San Juan del Sur, Nicaraguan Hell Vacation


I stumbled down the hot street looking for rooms when suddenly a gate opened on to a large property and I peeped in. I pushed past the garden fixture, a young teenage fella hired for general property duties, towards a frazzled woman of about 60, wiping sweat off her forehead and giving the fixture a look for letting me in.

“What can I do for you?’ She was a Brit.

‘I’m looking for a room,’ I said, dropping my suitcase. She looked me up and down, asked me a few pointed questions, then walked me back to a room in a house two houses back from the first, each with a pool.

Thus was the beginning of the worst holiday I’ve ever had. My first Airbnb and my last. I surveyed the room: art deco, clean. We agreed on $45/night, but I was disappointed to learn that I would be sharing the house with her disgruntled husband, an inveterate television watcher, late night snacker, ball scratcher.

Any question I asked him he directed back to his wife. I asked for a key to my room, but there was none. She said, ‘Well, just hide the things that are important to you.’

Easier said than done when you have a suspect roommate, whom I was soon to meet. I dove into my bathing suit and went out to the pool, where I was introduced to a disheveled woman in her seventies from Chicago with a humped back, and a distended stomach the likes of which I had never seen. But for her long, tangled gray hair, you might have thought she was pregnant due to the protrusion of her stomach, accentuated by stick-like legs that reached, crablike, to suck and the ground towards her. She ground her teeth and smoked beside the pool.

I bumped into her in the hall the next morning and my good morning wasn’t exuberant enough because from that moment on she ignored me. I didn’t exist. It was weird. When I sat outside, she’d pull her chair around to make sure her back was to me. In the kitchen, she turned her back, when she walked out the door, she walked right by me. When her son visited with friends, she did the same. She was unbelievably childish and it became a real pain in the arse for everybody.

The house was super noisy; you heard everything and you had little privacy. Every time a door shut, it slammed and rattled through the house. Every door also squeaked. I asked my host why they didn’t oil the hinges and she said she wanted it that way so she knew what was going on. I wound up slamming my door harder, just to ease her mind.

‘Oh I feel like I’m in between the two of you, now I feel awful. I don’t want to be in this position,’ said the host one morning. ‘I just feel awful.’ She then patted my arm and said ‘be the bigger person.’

Later, she and I were sitting at the kitchen table having coffee (although it was a bed and breakfast I had yet to get any breakfast) discussing alternative medicines. She spoke of her chronically upset stomach (viciously throwing up for hours my first night there), her constipation, along with her dazzling display of varicose veins.

‘Urology,’ she said. A blank look formed in my eyes. ‘You know what that is don’t you?’

‘Uh, yeah?’

She explained urology. ‘It’s when you drink your own urine.’

‘Oh,’ I said. Okay, look normal now, I thought, thinking back to the orange juice in the fridge.

‘It’s very good for your health because you’re drinking your own bodily fluids.There’s nothing wrong with it.’

Did I say there was? Okay, time for a swim.

She couldn’t take the situation with the other guest anymore and feeling forced to choose, stopped talking to me; the guest was a snowbird, after all. There was silence from the host as she dusted while I made coffee. No “How’s your room? Do you need a towel? Are you having a good time?”

It was awkward and I rued having paid her for the week because there was no way I was getting a refund. Mostly, I resented them when they sat around smoking dope and didn’t even offer me a toke.

The host was obsessed with money, or lack thereof. Her husband opened up to me about how much money they owed. I was somewhat relieved when she stopped talking to me because she pissed and moaned about money constantly: the downturn in tourism, their loans, her daughter’s expensive school in France, the houses. She was so self-absorbed.

The people who stayed at the fourth house on the property were unhappy. They were up on a bluff and they had no air conditioning for the perpetual burning sun, and no screens for the wind that brought dust, delivering massive gobs of brown sand to every surface inside. The floors were sandy.

The guest had to go to the doctor because of a bronchial infection. She was coughing up great gobs of yellow… let’s not get too descriptive. She couldn’t get any rest, either, because there were chickens right under her window that woke her up every morning at five. Not to mention the dogs that barked next door. When she asked the host about getting the house cleaned, she said:

‘Yeah, if you want to share the expense of that.’

‘How much would that be?’

‘Eight dollars.’

Yes, in spite of her avowed devotion to spirituality, she was cheap. I couldn’t wait to leave. It’s hard staying in a place as a guest where the hostess is pretending you’re just not there.

False and Totally Misleading Mexican Listings


Where to begin? Since I had 2, similar, experiences in Mexico recently, back to back, I’m combining them into one posting.

The first occurred in San Cristobal and the second in Mazunte. Here is the listing for the Mazunte Airbnb:

La Pajarera
Entire cabin, Sleeps 4

We had booked a two bedroom casita with kitchen and bathroom. Upon arrival there was only one bedroom apparently in use. The second one was up some dangerous steps and obviously not in use- no bedding on the bed, no closet, dresser or bedside table and a pile of broken tiles in the corner. My first clue should have been the fact that even tho 2 were listed, there were no pictures of the second. In addition, there was no shower stall, just a shower head in the ceiling of a very tiny bathroom. And the kitchen was dark and dreary. The pictures of this place had obviously been enhanced, making it look so much better than it was. And the amenities list had been embellished- to put it nicely!

