Julia Somerville, Angela Rippon and Gloria Hunniford look into a terrifying accident that occurred around a hotel pool for which no-one is taking responsibility.
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We asked you who's left you feeling ripped off when it comes to your
holidays and you came back with a catalogue of travel disasters.
A holiday's supposed to be a time of relaxing,
not a time of more stress and certainly not a time of stress whilst you're away.
You'd go into it with your eyes wide open if you think something's too
good to be true, then it probably is.
Whether it's a deliberate rip-off,
a simple mistake or a catch in the small print,
we'll find out why you're out-of-pocket
and what you can do about it.
Your stories, your money.
This is Rip-Off Britain.
Hello and welcome to Rip-Off Britain from Tenerife,
where this series is about tackling the holiday disasters that you've asked
us to investigate on your behalf and trust me,
I'm not using the word disaster lightly.
Some of the cases you're going to be hearing about today are truly
-And whether that's because of the sums of money that are
involved or the circumstances that created all the problems in the first place,
what each of our stories has in common is this.
Adding to the frustration and the anger, at whatever it was that kicked off,
is the difficulty there's been in getting anyone to take proper
responsibility for what's happened.
Which drives you mad - and that's especially the case with a particularly
shocking tale we'll be hearing about in just a moment.
But we'll also be meeting people who, after ending up out of pocket,
very much feel that they were taken advantage of,
so we'll have advice to try and stop the same thing happening to you,
so that you don't end up in that position.
Coming up: a family holiday ruined by a devastating accident. But how was
something so extraordinary able to happen?
That initial moment was one of the worst moments in my life.
That will stay with me for a long, long time.
And the tourist trap restaurants accused of misleading customers over
the price of their food.
I thought "We're going to pay more than we are expecting for this", but
obviously I wasn't quite expecting such a big bill.
Part of being able to relax on holiday is feeling confident that wherever
it is you're staying is a safe place for everyone in your group.
But sometimes, that confidence is misplaced as was the case for the people
in this next film.
But despite the severity of what happened,
things have been made even worse by the fact that no-one's shouldering
the blame or has, as yet, been held accountable.
Whether it's 5-star luxury or no-frills bed-and-breakfast,
a basic requirement we all expect from our holiday accommodation is that
it's going to be safe.
That's something that Pete and Sarah from Aldershot took for
granted when they went to Egypt for a family holiday with their teenage
sons Tom and Jack in 2016.
We spend all the time together when we're on holiday.
It's something that we don't do at home.
They're out working, they're at college, Pete's out working,
so that two weeks is our family time, together.
They chose a holiday which fitted everyone's requirements with water slides for the boys
and plenty of space for them all to relax.
And they booked their two-week stay at the Jungle Aqua Park hotel in
Hurghada, through a company they'd used before, called Sunshine.co.uk.
I think the total cost of the holiday was about £4,200.
That was for everything - all-inclusive holiday,
with the water park and all the activities on-site.
It looked like the ideal place for us, as a family, to go.
I was so excited for this one.
Hadn't really been to...
..a massive water park before.
The holiday soon came around and after an evening arrival,
the family were all up early to enjoy their first day of Egyptian
sunshine. But they were to have only a few very brief moments of
-The boys went off to play in a pool,
just sort of relaxing and putting our feet up and after only about five or
ten minutes, Tom was back, looking distressed, saying Jack was stuck.
The ball the boys had been playing with had landed at the side of the pool
and Jack had got out to retrieve it.
He'd thrown the ball back to Tom and Tom had gone under the water to get
the ball and he said he heard something - he didn't know what it was -
and by the time he came out of the water, Jack wasn't there.
In those brief seconds,
what should have been a couple of simple steps back to the pool had ended
in disaster for Jack.
There was like a gravel cement mix and stuff that was all on the floor
and obviously, I didn't want to step on that,
so then I did step on this cover for the manhole.
But then, it just collapsed in and that's as far as I can remember.
Jack had fallen down a 6-foot maintenance pit,
leaving him not just stuck but badly injured.
As his brother Tom ran to alert their parents,
hotel staff gathered to try and help.
