Over the past couple of days we've been enjoying Barcelona but we've been experiencing an unfortunate Airbnb situation. I suppose I should start at the beginning.
Our host Eva and I had communication issues from the start. She asked me what time I thought we might be arriving for check-in. And I told her 5pm just as a ballpark but that I could tell her a more precise time the day that we were to arrive. At this point we were still dealing with our rental car breakdown issues so I really had no idea when we would be anywhere.
She offered to send me some pictures of the outside of the apartment on the chat app WhatsApp so we could find the place easier. I added her on WhatsApp and asked her for the pictures on December 23.
I didn't hear another peep out of her until 6pm on December 26, check-in day, pretty much saying "I'm here waiting for you where are you?" WTF. Well I gave her an update that we'd be there more like 9pm.
"We expected you at 5". Yeah and I expected to be rich astronaut by now. I guess we'll both just have to deal with our disappointment. (The times on these chats are all jacked up because it converted time zones when we returned to the States).
To me this is one area that hotels provide a large advantage over Airbnb. I can roll into a hotel at 3am and some weary-eyed employee will be there at the front desk to check me in no questions asked. Airbnb they want to know exactly when you are to arrive and will likely be pissed if you are late.
She starts with this theme of "it's the day after Christmas!" Personally the day after Christmas isn't important to me, but I understand that it could be in Spain. But my thought is that if the day after Christmas isn't a convenient time for you then don't rent out your apartment that day. Right? You may note my attempt at small talk, bringing up her recent trip to the Cayman Islands, which is met with hours of crickets chirping.
Parking was pretty horrid. There weren't any lots to be found, and it was all street residential parking. I compared it to bobsledding: the streets were all one-way, one-lane, there was always a car parked on either side of you, and you couldn't stop or slow down or the car behind you would honk. So while we did arrive at the apartment at 9pm we didn't knock on the door before 10pm. After dragging our bags 20 minutes to the apartment uphill we were both kind of exhausted. I stopped near her door to text her that we'd arrived and before I could she popped out and said something like "the place is right here, just like the picture I sent!" as if I'm an idiot. My reply: "you never sent me any pictures". Crazy lady!
About 10 minutes after Eva leaves we are searching for the wash and dryer. For those of you keeping track at home, we left St. Louis on December 17th. Now it's the 27th and I have a suitcase full of dirty smelly travel-man clothes. We specifically picked an Airbnb with a washer in a city that we were going to stay in a couple nights so we'd have time for laundry.
"Where's the damn washer and dryer?"
Hot stuff Spain so hot. Google says that Barcelona December in hot hot Spain the average lows are in the 40s. 10 degrees colder and water here changes states into what the locals call "Spanish Lava".
Next she says she doesn't want us to use the washer because today is a holiday, something about people drinking, and it's probably too late to use a washing machine at 11pm. Mr. Respectful that you know me to be, I accede to this request and we go to sleep dreaming of how clean our clothes will be in the steamy, steamy morning.
Well of course the next day we can't get the machine to work. We're running every bit of verbiage on the thing through a translator. I'm online searching through European user manual PDF websites. I took a couple of pictures of the settings we had it on and sent them to Eva hoping she could help.
In summary Eva replies with "I don't know why it's not working, don't break my washing machine." Great thanks for that.
She then says her neighbor has complained that we are outside talking too loud. Yeah Lydia and I are so wild, we like to just fly to Europe, sit on patios, and talk real loud about laundry.
At this point in my stay at this Airbnb I'm still doing pretty well. I'm a little annoyed at how this girl is talking to me, and I'm sad because now I have a suitcase full of laundry that is not only dirty but now is soaking with the laundry detergent we poured on it before attempting to wash it. Otherwise the place is pretty nice and we're having a good time seeing the sights of Barcelona.
