Two Planes, A Couple of Storms and a VRBO Scam = Interesting Day


It was supposed to be a romantic weekend.  Mr. Diamond and I were meeting in Chicago for the weekend.  He was coming from Texas and I was taking the short flight from Cedar Rapids to Chicago so I would not have to mess with driving in Chicago.  We were meeting at the airport and then getting a rental car to take us to our VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner) house in Oak Park.

Not only was I super excited because not only would I spend a weekend with my husband, I was also going to be able to tour the Frank Lloyd Wright house and studio AND meet Katybeth from Odd Loves Company.  It was going to be a fabulous adventure.

Until the storms hit.  Ugh.  Chris got grounded in Detroit while I waited in Cedar Rapids.  They deplaned.  They got delayed.  We vigilantly watched the radar.  We texted.  I made friends with the folks around me.  My flight got delayed 3 hours. Chris got back on his plane.  Another ground  hold in Chicago.  Tensions around the American Airlines desk in Cedar Rapids were running high.  I did not care since I just had to get to Chicago and no farther but everyone else on the plane had connections to other places.  It was turning ugly.

Update from the agent informs us that now our 3:25 pm flight won’t take off until 8 pm at the earliest.  Chris is back on the plane and incommunicado so I assume he is airborne.  I text him the latest.

I forgot to look at the time when they announced the bad news. My flight was canceled.  No flights from any airline going to Chicago the rest of the night.  Two gate agents are trying to handle all the rebookings and it is ridiculous. There are probably 30 people in line and I was one of them because I needed to find out how to cancel my reservation so I could get my money back.  I never fly American so I did not know what their policy was and it is better to take care of it as soon as possible.

Chris lands and calls me and we decide it is ridiculous for me to fly out Saturday to come as most of our time would be spent driving to and from the airport.  I tell him to call me when he gets to the wonderful VRBO house that we were going to stay in.  I mean look at it—isn’t it lovely?

Screen Shot 2014-09-06 at 7.05.51 AM

 

I continued to wait in line, got my reservation cancelled and was told I had to go to the ticket counter downstairs to get the official form to get my refund.  So downstairs I went where I found six of my new friends waiting also.  One agent to handle all the requests  and the first 40 minutes were spent with the same couple who had been trying to leave Cedar Rapids for two days.  It did not bode well for them.

Finally the two agents that were at my gate came down to help and things started moving.  When it was finally my turn she remembered me and handed me the “official envelope” and said “or go to AmericanAirlines.com”.  Did she REALLY say I could have done it online?????  NOOOOOOOO!   An hour of my life waiting in line that I could not get back.  As I type this I am on Twitter with AA trying to get it taken care of—they at least have responded to my tweets.  The jury is still out if they are going to be able to help me get my refund this way. They said they could.  I am hopeful.

Screen Shot 2014-09-06 at 7.28.21 AMAs I started the 2 hour and 15 minute drive home I was rewarded with watching the most beautiful sunset I have seen for awhile.  I reminded myself that this was not the end of the world, that I would have other trips, other chances to see my husband, life was still good.  The sunset helped.

Chris called and said “This is a scam.”   What is a scam???  He found the house, had repeatedly tried to call the owner who had told him he would meet him at the house to give him the key to tell him he was on the way with no success of getting him to answer.  He arrives at the house and guess what?   The lovely couple that resides in the house has NO IDEA what he is talking about or who the man is that is saying that he is the owner and renting out the house.  Awkward?  Incredibly.

Long story but Chris was able to find accommodations for the night, got a claim number through VRBO and will hopefully get some resolution (and a refund) today when they are “open”.  He is still working on getting rooms for the other gentlemen who are coming in Sunday for the show that they are all attending.  I made it home by 10:15 pm safe and sound.

So there you have it. The perfect weekend that wasn’t .  I get that storms happen.  I get that plans get changed.  I actually was very calm about the whole thing and made a lot of new fun friends while I was waiting.  Even got a proposition for a substitute romantic interlude which of course I passed on because NO ONE can replace my Mr. Diamond.  Now it will be another long haul till we see each other but it’s life. We will make it.

