Do I deserve a refund for this Sicilian vacation rental?


What makes Sylvia Guarino’s case interesting isn’t that she had a disappointing stay at a vacation rental she booked through VRBO. Those cases aren’t hard to come by.

It isn’t even that the advertised amenities didn’t meet her expectation. There, too, she’s in good company.

No, it’s that Guarino is a vacation rental owner herself. She knows how the game is played, and yet even she lost the first round. Should I help her fix this problem, or is it unfixable? That’s the question I’m trying to answer today.

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Here’s the crux of her problem: When Guarino, her husband, and another couple showed up at Antica Dimora Grimaudo, they found two big problems with the unit.

“While the Villa was nice, property beautiful and views superb, our comfort was significantly marred by the lack of a door on one of the bedrooms and the lack of Internet service,” she says.

Guarino wants half her money back for the rental, and she’d like me to help her get it.

Now, before you say: Can privacy and Internet connectivity be worth half the value of a rental, let’s hear the rest of her story.

Before booking her rental, Guarino checked with the rental management company, Emma Villas, to make sure the home in Taormina, Sicily, would meet her group’s expectations. She knew what to ask about because she is a rental manager herself.

Here’s what she wrote to the company:

We are two couples, active and in our mid 60’s, looking for a week or possibly two in either May or June of 2014.

We need two bedrooms, two baths and a nice kitchen with a place to eat outdoors. Privacy is also very important. Can you tell me what week or two in May or June the villa is available? Also confirming that Wifi is available in the villa itself.

The rental company confirmed that the unit was private and had wireless Internet access.

When they checked in, they found the bedrooms, which were across from each other, were doorless. What’s more, the promised wireless access didn’t exist. The villa’s owners did their best to address the problem, but in the end, the group spent a week in Sicily without a wireless signal and without sufficient privacy.

At first, Guarino simply complained in writing to Emma Villas, asking them to address the problem. While she was still in Italy, she complained to the company, and received what can best be described as cursory responses.

“Surely the door is a detail that might create inconvenience and are sorry for your little inconveniences, the owner to put the tent to create the closure that allows for a bit of privacy,” a representative wrote.

I would prefer to chalk the tone of that email up to a cultural difference, as opposed to a commentary on the complaint, but I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

As far as I can tell, Emma Villas stopped replying to her complaints when she left the country. By the time I got involved, and advised Guarino to make a more specific request, it had gone into radio silence.

Guarino had followed most of the steps, including asking for a resolution in real-time and putting her request in writing. But after her stay in Sicily, she didn’t tell Emma Villas how it could address the problem. You can’t leave it up to a company to guess what would make you happy — you have to tell it.

She wrote back, asking for a 50 percent refund.

Not surprisingly, Emma Villas didn’t respond.

So now what? Guarino would like me to give Emma Villas a little nudge, if not to refund the money, then to at least respond to her request. I think she deserves some kind of response, but I’m not entirely sure if a 50 percent refund is the correct one.

I’ve stayed in a lot of vacation rentals that promised something they never delivered, including wireless Internet access, stunning views, proximity to everything. It’s all relative when it comes to vacation rentals, which are the last unstandardized travel businesses.

Then again, Guarino went to great lengths to make sure there were doors and an Internet connection. Basically, the management company may have misrepresented the unit to her. Some might argue that she’s entitled to a full refund.

Should I mediate Sylvia Guarino's case?

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160 thoughts on “Do I deserve a refund for this Sicilian vacation rental?

  1. i wish there was someway to determine if the company purposely lied about the internet and privacy. If they did, then 50% is absolutely appropriate. If it was an honest error, then something much lower, like 10-25% seems appropriate to me.

    Internet may not seem like much, but depending on what you were planning on doing, then internet may be crucial. And the lack of doors on a two bedroom place is amazing. If you’re advertising to Americans, that fact really needed to be disclosed well.

    1. I completely agree, which is why I voted to have mediation. She asked first, in writing about the things she required and was told the property would suit her needs. The rental management company needs to step up, and if they do not, then they should be barred from the VRBO listings as they have proven to be dishonest.

  2. As an american I don’t believe doors are a necessity. I would have been fine without them, and my position would be if you wanted privacy and doors get two villas. The wireless issue is however unforgivable, what are people supposed to do without internet. Do they really expect people to make a phone call, read a newspaper, write a letter, send a post card, turn on the television, or listen to a radio. How are you supposed to survive if you can’t check your facebook every 30 seconds, or your twitter feed, or your email, or your IM.

    I don’t know what the LW should have had to explicitly state what they wanted the property management company to do. If you don’t have wireless access, and you complain about the lack of wireless access, do you really need to explicitly identify that “provide wireless access now” would be an acceptable solution?

    1. I understand where you are coming from, but it doesn’t make sense in this situation. Mrs. Guarino specifically asked for certain amenities and was told they would be provided. It doesn’t matter what the amenity is or why. They were falsely told that they would have what they requested.

    2. PsyGuy, I would agree if she hadn’t specifically requested these items. If she had just shown up expecting everything to be up to her usual standards, no door and no wifi would have been a “well that’s disappointing, now let’s hang a curtain and get on with our vacation” type of thing. But these things were specifically promised to her as her requirements, so I can see why she is upset in this case. Still not sure 50% is appropriate though. Can she substantiate her costs of using internet elsewhere?

