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.

Reflections from a Guest: Airbnb is Going Downhill Fast

As long term Airbnb users, we can say it that is starting to go south and management doesn’t care. Firstly the currency conversion fees: when I book in a location with a different currency I am forced to use Airbnb’s woeful rates (more profit to Airbnb). I’d rather use my bank’s rates, but can’t do that anymore. Next we have awful hosts (looking at you NYC). What happens here is you enquire about a booking for given dates at the advertised price. The host comes back with a ‘special offer’ which is much higher than the advertised rate and may or may not include a ‘please pay me XXX on arrival in cash as well’. Nope, the calendar price is what we will pay. Suddenly, ‘I’m sorry the house is no longer available’. A bit of a grey area, but customer support doesn’t really care as there has not yet been a confirmed booking. Although a confirmed booking does not seem to matter either, as my next and last gripe will explain.

This has happened twice now. We make a booking, it is accepted, paid and confirmed, and we are all happy. Then sometime before the arrival date, the host decides to increase the price. We refuse, and ask Airbnb for advice. In the meantime, the host contacts Airbnb and they cancel on the host’s behalf. There are no penalties to the host, who is also a Superhost. We are left to find alternative accommodation and Airbnb doesn’t even follow their own terms and conditions.

Airbnb Owners Traumatise Neighboring Family

We have attempted to communicate with our neighbours for the last three years to find some sort of resolution to the constant intrusion to our family life. Our communication has been up and down to say the least but we are now blocked. In summary they have countered, ignored and deferred our desperate pleas for action for three years. I guess if they are earning $600 a night for a heavily booked hotel with no consequences, it’s not in their best interest to acknowledge our concerns. Insulating the house and putting up a decorative privacy screen does nothing to mitigate the foul behaviour and assaults that emanate from an openly advertised party venue. The owners are running the business next door and they are responsible for what happens there. I believe that as an owner of the property they should be held accountable for what happens. We have been verbally and physically abused and my children now have to ask if it’s ok to play in our back yard. Airbnb have ignored our multiple reports and phone calls. I was hit by flying beer and wine bottles last week. What does it take?

 

Constant Noise from Airbnb Guests Annoys Neighbors

My next door neighbour owns 15 properties in Dublin, and unfortunately we happen to live next to one of them. The listing says up to six people are allowed (for a two-bedroom apartment), which effectively allows big groups of friends to rent it. As a results, every other weekend we suffer from loud music and noises coming from this apartment. Our efforts to speak to the visitors is nothing more than a short-term solution. They might listen and somewhat calm down but there are new people every few days. We’ve never seen the owner, and we unable to discuss this matter with him. We’ve been forced to file a complaint with Airbnb, but still have yet to receive a reply.

Am I Being Fooled? Long-term Airbnb in Iceland

I was planing to rent an apartment in Reykjavik, Iceland. The price looked a little cheap. I wanted to ask if it was the real deal; the landlord said he lives abroad and he is offering to pay one month’s rent and one month’s deposit through Airbnb, that he will keep the money until I get the keys and agree to rent the apartment, and only then will the rent be deposited in his bank account. Here are his messages:

Hello, I just read your email regarding my apartment located in Reykjavik. It has two bedrooms, a living room, bathroom, and kitchen. I bought this apartment for my daughter while she was studying in Iceland. She’s back home permanently, so I’m renting the place for an indefinite time. Before we go any further I would like to know a little something about you: how many people intend to live in the apartment, and for how long? The flat looks exactly like the pictures, fully furnished and renovated. Also – very important – the utilities (cold/hot water, electricity, wireless broadband Internet, digital TV, parking spot, dishwasher, garbage disposal, microwave, refrigerator, washing machine, etc.) are included in the price of 125.000ISK/month. As for me, you can rest assured that I will never ask you to leave the apartment.

My daughter is building her life here, and I am too old to move to Iceland, so we won’t disturb you. You can use my furniture, or you can also use your own if you prefer. If you decide to use yours, you will have access to a very large and well-ventilated cellar, where you can store my furniture. Now, a little bit about myself so we can get to know each other better. My name is Thomas Nordanger and I’m a 58-year-old structural engineer. I work for MWH Global Engineering. I worked hard to have a good career and I really respect hard-earned money. The company I work for has projects all around the world so most of my time I’m traveling. I have a lovely wife, Sarah, and a 25-year-old daughter, Maria. I am very proud to say that soon I’m going to be a grandfather. Another member of our family is an 8-year-old Labrador which we all love, so, I have no problem if you will keep pets. I’m in Rome now working on a new project. The only inconvenience is that my job doesn’t allow me to leave Rome even for a single day. We just hired some new staff and I’m in charge of their training. However, this won’t affect you at all. I can make arrangements to rent the apartment from Rome (on my expense of course). Looking forward to hear from you soon. All the best from Italy!

