Vacation scams…

Thank God, we are finished with January! February’s running now and is next door to March and Spring! Spring!! Spring!!! However, the new month came in wet. Real wet. This cramps My Two Weimaraner’s Life-style of 4 w-a-l-k-s a day. So they get 2 with the added treat of tussling them into their respective rain-suits… RED for Nina-beena and BLACK for Mr. Moses. They HATE them. Fine. Can dogs catch pneumonia?

In the meantime, I have been manning The Reservation Desk for Il Poggiolo. Not too much coming down the pike. One wrote and asked if a chef could be arranged for a 4-day visit in March. I suggested eating out instead. There’s more local Culture & Atmosphere at a trattoria and the food would be the same, if not better. Nothing beats the ravioli la signora del Bar Cecchi prepares for pranzo! Have not heard back. Another asked if the whole house could be taken for just 2 persons for a week in July. I sent an immediate why-not. Who am I to say what 2 persons would want/need/other with 3,000+ square feet of farm-house on two floors plus garden even though, I must say myself, the entire house is splendidly decorated & furnished. And then, there have been the entertaining and once-a-week Con-mails. Or, that’s what I call them. Usually sent from the UK and written in an extraordinarily creative though grammatically alarming version of English, these con-requests seek sorts of accommodations which have nothing to do with Il Poggiolo like, for example, to house a wedding party of 30 and the absolute need of a swimming pool! These con-folk must pick up My E-mail Address from hacking vacation rental sites rather than paying a kind visit to Il Poggiolo’s website at: http://forrestspears.com/ilpoggioloacodiponte

I cannot figure out what the swindle would be beyond the Terms & Conditions set in the first Con-mail expedited from a Gentleman From Glasgow last year. I thought at first that the request for availability in June for 6 persons plus costs was legitimate. I promptly replied though mildly suspicious from the mail’s bizarre English. 48 hours passed then, a reply. Il Poggiolo’s accommodations were confirmed for 6 persons in June. I sent another e-mail explaining payment options through PayPal, etc. All seemed on its way. 48 hours passed and then, another reply. And what a reply! The Gentleman From Glasgow demanded that I accept not only the payment for the week’s stay at Il Poggiolo to My Italian Bank but, tons more cash too for the guest’s living expenses while staying at Il Poggiolo and for which I would be responsible to make payments to restaurants, bars, etc on their behalf. ??????? What crossed My Mind as I read & re-read the Gentleman’s Terms & Conditions was this might be a scam to funnel money out of the UK… drug money, prostitution money, oil $$$S, whatever… hidden by the common pretext of expediting funds for a vacation rental in a foreign land. Or, with the bank account number, a sly method to hack its balance. Who’s to say? I’m not that smart nor conniving. I sent back what was My Final Communication to the Gentleman From Glasgow reconfirming My Terms & Conditions and only they were to transpire between us, nothing more, nothing less than those. I got one last e-mail from the Gentleman From Glasgow re-demanding his. I read it for its entertainment value and then hit DELETE.

Since then, the Con-mails have been more far-fetched & financially complex and quite frequent too. They all continue to rigorously maintain a complete ignorance of Il Poggiolo as a vacation rental in the most ludicrous English and coupled with Terms & Conditions for some other Financial Time & Space Continuum.

So, there’s been a little fun while I yearn for real people desiring to partake of Il Poggiolo in the Lunigiana’s Delights & Pleasures in an eclectic ambiance to knock on My Cybernetic Door. Any takers amongst you? Gads.

Marketing…

While during the autumn & winter seasons plants grow roots, I too have been with marketing Il Poggiolo for the coming vacation rental season 2014. Last year I found 6 sites on a pay-per-booking basis. T’was not an easy task. Most want the money up front. I do too but, have little recourse. Late in Season 2013, one P-P-B was knocked off the roster…