      1. “Can she substantiate her costs of using internet elsewhere?” First of all, we do not know if paid internet was even an option. And even if it was, who wants to have to get dressed and drive to a public place to check on email, etc. She was told that the internet would be available and it wasn’t just like she was told that doors existed that weren’t there. The property owner deceived her and should be made to pay.

        1. I agree, it should have been available if it was promised. I’m just wondering how she arrived at 50% of her stay, if she claims that the villa was otherwise quite nice?

    3. my position would be if you wanted privacy and doors get two villas.

      That makes no sense. It is perfectly reasonable for two couples to rent a two bedroom accommodation and expect each bedroom to have a door for privacy.

      1. So, from my point of view, her e-mail is asking about the amenities and that the Villa be private, not that the bedrooms have doors. At least that’s how I believe it was interpreted. In my travel to other countries, when in actual houses, I haven’t always seen bedroom doors, in fact, I have seem several places where bedrooms were more of nooks than rooms. I know this sounds harsh, but I think she should have specified private bedrooms with privacy form each other, rather than a separate phrase about privacy being important. I do think she is owed something for the WiFi.

        1. Fair enough. Different people read that differently, which is of course an issue. I read it as the OP explaining that this is not say, parents and two kids, in which case the privacy issue is different.

          1. As a property owner herself, wouldn’t being able to read reviews on a property be pretty high up on her list? I’d be very leery of staying in a hotel, much less a rental, without having done some kind of research into it…

          2. There is no reviews! As in the site:


            Some clients who stayed in this structure were pleased to send us a feedback. The vote listed is an average of our client’s feedback in reference to: quality of structure and features, cleaning of structure, pool and park, value for money and overall rating of their holiday. Some clients listed have given their permission to be contacted via e-mail by clients who request additional information on our company and this property. In order to request our clients e-mail address please send an email to Emma Villas Booking Department, by writing to info @ emmavillas . com.

            It’ll light at least a yellow flag to me…

          3. Yeah, personally, I’d never go in sight unseen, discounting photos / info on their own website.

          4. I’m with you. If I can’t see ALL the reviews of a place, including the less-than-complimentary ones, I don’t go. I wouldn’t trust the reviews I saw only on the owner’s page…of course they are only going to put up the good ones. Or ones they write themselves!

          5. Yeah, in this case there were NO reviews available…just the owner saying that “some clients were pleased to send us a feedback”. That sure tells us a whole bunch, huh? 😉

      2. When I read about the property, I understand privacy regarding the caretaker and the owner’s 2nd. house, not privacy between the guests.

        But I’ll also expect doors in the bedrooms.

        1. Me 2. Perhaps they’re not customary there, but when you market internationally, it does help to anticipate your likely demographics.

          1. Yes, we are all guilty of it to various degrees. One thing I have learned in the decades of selling travel, never assume!

        2. When I read that “privacy” was important, to me that meant privacy from
          other guests and/or from the community, not privacy within the unit
          being rented. That being said, I think a reasonable American would
          expect that when a unit is advertised as having separate bedrooms that
          there will be doors for each bedroom.

          1. I was responding to: if you want 2 rooms with doors then book 2 Villas to ensure privacy.
            How do you ensure wi-fi? Using the above logic, you must book a room in an internet cafe.

    4. ‘privacy’ meant they did not want to hear other having sex. That code word screamed out at me once I heard about the doors.

      Hanging a sheet over the doorway would have provided visual privacy . . . gosh – its not that big a deal. Plus, what you mean by privacy needs to be spelled out. Otherwise, its a vague undefined term with no ability to understand what is meant . . . locational privacy? internal privacy? etc etc etc.

    5. How nice of you to assume that the only reason they wanted internet was to check social media.

      Really? Did it really not occur to you that they might have some pretty important legitimate reasons for needing internet beyond posting Facebook status updates?

      Here’s a few for you to consider:

      1. They own their own business, and need to stay in touch in order to deal with any crises that might come up.
      2. They have family members who are older or in ill health and they want to stay in touch with them.
      3. They have young children and want to be able to connect with them and talk to the babysitter (obviously unlikely for this couple in their 60’s, but you get the drift).

      Pretty uncharitable of you to make a blanket assumption that not having internet is as unimportant to everyone as it is to you.

    6. Maybe they needed to work on the vacation? I’ve been pretty screwed by non-working Wifi when I expected to be able to work in my hotel.

    7. Whether YOU think doors are a necessity is irrelevant. You’re not the one renting the villa. I kind of agree about internet access, although couples in their 60’s might want e-mail to keep in touch with families back home. Way cheaper than using your cell phone in Italy.

  3. I guess a lot depends on if there was supposed to be internet, and it just wasn’t working, or if there was no evidence that it was there at all.

  4. I stopped caring at “While the Villa was nice, property beautiful and views superb, our
    comfort was significantly marred by the lack of a door on one of the
    bedrooms and the lack of Internet service.”

    1. I know, I read that thought…”life is just so rough….”

      “Privacy” probably meant location, the wifi issue… well, may deserve a small return, but 50% is way too much

  5. So as I read this …

    We need two bedrooms, two baths and a nice kitchen with a place to eat outdoors. Privacy is also very important. Can you tell me what week or two in May or June the villa is available? Also confirming that Wifi is available in the villa itself.

    I’m thinking that she’s looking for a villa in the middle of nowhere (ie the villa is private) instead of a property where she doesn’t have to be around her friends. She appeared to mean the second. Also, does anyone know if bedroom doors are a standard in Sicily? I’ve never been so I wouldn’t know. Contrary to what Chris said…. this does not constitute going “to great lengths to make sure there were doors” in my mind.