What does rankle me is the fact that the VRBO was a fake.  Complete with description and pictures but no reviews.  We have stayed at so many Home Away, VRBO and even AIrBnB spots over the years with total success.   It is amazing to me that this happened and I am hopeful they will make it right.  What would be great would be not only the full refund (which WILL happen) but also a credit of some kind for future travel.   It seems only fair.

Oh–one thing is taken care of already. Thank you, American Airlines.Screen Shot 2014-09-06 at 7.50.55 AM

Have you ever had a travel experience that has gone awry?   How did you handle it?   I will keep you posted on our progress with VRBO.  It should be an interesting day.

LATE BREAKING NEWS:  VRBO has taken the listing down and refunded a portion of the money.  The rest will be up to the bank to refund as it is a fraudulent claim.  Fingers crossed that will happen.  This was the PERFECT scam.  Documentation was all there and it was a very well run scam.  Lessons learned?  Check, double check, triple check and then check some more.

 

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Comments

  1. Glad you are home, but what a saga of a travel day!

  2. Oh my goodness!!!! I’m also glad you are home safely. I never saw that vacation rental home twist coming. It DID look perfect. So sorry about what happened. I’ve heard you can call your credit card company and have them nix the charge from their end.

  3. Well, I travel differently these days, but you have my sympathy. Maybe the good news is that a year’s worth of glitches got compressed into one weekend, and you won’t have anything bad to cope with at all for a good, long time.

    I was trying to think of anything equivalent. At first, I couldn’t remember a thing. Then, it occurred to me that I did get fogged in at Salt Lake City when I HAD to make Austin, Texas. I finally got there, on time — via Chicago, Dayton, Ohio and Atlanta. Talk about a marathon!

    • Oh my goodness—you saw a little bit of almost every airport!!!! Gee whiz. I get weather issues. I was disappointed but it happens. It was the VRBO thing that put me over the edge. More so my husband since he was the one experiencing it!

  4. Oh, my goodness. It’s amazing that you can take all of that in stride, but that is so sad about the rental house. Imagine that poor couple who lives there? Who knows how many other folks will be taken in by the scam? So sad that people resort to dishonest activities. Glad you got your airline situation resolved. We always fly American, and have always been happy with them, but we’ve never had any flights to be rescheduled or re-booked. Enjoy your weekend, even though it isn’t what you’d planned….

    • Thanks, Dianna! Still waiting to hear back from Chris this morning on how the refund with VRBO is going. What a crazy day, huh??? I guess I have a free weekend now so I should make the most of it.

      • Storms AND a scam? Sorry to hear this, I know how disappointed you must be. We had a crazy vacation trip once, guess I can’t complain, considering the rest of the trips that went well.
        That’s the tough part sometimes, making a 180 and having to regroup. Make the most of your weekend.

  5. Whew..tired me out just reading it! And YES, I have had some crazy travel adventures. Once trying to get from Mason City to Raleigh, when we were delayed as we were boarding because the VP was flying to Minneapolis…air space closed. Kept getting delayed….Should have drove to Minn and would if we had known! We were there so long that they bought us pizza.. by the time we got to Minneapolis, there were NO more plane for the night, there WAS an airport full of people who were stuck. I mean FULL! Remodeling was going on and Northwest was changing to Delta. So at 4 a.m as the ticket people get to the gate, they send us back out to ticketing as they cannot do it with the change. The agent, was, not so nice. We ran back to the gate, got on the plane. Got delayed as a man was down in the aisle with a medical issue. Finally, 24 hours later we finally get there…exhausted. With barely time to get where we needed to go! And trust me, it wasn’t my only time!!! Too MANY ‘adventures’! Glad your airline ticket was taken care of and so sorry about the scam! Hear about things like that way too much!

