Hey guys it’s been a minute. Let’s chat. Grab a cuppa and get comfy because this is not a quickie.
In order for me to tell the story as clearly as i can, there is some scene setting to start and then we’ll get stuck in.
Why am I telling you this story?
1. Everyone deserves to feel safe. If you don’t feel safe, leave.
2. I still can’t believe this happened
3. When I’m telling this story it doesn’t sound real but believe me, it was.
4. Things like this must happen far more than they should.
5. Airbnb handled this so well. If anyone reading this ends up in a similar kind of situation, please know that you will be taken seriously in reporting it!
Okay, here goes…
To give some context to the situation and why I was staying in an Airbnb; On the 2nd of June 2019, I left my partner who I was living with and escaped the abusive relationship. It was something I had threatened to do before but it was a decision I couldn’t have planned for actually making. After an explosive couple of days I had to leave. I had to leave right away. What this meant was that I had nowhere to live. I was able to stay at my Parents’ immediately but it wasn’t a commutable distance to be able to keep my job. I ended up finding a new flat to live in pretty quickly but it wasn’t available to move into for another 5 weeks. In the final week prior to the big move, I booked an airbnb that was cheap, had great reviews, commutable distance and would allow my puppy too. Here’s how it went…
The title of the listing was ‘A Palace’ … I should’ve picked up a vibe there but apparently I like to ignore red flags. The listing doesn’t exist anymore so I can’t give exact details of how it was described but I know it was listed as the kind of place where people airbnb a spare room in their house and the host stays there still.
We communicated a lot between booking and staying. He insisted on pretty much daily messages and a couple of phone calls too and that was even before I arrived. I figured he was just trying to be a good host and have everything ready. It did feel a bit weird and I told one of my work friends but he had 14 5* reviews so who was i to argue with that and I did’t think too much of it.
I arrived after work on Monday 1st July. I entered the property, was greeted by the host and shown around the property. Here’s where the first alarm bells started ringing. Turns out, it was a one bed property. He rents out the room on Airbnb and he sleeps on the sofa. The bedroom, like any normal bedroom, didn’t have a lock on it but the only other thing upstairs was the bathroom- which we would both be using. I went and collected the rest of our stuff and settled in for the night.
He had made us dinner, an eclectic mix of pasta twists, stir fried vegetables and siracha. Don’t get me wrong, I was grateful for him preparing dinner. He offered me a drink… of neat vodka… It was around 6pm on a Monday evening. When I asked if he had anything to go with it, he offered water. I set the glass down and didn’t pick it back up again.
Anyway, we sit down and we’re chatting. He’s around 60 years old, recently divorced after 40 years, 3 children (who i imagine are at least my age!) He tells me he doesn’t use Airbnb for the money, that he has plenty of, but for the company. He also told me he was looking for a ‘nice young lady’ . My initial thought was: Shit, am I auditioning for this role right now?! He asks if I’m single. I quickly and briefly said how I’d just come out of something pretty horrible and traumatic and certainly wasn’t looking.
He tells me he’s really spiritual, does predictions and could he predict something for me…sure. He tells me not to say anything so that I’m not feeding into his telling. He goes: […] ‘At around 13/14 something bad happened, you were abused.’ FALSE. […] ‘Your boyfriend at around 18, he fucked you up’ FALSE. I tell him he’s wrong and he replies ‘No, he had two sides, he messed you up.’ Now imagine how uncomfortable I’m feeling.
Next, he needs to call his friend so he asks my permission- It’s your house, call your friend. A few minutes in and he’s handing me the phone… to talk to his friend…who I don’t know. Who hasn’t asked to speak to me. THE most awkward phone call.
Next, we FaceTime his neighbour. I don’t really need to say more on that. Weird.
It gets to about 9pm and I make my excuses to go to bed. He pulls me into hug me and goes ‘Oh good, you’re a hugger too!’ … dude, I didn’t really have a choice. Not long after I’ve gone up, he messages me from downstairs asking if Bonnie is asleep, if I have internet, if I’m asleep. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep very well.