    In short… If this was the only requirements that she sent and the villa was off on it own, Emma Villas gave her exactly what I would have thought she wanted. I think her lack of specificity is what doomed her.

    As far as wifi, things break and they need to give her some relief but not 50% of the rental maybe $20 a day.

  6. This might just be semantics or something, but did the OP check with the owner to make sure there was privacy inside the villa? It seems like the villa itself was in a private location, and in that case the owner did fulfill their requirement based in her written request.

    As for the wireless internet, that’s definitely a problem if it was promised but not delivered. But a 50% refund seems excessive. Maybe the OP can figure out what the charge for wireless internet would have been and request that amount to be refunded?

  7. I agree with what a few others have stated…my first thought was that “privacy” may have been interpreted as location of the villa, not bedroom specifications. As for the Wifi, I think reimbursing her costs for using internet elsewhere (with transportation to and from if it was necessary) should be sufficient. She admits that the rest of her stay was quite nice, so 50% seems rather excessive unless she can substantiate some pretty heavy costs that occurred due to the lack of internet…

  8. It would be interesting to see the villa’s actual response to her pretty specific request of privacy and Wi-Fi prior to booking. If their response was vague, that might change things. If their response was clear and specifically address privacy and internet, then I would suggest they misrepresented the property and she should get her 50%.

  9. She was NOT specific in detailing what “privacy” meant to her. Stating “Privacy is also very important” does not equal “every bedroom must have a door.” Reading her original statement, I would think she wanted a villa that either did not have any neighbors close by or was at least in an area where they would not be bothered by large numbers of other tourists.

    The web page linked to in the article has a description of the villa that starts with the word “PRIVATE …” It is difficult to tell from the pictures included if the bedrooms have doors, but now that I know one doesn’t have a door you can tell because one picture actually shows a bit of a door knob while the other bedroom picture shows what appears to be a finished opening without a door.

    While I do find it strange that the one bedroom did not have a door, I have stayed in condos in various places where there was not more than a curtain in the doorways, especially for places without air-conditioning in warmer climates.

    They had a wonderful vacation. Use the missing door to tell great stories to your friends and move on.

    1. In the Youtube video Chris posted, at 1:17~1:18 you may see the bedroom has a corridor with an arch in the end. It doesn’t seem to be a door in this arch. But I only noted it because I was specific looking for a door.

      If I was watching it looking for a place to rent, I’ll probably miss it.

    2. If you’re an American who has never been someplace where bedrooms didn’t have doors, it would never occur to you that bedrooms might not have doors. It would never occur to me.

  10. This woman is her own language barrier. First of all, she did not specifically ask the question “Do the bedrooms have doors on them?” That is what she needed to ask to address her privacy definition. Second, “Wi-Fi” has NOTHING do to with internet access. Wi-Fi is simply a way to connect multiple computers or other devices to a hub in one location. Therefore, her second question should have been “Does the villa have wired or wireless internet access?”
    I voted NO refund because she failed to ask the appropriate questions. For a while I thought perhaps a language barrier issue contributed to miscommunication. But the truth be told this woman was her own language barrier.

    1. The web page for the villa states “internet wireless connection” as one of the “Property Features” Sounds pretty specific to me.

    2. I agree with your statement about bedrooms having doors on them. Privacy is a really vague term.
      But you are being too pedantic about the internet access, wi-fi is more than enough to get anybody’s point across.

      1. Hello Mark and Dervin,
        I understand what the website states and I also understand the comment about Wi-Fi, BUT my point is people have these issues because they do not spell out their concerns in plain English. They use acronyms and other short-hand terms that may work in America and sometimes elsewhere but could also have a completely different meaning. For example, if I told you it was raining out and I needed to take the brolly with me would that make sense to you in the USA? Brolly is shorthand for umbrella in England.
        One other comment about this is that every travel agent I have ever spoken too has told me these problems occur because people ASSUME the other party understands what they are asking instead of being very specific in their question(s). That is why I felt she caused both problems no matter what the website stated or what people may define as shorthand for internet access.

        1. Sorry, I’m not a native speaker, but if I read that a property has Wi-Fi or wireless internet connection, both will mean to me that I’ll be able to connect my devices and access the WWW.

          I know they aren’t synonymous in a strict sense, but for general public and general purpose, yes they are. Anywhere in the world.

        2. Actually, I would understand what a brolly is even though I am American and not British. As well as a lorry, a lift, and most of those British English terms since I grew up watching Monty Python and Benny Hill on the tele. 🙂

          Now on the other hand if I were to go to Australia, I might have a lot of problems understanding the local English.

          But I understand your point – regional terminology can lead to unexpected results.

          1. If you go to Australia, make sure you don’t wear a Budgie Smuggler. Well, unless you can pull one off, but I sure can’t.

            Is “Car Park” a British term? I keep using that and have no idea where I picked it up.

          2. I see way too many Australian men wearing those in Hawaii. I doubt I would ever attempt to. 🙂

            And I believe Car Park was started in England.

    3. Though I’ve traveled a lot, I’ve rarely stayed at vacation rentals, so having to ask whether rooms have doors would definitely not cross my mind. They were going to Italy, not the Caribbean so door frames with doors would seem to be a given (obviously not). That said, I don’t think she deserves anything for the “missing” doors, just something for lack of internet (which is important while traveling, at the very least to pre-check in and arrange ongoing travel, if any).

