The Inner Workings of Airbnb: What They Won’t Tell You

While I am still waiting for an outcome on my own host nightmare – 35 days and counting – I thought I would share this bit of information with all you wonderful people here on Airbnb Hell. I’ve been perusing the stories of hosts and guests alike. It’s all very sad and alarming as to the rate that Airbnb is burning bridges with hosts and guests. Something that everyone needs to understand is how a company platform like Airbnb works. There is this illusion that they make all their money when a host offers his home and a guest rents it. While Airbnb makes a tidy sum from the 3% they take from the host and the 18% (I have heard) from the guest, that is not their real moneymaker.

1. 21% of the money is collected from the actual physical ‘rental’ of a property.

2. Interest on money held. Airbnb collects all payments at booking (sometimes months in advance) and sits on it, only release it to hosts after the guest checks in. Even if these funds were collected and sat on during just one overnight period alone, the interest that is compounding is almost staggering to think about.

3. Negotiated credit card processing rate. While hosts and guests are paying a certain advertised percentage rate for credit card processing, this rate has been negotiated (behind the scenes) with the credit card company. Airbnb collects their advertised rate from hosts and guests and then pays their ‘negotiated’ rate to the credit card company. Maybe 0.017% doesn’t seem like much, but when you are processing hundreds of thousands (or possibly more) dollars a day it adds up very quickly in Airbnb’s pockets.

4. Selling your information to third parties. This is Airbnb’s goldmine. This is why they want access to all your private and pertinent information. This is not to protect the hosts. Platforms already exist where Airbnb could act as merely a ‘Yellow Pages’, connecting hosts and guests alike. It would then be up to hosts to vet guests of their own accord. However, that is not where the money is. Airbnb wants all your information because that makes you more valuable.

Your age? They have lists for that.

Your gender? They have lists for that.

Your Facebook friends? Yes, they have lists for that too.

You are a potential goldmine and you don’t even know it. Everyday your information is sold for a huge profit to all the ‘marketers’ out there. Now don’t worry: they aren’t selling your actual name and then all your personal information attached to it (at least we don’t believe they are – because that crosses into illegal territory). However, with that having been said, I personally do not trust Airbnb and that could be happening while you are reading this. You and all the others like you of the same age, gender, nationality, etc. are being grouped together and being sold off like cattle at an auction barn. This is how you keep getting all that wonderful advertising ‘tailored just for you’ – because the marketers already know you because they bought your information.

You can get angry when they screw you over hosting and pull your house from their database, or as a guest who has rented a home that doesn’t exist and is sitting in the rain in the middle of the night trying to call the help center and no one is home. To really make a difference and an impact is to let your friends and family know not to do business with them and if they choose to do so anyway, don’t let them have access to your or any of your friends’ and family’s information. Don’t tie your Facebook account or any other list to verifications. If you are truly done with Airbnb, go in and delete your account from their database. Deleting an account only deletes it from us, the public; Airbnb still has all your information. What you need to do is go into your account and make changes a few days before. Delete out as much information as you can from your profile. Don’t just make fake changes. If you change your birthday, you have still given them an opportunity to put you on a list. Remember they are there for quantity, not quality.; they don’t care how much of the information that they sell is accurate. Let that be a problem of the marketers. Remove what you can. Then a few days later, delete your account. Now all that is left on their end is the scant bit of information you left them with days earlier. Remember people: the only way to eat an elephant is ‘one bite at a time’. Now, where did I lay that fork…? Good luck out there friends.

Incomplete Airbnb Stays: No Reviews Allowed

My friends and I lost hope of getting a proper resolution of our case through the Airbnb resolution center. We did not get a refund and our review was not published on the website. The situation with feedback is totally awful as our review was supported by multiple photos. We have contacted Airbnb multiple times but got only formal responses. I would very much appreciate if you could advise what we should do in this situation. I would want a chance to at least make our review available to others on Airbnb; the apartment is still listed on the site so there will be other people who may suffer from it.

We had used Airbnb to book an apartment in Barcelona from January 5-11, 2017 for our family. We arrived at the apartment at 8:30 AM but at that time the previous guests were there. The host told us that we may check in only after 12:00 PM. At that time we did not have a chance to look through the apartment and discuss its conditions with the host. We left our luggage and used the rest of the day for sightseeing in Barcelona. We came back at 7:00 PM and realized that the apartment was not in a good conditions. The linen was dirty, the bed was not suitable for two people, and there was no linen at all for the third guest. We can provide the full review with photos if anyone is interested. The host was not available so we could not discuss these issues with her. We were not comfortable staying in the apartment, so we had to leave it and find another location.