The housekeeper greeted us and promptly called the host when we complained about the lack of a second bedroom and lack of amenities listed- especially a washer. I am on a 2 month trip and specifically look for a washer whenever possible.

When the host arrived she seemed shocked and embarrassed when I showed her the list of amenities. When it came to the second bedroom, she reasoned that since I had indicted there were 2 of us, we only needed one bedroom. WRONG! She offered to ‘make up’ the second bedroom or give us a full refund. We opted for the refund, since there was a perfectly acceptable, immaculately clean hotel right next door, where for about the same price, not only did we have our own bed, we had our own room with private bathroom. This turned out to be a god send when we later both came down with food poisoning, at the same time! The host even went with us and negotiated an even better rate then we could have accomplish on our own with our pigeon Spanish. She was willing to do whatever it took to make us happy.

At first AirBB refused to refund the service fee, but I pushed, didn’t ask, demanded and used terms like enhanced, false and misleading and they finally refunded the fee, also. So this one ended positively.

On to episode #2. The pictures tell the tale of this deplorable shack. I had booked for 14 days, once again based on enhanced photos and an even bigger list of lies, claiming to be the amenities. I actually didn’t believe there were the amenities listed, but hoped for a few. TV, washer, ac? give me a break- there wasn’t even a mirror on the wall! There was what looked like mold covering the shower drain, the sink was badly chipped and cracked, the beams were crumbling, the screens torn, and the kitchen dark, dreary and dirty and the cabinets indescribably gross. Once again my first clue should have been that there were no pictures of the kitchen.

I immediately changed my booking for 4 nights, instead of the 14 I had planned to stay at the beach. I should have left immediately and insisted on a refund. Yet, in my defense, I had just spent 10 hours getting there via taxi and overnight bus, I was still ill, and needed time to figure out something else for the 10 remaining days. We’re talking about the beach in January!

The host did replace the sink, the maid kind of cleaned the kitchen, and promised a mirror, but never delivered. I had booked this because it had a kitchen, but couldn’t even bring myself to go down there, let alone cook! New sink, but no water the following day! The maid did come and figure out how to get it working again. And, to his credit, the host was quick to respond and arranged for transportation from the bus to the shack, and to Puerto Escondido when I left.

I didn’t decide to insist on a full refund until I was leaving, feeling angry, traumatized and victimized. It is totally unacceptable for AirBB to be booking such decrepit shacks, passing them off with enhanced photos and lies! They need to be held responsible, and so does the host.

The host has refused my request, since I did stay there, so I have turned it over for mediation. Word so far is that it has been determined I am owed a partial refund. This was before I sent the photos! I’m insisting on a full refund, including the service fees. We will see……..

And as an aside- this is not my first rodeo. I have made 45 trips to Mexico during the past 30 years, so have a pretty good idea what I can expect for my pesos, when it comes to lodging. The shack was $40 a night and was worth about $10.

On a positive note- of the 5 properties I have stayed in on this trip, 2 were totally unacceptable, 1 ok and 2 were fantastic. I’ll just book with them directly in the future.

Welcome to Airbnb, where we don’t care about you

Here I am in Memphis staying at a record house hostel listed on Airbnb. At first, things seemed to be going okay. I have been doing this for about seven weeks now, traveling and staying in various hostels and Airbnbs. I arrived in Memphis and the house manager warned me that there was a homeless lady who was staying in the room next to mine and that sometimes she isn’t very nice. “Okay, cool,” I thought, “thanks for the warning… but why are you letting her stay here?”

Anyways, I went about my business. not paying this lady any attention. That was until she made me do so. I had put my things in the washing machine and ran up the road to the gas station. I wasn’t gone long enough for my things to finish. When I arrived back at the hostel, she had thrown her clothes in with mine. Immediately I was pissed. Obviously, I mean… who the hell does that?

I left a note on the dryer letting this person know that it’s not okay to touch other people’s things. When she saw the note a few minutes later, she flipped out. She started screaming at me, calling me racist, and telling me to go to hell. Instead of dealing with it, I just messaged the hosts and told them what was going on. They then called Airbnb and reported the lady.

The next day, Airbnb had removed that lady’s reservation and said that the host could remove her from the house. So they did. When they did, she was even madder at me. She threatened to slash my throat and she sat in the street waiting for me to come outside. I had to call the police to get her to leave. The police wanted the report that was filed with Airbnb, and guess what? They wouldn’t give it to me.

What the hell? Are you serious right now? I have the police in the yard, Airbnb on the phone (only after waiting for 45 minutes) and they won’t email me the damn report. What did they do? They sent me a form to give them feedback instead.

