Saturday, January 28, 2017

Expedia/HomeAway "Guarantee" False, Misleading, Confusing & Violates Consumer Protections

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It's been three weeks now since we contacted Expedia/HomeAway regarding the rats, safety hazards and fraudulent promotion of the Amsterdam canal boat we rented from them. (RATS! Notifying HomeAway/Expedia)

The issues remain unaddressed. Their "guarantee" is clearly fraudulent, their multiple online Terms of Service forms are long, vague, confusing, often filled with seeming contradictions,  and formatted in a manner that makes them difficult to read and understand.

Expedia/HomeAway Refuses to Accept Responsibility for Rats, Dangerous Rental Conditions, Property Fraud

The only response from Expedia/HomeAway was to fill out a series of forms, all of which are lengthy, time-consuming, and disavow taking any action unless your credit card company has provably refused to reverse the charges to the card used to make the payment. 

This is significant for three reasons:

(1) It means that Expedia/HomeAway does not take any responsibility for the properties they rent. That is a false and misleading action that makes the Expedia/HomeAway "guarantee" meaningless.

(2) Because Expedia/HomeAway requires pre-payment on rentals, the request to the credit card company is often too late to meet the credit card company's rules.

 (3) Requests to the credit card company involve an additional time and major hassle factor that becomes a personal cost to the renter. This alone can be a barrier to recovery of funds.

Rats, Electrocution Hazards, Carbon Monoxide, Fraudulent Misrepresentation NOT Covered by Bogus "Guarantee"

The "guarantee" does not cover issues such as rats, dangerous safety hazards, and/or properties which  were fraudulently represented in the property rental web page by Expedia/HomeAway.

The Basic Rental Guarantee Terms and Conditions is a 6-page, 2,381-word mass of tiny, hard-to-read type which is clearly designed to impose an unreasonable barrier to reading and understanding.

Even the format -- tiny type and no paragraph breaks -- makes it hard to read, harder to comprehend, and reduces to practically zero the chances that a new renter will read or comprehend them.

Below is the paragraph which describes the entire protection offered by Expedia/HomeAway's fraudulent "guarantee."

Text is reproduced here at 100% of that on the web.

Meaningless "Guarantee" Designed to Protect Expedia/HomeAway and Not the Consumer

Indeed the "guarantee" covers only the misappropriation of funds -- only up to $1,000. That limit and the omission of safety, quality, and fraudulent representation of a property clearly show that this "guarantee" was designed to protect Expedia/HomeAway and not the consumer.

"Guarantee" Limits NOT DISCLOSED In Basic Rental Terms of Service 

In addition to the "guarantee" being grossly inadequate, the "Book with Confidence Guarantee from HomeAway" does not clearly state that it is it is a Terms of Service agreement for renting a property.

Even if that ToS issue was clearly addressed, the basic Tos-"Guarantee" text NEVER mentions the $1,000 limit, and fails to mention any guarantee if a property is unsafe or presents a danger to life and health.

More telling in the "Book with Confidence" ToS text, Expedia/HomeAway failed to provide a link to the Reimbursement Request Form." The underlines there and in the rest of the form are simple text underlines. There are no hyperlinks. In addition, by renting, a renter has agreed to accept these ToS requirements and, by proxy those of the Reimbursement Request Form

Sign Away Your Rights -- NOT!

We filled out the online Reimbursement Request Form. However, the web page demanded that we agree to the ToS mentioned above before we were allowed to submit the form. We read the eye-blinding text and realized that we were signing away all our rights.

We did not submit that form

Instead, we sent the information to Expedia/HomeAway on January 6, 2017. They have have steadfastly refused to address the issues. That is why we posted the same, identical letter on this site: RATS! Notifying HomeAway/Expedia.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Serious injury or death: HomeAway/Expedia ignores substantial hazards in Amsterdam Rental

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In addition to grossly misrepresenting the quality and features of this boat, (including the rats inside wall panels.) our HomeAway rental at Keizersgracht 8K, Amsterdam offered a fairly wide variety of health hazards.