I walked over to this scene,
to be ushered away by the hotel staff
until my wife called out that Jack
had just been pulled out of the manhole cover adjacent to the pool.
That initial moment was one of the worst moments in my life.
And all I could see was just two men just dragging my son out of a hole
and he was just covered in...
..blood and dirt and...
..that will stay with me for a long, long time.
Jack was given medical treatment by hotel staff but due to the seriousness
of the wound, Pete insisted that an ambulance should be called.
I saw the cut to the back of his head.
I was really concerned that he'd suffered some sort of injury to his
brain, to be perfectly honest.
Jack was in a lot of pain, then, and crying,
because his head was hurting him so much and those ten,
15 minutes waiting for the ambulance seemed like a long, long time.
I accompanied Jack, who was drifting in and out of consciousness, on the way to the hospital.
So my dad was just saying, "Squeeze my hand, so you don't, like,
"so you stay conscious."
That was horrible, to see your son in a foreign country, especially,
and he's 15 years old and he'd just... terrifying.
At the hospital, an urgent CT scan revealed that fortunately,
there was no damage to Jack's brain but he had suffered a cracked rib
and cuts and bruises in the fall and he needed stitches for the wound to his head.
Pete called his insurance company to inform them of what had
happened and discussed making a claim for any medical expenses, but
the hotel stepped in, insisting that it would cover the hospital bill instead.
After spending a night under observation,
Jack was discharged and the family began to try and piece together
-exactly what had happened.
-We didn't realise to the extent of how deep the hole
was and what had actually happened.
How could he have fallen down the hole?
It beggars belief.
The couple met with the hotel manager to try and get some answers.
And that's when they said that maintenance was going on in
the area and Jack shouldn't have stood on the manhole cover,
but we don't recall any maintenance being on in that area
and Jack is not silly enough
to stand on a manhole cover that's already open.
Well, the family was adamant that there were no warnings for people to
keep away from this particular area of the poolside, or of any potential danger,
so they lodged an official complaint with the hotel.
A couple of days later,
we took some photographs of the manhole cover
and you could see there had been some fresh cement put around the seal
to make it a better fit to stop any further accidents happening
and a cigarette bin had been placed on top
of that to stop anyone from walking on it whatsoever.
A precious family holiday had turned into a nightmare.
They claim the accident and Jack's injuries had a huge impact,
making it impossible to enjoy the rest of their stay.
I had to push him around in a wheelchair for four or five days.
We had to take it in turns to have room service,
because he didn't want to go out in a wheelchair at night.
The second week, we sort of managed to sort of get him to hobble around
the complex. Unfortunately, all the water park and everything,
we hadn't been in because no-one felt like using it,
especially without your teenage son.
I knew the holiday was ruined cos, like, I knew I wasn't going to recover.
Like, instantly. I knew this was going to be like a two,
three week thing I'm going to recover fully from. And it was.
As soon as they got home,
Pete began the process of claiming compensation
for their ruined holiday.
In his view, the hotel was responsible for the accident and he wanted to
be reimbursed for the cost of a trip that none of them had been able to
enjoy. But, in an e-mail to Pete,
the hotel simply expressed regret that the accident had happened and
claimed the place where Jack had climbed out of the pool
was not an exit area for walking on.
David Walker from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents,
which uses research from around the world,
says that although the UK has very clear guidelines as to who is
responsible for customer safety in public places,
the lines can be far more blurred abroad.
And, as a result,
establishing who should take the blame if anything goes wrong can be tricky.
It can be a minefield.
As, in the UK, the safety regulations and laws are quite clear.
When you walk into a hotel there is a whole series
of advice and guidance and risk management to look after you.
When you travel abroad it's very much country specific.
And what you would expect in the UK is not always the case abroad.
In an attempt to get someone to take responsibility for Jack's accident,
Pete also complained to the holiday company sunshine.co.uk, but it said
that, as per its terms and conditions,
it had merely acted as an agent for the trip.
And the responsibility lay with the individual suppliers,
in this case the hotel.
I couldn't believe it. Because I thought we had such a cast-iron case.
Because we bought hotel, flight and transfer all under one payment.
And we had a holiday rep, as well.
