Note: sometimes, when I write about Airbnb experiences, it turns people off using the site but remember, I have been travelling for over 6 months and have stayed in a lot of Airbnbs. Some of them really lovely and great experiences, others -- like this one -- not so great.
Note 2: This is probably not the worst place on Airbnb. I've seen some rough places on there but, if people are honest up front about that, then it's fine. Some travellers just want a place to chuck down a sleeping bag with a roof over their heads.
I don't even know where to start with this. My sister booked the listing and she was the one who has had to deal with the host. Even before we arrived, the host acted weird. She told us she stored her supplies for the other apartments she rents out in the apartment we were renting and needed to come in and get sheets. The ONLY time she could do that was at 11am on December 25th. Yes, you read that date right. Just before lunch on Christmas Day.
We didn't want her going into the apartment while we weren't there and we had Christmas lunch plans we didn't want to change. Those solutions included her accessing the apartment for the two days before we arrived, when the place was empty. She started sending multiple emails a day, ranting about her shit and not at all willing to compromise. Reading between the lines, it seemed she'd had guests use the apartment, having booked for 2 people but with 4 people staying there. And she thought we were doing the same thing and wanted to check up on us.
She constantly told us she has a medical condition that meant she could only come on the date and time she wanted! I have no idea what medical condition that would be. My sister also has a medical condition -- and it is not helped by her being constantly harassed.
We contacted Airbnb and they straightened everything up. Then we got an email from the host saying that we'd made things bad for her and she'd had to miss an appointment at the hospital, blah blah blah. I'm not sure why, in those 2 days she had access to the apartment, she could only go at the same time as her appointment but not much she said made sense by then.
So, after a long, long train ride from Kochi to Chiba, we arrived at the apartment.
Okay, my biggest mistake was opening the door to that apartment, smelling it and not leaving immediately -- before the cab driver took off. But we had organised to have one of our bags sent by takkyubin directly to the apartment from Hiroshima and needed to wait around for that.
This is the listing on Airbnb -- https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/4656074
This is what the place looked like when we got there:
The place had been used to store all her junk, including the tied up china cabinet (that was not in the photos on the listing). The first photo, second row down, shows what was under the rice cooker when I moved it! The other picture on the second row is the sink -- it had a hole in it (caused by a previous tenant, according to her) and she'd taped over it. How do you even make a hole in a metal sink?
The handwritten notes were on everything! Multiple notes saying the same thing and giving instructions like - if you use the kitchen, clean up after yourself.
There was a toaster oven with a note not to use it. There were even instructions on the toilet lid on using the toilet!
The pictures do not show the smell or the layer of grime on things. My sister said on the bed, almost catatonic, while I checked the apartment out. At first, I thought I could give the place a clean and make it good enough to stay in but even the cleaning clothes were gross. I'd have had to go to the supermarket and replace them all. Our payment had included a $75 cleaning fee.
After I'd poked around, my hands felt disgusting. I was too scared to use the bathroom in case things got worse but luckily my sister had anti-bacterial wipes in her bag.
Even though it was a freezing night, we had every window open to get rid of the smell. The musty smell got better but was replaced by an underlying smell of gross.
My sister's bed was as hard as a rock. When she first said that, I told her all Japanese beds are hard. Then I tried it. And she was right. The floor was softer than that bed. I have no idea how a bed could even be that hard (the reviews said the beds were "comfortable", I guess that is personal preference but there is a limit surely!).
To me, $75 in cleaning fees would be 3 hours of cleaning @ $25 an hour. The apartment looked like it had not had 3 hours cleaning all year!
I got on Booking.com and booked us into a hotel for a couple of nights while we worked out what we were doing (we'd booked for 5 nights and ended up extending the hotel stay to cover that period).
All that happened on the 23rd. We've contacted Airbnb but have not heard back from them as yet. I'm not sure if that is because of Christmas or what.
To be honest, I don't know what to think. if you look at the listing linked above, the place looks great and the reviews are good. There were a few reviews, either on this apartment or one of her others, saying it was a "bit dirty". To me, a bit dirty is maybe not dusting so well or even a couple of plates on the sink not washed up. There is a world of difference between a bit dirty and filthy.
I've found every Airbnb I've had issues with (this is the third), has had great reviews. I guess, I wouldn't book it otherwise. I'm not sure if those people are lying, they just have zero fucks to give because their stay is over, especially if it's just a few days, or if there is something dodgy going on. This host has tried to emotionally blackmail us with her "medical condition" but, to me, that's not my issue at all. We were charged the same rate as other apartments in the area, probably above average after the fees were added on.
I know that after you stay in an Airbnb apartment, you are asked to review to give feedback to your host. To me, this is entirely the wrong emphasis and reviews should be aimed at giving an honest picture to future potential guests. Yeah, you can give private feedback to the host but the public review should be for the public. People get too caught up in being "nice guys" to their host when they write reviews rather than being honest.
I like using the Airbnb site. Most of the time it's convenient to be able to prebook a place before I arrive and a lot of hosts take real pride in ensuring their properties are clean and pleasant. But, experiences like this cost me not just money but time. Once you arrive at a place and there are huge problems, you are left with booking something last minute, moving all your stuff and the stress of dealing with it all.
ETA: Airbnb refunded the money we paid for the apartment but no further compensation.
When we had the initial issues before check in, the girl my sister dealt with said to email her back if we had any further issues and, if she hadn't heard in 48 hours, she'd consider the matter resolved.
When we got to the apartment and realised it was impossible to stay there, my sister emailed her back. We didn't get a response for a few days. The girl my sister had dealt with had gone on holidays and didn't get her email until after her Christmas time off.
She's now saying we should've gone through the "correct procedures" on the site and, because we didn't, we can't get any further compensation . Even though she was the one who said to email her back.
She also said we should've tried to resolve it with the host. The host who'd been emailing my sister so often, it was become harassment.
Even with the refund, we are out of pocket $350 with what we had to pay for a hotel. We tried to book somewhere as cheap as possible but it was the Christmas weekend. Nowhere is going to be that cheap.
On top of that, we had all the mucking around with having to find a place last minute and the stress of dealing with it all. We also had to go back to the apartment to pick up our suitcase which cost money and time. That was our choice -- to leave it behind and pick it up later but the night we left, it was pouring with rain and we had no idea where the station was (we'd got a cab there).
My sister will never use Airbnb again. I've got a few places I've already booked but doubt I will use them after that, unless I have a personal recommendation or other guarantee that I'm not going to be stiffed.