      1. Finally, a comment I agree with! I honestly can’t fathom why anyone feels that it is unreasonable to expect a DOOR on a bedroom. Especially given that she made it clear that it was two adult, unrelated couples traveling. DUR! And to dump on the LW for not anticipating that the rooms might not have doors? That’s like saying we shouldn’t complain if we specifically ask for a place with a kitchen, but don’t bother to ask if it has a sink.

        I *have* stayed at many vacation rentals, including in Italy. A lot of our travel has been with either my mother, or another unrelated couple. And yeah, we expected doors on our bedrooms. Never once did I think I needed to ask to make sure they had them.

        As for the people making light of them not having internet — they need to understand that some of us just can’t completely walk away from work responsibilities, even on vacation. Especially those who own their own business. Things come up…it’s not uncommon for a huge, business-impacting crisis to be averted by a single email from the owner/manager.

        How nice for those people who have jobs that they can completely walk away from. And how lovely of them to criticize those of us who don’t.

        All that being said, I believe 50% is too much. IMO 25% would be appropriate.

        1. I have rented many properties over the years where bedrooms aren’t as private as many would expect. If a detail is important, be specific. Lots of 3 bedroom condos in Kihei, Mauji are lofts, no doors.
          The LW asked for privacy…didn ‘t detail what she expected with that. The video shows a very private location and an arched door, with a L shaped bedroom. I see ‘privacy’ in both.

          1. I believe she made it VERY clear what she was asking about. Should she also have asked if they had BEDS? Bedrooms have doors. Lofts don’t. I’ve seen many adverts for units that say “sleeps 6” but when you read the details, they make it clear that there is one bedroom, one pull-out sofa in the living room, and one loft. So you know that there is only one bed that will have a door.

            But when the advert specifically says “two bedrooms” you expect them to each have a door. AND a bed.

          2. No she didn’t. She asked for privacy. The house is out, away from others, so it is private. And yes, you ask about the bedding if what you sleep on is important.

          3. So indicating that they are two active couples traveling together who desire privacy didn’t make it clear to you?

            Sure did to me.

          4. EGADS! Well, that’s quite a leap.

            Doesn’t it seem to make a bit more sense to assume the FAR MORE LIKELY explanation…that they are normal people who want to be able to change their clothes in their own bedroom without having to flash their naked bodies at the other couple?

          5. Sadly, the request was for privacy. The house was away from others and private. Again, assumptions get you into trouble.

    4. This whole discussion has been a real eye-opener for me. Now I know that
      the next time I rent some lodging sight unseen I’ll be sure to ask
      whether there are electrical receptacles, lighting with bulbs (or, need I
      furnish my own bulbs?), exterior doors with locks, a roof over my head,
      as well as whether the bedrooms and bathrooms have doors. I would take
      all of that for granted but apparently most of the commenters don’t
      assume ANYTHING. Come on, folks, this is an international rental and the
      owner should be sure the place is up to international expectations.
      Some of us actually expect either a flush toilet or a squat toilet
      rather than just a hole in the floor over in the corner…been there.

      1. If I understood well in the advertisement, in this particular property you also need to pay for the electricity and heating. Very unusual for me, but at least it was stated…

  11. I voted “no” to save you frustration.
    When you ask for a rediculously excessive compensation, you get ignored. Suggest a reasonable amount and there will be negotiations, but 50% is asking for the moon.. Ask the complainer if she would talk to someone who rented from her after a demand for 50% off for a small thing.

  12. In small towns like this the world over, Internet access in every home is still rare. There is always a cafe, often explicitly advertised as an Internet cafe, where WiFi can be had. I bet this was what the owner meant when he advertised “Internet available.”

    1. If so, “internet available” would definitely be purposefully misleading. “Internet access nearby” would make it clear that there’s none on-site.

      1. And yet again, a comment I agree with. I’m starting to think you are one of the few people commenting here who has any common sense at all!

        I’d like a show of hands please: how many people would read “internet available” at a rental villa to mean ON SITE internet, and how many would read it as “you can drive a few kilometers to the cafe in town for internet”?

        1. Don’t move the goalposts. In my experience of many, many small European towns and neighborhoods, “Internet available” means ” a short walk down the street to a cafe or library.”

          It’s like the term “bathroom.” In the Eurobrochurese language, it indicates a communal facility on the same floor as your room. It may mean three separate rooms with shower, toilet, and sink. To find an American-style bathroom, the less common magic word you have to look for is “ensuite.”

    2. In the property advertisement we have:

      Property Features:

      – DVD player
      – internet wireless connection
      – books and magazines

      IMO, it’s a long shot to assume they talking about some internet cafe. I”ll assume there is internet available inside the property.

  13. Sounds like the owner did something while they were there (the reference to the “tent to create the closure that allows for a bit of privacy”), but I’m unclear as to whether the wi-fi problem was addressed as well. I understand the code behind the OP’s “We are two couples, active and in our mid 60’s”, but surely the two couples could have worked out some system or agreement by which they could “be active” with only one bedroom door.

    Rates for this place run $1,750 to a little over $2000 in US dollars per week. I do agree the OP is owed some compensation for not getting the promised wi-fi and privacy within the house, but the compensation the OP is demanding is way too much.

    1. I disagree that the couple should have had to “work out some system” in order to have the basic privacy that should be expected for two adult, unrelated couples staying in the same two-bedroom villa.

      But I agree that the LW is asking too much. I think 25% is appropriate, given the blatantly incorrect information given.