do you all know about this already?… I knew deep, deep, deep down inside I shouldn’t have signed on the dotted line with that Dutch site from Amsterdam. There were too many nagging points of disaccord cut with big incentives to join. A Big Controversy was an iron-clad exclusivity for bookings made three months in advance. How generous. The agent, after his personal inspection of Il Poggiolo & Codiponte, led me to believe climbing aboard with such terms to join a global network of vacation sites would glitter with $$$. I asked for a pen. Scribbling My John Hancock meant I could take any & all of the three-night minimum stays of Hey!-We’re-coming-to-Italy-next-weekend-on-Ryanair-into-Pisa-and-we-fell-in-love-with-your-place bookings between the proverbial Now and 3 months hence, but not the ones of Hey!-We’re-coming-to-Italy-in-the-fall-and-your-house-would-be-perfect-Are-the-first-two-weeks-in-September-OK? made the January before. Bucking thanks either way, I received no reservations. Well, until one appeared on the boards the very moment I was given a date for my hip-op. I cancelled it. See… it’s important for me to be present for Our Guests. I like to meet them, show them around, explain how to get to the Cinque Terre by train and not get lost or mis-directed… for instance… and make sure they haven’t trashed what was wonderful up in L’Appartamento Azzurro. The annulled booking provoked a fire-storm of telephone calls & emails, mostly from the agent loosing his cut, but a few came galloping at me from Amsterdam HQ for a flagrant violation of the contractual terms. Gosh. I persisted. The agent & HQ gave up, but not before kicking me off their global team of vacation rental owners. Tsk-tsk I thought.

Since last November though, I have gladly found another five to add. But what work! To find such a beast requires frying one’s eyes & brains Googling the Internet for hours & days at a time. I don’t think anyone was born to preform such tricks. I certainly wasn’t. I persisted. Then, for two of the sites, I had to drop My Pants to demonstrate certain items of Privacy which, not even My Dear Aging Mother in North Carolina knows and she’s seen me in My Birthday Suit! Well, not recently and certainly not since I have discovered white wine. Does anyone really need to have even the last 4 digits of My Social Security Number? Fat lot it will ever do me. But really. Then, there were the hours & days of plugging in the myriad info of descriptions, amenities, photos & tags, things-to-see-&-do-&-eat. One of these sites rammed a Trip Advisor Guest Guide up on my laptop’s screen to fill out before receiving the Green Light to go LIVE. Well, trying to hunt & peck places in the out-back of the Lunigiana I normally recommend in person… drawing cute litte, easy to read maps… nearly sent me to a psychiactric ward at L’Ospedale di San Martino in Genoa, Italy. If curious, you may go to: http://forrestspears.com/ilpoggioloacodiponte at the very bottom of the page and have a go at it. Cannot tell you though how proud I am of the folk at Bar Cecchi, the keenest place to park & eat anywhere in the world. Their ravioli are yum-yum.

I have one last site to prepare… the bug-a-boo of the lot since, I must go through a call-center to speak with a signorina for any desired changes/clarifications/modifications. Then, hopefully, I can sit back & watch the bookings roll in. No big roll yet. I have one reservation from a family from Edmonton, Alberta Canada. I can hazard that an Italian vacation will be greatly appreciated by the time of their visit in late-March. Beyond that, only a few nibbles. Let them come though for I am almost ready. Gads.

Vacation websites…

…or, My Winter’s Work. Since returning to My Genoese Home-front, I have begun Googling for new vacation websites to enroll Il Poggiolo for the forth-coming Vacation Season 2014. My Quest for expanding Our Farm-house’s exposure to the vacation market. It may just be lunacy. Lots out there on the net. Too much. And, at the end of many long pre-Christmas days before a laptop, few have become viable candidates. See, I have this preference for pay-per-booking plans. This is often contrary to many of the vacation websites. They’d like their money up-front with a pre-paid ad, customers come what may. I want to pay these sites after they have earned it first. No customers, no $$$. Here’s the lunacy = I think the pay-per-booking makes the sites more responsible. The Google adventure led me to select five prospective sites. Enrolling with three of them became a via crucis…

one was so ridiculously simple to apply & post, I should’ve known. All the site required was to create a logon name & password and off I could trot to post photos, prices, savory blurbs right & left about Il Poggiolo, Codiponte & the Lunigiana. When it came the moment to actually enroll Il Poggiolo with the pay-per-booking option, seemingly slipping cybernetically into another Time-Space Continuum, the site turned punitive. A series of auto-emails, some in atrociously written & spelled English… smacked of fraud. I get 2 or 3 emails a week similarly attired which are sure-fire attempts to rip me off… appeared on the screen… necessary bank details beyond the standard account number & IBAN… required several phone calls to my bank… my passport and a utility bill scanned & sent for investigation by an associate payment company to identify me as the property owner…???… another attached form to be signed & scanned & sent for further investigation by the home company and the completion of an enrollment form for the pay-per-booking plan… a Do-not-pass-go… obligating me to guarantee obedience to the plan’s procedures, which, to me, negates the proper transparency to prices, fees & cancellations. The Big Bug-a-boo was the site’s cancellation policy… a full 100% refund even for a cancellation on the day before. None of the above exists on the 8 sites I have signed up from last year’s adventure into vaca-. But, I did it all, mumbling to myself that I can always cancel the listings. Che sara’ sara’?

