WiFi Challenges in Vacation Rentals

Written by: Jennifer Down, Account Executive at SolutionInc

Arriving in downtown Toronto was an amazing experience for me as I have not been there before and was very excited to see the night skyline.  I must say, Toronto did not disappoint as the views were spectacular.  In the city for business, I was lucky enough to have friends who live in Mississauga so they were happy to show me around and get me to my vacation rental.

The directions provided by the vacation rental company was quite accurate and locating my micro condo was relatively simple.  However, the advice given to enter the condo building itself did not prove to be sufficient as the code to the “front desk” (security) did not work.  I knocked on the glass doors and the security guards just seemed to stare at me and not make an effort to move and let me in.  Thankfully, another resident of the building was entering and we slid in behind them.  I went to the “front desk”, told them who I was and they advised me to head up to the 20th floor where my door was unlocked and my key will be located in the drawer beside the coffee maker!

At this point, my friends and I just kind of stared at each other in disbelief.  What do you mean my door is unlocked?  This is a 70-some-odd floor condo building.  Who knows the door is open?  Do they just leave this door open at all time?  Well off we went, up the elevator in search of my condo.  We locate the unit and we stood outside the door for a minute.  We are three females.  What if someone had entered the unit?  Why do I feel unsafe to enter my vacation rental that we paid near $300 CAD for the night?

So, in we go.  Flick the lights on and we split up.  Opened the door the bathroom, searched the shower.  Opened all the closets, and then the balcony.  Pheww, no intruders.  We located the keys exactly where the security guard said they would be but then we thought, what if he had a copy of this key?   I can’t even begin to express how many safety concerns are involved with this process.

We begin to settle in for the night as we prepare to head out to explore the downtown core. Before we leave, my curious self (of course because of my industry) starts my process of connecting to WiFi and turning on the TV.  I mean we needed a bit of music to accompany our bottle of wine!  Here is my sequence of events associated to this not so pleasant experience:

  1. I open my phone to search for the WiFi SSID that I should be connecting to.  Nothing that even remotely looks like an SSID that I should be using.  I look for instructions that might be located in a binder or posted somewhere in the unit.
  2. I go back to my phone about 10 minutes later.   Out of nowhere an SSID that kind of looks like the name of the vacation rentals appears.  Of course, it is locked.  Where is my access code?
  3. Go to my printed reservation (I always take these with me, just in case), no access code.
  4. I text who I think is the home owner, no response.
  5. We decide ok fine, let’s turn on the TV to at least put on music as there isn’t even a radio/alarm clock in the place.
  6. Sure enough, the TV turns on but the IPTV box will not power on.
  7. So, I text the home owner again, still no response!
  8. I decide that it’s time to troubleshoot.

So here we are in a beautiful, modern downtown condo, overlooking the Rogers Center, close to the doors of the CN Tower, with a spectacular skyline and I cannot even connect to WiFi?  At this point, I am quite amazed at this because I cannot even process that fact that I am having this experience in this environment.

Being the person I am, and the fact that I work in the WiFi industry, I did not give up.  I was back to troubleshooting within minutes.  Does this place have first level support? I was down on my hands and knees looking for the access point.  Looking on the ceiling.  Opening the cupboards and closets, still nothing. Getting frustrated, I decide, I am pouring a glass of wine because obviously we will not be getting music or WiFi in this place.  I throw the remote down on the couch and it landed upside down.  What is that on the back of the remote?  Looks like a code of some sort.  I put two and two together; is this my Wi-Fi code?!  Give it a try and boom…I am connected!

Ok, this is great.  I am now connected to WiFi but can we get the TV to work because if not, YouTube music videos it is.  I go to work on troubleshooting the TV.  This is an IPTV system with an Android-like box.  The only way to power this on is by remote.  I double check all connections in the back of the TV and power supply.  Looks good to me.  Still won’t work. I resort to Troubleshooting 101.  I unplug the box, leave it off for 30 seconds and plug it back in.  Sure enough, it powers up. At this point, I get a text from the home owner, telling me to unplug and plug back in.

We are thinking this is awesome, we are in business.  Nope.  Just because it turns on, doesn’t mean it will work.  We turned it to the guide to find something to watch and it did not connect.  All attempts all night, the circle just spun around and around, searching for connection.

We had enough at this point and we left for our first stop of our adventure.  “Street meat” at Nathan Phillips Square.  It was pouring rain but we were happier out in the nasty weather, rather be sitting in the condo with no entertainment at all.  At the end of the night, my friends made their way back to Mississauga and dropped me off at the condo.  Thankfully, I had a key to get in and had locked the door so I at least felt safer entering the room (hopefully the security guard isn’t hiding under the bed).  Since I cannot watch TV, I settled into watching YouTube videos on my phone for a bit, even though they stopped and buffered every few minutes.

Overall, my technology experience at this “high-end” vacation rental in a prime, downtown Toronto proved to be less than mediocre.  I can only suspect that the amount of complaints they have in relation to their WiFi and IPTV are by far affecting the number of return renters to this location.  At a cost of $300 per night, I would rather go to the hotel down the street.  At least there they have WiFi, a TV, free breakfast and a pool! So this begs the question: do these vacation rental companies understand how they’re being compared to hotels and that they need to step up their technology game with commercial hardware and services? Or maybe they don’t know that there are commercial vendors out there offering these services?

Above and beyond though, the safety concern for entry into the unit far exceeds the technology failures.  If I had have been travelling alone, I would have been very fearful of my stay and I am quite certain, this is not the reputation a vacation rental company wants from female guests. A smart lock and digital concierge system would’ve gone a long way to ease my mind. Readily available and very common technology that I believe every vacation rental needs.

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