Ok so now the next day it's time to check out. Often times "check-out" isn't really a thing at Airbnbs, you just leave the keys at a pre-discussed location and walk away. Not this time. An older lady that I've never met before pounds on the door. Lydia is out getting the car, and all of our bags are packed. The lady enters and starts speaking in Spanish quickly in a manner that I would describe as "annoyed". I'm fairly certain it's the neighbor who complained the day before that we were talking too loud.
She is quickly walking around and checking things, which I find to be a little rude, with the assumption being I broke something or didn't take care of the place. In English she points and says "garbage" and is obviously perturbed that I didn't take out the trash. This place cost us $83 a night plus an additional $23 cleaning fee. You madam, can take out the trash.
I don't like how she is speaking to me and I've already given her the key, so as far as I'm concerned my check-out process is complete. I proceed to move our bags out to the side of the road and just stand next to them and wait for Lydia.
Well while I'm standing there the lady opens the door and throws a bag containing all of the trash from the apartment next to our luggage. My Spanish is crap but I'm going to say she said something like "this isn't a hotel!" and then slammed the door. Oh hell no.
Lydia finally arrives and we load up the luggage into the car. The bag of garbage though? I pick that up and set it in front of her adjacent apartment's door. I got in the car and we start to drive away when the woman pops out of her apartment and throws the bag of garbage onto our moving rental car's windshield! Oh hellll no.
This woman was clearly suffering from heat stroke. Maybe some trash in the face would cool her off?
Things started to move quickly in my head. I began to open the car door. I wanted to make this a balmy Spanish morning that this person would not soon forget. I believe I was thinking of ripping the bag open and dumping its contents on this woman's front door. It could have easily devolved into holding her down, pinching her nose, and shoving yesterday's spaghetti leftovers into her mouth little by little while yelling "now that's a spicy meatball!" over and over. It was really a coin flip. Unfortunately we'll never know because Lydia stopped me and just told me to take pictures of everything.
We drove away with the garbage bag still flapping on the windshield until we saw a dumpster we could stop at. While I was still pretty shocked at what had transpired I was pretty excited about one thing: there was no way in hell I would be paying for this room. If at the end of every $200+ hotel stay someone wants to throw trash on my car in lieu of payment, then that's just dandy with me.
So clearly I was about to put Eva on blast in the Airbnb reviews. But the question was, how would she review me? I feel like it could easily have gone either way. Well luckily I didn't have to stew in suspense for too long.
Here's what I wrote:
"The apartment itself was great but we had some communication issues. Eva mentioned 5 or 6 times that "it's the day after Christmas". For example when I asked where the washer and dryer were she replied "it's there but don't use it because it's the day after Christmas". I think maybe she would be happier if she just blocked out the holidays on her Airbnb calendar. There is a washer but no dryer. Unfortunately it is either broken or I can't get it to work and now I have a week and a half worth of dirty clothes with detergent on them. I contacted Eva about it but she wasn't very helpful. Finding a parking place was really hard for us. We drove around in circles searching for 30 minutes and then had to drag our bags 20 minutes to the apartment. I mentioned that to her and you'll never guess her reply: "oh that's because it's the day after Christmas". We had a bit of an altercation at checkout. Eva's neighbor came to the door to get the keys. My Spanish isn't great but she was yelling about something. She didn't like that we didn't take out the trash. We did pay a separate cleaning fee so I didn't feel like this was our responsibility. The lady bagged up the trash and then threw it next to my luggage and said something like "this isn't a hotel". I wanted to avoid this confrontation so I simply got into my car to leave, and the lady threw the trash onto the windshield of the moving car! I've stayed in about 20 Airbnb's all over the world, and this was definitely the worst experience I've had."
