Seven Guests Who Will Never Use Airbnb Again

On May 1st, 2017, through Airbnb, we booked and fully paid for a beautiful property at Helensvale on the Gold Coast which perfectly suited our needs in order to spend Christmas with other family members who are residents there. On June 15th, the host withdrew the property for personal reasons. We received a perfunctory automated email from Airbnb that the property had been withdrawn, our booking had been cancelled, and a full refund had been initiated. Seven people were left with no accommodation and out of pocket to the tune of all the credit card costs.

We immediately emailed Airbnb to ask why we were not offered the choice of a refund or assistance to rebook a suitable equivalent property, as per the policy published on their website where it supposedly explains what happens if a host cancels. It took five days to get a response from Airbnb that this cancellation policy only applies in very specific circumstances and not to us. We asked Airbnb to refer us to where we could read and understand the specifics of this policy and how it didn’t apply to us. Airbnb refused to do this. We also asked Airbnb why they had immediately refunded us without consultation, again apparently in contradiction of their published policy. Again, Airbnb refused to provide an explanation.

In fairness to Airbnb, they did provide links to several alternative properties which they said “may suit our needs”. We had been very specific that we needed five bedrooms and large living spaces, even if it meant a higher cost. The alternatives Airbnb suggested were 2, 3, or 4 bedrooms and all entirely unsuitable, as though they had completely ignored our requirements. When we asked why Airbnb kept offering completely unsuitable alternatives which were in no way equivalent to our original booking, Airbnb refused to respond. When we tried to pursue the matter further, Airbnb effectively terminated the conversation saying they could offer no further assistance. Further emails to Airbnb have met with zero response.

The lesson from our experience is that Airbnb may work satisfactorily when things go well, but if there is a problem, such as the host cancelling, Airbnb will leave you high and dry. They are very difficult to reach to resolve an issue in a timely manner, they seem to apply their published policies arbitrarily, they refuse to respond to the specifics of a guest’s legitimate questions, and their responses are generalized as to what Airbnb “can’t” do rather than what they “can”. In summary, don’t expect any useful assistance when things go wrong. You have been warned.

Airbnb Does Not Guarantee Your Room or Rate

This is the letter I sent to Aisling Hassell and Brian Chesky and received no response.

Dear Airbnb,

Over this past Memorial Day Weekend, my wife and I had the displeasure of finding out just how well (rather, poorly) Airbnb takes care of its guests in unfortunate situations. I have had so many wonderful successes with Airbnb in the past that I am convinced this is a result of mismanagement coming from the supervisor of the customer service member who was handling my case. This is a formal complaint about the supervisor. My customer service representative, Brian, did everything in his power to help me out and I do believe he tried his hardest to resolve the problem.

Three hours before my wife and I were going to check into our Airbnb rental in San Antonio, our host canceled on us. This is a booking I had made almost two weeks in advance. I found out our host had canceled when Brian from your customer service department called us asap to help resolve the issue. I was a little freaked out as this was for my wife’s birthday; we are on a fixed budget as we are expecting a child in three months. I had searched hard to find a nice Airbnb within our budget that was close to the city center so we could get around easily. Brian and I looked at all the available rentals leftover for Memorial Day weekend and the least expensive option was $612 for two nights in a neighborhood I was not familiar with. The rental we had reserved was $270 for two nights in a nice apartment building with plenty of security.

I was reluctant to opt for a bungalow house in a strange neighborhood but it looked nice enough. Brian then informed me that Airbnb would only cover the cancellation refund plus 10%. This was not even close to us being able to afford the higher priced rental – I told Brian that was unacceptable.

How could Airbnb not guarantee our stay? It’s not our fault this host canceled. How can we be expected to pay more money for our vacation than we already agreed to pay? I told him that if the $612 airbnb rental, which was the cheapest one available is too expensive then Airbnb needs to put us up in an adequate hotel. We looked online and found that the Weston had a special rate $570 for the two nights. Brian said he would have to check with his supervisor and get back to me in an hour.

An hour went by and sure enough, Brian called me back. This time the refund had gone up by $100 and I told Brian that was not good enough: it was still not enough to make us whole. It would mean we would have to spend an extra $242 in order to afford the only available Airbnb rental left. He said he would call us back in an hour. Another hour went by. We were now in San Antonio without a place to stay. Brian called us back and told us the refund has gone up to $200. Once again, I explained to him we did not have an extra $142 dollars to spend on lodging for this vacation.

