Thursday, August 25, 2016

1 MAJOR Downside of Airbnb Bookings

TL;DR: Be aware hosts can cancel on you as the traveler on Airbnb and you get a small coupon to rebook a property but most likely that won't be enough to find a comparable property.  To look out for hosts who cancel, look for reviews that look like the image at the bottom of this post.


For the most part I like using Airbnb, I've stayed at probably 40-50 different properties through the years and for the most part, I've had good experiences and usually are cheaper than getting a comparable hotel in a comparable area.  (Hotels are usually in commercial neighborhoods vs Airbnbs in residential neighborhoods)

However, this has happened to me twice now, when the host cancels the reservation on you, we, as the renters, are kind of left high and dry.  Just today, we had a booking in NYC for mid-September that was cancelled by the host because she is having work done on her house and that's the only date available for the work to be done (her words, not mine)  Whatever the reason, Airbnb offered us a paltry $16 coupon to book something similar.

$16 is nowhere enough, even if I expanded my price range to $50+ the original booking, there's nothing remotely similar at this time.  That's because unlike hotel rooms, Airbnbs are each unique homes, apartments, etc and once 1 person books that listing, it's gone.  So that when you look for places close to when you need them, you'll be getting the leftovers.

I had the same thing happen for a property in Prague over Christmas/New Years, the busiest time of the year in Prague for hotel bookings, and the host cancelled pretty close to the actual travel date.  Back then (Winter 2014) Airbnb offered a 20% credit but I had booked the room originally 6+ months out.  And lots of hosts had ridiculous demands for bookings during that week (as in ridiculous long minimum stays, jacked up rates etc.) So imagine what slim pickings there was when I had to find something about a month out.  20% was not even close to try to get something similar.  I still had to pay extra just to find a decent place that was further out from the city center.

In retrospect, I should have complained more but I didn't.

So you may want to have a refundable booking at a hotel as a backup if you have an Airbnb booking in a popular location. What I've found is sometimes hosts will have their places listed on multiple sites and if they think they can get a better rate vs what was originally booked, they may cancel on 1 site and list at a higher rate on a different site.  (note Airbnb does not allow hosts to relist on the same dates once they cancel)

And I feel like Airbnb does not do enough to protect consumers and seems to favor hosts (and themselves), as hosts can set pretty strict cancellation penalties.  There is no way for the consumer to be able to cancel without some kind of a penalty.  I do not know if hosts can penalized monetarily for cancelling a booking but they should if they are not already.  And much more than 12.5 or 20%.

Here's a way to protect yourself against this, if you see a listing and if you check the reviews (and you always should) and you find reviews like this, you should be very wary as this means the host cancelled on the guest.  If there are multiple reviews that look like this, I would stay away.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Yet another post on Citi Prestige Concierge

I am truly astounded at Citi's incompetence.  I opened a Citigold checking account several months back and it was a royal pain to get everything set up.  I had read online that it would be and anything that they can mess up, they will.  So I wasn't surprised but I was still unhappy as a consumer.

And then Citi actually closed a credit card without my approval and all they said was tough luck.

But I still opened a Citi Prestige and for the most part, the card has been fine, but my experience using their concierge has been atrocious.

Here's a recap:

Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 3:

And now, that confirmation I was supposed to get, never came, so I had to call to get it sent.  Then when it finally did come, the dates were wrong.  So I had to call again to verify the dates are actually correct and to have a new confirmation email sent to me.  But by now I have absolutely zero confidence they even made the right booking at the right hotel. They spelled the name of the hotel wrong but got the address right at least.  So I emailed the hotel directly with the confirmation number and am now waiting for them to confirm I actually have a reservation.  Until they confirm, I'm not cancelling my backup booking.

Bottom line:  If you use the concierge to book hotels outside the US at non-US chain hotels, be prepared for a world of incompetence, lack of follow-up, and lots of phone calls and wasted time.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Hopefully last post on booking a Japanese hotel with Citi Prestige concierge

Being the glutton for punishment I am (as well as being a cheapskate) I have continued to find what I think are suitable hotels then calling the concierge to get it booked.

