I just returned from my trip to London. I rented a flat from a Chilean couple to stay in for just 1 night (the other nights I either stayed at friends’ or at hotels). I mean, it was my first time trying out Airbnb. I’ve heard some of my friends say they’ve used it and it’s fine. And that day was the first day of Wimbledon and all the hotels are fully booked almost in London…which meant whatever rooms remaining were charged at extortionate rates.
So I see this flat in a suburb in London going for like £80 a night, I thought why not? And it’d be a good way to see if Airbnb suits me.
Well let me tell you, I realised from the beginning – after I paid – that it wasn’t as smooth-going. First of all, I booked the flat because the owners said on the listing they were “flexible” in the check in and check out times. I knew I was gonna be travelling over 2 hours on public transport from my friend’s place (whom I stayed at for 4 days in Berkshire prior to going to London) to that flat. My friend lived in a village, where the local bus service to the nearest train station had been withdrawn recently. So there was like no way I could get there quickly and easily. Okay but then when I asked if I could check in like afternoon time, the woman got back to me and said she would prefer if I arrived early in the day. Hmmph! So much for “flexible”. Well she did turn out to be flexible a bit… when I explained to her the circumstances and said I will only get there at 1 pm. She was like okay then.
Already I felt pressured that I cannot be late that day. Because I stupidly failed to notice that on their listing they said they would take a £200 security deposit on top of the £80 for the night as well. Well £200 deposit for 1 night is kinda stupid. But that’s Airbnb for you. They will take it off you even if it was just 1 night.
And you guessed it. I WAS late that day. Accidental, I might add. Well I simply took the wrong connecting train when I reached Clapham Junction station in London. I wasn’t aware that the trains from the correct platform do not all stop at Putney station even though they all went the same way! So I watched as the train zoomed right past Putney station and went all the way to Richmond before stopping. Ugh… jeez. The only consolation was that it was the day of the Royal Ascot and I was treated to the sight of many fabulously dressed women and men boarding the exact same train to the Royal Ascot! (I saw a tall stunning lady wearing a pink blazer and a pink headdress thingy who had striking blue eyes and her entire bone structure and face and height reminded me of Kate Middleton)
So once I got off at Richmond station, I had to wait for the correct train at the correct platform to go back the opposite direction so that it would stop at Putney. Well that took about half an hour. All in all. Half an hour in excess of 1.30 pm. So I was bloody late.
When I arrived at Putney station, I began to walk towards the rental flat. I’d double checked on Google Street View a few days prior to this and I thought I’d gotten the directions down to a T. But I was very stressed out already with 2 tired kids (from all the commuting we did from Berkshire to Putney), and the wrong trains, and the lateness… and I wasn’t thinking straight. I was panicking. I was walking a looong loong way… and no sign of the flat even though I was pretty clear that that was the right direction as I’ve seen on Google Street View.
So what then? I panicked and doubted myself. And turned back!
I turned right back and walked just as long a distance in the opposite direction!
Only to realise what a big mistake I’ve made. No no no. Wrong way!
I was very flustered and started dialling the woman’s number (as given by Airbnb). I got through to a recording saying that “the number I’ve dialled is not recognised”. I tried several times again to call her. Each time to be met with the same message. Oh shit! So how on Earth do I contact her now? Online via the Airbnb messaging system. I was on 3G and I wasn’t on a data plan and it was just… shit. Now I have to pay extra extortionate 3G charges just to go online and communicate on Airbnb with her… hopefully she’d be online at the same time too!
Well no… just as I’d expected. She never replied. So I was like sod it. I walked right back the original direction I ventured. And decided it must be that way. I must just be patient and keep walking. My youngest daughter was crying at that point from lethargy. And the weather was crap. It was raining 😦
But yeah anyway, I eventually reached the flat after about 20 minutes of walking back the original direction. I now realise just how far the flat really is from the train station. Far for… walking with a very young child that is. Google Street View was deceiving really. It made distances seem shorter than they were in reality. If I’d known just how much walking it’d take to get to the flat from the nearest train station, I’d never have bothered renting it. Oh yes and now I know just why it went for the cheap (cheap for London standards) price of £80 a night. Because it’s not that convenient to get to from public transport. But of course the host didn’t say that at all on the listing. She said the flat was close to all amenities and transport links. Whatever.
