Sometimes there is a total mismatch between people and you wonder if you have lost your bearings or if they have…that’s how things went with a recent stay in Križe, Slovenia.
Here’s how our stay progressed…
Jane: I booked online through Booking.Com, choosing a changeable booking. I was a bit surprised when Booking.Com didn’t charge me, as credit card charging at the time of booking is the norm. When I tried to change the “changeable” booking (so we could be there at the same time as Caroline and Braam who we have met on the Slovenian Mountain Trail) the system would only allow cancellations, not changes. I also received a message from the owner telling me to transfer money to his account to confirm the booking. But that is very hard if you are a New Zealander – international transfers are slow and costly. So I rang the owner.
Bostjan: you should be able to change and we expect payment beforehand because that was the option you selected.
Jane: I can’t change it and the system didn’t tell me that I would have to do a bank transfer. Can I give you my credit card? Or do some other sort of payment?
Bostjan: no you can’t pay another way beforehand, I don’t accept cards over the phone. But since you rang I trust you will pay and I will change the dates.
Jane: that’s very kind of you, see you in 4 days. Jane then received a further message saying that Bostjan would take us to the main town for dinner from his hostel – he does this for hikers because town is 5km away.
So far so good. He seems like a nice guy and the place is a very reasonable price.
Jane & Chris: arrive on the due date but at 2pm rather than the 4pm check in time. We are keen to see Braam and Caroline and figure we can chat with them if our room isn’t ready. However, we aren’t even sure we are in the right place because there are two places with the same name on both the booking.com and the maps.me app and they are at opposite ends of town. We decide to check if we are at the correct place so we can walk to the other one if we aren’t. In retrospect we should have just messaged Caroline & Braam.
Chris: (when someone opens the door) Hi, we aren’t sure if we are in the right place, is this BaseCamp B&B?
Bostjan: Yes. You are too early but your room is ready.
Jane: can we pay now, seeing as…
Bostjan: just pay at the end. He shows us our room and leaves.
Caroline asks Bostjan if he can drop us at the museum and then bring everyone to town later so we can all have dinner together and Bostjan says yes. We go downstairs at the appointed time for our ride and an uncommunicative Bostjan ushers us to a van and starts driving.
Bostjan: (curtly) the cost is 10 Euros.
Jane: oh, ok, here you go. Not wanting to point out he says it was free in the message but feeling a little aggrieved because he got us in the van before changing the rules.
Next day we have breakfast with Caroline & Braam before they leave to walk onwards. Bostjan does not engage in conversation, though we try, and whips away the breakfast food as soon as Caroline & Braam leave the room. Jane tries again to engage, writing “Kia Ora” on the message board with greetings from different countries, and asking if that is ok and whether Bostjan knows that greeting.
Bostjan: of course. We were in New Zealand 10 years ago. He then looks very busy with what he is doing so Jane leaves.
So far, less good but not terrible. During the day…
Chris: Bostjan doesn’t like me. This is very unusual – everyone likes Chris and he always makes a big effort to talk with people.
Jane: don’t you think he’s just having a bad day? This is less usual for Jane who, in this case, is making a big effort to provide benefit of doubt.
Jane: could we please leave 2 small bags with you for 2 weeks because we have brought more things than we find we need in Slovenian mountain huts and we would like our packs to feel less heavy.
Bostjan: of course.
Next morning we tidy up the room, strip the bed and wipe the surfaces before having breakfast, at which Bostjan again avoids conversation and rapidly removes the food. We pay and leave the bags without any issue.
The following evening the reminder from Booking.Com to leave a review comes through (there are phone connections almost everywhere in the mountains) as does a slightly strange message from Bostjan asking us to “…give him an excellent review because of the favour he is doing us.” Jane does a review the next morning which rates the stay as “good” rather than “excellent” on the basis that it was a long way from amenities and the hosts didn’t engage and Bostjan had several very terse exchanges with us – though Jane doesn’t mention that specific issue in the review text.
Two hours later, we turn our phones on because we just remembered that Sarah is having a job interview and we want to wish her luck.
Jane: I have a text from Bostjan saying we must pick up our bags within 48 hours because I didn’t review him 10/10. If we don’t he will dump them in the street.
Jane calls Bostjan who literally rants almost incoherently over the line for 10 minutes. The following is an extremely abbreviated version.
Bostjan: you must pick up your bags because you don’t respect me so why would you leave them with me. If you respected me you would rate us 10/10. As well as not try to cheat by not paying up front and arriving before check in. You have reduced my Booking.Com score. You are the most horrible guests I have had in 8 years.
Jane: that’s blackmail! I gave you a reasonable rating which matched our experience. You never said keeping our bags was contingent on a top score when you took them. I left our bags with you because I trusted you and you said you were happy to take them. We can’t get back to you to pick them up because we are in the mountains.
In the final analysis Bostjan demands to know where we will stay in a town next and states he will leave the bags there, outside the house if necessary. Jane agrees, on the basis that this is better than the street. When Jane suggests we should ask the owner first, to avoid a repeat upset, Bostjan says it is too late to get considerate. Jane spends the rest of the very nice day of scenery fulminating about the situation.
What I kept pondering was, could I have done things better? Was it us? Or was it him? Or was it all of us? Bostjan accused me of not understanding the transaction – we were supposed to give a good review for luggage storage. I would accuse him of dishonesty – one gives the review a place deserves, not a perfect score based on a request after the fact. Then again, does anyone believe those review scores, so how much does honesty matter? Well, I know one person who will believe in the scores less than before after this experience!
UPDATE: I made a complaint to Booking.Com and they have allowed me to revise my review. What would you do?
Here’s a joke referred to in a book by a Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek, who considers jokes integral to serious philosophy:
A German worker gets a job in Siberia. Aware of how all mail will be read by censors, he tells his friends: “Let’s establish a code: if a letter you will get from me is written in ordinary blue ink, it is true; if it is written in red ink, it is false.” After a month, his friends get the first letter, written in blue ink: “Everything is wonderful here: stores are full, food is abundant, apartments are large and properly heated, movie theaters show films from the West, there are many beautiful girls ready for an affair — the only thing unavailable is red ink.”