    • Whew. Your adventure wore me out!!!! I usually take it pretty much in stride. American made it right—nothing you can do about weather stuff and I get that. The house scam was the icing on the cake we could have done without!!! 🙂

  6. Now that is some crazy stuff there!

  7. Good Morning Beth Ann…I’m sorry this stinks… I will add I feel very sorry for the person that has “tried” to scam Chris….. May they successfully hide the rest of their life. This would have been an awesome morning meeting discussion. Please tell him I say hello. Take care.

  8. Ohhhhhh mannnnn ! (As my kids used to say). Well, it will be interesting to see what the weekend holds for you, because you know that saying “life is what happens while we make plans”. Call when you can.

  9. The twists and turns of life are always made more interesting with technology. I am glad all is well, though!

  10. So, I guess you could say that it was the “Imperfect Storm”.

  11. I know both of you were looking forward to this weekend, so you have my sympathy that things didn’t work out as planned. Here’s hoping you get all your refunds in short order, and that another meet-up will be in the works soon, so you can replace the bad taste in your mouth!

    • Thanks, Debbie!!!! It is life in this world and while I am disappointed I am glad that we at least can do things like this. Plus it made for a good story, right?? 🙂

  12. Wow that is one crazy weekend. I’m sorry you didn’t get to see Mr. Diamond. I’m glad that some refunds are taking place. Had I been in your situation I would have been panicking and in tears.
    I got delayed overnight once on a flight home that was bad enough.

  13. Becky Miracle says:

    OH my! What a day you both had! I could feel your pain at not being able to be with Chris! Hope you two get to connect sooner than you think. Hope you do something special just for you this weekend!

  14. Chicago Fail. So sorry it did not work out. I hate crooks. And this scam was so slick. Really, if he/they are caught all the people scammed should have the opportunity to “meet” with him/them and if a few angry punches are thrown. Oh well.
    AA is the worst at customer relations. I once had a snotty customer service rep question my dress Ugg boots as suitable first class wear in January, in Chicago. A story for another time, suffice to say I heart you.
    We will meet again either here or there. I insist on it! ♥

    • Thanks for the love, Katybeth. AA actually came through in the end but they definitely could have used a few more agents during this event. Crooks are intolerable. I have a hard time when people take advantage of others. And yes—we will meet!!!

  15. Holy Moly, what an adventure! Love your awesome attitude about every crazy thing which was thrown your way. Bet your tired! After a day like that, I think some shopping therapy or a massage…or LOTS of chocolate…or all three should be on your calendar. 🙂

  16. Becky McClamrock says:

    Your life seems to be an adventure! Although usually in a good and exciting way! Sorry you didn’t get to make it to Chicago. I’ve toured the FLW house before and it is pretty cool! Hopefully you will get to check it out sometime! Enjoy your relaxing weekend at home!!

  17. Wow! What a day for you and Mr. Diamond. It is amazing how all these things tend to happen at once. We’ve had crazy flight things happen as well. One time it took me all day to get from Phoenix to Vancouver (From 8:00 am to midnight) usually a three hour trip. In that time hubby drove his motorcycle from Phoenix to Salt Lake City and was home the next day by early afternoon! I should have returned with him. Like you, I make friends waiting at the airport. The scam is unbelievable!

    • It is a day we are going to look back on and remember— probably like your incredible story!

      • I just shared your story with my hubby and he just shook his head. He feels for the both of you. It appears you both handled it well though. Perhaps I should take lessons. I do believe at one point I broke down in tears at an airport I was stranded in. They had to call the manager to calm me down and get it all sorted. I remember sobbing “I just want to get home!” These things do make good stories later.

  18. What a crazy, crazy “adventure (?)”! I think you handled it beautifully.

  19. What a day, huh? Glad you’re back home safely and you could get a little satisfaction for the ruined plans. I agree the VRBO scam is horrible. What’s wrong with people?! May your next trip be smooth sailing, friend. Xoxoxo PS – don’t ya just love Twitter?

