My situation began when I was planning a 25th Anniversary trip to Italy and booked a place on Airbnb many months in advance. I saw the strict cancellation policy but the place looked so cute and private that I didn’t want to take a chance of losing it; the ad stated that this place was usually booked far in advance. I emailed the host to ask how close to the beach it was. He replied it was a 25-minute hike downhill. This was acceptable to me, but when I went back to the page to book, the price had gone up by $25. I questioned this but he said many people had inquired for the dates I wanted so the price went up accordingly. That was my first red flag and I should have stopped right then… but I didn’t. I booked it.
The list of house rules was excruciatingly long with a long explanation of it being some sort of backpacking club in the past but to ignore the reviews about that because now he was only licensed to rent privately. So I did ignore the part about backpackers needing an additional “club membership” that had to be paid in cash when we arrived. I assumed this was in the past, like the rules read. It also said it was a 15-minute hike uphill to reach the property and so it was not for mobile disability renters. I am not disabled and I do run quite a bit so I felt we could handle a 15-minute hike up the mountain after the bus took us the rest of the way.
When we arrived that day, we took the bus up and when we got to the point where the hike started, it was extremely steep. After 15 minutes, I began to wonder where this place was. We kept at this rugged terrain for a bit. Finally, after about 25 minutes, I called the host because the trail split and I did not know which way to go. He kept saying to follow the trail and when I asked which way he insisted there was only one trail. He finally said he could see me and to look up. I saw him way up there. So we figured out which way to go but it was obvious this was more than a 15-minute hike. My knee was starting to hurt because I had been running a few days before and somewhat overused it. Nothing major.
We finally made it to the top and I was so disappointed. This place was tiny and dirty. The tile was cracked everywhere and he had handwritten us a map that showed long hiking distances back down to the beach. He also asked for payment for the club membership. I explained that I thought that was for the backpacking club in the past and that we were private renters. He said, “I sent you the rules.” I thought that was my misunderstanding but I didn’t have the cash on me. He left and I started to take a shower. This is in Italy in the Cinque Terre. There was no shower curtain so water sprayed all over the tiny bathroom. After two minutes, it turned ice cold.
I was really upset by now but there was no way I could leave because I couldn’t make it back down that mountain in the dark. I headed up to the loft to go to bed. Once settled, a mouse ran across the conduit. I freaked out. I tried to catch it on video but only got a bad quality blur because I was so shaken and the mouse was so fast. It ran around the room four times. That was the final straw.
When we got up in the morning we took the trek back down the mountain, which was much longer than he said. We did not find a beach. We found a marina. I messaged him that we would not be staying the next night and why. He denied the problems with the house. He said it was a problem with me because my husband had mentioned my knee was bothering me after the climb. He denied there was a mouse. He said the hot water was normal and that all they have in the area is a marina, which is a beach to them. He said if I wanted a refund, the steps on Airbnb were to start with cancelling my reservation.
Now, my phone did not work well in Italy at all so I could not log onto my account at that point. I should have contacted Airbnb right then and there but my number one priority was finding new lodgings before my phone quit working again. So I did. I then did what he said, which was to request a refund. I immediately got a notice that it was denied. My phone was out at that point and I did not try to contact him again until I returned home and could look at the listing in full to see where the communication went wrong. I realized that Airbnb said I should have contacted them immediately, which I had not done. I tried to leave feedback, and realized that I could not do so even though I had stayed one night.
I contacted the host again. He still denied a mouse was there but said he would reimburse me $20 out of the $232 that I paid out of the goodness of his heart. I saw in my account that he had sent me money but it didn’t show up on my credit card. I did not see any way to reach Airbnb or to claim this tiny refund. I wanted to give this story to them but can not seem to find any way to contact them at all. It was very frustrating. I went back to his listing and he has five-star reviews. I find that hard to believe. He must be pulling this “cancel your reservation” scam a lot. I had great stays at all the other places we stayed with Airbnb but this one bad experience is enough to keep me from ever using them again. I made some mistakes but this host definitely has some experience doing this to others; he knows he owes me. I told him to set some traps and he would definitely catch a mouse but he refused and said I was lying. I will chalk this up as a lesson learned and hopefully enough people will read this site and stay away from Airbnb.