Allora oggi . . . before I post a summary about the three weeks of language school in Firenze, I must share my drama post language school. Let me begin with this proclamation “I am SO OVER Airbnb”. I will admit that Airbnb was a cool, hip idea for about three minutes. I have friends who are scrupulous and conscientious hosts with Airbnb but that is not always the case, as I will establish shortly.
One of qualities that I truly appreciate about the American culture is the entrepreneur spirit and initially, Airbnb was a reflection of the American entrepreneur attitude and resourcefulness. Airbnb was about offering short-term living quarters, breakfast and a unique business networking opportunity for folks who were unable to book a hotel in saturated markets. As with a number of good ideas, circumstances change and evolve to a point where the integrity and objective of these good ideas are undermined. After a couple of mediocre experiences mixed with a couple of less than ideal experiences with Airbnb, I have concluded that Airbnb has turned out to be a property management network for a number of folks who are clueless about hospitality with substandard properties.
Before booking on Airbnb I look at numerous properties and meticulously read reviews of previous guests. The booking in Firenze was no different and I must have looked at 20 options before settling on Stefano in Firenze. Shortly after arriving in Firenze, I double-checked on my Airbnb reservation by scanning the recent reviews of the host and his property. A couple of the latest reviews caused me some concern so I email the host asking about the negative comments. Within hours he responds with a mini dissertation about reviews of my favorite restaurant along with “that is because sometimes people complain too much over too little”. Okay, true enough but this comeback was less than comforting and generated even more concerned.
About a week or so from our check-in date, I send another email message in order to confirm a time when I will meet with Stefano and receive the keys to our apartment. (By the way, email correspondence is what Airbnb recommends.) No response. A couple of days later I send another email regarding the check-in details, no response. After the third email and no response I resort to phone calls. The host provided two different phone numbers in his profile and I try both numbers on five different telephones the afternoon before we are scheduled to check-in. Seriously, no answer! By the way, one of the complaints about this particular host was related to him not showing up in a timely manner.
Now I am frantic . . . so frantic that I contact Airbnb about my inability to connect with the host. I hear nothing from Airbnb but I do receive a message from the host saying that I am rude because I sent a message to Airbnb. His message to me suggests that I find another accommodation. So let me get this straight, I have sent you three email messages each of which you have ignored. I have attempted to call you five different times with two separate phone numbers and I am the rude one??
I begin scrambling to find alternative accommodation at the last minute in a city packed with tourists. By the way, I did not have consistent Internet access during my stay in Firenze, which only added to my sense of desperation while addressing my lodging drama.
After checking availability at two places that I have previously stayed in Firenze, niente (that is nothing in Italian) and refusing to pay $500 a night for a hotel, I begin thinking about where I can go within reasonable distance of Firenze. Reasonable distance means within two hours on the train. In addition to scrabbling for last minute lodging, at some point my spouse is expected to arrive in Firenze after traveling more than 24 hours from LAX. With a flight and two separate train trips to reach Firenze, I know from experience that the last thing he will want to do is get on a train and TRAVEL further. With inconsistent internet availability and his travelling all I can do is guess about when he will arrive in Firenze, wait for each train arriving from Rome and surprise him with yet another train trip once he arrives. Luckily, I have Lucca on my mind.
By the way, it took Airbnb more than 24 hours to respond to my pleas for assistance at which point I had already handled a rebooking, cancellation, and train reservations.