And I think that's pretty much what a package holiday is.
It's not until something went wrong that we realised it's not quite what it seems.
But despite Pete having booked all of these elements of his trip through
one company, sunshine.co.uk says that along with many other holiday
providers, and as it is perfectly entitled to do,
it makes clear in its Ts&Cs,
that it doesn't provide package holidays and isn't therefore bound
by the travel package regulations.
And it's these details that David Walker says are key for you to check on
when you're choosing who to book your next holiday with.
It doesn't really matter, the style of holiday that you book,
it's the nature of the relationship with the travel company which is
important. Check, at booking, who you are booking with,
and what the relationship is,
and if it's covered by the package travel regulations.
If you go more independently,
you need to understand that if things go wrong
you will be responsible for
fixing them and the level of support will not be the same.
Well, when we contacted sunshine.co.uk,
it told us it's truly sorry to hear about this accident which it
understands must have been stressful and frightening for Jack and his
family. But it says its investigations have found that, at the time of the
incident, maintenance work was being carried out in the hotel's water pump room
and that caution signs were clearly visible on the path next to it.
Of course, the family disputes that point,
saying no signs were visible anywhere.
Either way, the holiday company says that Jack climbed the rear wall of
the pool against house rules which led him to the area under maintenance.
While confident that Jack received the very best treatment and care from
both the hotel staff and the local medical centre,
the company went on to say its terms and conditions require customers to
report any problems while they're still in the resort,
rather than when they return home, as happened in this case.
But it says it continues to discuss the matter with all parties
and hopes to reach a satisfactory conclusion soon.
We also contacted the Picalbatros Hotel Group
which owns the Jungle Aqua Park Resort to see why,
regardless of which part of the pool Jack climbed out of,
such a hazard had been left so easily accessible.
I'm afraid, it declined to comment.
But Peter remains far from happy with the way all this has been handled,
believing that the area around the pool simply wasn't safe for swimmers
and that someone should be held accountable for that.
His case is now with solicitors.
On top of that, he'll be making extra sure that next time he books a
holiday, he'll do it in a way that gives the protection that he needs
should anything go wrong.
It's sort of highlighted that maybe using a tour operator from
the high street is probably a better route to go down.
You know, it's something I'm never going to forget.
Anyone who's had the pleasure of visiting some of the world's best-known
attractions will know that such places very often come with a high price tag.
And that anywhere that you eat or drink nearby is usually also going to
have a higher than average price to just capitalise on the tourists who
are soaking up the sights.
And broadly speaking, I suppose,
we do tend to accept that and may even think that the inflated cost is
worth it so that we can enjoy the atmosphere of historic or beautiful
surroundings. But how much of a premium is too much
and when does it end up in rip-off territory?
Well, one man who got in touch with us has very clear views on that.
After dinner in one of the world's best loved cities
ended up costing far more than he'd ever imagined.
For many people, and I'm certainly one of them,
eating out can be as much a part of a holiday as going to the beach or
relaxing by the pool.
And wherever there are throngs of tourists there'll be dozens of places
to dine. With waiters enthusiastically trying to tempt you to one of their
tables. But amongst the hundreds of restaurants on offer,
finding the ones that offer good value local cuisine rather than meals
that are eye-wateringly overpriced isn't always easy.
So, when Gary Walton from Allenford went to Venice,
he knew it's an expensive city where paying well over the odds is a very
real possibility. So,
he deliberately searched out somewhere cheaper to eat.
We'd just come off of the Rialto Bridge.
We were walking down through an alley,
we saw the restaurant that we went into.
And what attracted us initially was
the pictures in the windows and the prices.
From the information and figures he saw in the window, it seemed to Gary
that the restaurant he'd settled on looked fairly reasonably priced.
There was a huge plate of seafood which was about 12-15 euros,
if I remember rightly.
The mixed grill, which was about 10-12 euros.
Tempted by both the food on offer and the prices,
Gary and his wife went inside, got a table,
and expecting to pay between 10-15 euros for each of their meals,
as he thought was indicated in the window,
they ordered a mixed grill and a fish platter.
When the meal arrived it was a huge plate of food.
