Archive for June, 2017

LA Rental Agencies – watch out, folks!

June 15, 2017

This afternoon, I heard an argument outside my apartment.

My apartment manager was trying to get a woman from Westside Rentals to take down the sign she was busy zip-tying to the gate of our apartment building.

She was on her way out before I managed to find my cell phone, which was buried in my bed somewhere, and take a picture.

I went out to listen. He’s a calm kinda guy, a part-time DJ who’s used to dealing with nutcases, so he just stood there nodding. The agent from Westside Rentals said something along the lines of this (and imagine she just kept talking, no gaps, for five minutes):

“Well we get requests all the time and we thought that if we brought you clients then it would be fine but I’ll take it down if you want. But we put up our signs when we get requests at a property because we can facilitate the rentals for you and the clients have requested that we do and we… [bla bla bla].”

He just stood there nodding politely until she said again: “But I can take it down if you want”. He nodded again. He waited as she cut it off. He went back inside.

There’s a fine line between scams and reality and realtors in California, and particularly in LA. For example, you’ll drive around and see WESTSIDE RENTALS signs with that inviting red key all over properties in LA, and you’ll go to their websites and find listings for properties all over LA – but not for the property that drew you in. Friends have complained that they signed up, risked their credit rating (which declines with every request) and then had no luck with big companies like Westside Rentals, which is now apparently linked with as advertised by Jeff Goldblum. Most of them really find their places through friends, or facebook groups, or sometimes Craigslist.

Rental Agencies in LA act like used car dealerships – who often advertise impossibly great deals or cars they don’t actually have on their lot to lure you in.

This is a blog about signs. Just because it’s written on a sign, doesn’t mean it’s true. So before calling Westside Rentals (even if they have their sign up legally), google the block and see if you can go directly to the rental management company.

You may be saving yourself a few hundred dollars, and a lot of disappointment, as well as damage to your credit rating.



AirBNB’s Imaginary Maids of Goleto, CA

June 11, 2017

You know how when you’re paying over $100 a night to stay in a room, plus cleaning fees, you expect clean sheets, clean towels, a clean working bathroom, a key to your room… at least?

My parents both run AirBNBs in South Africa, cause life’s expensive, and $$ go far. There, hosts are required to provide clean white cotton sheets, clean towels, shampoo, conditioner, clean bathrooms etc or get blacklisted. Here in the USA, it seems to be the wild west and it’s impossible to get hold of AirBNB when there’s an emergency. I had a few emergencies this weekend and came up short all day and night.

Their mobile site – their MOBILE site being possibly the single most important site that SHOULD work for clients who are MOBILE – doesn’t allow password recovery and they don’t respond to complaints or even to tweets. I had to literally drive back to my laptop in LA to request a refund on tonight’s room…

I instant-booked for almost twice the price after the previous (months in advance) booking canceled on me 24 hours before I left Los Angeles with a complete bullshit excuse. I shelled out almost double my original cost for a less convenient location!

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This was the room advertised. Bunk beds. Looks clean. A getaway in “Old Town”? Sounds quaint. The reality, I didn’t even photograph. It was a nice enough looking room, but it WASN’T THIS ROOM – AT ALL. Suddenly my friend and I were now expected to share a bed. A bed with dirty leopard print sheets. Also, there’s no “old town” I could see. It was just “tatty town” at best.

Night One of Two in another host’s house had been a little rough for the money, already. We’d arrived to find there were no pillow cases on the uncomfortable foam pillows and no sheets – just flannel mattrass covers. The bathroom was cramped. The towels were stained and frayed. There was nowhere to hang them, but when we came home after dinner the towels had been removed from the room and hung in the bathroom – with no way to tell whose was whose (so I guess I dried myself with someone else’s taint-towel). With about eight guests sharing a tiny bathroom and no bath mat, it was a slippery health hazard… but hey. The Hostess said the cleaning lady/maid had messed up and forgotten the pillow cases.