Eva's reply (which I ran through Google Translate) was magical:
"After this experience left air bnb. I've been doing this for a while. I have to say that the summer guests were really exemplary and belonged to the airbnb community. I myself have been a user of air bnb for years. I treat the houses of the hosts as my own house and give us advice. I think that everyone who is encouraged to enter the air bnb community does not do it for the money. But why we like to travel and at the same time receive and show our land and make our homes part of the experience of the guest at a low price. In case I have my house as a host to return the experiences I earn by doing it as a guest in other countries. But it ended. Guests come here with expectations that air bnb is a hotel. They leave the garbage. Dishes to be washed. All dirty waiting for the cleaning service to come back. They have no consideration with heating or other services. Demanding. How many people do we travel to New York, Paris, Rome or London by car !? And we expect to park in the same door? I am hosting a spotless apartment for 55 € per night and I charge nothing more than to expect people to use common sense and treat my house as their own. To the counter receipt of some who break the ceramic pottery. Now it turns out that the washing machine that worked perfectly does not work. 40 messages by the washing machine received yesterday from the guest. Messages from my neighbor who were hitting the washing machine in the yard. A speckled wall is not known. That's not the spirit of air bnb. And for this reason I do not plan to share my house with anyone else because people only expect cheaper price than a Hostel and 5 star quality in room service. I never left the garbage at the door. Or with unwashed dishes. In my house I do not leave the heating on even though I am not when we are in Barcelona in the sun and almost short sleeves. It's not the Alps. If one of the elements of the house does not work I will not send 40 messages to the host when they are doubling to me that the washing machine is not forced. And receive a message from my neighbor that they are giving me blows to make it work? I personally received them with my partner to the last couple and they were not warm to us when we are borrowing the house. And I repeat this is not any business for us. Actually we have spent many years living and doing air bnb and we decided to lend our house more. We do not want people who just look for a cheap place to sleep very far from the spirit of the airbnb community. At last who gets the washer broken? The stain on the wall? The broken glass!!? And it seems that we the hosts want to defraud ?? Very disappointed in the turn that gave ..."
So in summary we are just bad people. "The neighbor says you are talking loud outside" has somehow turned into "John was outside beating my washing machine". We had the heat on in winter time despite the sunny sun Spanish hotness we're all sweating through. I sent her 40 messages about the washing machine. I'm too lazy to count but I'd wager she sent me more messages about it than I sent her...
She mentions several other things that I have no knowledge of and I suspect may be incidents related to past guests but I really don't know. It's a wonder I had any time to sightsee in Barcelona because I was clearly busy staining the walls, breaking glasses and ceramics, soiling the dishes, filling up all the garbage cans, and beating a Spanish washing machine to death all while messaging my host with a maniacal frequency.
Well after the opening salvo it was time for me to go about getting a refund. Airbnb forces you to first ask the host for a refund directly. Gee this ought to be pleasant...
"The apartment itself was great. We had a bit of a strange time communicating with each other which was unfortunate. The main problem was the washing machine didn't work. I sent her pictures of the settings we had it set to (cotton and tumble dry and all of that) so that maybe she could help us operate it in case we were doing something wrong. She just kept replying that she couldn't help us. Now she's trying to say we broke the machine! I don't know how I would go about breaking a washing machine even if I wanted to. The lady who checked us out yelled at us and threw a bag of trash on our car as we were driving away. I'm shocked at how bad this experience was. I'd like a refund because this listing didn't have the amenities advertised and to cover the cost of damage to our clothes/having to now go to a public laundromat somewhere. Thank you!"
"First John arrived late the day of check in. He waited patiently. Then, the next day I received about 30 messages saying that the washer was not working. When the previous day wash the sheets and towels of the previous tenant and worked perfectly. I kindly asked you to please stop forcing the washing machine several times. Even so I got messages from two neighbors telling me that someone was making a tremendous noise during the night in the washer room. Not only that I will not return the money. If not I will demand the cost of repairing the washing machine. Today I try to wash and it does not work. Besides, in my advertisement I do not offer that I have to put laundry soap on. The cleaning costs are € 10 for the products to deliver the apartment in perfect condition as they found it.
They arrived complaining about the park. I DO NOT OFFER parking service nor rent my apartment with a parking space.
It is a city. If you can not park the car in the same door I think it is not a drama.
In reference to the neighbor. John left the trash in the street. Besides they left all the dishes, pots to wash.