  20. Wow..what a trip you had and all on the ground! I’ve heard of a few “housing” scams from time to time and sad to say they happen. Guess it’s due to this high level of technology we live in these days. SO sorry for your lost weekend but then save your monies (once you get a full refund) and have a bigger weekend together soon.
    Now about AA – when I worked for gov’t, I made lots of trips to Washington, DC, so always took AA and always had stopover in Dallas. On way home one evening, after reboarding in Dallas, a storm blew in while we were on tarmac…we sat on tarmac for over 3 hours riding out the storm. We couldn’t be served even water or use the bathroom! Finally came back into the gate around 11:30pm. AA did their best to help – some people headed to hotels and the rest of us sat in terminal for another hour while AA tried to round up another flying team as former pilot and his group had surpassed their allowed flying time! Finally around 1:30am-2am, we departed for Austin – got in there after 3am. Austin had held airport open just for our flight – what a night. After that I decided to route my Washington trips thru Atlanta!

  21. oh this is all just sooo disappointing!! I admit it; I would have been pouting in the corner quite a bit. But then, we never go anywhere so it would be really heart-breaking for us to have such a “romantic weekend that wasn’t”. I guess that’s the upside of NOT going anywhere – we don’t get scammed! ha. Hopefully you will get all your lost money back, and be able to go on a new adventure with Mr Diamond soon!

  22. Ugh! How disappointing. Sorry your weekend was upended.
    On a personal note, I’ve rented a cottage through Home Away for an upcoming trip, and I’m a bit nervous. I didn’t know that there were scams on the site. I’m glad that you got a refund.

    • It was one of those very rare incidents! We have used Home Away, VRBO and Airbnb tons of times successfully. Just one bad apple I guess. You will be fine!!!!

  23. Oh, my, Beth Ann. This sounds like a work of fiction. I mean, really. I am beyond impressed w/ your ability to not totally explode over all the bad stuff that happened.

    Maybe you and Chris should try and stay at a Frank Lloyd Wright house in Mason City. I saw a few there….

    • Well we DID stay at the Historic Park Inn……Chris did the tour without me so at least he got to take it all in!!!! It’s all good. Can’t dwell on things you can’t change, right?

  24. I’m amazed about the VRBO scam. I use all of these sites frequently and I haven’t had a problem…yet. I’m wondering how to prevent this. Checking would be checking with the fraudulent provider so I’m at a loss. Ideas?

    • We were amazed but it was a well executed scam. They have taken it down and since it was a wire transfer the account can be traced. We aren’t newbies to booking so there were not any real red flags. Just takes one to make you leery in the future!

  25. I read about part of this on Facebook but not about the VRBO! How awful!

  26. Very well written post; the contents of which were very unfortunate, your attitude about it on the other hand is commendable at the very least. I do apologize on behalf of all VRBO members, as a vacation rental owner you can sometimes forget there are always people out there that will rain (no pun intended) on your parade and use a great platform to scam.
    Keep us posted on how the situation gets resolved – I’m curious to know. If I can be of any assistance please don’t hesitate to ask.

    Best wishes!

    cottage4me (cottage owner, ontario, canada)

    • Thanks, Cottage4Me!!! It was a shock since we use these services all the time. The warning flags were there as we look back (no phone calls, all done through email and an insistence that the money be wired immediately to secure property) but VRBO has refunded part of the monies and it is up to the bank now to do the rest. I feel confident it will all work out because there is information because it was a wire transfer that will help lead to the “culprit”. It will not prevent us from doing this in the future—just will be a little more cautious. One bad apple won’t spoil it for me!!!! 🙂

      • Oh fantastic! I’m so happy to hear they treated you well, as they should. It’s a shame that people can get away with things such as this. I bet those home owners were flabbergasted!

        Best wishes!

        – Cottage4Me, Ontario, Canada

Trackbacks

  1. […] past weekend I found myself in a state of driftlessness.  My plans changed dramatically due to Mother Nature and I found myself without a schedule and itinerary.  It was odd.  A bit […]

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