Krakow: A Capitulation.
It all began January 15, 2016. Today, after nearly two years and over thirty countries, I have used a variety of websites to acquire lodging, including Airbnb, eDreams, Momondo, Booking.com, and more. Lodging hasn’t been totally perfect, but by and large, the apartments and hotels descriptions have been true to form.
Yet, on occasion, I have been sorely disappointed with one aspect among the amenities: wifi service. Wifi is of superior importance to me. It’s not only my connection to the outside world, family, and friends, it also is a requirement for maintaining my website, writing blogs, and working on my books. I began to realize that when the list of amenities includes wifi, it doesn’t speak to the quality of the wifi service.
I ran into wifi problems in San Sebastián, Spain when I found that the hotel had wifi but not all year around. Actually, it only had wifi during the low season. When was I there? Of course, I was there during high season and no wifi. Did the hotel description note wifi was only available at low season? Of course not!
Another time, in Florence, Italy, I had a perfect apartment, easy walking distance along the Arno River to the shops at Ponte Vecchio. The apartment decor was right out of the 1950’s, replete with old wooden kitchen cabinets painted a glossy dark green. The kitchen table had those cool metal legs. The table top, encircled with a strip of aluminum, was smooth plastic, printed with tiny red flowers. The cream chenille bedspread brought back memories of my bedroom in our Lindenwald neighborhood in Hamilton, Ohio. I loved this apartment. I felt like I was in old Italy.
On my first morning, like always, I accessed the internet to watch the latest news. The wifi was fast and consistent. I connected with my VPN and was just about to view my bank account when the wifi was lost. I assumed it was a momentary loss. But, after about 30 minutes, when I still didn’t have access, I gave up, closed down my computer, and left for the day.
The next morning, I accessed wifi again. It was a breeze. I decided to take a moment to email my host and tell her my wifi experience the day before. She replied immediately noting that wifi is available, but, for only an hour a day!
I went back and checked the Airbnb ad for this apartment, assuming I had missed this extremely important limitation to the wifi. Well, of course, I found no reference to any time limit.
Needless to say, she received a very harsh review. And, from this moment on, I always email the host and hotels and question the quality of the wifi. On some occasions, if I’m not convinced of their veracity, I have gone so far as to strike a deal: If I get there and the wifi isn’t strong as you say, the agreement is null and void. That minor effort has had excellent results.
Since I began my journey, I have come to know what is important to me and I always go through a process to check and recheck my priority areas to void getting stuck in an unpleasant situation. I’m proud of my fine-science approach to finding lodging.
Or so I thought.
Alas, I must confess: I was leaving from Madeira Island, Portugal, working my way through Vienna, to Prague and finally landing in Krakow. For the first time, I used Owner’s Direct for lodging.
I found a perfect apartment near the Old Town in Krakow. It was a one bedroom apartment with sleek black and white decor, an up-to-date bathroom, functional kitchen and great wifi, and big windows for lots of natural light. The price was a little steep, but it was during high season. I was willing to pay the additional cost.
Unfortunately, the only reasonably priced and short non-stop flight from Prague to Krakow arrived at 11:00 at night. I broke my own solo-female traveler cardinal rule: Be safe. Do not arrive at your location late at night.
It was what it was. I developed a plan to alleviate my concerns. I would use the taxi driver’s help to ensure my safety. Meanwhile, before I left Prague, just as always, I contacted my host, Ihar, through the Owner’s Direct website for the exact address and to let her know I would be arriving late. She said it was at Lobzowska 53 Street and to text Allen, when I arrived, to let me in.
(As you may know, when you book through Airbnb, Owner’s Direct, and similar booking sites, you only know the general area of your rental location. The exact address is sent to you later by your host.)
When I arrived in Krakow, I approached the taxi stand and met a driver. He was about 40, blond, well dressed, with a nice smile. As he was putting my luggage in the boot, I explained that I didn’t like arriving so late at night, especially when I was unfamiliar with the area. He nodded, handed me his card, shook my hand and said, “I am Petr. Welcome. Do not worry. I will see to it you are safe.”
I was relieved.
As we drove away, I opened my HERE GPS app, keyed in the address and watched the dot representing the taxi move along the route to my apartment.
We pulled up to the apartment address. Unfortunately, the lack of street light obscured our vision.
“This doesn’t look good,” Petr said.
“Wait, let me out for a closer look.”
I stepped out onto the street. I managed, through tangled overgrown weeds and trees, to see ugly graffiti on the lower walls on what we thought might be the apartment building.
Graffiti in Europe is often considered art. This was not art, trust me.
Petr called Allen for more instructions. Allen confirmed that we were at the correct location. A few minutes later, tall, lean twenty-something man greeted us.
Petr’s facial expression was clear concern for me. After removing my luggage from the boot, he nodded indicating he would wait for me.