They left a stain on the kitchen wall (I have to repaint the wall) and best of all. They left and left when the heating arrives at 25 degrees when in Barcelona we have an incredible sunshine of good weather.
They are the most rude people.
I request cost repair washing machine since I have messages that you requested do not force it"
The verdict? Airbnb dealt Eva a stunning defeat, awarding me a $165 refund. It seems that Airbnb's fee and the questionable cleaning fee were not refundable. $165 is more than enough to buy myself a bigger appliance bludgeoning club.
Eva was down but not out. She filed countersuit requesting $248 to repair the washing machine:
"The tenant John. I then send messages via whatsapp requiring. He was asked several times to stop forcing the washing machine. Messages were covered by the whatsapp path in which he acknowledges that he lights up and makes the noise but that he then stops it. And the neighbors wrote because he was beating the washing machine. Also as we are in Christmas season and technical service charged us money to make a budget!"
This chick realllly likes talking about Christmas.
Unfortunately for my criminal self Eva included some pretty incriminating photos of the damage I did. If by this point any single person is still actually reading this blog post then you may want to skip ahead because the following pictures may disturb you.
"Your honor I would like to use a werewolf-scenario defense. You see the smell of my dirty clothes baking in the hot hot sun must have sent me into some sort of transformative animal rage. When I came to, I had no memory of the damage I'd done or the people I'd hurt."
I was busy counting my $165 so I didn't really have time for a detailed response:
"I did not break the washing machine. It was broken when we arrived."
As of 1/31/17 I haven't heard about any resolution to her nonsense claim, so who knows.
We talked about this very strange experience for days afterward, but I tried my best to put the whole thing behind me because I had a brand new country to visit: Andorra!
Andorra was one of my last European micro-nations left to visit after already hitting Lichtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, and the Vatican on previous trips. The only one remaining that comes to mind is San Marino. Anyway how about some Andorran fun facts? It was created in the year 988, most of the people speak Catalan, and in 1962 the entire military budget for the country was
The government system here is especially interesting: it is ruled over by two co-princes, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Urgell in Spain, and the President of France. So one of the princes for the country is popularly elected, but by another country's voters.
These days the country is mostly known for skiing and duty-free shopping.
There was one tiny little road into the country and it was absolutely packed with cars. It moved so slow that we decided to give it a break and see if it would die down on its own. Meanwhile we checked out a couple of the shopping centers stationed near the border.
The stores had many of the qualities you'd expect in a tax haven: lots of booze and cigarettes.
St. Louis brand sugar is probably sweeter than the other brands.
One thing that was notable was the large amount of canned duck products.
This is all foie gras.
"They are the most rude people."
Well the traffic was still at a standstill so we left the country. I feel like we got the gist.
We stopped for lunch at this awesome little place in the town of La Seu d'Urgell called Cal Pacho.
Service at Spanish restaurants can be on the slow side compared to what an American is used to. One little trick that I used to speed things up was to take a picture of the menu posted outside. Then we could do our translating and choosing as soon as we sat down. Then the first conversation we have with the server can be us ordering. #Winning
A simplifying situation was that it was rather late to eat lunch so they seemed to be out of a lot of things. So we just let them choose whatever from the menu of the day. We started off with a nice cream of zucchini soup.
Our main was beef stew, which was very light on the stew and very heavy on the beef. It was sort of like an Italian beef sandwich with no bread.
We were able to choose our dessert. Lydia got some sort of chocolate cake and I just asked the lady what she preferred. She chose an unsweetened natural yogurt. It was pretty good for an unsweetened natural yogurt.
Eating at a restaurant older than America. No big deal.
The town had a pretty cool looking kayak obstacle course thing set up.
We stayed the night in a HOTEL in Lleida. We couldn't find a laundromat near our place with business hours that were compatible, so my clothes continued their detergent marination in my luggage.
It's funny because I'm sort of glad that all of that Barcelona weirdness happened because at least it's a notable story. A trip where everything goes perfectly can be sort of boring in a way.