The stove, lighting and boarding issues have the potential to cause serious injury or death. Despite this, HomeAway has not contacted us regarding any of the issues we have brought to their attention.

NOTE: All of the photos below have been reduced to speed page download. Original, full-sized photos are available as are scores of others (including videos and soundtracks of rats squealing and gnawing inside the walls.)

Improper lighting fixtures plugged in next to shower, sink and wet areas.
Aft Sink

The edge of the shower can be seen at the left side of this image of the forward cabin.
Gas stove top without proper ventilation in the tightly-sealed boat living area. 
We did not use because of the possibility of combustion gases and possible buildup of carbon monoxide.

Black mold
It was everywhere. These are a few selected examples.

Hazardous boarding ramp and no handholds outside.
This image is not very clear because it was a vacation memory taken before we realized that HomeAway was not going to make good on its vacation guarantee -- thus making this blog necessary.

The steps were flimsy. The gunwale tops were curved inward and easily snagged a toe when leaving. There was a very small space between the gunwale and the cabin top which made movement awkward. There were no handholds, lifelines, or rails for balance, safety or preventing someone from going overboard..

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Visa helps Expedia/HomeAway With Illegal Business in Amsterdam!

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After we had been on boat for a week, we got the following from the owner of the rat-infested canal boat that Expedia/HomeAway rented to us in Amsterdam.

As is apparent from the email below, the boat owner asked us to lie to city officials about the illegal rental.

We also learned that the City of Amsterdam had, in fact, ruled the rental illegal even before we arrived.

I forwarded this email to the U.S.Consulate to inform them and to stress that we had no intention to lie to city officials.

We received a reply from the Consulate accompanied by a list of law firms.

As yet, Expedia/HomeAway has failed to address this issue (among many other issues and misrepresentations).

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Expedia/HomeAway Doesn't Care About Rats, Electrocution Risks, Carbon Monoxide, Black Mold, Fraudulent Listing

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The following is an exact copy of what we entered into HomeAway's email complaint form on January 6, 2017. HomeAway is owned by Expedia.

Future posts will a lot more detail about each of the issues along with numerous photos and videos that illustrate each point. We had hoped that this summary may have opened a conversation towards resolving the situation and for us to receive an appropriate refund for this atrocious situation.

But, so far, HomeAway/Expedia has responded with two canned responses, cut and pasted into an email. Nothing has even begun to be resolved.

As mentioned in the email reproduced below, ALL of the interior photos were staged and/or Photoshopped. 

Those and the other images failed to convey an accurate picture of these accommodations. The "Payment Protection" touted by HomeAway on their web page (below) is a joke. 

And then ... there were the rats. 

The rats.

As we move along, we will do a more detailed job of annotating the rat video/sound files. The first YouTube video posted here is one of a dozen videos, and has many more annotations to be added.

Re: HomeAway reservation HA-9FPV9J / #2541796

We have had a profoundly unpleasant experience with our recent HomeAway/Expedia rental in Amsterdam (Dec. 15-29, 2016).

This was a shock since we have previously had fantastic experiences with U.S. HomeAway/Expedia rentals at Lake Tahoe and in Portland and Monterey.

I will offer a brief description here and save the photos, videos, emails and other corroborating details for the next step in your administrative process.

Please understand that we did not begin this process in Amsterdam because we were determined to make the best of a bad situation. This was not only a family vacation, but it was a reward to our daughter to whom we promised a trip to Europe if she earned a good scholarship to college. She not only did that, but managed academic scholarships that cover the entire cost of four years at one of the top colleges in America.

We would have immediately moved out of our Amsterdam lodging but there were no reservations to be had during this holiday season.

It’s also important to know that we have been to Amsterdam many times and have previously been aboard typical canal houseboats.

So, what went wrong?

(1) The lodgings were not what they were represented. See sample photos at the bottom of this email.

