“No room,” is what my daughter and I were told when we arrived in Paris. It was late – after 10 p.m. I had emailed the hostess of the bed and breakfast in the afternoon to remind her that we would be late, but we weren’t able to check our email to see if she replied.
I had found a good place on a popular B&B website. The hostess said she had two rooms available. We could have one room, but we would have to share the bathroom with the occupants of the other room. What really attracted me, though, was the amazing price. For 69 euros a night, we could share the bathroom.
We arrived by train from Lucerne, Switzerland, and found our way to the B&B even though it was dark by the time we exited the train station. We had stayed in the 7th arrondissement on our previous trip to Paris. The 16th arrondissement, where the B&B was located, was just across the river from the 7th, so we knew it would be a good location.
We walked up to the door, not knowing how we were going to get in. There were several buzzers, so we pressed a couple. I’m sure the residents were thrilled. Just then, a young couple walked up. “We are looking for S—,” I said. They told us they were staying at the same place and would let us in. I wasn’t concerned until she told us there was another mother and daughter staying in the other bedroom. “You can sleep on the couch,” they offered.
The couple informed us that S— had a problem with overbooking. The most recent online reviews included angry letters from guests who had tried to stay in the week or two before we arrived. Things were starting to fall into place. I remembered how odd one of her emails sounded – like she wasn’t sure who I was. “Where is S—?” I asked. The couple let me know that S— always stayed with her boyfriend when she had guests.
We tried to go online so we could contact our hostess and figure out where to go, but the promised internet wasn’t working. We walked down the street to find some internet, but when it began to rain, we returned to the B & B.
We slept miserably on the couches, but left as soon as we were awake. I didn’t even want to take the time for a shower. There was a hotel in the 7th arrondissement that I had looked at, so we found some internet access, looked up the address, and went to check it out. We needed four more nights – they could give us the first two. What a relief!
We left our luggage and went out for breakfast. When we came back around lunch time, our room was ready, so we could finally shower. The desk clerk also informed us he had an additional night, so we only had one more to figure out. In the end, he let us stay in a small room with a just a single bed – my daughter slept on the floor.
Two days after we had slept on S—‘s couch, we heard from her. She apologized and said she remembered our name but had neglected to write down our reservation. We had paid through PayPal using a credit card. We went back and forth with S—, but weren’t successful in getting our money from her. PayPal had a 45 day guarantee, but we were long past that since we had reserved the room months before the trip. Although PayPal was sympathetic, they suggested we go through the credit card. The card reversed the charges. I’m not sure if the credit card or PayPal ever got the money from S—; I hope so.
I learned my lesson. The great price should have scared me away. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
But, why am I telling you this? I’m not just telling you so you don’t make the same mistake that I did, although I hope you are never in this situation. I have some suggestions for what you can do if this ever happens to you.
First, though, do not wire money – that was one of the options with S—. If there are no other options, look for a different place to stay. Using PayPal is fine, but using a credit card is even better. The bank you have attached to your PayPal account may not be as accommodating.
If you have some doubts, but book the place anyway as I did, have the name and address of another hotel where you can ask for help. Even if they don’t have any rooms available, they may be able to call around. You could also bring along a guide book – digital, if possible – so you can look for other places to stay.
If you are a frequent traveler who collects hotel points, save some for an emergency like this. If you do not collect points, you may want to look into the benefits that are available to members of hotel programs.
Larger hotels will likely have rooms, but they may be quite a bit more expensive. If you have to pay more than you planned, think of it as the cost of an experience. We were very lucky that we were able to find a place so easily. I don’t think this is the norm. Take a little extra time in the planning stage so you can avoid problems like this.
Despite our rough start in Paris, we had a wonderful time. We visited famous monuments and museums. We ate delicious French food in lovely cafés. We worshipped in a French cathedral. We began to look forward to our next trip to Paris.