      1. Semantics time. 🙂

        I don’t think they Should have had to work out something. That’s why I think compensation is due.

        I just thought they Could have have worked out something, so as not to completely spoil the romantic part of the vacation. This is a family site, so I was trying to be discrete.

        1. LOL! Okay, I hear ya. 😉

          I shuddered a little when I read that the owner was going to put up “tenting” to give them the privacy they’d asked for. Did you see the photos of that villa? Gorgeous! And they were going to mar that lovely place by hanging up some kind of drape or plastic sheeting? Yuck.

          1. I thought maybe “tent to create closure” got lost in Google Translate. Maybe they just hung a blanket across the doorway to the 2nd bedroom.

          2. That’s what I though as well, or a curtain over the door.

            Edit: Not over the “door”, over the arch way. There was no door.

      2. I don’t believe they were “unrelated couples.” To travel together, I’m assuming they should be friends. They should have some degree of intimacy, but probably not enough to see each other naked.

        (Bodega may disagree… 😉

        1. Ha!! Having sold various properties with various types of doors for privacy, I have learned to ask. One property in Hawaii has louvered bedroom doors. While those shut, they don’t keep what goes on inside the bedroom private. I have sold properties where a curtain has been the door. I have sold properties where the door was a decorative glass, that with the light on, you could see in. What kind of privacy do you want?

          1. Sorry. Another example of “lost in translation” (I’m not a native speaker).
            Unrelated for me was with no relation at all. I didn’t associate “related” with “relatives”. My mistake.

          2. Exactly. My husband and I travel frequently with another couple, to whom we are not related in any way, other than being good friends. And yes, we fully expect DOORS on our bedrooms.

            In fact we are heading to Bali for three weeks with this couple next month. We have rented three different villas on different parts of the island. Now I’m beginning to wonder if I need to send emails to all the owners asking if they have doors to their bedrooms!

            And while I’m at it, maybe I’d better ask if they have beds in the bedrooms. And sinks in the kitchens. And toilets in the bathrooms. I mean garsh, everyone in here is saying that we need to be VERY specific and not assume anything. So maybe I need to ask if they have furniture! 😉

          3. Don’t joke about the toilet. I stayed at a small inn in Turkey where there was only a hole in the floor.

          4. Several friends and I rented a three bedroom condo with private bathrooms in Iceland. We expected 3 bedrooms, each one having their own bathroom. It turned out that the private bathroom meant the unit itself had 1 bathroom that could be used, rather than the communal one in the hall, and the three bedrooms were nooks with 2ft by 5ft mattresses on small wooden frames, only one nook had a door. I met some locals and learned this is the norm for Iceland. I did get what was advertised, just not what I expected, and still had a very fun trip. We made it work, and were all quite happy in the end.

          5. While it’s great that you were able to make lemonade out of lemons, I don’t think your experience applies to this one. I’m assuming you didn’t see interior photos in advance of your rental, or it would have been very obvious that there was only one bathroom, and the bedrooms were nooks.

            In this case I looked at the photos, and unless you have a VERY keen eye picking up a very tiny clue in one photo, there is no way I would have assumed those lovely rooms didn’t have doors on them.

            Furthermore, I’m sure that if you’d specifically emailed the owner and asked if they had three bathrooms, and they replied in the affirmative, and then you got there and there was only one, you would not feel so happy in the end.

            I also don’t think that this LW indicated in any way that they didn’t enjoy their vacation. She simply didn’t get what she specifically asked for (although some may feel her questions were too vague, I’m not among them), and is asking for a partial refund.

            Like others, I think she’s shooting too high — 25% would be appropriate, IMO.

      3. To me “basic privacy” means I have a door to close when I am in the bathroom and the walls to the bathroom are not clear glass. 🙂

        I rented a very nice condo in Hawaii that called itself “2 bedroom”. There was one bedroom with a standard door that would close and lock. The other bedroom was more of a walled off section of the living room that had shutters that rolled back and forth to close the opening giving a degree of privacy if you wanted to change your clothes unseen but provided absolutely no noise abatement. Would that have been acceptable to the LW? It was a “door” right? Probably not.

  14. “Some might argue that she’s entitled to a full refund.” Some might… but I wouldn’t. Even 50% is way out of line. “Privacy,” to me, and, I think, anybody, refers to privacy from the neighbors or other outside disturbances, not the internal privacy of the house. For the OP to now claim otherwise is disingenuous. As for the WiFi, it’s possible that the property had it, but it just happened to be out the week she was there. Is that likely? No, but it’s possible, and unless Ms. Guarano can prove otherwise, I’d say a 5-10% refund would be more than fair.

    1. The fact that they informed the rental company there were two couples and wanted privacy indicates they were referring to both internal and external privacy. Now if they just said they wanted a rental with privacy, I would agree with that just to mean external.

        1. Doors are to be expected in bedrooms, just as beds are to be expected in bedrooms, no matter what civilized country you happen to be staying in. And Internet access was specifically promised, and not delivered. You shouldn’t need a team of contract lawyers to verify what precisely you’re getting (or not getting) when you do a rental like this. A 20-25% rebate seems appropriate in this situation.

          1. With selling properties, I have learned never to assume. In Hawaii, where units with more than two bedrooms often are lofts or a room with an accordion door, if you want indoor privacy, be very specific in that request and what you want or expect.

