Block your Account Whenever it Chooses

On April 24th, 2017, I was sharing a message with a host to book a reservation for Japan. The host had my reservation from April 25-29. However, Airbnb did not allow me to make my reservation for some reason, then blocked my ID so that I could not log in. I was embarrassed to call customer service directly, and I did not receive the answer to a question that I posted on Twitter and through several emails over two days (see picture). There is no obligation to respond to the deletion of my Airbnb account or even the prevention of deletion under the terms and conditions. The company still has my passport image, my name, phone number, and my credit card number. I am extremely unhappy and afraid of revealing personal information. I am still not going to use the company and I will not be able to hear their answer. It is irresponsible to say that there is no obligation to notify someone without informing him of the reason for deleting his account. It looks like Airbnb has no legal responsibility.

Host Canceled One Week Before Halloween Trip

We booked our vacation to New Orleans four months in advance through Airbnb. It was for Halloween, the second busiest time of the year after Mardi Gras. About two weeks before our flight and week-long vacation, I contacted the host about our arrival, getting the keys, etc. He never responded. His profile had been altered and he had no contact number. I did finally find his old number from an archived email and texted him. He said he was no longer a host for Airbnb and now lived in Texas. He claimed his profile had been taken down, but it was still up. Neither the host nor Airbnb had informed me of this. So, here my wife and I were, without accommodation, and almost all the hotels were booked up… a very stressful place to be right before your supposedly relaxing vacation.

Apparently, Airbnb hosts can just cancel on a whim with no financial consequences to them, but if you as a guest cancel, your penalties may vary from 50%-100% of your deposit depending on the terms to which you agreed. When I contacted Airbnb customer service, their response was apathetic and unhelpful; they just sent me about five links to other Airbnb properties that I could spend the better part of the next week frantically trying to contact on my own. What would guarantee any of these hosts from also canceling? Their response was that Airbnb is just a “Third Party Community Platform” that “brings people together” and they’re not responsible. I responded that this is the equivalent of me buying my plane ticket on Expedia, the airline not honoring my purchase, and Expedia simply denying responsibility since they “are just a third party that brings people together.” It’s pathetic.

In any case, I informed Airbnb that this is an appalling way to run a business. This would be the first and last time I would ever use their service and would be shutting my profile down. They never responded. Luckily, I was able to book a motel on Booking.com where our reservation would be Guaranteed. Truth be told, I never saw any big difference in price between Airbnb and their traditional hotel competition (at least not in NOLA).

Remember: your Airbnb host can cancel on you at any time for any reason. Planning your Honeymoon to Paris three months in advance at peak season? Watch out. I know lots of people have had great experiences with Airbnb, but the real test of a great company is how they handle problems and stand behind their customers, not when things go smoothly (which has nothing to do with Airbnb anyway – the host turned out to be good). So essentially, they take your money in service fees, but if things go wrong in any way, you’re on your own.

Chilean ID isn’t Enough to use Airbnb in Chile?

I have used Airbnb many times before, but now I am surprised to see that they have asked for ID verification. After supplying images of both my government ID and Chilean driver’s license, the site said that these types of documents are not valid in their system… after they specifically asked for them. I am residing in Chile and looking for an Airbnb rental in Chile. Why wouldn’t they accept a Chilean ID? This brings me into a neverending loop where I cannot book anything, making Airbnb in Chile unfeasible. I might as well permanently stop using Airbnb, since I can’t reserve anything. Add to that, there’s no real way of contacting anybody to get this fixed. What a slap to the face for customers.

Physically Attacked by Host, Still Waiting for Airbnb Response

After complaining to my host that the swimming pool, described as “private” in the listing, was being used by their grown children and their friends (five kids between the age of 10 and 20 throwing a ball back-and-forth in a ten-meter  long pool is not exactly my definition of “private”), our host screamed at us to “get the f*** out of there” and ended up hitting my husband in the throat. We had to call the cops to be able to get out of there as the owner was blocking our car.

Airbnb’s reaction? I’m still waiting. It’s been three weeks. I had paid in advance for three nights, and spent only one there. I think it’s fair to ask to be reimbursed considering that we were forcibly kicked out, but apparently Airbnb considers it a sound business practice for hosts to pocket money in advance and then kick people out. Their lack of a reaction suggests so at least. In contrast: our host asked us for money, but did not have any grounds to do so. This complain was managed within days. So… what’s more important to Airbnb, people’s safety or money?

Airbnb Tilghman Island – Where Guests Are Housemaids

Welcome to your Airbnb rental! Your host knows you love doing housework. That’s why he didn’t bother to have the place cleaned before your arrival. I hope you like dirt and grass clippings all over the floors, food dropped on the stairs, globs of toothpaste in the bathroom sink, dishes in the kitchen sink, unmade beds, and wet towels in the washer. That was the experience we wound up with when we chose to rent an Airbnb property for a weekend getaway on April 22 -23, 2017. The rental fee was $554 for the two nights, which included $395 for the property, plus (laughably) a $100 cleaning fee and a $59 service charge. The check-in time was at 3:00 pm, but when we arrived, we found the place was left unlocked by the previous tenants and we actually entered and saw it between 1:30 and 2:00 PM.