And there was a big grin on my face because I thought, "Well...
"..I'm not sure if I'm going to eat all of this but I'm going to give it a damn good go."
Gary's plate was crammed with a 12oz steak,
three different cuts of chicken, chorizo,
a selection of sausages and a large portion of chips.
His wife's plate was just as crammed with crab, lobster,
prawns, scallops, and a selection of other fish.
It was a banquet they both struggled to eat.
But a nagging doubt about the cost of all that food remained throughout
-Based on the information we'd had previously,
that Venice was expensive, plus what we had on our plates,
"We're going to pay more than we're expecting for this."
But, obviously, I wasn't quite expecting such a big bill.
It was then Gary wished he'd asked more questions about the prices that
he'd seen outside, because they were very different from the ones he was
charged on the bill.
And the total he ended up paying was much higher than the 50 euros or so
We paid 345 euros, which,
with the exchange rate at the time, worked out to £307.
Unwilling to make a scene and ruin what had been a great meal,
Gary and his wife paid the bill and left.
But he later found out that the prices advertised in the window were
not per plate as Gary had thought, and as you might expect in the UK.
The cost of the fish and meat dishes were based on weight,
with the bigger the portion the higher the price.
I believe that some of these places charge you 10 euros per 100g of meat.
Which would roughly work out to what we've ended up paying, to be honest.
The couple had both had a hefty one and a half kilos of meat and fish
each, which at 10 euros for 100g made their dishes 150 euros each.
But they certainly hadn't asked for a serving that big.
So, was the restaurant they'd gone to deliberately taking advantage of the
fact that they hadn't understood its pricing?
Well, a quick search online immediately established
that plenty of other tourists had been caught out in the same way
in a number of restaurants across Venice.
Recently, a British tourist faced a similar scenario
when he was presented with a 526 euros bill.
And furious reviews and comments online
reveal no shortage of people hit with bills they found hard to swallow.
Some were paying as much as 700 euros for a few plates of food.
The spate of complaints even prompted the mayor of Venice to suggest that
it was the tourists who were to blame, for not understanding Italian or the Venetian dialect.
But you might think a restaurant that genuinely wants to
avoid its customers being confused and paying over the odds would explain its charges.
After all, Gary says in his case the fact he couldn't speak Italian really was not the issue.
I don't think learning the language would have helped me,
because my understanding and the way the waiter spoke to me,
the language barrier wasn't a problem at the time.
We don't generally shy away from a place if it's a little bit more
expensive but if the restaurant in question had advertised that it was
going to cost me £150 for a mixed grill, I wouldn't have gone in.
Another couple who feel they were taken advantage of by restaurant staff
are Mike and Sue Butler from Wakefield.
On a recent holiday to Lisbon they did their very best
to avoid paying for more than they wanted.
And yet they still ended up with a higher bill than they expected.
We sat down at the table
and noticed on the table itself,
there was a huge plate of enormous cheeses and hams.
And we just looked at one another and thought,
I'm sure that those are not going to be free and they will cost a lot of
money. So we asked him to take those away from the table.
But Mike and Sue soon found out that ordering what they did want wasn't as simple as they'd have liked.
He'd started to tell us about the fish specials, so we asked how much it would be
and he said 40 euros for two people which we thought was a little bit pricey.
So we declined and said, "No, we don't want the fish special."
So then he tried to sell us the meat special.
And, funnily enough, that was 40 euros for two people, as well.
So we said, "No, thank you, can we just have a menu, please."
The couple chose two glasses of local white wine which would usually cost around 2-3 euros a glass,
plus a pork dish for Mike and a piece of fish for Sue.
Each dish cost less than 15 euros.
So, off he went and came back then and said,
"Do we want potatoes and vegetables or chips and salad?"
Nowhere on the menu does it say that this is extra.
One assumed it was included in the price.
So, we decided we'd have some to go with these meals.
And off he went with our order.
With money playing on their minds throughout the meal,
the couple didn't enjoy it as much as they might have done
and they were keen to get the bill and pay up.
The waiter had put the bill down on the table.
And my husband looked at it a little quizzical.
And I said, "What's the matter?"