At this point, I requested to speak to his supervisor. Brian said his supervisor was unavailable and will – yes, that’s right – call me in an hour. Another two hours go by. I sent an email to Brian explaining no one called us. Three hours go by (that’s a total of six hours since the cancellation). At this point, my pregnant wife and I had to change into our dinner attire in the bathrooms of the restaurant where we were celebrating her birthday. Brian called me back in the middle of our dinner. I had to step away from this lovely celebration so I could yet again discuss where we were staying that evening.

Brian apologized about his supervisor not calling and once again said there was nothing more he could do. At this point, I told Brian that we were not going to be able to afford our vacation. He still couldn’t help. So my wife and I had a lovely dinner and drove back to Austin.

Yes, we got a $200 credit for a future Airbnb but that’s poor compensation for ruining our long weekend. I just don’t understand how this happened. How could it possibly be the case that if a host cancels on you hours before arrival that Airbnb won’t guarantee a place to stay that is as good or better than what was reserved? How can I trust Airbnb with my larger trips from this point forward? Thank god we only had to drive home, but what if we were stuck in a foreign country? What would happen in London or Japan where the next cheapest room might be many hundreds of dollars or thousands by the end of a vacation? Must I take that risk every time I book with your company?

This can’t possibly be. If the world found out this was the case, no one would use your service. I would imagine Airbnb would want to protect a traveler’s room guarantee at all costs. This is why I think this was not an Airbnb policy issue but a manager’s poor judgment. A poor judgment that cost a family their hard-earned vacation. At this point, we didn’t spend any more money because we ended the vacation almost before it began so I am not writing this letter asking for more reimbursement.

Malibu Nonsense Leaves Wedding Party Stranded

Stay away from Airbnb when you plan to travel to Malibu. An Airbnb host in Malibu cancelled on our bridal party of eight twenty minutes before the check-in time. The wedding was two hours later. Below is a transcript of my message to the Airbnb case manager, along with the whole conversation with the host; this guy said I was “not a good person” while I was scrambling before a wedding due to the Airbnb fiasco.

Hello Jhoe, I regret to inform you of a devastating experience that our party had with Airbnb over the weekend. I had the responsibility of hosting eight guests, some of whom flew internationally to attend a wedding in Malibu, CA. We were looking for accommodations for June 3rd, 2017. The first bad experience was my reservation for a property in Malibu with Francine, who cancelled immediately upon my reservation request, citing that there had been a death in the family, which may or may not have been true.

She gave multiple other excuses at first that did not make logical sense (from “going away for a week” to “it’s already been rented”). The good part at least was that she did indeed cancel, only after I had tried multiple times to contact her to no avail. However, shortly after this, I had confirmed a reservation with Airbnb at a nearby property hosted by a person named Shawn. I thought it was odd that a Malibu property would be available for just one night, because this is typically not characteristic of available properties in this area. I attempted to contact Shawn several times with no response, but relied upon the assurance that there was a reservation by Airbnb. I then coordinated amongst my party of eight to all meet at the property, where we would prepare for a wedding at 4:30 PM.

On the day of the reservation, half an hour before we were to check in, Shawn contacted me finally through Airbnb (somehow the messaging system magically started to work right before our check-in time). He stated that the property was not available and that Airbnb had made a mistake. He stated that Airbnb had a glitch or bug in the system. He then flippantly dismissed the case and blamed Airbnb, and was quite rude to me as a host. As it was now about 3:00 PM, we now suddenly had nowhere to go to prepare for the wedding, and nowhere for our party to stay. On top of this, Shawn’s ridiculously rude demeanor was adding salt to fresh wounds caused by this disaster. Our recorded interaction is here below, and you will see the kind of threatening language this individual uses.

The ultimate result of this “glitch” was that we had to scramble at the last moment to find alternate accommodations that were significantly more expensive, and also not sufficient for our party… not to mention an excessive amount of emotional distress on this special wedding day. As you will see from the conversation below, Shawn had contacted Airbnb the day before the reservation, and I was able to confirm this with a call center representative on the afternoon of June 3rd that there was in fact an escalation that took place internally at Airbnb. The problem is that Airbnb did not take action to contact me, as the guest with a confirmed reservation, when there was still ample time to make alternate reservations – not until twenty minutes before the check-in time.