  15. VRBO complaints x’s 1000….it’s getting a little repetitive out there. When you rent somebody elses property, expect to get far less than they claim it to be. Anybody that follows this blog knows that this company has a bad reputaion. “buyer beware”. “to cheap to be true”, “pictures are worth a 1000 words”, are all gimmicks to steal your money. You bought it, you used it, it sucked, don’t do it again.

  16. She specifically inquired about those two things then yes she is entitled to half. If this was a just a laundry list of things that went wrong then I would say no. But she SPECIFICALLY inquired about these before the trip and was assured.

  17. I don’t know about 50%, but the fact that the place had no internet connection when they said they did would make me pretty angry if that’s what I wanted and had booked with that in mind.
    No doors on the bedrooms, and they’re right across from each other? What the hell is up with that? I’ve been to Italy a few times, even stayed in a rented cottage (it was part of a bed & breakfast place but it was its own separate little building) and never seen that issue. I’ve never seen that anywhere – doors on bedrooms seem to be a pretty standard aspect of interior design, anywhere in the world, even if it’s a place with only one bedroom.

    1. I suspect that the room with a door was the bedroom, and the room without was repurpsed to be a bedroom for rental purposes.

      1. Oh good call, I hadn’t even thought of that.

        Although in many homes I have been to in other countries, generally only the master bedroom has a door. And with the Italian side of my family, none of them seem to expect privacy. When we stay with them they will often walk around in their underwear or even less, and often change in front of others. My wife thinks they are all crazy.

  18. I voted yes for this one, she did put the expectation in writing. I think that the doors issue could have been a misunderstanding in the the renter though they wanted a private unit away from other people, not privacy from each other within the unit. But I can see how this would be an issue for other couples, hopefully the tenting was enough, but sound could still travel more than it would through a door. In other countries I have often seen no bed room doors in houses, so this could be a cultural difference. The WiFi is very disappointing, and since they were promised it in advance, I think they are due something. However, I think asking for a 50% refund is way to much. I would be asking for the cost of alternate wireless internet access while there plus a little extra for the inconvenience. I don’t know the price in Italy, but in Ireland it was 20Euro for a month of unlimited on a pre-paid SIM card. That was 2 years ago, so it could have gone up.

    This site really gives sites like VRBO a bad rap. I want to reiterate that we only see complaints here, for every complaint there are thousands if not tens of thousands of good rentals. I use them at least once a year, and have only had one problem that was clearly due to the owner begin a jerk, and I was able to find an alternate rental. I have had a lot of places where the WiFi didn’t work very well or at all, but I usually go to rural areas where all reception of any kind is bad, and see the lack of WiFi as a way to disconnect. Sometimes it’s nice to have no one bug me, not email, no phone, etc.

    1. I thought the request for 50% refund was more of an opening request, since Chris did tell her to ask for something. I anticipate she would accept less and expected the renter to come back with a counter-offer. Most Americans forget that in many, if not most, parts of the world, everyone negotiates and bargains for goods and services. It is almost only in America that one must pay the ‘advertised’ price and most Americans continue to do so around the world.

      1. I agree on the negotiating, but sometimes asking for too much from the beginning comes across as unreasonable, and immediately ends any hope of getting anything. Chris wrote an article about that once.

  19. Unless my eyes deceive me, at about 1:18 of the video it shows an arched doorway in the bedroom that appears to have no door.

  20. “Privacy” means seclusion from the neighbors, but the “two active couples” implies something more. Nevertheless, I would assume a bedroom had a door, simply so you don’t have to get dressed in front of your friends or anyone else in the house.

    It wouldn’t occur to me to ask for them prior to arrival. It sounds like maybe the owner put up curtains to solve that problem?

    1. I thought “Two active couples” meant they liked out door activities like hiking and biking. The Italian side of my family always gets dressed in front of each other , and guests. Drives my wife bonkers.

      1. Maybe @Christopher Elliott left out the portion of the letter where the “two active couples” wanted access to bicycles and hiking trails? Otherwise, that’s a complete non sequitur in relation to the discussion of two bedrooms and privacy.

        1. I just mean that is how I interpret their letter. If I received that e-mail in its entirety, and were a property manger, I would assume they like out door activities, especially given the statement that they need a place to eat outside. I think it means that they like to travel and are adventurous. I would never have interpreted it to mean that they want privacy from each other.

          If I were the OP, I know, hindsight 20/20, I woudl have asked for a place where each couple could have their own private living space separate form each other, and indicate that they were willing to share the kitchen.

          1. Oh, I’m sure the outdoorsy thing was how the owner of the rental interpreted the sentence. Cultural and linguistic differences, you know. But for those of us of a certain age, “active” couple with “privacy” has its own meaning. See, cultural and linguistic differences abound, even here!

    2. “Two active couples” means they like to hike and bike and maybe go out dancing at night and so on and have no physical limitations due to their age.

      1. And that relates to their need for privacy and wi-fi, how? (Wink, wink, nudge, nudge, know-what-I-mean, know-what-I-mean?)

  21. Wait a minute, didn’t you say the owners were involved in trying to fix the problem? Then why bother the rental agency when it is obvious the owners are the ultimate source of both the problem and the fix. I don’t understand her problem now.

  22. I voted ‘Yes” and I think that they are entitled to a refund…I think that 50% might be a little high.

    Working at two companies with vast international operations and my own international travel experiences, I think that one problem was the cultural difference. I think that the OP was not clear with her request of “Privacy is also very important.” She should have wrote “The bedrooms need doors.”; “The bathrooms needs doors.”; etc.