He said, "Oh, I think they've brought us the wrong bill".
But the bill he'd expected to be less than 50 euros had ended up
The wine was 10 euros a glass.
And the extra items had brought the total to nearly 80 euros.
And though Mike eventually got this down to 55 euros,
the whole experience was thoroughly unenjoyable.
So we asked the waiter to come across and started querying the bill.
And the first thing he said was, "You said you wanted chips,
"you said you wanted salad, and they're all individually priced."
And we said, "Well, it doesn't say that on the menu,
"and you didn't say that when we ordered our food."
"Oh, but it is extra," he said.
"It is all extra."
But the couple didn't feel that that had been at all clear when they'd
ordered. They did manage to reduce the bill slightly before paying and leaving.
And were much relieved that they hadn't ordered any more extra.
Or indeed touched that cheese platter that had been on the table when they arrived.
But, just like Gary, their experience prompted them
to look at reviews of the restaurant online.
And, again, it was clear many other people's meals had ended up costing a lot more
than they'd bargained for.
When we looked at the reviews we were actually quite astonished
at some of the prices that people had been charged.
We'd got off quite lightly, really.
Some of these people had been asked to pay extortionate prices.
You know, several hundred euros,
for food that they may have eaten
but they'd not been told how much it would cost.
The uneasy feeling that you might potentially be ripped off while in a
restaurant on holiday, is one we know many of you are familiar with through
all your e-mails and letters.
Which is why this travel blogger recommends avoiding eating in the places
very obviously aimed at tourists
and find out instead where the locals go.
So, when looking for places to dine abroad,
I would really recommend that you scout for locals.
And this could be as easy as walking into a local convenience store and
asking for advice on the best restaurant that you could dine in.
Locals are usually more than happy to offer their advice on their city,
on places to eat, where to get the best views of the cities
and just where to really experience that city that you are in.
But she also recommends making yourself aware of the most common ways that
some restaurants may add extras to the bill.
So, while abroad, there are a number of hidden charges that tourists and customers
are completely unaware of.
An example of this could be,
water on the table on your entrance to the restaurant.
You may think that the water on your table is actually complimentary to
your meal, but a large number of times it's actually an additional cost to your meal.
So it's really important to be quite vigilant and to always ask
if you're unsure.
Back at home in Allenford,
Gary is still smarting at having to pay £307 for a meal that he thought
would cost a quarter of that.
But, after his experience, he's sure of two things.
One, that the same thing will never happen again, but also, sadly,
that he won't be returning to Venice.
It's the most expensive meal I've had and will ever have.
This whole experience has left a sour taste in my mouth
and it would put me off going back to Venice.
Our annual pop up shop returned to Manchester's Trafford Centre with our team
of experts once again ready to help tackle all your travel woes.
This year we were joined by travel writer Emma Coulthurst,
who was horrified by the story that Betty and her friend Kath came to
share with us about unwelcome guests at the apartment that they'd rented
on the Costa Del Sol.
We all settled in and then all of a sudden
we heard this screaming, "No, no!"
So everybody jumped out of their rooms.
And my daughter, who was one of the party,
came running through screaming, "No, no, no!"
And she'd got a cockroach climbing up her curtain in her room.
And then we heard the boys next, crying out.
And when we went in there there was a cockroach climbing over...
There was two, running on the bed.
The apartment was infested.
And while the next day the rep did come and spray everywhere,
Betty and her group wanted to move completely.
I said, "Look, I'm not really very happy about all this."
We've had one of the worst nights you could ever think.
So, she said, "Well, you know,
"when you book to come to Spain and places like this, you should expect cockroaches."
They were offered new accommodation, but as it was some distance away they decided to stay put.
Once home, however, Betty raised a complaint with her travel agent
and in response received a cheque for £75, plus a voucher.
But she doesn't feel that's anywhere near enough.
And Emma thinks there may yet be a way for Betty to take her complaint further.
Package regulations 1992, and they say that a tour operator must provide a holiday
to a reasonable standard
and an enjoyable experience which is free of distress.
Thankfully, the company that you went with is a member of ABTA,
the Association of British Travel Agents.