After I expressed some concern about the situation, he wrote this:

Thank you for your reply but the problem is that I’m in Rome already. Like I have informed you, the price you shall pay for one month’s rent will be 125.000ISK, with no extra taxes to pay. The security deposit is 125.000ISK. I want to retrieve the money from my bank account on a monthly basis, so I hope it will be no problem for you to wire the money to my bank account. The apartment is ready for you; you will need only to receive the keys and the contract to check in, and see if you like it. Obviously we need a way to complete this deal, that will allow us to make sure we receive what we are after. Along those lines, I have found a way for us to complete the deal safely and fast, and in this way you will receive the keys in less than three days, if you move quickly as well.

The solution is a worldwide third party company called Airbnb (www.airbnb.com). They will provide assistance in handling the payment and delivery of the rental package. We use this company to see that you are a trusting and serious person. With this procedure you will be able to check the apartment before I receive the payment. Please be aware that it is not necessary for you to register with Airbnb given that I’ve been a registered user for four years and I’ve made over five transactions with them so far. They are really professional and they have great services. Let me know if you are interested so I can provide you with all the steps of this transaction. You need to know everything about this process before we get this started. I think is right for both of us.

I replied again asking for more information, and he wrote back:

This transaction cannot be made face-to-face. This is the whole reason for using Airbnb – for both of us to be 100% protected. Regarding the process, you will only have to deposit the first month’s rent with Airbnb for the contract and security deposit 125.000ISK + 125.000ISK = 250.000ISK and they can proceed with shipping the rental package (keys and documents). I will pay for three-day delivery so you will receive the keys and the contract signed by me right away. I will explain you step by step how this process will work:

To start the process all I need is your information (full name and address). I will go online at Airbnb to deposit the keys and the contract with your name as the intended receiver. Airbnb will check the package to see if everything is in order and also the legal papers that will come along with the keys and proof of ownership with their Real Estate Professional Department. Airbnb will send you a delivery notification to let you know they have the keys and the papers in their custody. They will also send you all the payment instructions to complete the rental transaction.

At this point you will have to go to your bank and make a money transfer to the bank account of an Airbnb representative for the amount we agreed upon; the total amount you shall deposit is 250.000ISK. After you make the deposit you will have to send the payment details to Airbnb. Airbnb will verify the transfer and if everything is in order they will start the shipping procedures using UPS or TNT Next Day Shipping Service. After you receive the package, you will go and check the apartment and in three days (inspection time) you must contact Airbnb to inform them if you want to keep the apartment or not. If everything is in order you will instruct Airbnb to send me the information about the money deposit and I will be able to receive the funds.

If you don’t like the apartment they will be sending the money back to you and you will send back the keys and contract. Airbnb can’t release the funds without your approval. Now I must know for sure if you agree because there are a lot of people interested in renting this apartment and I want to know for sure if I can tell them it’s unavailable. If you agree to what I suggested I will tell them that my apartment is already rented and I will keep it for you. If you agree then I must have all the shipping details so I will be able to make all the arrangements for the Airbnb delivery. Thank you for your interest and I await news from you.

What do you think?

Price Gouging Airbnb Host in the NY Catskills

Our family is planning a trip to New York. Upon finding a house that fit our needs and that was in our price range, we decided to contact the host for more details. We liked what we saw and heard, so we decided to book the seven nights, paying with our credit card through Airbnb. After the request for booking was made and after having several messages between the host, Frann (the host) decided to significantly raise the price per night of the house, and raise the cleaning fees. Therefore, the Airbnb fees were raised, adding an additional $1200 dollars to the total bill. Frann was not willing to accept her advertised price. Therefore we had to cancel our reservations. Under the Hosting Responsibilities portion of Airbnb, the host is required to advertise the correct price. I’m very disappointed and makes me leery about using Airbnb for future rentals.