There is clear evidence of this failure to perform on Airbnb’s part, unless Airbnb can prove this to the contrary. We find that Airbnb is at fault for negligence and allowing the consumer to rely upon false information to create plans and take specific actions. There are specific damages that were incurred as a result of Airbnb’s error. We will be demanding an equal amount of the reservation cost in compensation ($3555), although the actual and proximate damages are in fact much larger than this. This week, our attorney will be initiating legal action if this matter is not resolved in a satisfactory manner. Needless to say, there will also be significant fallout and I will initiate a massive social media marketing campaign to ensure that any other potential customers are aware of Airbnb’s negligent business practices. I have a relentless resolve about this kind of injustice and will ensure others do not have this kind of miserable experience in the future. Thank you for your swift action.

Regards,
Peter

Transcript of messages exchanged between Shawn and Peter:

Peter: Hello Shawn, Hope all is well! We are Santa Monica locals who are attending a wedding in Malibu. We are a clean, professional bunch who are just looking for a place to sleep on Saturday evening rather than driving back down the PCH at night. Thanks for your consideration!

Peter: Hello Shawn! How are you doing?

Peter: Thanks for accepting our reservation. I’d like to just confirm that you’re good with our group staying at the property tomorrow evening.

Peter: By the way, this estate is magnificent. We’re really looking forward to our stay.

Peter: We had one question – do you think it might be possible to check out at noon instead of 10:00 AM on Sunday? Please let us know, thanks.

Peter: Hello Shawn, are there any particulars about how we can enter the property today? Like a lockbox or a hidden key somewhere?

Shawn: I contacted them a day ago and they were supposed to reach out to you yesterday. Airbnb has made a mistake. The days are not available and there was some sort of bug in their system.

Peter: We are hours away from a wedding! Oh my goodness, there is going to be a huge problem.

Shawn: I have spoken with them and they were supposed to contact you.

Peter: This isn’t cool, man.

Shawn: I totally understand and it totally sucks and I am sorry that they messed up. The dates were blocked out on my end. I didn’t have anything to do with this reservation and it should not have been made. Airbnb was notified immediately and they are responsible for this mistake. I’ve been trying to reach out to you since we made this reservation.

Peter: You couldn’t tell me this yesterday.

Shawn: Dude what are you not understanding? There is a serious glitch in their system. I sometimes see your reservation on my app and then it’s gone the next time I log in. The dates were never available. And when I saw it I tried tapping your listing and it would crash. I’m surprised it’s working now cause all yesterday afternoon it wasn’t. Chill on me please. This is not my fault nor yours.

Peter: Just so you know, we had eight international guests for a wedding today. The wedding has been completely ruined thanks to this fiasco. It may not have been your fault Shawn, but your response to the situation sucked. If you had had my contact info sooner you could have let me know.

Shawn: I tried to let you know and every time I tried the app crashed on me. I tried to open the reservation and it crashed. I tried to get your direct contact info and it crashed. I checked on my phone and it crashed. I checked on my computer and it crashed. Up until this afternoon I couldn’t even respond to these messages. I don’t know what the hell you want from me at this point and you are being quite rude. I think based on your assumptions and behavior you are clearly upset (and I am very sorry about that, and wish I could have done more) but you should probably look to direct your anger to those responsible. I went above and beyond on this and can show you my email to and from Airbnb with my complaints. I told them that I could not reach you yesterday five minutes after you made the booking. Please do not contact me again. You are rude and I don’t think you are a good person. How dare you use profanity at me and act as if I am responsible. You are the victim here. You did nothing wrong and I empathize as to how terrible it must have been for you and those coming in for the wedding. But you have no right to come at me. Again, please do not contact me ever again.

Airbnb Fail, Kicked out of Barcelona Flat

On May 24th, I stayed for one night at a flat in Barcelona, and it was an absolute disaster. That night, things were very loud. Despite going to bed at 10:30 PM I wasn’t able to fall asleep until 3:30 AM when the party outside my window finally died down. These conditions were not conveyed to me ahead of time. I calmly approached my host about this the next morning at 8:40 AM. Rather than trying to resolve or talk through the issue, she canceled my reservation and demanded I leave the flat by 12:00 PM. I received a refund at 9:30 AM after which I frantically tried to contact Airbnb for support while I searched the website for alternatives. I couldn’t get ahold of anyone from their support team, and the website yielded “zero available rentals during my preferred time frame.”

