Bulent’s Take on Airbnb.com

This summer my husband used Airbnb.com to arrange for his lodging while he was participating in a program at the London School of Economics.  Unfortunately he was extremely disappointed and felt exploited by the business. He asked me to post this because, as our friends and family know, he does not use social media, including Facebook or Twitter.

I recommend everyone to not use Airbnb.com. They exploit you like it is their business.

· Bulent rented an apartment in London for 6 weeks to attend a program at LSE.

· He completed the program at the end of the 3rd week, and asked the landlord to leave 3 weeks earlier than planned.

· She said “no problem”. Bulent notified Airbnb about the change, and came back to Turkey.

· After he came back, he realized that Airbnb charged his credit card as if he stayed the whole time.

· Because a chunk of the overcharge went to the landlord’s bank account, he asked the landlord to remind the Airbnb that his stay was only 3 weeks, and to ask for a refund of over a thousand dollars.

· Landlord said that she would “accept Bulent’s offer only if he agrees to pay her nearly twice the daily rate that they had originally agreed.”

· Bulent told her that this offer nearly a month after the whole thing was over was outrageous as she did not mention to him that she would want a higher rate when she accepted his offer to leave the place early.

· Landlord insisted on her condition.

· Bulent entered the case to Airbnb’s “dispute resolution” for Airbnb to resolve it.

· Dispute Resolution required him to accept their condition that “their decision will be final”

· Can’t possibly knowing what is behind that condition, and having no other choice; Bulent accepted it.

· Dispute Resolution reviewed the case, and “ruled” that they would refund $30 to him! (The amount Bulent was overcharged was little over a thousand dollars!!!)

· When Bulent asked how in the world they came up with that figure, they said that “stays shorter than 28 days are subject to weekly rates (his original agreement with the landlord was a monthly rate) and the weekly rate that applied to his case was such that they would only refund $30!”

· Bulent asked for a copy of the contract that shows this “policy”, and how they determine weekly rates.

· They sent him a webpage in their site that only talks about landlords’ options when they receive a request for early leaves (which are either to have Airbnb charge the guest for only the duration of his stay, or for the entire term). The site includes no information about this supposed policy to bump monthly rates down to weekly rates when stays are fewer than 28 days. Nor did it include any formula as to how they determine this weekly rate.

· Bulent pointed out these nonsense, and renewed his request for the 1,000+ Dollar refund.

· Airbnb answered by saying “as you accepted when you submitted the case to our Dispute Resolution Department, our decision is final!

· Next week, Bulent will sue the company for violation of consumer rights to be protected against arbitrary and exploitative practices. He will also file a complaint to the Better Business Bureau in California where this company is registered. But as importantly, he asked me to disseminate this message to all my friends and family so they do not use Airbnb.com.

Blogher 12

Holy Moly!  BlogHer!  I am still working though my experiences there.  I went to almost all the sessions.  A couple were productive and interesting.  However, the main even was…not lunch with Martha Stuart, or even lunch with Katie Couric (although that was awesome!)   It was meeting and connecting with other bloggers.  I don’t mean the random networking and thrusting of cards at each other, but the truly meaningful connection I made with some of the individuals there.  Sometimes it was just a short conversation that stayed with you, other times it was a discussion that was so intriguing you changed your plans just to continue it.

I met some great friends, finally understood the nuances of Twitter, and learned quite a bit at BlogHer12.  I also had a wicked good time!  There was a party every night.  Saturday night at  the Sparklecorn party I had a blast!   I danced so long and hard that my friends thought I was drinking, while I was sober and just dancing it out.  That was a blast.  Plus, any party where Ace of Cakes brings a Punk/Space Unicorn clearly rocks!

IMG_4827

Hopefully there will be more BlogHer posts coming, however I am a little distracted with a couple of events.  1) One of my Besties gave birth to a darling little girl—and I get to meet her tomorrow.  2) Packing for my trip back to Turkey.  There is a lot of bag weighing and triaging of clothes at my house.  GRRR…Damn the one bag, 23 kg limits!

