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.

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.

Ripped off by Guest and Airbnb’s Horrible Customer Service

The guests checked in at 3:00 PM. At 8:40 PM they sent me a text complaining about seeing a cockroach in a 70-year-old beach house in Hawaii. I did not see it until 10:00 PM, so I planned to respond in the morning. I woke up at 5:20 AM to find an email from Airbnb stating I had until 5:40 AM to respond. I wrote them back immediately and at 5:50 AM I received another email saying the guest had been refunded completely for their booking: $3,600.

I disputed it and contacted Airbnb immediately. After a day of them ‘investigating’ it and getting staged photos from the guests showing the house was not clean I was sent an email with a link to their refund policy. Nothing. These guests and Airbnb just ripped me off. I will never use them again. They do not look after the host of a property. Stay away from Airbnb.

Psycho Airbnb Host Threatens Guest, Demands Cash

Unfortunately, my experience at Liz’s place has to be added to the list of Airbnb horror stories. First of all, her profile photo was fake, and not a picture of her. That should have been my first warning sign when I checked in. I arrived at her apartment to find it in a state of disrepair. The doorknob to my bedroom was missing; she said a previous Airbnb guest had broken it (scary sign number two). The linens and bed were soiled, and had not been washed from a previous guest’s use. The bedroom was covered with dust. When I tried to shower my first evening in the apartment, the loose glass shower door fell to the floor, nearly shattering and injuring me. Because of the broken shower, I was unable to bathe or shower for the duration of my stay. During the course of my stay, Liz began asking me for cash for various things in her apartment she said were broken (that were already broken when I arrived). One night, she arrived at the apartment drunk at about 2:00 AM, waking me and behaving in a threatening and scary manner. I promptly checked into a hotel the next morning. On top of this, every review I have attempted to write about this experience has been deleted entirely and censored by Airbnb, so that other guests cannot be warned.

Can’t Contact Airbnb About My Extenuating Circumstances

I had my first Airbnb trip planned for this week. I was very excited about the trip, but Sunday evening I had a head injury that required ten stitches. Thus, I couldn’t travel this week. I contacted my host and she has been wonderful, however, Airbnb will charge her a fee if I don’t report my “extenuating circumstances” directly to them. According to the policy on their website, I am eligible to cancel my trip and get a full refund. The problem is that they don’t tell me how to contact them with documentation. When I search “contact Airbnb” I’m routed to their list of help questions. Of course, the answers to these questions don’t help. I have responded to their help page feedback, but I’m not getting any answers.

I finally did a Google search and found the Airbnb phone number on Airbnb Hell – thank you for that. I called and talked to a representative who was very nice, but he had to put me on hold twice to get the answers to my questions (improper training). He told me to email my documentation, but I said the email isn’t on the site so I needed to know the email address… he actually had to put me on hold for this. He came back and said that he would have to email me and that I could answer the email and attach my documentation. He did send the email right away (from response@airbnb.com). If this does not resolve the problem, I’ll be back on this site to write a follow-up.

Expected to Clean a Guest’s Blood After Stay

I hosted a mother and daughter at my apartment in Sydney February 17th-20th, 2017 for the entire home. I returned to the apartment upon check out and went to change the bed as is my usual practice after guests. I noticed my sheets were missing. After twenty minutes of searching I found them scrunched up at the bottom of my laundry basket under my washing. I pulled them out to find them splattered with blood. I also found my quilt underlay had been turned over by the guests and it also had blood on it. I opened a Host Guarantee claim for the damage. The guest admitted via Airbnb messages that the damage was done by the mother and they didn’t think they had to clean it, something I still find remarkable. I told Airbnb I refused to clean it because I am not touching someone’s blood as it’s unhygienic and unsafe. They refused to compensate me for the damage as they told me I had to attempt to clean it to show that it had been permanently damaged. Unbelievable!