The same day, we informed the Airbnb resolution center about these issues and asked for assistance. The next day I discussed these issues with the host and she told me that our requests about cleaning and the bed could not be satisfied. She did not feel comfortable providing the apartment after our feedback about these conditions so we agreed to sort it out with Airbnb. A few days later, an Airbnb specialist cancelled our booking without our consent, and informed us that the case was closed. When we came back home from the vacation we provided a detailed review but it was not published by Airbnb. We had contacted the Airbnb resolution center and got a response that the review could not be released as we did not stay in the apartment and the booking was cancelled. We had called the resolution center and explained that the review was based on our personal experience – that we had to leave the apartment because of its poor conditions and that our booking was cancelled by Airbnb – but the response from the resolution center did not change.

Airbnb Review was Blocked after Bad Experience

On my first morning, I refused room service because I was sleeping and the host contacted me later on the same day to give me a hard time. I decided to leave the room early, but I could have done that regardless as the cancellation policy was flexible. I left the room by following the official Airbnb process and wrote a negative review. My review was hidden because it “violated the terms of service by including social commentary” – even though that’s nowhere on the policy – and I didn’t receive any notification, nor did I have the chance to edit it. It simply got blocked, secretively. However, the same review was visible to the host, who retaliated with a negative review even though I was an exemplary guest. The host’s review – untrue, biased and vindictive – was posted on my profile immediately. After some back and forth with customer service debating the issue this is what I received: “As of now, your review has been removed from Cristina’s profile. This will be regarded as our final decision in this case.”

This seem to be a rigged system designed to protect hosts and curb negative reviews to create an illusory five-star marketplace where hosts and guests can only scratch each other’s back. I’m not the only one to think that. This system may seem pragmatic and effective at first but it’s not sustainable. By turning your back on the guests and censoring their reviews, eventually they will stop using this site, one by one, even though they have only five-star hosts. A straight and honest review system built Uber and the lack of it will shut Airbnb down.

Hostess Attacks My Weight In Response to My Review

Where do I start? My boyfriend and I were going to Madrid for a few days to help him prepare for a month-long trip to Africa. He grew up in Madrid and has a Spanish passport. We booked an apartment from a hostess named Olga. She had wonderful reviews and seemed very nice. Well, our stay was not what we expected; it was horrible. However, I understand that my concerns may not be concerns to other people so instead of writing an extremely rude comment, I chose to write an honest, yet professional review of my stay. After reading her review and responding to her review of me, I deleted my Airbnb account. Here is what I wrote:

“The apartment is much smaller than the pictures make you believe. There is no terrace and the only windows are in the bathroom, which isn’t good because the neighbors can see right through when they’re open. If you have a lot of luggage, it is not ideal because the building does not have an elevator. There is really only enough space for two people. If you’re just planning to sleep in the apartment and not cook or plan or anything special, it’s ideal for that purpose since you won’t be spending so much time there. But, since Madrid was more of a stop to another destination and not the destination itself, my boyfriend and I were expecting to have more space and expecting all the appliances to work properly. The apartment just did not fit our needs, and we felt that some things could have been explained better.”

Her first review of me was positive, but when she saw that I was not in awe of her apartment like everyone else was, she attacked me and wrote a second review and a response to my review. Her response says it all so here it is (it is in Spanish so I will translate it for everyone):

“Any apartment is too small for Elizabeth’s size. Of course the hot water runs out when she showers. I recommend that Elizabeth reads the description well before making a reservation. The listing of the apartment said that it was small and that there was no elevator. Also if you travel with four large suitcases it makes it difficult to go up any kind of stairs. In reference to the hot water: the heater has a capacity of 50 liters and this is the first time in four years that someone has complained that the hot water ran out. The internet is made of fiber optics and runs very fast, so we also have never had complaints about this either. I’m sorry she had so many difficulties, but I think the solution lies with her; to pick spaces that are super big and that have an elevator.”

First of all, there was no hot water the first night we got there, nor the next morning. We turned on the shower and only cold water came out; clearly it wasn’t working from the moment we got there. My boyfriend and I had to hand wash ourselves three of the five days we were there. Secondly, size has nothing to do with the perception of the size of the apartment. In her second review of me that is present on my profile, she wrote that I was “extremely heavy.” I’m sorry, but not being a size 6 doesn’t make me “extremely heavy.” I’m a size 16. The average woman is a size 12. The apartment was objectively small. My boyfriend is like a size 6 or 8 and even he was upset with the small size of the apartment. Third, I had two small suitcases and two big suitcases. Honestly, her photos don’t represent the apartment.

