Left High and Dry by Airbnb App: No Contact Details

The Airbnb system is meant to provide the host’s contact details once a booking has been paid for and confirmed, but what happens if the system itself malfunctions and the contact information is withheld? On a recent trip, when on my way to my next host, I discovered that the Airbnb app was not displaying any contact details for the host. The contact details had been previously displayed in the app so something had clearly happened which had resulted in the information being deleted. I realised that I could use the message function in the app to contact the host, but I travel with an iPod Touch rather than a smart phone. This meant I needed wifi access to use the message function. I was out of range of any wifi network.

Fortunately this was a place which I had stayed at more than a year earlier so I had a general idea of its location. However, I didn’t have a phone number or an address. I tried several times to locate the place, drawing on my memory of my previous stay, but without success. This was in a foreign country in a town where few people speak English. I tried calling into a convenience store to see whether they would let me connect to their wifi. By this time it was evening and the only person on duty could not understand what I was asking. I continued to try to find the home where I was expected. After an hour of wandering around, I decided to try a different shop. This time the person on duty could speak English and offered to tether my iPod Touch to her phone.

I was immediately able to send a message through the Airbnb message system and within a few minutes the host picked me up. They had been expecting me to arrive an hour earlier and had been worrying about what had become of me. After I was settled in we tried to work out what had gone wrong with the contact information. We discovered that the booking was still showing on the Airbnb app as “requested” even though it was in fact confirmed and paid for. Because its status was showing as “requested”, the contact information was not being displayed.

This episode wasn’t the end of my problems on this particular trip. Overnight, Airbnb released an update to the app and I installed the update. What I didn’t realise was that updating the app deleted the contact details for all hosts for this trip. This would be like an update to an email app deleting all one’s emails. Unfortunately, I did not notice what had happened. So that evening I was again put through the excruciating process of trying to make contact with the host in the absence of any contact details. Again, I had to prevail on the goodwill of the helpful manager of another shop, who this time did speak English, and logged me into his personal wifi account.

Both of these situations seem to have been caused by the flakiness of Airbnb’s app, or perhaps by an error in the Airbnb database. We all know that software errors are not uncommon. However, the real issue here is that Airbnb’s business model leaves guests completely abandoned when bugs in their software result in the loss of contact information. Airbnb tries to represent itself as an ethical service company that cares for the wellbeing of its guests but the truth is that the only problems that Airbnb can recognise are those caused by hosts. There is absolutely no recognition in the Help Centre of the possibility of problems being caused by Airbnb itself, nor what to do about such problems when they occur. Just try to imagine how stressful it would be, travelling in a foreign country where few people speak your language and the information needed to reach where one is booked for the night simply vanishes.

The Last Straw: Tired of Being an Airbnb Host

I’ve been a host for three years now and have stayed in Airbnbs around the world several times. After several years, I have finally had it: I am ending my relationship with Airbnb and moving on to long term renters. I have two listings; one is private room in my condo, and the other is an entire home (one-bedroom condo) that I purchased for the sole purpose of renting it out. This post is to discourage others from becoming involved with Airbnb. It’s been a rough ride these fast few years… In the early days, there were sweet guests who brought gifts, followed the rules and genuinely wanted to get to know the person they were living with or living under. Over time though, guests seem to be more driven by finding cheap accommodations and the demands are ever increasing. They expect deep cleans of the condo but argue with me over the cleaning fees, ask to borrow my car, and complain about the pillows being too soft or hard. They will empty out my mini bar and leave no monetary contribution, walk around in their underwear, be mean to my cat, etc.

The listing says the condo is not metro accessible but they didn’t want to pay the high rate to stay on the metro line and don’t have a car to get to the grocery store. If the condo doesn’t have something in stock like some flour, they simply knock on a neighbor’s door (which is terribly rude – they don’t have a rapport with that person and sometimes don’t return the item they borrowed). Airbnb requires guests to list a phone number but many times I’ve found that number is not the actual guest’s number or the guest doesn’t have an international plan and his phone is useless. There were some guests that had me constantly running back and forth: they needed more baking sheets, then a crock pot, vinegar, and sunscreen, and they didn’t even have the courtesy to leave a review.

The maximum occupancy is six guests but I charge an additional $5 after two guests; somehow, magically, no one ever has any party larger than two. I realize I could snoop around or try and check in and maybe I could see how many folks are staying there, but the minute I say “Hey, the listing requires an additional $5/person and you have six here so I will be adding $100 to your stay,” I am basically asking for a terrible review. I have seen the nicest people turn vicious and threaten to say I am prejudiced or discriminating. The accusation is already enough to ruin people nowadays. Airbnb touts this “trust community” but over 90% of my guests are first time renters and many of them rent infrequently.