The images on the web site were obviously staged, used special lighting to make things look brighter, a wide angle lens to make things look more spacious and were Photoshopped to rid the images of mold and other undesirable characteristics 

We have a set of our own photos and videos that will show the dismal lighting. Part of the lighting issue is a result of very dirty windows and small skylights covered with dirt and leaves.

a. This was not a houseboat as is typical on the canals of Amsterdam. Instead, this was a cramped, low-ceiling, badly illuminated former working vessel with scant daylight which had been badly converted.

b. Spacious it is not. Anyone caller than 5’10” would hit their heads on steel overhead ribbing. I am shorter than that and did smack the top of my head hard enough to produce bleeding.

c. There are no actual “bedrooms.” There are two cramped but utilitarian cabins of the sort you might expect on a moderate-sized sailboat in the 35-foot range. The aft cabin (including bunk, tub and sink area) is about 9’ wide and 7’ long. The forward cabin (including bunk, shower and sink area) is about  roughly 9’ wide and 7’ long.

d. There are no actual “bathrooms.” There is a toilet off the main cabin. A shower and sink are tucked next to the bed in the forward cabin. In the aft cabin, there is another sink with a tub.

e. The shower was incapable of providing water at a consistently temperature. It mostly alternated freezing cold and scalding hot. There was a “razors edge” which was almost impossible to achieve … and that was somewhat less than lukewarm.

f. The tub in the aft cabin is a regular tub, not “jet stream” as advertised. This is the very least of this rental’s problems.

g. The kitchen is not fully equipped. It was barely equipped. The lack of any powered ventilation over the stove made cooking impractical given how quickly the moisture and odors would fill up the small cabin.

h. Many of the water faucets were loosely mounted and/or lacking the necessary hardware.

i. There was no WiFi, free or otherwise. Because both my wife and I own our own businesses, having solid WiFi is vital. Because the cable company providing WiFi was going to take at least five days to arrive, we purchased a WiFi hotspot device which offered us barely adequate Internet access via relatively expensive Vodaphone service.

(2) Basic Safety Issues

a. There was a lack of proper lighting in the cabin sink/tub/shower areas. As a result, the boat owner had placed lamps powered by 220-volts next to sinks and in surrounding moist/wet areas. This is a dangerous electrical code violation.

b. There was extensive black mold as well as rust and old peeling paint (lead?) on many of the metal surfaces.

c. The method for boarding lacks basic safety measures such as hand-holds on the boat.

(3) And then there were the rats.

The rat colony on the port side of the aft cabin took a bit of time to diagnose - something that became easier with what appears to be the birth of baby rats around the end of our first week aboard.

At first, the scratching and faint thuds seemed like they might be sea gulls on the port-side deck above the aft cabin. The sounds came a long, enclosed structure that ran the length of the aft cabin bed. Our daughter, who had been sleeping in the aft cabin, could not asleep and so moved to the berth in the main cabin.

The noise grew in intensity and after about a week, the squeaks, squeals, gnawing sounds, and what sounded like fighting made it clear that  we were dealing with a lot of rats. We kept the door closed to that cabin and hoped that the gnawing would not produce an entry in the cabin.

(4) Around this time (Dec. 22) we received an email from the boat owner informing us that Amsterdam, had declared the boat rental illegal. She asked us to lie to city officials (if they visited) and say we were not renting, and were just friends of hers visiting. I contacted the U.S. Consulate about this and sent them a copy of the email.

(5) The web page misrepresented that payment methods included American Express.

 American Express points are far move valuable than those from Visa or other cards. We value our points (they never expire and can be used almost everywhere for purchases).

We paid for all our round-trip airfare for this trip. This is a direct monetary loss.
The absence of American Express as a payment method was revealed only after we spent a substantial amount of time involved with the application process … including the statement to the owner.

Because we had lost several other properties on HomeAway and AirBnB because demand was high and those were snapped up quickly, we reluctantly went ahead and booked this property.

(6) We have extensive emails, photos, videos and sound recordings to verify all of the above. A sampling of three of those are below.