Imagine the scene. It’s 7:30pm. We’ve just driven 30% of the way across Turkey and arrive at the airport in Kayseri to fly back to Istanbul. We’re driving the Fluence and we’re just about to give it back. There is unadulterated joy in our hearts as we pull into the airport parking lot. I can see the manager - the one who “cancelled” our reservation in a rest stop off the side of the highway ten days before after having failed in any way to provide the car that we booked. We debate amongst ourselves whether or not to drive the car into a post before their very eyes. After all, “Steve’s car,” as we learned we were driving, comes with full insurance. We decide to be good ambassadors for our nation instead and return it without incident, quickly check in for our late-night flight, and spend some time in the airport cafe drinking tea and writing emails.
Our flight was planned to arrive incredibly late into Istanbul and we had told our AirBnB host literally MONTHS before of this detail. The host, Ipek, sent us numerous messages saying that would be no problem and I had spoken to her on the phone in Kayseri around 9pm where she had said “call me when you land and I will meet you there.” While everything was, on paper, totally fine, in practice we all felt a looming sense of doom.
We landed at midnight, bags took an hour and the bus into the city took another 30 minutes to sort out, meaning we didn’t arrive to central Istanbul until about 2:30am. The entire bus journey we were calling the host non-stop. I probably rang her no fewer than 35 times, all with no answer. We simultaneously emailed her, sent her AirBnB messages, and everything else in-between. Now, Istanbul is a lovely place but it doesn’t where I am - I don’t want to be without a bed at 2:30am.
Our plan was to hop in a taxi and go to the lodging, hoping she had perhaps fallen asleep or something. A seemingly lovely older gentleman cab driver offered to take all five of us with all of our bags. We loaded up (clown car style) and zoomed towards what was meant to be our apartment for three nights that we had booked and paid for two months prior.
First problem: there is no street number listed. This left me using photos on AirBnB of the front door to determine that it had rainbow-coloured stained glass which was naturally SO EASY to see in pitch black at 3am. Our taxi - a teeny tiny Chevy Aveo (smallest sedan on the market) was screeching up and down this MASSIVE hill, 6 grown adults, 5 grown suitcases and 5 big backpacks inside. We were burning rubber and spinning out. It was ridiculous.
Finally, we decided to continue on foot and asked the cab driver to pull off and wait. We found the apartment and assumed there would be a key or something but alas, none. We carried on banging on doors and shouting her name, only to wake up another guest who had been shunned by Ipek, the Terror of Istanbul, as she would now be known. She told us Ipek lived around the corner and that she was “impossible to get a hold of.” Super. Still, she was more than willing to show us the way. We found her apartment and started banging on the doors and windows (the lights were on inside) to no avail. Things were getting desperate.
Everyone swung into action, eager for a shower and some sleep. Pasha was doing recon of the whole building while contemplating throwing a rock through Ipek’s window. Aditi went back to the other building and started banging on doors and shouting. Sarah was standing outside Ipek’s window yelling “Ipek, come on! IPEK, let us in” (she was also using several expletives that shall remain anonymous). Shelley took the job of watching our bags and ensuring the taxi driver, who was still standing outside waiting, didn’t drive away with all of our wordily possessions. Meanwhile, I just continued to hit dial on the phone, hoping Ipek had just fallen asleep or something. And then….she answered:
“Hello, this is Ipek” she said.
“Ipek, it’s your guests. We are here. Please let us in. We’re right outside,” I said cooly but directly.
“What are you talking about? It’s late. I’m tired. Call me in the morning.”
“Um, no, we paid for lodging and you confirmed it. I spoke to you at 9pm and you said once again that you would let us in late. We’re standing in the street and it’s cold and we’re tired and we have PAID YOU so let us in.”
“It’s late. This is crazy. Call me tomorrow. We can talk about it.”
“Where do you want us to sleep? We have a confirmed reservation. We have PAID YOU IN FULL. Come here and let us in RIGHT NOW” (insert expletives).
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. This isn’t Ipek. She’s not here.”
“What are YOU talking about? You told me you were Ipek when you answered. Now come and open the $%*#@*&%@#*%& mother #$#*&$#%^@ door IMMEDIATELY.”
“It’s late. I’m tired. I’m not in Istanbul. I’m away. Call me tomorrow.”
“This is fraud. You took our money and we have a reservation. Now either you or someone better come here immediately to open this door or we will report you for fraud, give you a horrific review, and make sure not only your business is destroyed, but your reputation is destroyed as well.”
“Fine, whatever. I don’t care. Cancel. I’ll keep your money. I’m hanging up now. I’m tired and it’s late. Call me tomorrow.”
AND THEN SHE HUNG UP! On grounds of fraud and horror this was shocking but add in grounds of basic human decency and you have perhaps the most unprofessional and most inhumane thing that has EVER happened to any of us. This was, without question, the most horrific travel experience of my long, well-traveled life.
Thankfully, Sarah hadn’t been as optimistic as me and wrote down the names and numbers of several hostels. The first one came through and had a room for us (at 3am) so we lugged our bags across town huffing and puffing and plotting our revenge on Ipek, which we took out in the form of hate mail, rude text messages, and a full-on assault on AirBnB. Suffice to say, she may well never come back to Istanbul.
As you can imagine, we’re not laughing about it and I have to say, despite everything that happened in that short period of time in the wee hours of the morning, not one person lost their cool.
- Posted using BlogPress from my KyPhone