By 9:40 AM, my host became hostile. By 9:55 AM, she was back at the flat demanding I leave immediately. She threatened me by saying: “We can do this the easy way or the hard way. Don’t make me call someone to remove you.” I tried to reason with her; I was afraid and alone, and I felt it best that I leave immediately. I hailed a taxi to a nearby hotel where I shelled out 500 euros per night for the remainder of my trip (2500 euros total). This was five times what I had budgeted for the trip – the host’s flat was only 80 euros/night. Seven days later, I still have not heard back from Airbnb support on this issue, despite sending the desperate email attached. I am massively disappointed with their vetting process for hosts, and for their lack of customer support in resolving the issue and making me feel like a valued customer. I have three upcoming trips planned with Airbnb over the next six weeks, and I’m tempted to cancel them all.

Airbnb Trust and Safety Department Beyond Horrible

Letter to the owner of Airbnb. This is my fifth attempt sending it. Of course, there has been no response.

Dear Brian, Alena, Anvita, and others,

First, Brian – I’m appealing to you since you left your email address stating to bypass the Trust and Safety Department and communicate with you directly. I’m taking you at your word that you will become involved. Utter frustration, there is no other way to put it. Yesterday I spoke with a supervisor of the “non-trip department.” I requested the following: “Please have the Trust and Safety Department call me.” I left my phone number and once again requested they email me. I also gave her another email address for them to communicate with me since my first one was not getting through. Incidentally, they also have this other email on file. She assured me she would “accelerate the case and the would get back to me.” I’ve heard that from 20-25 non-trip representatives… very laughable. That’s the line of BS that is common amount if all the reps. Now I’m being financially compromised, and I literally am losing sleep… I cannot rent my home since I don’t have a calendar of my renters and I’m afraid I’ll double book someone. I’m also with VRBO and I can’t rent with them as well. I will soon initiate a lawsuit. I regretfully have been left with no other choice and I will inform the media how Airbnb treats its hosts. As a 5-star host since 2014 I wonder what I’ve done to deserve this? Everything is documented below.

On May 15th:

The Trust and Safety Department blatantly ignores my problem. It was Anvita, now it’s Alena… maybe they are the same, who knows? Avery, your tech, said that they fixed the back end but not the front end and therefore I’m not able to log into my account. I’m in serious trouble. These people are so inept. I have no clue as to who my future renters are and I cannot reach them to give them directions to the house, not to mention I cannot rent my home. Please help! Please!

On May 11th:

Dear Mr. Hassell,

My name is Alan Mayer and I’ve been a 5-star Airbnb host since 2014. My relationship with Airbnb has always been excellent until just recently. Approximately five weeks ago, unbeknownst to me, Airbnb deleted my account and changed my email address to an unknown email address. Subsequently I have not received any inquiries for the past five weeks and my profile has been assigned a different property. In addition, this incorrect property information is being sent to my renters, causing confusion and anger. Six days ago I contacted your technical support team and spoke to several individuals who all assured me that a urgent high priority ticket would be sent to the appropriate team. I was told that Anvita would be assigned my case. For the past six days, I’ve received multiple phone calls and assurances by your representatives that the case ticket has been forwarded to Anvita. I have received no correspondence from Anvita. Therefore I’m locked out of my account and unable to correspond with my renters or access my Airbnb calendar. I respectfully request immediate assistance in solving this issue. Neither of us wants bad reviews nor loss of revenue.

Today is even worse than the past week. The password Anvita sent to get into my account doesn’t work and the wrong home is still being displayed. Regina (who’s been wonderful) tried to activate the password to no avail. Anvita at the Trust and Safety Department issued a notice saying the issue has been “solved,” when actually it’s worse than ever. Respectfully, I’m requesting another case worker be assigned. Anvita isn’t qualified nor will she communicate with me.

Host is a Scammer, Leaves my Parents outside in Barcelona

I’m searching how can I get a live and not automatic reply to the problem my parents encountered during their last visit to Barcelona. My parents’ English is not good enough for written communication so I’m writing on their behalf. My parents booked an apartment via Airbnb from my mom’s profile. They wanted a Russian-speaking host in order to overcome any language barrier. The host’s name was Olga. Unfortunately, there is no possibility of leaving a review on her page, for a reason… It is very important to me that this post gets the notice of Airbnb so that they may remove the host from Airbnb and other people won’t experience the same problems we did.

This host is a thief. When my parents arrived in Barcelona, they contacted Olga and she told them she was a realtor and not the owner of the flat. The flat owner, Ivan, should provide them the key. She told them she was not in Barcelona now and could not meet them. My parents tried to contact Ivan with no success for a few hours. My parents are in their mid 60’s – not a young couple – and this was very stressful for them. To find themselves in the middle of Barcelona with no place to stay, in addition to the fact they do not know Spanish and their English is very poor. After understanding that they were deceived on Airbnb (the website that we use a lot while traveling and usually are very satisfied with it) they had no other option but to just book a room in the hotel just next to the host’s apartment since they didn’t feel well and were very tired.

