I was going to Houston for a wedding. Because the official wedding hotel was the uber fancy St. Regis, I figured I would book an Airbnb across the street instead to save some money. What a mistake that was…
There were bad omens from the start. Just checking in required me to get the keys from the front desk of a building that did not actually allow Airbnb hosting, so I had to pretend to be a friend staying the weekend. The front desk seemed to have all sorts of problems copying the electronic key fob for me to use for the weekend, so it took thirty minutes just to get the keys. It also turned out the building was massive with hallways that sprawled for what seemed like a mile (everything really is bigger in Texas), so just finding the right apartment was a challenge. I briefly pondered how hard this would be later that night coming back after a few glasses of wine and decided I better try and keep it together.
Finally stepping inside, the apartment was nice enough, but the delay meant I was running late for the rehearsal dinner. What a lovely dinner it was; the food, wine, and atmosphere were splendid. After a great night, the group decided to cap it off at the St. Regis bar. I met a girl. No, she was not a prostitute (as my friends speculated), but she did make things pretty easy for me. She eventually asked if I had a room in the hotel. I couldn’t believe my luck, but had to be honest and said: “No, but I do have an Airbnb just across the street!” She went home. I guess I can’t blame that on Airbnb, but it was a painful reminder of how your cheapness can come back around to bite you.
After that, I decided it was probably time to call it a night. And so I began my two-minute journey across the street to my place, trying to remember again where in the labyrinth of a building I was actually staying. I thought to myself how ridiculous it would have been had I brought the girl back and we couldn’t find it. It immediately started to rain. Hard. Thank God I was only across the street, because I was in my suit. After the two-minute trek, I hit the key fob against the sensor. Nothing. I tried again – nothing. One more time. I start to panic. The front door staff was long gone. Clearly the problems they had activating my key fob were worse that I thought. I called the emergency number. I reached someone on the phone who explained they could not send anyone to help me until the following morning. I asked what the point of the “emergency” number was then.
I called my host. She explained she couldn’t help me because she wasn’t in Texas, and with the staff gone there was nothing she could do. I called Airbnb to see if they could find me a place. The estimated wait was over 45 minutes. I stayed as long as I could, but my phone’s battery wouldn’t have lasted that long. It was raining, I was in my suit, and it was almost 2:00 AM. I had nowhere to stay, with all my luggage in a room in a building I couldn’t access. I considered waiting around until someone walked in or out for me to follow, but realized that would only get me to the apartment door which I still would not be able to open.
Remembering that someone said the St. Regis was booked, I started to look for other hotels on my iPhone. 17% battery. It was about to go. Then it was gone. I had no other choice but to run back to the St. Regis, hoping people were still at the bar. It was empty. I explained my situation to the sympathetic people at the front desk. Fortunately there was, contrary to belief, still a room available. The kind folks gave me the wedding rate, which at that point seemed beyond worth it. They also gave me an iPhone charger. I walked into my beautiful hotel room and instantly realized why hotels are far superior: when you travel, whether you like it or not, you are not a resident but a customer. Customers frequently require customer service, which Airbnb just does not offer.