No matter how much you love your job, vacation is always a treat. Whether you’re exploring a new city, visiting a quiet mountain retreat, or doing anything in between, it’s liberating to be off the clock for a couple of days. There’s simply nothing better than being able to do what you want, when you want.
Well, a family from England looked forward to getting away from the hustle and bustle for awhile when they booked a trip to a seaside cottage. However, the second they opened the front door to their home away from home, they knew their vacation was about to be anything but relaxing.
Kellie Rice lived with her husband and children in Kirkby, which lies just outside Liverpool, England. After a tough few months, she wanted to do something nice for her family.
See, earlier that year, Kellie’s mother-in-law was unfortunately diagnosed with breast cancer. The entire family was shaken by the news; they needed to do something to lift everyone’s collective spirits.
Kellie decided a family vacation would do wonders for their morale. There was nothing like spending some quality time together, away from the stresses of everyday life, to cheer everyone up.
Trips don’t organize themselves, however, so Kellie started planning. She reached out to her extended family to see how many people wanted to join in on the vacation. She didn’t expect the response she received.
After gathering responses, she was delighted to find 10 family members would be joining the trip! Kellie was excited but feared the large number of travelers would unfortunately make her vacation planning much more difficult.
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Because hotel rooms keep getting smaller, crummier, and more expensive, Kellie began to consider other options in order to house all 10 members of her group. Maybe the family would have to improvise a little bit…
Kellie started searching for vacation home rentals and, against the odds, found a dream listing. There was a five bedroom cottage in Trearddur Bay, Wales, available for the long weekend! It was perfect.
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The booking site called the cottage a “magnificent detached retreat;” it even said the home was “perfect for families.” It was as if the listing was specifically created for Kellie’s needs.
Kellie clicked through the listing, checking out all the provided photos. The booking company was reputable and the images looked good, but she noticed one strange thing on the website.
The cottage didn’t have any reviews. Kellie was caught in two minds: while she was understandably skeptical — and picturing any number of cottage-based disasters — she didn’t want to let the perfect vacation rental slip through her fingers.
Determined to take her family on vacation, she decided the cottage was likely a new listing and took the plunge. At that point, concern started shifting to excitement; the family would finally be going on vacation!
Finally, the big day came. The family sat in holiday traffic for hours but, after a long day on the road, they finally reached the coast of Wales and pulled up to the cottage.
Everyone was eager to relax, so Kellie and her family rushed to the cottage’s front door. When they opened it, however, a quick look around immediately told the adults something was wrong.
The house immediately smelled damp and musty. As the family cautiously went inside, though, things didn’t get any better. The kitchen, where the group planned to prepare a lavish dinner, was especially jarring.
Not only was the kitchen filthy, but mold was growing in the corners of the room. That was more than gross, however; it was outright dangerous for a few members of the visiting family.
Kellie’s son had breathing issues, and her mother-in-law had a weakened immune system. A moldy environment could be hazardous to their health. Seeking fresh air, the family stepped the cottage’s back yard. Things had to be better out there, right?
Some windows had been broken, however, filling the grass with broken glass! A few adults also decided to check out the cottage’s game room; maybe the kids could play there while the grown-ups sorted things out.
Unfortunately, they were in for a surprise, as the playroom’s shelves were coated with a thick layer of dust. At that point, Kellie had had enough; she only had one option left.
She called the rental company and complained about the cottage’s cleanliness. They said they would sort everything out, so the family decided to visit the beach. Hours later, Kellie received some bad news.
Since it was a holiday weekend, the company wasn’t able to send any cleaning staff over to the cottage. At this point, they could only offer the family one final option.
Kellie’s group could relocate to another cottage, but there was a catch. The other options weren’t nearby and would cost significantly more than the $1000 they had already paid. The family wasn’t made of money!
With a heavy heart, Kellie and her family decided they couldn’t stay. The children were especially upset as everyone piled back into the car for the long drive back home.
The rental company eventually offered the family a refund, but Kellie still wasn’t happy. “Thing is, we’re not after compensation,” she explained. “We just wanted a clean house to stay in like we were promised.”
The Rice family learned an unfortunate truth about rental companies, a truth many others are learning as more and more travel apps become available. Many others looking to break away from hotel chains are facing unforeseen consequences.
Like the Rice family, Nicole Mastrangelo wanted to escape her hometown of New York City for a few days for some much needed rest and relaxation. Just as Kellie had done, she started planning a trip — that soon turned into a nightmare.
She got home from a long shift that day and called several of her friends, asking if they wanted to join her and make the whole thing a fun ladies weekend. Everyone agreed.
After looking at home rental companies, Nicole opted to go through HomeAway as opposed to Airbnb. The pricing fell more within her range, plus she found the perfect spot in Connecticut.
It was a farmhouse just a few hours from the city, and it had the hot tub she craved. It was winter, and Nicole wanted to hang with her friends, drink some wine, and keep warm in some bubbly water.
The man renting out the home was Doug Spingola, and he greeted the girls upon arrival. He seemed nice, but Nicole had an uneasy feeling about him, which she shared with her mother over the phone.
Naturally, Nicole’s mom wanted to make sure her daughter and the rest of women were safe, so she looked up the owner online. As it turned out, Nicole’s unease was completely justified.
Spingola was a professional masseuse, as Nicole’s mom learned, but in 2009, he was arrested and sentenced to a year probation for conducting himself inappropriately around multiple women. Fear swept over Nicole and her friends.
The women no longer wanted to stay at the farmhouse, but with a snowstorm quickly approaching, they didn’t want to drive back to the city either. So, they called HomeAway and explained the situation.
HomeAway refunded the girls for the farmhouse, but they still had to pay to stay at a nearby hotel. How, the girls wondered, could HomeAway rent out a criminal’s house? It must’ve been something in their policy because, incredibly, this wasn’t the first time it happened
Patricia Smith, a 32-year-old lawyer from Atlanta, ran into a similar problem with HomeAway while trying to organize plans for a friend’s bachelorette party. Her group was also taken for an unexpected and frightening emotional ride.
After a lot of thought, Patricia chose to celebrate her friend’s special occasion in Panama City, Florida. The nightlife was booming, the food was fantastic, and best of all, she found an amazing deal for a quaint rental home.
For $117 a night, the ladies had an adorable home that wasn’t located directly in the heart of Panama City — that would have been a little too chaotic — but it was right on the outskirts.
The amenities it included were fantastic. It had a hot tub, a large deck, and a great view in the backyard. However, once they arrived, they, too, had an issue with the person renting it out.
The homeowner was supposed to be a woman, but when they arrived, 60-year-old Clifford Maloy was there to greet them. This normally wouldn’t have been an issue, but the fact that he kept making crass jokes bothered the women.
One of the aspects HomeAway prides itself on is not having to worry about homeowners bothering renters during their stay. Their commercial slogan even implies it. However, Maloy showed up unannounced every day the women were there.
Everything came to a head during their final night when a police officer showed up at the door and told Patricia that Maloy was a registered sex offender! The officer assured the women he’d watch over the house that night while they slept.
Luckily, nothing happened, but when Patricia called to complain the next day, she was met with several unacceptable roadblocks. HomeAway, Patricia learned, doesn’t vet their homeowners! Until they do, renters might want to look for other ways to stay in affordable dwellings.
The police nab nearly all these gray-haired cons for minor offenses. Many shoplift from stores, either as a means to feed themselves for free or to get caught on purpose. With Japan’s relatively severe penalties for theft, they all end up incarcerated.