Last year’s New Years was the first and last time I ever used Airbnb. Every time someone says they use it, I pray to the almighty Airbnb gods that they make it out alive and in one piece.
Last year, I researched a place to stay in Chicago for New Years for a good couple hours. My budget was low, and I wanted somewhere close to the venue I was gonna be partying at that night. Airbnb was the cheapest and most convenient option I could find. I found a cute little place in Ukranian Village pretty close to the venue, and the host had pretty good reviews. The only bad reviews complained about how the place was kinda dirty and rundown. If that was the only thing people complained about, it had to be safe, right? Wrong.
I can handle a little dirt so I booked a night for ~$30. When I got there to check in, the host seemed like a decent guy. He made me food and showed me around. The place was beat up and he hadn’t shown some of the more rough areas of the place to me, but it was livable for a night.
What I should have done was run away screaming and never look back when I got to my room and found a broken window by the alleyway and stab marks on the walls. I wish I was exaggerating. I also wish I had had the frame of mind to take pictures. Some of the marks were small enough and at the right height that they could have been from nailing something into the wall and having the nail dragged down from the weight of a frame or something, but not all of them.
My stomach dropped but I wasn’t able to afford a hotel room that was any better than this. Since he seemed like a nice guy, I asked him about the stab marks on the walls. He told me he had had a crazy guest threaten him like that in a fit of rage. We left it at that and talked for a couple more hours before I left to get ready and go to my show. The show was amazing and I had a great time.
When I got back to the house, the host was still awake and let me back in. I offered him a cigarette and we went outside to go smoke in the backyard. We were talking and smoking out there for a while before we heard a sort of muted bang and his fire alarm going off inside. He said that his fire alarm went off randomly sometimes and told me not to worry about it. It kept going off for a while, and a look of concern started to spread over his face. He kept his cool at this point in time, though, and went in to go see what had transpired.
Not more than five seconds later, a look of panic spread over his face and he jumped back, saying, “We need to get out of here.” He grabbed a couple things off the table and frantically ran out of the backyard around to the front of the house. Not knowing what was going on, I ran after him.
He opened the front door and I saw nothing but bright orange flames filling the house. He had been charging his lithium battery motorbike in the living room of the house and it exploded. Let me say that again. He had been charging his lithium battery motorbike in the living room of the Airbnb and it had exploded. Google “Ukranian Village fire Chicago January 1” if you don’t believe me.
Out of sheer panic, he started to abandon me and the apartment completely, running off down the alleyway to leave me there to deal with the entire thing. I was the one who had to call 911. I was the one who had to talk to the fire department and police and landlord and everyone else who contacted me as if I had been the one who had put everyone’s lives at risk, but nope.
This spineless idiot had just destroyed all of my and his belongings and the entire first floor of the complex, causing the people on the top floors to have to be rescued by the fire department, and he took off like a bitch. He told me to lie to the fire department and anyone else I made contact with, AKA put myself at risk to save his pathetic ass from the consequences of his own actions. Happy New Years.
I ran after him because I’m a small female without protection and I was in fishnets, out on the streets of Chicago, at 3:00 in the morning. When I ran after him he told me he’d take me to the train station so I’d at least be somewhere safer than out on the streets. Below the bare minimum of what he should have done, but fine.
It was freezing. We got followed by an intoxicated homeless dude who wanted my number and wouldn’t take no for an answer. The Amtrak station wasn’t open until 5:00 AM (and it was 3:45). The entire thing was a nightmare. We spent those hours walking the streets looking for a place that was open where we would be warm and off the streets.
I felt extremely unsafe and had no idea how I would get any of my valuable belongings back, such as my student ID and keys to get back into the dorms. At my school, if you lose your keys you have to pay $300 to get all the locks replaced for whatever reason. At this point, though, all I cared about was making it back in one piece. I missed my first train and had to pay for another ticket.
When I got back I had to report the incident to my school and Airbnb. I talked to the landlord, the fire department again, and the police. I spared no details. When I filed the claim, Airbnb basically laughed in my face and said they could assume no responsibility whatsoever for what happened.
Hundreds of dollars’ worth of belongings? Not their responsibility.
Multiple threats to my and many others’ safety? Not their problem.
They said it was up to the host to give me a refund or reimbursement. He did that for me, thank god, or I would have made sure every cop in the city knew about this host’s reckless endangerment. I eventually was able to get my belongings back, by some miracle. They were burnt and covered in ash and soot, but some of them were still usable (including my keys).
I had given the host my number so he could get my stuff mailed to the proper place and he started hitting on me, saying we should hang out, I’m kinda hot, etc. Unbelievable. Get a hostel or hotel where they actually care about peoples’ safety and well being. You 100% get what you pay for. Don’t trust reviews and don’t trust Airbnb; trust your instincts.