Airbnb “Zen Haven” is Anything But Relaxing

I stayed at a place called “Zen Haven” in Dallas. The night before my scheduled check out the host and an unidentified male forcibly tried to enter my unit with no notification. I heard the keypad being pressed, the door knob being turned and banging on the door. I ran to the door and opened it to find a very hostile and angry woman who asked me who I was. I told her that I was the Airbnb tenant. She said she was the owner and told me I should have been left already. She instructed me to get my belongs (that’s a nicer way of saying it) and leave her home immediately. I am not sure who the male was with her but he was also peering at me in a way that made me feel uneasy. I told her twice that I had the property for one more day and she said “NO” and told me to “Get out now!”

She proceeded to try to aggressively evict me for no reason other than her mistaken memory of my check out date. She was cursing and clearly agitated and I felt threatened for my safety. She stated they would both “wait right here” until I packed and got out. I apologized if I had made a mistake, gathered my things as fast as I could and stopped to double check my itinerary. It turns out the owner was in fact wrong. I did indeed have the unit until the next day just as I had stated. I went out to look for them and they were nowhere to be found.

I texted the host and there was no response after two texts and three phone calls. The owner still has not apologized or responded to my texts or phone calls and instead wrote lies about my character in reports to the Airbnb resolution center. Airbnb’s “safety center” left me hanging too; I could not get anyone one the phone. What she did is in fact illegal, not to mention that we are well beyond the ages for bullying age. In addition, upon entry I found a disgusting clogged shower drain. I had never seen anything like it in my life. I used disposable gloves to remove it and took a photo. I did text the host to just to let her know and she did not seem to believe me. Although Airbnb has apologized they do not provide customer service where it counts, in the form of some monetary compensation. They just give you a bunch of fake empathy.

Cockroaches, Ants, and Construction Disruption in Airlie Beach

There were cockroaches, ants in the bed, and no privacy. We were even kicked out of our room for construction work. We booked a four-night stay at a place in Airlie Beach that was advertised as a ‘penthouse apartment’. The listing can be viewed here. This is possibly one of the most misrepresented listings I have stayed at through Airbnb. Advertising this as a penthouse is like advertising Adolf Hitler as a peacekeeper. It was dirtier than a Rawalpindi market, and the host, Leah, was as helpful as fly screens on a submarine. Jokes aside, here is the story.

The ‘King Bedroom’ was separated (used loosely) from a storage room by a tall cabinet and a piece of material draped over it, with a car’s sun visor leaning against it. This offered little-to-no privacy from the adjoining storage hall. The glass doors to the room had gaps between the walls, letting sound and light easily pass through. The sliding door to the balcony was old and unsturdy. It had a gap where, even if shut properly all the way, wind could come through and made sleeping at night impossible.

There were cockroaches. We saw several crawling around during our stay: two in the room (see pictures), and one in the laundry/bathroom area. There were also ants in the bed and on the walls. As we walked into the room at check-in, the building manager picked up a pinchful of ants from the floor. In the middle of the second afternoon of our stay, the building manager asked us to leave the room so that a wooden board (making up part of the wall of the room) could be patched up and fixed. We were trying to take a nap because of the lack of sleep we had on the first night.

By the second night, we’d had enough. It was approximately 8:00 PM when we looked for an alternative place for accommodation. As it was a Friday night, there was nothing available close by or within our price range ($100-$150/ night). We reluctantly spent the second night there and agreed to cancel the stay the next day, forfeiting the second half of the stay that was booked and paid for. Upon cancellation, I reached out to the host to try and request a refund for the total amount paid. We had not stayed for the last two nights, and the first two were atrocious. I did not think it unreasonable. I sent through photos of the uncleanliness and explained the poor experience we had. She sent back an animated response, wrought with spelling errors and incomprehensible sentence structure. I could barely understand the bulk of it.