    1. With the clarity of hindsight you are correct. But I must confess, it would never have occurred to me to ask if the bedrooms or bathrooms have doors.

      1. The villa shown in the video is so well-appointed that you would expect doors. When my husband and I rented a villa in Tuscany with 2 other couples, all the rooms had doors. Because bedrooms usually do, particularly in rentals.

        1. Agree.

          I have rented villas in Italy on several occasions. Never once did I ever see a bedroom without a door.

          We did once have a villa in Tuscany that had a bed in a “loft”. But it wasn’t called a bedroom, it was specifically called a loft. It was clear in the description, and in the photos, that the loft overlooked the living room, and therefore had no privacy.

      2. Things are different from country to country. People make assumptions that what is the norm for their country is the norm for the country or countries that they are visiting.

        For example, it is common to find eastern toilets in Asia. It is common that you need to pay to use the restroom (water closet in the UK) in Europe. In China, you don’t have to pay to use the restroom but you need to purchase toilet paper and/or bring your own.

    2. I don’t believe anybody will ask if the bedrooms will have doors. I won’t. And I’ll be upset. And I’ll try to even so, make this trip memorable.

  23. Regardless of how trivial the problem sounds to me, the fact that the requests were important to the individual, memorialized in writing before the trip, confirmed by the agency, and she followed up all along the way convince me that you should help mediate the situation. Fifty percent off the stay sounds excessive, but surely a middle ground between that and nothing can be found.

  24. And of course she did not pay with a credit card . . . so she has no recourse.

    Or does she? Spend some time slamming the owners gracefully on social media. Post an image of the email Q&A on review that let you – if you make it seem like these people at Emma Villas are liars – then they will sooner or later fold in exchange for taking the reviews down.

    Be nice – but truthful – no over the top language – just the facts and let others draw their own conclusion . . . .

  25. Privacy is very important.
    Looks like the house is away from other homes. That makes it private. Two couples in their 60’s who want privacy. Swingers? Don’t assume others understand your requests. Be very, very specific.

  26. “We need privacy.” “The apartment is private.” Yeah, it has a door between it and the outside world. Oh, you meant you wanted DOORS ON THE BEDROOMS? Why did you not say so? Could that be part of the problem?

    Many in Europe consider “private” to be non-shared bathroom.

    The internet is another story…..

  27. What’s with the “door requirements?” And, the “no Internet” is unforgivable for us. My
    husband MUST HAVE the Internet because he is a “day trader” and if he can’t “trade” we
    could be “broke.”

  28. I don’t think it’s obvious that she meant privacy between the rooms. The villa may very well be private vis-a-vis other villas. She should have been clearer on that point, especially writing to somebody who isn’t a native English speaker.

    She clearly asked about the WiFi, though, so that’s inexcusable.

  29. I actually have learned to ask about doors. Two years ago we stayed in a 5-star hotel in London. It had recently reopened after extensive refurbishment. But some rooms, like ours, had no bathroom doors. (We tried to change rooms but the hotel was fully booked and we were a late arrival.) It was a large room with the bathroom down the short hall so we coped with it. But I am no longer surprised when there are no doors. If I am in any doubt I now ask before I book.

    1. We remodeled and don’t have a door on an ensuite bathroom. It bothers some guests who stay in the room, but others like it.

      1. I frequent a hotel in Las Vegas that has two big glass walls in the bedroom, one is a view of the shower, the other is a view of the bath tub, the solid wall in between is the TV. There are wooden shutters you can close, but they don’t close all the way. I find it amusing.

        1. We have a 1/2 wall that blocks everything from view but the sink area, so there is privacy, just no door. Lots of different ideas out there regarding ensuite designs these days.

  30. Dear Rental Owner: I would like to book your two-bedroom villa, but before committing I need the following confirmed: 1) Do both bedrooms have doors? 2) Do both bedrooms have beds? 3) Is there a front door? 4) Lights/electricity? 5) Is the bathroom ensuite, and does it have a door that closes? How about a toilet? Is there running water?

    Has it come to this?

    I get that the LW was pretty vague about what she meant by “privacy”. But bedroom doors? Even if the norm in that part of Tuscany is no doors on the bedrooms, certainly if they are marketing to the US they are also marketing to the UK, Germany, and other places where I’m pretty sure bedroom doors are expected and it’s kind of crazy to think you have to confirm something like that. Fail. Even if the culture there is more tolerant about being semi-undressed in front of acquaintances, certainly they would want more privacy for s*xytimes. Being as they’re “active” and all. (I had not put that interpretation on “active” until I read the comments!)

    I’ve been a couple of places this year where it was difficult to find any connectivity. Drove me crazy! But if there’s an internet cafe reasonably close, I’m perfectly happy with that. Wouldn’t want to make business transactions there of course, but, if I did run my own business I’d invest in a hotspot (probably not the right word, you techies can correct me but I mean BYOI – bring your own internet) if it was absolutely business-critical that I be able to get online. Why leave that to chance in Italy.

    1. It hasn’t come to this, it has been this way. A hotel has a/c. Do you assume it operates all the time or just seasonally? If the location you are in gets a cold spell for a few days, should you assume you would have heat in your room? In the countryside, do you assume you will have water 24/7? What about electricity? Want it 24/7? Is the water from the tap drinkable? Hot water? 24/7? Car park? How far away? Think you will get out of your car and walk into your accommodation? Phone? Party line or private? Does it work 24/7? Just a few of the issues I have dealt with over the years.

