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After 12 years in Colorado, the time has come for a change. The only problem is...I don't know where I want to live! Come with me (virtually, of course) across the country as I travel along all the rural roads, small towns, coastal regions, scrub-filled deserts, and damp, dark forests in Anywhere Else, America in search of a new home.

VRB dOn't

The South is not for me. My Mississippi visit started with a $130 fine, which was annoying but my own fault. My Georgia started far worse and was definitely not my fault. Savannah is a hard place to find an affordable furnished rental in. It's wildly expensive if you want to be in the historic downtown, which I did. I pushed it off last year because with a dog, it was beyond impossible to find a place I could afford for a month. This year, to get a good place at a good price, I booked back on June 6th. I thought I was all set, but I was very wrong.

I've seen vacation rental horror stories in the news and I felt fairly certain one would happen to me at some point. It's also just a fact of travel - things go wrong. Since I've been travelling full time for 13 months, it seemed inescapable that I'd have a problem at some point. So it's not exactly that I'm mad at this happening to me. It's more VRBO's abysmal handling of the situation. Owner cancellations have been an issue for travelers for many years and VRBO should have been able to handle it much, much, much better than they did. Actually, they didn't handle it at all. Here's a quick timeline, starting with the Saturday 8 days before my check-in date:

  • Saturday: I email the owner to ask a few logistical questions. 
  • Sunday: No response, but the place seems to be managed professionally so I figured I might not hear from them until Monday morning.
  • Monday afternoon: Still no response from the owner so I email again and contact VRBO who said they would reach out to the owner too.
  • Tuesday morning: Still no response so I start to do some digging. I find the same listing in AirBnB, blocked out through Nov 17, overlapping my stay, listed by someone else. I email the AirBnB person and she's a listing agent who tells me the owner assured her she had no other bookings on other sites and I'm out of luck because the place is occupied. I contact VRBO and tell them what I found out.
  • Tuesday afternoon: I get a full refund for my VRBO booking and a message from the owner saying basically "ooops, sorry, I didn't realize this was booked on this site." That's it. I contact VRBO and they "assure" me that they have a traveler guarantee and will help me find a new place comparable to what I booked. I see several places available on VRBO, the cheapest of which is $1,700 more for the month than what I originally booked. I look on AirBnB and don't find anything affordable there either.
  • Wednesday morning: VRBO emails to say they need more time. I email a few places on Furnished Finder. 
  • Wednesday afternoon: I call VRBO. Their reps assure me that rebooking is working on my case, specifically stating that the rebooking folks are calling owners to confirm availability (this will be important later) and they'll be in touch with options soon. But they also tell me that the rebooking department "doesn't take inbound calls", so there's no one I can talk to. And they claim there is "no supervisor available to talk" to me but say they will have someone call me back. No one ever does. I call back later to talk to a different rep who tells me the same nonsense about how no one can help me, but then she emails me a list of available places I can choose from. I email back immediately with two places that work for me. 
  • Thursday morning: No response from VRBO. I call again and get the same song and dance. Their general service line reps tell me they can't help and they won't connect me to the people who can. I email the places I see on VRBO to ask if they can offer any discounts. No one will come down on their price and two of the Furnished Finder owners write back to me and say their places aren't actually available. 
  • Friday morning: No response from VRBO. I call...and my call won't go through. I call several times and am told my call cannot be completed. I have a friend call and she gets through just fine. I create a Google voice number and am able to get through just fine. And again, they refuse to connect me to anyone in rebooking. They actually blocked my number. At this point, I realize their "traveler guarantee" is a complete scam and they have no intention of doing anything. I spend more of my time trying to find a place and contacting my friends who have already purchased airline tickets to come check out Savannah with me, so it's not like I can bail. I finally settle on an extended stay hotel for the first three weeks and then splitting a cottage with a friend. This works out to be much more expensive than what I initially booked. 
  • Saturday afternoon: Four days after my cancellation and one day before check-in, I get an email from VRBO with options they can rebook me in. There's no phone number in the email for me to get in touch with the rep, and you can guess what happens when I call the customer service. Yep, they won't connect me with rebooking. Someone from rebooking finally calls me at 4:30PM Saturday afternoon (Sunday is my arrival/check-in date) while I'm on a hike. She tells me they have some options I can look at, but VRBO hasn't confirmed available with the owners yet. She says she has no idea if those places are available for check-in the next day. Basically, for all those days, VRBO did nothing on my case even though it takes just one minute to go onto their website and see what was available. They did nothing. And it's Saturday evening. So the odds of this rebooking agent reaching anyone (especially if those properties are managed professionally) are slim to none, and my hotel reservation is only refundable until 11:59 that night. Obviously I give her a piece of my mind because this whole thing was a scam. VRBO delayed and delayed and delayed, just hoping I would go away and they wouldn't have to shell out the extra $1,700+ to make good on their fake "guarantee". 
Travelers are held to cancellation policies. I'm baffled as to why owners are not. If an owner cancels outside their own cancellation window, they should not only have to refund the traveler in full, they should have to pay the traveler half the rental fee in compensation for all the time, stress, and aggravation. I bet that would cut down on a lot of problems like this. But nope, this dumb bitch just gets to cancel on me and leave me in the lurch and get her money anyway through AirBnB. And VRBO doesn't care. And I'm aware that it's not just VRBO. Plenty of similar complaints exist against AirBnB. But at least AirBnB automatically adds reviews to the listing when an owner cancels so you can see that the owner did that to someone. I never, ever book a place that says "owner cancelled this reservation...". VRBO, on the other hand, still had this woman's listing live - for the exact same dates she cancelled on me - as I was going through this. They were aware the place was unavailable, but kept the listing up as bookable. I mean, seriously? Do they care about their customers at all?

Anyway, a guy I dated last year who is a travel nurse lived in an extended stay hotel for one of his contracts. It was supposed to be temporary because he found an apartment he could afford after his first month, but he liked the amenities in the hotel so much that he remained there instead. So I booked a place in the Hilton Home2 Suites, which opened here in Savannah less than a year ago and is still sparkling new. My room is essentially a studio apartment with lots of shelving and cabinets, a separate living room area, and a decently stocked kitchen with a full-sized fridge. And there are some benefits to living here:

  • Free hot breakfast every day
  • A gym and an indoor pool
  • Clean towels and sheets whenever I ask for them without having to launder any
  • Easy parking
  • Two large decks to sit out on as well as the breakfast area if I want to get out of my room to work for a bit

But there are major disadvantages too

  • Constantly being around lots of other people in COVID-19 times, and no, no one wears masks here, not even the staff
  • Coin-operated laundry for my clothes
  • No oven (though there is a cooktop available) 
  • And a crappy midtown location on a busy and noisy thoroughfare, making those decks not really useable and requiring me to drive downtown through bad traffic (and pay for parking) every time I want to go somewhere instead of being able to walk like I planned

I have a friend coming to visit for me last six days and we're splitting the cost of a cute house off Forsyth Park, so at least I'll get to have that experience. But the friend who came to visit when I first arrived got robbed of that Savannah experience by the unethical homeowner. I have a case pending with VRBO and the Better Business Bureau. I expected to be compensated beyond just the difference in accommodation expense. I have wasted a lot of my time dealing with this. 

Still, this town literally has my name on it, so I'm enjoying it best I can while I'm here.

woman pointing at a librarytwo women in front of a bar

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