Last month, my team at Automattic held its first meetup, or in-person gathering. We chose Orlando because, for most of the group, it was warmer than where we live. For irrelevant reasons, we booked a HomeAway listing to host us.
The listing we chose was comprised of several buildings, which in total should’ve provided us the number of bedrooms we required for our group. I communicated with the property manager to clarify how many individual bedrooms we needed, and was provided an aerial photo showing which of the buildings we’d have access to. Leading up to the meetup, all seemed to be in order.
When we arrived at the property, however, we learned that a different building would be substituted for one that had been indicated in the aerial diagram. Were the buildings of comparable quality, this would have been fine, as the alternate was no more than 100 feet from the original. Sadly, the buildings were drastically different, at least judging by the photos available on HomeAway.
After assessing the structures we had access to, we identified two critical deficiencies that would materially impact our week-long stay:
- one bedroom had no curtains over its large windows, and the room faced a traffic intersection;
- another bedroom had no access to a bathroom if the two other bedrooms in the building were occupied.
When we contacted the property manager regarding these issues, the conversation quickly became adversarial. One of the properties we took issue with–the one with the bedroom sans washroom access–apparently had previously belonged to a family member, and thus held sentimental value; our complaint was met with great umbrage. After several tense conversations, we resigned to make due with the lodging we had, as the alternatives offered were unsuitable. We opted not to antagonize the property manager further, lest he decide to evict us prematurely.
Recognizing that the property was not as described in the HomeAway listing, I presumed that I could raise my concerns to their staff for some sort of redress. I was woefully mistaken. Perhaps it was my experiences with their competitors that led me to this conclusion.
Sadly, HomeAway’s responses have been disappointing, and entirely intended to avoid liability.
When we receive complaints, we encourage both parties to work toward a mutual resolution. We have provided the vacation rental owner or property manager an opportunity to resolve the dispute by forwarding them the details of your complaint. Our procedure is to note both sides of the situation and closely monitor accounts that have had a complaint filed.
As an online marketplace, we are not able to mediate disputes. To do so would violate our terms and conditions. If a resolution cannot be reached after efforts to contact the advertiser regarding the situation, you may need to consider other avenues. We cannot advise you on how you should proceed, and we are sorry for the negative experience you have had and that this dispute has not yet been resolved to your satisfaction.
All of preceding is despite the fact that:
- Their staff brokered our rental because the cost of our stay exceeded their internal limit of $10,000 per booking;
- All of my interactions with the property manager–at least prior to arrival–occurred through HomeAway as the “marketplace” didn’t release my phone number to our host until the rental began;
- HomeAway actively encouraged me to communicate with the property manager only through their app.
Since returning from the meetup, I’ve exchanged emails with several feckless customer service agents who provided the responses I quoted above. They’ve continually encouraged me to contact the property manager, even though the property manager has made it quite clear that they’re unwilling to offer any compensation for this situation. Their unwillingness is documented in my communications on HomeAway.
I honestly don’t know what more HomeAway expects from me. Perhaps the best I can do is provide these reference numbers and hope that someone in a meaningful position at HomeAway sees this post.
- HomeAway Property Case 17997716 [ ref:_00D708VtP._500391aFYuy:ref ]
- Property ID 585578
- Reservation IDs HA-KCWNRK and HA-JFGLB2