Anna Weinstein’s Park City condo doesn’t match the description. It hasn’t been cleaned and the owner is unhelpful. Can Vrbo, the site through which she booked the rental, fix it, or does she need a consumer advocate?
Q: I booked a condo in Park City, Utah, for four nights through Vrbo. When I arrived, I found that it was much smaller than it appeared in the images on the site. But the main problem was that it clearly had not been cleaned since the last renters left. There was also extremely awful-smelling trash that they had failed to empty in the can right near the front door of the unit. Lovely.
After much effort, I managed to get someone from Vrbo to locate my reservation and provide me the phone number of the property owner. Instead of apologizing and agreeing to pay for me to stay in a clean room that night, as would have been the only decent thing to do, the owner questioned whether I went to the correct unit and said he would have to “investigate” the situation.
The next day, when I went back to the original unit, it was still not clean. There were little bits of toilet paper on the bathroom floor around the toilet. I wondered whether the towels that looked like they had been folded by a 5-year-old or the sheets under the comforter, which was carelessly tossed on the bed, were even clean. I tried to reach the owner to explain what I’d found the second time around, but once again my call went straight to voicemail. He did not respond to my voice or email messages.
Long story short, I had to spend two nights in another, much more expensive unit in the same condo development. Early on day three, I went back to see if the room had finally been properly cleaned. I discovered that my keycard didn’t work. I was left with nowhere to stay for the last two nights of my trip, at peak time in Park City when there were almost no available rooms in the entire village. I had to spend the morning scrambling to find somewhere to stay other than in my rental car on the side of the mountain. I managed to find something at a hotel up the road, but it cost me a fortune.
Despite my repeated requests since returning home, Vrbo refuses to do anything to help me recover any of the $2,300 I spent. They claim they are simply a marketing site and it is completely up to renters to try to get property owners – even dishonest ones – to do the right thing. I would like my money back. Can you help? – Anna Weinstein, Washington, D.C.
A: I’m sorry for your unpleasant stay in Park City. Of course, your host should have provided you with clean accommodations that matched the photos on the site. Those are two of my vacation rental pet peeves, actually. Hosts should always post honest photos of their properties – and they should be cleaned before you arrive.
I think you could have leaned on Vrbo a little more in trying to resolve this. The company offers a “Book with Confidence” guarantee, with a dedicated team to help answer questions before and during your stay. When you book through Vrbo, and your accommodations are not up to par, the team will provide lodging assistance and help rebook you in another vacation rental.
That’s not just marketing hype. I had to use the Vrbo rebooking team when one of their hosts abruptly canceled my stay because she wanted to sell her condo. They fixed the problem before I checked in.
If for some reason Vrbo’s team doesn’t respond, you can always appeal to one of the Vrbo customer service executives. Vrbo is owned by HomeAway, which is owned by Expedia. I list their names, numbers and email addresses on my consumer advocacy site.
I checked with Vrbo. Its records show that instead of contacting the rebooking team, you rebooked yourself in a different property. That effectively canceled your first reservation, which was why you couldn’t access the property later, according to the company.
“That said, arriving at your rental and finding that it doesn’t meet your expectations is a frustrating experience,” a Vrbo spokeswoman told me. Vrbo will offer you a credit for your rental.
Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the author of “How to Be the World’s Smartest Traveler.” You can read more travel tips on his blog, elliott.org, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.