The Road Trip Begins

Last Friday Bülent and I  flew to Dallas from our respective cities.  We have had a blast visiting with friends in Texas, and made a mini road trip from Dallas, to Austin to San Antonio and back.  There will be lots coming on our time in Texas but it needs its own post.  Our plan was to fly down, hang out, buy a car and drive back to NH.  And today it commences.   Bülent is picking up the car this morning and from there we will be hitting up cities willy-nilly in a northerly direction.  YAY!  It should be blast, and give me lots to post about.  I may be trying to post from my phone, so bear with me.

No Posts But Lots of Material

Though it may not have been noticed, I have not posted in a while. This can be explained very clearly. My parents came to Turkey to visit me and meet my fiance’s parents.
We spent a few days in Istanbul, drove down to Efes and saw the ancient ruins, drove down to Marmaris and had a “Meeting of the Parents.” We left Turkey on Saturday, by ferry, spent the day visiting Rhodes (or Rodos) and patronizing their fine hospital facilities, and then took the ferry to Santorini, the Greek Island that is so lovely you understand WHY they believed in so many Gods. I will be posting more on the recent adventures once I get back to my computer in Marmaris. Because right now, as I type I am being distracted.
By this.

I am going to go enjoy the view and the sunshine while I can, and post later.

Farmer’s Have Lots Of Land…And Now Money

The history of Marmaris is pretty interesting. Founded in about the 6th century BC, it was originally known as Physkos. It has been conquered and invaded many times, the most recent invaders being the tourist, who were welcomed with open arms.
The bay is surrounded by high rocky mountains, and the air can be very humid. Decades ago, the land by the sea was swampy. The villagers sent an envoy to the Turkish government, asking for relocation. They were sick, with tuberculosis and other diseases which was exacerbated by the heat and humidity. The government said no, and back the villagers went, to their small farming community on the gorgeous coast. The fathers left the less valuable swampy land directly on the coast to their daughters and the more agrarian land further back towards the mountains to their sons. Later the community built canals, which helped dry up the swamp lands. Then in the late 1970’s a Marmaris was discovered by mainstream tourists. There was a building boom in the 80’s and now the year round population of this small town is 28,000 and the summer population 400,000. While many foreigners have bought houses and land, the majority of the hotels and buildings are still owned by the villagers. Ironically the daughters ended up with the most valuable land.
While many of the villagers are wealthy now, most of them still work the land. Many have relocated higher up into the mountains where there is more land to farm. Some are still nestled in between the hotels. You know who is really wealthy, when you see a small home, with a large garden plot, and livestock in the back. Becausee you know, if they wanted to, they could sell the land for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The stories are pretty interesting, they go like this.
“See that man over there?
Which man?
The man on the really old bike.
Oh Yes, what about him?
Oh, well he is our gardener, and he owns those homes over there.
What?
See those five houses?
Yes.
Well, those are all his.
Hmmm…”
I think the best story was told by a friend of the family. He said that there was this elderly village lady, who rode around on her bike selling eggs. She looked so poor, that he ALWAYS bought eggs, and slipped her a little extra. After all, she looked so poor, and old, He felt badly.
After this had been going on for a while he found out that she wasn’t that poor. She owns half the hotels in the village. But still bikes around selling her eggs.
What I think is amazing is that many of the villagers are doing the exact same thing they would have done, had they not been wealthy. Except now, they can enjoy it more because it is a not a life or death struggle. If the farming does not go well, they always have the hotels.

Tales from Amasra No:3

The Final Installment: Gorgeous!
Amasra was just really amazing. It was this tiny town nestled between the Black Sea ans the hills. Our hotel was on the crest of the closest hill and almost had a panoramic view of the sea. Not only was there natural beauty, but the town itself was adorable and quaint. It is a working fishing village.
Much of it built around and within the remnants of Mehmet the Conqueror’s castle.

The view from one side of the hotel.

The view from the other. This is also the view from the dining room of the hotel.

This was taken off the balcony of the hotel room, I was out there to avoid the Turkish bunnies!