I was really upset that she attacked my size just because I was unhappy with my stay. I didn’t mention it in my review, but every time my boyfriend and I tried to cook in the apartment, the breaker would just cut off and all the electricity was gone. By her logic, that is due to my size too. Instead of realizing that she needed to fix some things in her apartment, she attacked me with rude comments. What makes me so angry is that my post wasn’t even mean. Just because I didn’t fall before her feet and praise her like other guests have done, I guess that means a rude and hateful comment is warranted. In short, she was a total jerk and so immature. It’s no wonder girls have body image issues by the time they’re six. Other women constantly put them down and make them think if they’re not a size 2, then they’re fat.

Needless to say, I won’t be using Airbnb again. This was my first and last experience with them. The fact that they don’t have an email or a phone number for you to complain is so annoying. I reported the review and her response, but it is still active. I have attached a picture of her profile and this is the link. If you come across her place, don’t stay there. Although it is (as I said in my review) ideal for people who don’t plan to spend time in the apartment, don’t stay there simply because the hostess is a demon from hell and will lash out at you if you don’t praise her. From now on, it’s hostels and hotels for me.

Hell in Apollo Bay: Australian Airbnb Fraud

I purchased accommodation through this host for a property called Diandera Dirrah a in Apollo Bay, Australia from the December 27th to January 2nd. I have confirmation emails from Airbnb confirming these dates. I paid $2617 for six nights’ accommodation and on the second morning the host arrived at the property and told us to “get out or she would call the police” as she had “spies in the neighbourhood who told her we had a party.”

We did no such thing. She was yelling, laughing hysterically and threatening us. I had no leg to stand on and we left. We had to camp at a local football oval and buy tents and yoga mats to sleep on as we were five hours from home; it was horrible. We drove past the property and saw she already had new occupants staying there. This is a scam. She took $2617 from hard working, responsible individuals and threatened us. We should have received a refund but Airbnb did nothing to help. She then illegally altered the receipt to say that we only stayed one night for $2617 which is an absolute joke. Please see the attached documents that prove we were confirmed for six nights and then the altered receipt. Do not stay here; they will steal your money.

Nasty Review When Host Provided an Uninhabitable Property

I booked a stay at what was described as a beautiful retreat in the Yosemite area. My friends flew in from across the country to join me on a hiking trip in Yosemite and we were excited to be going. Dan, the owner, was very happy to rent to me, and it was all set up. We arrived to find the place to be uninhabitable. No running water, no promise of repair, and the oven looked as if it was vintage 1970s and had never been cleaned. There was a huge crack in the microwave rendering it unusable. We had to use water from the hot tub to flush the toilets. There was nothing about the place that was as described and I let him know it. He would not offer a refund and told me that if I wrote a bad review he would sue me. I called Airbnb repeatedly for help. We had to search for another place to stay. They promised callbacks that never came, and when I did reach someone, it sounded like I was talking to someone overseas. Whether or not that was the case, they asked me to write a letter – which I did – and to email pictures, because I definitely had plenty of them. They were not willing to try to help me in any way. Ultimately I disputed the charge with Visa and won. Today, I went to the site for the first time since that nightmare, and there was a negative review of me as a guest written by the host of the uninhabitable filthy place that Airbnb had listed for rent on their site. When I tried to reach out to Airbnb to discuss removing the review as it was unfair and they had proof of it, I could not get anywhere with customer service and couldn’t even find an email address. Airbnb is a terrible site and I will never use it again.

Airbnb Screws Guests with Refund Policy

I’ll keep it short. I had a place reserved for a month on Airbnb and the host (Laila) did not have the apartment ready. She told me that she would give me a full refund, but then decided to change her mind that night. That was on a Friday night. She kept telling Airbnb that she would let my family and I stay (my wife and I have a two year old), but would ever answer our calls. Finally, after three days in a hotel, Airbnb cancelled the reservation on her behalf and gave us a full refund. That was on Sunday night. They did not take the word of the guest at all, only what the host said.

As Laila was not ready, I reserved another place in a last-minute situation to get my family somewhere to stay for the month. When I arrived at the apartment I asked the host if he was allowed to rent to me, and he said he wasn’t but that it was ok because he had just bought a house. I told him that I wasn’t comfortable with that, and to please cancel the reservation. He told me no, and to get out of his apartment. After he kicked my family and me out, I called Airbnb to explain. They then cancelled the reservation on my behalf, without my permission, and gave me a $2 refund on $2350. I called his apartment complex to confirm that he was not allowed to rent, and they provided me with the portion of the lease saying that he is not allowed to sublease or use online rental sites.

I let Airbnb know and sent them the portion of the lease, but they said that I needed to provide his full lease with his name and address. Seriously? They know that I can’t provide anything other than the contact information for the apartment complex so that they can reach out. I’ve been going back and forth with them for over a week, and they gave me an 80% refund, but at this point it’s looking like he’ll keep $600. Now I have to go through the process of filing a claim with my credit company in the hopes that their lawyers can resolve it. If you have the option, do not use Airbnb. There are other sites like HomeAway and VRBO that will provide you with a much better service, and offer protection for this exact situation.