What I would recommend you do, if you haven't already,
is to speak to them.
They will take up your case and look at it.
They need to check that their member has adhered to that code.
Hopefully, that will bring you some sort of solution.
Well, following that advice Betty did take her complaint to ABTA who found in her favour.
And she went on to receive half the cost of the holiday back, a total of £600.
Another great result.
And over in our Gripes Corner, several of you came to us with the same complaint,
one that I'm sure is going to strike a chord with a lot of you.
Something that really gets on my nerves is the price of flights and
holidays when it's the school holidays.
But now parents are being penalised for taking children out of school in
term time. This is something that seriously needs addressing.
We were looking at a holiday during the time when I was at school
but then we looked at when I was off school
in the half term and the prices went up so much that we couldn't afford it.
It made me feel quite upset because I couldn't go on this holiday
that I'd been looking forward to all term.
Still to come on Rip-Off Britain,
the big name in holiday rentals that's left homeowners to sort out the mess
when their property has been trashed by guests.
The toilets were all blocked.
And the house is unusable.
But when it comes down to the wire, they really don't care.
Now, our travel expert Simon Calder is full of the secrets to save you money on your travels.
He's also full of tips on everything from how to avoid
the crowds to the best way to steer clear of those tourist traps.
This time, it's to tip or not to tip.
A meal, a taxi ride, an ocean cruise.
You have to tip for all of those, don't you?
Or do you? Well, before I answer that,
my first tip is to forget completely
the very British assumption that you should always tip 10%.
It might work here...
Thank you very much.
But abroad it's almost always wrong.
Indeed, for a typical meal in France, Spain, Portugal, Italy or Greece,
you may not need to leave anything at all.
On a 30 euro lunch bill I might, if the service is really good,
tip a couple of euros.
But you can feel comfortable about not tipping at all.
When it says on the bill, service compris, or tout compris, it means it,
service really is included.
-But it's not just how much you leave that can cause
confusion, in some countries just who you leave the tip with is just as important.
In Hungary, if you decide to tip, you should give the money
straight to the waiter.
Don't leave it in the saucer.
Whereas in Japan and Korea,
leaving cash in the dish may cause consternation.
You might even find the waiter tries to give you your money back.
I've been chased down the street in the South Korean capital Seoul because
the waiter thought I'd left too much money.
But in the States, if you find yourself in the same situation,
it will be because you made the huge mistake of not leaving enough.
In the US the recommended percentage is ratcheting up, with some
restaurants suggesting 18%, 20% even 25% and,
while it's never been traditional to add a service charge,
some restaurants have started doing that.
So check your bill carefully to make sure you don't tip on top of the tip.
And you'll find yourself on even shakier ground on board cruise ships
where passengers are strenuously encouraged to tip typically around £10 per person per day.
But you can opt-out of paying the stipulated charges.
Tell the reception desk you don't want the gratuities added to
your onboard account. That way,
you'll be able to reward excellent service after you've received it -
which is the whole point of tipping, isn't it?
Now of all the different ways to book and stay in accommodation right
round the world, one in particular has taken the whole industry by storm:
Airbnb, where homeowners rent their properties to holiday-makers direct
through a website and, undoubtedly,
it's given tourists many more options for a lot less money.
And for the owners, as well as the obvious benefit of earning some extra cash,
also there's the reassurance that should any damage occur Airbnb's
insurance policy will cover the cost.
But for one homeowner, who got in touch with us,
the promises made for that guarantee rang rather hollow,
because when he needed it the most that protection fell short,
which has had implications not just for his own pocket,
but for the price he now has to charge his future guests.
Thousands of people in the UK are lucky enough to own a holiday home,
many of them in sunnier climes.
But with such a big investment,
you want to know that, if you choose to let out your property, you're not
going to be left with an expensive headache
if someone leaves it damaged.
So chances are, if you do rent out your home,
you'll do it through a big name that offers protection for just that
Which is exactly what Chris Chambers and his wife Dawn did.
They loved Florida so much they decided to buy a house over there,
but the only way they could afford to keep it on is by renting it out on Airbnb.