Tales from Amasra No:2

The Food

Amasra is a small village on the edge of the Black Sea, and to get there you must drive up the mountains, and once you reach the crest you can see the Black Sea below you and the town of Amasra nestled at the base of the mountains. The story is that when Fatih Sultan Mehmet (Mehmet the Conqueror) conquered Amasra, when he arrived on the top of that hill he asked his second in command“Lala, could this be the Çeşm-i Cihan (eye of the world)?”

And that is where the first meal was, a a restaurant called Çeşm-i Cihan. In Amasra it is redundant to call a restaurant a “Fish Restaurant.” Because that is what they served. Seafood, and drinks. No menus. You are given a choice between two different fish as a entree. Salad comes with the meal. What I love about Turkish salads is that they often come with herbs in them, which make they a little zingy. This salad was particularly good and included, pickled beets, green onions, green garlic, lettuce, carrots, radishes, onions (soaked to get the bite out) dill, mint, tomatoes, cucumbers and cabbage.

An appetizer, shrimp casserole. Super delicious, word to the wise, if you mispronounce shrimp in Turkish it easily sounds like drunk. Just an FYI, not that I did that repeatedly.

This was our fish, very tasty, though I forget the name of it, so I have posted it in its natural state below.

After we went to a Farmers Market (Pazar) where the locals were selling all sorts of great stuff. I carry a small Turkish/English dictionary with me which clears up all sorts of things. Like why the blackberry jam tastes like plums (Mulberries) or Why that cheese is decidedly tangy (water buffalo). And let me tell you, these women work hard.

Tons of different types of preserves from jams to different types of pickles, dried fruit, fruit leather, home made cheese and fresh vegetables. One look at their hands took all the fun out of haggling. They were clearly hard working hands.

The Second Day
Tasty Salad

Whiting

Red Mullet: Super Delicate. While you are able to eat the WHOLE thing I just could not bring myself to eat the heads(still had eyes) or the tails.

Dessert was particularly tasty. We did not have sesame halva, but yogurt with honey. Specifically water buffalo yogurt, which is so rich and creamy it is cut into squares to be served, and the honey on top was local, with a very pungent flavor. Well suited to the creamy yogurt, normally it has crushed walnuts on top, but due to my allergy we asked them to hold the nuts. Just in case you think I am a complete and total pig, all these meals were served family style, so orders were shared among several people.

Tales from Amasra No:1

Turkish Bunnies

Amasra was amazing! Beautiful scenery, wonderful food, great atmosphere. I will blog on the natural beauty and food later. This is the first of three posts, and I spologize for its length. It concerns midnight visitors (not the fun type) and woodland creatures, unfortunately in combination. The trip started out well, the five hour bus ride was scenic. We stopped at a fish restaurant where we drank and ate until the bus rode a little lower.
After lunch there was some left over dessert, sesame halva, super delicious. We had it wrapped to go and took it with us. After we got to our hotel, took in the view, stashed our stuff in the room, halva included, we took a walk. I mean, how could we not?

When we got back ,I noticed the halva, which had been on the dresser seemed as if it had been nibbled on. Like a good country girl I took notice, absently, and put the rest of the halva in the covered trashcan. But by then it was too late.

After dinner and live music we came back to the room at about 12 am. My fiance’s mother was staying in my room because they were concerned about security (I’ve seen bathroom stall doors with better locks). She is a notoriously light sleeper, and also has trouble falling asleep, I gave her the full bed and I was sleeping on the twin. Well, about 4:30 in the morning I wake up because something is scratching my head, groggily I reach up to scratch it, and I realize something is there, I sit straight up and fling whatever it is towards the bathroom.
It was a mouse, I saw the Mofo scamper to a corner. So it is the ass crack of dawn, and I am totally skeeved, and freaked out. IWhen I got up to use the bathroom, I can hear it scuttling around. But I don’t want to wake Susan because I know she will never get back to sleep and we had a full day of sightseeing ahead of us. So I get on my bed and my eyes are practically bugging out of my head. Then I hear a sound, I see another mouse climb up the heating pipe from under the floor boards. Shit. Then I see another do the same thing. God Damn, how many can there be?
By this point I am thinking, well, I don’t want to wake Susan, how weird would it be to ask my fiance’s dad, Ali, if I could sleep on the second bed in his room. Too weird I decided. So there I am, watching these grey blurs steak across the floor of my room, listening to their claws on the floor, and then…a vibration. That fucker was trying to climb my bed again. So I spent a good time of the next hour slapping my shoe on the floor next to my bed. Finally I conked out again, but not without fear, when I awoke the next morning I was stiff from being curled in the fetal position.

