Posted on July 3, 2015
I’ve been staying at AirBnB places for almost a month on this trip. In Venice and Rome with Marina, in Florence and Paris on my own (in places less pricey). The one factor that all shared though was that the heat in each city was terrible for that time of year.
Venice was in early June and the heat and humidity were like a damp blanket until 9 or 10 pm. The Venice place was a true B & B called Ca Querini. The folks there were surprised by the heat coming so early but they gave us the use of a door AC unit that made sleeping bearable.
Rome was also well into the 90s (or the 30s in Centigrade) on every day. We had the use of Maurizio’s 2 bedroom apartment close to the Campo dei Fiori, right in the middle of things. The place had an assortment of ceiling and table fans and there were two margin AC units. It wasn’t as cool as a hotel or homes in the US but it was adequate.
In Florence I had a room on the far side of the Arno, staying with Sandrine and her daughter. They were the perfect AirBNB hosts, helpful, showing me where to go, pulling info from the Italian web sites. They had AC but avoided using it. So I used a fan. And for the days when the heat got up to 100, I turned on the AC when in the room.
By now I was used to the fact that Europe was in the middle of a heat wave and that AirBnB places weren’t always prepared. My final destination apartment made no mention of having AC. That’s a bad sign. So I emailed my host (let’s call her Laura) just to confirm that she had a good fan I could use. She didn’t answer that question at all. Another bad sign.
I get there and Laura’s friend lets me in. No fan. It’s 8 pm and the street temperature is still 90 degrees. The tiny apartment is cooler, only 85. But it has only one window and the air doesn’t move. The friend doesn’t speak English at all, so there was no help regarding where the closest supermarket, Metro or bakery is.
I emailed Laura. Laura doesn’t use a fan and doesn’t think she should have one for her guests. Here’s her exact note:
As you can see it’s too small [in the apartment] to have a fan, and it’s the first time the weather is so hot, that’s why i did not buy a fan i also i don’t have fan for you…
And i don’t need fan for Paris so i will not buy a fan…
I am sorry we never have these kind of temperatures in Paris.
Wow. Where do you start with someone like this? Strangely enough I was nice. I didn’t mention that in fact Paris does get 90-100 degree temperatures. It’s happening now and it happens most summers.
I did mention that the latest fans are now small enough to fit even in small apartments. I mentioned that some of us have trouble sleeping when it’s 85 or 90. And I said that some of the folks who are paying her hundreds of Euros per week probably find 100 degree heat uncomfortable. And I was so nice.
Didn’t work. I finally suggested that I would pay half the cost to buy the fan myself. It would only cost her 20 Euros or so. And Laura said fine, buy the fan if you want. She offered no suggestion as to a good place to buy it. But she did provide a generous dollop of attitude.
I ended up finding a department store that had a good fan, a ventilateur de table (pardon my French). I lugged it back to the apartment and put it together. And now I’m sitting here feeling pretty cool. Will Laura actually pay me? Maybe. Here’s our last communication:
Yes [the fan] it’s enough expensive and i would tell you that this summer i don’t have guest so it’s only my problem…
I can’t pay everything for everyone. But anyway it doesn’t mind…
Tell me the best way to give you 22€
Underneath the attitude is a valid point — guests ask for a lot of stuff and if you please everyone, your business will suffer. But any business decides what will grow the business and what’s an edge case that only pleases one person.
I also get that many in southern Europe are more comfortable with heat in their apartments. So their personal attitudes may be quite different from my own. But I don’t think this is a question of attitudes. When someone is a host, they become a business. They are trying to please a wide range of people with needs different from their own. And they are making 80 – xxx Euros a day. So to me, having a good fan or two is a smart investment.
This is the first time I’ve had an AirBnB host that isn’t truly service oriented. And it’s a bit surprising. Ultimately you are at the mercy of the host. You’re in a strange city. You don’t expect to be babied along, given any special attention. In fact I don’t mind paying 22 € for a fan that I won’t have after 5 days.
But I’m surprised that folks don’t realize that their attitude towards others is their brand. That’s how people on AirBNB are seeing you. I generally try a leave a place feeling that my host and I have a new-found respect. Usually that’s how things play out.
One final note. When we got to Rome, we discovered that the Wifi didn’t work. Maurizio paid for a new router and we didn’t have more than a couple of hours of down time. I know it was a hassle for him but there wasn’t a hint of attitude. He got happy customers, he got Wifi that’s faster and it cost him less than a day of our AirBnB fee.
“Good name in man or woman is the immediate jewel of the soul…”
Shakespeare (extra credit if you name the character and play)