another site required a telephone conversation to post any details… baring photos, which I would be given permission to upload only after the telephone call… of Il Poggiolo yet, with a language & terminology akin to a hotel room. It was confusing to hear room spoken to imply house or apartment. I got fed up during one appointment… Christmas Time Nerves, I suppose… and it eventully took three calls to get through the process… and the poor operator/consultant/other pleaded with me not to cancel. I felt bad. So, I made My Amends and am now listed. Whoopee?

and for the last, another site constrains property owners to incorporate all fees & deposits into the one price for nightly, weekly & monthly. Thus, a 3-night stint will cost per night nearly as much as one for 5. And, I said so to Customer Service. The reply was the vaca-site thought it would be better for the clients. I hazarded to write back that the program should be better for both… client & property owner. A reply has yet to grace my electronic mailbox. What will be next?

Tedious, Onerous. Wearisome. I remembered the first vaca-site I had signed-up with, one which required all the Patience of Job = days + days + days of back ‘n forth emails & telephone calls to fathom the site’s IT-system, policy & posting requirements… whatever… and I have still to enjoy the luxury…???… of A Paying Customer.

So, there’s A New Rule for the boards…

sites which are the biggest pain in the buttocks are more than likely the ones which bear little paying fruit.

Live ‘n Learn? 2014 will tell the tale. Gads.

 

 

 

Tedious. Onerous.

Il Poggiolo nightmares…

IMG_1673I can be ridiculous… a couple of years ago, during a period of cosmic insecurity and other stuff… a lot of it associated with the tug ‘n pull of bringing Il Poggiolo to a happy FINISH… I paid for a Numerological Analysis of My Future off a website… based in of all places, New Zealand!!! Leaving the other-worldly location aside, this esoteric offer of numerological comfort came highly recommended by a friend as simply EXTRAORDINARY!!! The investment was minor. I signed up. You thought it EXTRAORDINARILY OUTRAGEOUS!!! Par for the course. Last Time I ever confess of such things to You. 24 hours later, an e-mail arrived and I happily printed out & read through 123 pages of what turned out to be mostly computer generated module mumbo-jumbo. Disappointed but not bankrupt, I buried the proceeds in a drawer and went on My Merry & Erratic Way. Rummaging through the drawer last week, hunting for a pen that might work, I happened upon that long forgotten stack of gibberish. Stuck to my hands was a page, a blow-by-blow account of daily ups ‘n downs for March 2013. Glancing at the small print, there was written… Dreams will be intense… Should jot them down… Ought to study them too… They could be IMPORTANT!!! Well, coincidentally, all I do at night is dream about Il Poggiolo. And weird dreams too. The two strangest were…

I had sold a healthy interest in Il Poggiolo to a Swiss fashion company I had once-upon-a-time worked for… many, many Moons ago… so the company could rent out the apartments to a guaranteed & steady stream of renters and giving me a cut of the proceeds, but first, all the interiors were torn-out for new radiators & plumbing to be installed with the premise that Il Poggiolo was NOT UP TO ITS STANDARDS!!!…

and…

was an afternoon party just packed with Our Friends & Family and few floaters when, in the midst of the fracus, a girl-friend arrived & handed me an envelope carrying a letter requesting an immediate payment of 24,000 Euros in back-taxes, as if it were a post-card from Auntie Em in Kansas!!!

and lastly…

Angela Merkel should up at Our Poggiolo Door-step!!!

All forced me to awake in a frightfully COLD sweat!!! And yet, not a night passes that My Sleep is not devoted to some Storm or Stress around Il Poggiolo. What is going on? Is My Marketing Campaign to rent out Il Poggiolo the cause of these nightmares? Gads.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A happy ending…

IMG_1056As promised this evening at 5:57 PM… an article on My Adored Poggiolo in the Conde Naste Traveller Magazine website…

http://www.cntraveller.com/recommended/villas/fabulous-new-rental-properties-europe/casa-il-poggiolo-tuscany

We are more than thrilled. Pro-secco anyone? Gads.

