Shameful. An embarrassment .
A disgrace to Singaporeans. These were some of the online insults thrown at a Singaporean couple after they were exposed for allegedly wrecking a one-room apartment when they were on holiday in Taiwan.
They had rented the apartment in the popular Ximending district in the capital Taipei for five nights in June through Airbnb.com.
The website allows property owners around the world to rent out their apartments or rooms to tourists.
The owner of the room, a 37-year-old tour guide, Mr Wang Chang Li, passed his key to a friend who handed it to the couple on June 6.
The woman in her early 20s is known as Cindy, Mr Wang said, adding that he is still trying to get back his apartment keys. Mr Wang has posted pictures of their exchanges and her online profiles on his Facebook account.
His encounter with the couple was reported by the Taiwanese media and featured on local websites The Real Singapore and Stomp.
Mr Wang told The New Paper over the phone from Taipei on Monday that the couple had told him they did not like the apartment after they arrived. They cancelled the reservation and demanded a refund after one night.
But when he returned two days later to clean up the place, he found it a mess. The air-conditioner was spoilt because it had been left on full blast at 16 deg C for a long time. The toilet tap was still running.
Mr Wang claimed that CCTV footage showed the couple returning to the apartment on June 15, when they allegedly stole snacks, a limited edition Hello Kitty hairdryer and toys from the pink Hello Kittythemed apartment.
He usually rents out the 130 sq ft apartment (about a fifth the size of an HDB three-room flat) for NT$1,500 (S$64) a night. He said the damage caused by the couple came up to about NT$30,000.
Mr Wang said: "The woman wanted a discount, so I charged her NT$1,000 a night. Later, she told me that she didn't want the room and I agreed to give her a refund, but this happened instead."
About US$73 (S$92) was credited to Mr Wang's account by the Airbnb website after the reservation was made.
"I've been a tour guide for three years, so I've met Singaporeans. They are usually trustworthy and reasonable. This is the first time I've met Singaporeans like them," he said with a hint of exasperation. Mr Wang has made a police report in Taipei.
Seeking legal action
When TNP contacted Cindy on Sunday through Facebook, she would only say that she is seeking legal action.
Her mother, who declined to be named, said Cindy turned off her phone on Monday and had not returned home for the past two days.
"I've been contacting all her friends to find out her whereabouts. "Her brother's girlfriend said that she is very embarrassed and even suicidal. If anything happens to my daughter, I'll take action against (Mr Wang)," she said in Mandarin.
Her mother thinks the matter has been blown out of proportion. "When she returned from her holiday in Taiwan, she told me that the room was too small, so she decided to change accommodation," she said.
"Most people wouldn't turn off the aircon when they leave a hotel room. The aircon is probably just lousy."
And she was adamant that her daughter did not steal anything from the room.
"She told me she didn't tidy the room before she left, but she didn't wreck anything. We run our own business and we are quite well-off. Why would my daughter want to steal from him?"
According to the Airbnb website, in the event that a host claims and provides evidence of damage, a guest is required to pay for the damaged items.
Mr Wang said Airbnb told him in July to submit his police reports about the incident, but he has not heard from the website since.
Lawyer A.P. Thirumurthy, who has 15 years of experience, said: "When you book a room, there is a contract between the guest and the hotel.
The hotel can sue if property is damaged, and the guest has a right to sue if the hotel doesn't fulfil the conditions it promised. This is international law.
"If you don't like the room, you can complain, ask for a better room or contact the authorities for help.
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