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We reserved a vacation cabin in Big Bear, CA during peak season (the week between Xmas and NYE) through VRBO. The property management company, Grizzly Vacation Rentals (@bigbearfun), immediately provided a 5-page rental contract by email.
In order to complete our booking, Grizzly Vacation Rentals demanded we sign this lengthy contract stating we were not allowed to cancel the reservation under any circumstances. They further requested a credit card number and a copy of my ID for their records as a condition for them to confirm our booking dates.
The day before check-in (Dec 26), we attempted to contact Grizzly Vacation Rentals to ask some questions about the check-in process in 3 different ways:
1) We first called them by phone. They did not pick up so we left a detailed voicemail.
2) My husband sent them an email, in which he also referenced the earlier phone call.
3) I finally attempted to contact them through VRBO. In this message, I referenced both the prior phone call and email.
Despite these repeated attempts, we did not hear back from them at all prior to check-in day.
On check-in day (Dec 27), we picked up our rental car and left early in the morning as we were scheduled to have lunch with friends who live close to the rental property.
On our way to the property, we received an email from Grizzly vacation rentals telling us they were cancelling our reservation.
This is the reason they provided for cancelling our booking on the first day of our reservation: "We have been informed that the water reserves from the local water company are fully depleted. This rental plus all other homes in the area are currently being affected and have no running water."
We investigated this claim by talking to multiple residents from the same neighborhood and by calling the City. We discovered this was a complete fabrication - there was no water shortage on 12/27/21 and this is not how the water in the area even works! When we called Grizzly Vacation Rentals to confront them about their lie, they hung up on us and blocked my caller ID as well as my husband's.
To make matter worse, in order to avoid the VRBO host cancellation fee they would have had to pay if they had initiated the formal third-party cancellation themselves, Grizzly Vacation Rentals forced us to request a cancellation through VRBO by holding our payment hostage if we did not.
This trickery allowed them not only to avoid paying the cancellation fee they owed VRBO, but also it made it impossible for us to warn other VRBO travelers about their deceptive practices because reviews cannot written about cancelled bookings.
Grizzly Vacation Rentals's refusal to honor our rental agreement by cancelling our booking a few hours before check-in based on a fraudulent claim of water shortage has cost us greatly: we are now out of pocket for a car rental and because we were unable to locate other similar rentals in the area at the last minute during peak season, our Xmas vacation with friends and family we had not seen in a long time has been cancelled.
Grizzly Vacation Rentals is a dishonest company with a documented history of scamming customers - there appears to be many other victims, as evidenced by those who took the time to submit Yelp reviews: https://www.yelp.com/biz/grizzly-vacation-rentals-big-bear. It appears this company already has a poor reputation in the community but manages to continue conducting their nefarious business by leveraging loopholes through third-party websites such as VRBO, Airbnb, and HomeAway.
User's recommendation: Always check the reputation of property management companies (e.g. through Yelp, Ripoff Report, etc.) BEFORE booking any vacation rentals even - perhaps especially - when making a reservation through third-party platforms such as VRBO, Airbnb, and HomeAway.
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
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