Good Enough for Secret Service, Not for Airbnb Verification

I signed up for Airbnb because I did not wish to stay in your average hotel; I wanted to rent a house. I guess you can say I am not your Average Joe, and have been quite blessed in my life and career. I am friends with former President George W. Bush, and even attended his daughter Jenna’s wedding in 2008. I was with Vice President Mike Pence on November 10th, 2016 in Indianapolis and then went on the air with Jason Fechner, news anchor of NBC Affiliate RTV6 in Indy, right after my meeting with the Vice President. The only reason I “name drop” is to prove a point. I am not overly wealthy, but am a well-respected businessman in my community and am a man of high morals and integrity.

I booked a home for the first part of our stay with no issue. The next day I attempted to book another home for the next half of the month, on a different island. This is when the hell started. I have never been through more hell trying to get “verified” in my life. The Secret Service never treated me like this, regardless of which President or Vice President I met with. After ten days of calls, poor customer service, and no emails, I received a notification informing me of my account cancellation and refund. It seems that Airbnb uses a flawed service to check “criminal records”. First off, I never gave them enough information to pull a proper background check, so they must deny someone if there is a close name match. If I can meet with leaders of America, why can’t I book a room through Airbnb? I own one of the largest computer-consulting firms in Texas and deal in top security issues on a daily basis. I pull background checks on my employees, and employees for my clients. Airbnb never acquired enough information from me to do a proper check. Do yourself a favor and do not waste your time with Airbnb. Use HomeAway or VRBO. I did and have two nice homes for our month in Hawaii.

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.

Forcing Airbnb Hosts to Turn On Instant Booking

In early January 2016, I received an email from Airbnb that explained that since most guests preferred Instant Booking over talking to a prospective host, Airbnb would not list my home under guest searches. This is despite me usually getting great ratings from my Airbnb guests. Can you see how this could be seen as an aggressive attempt to make people offer Instant Booking when that feature does not work for their situation? Now, if Airbnb had sent me an email suggesting that I take more photos, I would do that. However, if I turn on Instant Booking, and/or offer a price considered below average for my area, I’ll lose money. My rate is already below average for my area. What will help me immensely is when Airbnb stops omitting my home from suggested places to stay. I had one guest in December 2016 and no guests in January 2017.

I have been very loyal to Airbnb and have advocated for their business in writing. I wrote a letter to the NYC Public Advocate in response to her scathing opinion of Airbnb. How do you think NYC Public Advocate Letitia James, NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio, and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams would react to NYC homeowners being forced to offer Instant Booking? Please share your thoughts.

Illegal Scams and Fraud Run by Airbnb Hosts

I am new to Airbnb but my college kid and her friends use it when they travel. I thought I’d give it a try. What I have learned is that as a guest there seems to be a lot of identity validation requested and they ask for a lot of information. At first I took some comfort in this. Then I tried to reserve my first property. The host claimed on the listing that they have trouble updating their calendar so to email them to confirm availability. Not thinking too much of it, I did that and they responded promptly. They then said to get started they would need my name, address, and government-issued ID. I wasn’t sure if they meant put it into the platform or send it directly (which I would never do). Anyway I used the platform to request the reservation and woke up to an automated email from the Airbnb Trust & Safety team saying I should never contact hosts directly off the platform; the host is now being put through a verification process. They said they were suspending the host’s account.

So it doesn’t appear that there is much of a host verification process at all. In fact, this looks like an identity theft scam. I wanted to point out this detail to Airbnb but their automated alerts do not mention any way to discuss this with them. From what I can tell, there is absolutely no way to communicate with the operators of the platform. The way they treat someone using their platform for identity theft, a very serious crime, is to simply remove their account. I’m sure that will really scare them off. Assuming they actually know the identity of these hosts and I could correspond with someone on the platform about this fraud, I would expect them to alert the relevant authorities. Their behavior is both irresponsible and negligent.

I found Airbnb Hell searching for any way to contact Airbnb and I am concluding that it simply does not exist. Not wanting to give up on one bad first impression I went to book a second property. The 24-hour mark has almost passed and I haven’t heard anything from this host either. I guess I’ll take a third swing but then it’s three strikes and I’m off the platform. I know there are many wonderful and responsible hosts on the platform but Airbnb appears to be doing next to nothing to filter the bad and fraudulent ones. It seems you can post listings that you have no legal right to rent out; how can that be their practice? What I have learned is you have to do your own vetting of the host and be very careful. They could be frauds and criminals, and Airbnb does little to prevent them from using the platform. If anything goes wrong you are on your own.