What Amsterdam Taught me about Airbnb

Up until my visit to Amsterdam I had only good experiences with Airbnb. Some better, some worse, but all were above average, until I got to this horrific apartment. The pictures seemed okay, but nothing prepared me for this stoner’s place. The shower was filthy and I suspect that they used the same towel they gave me. Airbnb did give me back the money for one night after I sent them a video of the shower, but it wasn’t without a lot of fuss. I didn’t leave earlier because I landed at 22:00 and didn’t have anywhere else to go. On one night the hosts forgot to take their key to the house and woke me up in the middle of the night to let them in. To make a long story short, I’ve learned my lesson: use Airbnb only for whole apartments and never for a room.

Naturally, none of this information got to Airbnb since they have a policy of publishing a review only when you are reviewed by the host, and since I knew I’d get a bad review, I never reviewed this apartment.

Airbnb Double Booking in Amsterdam

I traveled from the US to Amsterdam for business and over the weekend I convinced my family (my brother and my parents who are over 60) to come and visit the city. We arrived at the apartment quite easily, by following the good directions of the “manager” of the rentals. I specify manager as this Brazilian guy, who handles many apartments for other people and they’re not his property. Well, we arrived at the apartment, and he opened the door. I was right behind him. We switched on the light and….. SURPRISE! A man was sleeping in one of the beds who assured us that the apartment was regularly rented from him. Well, the owner of the apartment nicely forgot to tell the manager that he rented the apartment to a friend of his! The manager got in contact with Airbnb to explain what happened and they called me.

At that moment my nightmare started. A certain Tina H at Airbnb tried to NOT help me by saying that she was sending me an email about how to book another place. I am from the US; how do you imagine I could find an Internet connection in the middle of a park in Amsterdam?

The very nice manager offered his phone and router. I then spent three hours, THREE HOURS, in the cold weather of Amsterdam on the damn phone trying to find another apartment with a reasonable price. This useless Tina H sent me an email with “suggestions”. Very smart suggestions. Since I was in Amsterdam and she was proposing options in towns far away from he city! What an intelligent service, eh? So, I did some research by myself but obviously no one was accepting my last minute booking! My parents started to feel bad, in a serious way, about the cold, the stress…!

In the end, the manager offered his apartment for free as he was feeling so bad for my family so that we didn’t sleep under a bridge. But if not for him, and the useless Airbnb customer service, we would have remained in that park for three days by sleeping under the fantastic sky of Amsterdam. This is unacceptable. They’re a nightmare! How could they leave people on their own in this way?

Hali the ‘river gypsy’ operating a slum-boat in North Amsterdam

This report follows on from my report about Shay Hwa in Delft, The Netherlands, ‘Airbnb host never showed up.’ As a result I had to make several other Airbnb bookings. I booked to stay with Hali at her boat in Amsterdam on the 1st to the 3rd of September 2015. I arrived at the location by appointment at 3pm on the afternoon of the 1st September. The location is an old sailing boat which is very characteristic. I made an error when I made this booking, apparently there is no shower on the boat but there is one available quite nearby. This in itself was not a real problem. It was still summer and there is always some novelty when staying at an Airbnb location. One unexpected issue would not cause me to cancel. I was very disappointed that the interior of the boat was very cluttered, very untidy and dirty. The shared sleeping quarters absolutely stank. There was also no source of running mains water on the boat. There was also no place to securely put luggage or a place it where it could be supervised by the sole volunteer who was in charge of the boat. I left my luggage in a cupboard and took all my valuable items with me and found a location nearby where I could send the owner of the boat an e mail. I sent a message which was polite and conciliatory given that she is using her Airbnb income to fund the restoration of the boat, which seems like a worthy project. I cancelled the booking because then the owner would have a chance to re-book with another Airbnb customer. I then spent some time trying to organize alternative accommodation. When I returned to the boat at nearly 9pm to pick up my luggage I discovered that it had been moved from the cupboard where I had put it and placed in a common area of the boat, visible to any person who wanted to look inside it or pick it up and take it. I have a lot of experience of staying in cheap accommodation such as hostels. I do not mind basic and simple accommodation with fewer conveniences but the standard of this accommodation was very bad. Earlier in the day I was in a more sympathetic frame of mind but by 9pm I had wasted yet another day of my vacation. The owner of the boat had obviously informed the volunteer staff member on board that I was not staying, which is why they moved my bag. Moving my luggage is not an acceptable or appropriate thing to do, an immediate violation of privacy. By the time I returned to the boat at nearly 9pm, the owner had not replied to my messages from circa 3.40pm in the afternoon. The owner replied the next day to say that she acknowledged that the condition of the boat did not meet my standards. The problem is that she did not take any responsibility for setting a reasonable standard or for admitting that there were things that were actually wrong with the location. This owner is operating a very low quality form of accommodation. There is a difference between something that is cheap and not unpleasant to stay in and something that is poor quality. I think that the description of the boat which the owner gives as a restoration project is intended to make the potential customer think that the owner has values about the accommodation they are offering and that it will have a lot of character, when my experience today was distinctly that of a ‘don’t-care’ attitude. The boat is located on a canal opposite which is the main road from central Amsterdam. Actually visiting this location is not really at all like the description and rustic-looking photos on Airbnb. There were also people living on the river-bank close-by who looked like very deteriorated homeless people. In all this is not a pleasant place to even visit quite different from the rustic impression given in the listing. I cannot e mail airbnb as their support email is bouncing but inquiries are being made about a refund.