Allen unlocked the door. I was surprised. I didn’t remember the mention of stairs in the description. He took my 45 pound suitcase up, not one flight of stairs, but 4 flights of cement steps. Thank goodness he was there to help or I might still be climbing with my hefty luggage.
Finally, we entered the apartment and, once again, my memory failed had me. I didn’t recall that the bed was behind the sofa in the living room. I decided Ihar must have rearranged the furniture and I quickly dismissed any concern.
Allen reached out his hand and said he needed payment for the apartment. I explained that I had already paid.
He asked for payment again. I pulled up my receipt on my phone and showed it to him.
He nodded an acceptance. But, kept his hand out and said I needed to pay him a “late arrival” fee. He said Ihar had called me and left a message about the fee.
“No one called me.”
He reiterated, “The late arrival fee is 51 zloty.”
“I only have euros.”
“Good. Fifty-one zloty is equal to 12 euros.”
I gave him the money, walked him to the door, and down the stairs. Petr was leaning against his car.
I waved to him. He stood up, opened his arms as if to ask me if everything I alright. I nodded, blew a kiss and waved good-bye.
I climbed back up the stairs, entered my apartment, locked the door, brushed my teeth and fell into bed. It was 1:00 am. It had been a long, challenging day.
Happily, by morning, bright sunlight streamed through the windows in the kitchen and living room. I looked down to see a magnificent red brick Catholic Church, surrounded by gardens, brimming with red, pink, white, orange, and violet flowers. An old yellow dog was outstretched on the pavement with his head lazily perched on the bottom of an ornate iron fence. I was spellbound.
The next two days, I walked for hours, visiting Old Town and the Schindler Museum, housed in his original factory where Oskar Schindler hired Jews and helped them escape. All the while, I was wondering about those stairs and the church. Where the stairs mentioned in the description? Why wasn’t this beautiful church pictured to lure renters?
I decided to check out the advertisement again. What I found was shocking!
Silence on any stairs and no picture of the church were the immediate clues. But, more, the apartment I had reserved and paid for had a new bathroom with gleaming sliding glass shower doors, one large room rather than the three in my current space, and much larger windows
How stupid could I be!
After berating myself for at least an hour, I looked around, noting my dissatisfaction with my current apartment. I had just two bathroom towels; no kitchen towels; only used, ragged kitchen sponges; an old dilapidated, stained but functional refrigerator with cracked plastic shelves; no shower curtain over the tub; and just three rusty pans under the sink. I seethed.
I googled the website on the business card left on the coffee table. A “chat” popped up and a texting conversation began.
To make a long story longer, Aleksja said this was a “simple mistake” and I could move immediately. I ignored her offer to move and went on to question the “late arrival fee”. She replied that she had emailed me a message about that. Of course, I noted that I did not receive an email message from her. Besides, Allen said he called and I had no records of her call either.
She didn’t acknowledge my comment. Rather, she noted that I was currently in was more expensive than the one I had actually rented. (That was true. I had learned that from the company’s website.)
I agreed. However, I added, in my experience, this apartment was overpriced. She ignored me and asked “what hour do you want to move?” I asked her to send me a copy of the email she sent me regarding the “late arrival” fee. She ignored that, as well, and repeated “what hour do you want to move?”
I responded that my trust for their organization was depleted as a result of their incorrect communication, lack of organization, and fabrication of email messages. Furthermore, it would take me all day to pack, move, and unpack. I didn’t want to waste my time, especially since I was not confident I would be taken to the correct apartment. I asked again for a copy of the “late arrival” fee message.
The chat room abruptly closed.
How rude! This entire event was beyond annoying!
However, I truly did capitulate. What choice did I have?
But, what did I do wrong? How did I contribute to this fiasco?
I went over it again and again and decided when I entered the apartment and questioned the stairs and the placement of the bed and when Allen asked me for money, I should have protested.
Truth is, what good would that have done at the late hour I arrived? I doubt anyone else would be around to address my problem.
Aha! That’s it! My error was arriving too late at night…too late to do anything about it.
“Lesson learned!” I grumbled outloud.
But, there I was. I could choose to continue dwell on the negative or not.
When I stepped back and looked at this, I saw the positive aspects of this mess: I rented an apartment for “less than it is worth,” supposedly. And, I really did have a have a beautiful Church view every day.
So, now what? Well, first, I vowed to be more careful about remembering my digs, for heaven’s sake. And, I wrote a scathing letter of complaint to Owner’s Direct.
As of this date, nearly a year later, I have yet to hear from Owner’s Direct. Will I rent from Owner’s Direct again? Maybe, but if I do it won’t be from a company that coordinates more than one apartment.
On that, I will not capitulate.
Click HERE for a pictoral view of Krakaw.