I live in the north of Belgium, close to the Dutch border. I booked a nice looking single room for two nights, approximately 50 minutes drive time from where I live. It was the cheapest accommodation in that area. I used Instant Book because I had never had any trouble reaching hosts before. The host, ‘Anna’, had been on Airbnb since December 2016 and apparently, nobody had booked her place yet, since there were no ratings or comments on her page. I thought that was logical since the street she claimed to be living on was in a small, not at all touristy place; it wasn’t close to a city, and not far away enough to be off the beaten track either. Nonetheless, it was perfect for my purposes and every host needs a first guest, right?
On my departure day, I hadn’t heard from Anna. I didn’t know whether she had seen her latest reservation, I didn’t know whether checking in at 5:00 PM was okay, and I didn’t know what her house number was. I called the telephone number on her page before I got into my car. It went to voicemail right away. I really wanted to get away for a weekend; I wanted to go hiking, so I didn’t give up on Anna yet. I drove past the street she claimed to be living in because it was more or less on my way to the nature reserve that was the purpose of my journey. I thought: I might as well see whether some neighbor knows where Anna Hendriks lives, then, when I hopefully reach her, I’ll know instantly whether she is willing to host me instead of when I come back from my hike.
I thought my plan would work out when I saw a house with a rather large name plate: Hendriks. The woman that opened the door was clearly not the Anna from the profile picture. I explained to her that I had booked a room through Airbnb on her street and that I am now looking for its owner.
“There is an Anna living on this street, but she is a young girl,” she responded. “There is also a woman with grey hair but her name is Corry and she doesn’t rent out her rooms either,” according to friendly Mrs. Hendriks.
I thanked her and apologized for disturbing her. I told myself I would not bother her neighbors, Corry and Anna, because it will probably not lead me anywhere. I feel betrayed. I called the host for a third time and left a message on her cell phone. I have the feeling she doesn’t exist, which is a shame, because she has at least one nice neighbor.
I decided to file a complaint against her with Airbnb. I switched on my mobile data and cancelled my reservation. It was too late to get my first night refunded but I did get my second night, according to the automatic Airbnb help menu. Thank god the host has a flexible cancellation policy. I later asked for a refund for the first night but she didn’t respond. Of course not: she doesn’t exist. Nowhere in the Airbnb help centre can I find any information telling me how to deal with hosts that don’t exist. I want to get my money back and I want to prevent other people from booking with Anna. What can I do?