I immediately called the owner to complain, but naturally, he didn’t pick up. I left a voice mail message describing the condition of the house and stating that we did not want to stay there under those conditions and requested a full refund. The owner didn’t respond, so I followed up with a text message at 3:30 PM. Hearing nothing, we located and rented a hotel room (another $143 apiece) for the night. Finally, just before 6:00 PM, the owner sent a text message with an apology but no solution to the problem. When I told him we were staying elsewhere and asked about the refund, he replied that he couldn’t process a refund without proof, so I sent several photos I’d taken at the house documenting the conditions (see attached). He responded saying the previous tenant denied having left the house as I described it. When I pointed out that I had the photos as proof and a picture of the note they left to the “housekeeper” as evidence that they fully expected that the house to be cleaned upon their departure, he texted back that he would come to see the place the next day to verify my story.

The next day, we waited for the owner to get back to us throughout the day but heard nothing from him. Finally, around 5:00 PM, we decided to cut our trip short and return home a day early. Around 8:00 PM that night, I finally texted him myself to ask if he’d visited the house to verify the conditions I described. Surprise – he had not. A day later, he sent a message stating that he would refund $400, which he characterized as “very fair given the facts. I would have gladly worked with you to make this right on the day of your arrival.” Since he didn’t even respond until 6:00 PM on Saturday night, it’s safe to say there was no way he was going to “make it right” on the day of our arrival, especially since he lives in another state at least a 2.5-hour drive away from the property. Given that this dispute stems from the place not being clean, it’s somewhat amusing (but nevertheless galling) that the refund he offered is essentially the amount of the two-night rental cost less the “cleaning fee” and “service charge”. My advice to potential customers: do not rent from Airbnb. There’s no third party resolution support if anything goes wrong (hence my writing on this website). This is my first and last rental through Airbnb.

Toronto Host Gives us Runaround for Six Hours

We asked for an early check in and our host said it would be fine at least three days before check in. As we were driving she asked for an estimate as to what time we’d arrive because her previous guests asked for a late check out. We arrived about an hour before check in to drop our luggage and leave. That’s when we heard a key enter the lock to the outer door and a man walked in, said “sorry,” and disappeared. We were scared as he opened the door with a key and then was gone when we went out to ask him who he was. So we immediately left and called Airbnb to say we were uncomfortable and wanted to leave with our money back. They said they had to speak with the host and figure out the whole story. At that point we had been driving around for about an hour in another country with all of our stuff in the car, having nowhere to go. They called back saying they were having trouble getting in touch with her and that we should try to go grab something to eat. As we’re eating (now about two hours after the incident) the customer service representative called saying that it was “probably” just the cleaning guy and that we shouldn’t worry and to just go back to the place. No one could tell us definitively that it was a cleaning guy, but it probably was. For all we knew it could’ve been the previous guest who still had a copy of the key and could come in at any time during our three-day stay.

After being hung up on twice and being on hold for about two hours they also said they couldn’t give us a refund; only the host could. We tried to get in touch with her and she said to “go ahead and cancel” to which I replied: “Will we get our money back?” She didn’t reply for another five hours. Airbnb refused to help us, saying they needed to protect their host and they couldn’t take her money as it couldn’t be proven we were in any immediate danger. No one cared that we were not safe and felt uncomfortable and had to barricade the door with the couch just to feel safe; they had to protect their host. To top it all off, after we returned home the host sent an email requesting money saying we checked in early and wasted her time because she was on the phone with Airbnb for 39 minutes. She wasted the entire first day of our vacation and she wants to be compensated. Absolutely the worst customer service I have ever dealt with.

Airbnb Hosts Can Cancel Reservations Without Cause

We made reservations with a host in Amsterdam in September 2016, but our host cancelled our reservations in April 2017 without any reason other than Airbnb’s Amsterdam agreement to limit the number of nights hosts can rent out their apartments to 60 days per calendar year. Why would you make reservations ten months in advance, purchase airline tickets and foreign currency with no confirmed lodging in place? That is the question we’re asking Airbnb to answer for us. If any host can cancel your reservations, why even reserve with Airbnb?

Now we are out $2600 for airline tickets because we refuse to settle for lesser accommodations. The ones we booked were listed by a “super host”. A super host listing doesn’t mean anything to us because we no longer trust the Airbnb business model or platform to uphold a confirmed reservation. This was our first time booking through Airbnb and we can honestly say that we will never trust Airbnb or any similar entity that rent out vacation properties in this manner. I’m looking to join a class-action lawsuit with other Airbnb guests that have been inconvenienced for the convenience of an Airbnb host. This practice is not fair or ethical by any means.