Family Scammed by a Host in Seattle

My daughter and fiancé moved to the Seattle area. Upon arrival they discovered their apartment wasn’t ready due to mold issues. They had to retile the place and wouldn’t be able to allow guests to move in for another week. My family was stuck. They also had a sweet older cat with them. They had to book a hotel for the first night. I, being the helpful mom to my 22-year-old kid and her fiancee and kitty, wanted to look into an Airbnb rental so they could be comfortable.

I found this listing. If you scroll down on pricing it says: “Extra people: $48/night after the first guest.” It could be my mistake that I did not see this. I was going back and forth with her from Friday evening into Saturday late morning about the listing. Moving forward, I went to book and the price went from $80 per/night to $128 per/night. I attached the screen shots of our messages and my confusion on the part of the second guest. If you read this, you can see she is even confused and looks like she is saying that I was probably trying to book for three guests (myself, daughter and her fiancé) and she said I need to book for a total of two people.

I made the mistake of thinking when I put one guest I thought myself plus one guest. It was a dumb mistake on my part since I have booked with Airbnb before. However, in all the comparable listings in that area – I clicked through about twenty – the prices were always for two people; I didn’t think twice and booked it. The other thing, the host clearly saw me saying “them” when referring to guests and listing their names. I even told her their story in the beginning: how it was my daughter, her fiancé, and their cat (I did not include this screenshot, but I can if needed).

Here’s where it gets interesting. My kid had her number and proceeded to text the host that they were on their way. She texted my kid and said “your mom only paid for one person.” My kid asked how much it would be for two people and she stated it would be an additional $180. I told my kid that it was too much, thinking there are other places for that price that were private.

Did I mention that this host’s place was not private? She said it was like “one big master bedroom, but the kitchen and bathroom is shared.” She has it listed as an entire home/apartment but the room and living room was separated from the kitchen by a blackout curtain; her and her husband’s room is private in the back. $128 per night in that area? Why didn’t I just book a whole cottage for $100 per night?

You can see in my messaging that I was considering having them just stay the one night and not the rest of the week. However, I ended up canceling the whole thing and they stayed in a hotel. I also wanted to attach the text messaging thread. You can’t get each other’s number until you book for safety purposes. She and I were texting back and forth with this misunderstanding and I apologized profusely. I asked then if I would get refunded. She assured me I would. I told her okay, I would cancel and thanked her for the refund. I knew she had a strict cancellation policy but I figured she has been super nice and understood the situation was my mistake.

The next day I contacted the Airbnb resolution center on the site. All I wanted was to make sure she refunded me. They told me to request money from the host, so I did. There was space to put the reason and I typed “misunderstanding at check in, host agreed to refund full amount.”

What does she respond with? “Not truthful guest.” She then declined to refund me. If she would have said “no, sorry I can’t give you a refund” then I at least I could have paid the extra $180 and not be out $400. She basically has no one staying in her place for five days and Airbnb and the host got $450 (fees included) out of me. Even Expedia doesn’t do that. Once I accidentally booked the wrong dates and was out of the cancellation policy. They still refunded me and told me: “It’s ok. Sometimes stuff happens.”

I ended up calling my bank to have them dispute the charges. I had to tell them the whole story and send them the screenshots of the messages. When a case manager from Airbnb called me, he seemed nice at first, taking in my story. I even sent them the screenshots of the text messages where she stated more than once she would refund me. He said they are the final say in this matter. I received a call back from the case manager the next day. He stated the host said I lied and tried to “pull one over” on her, that I tried to book for one guest and was really bringing two. Like she didn’t know and capitalized on my mistake. Then she said I called her and harassed her. I did no such thing. If I were able to upload all the screenshots of the text messages then you could see I was nothing but apologetic and kind.

Now this host was so rude. He was talking over me, yelling at me, and bullying me. I was made out to be the villain. This host just joined this month and had no reviews. That in itself should have been a red flag. The Airbnb case manager made me feel foolish and said that this host has a strict cancellation policy; when I booked, he stated that it was a legal and binding contract and he cannot force the host to refund the money. He said she wasn’t going to refund the money at all and I am basically screwed.