I found a hotel that had rooms available on and had their own official booking page that didn't require registration and called the concierge again then they told me the room was not available for my dates and that buys a bucket of rooms and then resells them.

But yesterday (8/22) I tooled around on their own website and found availability so I called in again.  I had to coach the concierge through going to their official page and having to use Google Chrome to translate the Japanese booking page to be able to go through the booking process.  It took a while navigating the less than user friendly page that's also being translated via Google to finally make the booking.  Supposedly.  And he confirmed that I'll get the 4th night credit once the booking is paid for.

So I'm supposed to get a confirmation email within 24 hours (it's been about 18 hours so far), until I get that email, I don't think I can actually assume it'll happen.  Let's see what happens.

Overall, it's taken about 6-7 separate phone calls each lasting about 20-30 minutes and my time looking up suitable hotels.  I'd be saving US$165 on a US$740 booking.  I guess it's still worth it...  barely.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Update on booking a hotel in Japan through Citi Prestige Concierge

As an update to this post:

It's been 36 hours or so since I first made the call to the concierge.  And after 3 calls, the bottom line is that they can't make the booking since they're strict in Japan about booking hotels over the phone.  The concierge said they won't allow bookings over the phone and they only allow it online but the concierge can't create an account so they are poop out of luck.

This has totally not been worth my time spent babysitting this.  I've had 2 evenings go by where they were supposed to call an make the reservation but both times, there was no response of any sort, no confirmation, no contact telling me they couldn't do it.  I had to chase them down both times to see what happened and each time the rep said, well the reservation wasn't booked and there are no notes on here.

To be fair, the last rep I got was good about actually getting back to me to let me know what happened but the lack of ownership and follow-through with the other 2 reps is very diasppointing.

Seems like I have to find a hotel that allows people to make an online reservation without creating an account to be able to use this benefit in Japan.

Oh Japan, I like many things about you but sometimes your strict, draconian adherence to rules annoys me.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

American Airlines Amenity Kit Giveaway!

I've been getting some heritage amenity kits from my many flights on American over the past couple of months.  I have no use for these really.  So I'd like to give these away to folks who leave a comment on this blog.  You have to be within the continental U.S (the lower 48 states) and the first 3 comments will receive these free of charge and I'll pay for shipping as well.  These are all unopened and sealed and are your American Airlines business class international amenity kits.

The first comment will receive a set of 3 different themed kits (the first picture), the second and third comments will each receive one of the kits in the second picture.  If it ends up being only one person comments, that person will get all 5.  Unless you don't want that many.

My experience booking a hotel in Japan through Citi Prestige concierge to take advantage of the 4th night free benefit

I recently got a Citi Prestige card (note lack of referral link!) and I'm in the middle of trying to book a 5 night stay in Tokyo to take advantage of the 4th night free benefit.

The thing is you have to book through the Citi Prestige concierge at 1-561-922-0158

So I found a hotel I wanted.

Then I called the number but she could not find the hotel.  Turns out she's looking at the hotel's website here:

And when she goes to the booking link, this hotel isn't on the list of available hotels on the English page.  If you go to the Japanese page and have it translated it shows up but since neither of us read  Japanese, she could not go ahead with booking this hotel.

I had already made a reservation using my dates just to hold a room so I have a backup.

Then I found this hotel which was showing up on the Super Hotels' English website:

So today, I called the concierge again to try to book this hotel.  And while she was able to find the hotel, it required her to create an account to be able to book a room so she said she'll send this to one of her colleagues who speaks Japanese to call them overnight and try to book the room and get back to me by tomorrow.

So the catch is there is only one room type I want that is available on my dates, so I cancelled the reservation about 10 minutes before I made the call but now I'm left with someone potentially taking my room before the concierge is able to call and book the room.  Well, in my favor, it's middle of the night in Japan but then again the US is wide awake at this hour.  So I'll just not make another booking and just hope that the room is still available by the time the concierge makes the call.

All in all, this is not really a smooth process, if the hotel is a local brand overseas and doesn't have a good website.  If it was a chain hotel like Marriott or Hilton, this should be very smooth I'd imagine.  I'll update if the reservation runs into further issues.