Initially, I thought registering my apartment in Sandnes on Air BnB was a great solution to earn some extra money during this summer. I had advertised a long-term rental online without any success, even after lowering the price 20%. Also, I figured I could finally use my MSc in Hotel Management in a practical way.
Then, just 5 minutes after posting, bam! Three reservations were made instantly! How cool! One couple were from Canada whose father was born in Sandnes in 1899. Another couple was arranging their honeymoon (rose petals, champagne, towel swans came to mind) and another from a family of five (we´ll just call them “the family”) Everything seemed to be working out fine. Of course, as with anything new, there are always kinks to iron out and Airbnb, as I would soon found out, is definitely an art that requires some practice to perfect.
The family was due to arrive on Saturday. My boyfriend asked if I was interested in going on a cabin trip, leaving Friday and returning Sunday. “I said sure, no problem, lets go!” I had a trusted friend living nearby who could give the key to my guests. I then wrote to the patriarch about this plan of accessing the apartment.
He replied, “We will be arriving very late on Saturday, most likely just after midnight. But no need to have somebody waiting for us, we usually find the key somewhere by the door when we use Airbnb, and so far never an issue, so not troubling the owners to come around or something. If you leave us exact instructions on how to find the place and the right door, and where to find the key, we should be just fine. “
The check in time for my airbnb clearly states 10 pm and the rules are that if guests arrive outside defined times, they must ask for approval. It is not for granted that I would have approved because this is also inconvenience to me. Arriving that late, I would not even ask my mother such favours. Being new to airbnb as I was, I was also nervous about having people find a key in a public space and never actually meeting them in person.
But, as dedicated as I am to hospitality, I was determined to find a solution, but had to think quick. This family was probably looking forward to this trip and had booked it 3 weeks in advance. As the apartment is in an apartment block, obviously the other inhabitants would not be happy if I drill a hole to hang a code lock box. I can´t use a hotel reception, I am their new competition. After having lived here so long, bribing is no longer a viable option.
After pondering and wandering around in the middle of the playground in the center atrium of the apartment complex, I found a cute playhouse for children, under which most of the balconies look onto. I could tape the key underneath. What a great idea I thought. Because of the wet climate here, I wrapped the key on a Yoda keychain, placed it carefully in a plastic bag and then taped it. I taped it and I taped it, enough to ensure that it would not fall, in rain or sun or wind. I was rather satisfied with this innovative plan and wrote exact instructions to the father of the family.
My friend´s cabin was in the middle of a forest about a 2-hour drive away (with a ferry trip included). We enjoyed the day, hiking and in the evening we sat around a fire, drank wine and ate delicious food cooked over a coal flame. We played one hand of poker. I kept my phone handy. As a concerned host, I wanted to know if they managed safely to get there.
Then, at 12:34 am, my guest called. The key was not there. A man, his wife and three children were wandering around in Norway in the dark and cold. I did not know how to help them or what to do. The key must be there I thought. Just the day before, I tugged on it and it would not come off! Eventually found a hotel. I was anxious but everyone was telling me, “the key is there, don’t worry.” “He just can´t find it” “it must be there”. I was relieved they found a place, but more questions arose. Where was my key?
The next morning we drove early back home and low and behold, it was not there, not even in any garbage bin. I did see some coke bottles that looked like a party had gone on under that house and I got nervous. Was this the modus operandi of a serial key stealer leaving his signature? Did it actually fall off? Did some toy unboxing-inspired child find this random package and decided it must be opened?
The next day, I went to the police and reported a missing key. I gave them my identification. Eventually an envelop was brought out of a cabinet. My key! Instead of handing it to me, the lady at the counter just nodded, smiled and said “one moment” then gave it to an officer in uniform where he entered my ID though a system. I had my key back.
But instead of handing it to me, the officer summoned me, looked at me angrily and said “what is this key doing here?” I knew then that he knew what had actually happened and all the excuses that I wanted to use (I taped it to my bike and it fell off, I was playing with my friends child and it just disappeared, etc) were never going to work. So I told him the truth. Having Yoda on a keychain also didn’t add to my credibility either. Then he replied “Don’t ever do this. Your neighbours think you were storing drugs”. I apologized sincerely, said it would never happen again and left.
As I walked home, I thought about this incident and wondered what the neighbor was thinking when he was looking at me place this key in broad daylight. I was thought about if I were the neighbor, what would think if I saw myself doing that. Personally, I thought it must have looked more like doing warrior pose in yoga, than hiding Yoda. Despite motivations being totally innocent, I openly admit I should not have hid the key in a public place.
Even if this reveals a lack of trust among each other, this incident shows the immense trust in the system. My neighbour waited until I left the scene of the “supposed crime” and then called the police, instead of yelling at me directly “what the heck are you doing?!?!?!” (something I probably would have done) which would have most definitely scared me away. But, it was not that they wanted to scare me away from that location, it was essentially to eliminate any possibility of anything similar in the future in the community. If someone had just told me directly, and if I was in fact hiding illegal substances, I would have perhaps found another place to hide it and then society as a whole would not have been protected.
Now I have a code lock box and so next time my guests will be able to find the key at anytime by themselves. And yes, this was inconvenient me for a couple of days, and most like not the most pleasurable experience for the family who had to find a hotel at 1 am. But, I am grateful for such concerned neighbours and now I know I live in a safe neighbourhood. Thank you to whoever you are and please stay vigilant.