Change Yourself…Change The World.

A Post of Injustice, Tribulation, and Bed Bugs
February 23, 2010, 3:52 pm
Filed under: Chile

Dear friends,

Generally, I try to avoid telling negative stories that happen to me while traveling, but I felt that this story was too good to pass up.

Two months ago (please ignore that this story is two months outdated and that I’ve meaning to tell it since it’s inception), I was in Santiago, Chile. At the time, I had a huge research paper due and I was majorly stressing out about getting it finished in time. I had just come back from Easter Island, Chile, and was taking a flight to Lima, Peru the next day to visit a friend, and so I decided to use the current space I had to majorly work on my paper.
Now for me, if I’m traveling on the cheap, I use two sources to determine where I’ll stay: either Hostel World or if I’m running out money fast/want to meet some cool people without any effort, Couch Surfing (note: if you go the Couch Surfing route you must be VERY careful about who you pick and why. I’ll be putting up a post about this soon, so stay tuned).
For this particular instance, I had my research paper due in two days, and so I knew that I needed to be in a very quiet space, with good internet, where I could focus on writing my paper without any distractions. So I chose to stay at a private room in a hostel, which cost $40 (I never spend this much money on a hostel room, but I was getting close to desperation on finishing this paper, so I needed the space and quiet to get it done). I used Hostel World to find this particular hostel, which will remain unnamed (though I feel tempted to just for deserved defamation purposes).

Now here’s the thing about Hostel World: it’s a hit or miss. Sometimes you find a hostel that says they have AMAZING amenities, clean and comfortable rooms, full-spread free breakfasts, with free internet and pictures galore of parties and fun-loving people dancing the night away. So you think ‘wow, this sounds like a great place,’ book a reservation, and show up to find that the room they reserved you in is rotting with mold and smells like 1,000 stinky feet, that the sheets had obviously not been changed from the last reservation (or 2, or 3, or 10), that the breakfast was disgusting, and that these so called ‘amenities’ that were promised did not work. All while walking down the street later and finding a non-Hostel World hostel that is eight times better and half of the price. Maybe I’m being a bit too specific here as this literally happened to me. But let’s not get too negative and give a balanced opinion: sometimes Hostel World has some great hostels that are even better than the description and pictures. Sometimes it’s exactly what you’re looking for with the price that you paid. Sometimes the beds are super comfy, the bathroom is clean and works, the breakfast is decent, and you meet some really cool and interesting travelers.

Anyway getting back from my long tangent on Hostel World, I encountered a new situation in Santiago. The hostel, for all intents and purposes, looked comfortable, seemed quiet, and it was clean. Bonus points. Absolute 100% negative? The bed bugs.
So I arrived to my $40 hostel room, and immediately threw my bags all over the floor, opening up everything and taking it out and generally making a ridiculous mess (I mostly did this because I had been living in hostel rooms with anywhere from 4-10 other people, so I never had the luxury to just open my bag and throw everything everywhere without fear of it getting lost or stolen). I flopped onto the bed and relaxed against the soft comforter, feeling happy to be truly alone for the first time in weeks.
A few hours passed while I typed furiously away on my laptop, when I noticed a little brown reddish dot creeping along the comforter. I immediately smashed it and held it up to see. It was a bed bug. I had seen bed bugs before (my friend and I had a bed bug attack in Thailand), and so I knew exactly what it looked like.

Why are bed bugs unpleasant?
1) They leave huge itchy bite marks all over your body
2) They are incredibly hard to purge
3) If you’re staying in a room with bed bugs and you have a pack open, they can crawl into your things and you could unknowingly be taking bed bugs with you to another place.

I went down to the hostel concierge to show him the bed bug, and requested to be moved to another room. No problem, he said. I was moved to a different private room on the entire other end of the hostel.
I settled in again and started typing away furiously until 2 AM, when it happened again. Another brown reddish thing creeping along the comforter. ANOTHER bed bug.
At this point I felt disgusted. There was obviously a bed bug infestation at this hostel if two rooms on different sides of the hostel had them. I didn’t want to risk sleeping in the room and wake up with bug bites all over.
I smashed the bug and took it again to the concierge to show him that he had an infestation problem. At this point, I requested a refund. I had paid $40, a large sum of money to me, to be shifted around two different rooms with the same problem. If I couldn’t sleep in the room, then why should I have to pay $40?

Then the problems started.
The concierge gave me every excuse in the book. He couldn’t give me a refund. The manager wasn’t here so I couldn’t get a refund. He couldn’t call the manager because he didn’t have any money on his phone. The manager would be coming at 10 AM the next day (I had a flight at 9 AM, so this didn’t work). I eventually got out my computer, turned on skype, and called the manager myself.
I told the manager that I had been put in two private rooms with bed bugs. I told him I wanted a refund because I obviously could not sleep in either of these rooms, and that if there were bed bugs in two rooms, there were probably bed bugs everywhere. The manager was a lot less concerned with the fact that there were bed bugs in the hostel, and was a lot more concerned with refusing to give me a refund. He shouted at me, telling me that he didn’t care and that he wasn’t going to give me a refund. I told him that if he didn’t give me a refund I would contact hostel world and tell them what happened, and that I would give them a terrible review on the site. His response? ‘Go ahead, we’ll tell them that you’re lying.’

With a lot of shouting and yelling later, he finally agreed to give me a refund, on one condition: he wanted me out of the hostel right now, at 3 AM in the morning.
Let’s reiterate this: the manager, rather than apologizing for bed bug infestation (or at least saying they would do something about it, which I’m sure they didn’t), told a lone female traveler who didn’t live in Santiago, that they had to evacuate the premises at 3 AM. Wow.

Essentially I ended up doing so out of pride rather than fear: I made a huge case for my refund, and I wanted it back. I still contacted hostel world about the situation and they really didn’t care about what happened.

So what’s the moral of the story? Don’t book on Hostel World, or you could end up in a place infested with bed bugs that the owners are doing nothing to fix, with a manager who could kick you out at 3 AM in a strange city rather than apologizing, and a completely apathetic staff at Hostel World who sides with the hostel rather than the customer. I kind of look back on this story and laugh at the utter ridiculousness of it all (I ended up finding a taxi stand at 3 AM and going to the airport 5 hours early), but these things DO happen when you travel. It’s not all fun and games and wonderfulness. Sometimes when all you want to do is even pay extra money for a little comfort and security, it’s not going to be achieved. Sometimes you’re going to feel uncomfortable for weeks on end, and you’re going to feel uninspired, cranky, and surrounded by strangers who don’t care about you or your well-being (even if you shell out money for it).

But I would never give up traveling even for moments like these.
Time to find another alternative to Hostel World.

Much love,

2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

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Comment by zombie in florida

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