I decided to forgive her because we came in a bit late on Friday, and not as quietly as we should have. Also, the host was sweet enough to allow us to add a last-minute guest who’d been hit with an AirBNB scam.

Yes, really. AirBNB Scams… That’s a thing now. He showed up at the address. No airBNB. They kept him on hold for 4 hours. No resolution.

We hoped Night Two would be better. After all, we were going to one of my best friend’s wedding to an amazing lady-girl. The kind of couple you love. The kind of couple that makes you cry before they’re both even standing in front of each other getting married.

We planned to hang out late, lyft around, share their joy , and crash in our bunks before waking up early to wash off the night before in the sea and driving home. We’d have better luck this time. Right? Between the wedding ceremony and the reception, we motored to quickly check in and drop our bags…



I swear, this is a lot cuter in the picture. Imagine you’re on a dating site and this is a bathroom selfie, then subtract three hotness points instantly. Add the smell of urine and some trash.

Forget quickly, quickly. The host wasn’t contactable and would only text back. His mother, who it emerged was the actual host, didn’t answer her phone as we called and called. The address was for a road that appeared not to exist. An hour after we parked nearby, we finally found the most likely location… a flat on the main road, above a store… and not in the quaint sense of “above a store”. The downstairs gate was open. The entrance smelled and was full of trash. The front door was unmarked – but unlocked.

And the “host’s” mother seemed horrified to see us.

Understandably. The apartment smelled like despair. She seemed to be in detox from something… based on her hair, skin and teeth I’d guess meth, but it’s not my place. She needed to shower. There was a cigarette butt lying on the hallway floor. My friend had to clean the toilet herself before using it, and it barely flushed. There were no towels at all. “The Maid” was still bringing them we were told. The bed was dirty – it had food and hairs in it from whever had been there before. “The Maid” apparently messed up. I immediately became paranoid that the furniture was collected from the roadside and might have bed bugs. The Mother didn’t have keys to downstairs and freaked out and prevaricated when I asked for a room key. She eventually found one, but really didn’t want to give it up. Then, she went Full Addict on me and blamed a) me for making her nervous b) her phone for not ringing and c) Guess What… The Maid for the fact that the place was revolting on every level.

There was no chance in hell that this woman ever employed a maid. Ever. No chance that this woman knows what they do. I know this because I worked as a cleaner (PS, that’s the term that’s actually appropriate) for six months. I know how to do the job.

So, the whole “blame the maid” thing was getting old now.

We were late for the wedding. Panicked, exhausted and blindsided, we dropped our stuff, grabbed our valuables, and ran out again without the shower or nap or peace of mind we’d planned. After calming down we decided to just drive home to Los Angeles when the big dances were done and lose out on the rest of the night.

We snuck in, dropped off the key, took our bags and noticed that the cigarette butt was still there. Probably still is unless our gracious host found it and smoked it.

My friend and I have been through worse together. Much worse, perhaps luckily.

When she got home to her cat, and I got home to my studio apartment, we texted each other: “My little place feels like a PALACE”, she said. I felt the same.

I doubt she’ll ever let me book a room for us again – or that she’ll ever use AirBNB. I’m pretty sure I never will again either*.

*A note on that: My first experiences with AirBNB were good. I stayed in Boston, San Diego and Utah using it and was happy with these three experiences in 2014-15. My recent three have been repulsive. In Santa Barbara and San Diego in particular – they’re apparently getting sloppy. I think there’s room for a competitor who vets their hosts, investigates last-minute cancelations or provides financial compensation that covers increased rebooking costs, provides fast support and checks that IF they’re charging 2/3 of the price of  Motel 6, Hosts provide the basics without having to be parented or begged from by their guests. Think, Lyft… but for AirBNB.

** Note two: 6-12-17 at 3pm: After two days of attempting to contact AirBNB online through the site, twitter and elsewhere, I got through to them on the phone and my issue was dealt with within hours of the call. They refunded me and gave me a voucher for another stay.