I live in Atlanta and had guests coming in from Bangkok to visit, so I wanted to show them a good time. I took three days off work in the middle of the week, as weekends are almost always booked up, and grabbed a really great looking cabin up in the Smoky Mountains. It had a hot tub, wifi, and best of all an air conditioner because summers up here get really humid and sweaty. I also took note that the place had no cell service – which is common up in the mountains – but with internet it should have been okay.
We arrived in the afternoon and stopped to buy $150 worth of BBQ fixings and snacks. Nice little town: the country folks are fun to people watch. Then we made the trek in to the scary dirt roads of North Carolina and found our way to the cabin.
The first thing wrong was that there was a guy parked in the driveway in a beat up old truck. We got out and started unpacking (strangers don’t scare me) and when finished, we walked over and asked if we could assist him with something. The young man said he was the pool guy, and got out and put some chemicals in the pool. Then he turned on the BBQ to high, heated it up to 400 degrees, and scrubbed the grill.
Meanwhile I was inside the living room looking at the huge muddy mess on the floor. It looked like somebody with hiking boots just tracked mud back and forth all over the living room. On the wall there was a thermostat, and under it was quite a large pile of drywall dust on the table. The table was also muddy. What the hell went on in here?
Outside, the pool guy turned off the grill and put the cover immediately back on. A 400 degree grill… yeah. As he drove off I watched from the window as the cover began to melt. “What sort of brain dead…” went through my head as I went outside and pulled it off. Too late – he melted a couple holes in it.
I went back inside and pondered the meaning of a $100 cleaning fee while I was on my knees with paper towels cleaning mud off everything. There was no mop I could find. The sun was heating up the place pretty good so I turned on the AC. The temperature inside went from 75 to 80. What? Why was the AC making it hotter?
Meanwhile, my friends were watching wrestling with a TV sound bar that was broken, and we decided just to watch TV with the speakers while I sent a message to the owner on Airbnb that the AC was not working. Remember there was no cell service here, which the host pointed out on the listing.
“Oh yeah. We had some messages about that. Lightning struck it and it’s dead,” replied the host.
“You did not think to inform me of that?” I asked, feeling a little bit like this vacation was getting to be a bit more stress than I had hoped for.
“Property management called you and left a voicemail,” he said.
He called my cell phone, at a cabin where it is documented that cell services don’t exist. To this point we’ve only ever interacted over email or messages on Airbnb anyway. What the hell?
“Somebody will be there tomorrow to fix it,” he told me. I thought only of the fact that more strangers would be walking around tracking mud all over my rental, interrupting my attempt to show foreign guests how great our mountain forests are.
Now, I’m a fully functional independent adult. Some problems happen, I deal and move on. I’m upset that my trip to The Cabin In The Woods has turned into a stress issue, but I pour myself a drink, sit on the sofa, watch Mystery Science Theater, and calm down.
At 9:30 PM there was a knock at the door. I thought it was the host, or a manager who had come to see what was going on. It was very much not. A family of four Chinese tourists stood outside looking puzzled. Maybe they were just admiring the man in his underwear sweating inside the cabin watching loud television… but no. They had rented the cabin too. She pulled out her phone and showed me. Yup, correct dates and address. In fact it was the same form I had. We share. She looked horrified, so I got dressed.
Now we had a real problem. I messaged the host on Airbnb and got no reply. I did some math; they outnumbered me, I only lived three hours away, so I decided to be the gentleman and give them the cabin. We packed up and left.
Before I lost wifi (and all connectivity for the next two hours) I saw a message from the host that said “Are you sure?” and I reply “I am leaving. I want a full refund.” and started my long midnight drive back to Atlanta. The Chinese tourists were exceptionally gracious, nice, and we all had a laugh about how insane the situation was. I hope they enjoyed their sweltering humid dirt cabin.
Once I had cell reception I called Airbnb and got their less than helpful call center. He asked me to authenticate. I did so. Then he asked for my credit card number. Not kidding. They record their calls; this seriously happened. I swore at him and hung up. There is zero chance he needed that. I arrived home to an email stating “Thanks for reporting your issue, we’ll look in to it.”
I spent the last hour on the phone with them trying to explain what happened: that I never got to use the place, that I had to clean it, and it was misrepresented in the posting. They said they will look in to it.
I know these things take time so I’ll give them two business days before I call American Express and just report the charge as fraud. Let them fight it out with Airbnb. I feel like this whole disaster was just a series of unfortunate events. If phones had worked I might have been able to work out a new place before I spent hours in the car driving home.
The host for sure dropped the ball on informing me of their issues and double booking a rental (what an idiot). Airbnb just seemed disinterested and clinical about it but if I were a huge corporation I would be too. What they do in the next 72 hours will tell. Lesson learned though. I will never book anything through this site again. I will use direct rentals only.