Tourists and travellers are being warned to be wary of popular travel booking websites after a terrifying midnight hotel break-in.
Wellingtonian Marie Donald used Agoda.com to book a room at the Metropolis building in Auckland for her and daughter Freya in August.
They were looking forward to spending time in the city, and going to the Katy Perry concert.
But their first night in the room proved to be a traumatic experience, after they were burgled as they slept.
"I try not to think about it… you know, thinking of somebody being in our apartment when I've got my child," she said.
"As a mum, you're thinking, 'my God, that could've been really horrendous,' you know… if we'd woke up. Thank God we didn't."
Turns out, the guests from the previous night had never checked out – and never handed in their swipe cards.
Instead, they returned the next evening and snuck into Marie and Freya's room, stealing Marie's wallet and perfume.
"The fridge door was open, which was a bit weird… And then I sort of said to her, 'did you put the light on?' and she said 'no, no it wasn't me mum'."
Marie then realised she'd been burgled – the thieves going on a spending spree at petrol stations, a fast food outlet and a car wash in South Auckland.
At the time of booking, Marie thought she'd paid for a room at the building's hotel – but it was actually a listing from property management company Cloud Inn.
"It just showed pictures of the apartments, but it wasn't clear that it wasn't through a hotel."
The listing shows areas like the building's pool and gym – which can be used by Cloud Inn guests – but also the hotel's front desk, which cannot.
Cloud Inn also doesn't have direct access to the Metropolis security system, and didn't cancel the swipe cards when they weren't returned – something Marie only learned afterwards.
"I was gobsmacked, it made me feel sick because that was something that could have been prevented," she said.
"That's hotel 101… if somebody's not handed a key [in], you cancel it."
Marie requested a refund from Cloud Inn, but the company refused.
It also refused to compensate her for the lost property – about $450.
Marie then asked Agoda for a refund, and tried to get the booking website to remove Cloud Inn's listings.
It refused to take down Cloud Inn's rooms but after being contacted by Fair Go, Agoda did agree to refund the room cost to Marie, as a "gesture of goodwill".
Marie is disappointed Cloud Inn can still advertise rooms, if it can't guarantee they're secure.
But she was also gobsmacked to learn the Cloud Inn was claiming it too was a victim in the incident.
"How, how are they a victim? A victim of their own incompetence," she said.
Marie tried to publish a review of the burglary on Agoda.com, but the website doesn't allow reviews to mention "legal issues… such as theft".
Security consultant Charlie O'Donnell says no matter which website, it always pays to read reviews carefully.
"Read in between the lines because they often don't publish the bad reviews and when they do, they're sometimes diluted in a favourable manner," he said.
O'Donnell says no matter where you stay, always make sure there's a physical lock that can be pulled across the door.
"They have a legal and a moral obligation to ensure people who are renting their properties are safe and secure. Minimum they should be giving them internal locks on the door so when they enter the apartment, you can lock the door – either with a deadbolt, throw bolt or chain," he said.
The Metropolis body corporate told Fair Go it's now changed the security settings so that swipe cards cannot bypass the door snib once it's locked, and that the Cloud Inn – and other rental providers – only have swipe cards issued for the duration of each of their bookings.