Last week I set out with four friends on a spring break road trip, with our first stop in Charleston, S.C. As college students on budgets, lodging was our biggest concern. We wanted to stay in the downtown area but weren’t prepared to pay the fees for centrally located hotels. We had all heard rave review of experiences with Airbnb, so we decided to give it a try. Unfortunately, our experience didn’t end in those same types of reviews.
When we were planning the trip in January, we found an Airbnb that looked reliable. It was advertised as a short walk to the downtown area with available parking and was described as “an old house with character.” The reviews for the rental were great so we quickly booked the room and contacted the owner. When we first booked the room only 4 of us were traveling, so when a fifth person joined our trip we contacted the owner (we will call him Mike), who said the room would be tight but would easily fit the five of us, so we felt no need to change.
When we arrived at the house it didn’t take long to realize that it wasn’t what we were expecting. The street was outside of the downtown area and lacked the typical charm of Charleston. For lack of a better word, it was sketchy. And we quickly figured out that the advertised available parking was really just fist come, first serve on the street. When we went inside it only got worse. The bedroom, that was said to have enough space for two air mattresses, had one double bed and about four feet of floor space, which our luggage quickly filled. Mike didn’t seem to see any problem with it and then added that we couldn’t exactly use the shower. There was a gaping hole in the shower ground and since we were staying in an upper level apartment every time the shower was used water leaked into his downstairs neighbors apartment. He suggested that we not take showers or take very quick ones when his neighbor wasn’t home (still not sure how exactly we were supposed to know when that was.)
We quickly unloaded our car and left to go get lunch in downtown, mostly because we didn’t have enough room to even all stand in the room, let alone change clothes and get ready for the day like we had planned. In under one block we had begun to discuss leaving the Airbnb and finding a hotel and by the time we got our drinks at lunch we had decided we had to get out. One of the boys we were traveling with called Mike and explained our issue, to which Mike asked that he come back to talk to him in person. When Jacob arrived and told Mike that we were told the room would be bigger, there would be secure parking and that we would have a working bathroom Mike basically cussed him out and told him he wouldn’t give him a refund. By the end of the conversation, and through apparently a lot more cussing, Mike agreed to give us a refund of all but $40 but told him to “get the **** out of his house,” so Jacob quickly packed up the car and came back to meet us.
We found a hotel in a centralized location and splurged to get a room. With in five minutes of checking in a worker informed us that America Street, the street the Airbnb was on, was “the sketchiest street in Charleston,” and as we were walking to dinner a man on the street overheard our conversation about America Street and said “nothing on America Street but drugs and money.” At that point we knew we were staying in a safe area so we were able to laugh it off but it only further reassured our rash decision to cancel our reservation. I don’t see myself jumping on the opportunity to book another Airbnb anytime soon, but if I do it will include extensive research. We might of had to pay a little more money for our lodging, but we got a story we will laugh about for years.
Have you had any interesting experiences with airbnb? Let me know in the comments!