The next morning I told Susan, and she was appalled, though at first she thought it was good, until I pantomimed a mouse (I don’t know the Turkish word for mouse, and she didn’t know the English). They were both infuriated, and complained to the manager, asked me why I didn’t wake them up (I didn’t think it would have been constructive.) We were traveling with a large group of people, and at breakfast Ali told them about the incident. One woman asked, did you already tell her it was a mouse? He said, “Of course” (as if I didn’t know). That is too bad, she says, you could have told her they were Turkish bunnies, different than American bunnies.

So as we were leaving the owners gave me a gift. It is a wooden bowl, hand crafted, the Amasra area is know for this type of decorative item.

Susan said I could use it for a sugar bowl, but I thought maybe it would fit a Turkish bunny.

The Road to Burdur

Why were we going to Burdur you may ask? Is it a scenic town? No. Is there a niche market? No. Is it by the sea? No. Then why Burdur? It is the base of the miliatry installation for the Turkish men, who are currently living abroad, to fulfill their military requiremnets.

The road out of Ankara was arid and devoid of much flora.

However, the father we drove out of the interior the more interesting the landscape became.

There were rock formations, deep valleys, snow covered mountains and fields and fields of agriculture.

There were also old school herds of sheep complete with shepards.

Lots of them.

We drove to Burdur, however, by the time we got there and figured everything out it was too late to drive back and every hotel (except the one that rented out rooms on an hourly rate) was full with men awaiting to turn themselves in for military duty. So we drove to the closest town with a hotel, Isparta, 30 km away.
While both towns have similar climates and are not that far from each other, there are signigficant differences. There is no real industry in Burdur, just independent agriculture and the military basically. On the other hand Isparta is known as the “City of Roses.” They cultivate and process roses. There is also a histoical tourism trade and a universirty.
Burdur is a small town, more like a village, complete with Ottoman Empire style houses and women. I was very surprised. In Ankara, especially now with the conservative government, it is not unusual to see women wearing headscarves. However, while it conveys modesty, the scarves are usually the only part of women’s outfit that set them apart. The rest of their clothes are like any other woman on the street, just as stylish or modern. In Isparta, there were more women wearing headscarves than in Ankara, but in the same style. Just the headscarf, and modern clothes. What I am referring to by modern clothes is that a teenager wearing a headscarf is just as likely as her uncovered friend to be wearing Converse sneakers, etc.
However, in Burdur, which is only a half and hour drive from Isparta, women were dressed very differently. The women who wore headscarves were in two groups. Ones that wore old fashioned pants (Salvar- very baggy, loose pants with a low inseam) and women who wore long coats to the ankle. I even saw women wearing burkas, which is illegal in Turkey. There were very few women not wearing headscarves.
The difference between Burdur and Ankara was stark, but is probably on par in general with the differences between and rural towns and metropolitan cities in any country.

Oddly Not Tired

I am currently at the Charlotte airport. The flight here was uneventful, with the exception that Butterfinger (the dog) was panting so hard I thought her lungs were going to fall out and her heart was going to burst. It is 4:24 Pacific Time, but on the East Coast the sun has risen. Everyone around seems at least mildly awake. Except for Bulent, who is currently sleeping. At least I hope he is getting to sleep. The position looks so uncomfortable that the only way he could stand it would to be unconscious.

I would also like to take a moment to be outraged. Outraged! I flew on Southwest a few weeks ago and it was $4 for a beer or glass of wine. On US Airways it was $2 for a effing soda and $7 for an alcoholic beverage. SEVEN DOLLARS! I could get a glass of wine in a nice restaurant for that, or decent bottle. Seven dollars! ?! I couldn’t bring myself to spend that amount of money for such sub par glass of wine. And now I am in Charlotte, and it is too early/late to drink. While it is still nighttime for me, the sun is now up and even I am not that big a lush.