      1. Fair points. I guess I was thinking more of a hotel. You are right, for a vacation rental it would probably pay to ask more questions since it’s more likely to deviate from convention. I’ve only stayed in a rental villa once, about ten years ago in Spain. It had a few issues but mostly it was great. And the bedrooms had doors, bonus!

        1. Out of all the issues clients have encountered, most bounce with the quirks they encountered, except for the heat. It was very cold in Scotland for a couple of the days clients were there and the little place they stayed shut off the heat, as it was summer….fortunately I hadn’t booked it for them 🙂 The clients had been out and about, had gotten wet in the rain, so they thought a hot shower would help. Except the hot water was only available in the mornings. How did they end up working this out? Taking long rides in the car with the heater on. They were laughing when they told me about this, so guess they were not too upset.

        2. I learned to ask about water quality and water availability, and A/C. Ive been to some places that only had water at certain times of day, and others with takes that were filled daily, or even weekly, and when they run out there is no more water until the next fill. Same with heat oil, so if people keep the heat up 24/7 they will run out before the next refill. And as far as A/C, many placed I have been to have only had A/C in 1 bedroom, and no where else in the villa. Sadly WiFi is always spotty in remote regions. Satellite is down, interference, etc.

      2. All of those are very very good things to think about even if you don’t actually ask the questions.

        I stayed at a very expensive hotel in Key West and while I was there a cold front blew through. It got really cold (for Key West) and the hotel room was miserably cold because the hotel did not have heat at all! Never thought about needing heat in Key West before that weekend.

        And in San Francisco a warm spell hit during January. The hotel was set to heat only since it was winter. At least the windows opened and they had extra cold beer in the bar.

        I have also run into many hotels in Europe (B & B type places actually) where they only run the water heater in the morning. Kinda wrecks your plans to take a nice hot shower after an active day. An active day site seeing I mean. 🙂

        1. I’ve stayed at a 5-star mountain resort in the summer, in the baking heat, only to learn they don’t have A/C at all. The room got up to over 80 by the evening, and it only dropped into the 70s at night. We still go back often, but try to get a room on the dark side now so it doesn’t get so hot.

  31. I see two areas of unfulfilled expectations: the doors and the Wi-Fi.

    Wi-Fi: The renter was specific in her request and either because of a mistake or outright lying, the renter didn’t get what she contractually wanted.

    Doors/Privacy. Here I think she is on firm ground in two areas.
    She specified “privacy,” and a missing door on a bedroom is not privacy;
    it’s not privacy in and American culture as well as in the Italian
    culture. She also specifically mentioned privacy.

    Also, a door on a bedroom is expected. Not having one is akin to the car rental
    company asking afterwards, “You didn’t specify that you wanted wheels on the
    car you rented, “ or “you didn’t specify you wanted electricity.”

    1. Have you read any of the other posts here? Don’t expect. Not all ‘bedrooms’ have doors. She didn’t specify privacy in the house, but a more generic request, which the location appears to offer.

    2. In your comparison:
      Doors: I think it is more like expecting a door in the gloves compartment or a cover over the SUV trunk.
      Internet: You rented a car with a CD player and it was broken.

  32. big deal, no internet(you’re on holidays, get a life & get off the bloody computer). Don’t think they said according to her, that there were doors on bedrooms.

    1. Yes, get off the bloody computer! There are other ways to get access if it was important. It drives me crazy to see people out with their family and friends, but with their face to their phone or laptop. Yes, they come in handy for looking stuff up, but that isn’t a necessity, just a convenience.

  33. how on earth can you do anything outside US borders ? The U.S. is hardly the centre of the universe these days.

  34. Wireless internet is shown on the website as being available. However, things regarding internet access do happen. Being active people, meaning they were probably out and about during the day, how bad was it that they couldn’t take their laptop and find access somewhere in town? A vacation should be a vacation, things happen and you make do. Why is everything down to dollars needing to be refunded or something needing to be discount for every freaking hiccup on a trip? That house looks wonderful. I bet they really did have a nice time regardless.

  35. I disagree with the people saying doors are not important – would your position be the same if there were no doors on the bathrooms?

  36. Might her initial statement that “Privacy is very important” have been understood by the hosts as meaning that her group of four were concerned about privacy from other units or other guests, and not among themselves? If so, the error may be understandable as a case of cultural differences. Still, completely failing to respond to a guest’s complaint is wrong. I would have suggested that she recover 20-25%, plus costs the four had to pay for internet access, if any.

  37. While I find the mental image of people scurrying around trying to keep themselves covered amusing, the missing doors could have been replaced by purchasing a sheet and hanging it in the doorway. Seems to me that Internet is not a right, it’s often unreliable and annoying and if it works that’s great. They should have given her $100 and said they were sorry. Half the rental amount is ridiculous. Travelling is full of surprises, deal with them and get on with the purpose of your visit.

  38. I am also a vacation rental owner, managed by myself, living in Sicily. I would be devasted as a guest to arrive on my vacation to find doorless bedrooms and no internet connection if this had been confirmed by either/or the management company and the rental owner. I don’t think 50% compensation is an accurate amount as she stayed the full length of her stay so it must have been bearable. Had she left immediately then I may consider it.
    Personally I have never heard of a villa/apartment without bedroom doors (very strange!) and most people expect an internet connection these days for keeping in touch with family and some like to work while travelling.
    I voted Yes to mediate but not for a 50% refund – somewhat less.
    (The management company should also improve their English! I would call their language barrier ‘sloppiness’ which in business is not acceptable.)

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