In the morning I get up and go to work like normal. I delay heading back to the property until later that evening and take Bonnie for a nice walk. I get back and he’s made dinner again, he’s also bought us a bottle of wine. He says he’s taking us to see his neighbours so that Bonnie can play with their dog. IT’s all a bit awkward and then we come back for dinner. I accept a small glad of wine not to be impolite but refuse any more on the numerous attempts that followed- just incase I had to make an emergency exit.
After dinner of course the conversation leads back to him asking about if I’ll go back to my ex etc and if I’m looking for anything. No and No. He goes on to tell me how he doesn’t think that my current job is my passion. He says that I should be in the Art industry, painting and that he can make that happen for me…He also tells me how he wants to go to Bournemouth with me and Bonnie at some point.
He goes to the bathroom, so I go to wash the dishes in an attempt to then escape to bed. He comes back downstairs and he places his hand on the middle of my back and says thank you. His hand just lingers. I feel gross. I try to make my excuses to go to bed and he goes ‘But I made you jelly!’ I assumed he’s made up a big bowl and was going to serve me a portion but he opened the fridge and there was just one small bowl. He sat and watched me eat the jelly. All I could think was- What’s in this jelly?… I finish the jelly, wash up the bowl and get ready to head to bed.
The conversation goes like this:
Him: Can I ask you a question?
Him: a personal question?
Me: Okaaaaay (like you can ask but I can’t promise I’ll answer)
Him: Would you be interested in a relationship?
Me: No, Nope, not at all. ( I try to play it off like he just asked me generally rather than if I wanted to enter a relation with him)
Him: Please don’t look at or think of me any differently now!
I head upstairs and into the room incredibly conscious that my door doesn’t have a lock on it and at some point, he’ll be heading up to use the bathroom…I barricaded the door with mine and Bonnie’s things, sat on the bed and cried. How is it that I’ve left a man and a house I don’t feel safe in and then found myself in this situation?! I call my mum crying. We decide I can’t stay there. I book a room at a travelodge and pack my things. Mum’s still on the phone and I’m still crying, I head downstairs and say that something has happened at home and that I need to leave right away. Bonnie’s run downstairs and he shuts her in the garden while I’m getting the rest of my things together. I come downstairs and I’m loaded up like Buckaroo- SO MANY BAGS. I’ve got Bonnie’s lead in my hand ready to attach her, she’s still outside. He tells me to put everything in the car and then come back for her- no chance! I was going in one trip and not coming back, never mind leave my dog with him. ‘So you want her?’ -YES YOU WEIRDO GIVE ME MY DOG! As I’m clipping Bonnie to her lead, he tries to take a bag off of my shoulder- ‘Let me help’ I didn’t want him coming to my car with me so I said no and tried to give him his keys back. He embraces me in another hug , his head resting on my shoulder- he’s not letting go. I’m pretty hysterical at this point and try pushing him off, thrusting his keys at him and make my exit. I figured if I’ve forgotten anything it’s gone now, I’m never coming back.
I quickly leave in the car and the pull over nearby to try and compose myself before driving more. Instead of staying in the travelodge, my friend from work says I can stay wit her so I do that instead of being alone. After I leave he messages my twice. He messages twice more the following morning telling me to ‘keep in touch’. I don’t respond, so he tries calling. I don’t answer.
That day I reported him to Airbnb. That part of their website is a bit of a click through rabbit warren but we got there in the end. I submitted my initial report and awaited their response.
They were fantastic. Someone from their team called me, allowed me to talk and was really understanding and empathetic. They continued their investigation. They ended up refunding my entire stay- I’d booked 4 days but only stayed overnight for 1. They also compensated my travelodge booking and the host’s listing was removed. I felt like I was listened to and taken seriously; two things that you worry about in disclosing something like this especially since he had 14 5* reviews. I am now questioning if they’re even legit.
I have stayed in an Airbnb before with a host and never had a problem so never imagined this would unfold.
The moral of the story is: put your own safety first, stay vigilant and if it doesn’t feel right, get out and report it.
I’m so glad I hadn’t had another glass of wine that night so I could leave when I needed to.
If any of you reading this have ever experienced anything like this at all, I am so sorry. It really is truly awful and I wish situations like this didn’t happen.