|View of Milan from Il Duomo|
A few friends and I went to Milan on the first weekend of February and despite a few obstacles we encountered on site, it turned out to be if not a fun weekend, a memorable one.
Everyone on Facebook and IRL assured me that Milan was Italy's ugly ducking city. A thriving industrial, fashion, and economic centre? Yes, but not nearly as quaint or as beautiful as say Rome or Florence. My friends and I decided to be posh and rent an apartment via Airbnb rather than stay at a hostel, like commoners... I guess. Gemma and I had done it a week earlier in Paris and we still remember it as the most comfortable stay we've had outside a hotel. Unfortunately, our Milan experience was quite the opposite. The apartment was absolutely beautiful but our host Andrea turned out to be a bit of a scammer who tried to collect a 540 € security deposit after we left.
I got a bad feeling when our host's mother - not him - received us. We got settled in though and proceeded to explore the city. When we returned, and after multiple tries, we couldn't open the door, our host couldn't open the door, and his mother couldn't open the door. The key just would not turn, the lock was completely stucked. After about a pointless hour of mother and son trying to open the obviously jammed door, we were advised to wait at a nearby McDonalds while the locksmith arrived and did his job. Classy as always, my friend and I got really drunk on gin and tonic while we waited (read more about it here).
After about 1h30, we were able to enter the apartment and even had a reckless night out. The rest of the trip went smoothly, although we were not able to lock the door during our stay. Andrea was very nice throughout the ordeal and even offered us a reimbursement for the first night - which we never got! Imagine the surprise when the girl who had booked everything on her card got an email from Airbnb saying that Andrea was claiming 540 € for the dammages.
I called Andrea with the hopes that it was some communication problem. It was not. He claimed that the locksmith had charged him 540 € and that the jamming of the door had been our fault because they had allegedly found a piece of the key in the lock. As far as I can recall, the key looked intact before we handed over to them. He sounded very determined to get "his money back". I bet I sounded just as determined to keep it. He said he understood we were poor students and suggested we go 50-50 on the alleged cost of the locksmith and "solve the problem between us" without the help of Airbnb... He then sent us his bank information and assured us that he would withdraw the deposit claim when he received his 270 € payment. In my opinion, he shot himself in the foot by asking us to do a direct deposit. Thankfully we knew better than to do that -- we had no guarantee that he would in fact withdraw the 540 € claim.
We wrote back to Airbnb, contesting his claim. We explained everything that happened including his failure to provide us with a reimbursement and his outrageous request of a 270 € direct deposit. Luckily, Airbnb agreed with us and they dropped the case. He was obviously just trying to make an extra buck.
I have gone back to using Airbnb without any mishap since this unfortunate experience but I have developed some rules so that this never happens again. I have outlined them below.
Things to look for when choosing Airbnb accomodations:
- Location - google map it!
- The description - the longer the better! It's a good sign if a host has gone through the trouble of writing an extensive description of the room and the services they offer. Do take the time to read everything, otherwise don't act surprised if you get there and there's a cat or you have to share a bathroom or there's no breakfast.
- Photos - the more the better! This is another sign of how much effort the host has put into. If you're renting a room, it's nice to have a look at what the rest apartment looks like.
- References - read them thoroughly and read between the lines. If there's more than a negative one and they both point out the same things, better not take the risk. It's not like it's free.
- Type of accommodation - I prefer renting a room or rooms than a whole apartment because if anything goes wrong, your host will be there. It's also more likely that breakfast is included
- Fees - make sure you read if there are any cleaning fees or damages deposit added to the price.
Have you had any negative experiences on Airbnb or have anything to add? Post in the comment section below.