First off he talked over me, then when I did the same he yelled at me. When I raised my voice he said over and over this was a legal and binding contract and in the end he essentially said: “Well, you have booked with us before. You should know how to book. This is your fault and you will not be refunded.”

He didn’t even offer a partial refund or a voucher. Nothing. I hung up and cried because I was just bullied on the phone over nothing, just an Airbnb listing. Why does this case agent even care? He should have tried to be a better mediator in this situation and look at my history of being a guest: I have never complained or done anything shady.

I’ve blasted Airbnb on Twitter. You may have seen them if you follow @airbnbhell because I copied them on Twitter too. The case manager emailed me and said “it was a pleasure talking to you this morning… blah blah blah” I responded with a lengthy email, told him he bullied me and yelled at me, and I was in tears afterwards. I mean I hate be the victim but this host acted like one and got $400+ out of it. Why can’t I tell the truth and tell them how I felt? I felt like a used pair of underwear.

When I emailed them back I also copied Belinda Johnson, who is Airbnb’s Chief Legal Council, and Donna Boyer, who is Airbnb’s Director of Product. Working in tech in the Bay Area (where Airbnb is headquartered) you can find out who these people are. Just about an hour ago I received an apology from Anthony with a $200 voucher. Really? Seriously? If I do not plan to use Airbnb anymore, what good is it going to do me? Just send me my money! At least send a voucher that is equal if not more than what I went out of pocket. I ended up rebooking another listing for my daughter through Airbnb and luckily that went fine. It would have been nice if this voucher was there before that since I just plan to use VBRO or VaCasa or something else in the future. Thanks for listening to me ramble.

Massachusetts Airbnb Host Tries to Jack up Price

I booked a four-night stay in August for a listing in Provincetown, MA back in February. At first, Airbnb charged my credit card twice for the large amount (almost 2000 USD) and then told me I had to wait five days for a refund. After speaking with about 234 representatives and supervisors, I got my refund and a whopping $50 credit (…thanks). Fast forward to a few weeks ago, the host (Ned) decided to attempt to increase the rate by $400. When we spoke with Airbnb, they said they would negotiate with him. They said he would change it to $200 increase and Airbnb would cover half. It was still a scam, but I didn’t think it was worth the fight. Then he cancelled the reservation entirely. I have been waiting for my refund for 2.5 weeks now and Airbnb is trying to say that I already received payment since they refunded the second charge. I now have a formal investigation through my credit card company to get my refund. It’s been a headache. Never book with Airbnb – it’s a joke. And the supervisors and case managers are flat-out liars. Once I get the refund, my account will be cancelled.

Scam Alert in Atlanta: Beware Hosts Telling you to Cancel

I was planning a trip to Atlanta from Australia in October last year for one month. I found a place to stay (the listing has since been removed). The host, Valerio, advised he would be able to accommodate the one month’s stay and I paid the 2800 AUD fee. A few weeks later, Valerio contacted me and advised that I would no longer be able to stay and would have to cancel. I checked the cancellation terms (make sure you do this before any cancellation). It was a strict cancellation policy, which meant the host would get to keep the full $2800. I advised the host of this who said that he had called Airbnb and they had “told him” I’d be fully refunded.

I didn’t trust him and after a while searching online I was able to locate a contact number. Airbnb Customer Service advised me that I would not get refunded if I were to cancel and I needed to tell the host to cancel the reservation to get my money back. I repeated this to the host, who denied everything and said that this was incorrect. I still refused to cancel and contacted customer service again. This time they went into my account and pulled the chat history between us. They also messaged the user that I would lose all my money. He attempted one more time to get me to cancel, saying it would affect his rating and he would wire transfer the money back… I don’t think so…

Eventually he relented and cancelled the reservation from his end. How do I know this is a scam? A week later the apartment was listed as “available” again and my friend went ahead and tried booking it as we still hadn’t found other accommodations yet. The host waited a week and tried to pull the same thing, saying: “Oh, you need to cancel from your end.” He knows at this point (I’m sure he knew before) that if a guest is to cancel she will lose all her money. Again he said “I contacted customer support and they said you would be fully refunded.” Try again buddy.

