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.

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.

Referring a Friend on Airbnb Impossible to Redeem

Airbnb is having a promotion where if you refer a friend, they receive an automatic $35 credit in qualifying first time bookings. Well, according to them, “qualifying” is referring to a trip of at least $75, which was fine since the trip my friend wanted to book was over $350. However, every time he clicked on the link, there would be some kind of error that would prevent him from redeeming the coupon. First, the IDs that they requested were constantly being declined for no real reason. After trying for 30 minutes, he finally got them to accept an ID. Then, of course, the credit was not automatically added to the trip during check out, as had been promised. Thinking it was some sort of error, we tried again, and again, and again… and nothing. We tried making the booking using the phone app for maybe an hour. So he became frustrated, and we try to find some way to contact Airbnb. When you click on “Contact Airbnb” in the help section, nothing happens: no link, no number, nothing.

Although I have had relatively positive experiences with Airbnb in the past, the inability to redeem credits that they keep pushing feels unpleasant. It almost seems like a scam in my opinion: they push and push and when you finally refer someone the credit doesn’t even go through. Since the person already went through the hassle of registering his ID and everything, chances are he will make a booking anyway. By the way, we are not unfamiliar with technology; we’re in our mid-20s and grew up with computers. We know our way around websites and software, and we’re pretty convinced this is something on Airbnb’s end (potentially deliberate). Now we’re here to complain about the issue, and I feel my experience with them has been tarnished. It’s for something so silly too: not giving credit that they constantly advertise. It seems greedy to me.