From the next day they found a cheaper hotel and booked there for the rest of their stay. We find it unacceptable to not have an opportunity to get in touch with someone at Airbnb and all the system provides is automatic replies. I asked Airbnb to contact us and to refund the difference between the booking and the hotel price (both hotels were the most simple ones). I have all the needed receipts and some Whatsapp conversations with the host and the owner of the flat. There were also lots of calls that were of course not recorded, unfortunately. I’m waiting for someone at Airbnb to please contact me asap.

Bachelor Party Last Minute Cancellation – Nowhere to Stay

Having booked an Airbnb to stay three months before my bachelor party, we were notified at 9:00 PM the night before check-in that our host had been evicted. In the email notifying us, the case manager provided a refund and a $200 credit, along with three listings that were 30-50 miles away from our original location. Needless to say, there were no desirable homes, and very few suitable ones for a group of our size. After finding a number to call via a friend who works at Airbnb, I spoke with an agent on the phone, and the agent told me they were going to run a few more searches and call me back. An hour later, I called again, found out that outbound calling was having trouble that evening, and the agent wasn’t able to call me back. They also weren’t able to help us in our search for housing either. We ended up finding two entire homes on the site our own and booked them that night, utilizing the $200 credit as well. In the morning, we were denied one house (it had already been rented, apparently) and were told that the host would be staying with us in the other as they weren’t able to find alternative housing on such short notice… tell me about it. We cancelled the second home, although we were charged for a day because we were within 24 hours of check in. We ended up booking hotel rooms instead. A week later, we still haven’t received a refund for that one day and have no credit to compensate us for the additional cost of a hotel and pain that this cause. Overall, I couldn’t be more disappointed with Airbnb’s customer service and lack of effort with what was a really important weekend for me.

Ghosted Without Notice for Two Weeks and Counting

I posted my spare bedroom in my “Rustic Basic Ecohome” on Saturday, April 22nd. Apparently I got a booking around noon the next day. The guest claims she drove to my house at around 3:00 PM and tried to call me. I was at home, sleeping with my phone off due to working the night shift. She got flustered when she called my Google voice number and heard my nickname rather than my legal name, the one that appeared on the listing. She never rang the doorbell. When I woke up, I tried to contact her for hours; apparently she was in some conference or meeting. She cancelled the booking and Airbnb incorrectly assumed I cancelled it. Up to this point, I felt okay with the situation; perhaps my guest was a bit skittish, so it’s probably better she found another place where she hopefully felt more comfortable.

Then Airbnb said they will not allow other bookings for the duration of the cancelled booking (two days) and admonished me for cancelling (which I did not do – rather, the guest gave up and perhaps pinned the blame on me to get her payment back). In the days to follow, I received no bookings. My listing showed up when I went on the site from my computer. Finally, after 13 days, when a friend tried to go online and vouch for my character, he got a broken link message. I asked him to look for my listing and he could not see it. I called Airbnb and they saw it as a “technical issue”. They started a case and referred me to the Trust & Safety Team, who only communicates via email. The tech support representative sent me an email that said “Ghosted”.

I think their temporary block for duration of the cancelled booking somehow wasn’t removed after two days. As of today, May 10th (17 days since the cancellation), my listing apparently remains non-operational with no explanation from Airbnb. I had originally planed to remodel a bathroom to give my guests their own suite. I’m so glad that I started with an existing bathroom and bedroom, considering how haphazard the process has been so far. I just put a listing up on Wimdu. Hopefully that process will go smoother than Airbnb.

Airbnb Nightmare in Portugal with Children

We booked and paid for a pad for our family of seven including minors in Lagos, Portugal. With a confirmation and weekly reminders we were excited for the upcoming trip and stay. Finally, when we arrived at the reserved place there was no host or key. We were abandoned by Airbnb and literally on the streets of a foreign county with children who were worried and traumatized by the experience. Our 3:00 PM check in to a place after a long transatlantic trip never happened. Calling Airbnb was a total waste of time because they did not seem to care that we didn’t have a place to sleep. Airbnb cancelled our reservations to the place the following day. We were supposed to be staying in a place I had paid for all the way back in February. I will never use Airbnb again and if you have children I would advise you to be careful booking with them. They never answered my letter of complaint and that just proves how careless they are when it comes to customer service.