Tag Archives: ebay

Do you trust online vacation rental sites like HomeAway.com?

I’m going to New York next month. As there are three of us travelling and we are staying in town for four nights I thought I would book an apartment, rather than two hotel rooms.

I checked out homeaway.com because I met their UK sales director a while ago and I remember thinking that I should try their service sometime.

They have hundreds of great places all over the world and I was spoiled for choice looking at the map of Manhattan – eventually deciding on a 2-bed apartment on 50th street. I sent my details to the owner and he confirmed that it was available on the dates I needed.

He sent me an invoice via PayPal and I paid it immediately – $1370 – not a small amount, but certainly cheaper than 2 decent hotel rooms in midtown Manhattan for 4 nights.

After paying, I immediately emailed the property owner to ask for the exact address, what time I could arrive and all that basic check-in stuff. He never responded. Five days later I tried calling. The number was a dud.

So I emailed again, but I started worrying. What if this guy has just stiffed me for over a thousand dollars? I still need to book a place to stay in New York whatever happens with this guy!

So I filed a complaint with HomeAway. Typically their customer service team promised to get back to me “in a few days”… is that acceptable from any customer service team today? I’m in the hole for over a grand and I just have to sit tight and wait.

Fortunately, PayPal were very helpful and have reassured me that even if this guy has stolen from me, they will underwrite the loss. In short, they have a dispute resolution centre where I can contact the person I sent money to. Usually they would allow a week to see if the person responds. After that week, PayPal would get directly involved in the chase and if another 10 days passes with no resolution then PayPal will reverse the transaction.

That still feels like a long time to wait, given the amount and given that in a couple of weeks I need a place to stay. PayPal agreed and said that because of the amount involved, they would waive the usual 7 day wait and they will get immediately involved in chasing the funds.

So I’m shell-shocked because of the experience. This was my great welcome to HomeAway.com… the best I can hope for is that I have a property owner who forgets to reply to email and doesn’t have a working phone – it was all a misunderstanding. The worst is that my money has gone, but will be refunded in 10 days.

And if I know this will be resolved one way or the other in 10 days that still gives me about a week to find a place to stay in New York – but you can bet it won’t be on HomeAway this time, or any time in future.

Manhattan Panorama

The danger of the vuvuzela…

Have a look at eBay right now and run a search on ‘vuvuzela’…

When I last looked, there were around 130 of them for sale in the UK. And some for stupid prices considering it’s just a plastic trumpet that costs pennies to mould in China. There is money to be made selling these things in pubs over the next few weeks!

Almost everyone here in the UK is complaining about these buzzing horns and even asking for them to be banned from the world cup, though as the FIFA President Sepp Blatter has given them a strong vote of support as a part of the South African football experience, there is not going to be any ban. You had better get used to the buzzing.

But, what I find really funny is that the English fans are complaining about these horns, yet I would bet money that come the start of the premier league season in about two months, the English will all be blowing on them – in their club colours… Who wants to take a bet on it?
Football crazy!

The Ashes and the Barmy Army…

I was in Birmingham yesterday to see Australia play England in the 3rd Ashes test – it was the final day of the test.

Given the amount of play lost to rain in this test (Saturday was a total washout), it was always likely to be a draw, but we started out on the last day with the distinct possibility of a win for England – if they could get a few quick wickets early in the day. However, Australia dug in and clung on for the draw.

I usually go to the test matches at Lord’s or the Oval, the two big London grounds, and I’ve never been to Edgbaston in Birmingham before, but I am travelling a lot in August so I’m going to miss the test match in London. They have already played at Lord’s, but I was too busy to go. I realised that if I didn’t go to see some play at Edgbaston then I wouldn’t see anything of the Ashes this year.

So I went on eBay and found a guy selling a single ticket. It cost me £40, which is more than face value for Edgbaston, but cheaper than London… as even the fifth day is sold in advance for the Ashes games. I booked a train ticket with Chiltern trains, which was just £15 return to Birmingham compared to £52 from Euston. Cheaper, but a lot slower.

I didn’t notice, until the eve of the game, that the eBay seller had actually sent me 2 tickets for the game. I only tried to buy 1. I went onto the site to see if I could contact him to check whether it was correct and found that his eBay profile had been deleted. So now I was concerned because I thought it could have been sold several times over… the ticket was a PDF, so it could easily have been sold many times. In the end it was all fine though. My ticket was valid and I ended up actually having a spare!

The atmosphere at the ground was great. The barmy army were having a lot of fun in the Hollies stand and there was a lot of cheering for anything… the crowd were really having a great time. A lot of people on the radio have criticised the fans for getting too rowdy. Put it this way, there were no fights and the fans were mixed… Aussies with English and lots of women watching too. The fans were singing and cheering great shots, but also having ironic fun too by cheering then booing the Australians – and winding up the fans in the same area. This is a live sports event and the crowd are just having fun – I can’t understand why anyone would think that watching cricket should be like going to the cinema…

Shame I am going to miss the test match at the Oval… I might get my father a ticket to go just so I can hear about it from him…

Why is City Link so bad?

The other day, I bought a box-set of 30 DVDs from eBay. The seller arranged to send me the package using a courier service, City Link.

I sat and waited for them to arrive. Eventually the seller sent me an email with the tracking code, so I could check on the delivery. When I went to the City Link website I found that they had already delivered the package. It had even been signed for. And yet, at the time that the parcel had supposedly been delivered I was at home working. Nobody had bothered knocking on my door.

After I double-checked the address with the guy who mailed the parcel, I called up City Link today to find out what was going on.

They said “it may be with a neighbour”… and paused, as if the onus would then be on me to go and check with all my neighbours. I asked them to check what the driver had actually done.

So, they called the driver directly. He had “forgotten” where he has delivered my package to “but it is fairly close” came the reassurance.

So now, I do have to go up and down my road dropping leaflets in the doors (because I am hardly likely to find everyone is at home when I knock) just to find my own package – when the seller had used a courier company specifically to ensure it got to me safely.

What I’d really like to understand is:

  1. Why did City Link not try delivering to the correct address in the first place? They had the correct address and anyone with a GPS can find me. I am in London, not some remote corner of the Amazon.
  2. Why they seem to have a policy of dropping parcels with neighbours, rather than retaining and arranging another delivery time (saving money by not bothering to try again?)
  3. Why the driver never kept any record of who he left my parcel with or even where he delivered it?
  4. Why City Link is not doing anything to help me locate this parcel, beyond telling me to go and talk to my neighbours

I’ve never heard of such a shoddy muppet-like courier service. I know I won’t ever be using them. And that’s a shame as I grew up in the town where they are headquartered – Blackwater, in Hampshire.