Bear with me while I set the stage. In early February of this year, I took the bull by the horns and made apartment reservations for our September – October trip to Italy, which happens to be six weeks and six days from today. I paid deposits on an apartment in Florence, one in Montepulciano, and one in Rome. In early July, something told me to take a peek, again, at the apartments I reserved through HomeAway. I think I wanted to write down addresses, contact information, etc. Lo and behold right off the bat, I discovered the apartment I had booked for two nights in Florence was no longer listed on HomeAway’s website. I looked through my saved emails and the only information I had is the PayPal receipt email for the deposit. I immediately sent an email to HomeAway explaining the situation and giving them every bit of information I had, which amounted to the original HomeAway listing number and the first name of the person I thought to be the owner. All I requested from HomeAway was contact information for the owner or property manager. All I got in return was an email from HomeAway stating the name I had did not match their records. Really? Thanks. Don’t kill yourself being helpful. I then went to my PayPal account where I was able to find an email address for the person who accepted my $138 deposit. I sent an email off saying, ” Hey there. Someone using this email address gladly accepted my deposit on an apartment for two days in September and I’d just like to touch base.” Back came a pleasant email stating, “Oh…. That apartment is no longer available now due to structural issues and we’d like to offer you another lovely apartment for the same price.” Hhhhmmmm….I looked over the runner-up apartment with the link they kindly included. It didn’t look quite as lovely as the first one and the first one was a few blocks from Santa Croce, not a few blocks from the train station. I was a bit miffed, but I talked it over with G-man and he reminded me sometimes things work out for a reason. Maybe this would turn out to be a good thing. I’m a silver-lining kind of gal, so I went with it. Besides we are only going to be there about 48 hours so, really, what does it matter where we lay our heads? But, I still had that niggling feeling in my stomach…or the back of my mind, sometimes that’s the same thing. I exchanged a few more emails with the property person, the last one instructing us to bring the balance of the payment in cash plus a 100 euro cash deposit. Hhhhmmm. A few days later, I inquired as to exactly how much cash we needed to cover the balance. It’s been four weeks now and I still haven’t gotten a reply. Oddly, every other email I sent was quickly answered. Every now and then I would think about it and tell myself I need to send a follow-up email. I’m sure I would have eventually gotten around to it.
Then today, the lovely and awesome ladies at Florence for Free decide I need a slap upside my head and lay it on me in the form of this wonderfully enlightening post called “The Dos and Don’ts of Vacation Rentals.” Yep. Ok. That’s it. Time to call the whole thing off and start fresh with a new place to stay for two nights in Florence. I log into my Gmail account on my laptop to send an email to the mystery person requesting to cancel the mystery apartment and kindly return my $138 deposit. I navigate on over to my “Italy Trip” folder. And surprise, all the emails we exchanged are gone. Yeah, gone. G O N E. I thought, “ok, maybe there is something screwy on my laptop. Let me check my iPad.” Pick up iPad. Tap Mail app icon. Tap “Italy Trip” folder icon. “Italy Trip” folder opens up and there are the emails. As my iPad is thoughtfully refreshing the folder, I watch as the emails disappear. Only the emails in reference to this apartment in Florence. Just the ones from the sender using email address firstname.lastname@example.org (the names are changed to protect the innocent). Everything else is still in the folder. I’m telling you I saw it with my own two eyes. I never bought into the whole Area 51 thing. Until now.
I had to go back into my PayPal account history, again, to find the mystery email address. I love you, PayPal. I sent an email to the mystery person advising them that we are cancelling our reservation and would like our not-mysterious, but very real, $138 back. What have I heard in response. Nothing. What is their refund policy? Couldn’t tell you. Any cancellation/refund information that was on the original HomeAway listing is no longer available. I can’t find anything on their property management website, Florence Apartments by Fred (still changing names to protect the innocent), in reference to cancelling or refunding. What’s the take-away from all of this?? I should have trusted my instinct when I had to track them down to find out the apartment was no longer available. Bait and switch. Sure sounds like it. I should have said, “thanks, but no thanks” and gotten a refund then and there. Live and learn.
And as a final FYI, to attempt a refund through PayPal, I had to have initiated my complaint within 45 days of the initial transaction. It’s been closer to six months. I’ll take a look at my credit card next to see what I might be able to do through them. In the mean time, I have sent off an inquiry for a different apartment back near Santa Croce and that is a very good thing. Did I mention we leave six weeks and six days from today?
And one more thing. If you have important emails you want to hang on to, you might want to print them out.