Our villa in America means everything to me,
it's something I'd always dreamed of and when I managed to get it,
it was absolutely fantastic.
The couple use a management company to look after the property when
they're not using it and although they advertise on a number of websites,
Airbnb had particularly appealed because of the extra protection
guarantees it offers to hosts.
One of the things that really impressed us was the fact that
they have a host guarantee and the ability to
put a damages deposit on to guests staying at your property.
So it's a distinct advantage, when you sign up to Airbnb,
should the worst happen and somebody makes a mess of your home,
that there'll be somebody there to help you and
cover the costs of that damage.
The couple have rented their property a number of times through Airbnb
without any problems,
but in April 2017 I'm afraid one stay went disastrously wrong.
The phone goes and it's the lady from my management company in Florida.
She's in a bit of a state and she's rung me to tell me that the house has
been left in a terrible mess.
The toilets are all blocked,
there's human excrement in the baths and on the floor.
It was just the worst news ever.
Well, worse still,
the next guests were due to arrive in a couple of hours and Chris was
thousands of miles away.
Luckily, the management company managed to find somebody who could
come and look at the toilet.
Once the blockage was cleared,
the management company had arranged for a team of cleaners to go in.
I can't imagine the job they had to do.
It cost Chris over 1,300 to get the job fixed,
but he was confident that Airbnb's host guarantee would help him
get that money back as it promises to reimburse eligible claims up to £600,000.
So he registered the complaint within the initial timescale set
and sent the relevant documents requested,
but the company came back with a further response.
They wanted clarification on the
invoice and they wanted clarification on who'd actually
unblocked the toilet.
The slightly frustrating bit was that they closed the e-mail with
"Provide it within 24-hours or we will close the case."
Airbnb wanted more details about the work carried out,
including proof that the plumber hired to fix the problem
was registered as an approved tradesman.
I spoke to the plumber and he told me that he wasn't registered as a
plumber in Florida.
They said that as the guy wasn't registered,
they couldn't take his testimony that the blockage was caused by that guest.
They couldn't believe what he was saying.
And therefore, closed the claim.
Although the plumber fixed the problem immediately,
because he was someone the management company had found at short notice to
do the job, rather than a state registered plumber,
Airbnb didn't recognise his credentials. That meant that the guarantee
that Chris was relying on simply wasn't going to give him the protection
They clearly are happy to take the commission on any bookings,
and they do find us bookings, but when it comes down to the wire,
they really don't care.
As far as Chris is concerned,
the host guarantee that Airbnb offers is worth nothing
and it's left him worried about how he can protect his home when letting it out in the future.
He says the company's terms and conditions don't allow him to ask
tenants for a security deposit that he could hold back,
so he's entirely reliant on a guarantee that, the way he sees it,
has already let him down.
But Paula Higgins from the campaign group, Homeowners Alliance,
has heard stories like this before
and says it's important to realise the limitations of what Airbnb and other similar sites
are offering if you use them to advertise your home.
They're not a lettings agency,
so they're not going to give you that full service and you're not paying for that.
So it is really just getting you in touch with those customers
or getting in touch with those tenants.
So you do have to take responsibility.
Derek and Josephine Wilson from London feel that this is something
they found out too late.
Like Chris, they supplement the running of their Florida villa
by letting it out on Airbnb.
It means an awful lot to us, we love it very much.
We have to rent it out to be able to afford to keep it.
But we do love it and we do our best to keep it as well-stocked with
everything and in as good condition as we possibly can.
The couple have advertised the property for rent using Airbnb
while a local management company looking after the property between bookings,
with a cleaner, will pop in to change the beds and put things straight.
It all worked well until one day they got the call all holiday homeowners dread.
I received a telephone call from our management company to say that
the people that had just left our house had left it in a very bad way.
That there had been burn marks on our brand-new furniture
and also on the arm of the family room sofa, there was a burn mark.
The carpets were stained, with what looks like coffee or beer had been
tipped over them. There was litter and rubbish all in the house,
strewn across the bedrooms.
Josephine was devastated.
Well, I thought they'd had a party there.
I thought they'd all got very drunk and just had absolutely no respect
or consideration for the property.
That's what I thought. They didn't care who owned it.