The customer service representative essentially said, “I’m sorry you’re having a bad experience with Airbnb. Here, fill out this form so you can waste even more time, explaining something that we don’t care about in the first place. “

Airbnb sucks. Aside from having poor customer service, they don’t offer anything after you’ve had a bad experience. It’s like the CEO’s just said: “we’ve got our money; let them fend for themselves.”

Welcome to Airbnb, where we don’t care about you: that’s what it should say on their website.

Hosts beware of “Mediation” – you have no say

We have been hosting with Airbnb for a couple of years. Our reviews were only 5 stars, with great feedback from guests. When people had problems or issues, we are always quick to react and resolve problems. We had the misfortune of hosting a couple of jerks who stayed in our rental apartment but treated it like a hotel. They reserved for 2 people for 3 weeks. They told us some extra family was coming after they arrived and asked us to bring around some more sheets and towels – we were miffed that we were not told beforehand but did so, and didn’t want to rock the boat. They told us 3 others were coming but in fact 6 others arrived for a total of 8 in an apartment with 1 toilet that sleeps 6 as advertised.
The extra people arrived on Friday, and on Sunday night we got a call saying the toilet was slow and had been since Friday. We asked if the toilet still flushed or was completely stopped up. We were told that no, it still went down but sometimes the water rose, but did not overflow. And we wondered why we were not told about it earlier – while businesses that do plumbing services were open !! We explained that on Sunday night, Father’s day in France for a non-emergency it was unlikely we could find anyone to come around that night (we knew it was in fact impossible unless an emergency as the very first thing the services as in France is whether the toilet is overflowing or blocked – if the answer is no, they send someone the next day). We said we’d call around and let them know more as soon as we had finished our dinner (we’d literally just sat down to dinner with our other Airbnb guest in our home). Before we were done with dinner, we received a text Airbnb message saying they’d resolved the issue by pouring hot water down the toilet and that it was “fine”. We called and told them we’d stop by the next morning to check on things.
We did stop by. To us the toilet was still slow though they said it was OK. They also said, oh and don’t worry about the hot water, it’s working again. We then realised they’d written in the middle of the night to complain about no hot water. We’d explained to them on arrival that the hot water heater was connected to the cheap rate electrics and that it operated only when that was on, hence to plan showers around this – which they did. They said they’d only run out when washing dishes after midnight. They were evasive when we asked how many showers they took – one said 5 showers and 1 bath, the other said 2 showers that were less than 5 minutes (we asked the couple separately). We explained that the hot water heater was working properly and they were using too much hot water during the day when the hot water heater was off – and also that for the number of people in the flat it was likely too much. We gave them instructions for how to set the switch to override to the hot water heater so that it could run during the day as well. For the slow toilet, we arranged with our neighbour to use the toilet of his office, which was in the hallway (the office was empty) as the service that we needed to use to clean the drains was unable to come immediately (they need to send a truck with a high pressure hose, as our old plumbing could not be fixed with a normal “snake” as there is a bend in the pipes that is less than 90 degrees so it won’t run). We told them to use the alternate toilet if the existing one developed more of a problem than slowness. They kept saying they thought this issue was caused by the building in front of ours, as they’d seen “workmen” there and a bad smell. We never in 4 visits were able to smell this supposed bad smell, and we also brought out the building manager of the other building. During the next 2 days we visited 4 times to investigate this “smell” which was not in our apartment, but they said in the hallway. The other building manager spoke to them and explained that no work had been done in that building and we tested all the pipes, and we assured them we simply had to wait a day for the drain clearing service to come out. They sent us a demand for a 50% refund for every day they’d experienced and would experience a “loss of service” starting with the day BEFORE they reported the issue to us. Their note contained a veiled threat to take further action against us if we did not agree to this. We refused on the grounds that they never had lost any service and in fact even had access to a 2nd toilet now. After this they called Airbnb and lied to their customer service. The “mediation” of Airbnb never spoke to us. They decided to allow the client to leave early and take away our rental fee for the unused days. We were able to get payment in the form of credit for some of the extra guests, but Airbnb refused to honour their rental contract. The drain clearing service came on Weds and cleared the drains but they’d left that AM and then they left a horrid review on Airbnb, claiming that there had been sewage flowing in the apartment, that we’d never called a plumber and many other lies such as claiming we had told them to use the public toilets as an alternate toilet and that they were without a working toilet in the apartment for 96 hours and were “forced” to leave it. Despite the fact that I sent in videos showing the toilet still functioning and flushing when they left and testimony from the other building manager also attesting to the toilet functioning as well as to the 2nd toilet they had access to, and despite the letters in the Airbnb system that clearly showed they were lying, the review was allowed on the site in the name of “free speech”. Additionally we were lied to and manipulated by the Customer Service – they briefly took down the review – and the minute we returned the security deposit of the guests, they put the bad review back up without notifying us and allowing even further lies now about our mental health on it ! We took down our listing as Airbnb refused to take down the libel. Disgusted with their customer service – and the “mediation” which is simply dictatorship.