Yeah and then when I arrived at her flat, I then received her Airbnb messages to me advising me which way to walk. Okay nevermind. Too late now…
She was smiling and all. But on her listing she said she was a psychologist? Well I don’t trust her. And I was right not to. Because she was so like “You’re fine. We don’t mind. Our friends have also gotten lost before trying to get to our place… ” etc. etc. I kept asking them are they sure I haven’t inconvenienced them? Made them miss their train? Are they going on holiday somewhere and already made arrangements? Because I would compensate them if it was so. They kept saying no, it’s fine. They have loads of time. And then they passed me the keys and then left.
So it was just one night. How hard can it be to keep the place tidy? Well I didn’t even dare cook in their flat for fear of soiling their kitchen. I washed all the cups we used for drinks and left them to dry on the side of the sink. (They had no drying rack. Strange.)
They did provide us with one small towel, which they hung on a towel rack situated in their bathroom. Which I used to take a bath with (because my hair needs washing daily or it will get really greasy). And I left them with some juice in a large 2 ltr bottle which we didn’t drink directly from, but we couldn’t finish. So we just left it in the fridge. I left the towel hanging on one of their dining chairs to air dry because it got pretty wet after my shower. Their bathroom was pretty moldy and there were no windows or even an extractor fan to air the room after a shower. I just thought it would be better to let it dry on the dining chair because at least the lounge was well-ventilated with lots of windows. We also made sure the place wasn’t dirty (it wasn’t very clean anyway – there were food stains on the table and stuff – but we made sure we left no crumbs, no drops of food or drink anywhere, etc…). We also made the beds up.
Well… then we left, according to their instructions on how to shut the door, hand the keys back, etc. We left in a bit of a rush because my friend in London called me up and wanted to meet up with us like pronto. And she was gonna wait at the train station where she was, for us to arrive. I didn’t want her to wait too long so we packed up and left quickly.
It was after I’d left their flat that I realised I forgot to put the towel back in the bathroom on the towel rack. Oh god… I hope they won’t mind.
2 days later, Airbnb sent me an email asking me to review my stay. I left a short and positive review saying they were nice and helpful and I would recommend them. I didn’t mention anything bad.
They then reviewed me. Well she did. And she said we were “quite good guests”. Well okay. That sucks. But I guess it was my fault for being late. I don’t know what else annoyed her about us. Maybe she didn’t like the way I’d left the flat. It was certainly very neat by my standards. I’ve always been a messy person – you should see the state of my home. But that’s just the way I am. I already made what I considered a huge effort to keep her flat nice and tidy especially since we were only staying one night. And it’s just how it was. And with that being my first review, I guess I’ve had it with Airbnb. It’s just more hassle than it’s really worth.
I mean, she charged £80 a night… which is pretty cheap for London self-catering accommodation standards. You have to take in mind it’s cheap for a reason. It was quite far to walk from the train station. And the bus that goes there is really slow. (even her husband told us that, although I already knew because I researched it before I decided to take their flat). You could rent a Premier Inn or Travelodge room in London on a Saver rate for sometimes, £49 a night. That’s almost half what she charges for her flat. And save yourself the hassle of having to tread on eggshells trying so hard to leave your Airbnb host’s flat in a nice condition even though it may not have been very clean to begin with. And all that faff about check-in and check-out times can be easily avoided if we had stayed at a hotel or proper B&B in Central London – where there is a great big window of time in which we are free to arrive at the hotel. Not having to worry about being fucking 1 hour late! Fuck! That was like the one major damper in my entire, otherwise very enjoyable, 1-week trip to London with my little girls. The stress and the hassle of having to commute and find our way to a flat in Zone 2/3 that is not even close to the station!
Thankfully, I got all my security deposit back. So after she left me that comment, I closed my Airbnb account. I’ve had enough. No more Airbnb for me. I will just stick to hotels and proper B&B’s from now on. Even if it would cost a bit more. I’d rather pay a bit more to have an enjoyable trip than to put up with all that stress.