I managed to deduce that she had denied the request, so I pushed on to Airbnb’s Resolution Centre. After several email exchanges, the case manager concluded that as per the terms and conditions, 24 hours was the window for cancellation and receipt of a refund. He offered a credit of 49 AUD as compensation towards my next stay. I responded by saying I would not be using Airbnb again to redeem this credit, so it is useless. I explained 24 hours to request a cancellation was an unreasonable part of the terms and conditions, as the bulk of the issues were encountered after this window. I referred to the ‘extenuating circumstances’ clause, highlighting the exception to their policy of ‘severe property damage or unforeseen maintenance issues’. He ignored this. He thanked me for my time in corresponding and my understanding in the matter.

Needless to say, I couldn’t understand a single shred of logic observed by this case manager. I initiated a chargeback through my bank for the $400 charge to my credit card. The outcome is pending. I have resubmitted a formal dispute with Airbnb. The result is pending. I have also investigated using the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) regulatory body to lodge a dispute. This will only take place if my bank is unsuccessful in recovering the charge. I’d like to note that this is not about the money, so much as the principle. Even if my bank is successful, I would like to warn users and non-users of Airbnb’s unreasonable customer service policies and poor support, as well as this host’s lack of consideration and diplomacy with respect to her guests. Stay here at your own peril.

In Airbnb Hell with my Cat for the Past Five Days

My Airbnb hell started when I tried to book a room for two weeks in the Fort Lauderdale/Miami area on April 19. I requested a booking for a room that showed availability for my dates:

Hello,

My kitty, Cookie, and I will be flying into Fort Lauderdale tomorrow at 3:30 PM, so we hope to get to your house about 4:30. I look forward to meeting you then! Kim.

P.S. Cookie is well housebroken and declawed.

I sent this last Wednesday at 5:14 PM only to receive the following response:

Hello Kim,

Sorry for the inconvenience but those days are not available. Thank you.

I then tried to book a different place in Miami that showed “pets allowed” only to receive the following email from the hostess, Andrea, the next day as I was landing at Fort Lauderdale Airport:

Hi Andrea,

Do you have room for me and my cat, Cookie, for one week, April 20-27? We are flying into Fort Lauderdale from Denver tomorrow, arriving 3:25 PM. Cookie is extremely polite; she goes only in her box or outdoors, and she does not scratch. We hope to meet you tomorrow. I am a 64-year-old nonsmoker and nondrinker with a live and let live attitude moving to Portugal. Please advise.

Thanks,

Kim

Last Wednesday at 7:53 PM:

Hello Kim,

Thank you for your inquiry. The room is not available on April 20th, only starting April 21-27. What kind of arrangements do you have for your cat? Where will she/he sleep, eat, poop etc? I already have cats living here.

Last Thursday at 12:33 AM my request expired because Andrea didn’t respond within 24 hours. Airbnb recommended finding a new listing. Now the cheapest hotel was a Red Carpet Inn for $48 through Priceline so I stayed there even though my budget was for $21 per night . It got worse. The following morning I went to book a new listing only to be locked out of the Airbnb website; when I tried to book a new listing, it asked me to verify my bank account by entering two small deposit amounts. So I entered $0.50 and $0.75, thinking I was supposed to tell them two amounts to deposit and then verify they were deposited in my bank account. The message said “FAILED – TRY AGAIN,” so I entered two different amounts, and again “FAILED TO VERIFY BANK ACCOUNT.”

Now I was locked out of Airbnb because it then said to upload my bank statement. When I tried to do so, it would not accept the upload. I went on the site to find a phone number for help; there was none. Nor does the “Help Center” offer any solution or help for my problem. It doesn’t even describe it. I Googled “phone number for Airbnb” and a site called gethuman.com gave me a number which I called. After a long wait on hold, I finally got a person, but was disconnected while explaining the problem. I called back, again was put on hold, got a person, and then was disconnected again. Third try: same results.