An afterthought… A Big Lesson here… for me to always be positive, available and not to take things so darn seriously.

A new twist to travel?…

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An unexpected turn-of-events to add to the continuing escapades with the LARGE, POWERFUL and, I might add, UBIQUITOUS travel journal. When I thought all was for naught and, especially, after burning the proverbial bridge… oddly ironic that Codiponte is dialect for at the head of the bridge… with my rather snippy Thanks & Good-bye e-mail, one arrived this morning from the writer with that magazine. It turns out she has had a change of mind… or, her editor has… about Il Poggiolo. The e-mail reiterated the intention to publish an article on Il Poggiolo and would I please re-send the doctored photo for the landscape/letterbox photo-spread. I did… with an apology for My Snippynesses… if that is even a word. Then, another arrived post-haste asking for the same format for the above photo. I am photographically exhausted. And, I am NOT going to open a bottle of well-chilled pro-secco UNTIL I see the article published with a photo!!! Gads.

Beyond offended…

Many Moons ago… so many Moons ago, like way on the other side of that dreadful Crest of Annoyance, The Holiday Season 2012… and possessed by the novel idea… for me… of marketing Il Poggiolo to interior design & travel magazines, I was recently contacted by one from the list. The sender works for a LARGE, POWERFUL and, I might add, UBIQUITOUS travel journal, whether in print or on the Net. I was suitably impressed. Mostly that my photo-packed message via facebook… which, right there, shows even a complete ignoramus can make strides with activities preformed via the Internet… had hit such a target. The bull’s-eye… a writer, I suppose… expressed an interest in publishing an article about My Adored Abode, Il Poggiolo… still lately covered in a dwindling patina of crusty snow from last weekend’s 3 day bout of a blizzard. Great! I replied.

Since that moment, and up until yesterday evening, the writer & I were in a fluid exchange of e-mails negotiating an appropriate photo to grace the page or screen to accompany a text. Of the 6 most charming & indicative examples, the writer requested this photo…

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which, as you can see, has a relatively square proportion. Well, this writer requested it in a landscape and/or a letterbox format. She also added Hurry! What she was gainfully asking, however, would turn out like this… 

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Lovely.

In a tizzy, I called My Personal Tech-wizard, whose Expert Opinion CONFIRMED My Greatest Fear… the photo of this writer’s desire WAS NOT THE ONE!!!… dammit. Nothing left but to do as My Dearly Departed Father was always want to say… Fall back & punt! My Tech-wizard & I discussed… telephonically… cybernetically… and perhaps even telepathically… what might be Another Proposal to SAVE THE DAY!!! May I say? I feel quite embarrassed with My Tech-wizard. He has seen My Entire Photographic Oeuvre. Well, barring those pictures of me fat & naked in the bathroom mirror. And, Thank God! But, all Our Attempts flopped…

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I refused to concede Defeat. My last e-mail was to suggest a photo of an interior, ardently believing The Bust of Julius might tilt chances to My Favor…

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What I got for a response… three days later… was… Sorry. But I don’t think your house is luxe enough for our publication. If you decide to re-do the interiors, please let me know. We might be interested.

WHAT??? Come on now… let’s be honest… please. A proposed text… Sorry. It is so important for us to have a superb photograph to perk the interest of Our Readers for our published articles. Sadly, in your case, there was not a photograph to meet this requirement. If, in the future, you have the occasion to produce descriptive photographs adaptable to a landscape and/or a letterbox format, please let me know. Thank you. Better that than a lie, don’t you think?

As mentioned to You the condemnation of Il Poggiolo’s absence of luxe. He said… Oh, Thank God! Luxe is just another word for describing those Tuscan re-dos which make an old house built 400 years ago look like a motel! Bless him.

So, I promptly shot back… relatively offended to the point of infuriation… Dear… After what we have been through AND have spent in the last four years, I seriously doubt we will re-do the interiors or exteriors of our house any time soon. We tried. Thank you for your efforts.  

I now HATE the word luxe. Gads.

An afterthought… I could have accepted that the Commie House or odd lots of after-construction lumber in that photo might have been a discouragement towards publication. But, hey! There’s photo-shop!!!