Airbnb asks that I leave fresh flowers, breakfast foods, wine and beverages, games, and snacks. Less than 5% of guests have ever just left a few dollars. A Sam Adams beer might be $7 from a mini bar in a hotel, but you can’t leave $1 for the two you drank? Really? This is how you would treat a friend who was hosting you? Guests have broken things in front of me; I have taken diligent pictures, submitted my quote to Airbnb’s Resolution Center, where as always the guest refuses to pay, and even though I have a Security Deposit and have been a Super Host for three years I have to go through Airbnb’s insurance policy for a $12 plate. I have made a lot of money with Airbnb but I constantly check myself to make sure I am not being greedy and overcharging.

Sometimes, peoples’ personal stories do make me empathize. I’ve let pets stay on request, allowed early or late check outs when I can, picked up items from the grocery store, and given rides to the city center. Guests will ignore my calls for a day then expect me to pick up after two rings every time. As a host it just comes down to Airbnb as a company. I don’t believe they will take care of me if something bad happens. I’ve often wondered if convicted sex offenders can rent out rooms in homes (how would we know?). Airbnb puts all the tax strains on me and forces me to pay the occupancy tax (which I’m happy to do, but it would be nice if they took on the administrative burden).

Despite three years of loyalty I never get a thank you card or Airbnb travel credit, and in the hospitality industry usually employees are at least reminded how important they are. Last but not least, I feel really terrible for my neighbors. Over the years some have been kind while others have gone to the Condo Board and local county government. There was one gentleman who lived in the building who wrote his congressman, county officials, and attorneys. While he was a little over the top, I get it: he wanted actual neighbors and not a revolving door. Who would buy the condo next to the full time Airbnb? If I ever thought I was hosting individuals who were going to have a disruptive vacation I would never have accepted that reservation. It is so hard to screen guests because I only see a picture and a paragraph or two, and anyone can say they are in the area visiting family or friends. The review system is pretty hit or miss; sometimes it’s hard to leave a negative review because I have to question if I’m being too judgmental or expecting too much from the guests. Goodbye Airbnb. You just saw a little piece of your paycheck prance over to YourHomeSuite.

Arrived safely, but no one was home?

We had a horrible host who did not prepare for our check in even when we confirmed the arrival time weeks in advance. We were supposed to have a nice stay and a nice place. What we were met with was absolutely nothing. Check in was set for 12:00 PM, so we were there at 11:40 AM. We waited until just after 1:00 PM without a sign of the key or the host to greet us. We knocked on the door and got no answer; we called – no answer. What could we have done but leave such a situation? All he had to do was leave a note on what to do with the front desk or the key. This is unacceptable behavior for a host. Saying someone will eventually show up at an uncertain time in the future is absolutely disrespectful. Leaving a paying guest waiting and exposed to uncertainty is unprofessional and, on top of that, trying to say we were a no show or late is insulting. Trying to shift the blame to the guest is a slap to the face. We are demanding a full refund and suggesting that he be removed from Airbnb before he leaves another guest rushing to find suitable accommodation in a foreign country soaked from the rain waiting on him to eventually show up. This is the most embarrassing experience in my professional 40-year career in front of friends and colleagues for us to experience such disastrous service and ridiculing responses. I’m expecting a full refund by the next working day.

Airbnb’s Little Loopholes that Screw Hosts

I have had two separate “awaiting payment” issues two days in a row. Airbnb doesn’t give you any indication that a guest’s payment may not be valid until you accept the reservation. This automatically holds the reservation and prohibits the host from declining guests or opening up for other guests that might have their affairs in order. I called Airbnb and spoke to a representative about declining these guests; they would not change their policy, so my listing is off the market with no secured payment for 24 hours. Why would Airbnb hold a host’s opportunity to make money hostage? I was told that the odds of the payment issue being fixed are greater than the chances of it failing. Nevertheless, Airbnb takes all the host’s rights away in order to protect the company’s interests for 24 hours. The fact that a host hits accept and gets an immediate “uh oh… there seems to be a problem with the payment” is proof that the software Airbnb uses can immediately detect if there is an issue with a guest’s payment option. This simple line or two of software code should be implemented when guests click “book”, not when the host gets stuck with a blocked calendar. I told this to the Airbnb representative… he would not help me cancel the reservation awaiting payment and left me feeling like this policy is not going to change.

