A Brilliant Idea Or Was It?
“A brilliant idea!” was Sarah’s reaction when she heard of Airbnb. Her large Chelsea house (actually more Fulham than Chelsea) was increasingly being neglected, children flown the nest, the growing attraction of “a quiet life” in their house in Hampshire and the competing claims of their cottage in France. “The house should be earning its keep”, she asserted to her increasingly laid-back husband, David, now semi-retired and winding down on just two short days a week (mainly lunch) in the city. “Fine by me darling,” was his response, “but are you sure it won’t be too much work.”
Sarah got started almost immediately. The first thing was to take the pictures; this took ages. It was a lovely house and she’d furnished it beautifully; but somehow, from whatever angles she used, the pictures didn’t really do it justice. “I really need a professional to do this,” she thought, but that’s more hassle to organise, “Oh, well – they’ll just have to do.”
Then there was writing the description. Having just scrapped a pass in O-level English, Sarah was never great with words, but she persevered. Finally, after half a dozen drafts and a new ink cartridge for her printer, she had something to show David. “I’m sure that will do,” was his response. More late nights were spent navigating the complexity of Airbnb and uploading all the details; but finally it was “live”.
A few weeks later she had her first enquiry. They seemed like a nice suitable family, the Williams from Ohio, and she accepted their booking. There’d be no problem preparing the house for them, Magda would help.
The questions started almost immediately. “How good is the wi-fi, it’s a must have? How far is there a store where we can get gluten free bread? What’s the cheapest way of getting us all there from Heathrow? Is the London Pass worth getting? How do we get an Oyster Card?” “This is driving me crazy!” said Sarah, “I never thought I’d have to act as a tourist office rep.”
Three days before her guests’ arrival, Magda called and said she was very sorry but her mother had just been admitted to hospital and she had to go back to Poland; so Sarah was left to clean and prepare the house herself. Even worse, Magda didn’t know when she’d be back and Sarah had invited friends to stay in London just a day after their departure. Too late, she remembered David’s warning.
Sarah had carefully planned the day of their arrival. They were due to land at Heathrow at 9.00am, so she calculated they’d get to the house at about 10.30am when she’d be there to meet them and let them in. That would take about an hour, so she booked to see a special exhibition at The Royal Academy followed by lunch at 1.30pm with a girlfriend, before returning to Hampshire.
By 11.00am there was still no sign of the Williams. 1130 passed, 1200, 1230. Finally at 1245 the door bell rang and the Williams family were on the door step. It had been a tale of woe. One bag had gone missing and that took ages to sort out, they changed tube at Earl’s Court and got on the wrong District Line train, they got lost trying to get to the house, finally giving up and taking a taxi all of 200 yards.
Of course check-in took much longer than expected, they insisted on knowing what every knob on the washing machine and the dish washer was for, precisely how the TV worked (didn’t they have one at home?), and having three dummy runs with the house alarm system.
Recounting all this to her friend Jean over tea rather than the planned lunch, the Royal Academy booking having been consigned to history, Sarah vowed: “Never again, and it’s not even over yet as I have to clean up after they’ve gone!”
Jean smiled indulgently, “Sounds like a nightmare. I’ve been letting out our London pad for years without any hassle.” “How?” demanded Sarah. “We use Coach House Rentals, they’re a small, reliable company. They’ve been around for 15 years or so and really take care of everything – it’s totally hassle free! If only you’d asked me…..”
Coach House Rentals: chsrentals.com 020 8355 3192