She convinced him to cancel from his end. The listing disappeared and a few days later it was back up for the exact dates we needed. If you are to cancel yourself you cannot leave a review to tell people what the user is doing as an automatic “This booking was cancelled by the guest” appears under the listing so you have no way of letting anyone know. Be wary when cancelling and check the cancellation policy beforehand.

Arrogant and Opaque Conflict Resolution – Host Extortion

I went to visit my daughter in Seattle, planning to stay for a week. The apartment, given that it was the host’s primary residence, was pleasant. However, after five days the host called my daughter on the phone and informed her (not me) that I was to vacate the apartment immediately. He claimed that if I didn’t his landlord was going to evict him and charge him $600. My daughter was distraught; she took one of my checks and gave it to the host. The host gave me about twenty minutes to pack up and leave. The only review of the host stated he’d abruptly cancelled the reservation of two young women who just happened to be counting on staying in his apartment when I was requesting a reservation. I doubt that was a coincidence.

Of course, Airbnb would have liked to have washed their hands of the whole matter. I persisted as best I could and the host offered a small settlement. Airbnb claimed they’d tried to reach me; they tried exactly once. After that, they screened my calls. In the end, being the clever person I am now and then, I had my bank cancel the check due to fraud. I also immediately cancelled the credit card Airbnb had on file. Once they have your card they can do anything they like. In the end I guess I prevailed. The $600 was returned, the security deposit was returned, and I still received the settlement.

Now they send an email a day over a bill for $19. I go to their help section and tell them I’ll send them a check. I just put one in the mail. The point is that their customer service is dreadful. It’s all skewed towards the hosts. How many young people get caught up in this kind of nonsense? They’ve gotten too big, too fast. I do give Airbnb some credit. The host has lost his privileges after extorting cash from my distraught daughter. No cash should ever change hands directly between host and guest.

 

Airbnb Cancellation Woes: Double the Price?

Having used “instant book” online my host then requested double the rate. I refused and was refunded the sum paid plus given a 10% discount on my next Airbnb booking. I made another booking immediately and paid £673… relatively onerous cancellation terms for me. Five months later that host then requested double the rate paid. I refused, and the host cancelled. Such hosts suffer a modest cost penalty imposed by Airbnb and that particular period booked for that property can no longer be booked through Airbnb. The guest receives a full refund and a 10% discount on their next booking. This is totally inadequate compensation for wrecked travel plans so long after the initial booking. Why does Airbnb not provide some financial compensation for holding a good chunk of money for so long? I have unsuccessfully sought some financial redress from Airbnb but keep getting the same standard responses. Airheads! Potential bookers: be aware of what might lay ahead. Hosts might cancel late in the day if they get a better offer.

Airbnb Warning About Getting Refunds

Yet another cancellation story but also a warning to do things in the right order. I booked a three-bedroom apartment in Soho, New York City run by a lady called ‘Clodagh’. A month after the booking was accepted I received a message from her saying she had to cancel the booking. But Airbnb still showed the listing as valid. Only after I sent her a message telling her to handle the cancellation properly from her end did I receive an email from Airbnb. It offered me a refund or to use the money I’d paid, plus a 10% credit, on another property. I’d already booked another apartment, with great difficulty as it was getting close to the dates, so I chose the refund. I believe she sent me the cancellation message expecting that I would then request a refund and the cancellation would then have been instigated by me and I’d have probably lost my money under the VERY STRICT cancellation policy imposed on guests ONLY. If you receive a cancellation message directly from a host, wait until you receive a message from Airbnb before you do anything. I’m not going to use Airbnb again until they offer some kind of security for booking or sufficient compensation to cover hotels for the cancelled period.

AIRBNB IS NOT A RELIABLE WAY OF TRAVELING AND CERTAINLY NOT FOR BUSINESS TRAVEL!