I tried to email the Airbnb Help Desk:

Dear Airbnb,

I have been trying to book a room for the past 24 hours. When you requested deposit amounts on my bank account, I thought you meant I should give you two small amounts to deposit in my US bank account. I did, twice, and it said it failed. Then I went to get a bank statement to send you and saw you had already deposited two amounts into my bank account; I was supposed to see and enter them. I didn’t understand that from your website and now my bank statement won’t upload to Airbnb. I cannot book a room. Please let me book something. I have no place to stay tonight. I can’t call you… it’s maddening. Please use better English to communicate on your website. It is very unclear what you want users to do. See the attached photo of my US bank account showing the deposits.

Here is the response:

Unfortunately, your email has not reached Airbnb. To find an answer to your question, please visit our Help Center.

Thanks, Airbnb Customer Service 

I must now stay at the Red Carpet Inn for $79 because it is not possible to book anything through Airbnb. The next day, yesterday, April 22nd, my Airbnb account was working again, so I booked the first room I could find within my budget in Fort Lauderdale, asking the host if he would accept my kitty. He said it was okay so I went to his house and was relieved to find he would also rent the room to me through my entire stay, until May 7th. Meanwhile another lady booked the room through Airbnb’s ” Instant Book” for April 24th for one week, after he had committed to renting the room to me for two weeks.

Now Airbnb says I must leave, though I have no place to go and there are no rooms for rent for my dates. I told Airbnb: I am a 64-year-old woman you are trying to put out on the street with her cat with no place to go; I had already rented the room from the host, and I am not leaving. According to their rules, when the host agrees to honor the commitment he had made to me, Airbnb tells him they will charge him a penalty of $100 and issue a bad review and not allow him to book on Airbnb as a SuperHost if he cancels the Instant Booking with the lady who is due to arrive tomorrow.

It’s unconscionable. Airbnb is a nightmare, treating its customers – both guests and hosts – horribly and the public should be made aware.

Credit Card Verification – Security Check Process is a Failure

I’ve just read the post on April 18th on Airbnb Hell from the first time guest who had a nightmare with the verification process and needed to book a room. Specifically, he was asked to enter specific amounts from his credit card into boxes on his screen. When he was unable to do that (because it’s impossible to know what amounts to enter), he was asked to submit a credit card statement. Still, Airbnb requested more information until he gave up. I am going through the same experience. The difference is: I’m no first time user. I’ve been a host for two years with a dedicated townhouse that I use for short-term rentals on Airbnb all year round. I’ve been a guest for much longer. I have a single credit card that I’ve used for years, which I’ve used many times before to make Airbnb reservation. I used it to buy airline tickets within an hour before I tried to book accommodations through Airbnb on April 18th.

After submitting my credit card statement, which I did quite reluctantly, I received a message that Airbnb would get back to me within 24 hours about my reservation. They didn’t. I checked my credit card balance. I have a credit. In other words, there was no debt on the card, which has a large maximum. I’ve never defaulted it. I didn’t get a response yesterday so I called again. I asked the customer service representative to escalate it. She was nice and pleasant and said she would. I also replied to the email I received from the customer service representative I talked to the day before to let her know how badly Airbnb was managing the situation and that I wanted a resolution.

I just got off the phone with my third customer service representative in three days. She was able to get a supervisor on the line. He said he will try to resolve it for me and promised to call me back within two hours. He said that Airbnb has new security procedures in place that are being handled by a separate unit. He admitted that they aren’t working so well and other guests have been having the same problem. This security unit is somewhat isolated in that they will not deal directly with guests. I get the feeling that the customer service unit has little or no access to them as they held me hostage while determining if I am a risky guest. Meanwhile, I’m waiting. It’s certainly possible that the accommodations I tried to book (for 4/28-4/30) are no longer available and that other places may not be either as time is quickly passing and my trip approaches. Not only is this a problem for guests, but for hosts as well, as they are forced to wait and wait to see if a guest’s credit card is approved long after a booking request. The entire process is seriously deficient and needs to be modified by Airbnb. Needless to say, I’m quite disgusted and my confidence in Airbnb has plummeted.