(After one of Clint Eastwood’s Spaghetti Westerns which my mom and I were discussing the other day.)
Let me take a second here to say that I have been using Airbnb for a couple years now. I find it a great alternative to hotels, and sometimes even to hostels. Split between friends it is just as cheap, if not more so, than a hostel. You get more privacy, and often more space. Unlike a hotel you get your own kitchen to cook in which saves you even more money (remember that the terrible hostel I stayed in that had no kitchen?!). Overall I love using Airbnb and I have never had a bad experience with it until our arrival in Sorrento.
Upon my mother’s request I booked all of our lodgings for this trip on airbnb. Each of the owners so far have messaged me within a couple days of our arrival date to check in, discuss arrival time, and plan key collection. When I realized I had not yet heard from our Sorrento host, I sent him a message to check in. When asking directions from the train station he simply said I could look it up on Google maps or ask at the hospital (I had already said I had limited wifi access and no data on my phone. And where was this hospital he was speaking of? I assumed maybe he meant ask at the train station instead…). He later sent me his mother’s number saying “she speaks fluently [sic] English and French” and that I could call her if I had any questions. I was a little concerned by his seeming unconcerned attitude in providing assistance but ignored it. I figured perhaps he wasn’t confident enough in English to give direction, knowing myself how intimidating speaking a second language can be.
Unfortunately I no longer had wifi to message him back, but his mother luckily called me (she doesn’t text I found out) just as we got off the train in Sorrento. Her English and French were not quite as perfect as her son had implied. Finally, though, I was able to wrangle the name of a “bar” to meet her at and some vague directions on how to get there. “Everyone knows it,” she reassured me. Stumbling through the name as I was, people were luckily still able to point us in the right direction and, along with the help of a map I had managed to just barely load onto my phone while still connected to internet, we found it and her.
From there the apartment was just down the street, right near the old town and just off a main shopping boulevard. I can’t complain about the location, it was right in the center of everything. However, the apartment itself was a little disappointing upon arrival. The beds were not yet made up, the kitchen was cluttered, and the bathroom not completely cleaned (like most Italian stoves I have used so far it was gas and needed to be lit by oneself. Unfortunately, only a small cigarette lighter was supplied for this, not the safest). I give my applause to the photographer, at least, for the quality of the airbnb pictures.
Overall these were minor inconveniences; issues that we were prepared and more than happy to overlook. There was one thing, however, that we could not ignore. After our host (host’s mother? not quite sure who’s apartment it actually was anymore) left I went to plug in the wifi. It was a small portable modem that is pre-loaded with limited data (at least as I understand it from previous usage). Checking the computer I found that the network was not showing up. I decided maybe it would take awhile to get going as it had the last time I’d used one. I told my mom we could go out for a bit and by the time we came back hopefully the wifi would be working.
We came back that night (probably 4-5 hours in at this point) and it still wasn’t appearing on the computer. Luckily we had some shows already on the computer (the TV wasn’t working very well) so we watched a couple and went to bed. I was confident that come morning the wifi would be working and we could each get some of our respective work done (and contact the bank as we were still sorting out the money issue at this point).
I was wrong. Morning came (approximately fifteen hours) and still nothing. I tinkered with the modem a little. Got some more lights, but still nothing on the computer. We decided to go find breakfast and wifi somewhere so that I could contact our host (the son, not the mother. It was too early to call I felt and because she didn’t text I needed internet to message him as I never got his own number). As we were leaving the cafe I got a call from her (again very hard to understand and even harder to get a word in edgewise!). I explained the problem and that we needed working internet to do… well our work. She said she understood and would look into it.
A few hours later I got another call from her. By now it was past lunchtime (19-20 hours). She said she had called the internet company. After much rambling on her part about it being the company, not them, a lot of others had been complaining to the company, it might be working by now it might not, it might take who knows how long to get it working, I finally determined that she wanted us to go back to the apartment to see if it was working or not. We did so. It was not.
With no idea when the wifi would be working again (she said at one point it might not be until Monday due to the weekend – it was Saturday) and no alternative other than spending all our time in cafes with wifi, my mom decided enough was enough and that I should look for a hotel for us. Although we can survive without it, wifi has become an integral part of our first-world modern society. My mom and I both needed it to stay in touch with family and get necessary work done. With the bank issue still in progress we also needed wifi in a private area to skype the bank.
We were not very hopeful about finding a hotel at such short notice, especially considering how packed the town seemed to be with tourists. We were lucky in the end, though. I found us a wonderful hotel, with a great view and still perfect location. They likely had had a cancellation and wanted to fill the now-empty room as we got it for much cheaper than it would normally have been. It was perfect. Although we no longer had a kitchen we had a much larger balcony (my mom loved her outdoor space) as well as the hotel pool to relax by. We moved in immediately.
First thing upon arrival at the hotel, I emailed our airbnb and told him we had moved out and left the key where instructed, thank you very much. He responded by saying that I didn’t understand, the wifi was the company’s fault not his/his mother’s. They were still in touch with the company and working on getting it fixed, would we please come back. I’m sorry, still working on it (24+ hours)?!
I told him I understood that it was on the internet company’s end (and they still didn’t have it working over a day later?) but that the wifi had been promised and necessary for us but was not provided so we had left. (I just went back to look at the airbnb description. In the name of the apartment even, not just in the description, it says wifi). My mother commented to me that perhaps if they had a permanent wifi setup instead this wouldn’t have happened. Whatever the source of the problem, I explained to him, in the end itwas he who had promised me internet, him that I was paying for the service, and he who, in the end, could provide neither internet nor an alternative when it wasn’t working. A fair complaint, I felt on our part.
We ended up being much happier and more comfortable in the hotel than we had in our one night in the (no wifi, no TV, not enough blankets) airbnb. We would have never been able to get the hotel had I tried to book it originally, at least not within our budget, but it worked out in the end. Perhaps we were being a little privileged with our need for internet, but we are on vacation after all. And we decided that to enjoy it in the way we want we need internet. I will likely go on future vacations where I may not have internet, but I will know and prepare for that beforehand. In the end, I suppose it all worked out. Maybe even for the better. (I just wish I hadn’t cancelled the reservation because now I can’t review the apartment and warn others). It’s always an adventure after all.
Have you ever had problems with hotels or other lodgings you booked for travel or other occasions? What things can you not live without when traveling?