Hour of Hell: Quick Glimpse at Potential Nightmare

This is the review I left on the host’s page:

I stayed for an hour. When I met Jason to pick up the key, which he was in a hurry to do so he could go watch a football game, he invited me and my under-21 kids to come back and “kick it” with him. He talked and talked about his job and how he broke his hand punching the wall. The bathroom had cockroaches as did the room I was going to stay in. The room is right next to the street so you hear all cars and anyone walking by. Around 8:00, in he came with a friend laughing, talking and turning the TV on very loudly. There is no trash can in the bedroom which I feel is needed. The entire home is very dirty with paint peeling, dirt and dust. My hour here was a nightmare!

This is the host’s reply…

First of all, I want to say that I take great care and effort in hosting Airbnb travelers in Charleston. This review is a slander in order to get a refund where this traveler ended up staying with one of their kids attending CoFC. I offered a complimentary bottle of champagne of which I do to some guests upon their arrival. The distortion of relayed information on how I broke my hand unloading my DJ equipment off a stage the night prior is in no ways hitting a wall, first and foremost. I have never even seen a cockroach on my property and considering the traffic my house sees with guests it gets cleaned daily. No trashcan in the bedroom is a first for a complaint [for this property] which has almost 50 great reviews… The timelines don’t even match up with an hour there when her check in was earlier and I never even saw her after check in. I really hope this isn’t a common practice with this Airbnber with her check ins abroad as it is wrong to a host to do such practices and falsify information. I took the high road and decided not to even leave a review for this Airbnber.

As of November 2016, I have sent numerous requests to the “Resolution Center” to no avail. I am now in contact with our company’s legal department.

We Didn’t Clean Host’s House = Negative Feedback

For my 40th Birthday we rented a house on Mallorca, Spain on Airbnb. The total for three nights was  1400 euros, including a 150 euro cleaning fee. I spent three nights there with family and a few friends. The stay was wonderful, but the beds were dirty and smelly. I didn’t report this fact to Airbnb, as we were overall lucky with the accommodation. Instead of giving negative feedback to the host, I just didn’t leave any feedback. After 14 days we found out the host had left following feedback for me:

“My guest, his family and friends celebrated a birthday party at the house. They were very nice and the communication was easy so we decided to offer them a late check out. Unfortunately, they didn’t invest this extra time in tidying up the house a little bit, as we found it very dirty and untidy. This is definitely not the way we consider it should be when you leave a property.”

The host offered the late check out, because this was more convenient to him. Also he had someone inspect the house at check out and the person said everything was ok. I felt very offended, giving my money to someone, and paying 150 euros for the cleaning. And he complains and expects me to have cleaned his house instead. If it was shared accommodation, things would have been different, but this was a commercial house rental. I wrote an email to Airbnb, asking them to delete my first review. They never replied, so I cancelled my account with Airbnb and I am note ever coming back.

Airbnb London Hell: Host Refuses to Cancel

I had booked an apartment with Isable and Hyder in London. I had made my booking at the end of October and paid three months in advance (all emails and payments are well recorded and can be provided if needed). Prior to making our journey to the apartment, we had contacted the host in the morning to reconfirm the booking and ensure everything went smoothly. The host had confirmed on several occasions that the apartment was ready for us. This was confirmed on the evening of December 28th, the next morning, and while we were on our way to the apartment.

When we arrived the consigner informed us that there was someone in the apartment we had booked. We tried to contact the host on several occasions and did not get any response from her; she avoided taking our calls. We finally managed to get ahold of the host, who then tried to relocate us to another apartment, which was much smaller in size, dirty and quite disgusting, and without a working shower, heathers, cooker or oven (recorded in photographs above). We informed the host that we would not be able to stay in such an apartment and she asked us to cancel our booking without any refund or compensation for the trouble they had caused us. However, we informed them we would be willing to take another apartment, similar to the one we had booked, but this was unavailable. The host then informed us they would compensate us £100, which was very insignificant, and an insult to the damage caused. We refused to cancel the booking and went through the process of a booking a hotel in the same area, which cost much more. At 7:02 PM the host decided to cancel the booking and a refund of £1041 was made to our PayPal account. However we had spent a lot of time and money in planning our five-day trip: £100 in household shopping including fruits and vegetables, £28.67 for our Uber from Harrow to Saint Edmund’s Terrace, £8.98 to Forset Court, and £25.24 back to Harrow. Our hotel booking is now £510 per night for three people and we are staying a total of five nights, totaling £2,550.