Faulty Electrical Appliance Nearly Caused a Fire

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We returned from a weeks trip to Trulli Margherita, a traditional Puglian villa located in Gorgofreddo, Puglia, Italy. We experienced a number of complaints and inconveniences, as well as one distressing, near fatal electrical fault, that unfortunately put a dampener on the rest of our stay.

Although Airbnb and the host were quick to handle most of the complaints we were certainly not happy with how our main complaint was handled. To summarise our complaints briefly:

  • The electrical plug-in fan caught fire, causing a plastic smelling smoke to fill the bedroom in which our 6-month old baby was sleeping.
  • There was no air-conditioning in the bedrooms.
  • ‘Trulli shaped’ wood-fired oven locked away, not for guest use.
  • Bedside lamps to the second bedroom were not working on arrival, maintenance had to be called to replace them.
  • The house bathroom shower valve broke, maintenance called again.
  • Maintenance again called to provide more wine glasses

Our main complaint about this listing would be about an electrical plug-in fan provided in one of the bedrooms. To our horror, it caught fire and filled the room with plastic-smelling smoke. Our 6-month baby was sleeping in this room, so you can understand our distress at having to rush him to A&E to check he was okay. Please note we were sat outside in the courtyard area, checking on him at regular intervals as well as keeping an eye on him via video monitor.

After a few hours in the hospital, trying to convey the issue with a major language barrier, he thankfully checked out okay, but on doctor’s orders we had to follow up with another hospital appointment the next day and a further GP’s appointment again once we were home to be certain. This added incredible stress and anxiety to us for the rest of the holiday.

The host, although quick to respond and apologise for the incident, only offered a mere 10% refund as an apology (a sum we would have expected for the misleading description about the wood-fired oven alone), and no explanation as to whether the appliance had been checked over beforehand. We felt rather insulted at this small offer and upset the matter had not been taken more seriously. If we hadn’t checked on our baby at that time, the situation could have been a lot worse, even fatal.

Please note there were no fire alarms in the property that would have alerted us to this incident. We were further insulted during a phone call with the host where they stated the 10% refund from the owner was offered so we didn’t write a negative review – a rather tactless remark to make about their own self interests, in light of the serious nature of the incident.

To add insult to injury, during further discussions with the host after we arrived home, they claimed the fan was only for decorative use, and that we shouldn’t have been using it in the first place. This was never stated in writing or conveyed verbally during check in. If this were the case, why would they place a functioning fan in a bedroom if it were not for use in the first place? Especially a room with no air-conditioning? Very misleading if true, but we feel they are now only saying this to relieve themselves of responsibility and to avoid a case of negligence in terms of electrical safety.

Our next complaint would be about the ‘Trulli shaped’ wood-fired oven that is listed in the description of the property. On arriving at the property, we noticed it was actually locked away. We enquired with the host about this and they apologised about the misleading description and offered for the owner to come around and light it. Although a kind gesture, this was inconvenient and inflexible for us – we did not particularly want to ‘book’ in a time with the owner.

Overall it was disappointing, as the amenities and features of the property were some of the reasons why we booked it in the first place. Air conditioning is listed as an amenity; however, it is only offered in living spaces, not bedrooms. Again, a rather misleading description of the property. We had a few restless nights’ sleep due to the heat as a result.

The other maintenance issues, although not serious in nature, were just more inconveniences to us during our stay. We certainly got to know the maintenance man very well. Aside from our complaints and credit where credit is due, the Trulli itself is very charming and cosy – maybe a little basic – but perfect for a family getaway.

The real seller, however, is the spacious external, covered seating area and poolside. It was a shame the wood-fired oven was not for use, as we were looking forward to making pizzas out there. Other than that, the area was very good for evening dinners and sunny days lazing around the pool, which is exactly what we were after.

The area itself is a bit off the beaten track (hire car a must), but this rural setting was exactly what we were after. Within walking distance there is a well stocked ‘corner-shop’ as well as a charming pizzeria. Alberobello and Castellana Grotte (amazing caves) are both a 10- to 15-minute drive and well worth a visit. Monopoli and the surrounding beaches around 20-25 minutes and again worth seeing.

Unfortunately as a conclusion, I cannot recommend this listing to anyone, not until the owners, the host or Airbnb confirm there has been some sort of electrical safety check to assure users it is safe to stay in. They also need to go back and accurately re-write the listing description about he wood-fired oven and air-conditioning. A real shame, as otherwise it would have been a good stay.

Posted in Airbnb Guest Stories and tagged , , , , , .

3 Comments

  1. This is a whiny one for sure. AC is not standard anywhere in Italy, and that is clearly an antique appliance. I would definitely book a hotel next time. I laughed at “avoid a case of negligence in terms of electrical safety.” Any authorities you would contact about this would also laugh. Even major cities in Italy have issues with their ad-hoc electrical grids… this is totally normal in Italy, especially the south.

  2. Unfortunately, this isn’t an issue with Airbnb, it’s an issue with vacation rentals in Italy. I’ve rented homes in Italy for 25 years through all of the major listing sites and they all have had maintenance issues like this.

    If you don’t see air conditioning listed in the description, it doesn’t have it, and if you do see air conditioning in the description, it will likely be a marginally effective portable unit. On the off-chance it has a mini-split system, it will be only in a specific room.

    I can’t believe you took your baby to the hospital for the amount of smoke that could’ve been made by that burned cord? What sheltered lives you must have lived.

  3. Where do we even start with this? How about Life Happens. If you want the magical carpet experience, make sure you book a two year old house, not a villa in one the oldest communities in civilization. Air conditioning is not a standard feature of many villas and you needed to ask in advance. Clearly you are not an experienced traveler.

    10% off for delay with wine glasses is a pretty good deal. Your entitlement is hilarious. And I bet you don’t even see it in your writing.

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