Airbnb Does NOT Respect Strict Cancellation Policy

My family decided to vacate the house they live in throughout the year during the summer to rent it out and help pay the bills. The property is located in southern Europe in a region that’s highly sought after during the high season. After accepting reservations booked by guests months in advance we had to turn many away, including requests from other guest on alternative booking sites. We had many added expenses getting the place ready, including cleaning as well as check in and check out fees.

Two consecutive guests decided to cancel their booking at the last minute for medical reasons. (for two separate reservations); the second guest cancelled his booking days AFTER he was supposed to check in. In spite of us having a “strict” cancellation policy, Airbnb agreed to reimburse them for the full cost of their booking leaving us with an empty house at the last minute in the midst of the high season. To justify their decisions, Airbnb only sent us the link to their extenuating circumstances policy, which lists a very wide variety of circumstances left broad and vague on purposes. In this instance, given that both guests had emailed saying their cancellation was due to medical issues, we asked Airbnb which objective criteria had been applied and the list of documents provided by guests to justify the fact they had to cancel at the last minute. In spite of our repeated queries, Airbnb refused to provide any objective criteria used to determine the circumstances of the cancellations. Of course they make these arbitrary decisions without losing any money themselves. Hosts end up losing money without having any say in the decision. These cancellations should be handled with a strict process similar to those applied by travel insurance policies. Hosts are NOT protected by Airbnb and this certainly doesn’t feel like a community.

Airbnb is for Business, not Community

After years of being an Airbnb guest and months of being a host in NYC I’ve concluded something that I long suspected but couldn’t zero in on because I’d never hosted. Airbnb is 100% for people who are using it as a business. This story of them building a community is false. First, from the guest side: ever try to find a whole apartment or house that didn’t look like it was just some real estate guy trying to make tons of cash? I have. Ever finally arrive and never even meet the host? Just put the code in the key safe, right? Ever look through the kitchen and realize that no one has ever used this kitchen because if they did they’d realize that everything necessary to cook was either missing or broken? I have. Not once. Not twice. Every single time.

Now from hosting side. Hosts are treated like a commodity, like they are out to make as much money as possible and will do anything to get the next guest. I wonder why? Because good little hosts accept every single reservation regardless of whether the guest asks, “Can I arrive at 1 AM?” or asks you something like, “I’d love to stay at your place. Where is Brooklyn, anyways?” Or you receive a request at 2 AM for someone who wants the place for your maximum stay length four months in the future. You think I’m exaggerating. I’m not.

Dear Airbnb,

This is my home. I live here. I’m not a real estate professional. Generally the tools to connect with the right guests work. You can set the minimum and maximum length. Turnover times. Open and close calendar dates. Seems pretty friendly. If you’re still reading, I’m finally to my point. The kicker: If you aren’t making Airbnb lots of money by renting your home like it’s a freaking hotel they will make your life hell.

Here’s how: 1. They randomly shut down your account for “not accepting.” 2. They modify how your listing shows in results. This is a really big deal because they have all the power and there is no transparency. But the results of this are clear. When you’re making money all the reservation requests are from people with lots of great feedback. When you start getting more selective the people they send your way signed up the night before… with no feedback. No travel experience. No community – you are a hotel to them. And that’s how Airbnb lets you know what a good little host is supposed to be.

Airbnb Can Change Cancellation Policy Preference

I had my listing posted as having a STRICT cancellation policy, due to the fact we all know how guests can be. I did not realize that Airbnb can override these restrictions. I just had t0 give a full refund to a guest that canceled the same day they were supposed to arrive. I had it marked as strict, as I did not care why they would need to cancel. I know if I were the one cancelling a reservation I had made somewhere I would not have received a dime back. I had expenses: hiring a cleaning company on a Sunday in order to provide accommodations; as well as having to drive an hour to pick up a key that was left out for this guest. Airbnb continued to give every penny back to this guest, with of course their own fee. A few days earlier I received the “superhost” badge… what a joke. No more, lesson learned. They will not make another dime off of my property. I do not see how someone can control another’s property like this. I’m very disappointed with Airbnb.

Unusually Warm Airbnb Stay with Frenemy

I stayed in Temecula to train my dog as my service dog. My host knew I had a medical condition. She came across as pleasant and friendly. I left her some private feedback as I didn’t want to affect her business. She took it very personally and left me a bad review. This happened after staying three separate times at her home, being invited into her pool, and using her goggles! Service with a smile, right?

