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By The Way
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The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

A man thought he was staying in a Miami Airbnb. He was in the wrong house.

Around 9 a.m., there was knock at the bedroom door. It was the homeowner.

(Washington Post illustration; iStock)
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Paul Drecksler had the instructions for his Miami Airbnb right in front of him: Open the gate, make sure it latches so the dog doesn’t get out, and let yourself into the unlocked guesthouse in the back.

It was 2 a.m., nearly 20 hours after starting his travels on March 8, and Drecksler — in town to officiate a friend’s wedding this past Friday — thought everything was in order. The bed was made up with two folded towels on top. The 38-year-old, who lives in Ecuador and North Carolina, was surprised to find a messier-than-expected space, but he looked at photos on the app and figured the owner had just let things get cluttered.

He climbed into bed and conked out. In the morning, he woke up to the sound of knocking on the bedroom door. It was the homeowner — he was not expecting a guest.

“This is my house,” Drecksler recalled the man saying.

“This is an Airbnb I rented,” he replied.

It was not.

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Only then did Drecksler realize that something had gone wrong between fetching the GPS coordinates from Airbnb, entering them into Google Maps and then using that information to call an Uber. Despite traveling professionally — he is founder of the site — and using Airbnbs extensively for a decade, he inadvertently ended up next door to the guesthouse he had rented.

“It’s just the perfect storm at 2 a.m. of following the instructions incorrectly that happened to work,” he said in an interview with The Washington Post.

Sleepy and mortified, Drecksler apologized profusely to the homeowner, whose name he still does not know.

“He was super cool about it,” he said, and even referred to the mix-up as an “honest mistake” and pointed him toward the right home. Next door, Drecksler followed the same steps — gate, dog, backyard guesthouse — and found an exact match for the photos in the listing.

He messaged the host to let her know what had happened and apologize: “Well, true story, I spent the night at your neighbor’s house.”

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In an Instagram video that he posted later that day, Drecksler said the story was “kind of funny and crazy” in hindsight, but also dangerous and “pretty terrifying” in the moment.

“He could have come in shooting or could have called the police or a combination of both,” he said. “Obviously a number of bad things could have happened. The way he reacted was so accommodating to the mistake. It was definitely the best possible outcome that could have occurred.”

At a pre-wedding dinner with the bride and groom and close family on March 9, Drecksler shared the story, which became the talk of the wedding. He told the group that he felt awful and wanted to send the homeowner a thank-you gift. Someone suggested a lock.

The bride, Stephanie Linder — another frequent Airbnb user — said she’s experienced “little mix-ups” like going to the wrong door or pressing the wrong button during a stay. Since many people in Miami have in-law suites and fenced yards, “I could totally see how it happens,” she said.

Knowing that her friend was safe, she found the mishap hilarious. But it was also sobering.

“Everybody kept saying if it was a different state, he could have been shot,” she said.

Airbnb spokeswoman Ruthie Wabula said in an email that the company had not heard of a similar situation.

“We’re just glad everyone is safe and that the confusion was cleared up,” she said.

Drecksler said he doesn’t want to disturb the homeowner who accidentally hosted him. But he does want to express his gratitude. And if the man happens to read about the experience, Drecksler has a message: “If you’re ever in North Carolina or Ecuador, you’ve got a place to stay with me anytime you want,” he said.