They didn't care who it belonged to or what was in there or how nice it is was.
They just did whatever they wanted to do without an atom of
respect or consideration for anybody else.
That's what I thought.
Every room needed a deep clean and sofa cushions
that were damaged needed replacing, costing around £500.
So just as Chris had,
Josephine contacted Airbnb confident that the company's £600,000
host guarantee would offer them the cover they expected at times like this.
They'd said in their paperwork that they'd got the insurance,
that obviously if I provided them with the evidence
and the receipts of what we'd had to pay out,
that there would be no problem in them reimbursing us.
I didn't think we'd have any problem, if we honestly showed them the
photograph of the damage, that they would be sympathetic and say,
"Well, we are really sorry about this.
"This does happen on occasions, but don't worry about it,
"we will reimburse you."
But this time, too, the response from Airbnb fell short of what had been hoped for.
Although Josephine had sent all the receipts for the cleaning
work and for the damage to the furniture and indeed backed it all up with
photographs of the evidence, it seemed none of that was enough.
They just wouldn't... They weren't going to pay out.
They sent us...
said because we hadn't done this or hadn't done that,
we hadn't got the format right for the invoice
from the furniture company,
that under these circumstances that they wouldn't be taking the matter any further.
Airbnb considered the case closed and despite a host guarantee
that promised an unmatched level of protection in the travel industry,
Josephine got nothing.
Well, we spoke to Airbnb about both Josephine and Chris's cases.
And the company told us that its original handling of these two incidents
fell below the high standards it sets itself and they've contacted both
property owners to apologise and offer support.
The company reiterates that the host guarantee is there to provide peace
of mind for its community and say that while such experiences are
extremely rare, it's taking steps to ensure this doesn't happen again.
In the meantime, to avoid finding yourself saddled with a big bill for
property damage, Paula Higgins recommends that anyone who rents out
holiday accommodation has their own insurance in place and does whatever
checks they can on the people wanting to stay in their home.
The important thing is to really choose who's going to rent out your
property for you. Do not leave it to the sites.
You have facilities to look at their reviews,
so take advantage of all that.
Make sure that their identity is verified properly.
So use those tools,
don't rely on just accepting any booking that comes your way because it
could go badly wrong.
But for now, after what happened,
Josephine and Derek have taken their Florida home off Airbnb,
unwilling to take the risk that the company's guarantee might let them
down yet again.
I think their insurance is misleading
the way that they put it down in paper.
Everybody thinks, "Well,
"I'm OK if I rent my property through them, and if anything goes wrong
"they're covered, we're not taking a security deposit,"
but then this insurance surely would be as good as if not better.
And I think that,
basically, it's not worth the paper it's printed on.
The truth is that Rip-Off Britain wouldn't be here without your stories
and we've got plenty of ways you can get in touch.
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Just search BBC Rip-Off Britain.
Well, as our stories today have shown,
although your holiday is supposed to be a time for relaxing,
sometimes as a tourist you can really feel under siege with everyone
wanting a bit of your money,
but not always giving you very much in return.
And with so many demands on your cash,
and certainly no shortage of people all hoping that you're going to spend
it with them, it really can be very disappointing if you end up thinking
that you have not been looked after in the way that you should have been.
And more over, that you've been left out of pocket as a result.
Not a good position to be in.
Well, if that has ever happened to you, and not just on holiday, then do,
please, get in touch. We really,
really would love to hear from you and yours could be one of the stories
we investigate on a future programme.
For now though we're right out of time,
but we've loved having you with us today,
and we'll see you again very soon.
But for now though, from all of us on the team, bye-bye.
Julia Somerville, Angela Rippon and Gloria Hunniford tackle more of the travel and holiday problems viewers have asked them to investigate, including a terrifying accident that occurred around the hotel pool. Why is no-one taking responsibility for what happened?
After one couple was hit with a huge restaurant bill very different to the price they had seen on the menu outside, how much is too much when it comes to eating out in tourist hotspots?
Plus the homeowners furious that the big name who let out their property seems much less interested if guests end up damaging it.
And Simon Calder clears up the confusion on how much to tip when abroad.