After the final review she left me I don’t know if anyone will let me book with them. And I had given her all stellar public reviews. Now I’m going to give the true review to let others beware staying with her. There was no toilet paper in the designated bathroom when I arrived. I had texted her about this and didn’t get a response as she was at work. I had to search through a strangers home while I desperately needed to go poo! Imagine after driving three hours in a heat wave!

There was also no use of the air conditioner except during the party she had on my next stay; she let the air stay on for that! The host does not use an air conditioner and the full house fan system is not enough to stay cool. Temecula is a desert community. It’s regularly in the high 80s or 90s and during my first stay there was a heat wave, with the temperature around 110 to 115. Private feedback was given. The host did not provide obvious hand towels in a restroom shared with others. Again, I gave her private feedback. The screen to the bedroom window was broken at the bottom. She’s in horse country and a lot of horse flies were coming in. She did fix this by my 2nd visit. The privacy curtains block air flow and without curtains there is no privacy.

This room never cools down. I brought a temperature gauge on my second visit to make sure I wasn’t going crazy and it stayed 76 to 84 degrees in the room. There is no breeze at night. Even though the temperature can get down to 60s late at night the room never gets a chance to cool down, even with a room fan. Again, I communicated this information privately on my first review. Wanting to get along and realizing I’m going to be staying in a person’s home which is different than a hotel on the rest of the stays, I didn’t give my host any more private feedback and tried to stay on the positive side of things as there were very positive things.

I mean was I not supposed to tell her that flies were coming in…? That I didn’t know what towels to use because her brother and son were sharing the bathroom..? She also put towels in the room in a nice basket, well I guess these were only for decoration as when I opened them naked and wet in the bathroom they were off white and I saw light yellow and brown stains. Yuck! I had to put my clothes on when I was wet and get towels in the hallway. There were new looking towels hanging in the bathroom for her son and brother, but the Airbnb guest towels were really worn and a bit hard on the skin. I left private feedback that this was noticeable as a guest and the towels she left confused me as I guess they were for decoration only.

I don’t know because she never got back to me about that. I brought my own towels and toilet paper for my second and third stay, as well as a cool water bottle and baby wipes. I’d never put towels in a guest’s room and not expect them to be used. I don’t know… maybe that’s just me? I told her about all these things so she could be a better host. I mean if I had flies coming in and my guests were sweating it out… I mean I didn’t sign up for a sauna experience! As retaliation, this host said I didn’t clean up after my dishes in the kitchen. Well this is true as her brother came home during my first visit and offered to do them. I guess I was supposed to decline….? I can’t believe this was used against me and gave one side to make me look bad.

She claimed I didn’t clean up after my dog. It’s actually a big pet peeve of mine for people not to clean up. I cleaned up every time. I think maybe she wanted me to use a hose too. She could have let me know at any time during my three almost consecutive visits. She did stress energy and water conservation. I’m pretty sure she would have put it negatively in my review in either case. Knowing how she left me an unfair and slanted public review with no communication about these issues I would really not trust this host in my opinion. As a matter of fact, during my second stay she said I could leave the dishes undone, but my boyfriend did them. Talk about a two-faced, lying… well, you fill in the blanks. She also invited us to her pool to swim with the family on my last visit. I thought this was a nice gesture, but say it with me again: “Two-faced blankety blank told me everything was fine and left me a terrible review.”

Airbnb Rejected my Claim and Lost a Good Host

I hate to admit that I have been in the real estate business at least ten years longer than the customer representative with whom I dealt has been on this earth. So I guess I shouldn’t really be surprised that this person handled my damage claim like a snarky little kid. My “guest” decided that he didn’t have to do dishes during the week of his stay, and that he didn’t have to follow the House Rules, which are clearly posted next to the wifi codes (so I know they will see them). Here is one of the brilliant reasons used to turn down my damage claim: “There wasn’t a printed invoice from the housekeeper, so you must have made up the extra charge.”

She came up with this decision despite six pictures of the filth this guy left behind. I don’t know of a housekeeper or house cleaner that gives me a printed invoice. This young lady just called me a liar. I have 34 reservations totaling about $60,000 in income. I immediately removed all of my listings from this website. I refuse to reward idiots like this who ignore the evidence and make the leap that I must be the bad guy. Unfortunately for her, I’m not, and I’m also not stupid. You can find me and my properties on coastalsalesandrentals.com and vrbo.com. If you wonder why you can’t find a decent property on Airbnb, now you know! The picture above is just a taste of what Airbnb considered to be “acceptable”. Good luck with that.