Monday, January 20, 2020

Homestay Hustle: Kochi Edition - Dealing with AirBnB and Booking Scams in India


Our homestay in Kerala was located in a very convenient area of the city.

Every once in a while when traveling it seems that some kind of situation comes up where greed rears its nasty little head and makes things harder than they should be.
That situation emerged at our last homestay in Kerala and we knew that it was not going to end well.

When we arrived in Kochi, it was about 11 pm, and by the time the taxi pulled up to our homestay, it was well after 1 am. Our host was half asleep and his command of English was not very good. One can not fault him for those things. We had originally reserved two rooms, one for us, and one for our friend Julia who was traveling with us. The total price on Booking came out to be about 4,280 rupees for a double room with a private bathroom and a double room with a shared bathroom. When we checked in, only one room was available, which was the room with a private bathroom. We said that was okay, as it was late and reminded our host that we reserved two rooms. We were checked in and went to bed. Everyone was tired.

The next day, upon awakening, we were told that the other room was actually a shared dorm room and there would be a guy sleeping with Julia. We said we were fine with just the room we reserved. It was tight but we knew we could make it work. And we did.

Then the issue of payment came up. We were later told that the cost was 4,500 rupees for the rooms (which was higher than the booking cost) and we were under the impression that they were going to give us another room, so I gave them 6000 rupees (as I did not have change). I realize that this was not a good decision and would not do this again in the future. We later realized that there was no other room that would be given to us and we said we would just take the one room, which was quoted on Booking as being around 1750 rupees for four nights.

Fast forward to the day we checked out. We went down to get our change and we were told that the room that they actually gave us was a triple room and that it costed 4,500 rupees. We never were told that it was a triple room (one of the beds was a mattress on the floor that was under the bed). We said that we were never told that was a triple room when we checked in, but we understood paying some more for Julia to be in the room, but not over double the price.

After two hours of arguing back and forth, we were told that the rate we got on Booking was no good and that they meant to change it, as it was a sale and we should have not got it in the first place. We were able to agree on a price of 2,900, which was more fair. The interesting thing was, the night before there was another couple arguing about the price and the next day we talked to some Russians who also said that there was a huge misunderstanding in price. It seems that this homestay is ran quite haphazardly and I don’t think they have everything together as they should. After reading the bad reviews (their overall review score was 80, and all the recent reviews are pretty positive), I saw that there is a trend of taking advantage of guests, giving them the wrong rooms, and then making them pay more. It’s such a shame that it’s like that. When someone books on booking.com they should get what they pay for.

Of course, there is always a lesson in everything. First, I will require that we check into the rooms we pay for right away. If we are upgraded for some reason, I will make sure there is no additional cost (although this room was not an upgrade - it looked far worse than any of the other rooms and the pictures on the Booking site). Secondly, I will pay up front before we check in so that this issue does not come up. I think some places prey on customers paying at the end so that they can take advantage of them. This is not good. Do not pay at the end unless everything is agreed on right away, and still then, I would say, don’t pay at the end. If one has to pay at the end, have exact change and do not budge.

Even the description of the room was fishy. The booking site said there was a free shuttle service from the airport (when we enquired, it was more expensive than the regular airport taxi service, so we did not use it). The listing said all rooms had flat screen televisions in all rooms and that there was a hot tub (we knew this was not the case based on the pictures). There was not even hot water. All the amenities were checked, which was fishy. The listing also said, and it was written out by the host, that it was close to ski slopes. I have no clue where the closest ski slopes are, but there are none here in Kerala or South India for that matter that I know of!

It took a while to get to our next place. After all of that, we were pretty tired and ready to move on It was a shame, too. The homestay was not a bad place. The kitchen looked a bit messy, and we did not eat the food there, but it was clean enough. The room was basic, but it was what we thought we were paying for (it would have been fine at the quoted price). Yes, there was no hot water, but that’s standard here. In the end, it’s the sheer greed of it all that bothers me. Greed is ugly. Sadly, all over this house were pictures and statues of Jesus and crucifixes and things of that nature that pointed to the hosts being Christians, and it did a disservice to the name of Christianity. We all fail from time to time, but to run a business like that is not good at all (although I do think some of it is just a huge disorganization on their part).

For a name like Lavender homestay, it was not very calming or peaceful. Sometimes names can be deceiving.

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