Seven Guests Who Will Never Use Airbnb Again

On May 1st, 2017, through Airbnb, we booked and fully paid for a beautiful property at Helensvale on the Gold Coast which perfectly suited our needs in order to spend Christmas with other family members who are residents there. On June 15th, the host withdrew the property for personal reasons. We received a perfunctory automated email from Airbnb that the property had been withdrawn, our booking had been cancelled, and a full refund had been initiated. Seven people were left with no accommodation and out of pocket to the tune of all the credit card costs.

We immediately emailed Airbnb to ask why we were not offered the choice of a refund or assistance to rebook a suitable equivalent property, as per the policy published on their website where it supposedly explains what happens if a host cancels. It took five days to get a response from Airbnb that this cancellation policy only applies in very specific circumstances and not to us. We asked Airbnb to refer us to where we could read and understand the specifics of this policy and how it didn’t apply to us. Airbnb refused to do this. We also asked Airbnb why they had immediately refunded us without consultation, again apparently in contradiction of their published policy. Again, Airbnb refused to provide an explanation.

In fairness to Airbnb, they did provide links to several alternative properties which they said “may suit our needs”. We had been very specific that we needed five bedrooms and large living spaces, even if it meant a higher cost. The alternatives Airbnb suggested were 2, 3, or 4 bedrooms and all entirely unsuitable, as though they had completely ignored our requirements. When we asked why Airbnb kept offering completely unsuitable alternatives which were in no way equivalent to our original booking, Airbnb refused to respond. When we tried to pursue the matter further, Airbnb effectively terminated the conversation saying they could offer no further assistance. Further emails to Airbnb have met with zero response.

The lesson from our experience is that Airbnb may work satisfactorily when things go well, but if there is a problem, such as the host cancelling, Airbnb will leave you high and dry. They are very difficult to reach to resolve an issue in a timely manner, they seem to apply their published policies arbitrarily, they refuse to respond to the specifics of a guest’s legitimate questions, and their responses are generalized as to what Airbnb “can’t” do rather than what they “can”. In summary, don’t expect any useful assistance when things go wrong. You have been warned.

Last Minute Cancellation for Formula 1 Weekend

I had already had an Airbnb host cancel for the Formula 1 weekend in Montreal, so my choices were limited. I picked someone despite evidence of recent cancellations and a 2.5 cleanliness rating. Communication was minimal but the host said she was busy at work; there were no major worries. I sent a reply through the Airbnb site on Thursday to let her know I would arrive at around 5:00 PM and would text once we knew our exact arrival time. There was no response. We flew into Montreal, met a friend, parked near the apartment, and then went for lunch. While eating, the text notification came up: “Your host has cancelled”.

She did not have the common courtesy to provide a note or reason. We were stranded in the middle of Montreal on its busiest weekend. I phoned Airbnb but could not get through. I knew they would not do anything (their 10% credit if you rebook is a joke) so I headed to the race. I tried to find acceptable lodgings but there was nothing in the city under $250 per night. In the end, we found a bar beneath a flophouse and I went in to charge my phone and look for places far away. On a whim, we checked the flophouse and there was one room left. With no other option, we took it. One of us slept on the floor in a room with no aircon, and a fan that would turn off with the light. Prostitutes use this place for an hour at a time. It was not pleasant.

Airbnb is only as good as its hosts, and there are many good ones. However, it just takes one useless piece of garbage like this to ruin the whole experience. This host also removed the listing, but I’m sure she’ll be back under another name to ruin the weekends of more travelers.

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.

Airbnb Disaster Avoided: Almost Homeless in Seville

A month ago I reserved this house in the Jewish quarter of Seville, happy with the price and the location and reassured by more than 30 positive reviews. The host was quick to reply and easy to contact, at the beginning. Five days before the beginning of my journey, I wrote him a message on Airbnb to ask him about some facilities and the check-in procedure. After more than 24 hours of waiting for news from him, I tried to call him on the “verified” number, which turned out to be wrong. As a consequence, I called Airbnb customer service to inform them of what was going on.

The guy from Airbnb told me that he would try to get in contact with the host, who – according to the reviews and to his profile – used to be quite active on the platform. After 36 hours, the host eventually replied to my questions about the facilities, but he eluded the question about the check-in time. I asked again about checking in, and also demanded he provide a proper working mobile number. After some hours, he gave me a new number and told me that he would contact me via WhatsApp straight away (but of course, he didn’t).

Late in the evening, Airbnb customer service called me, saying that they had finally reached the host over the phone, and that he intended to cancel my reservation. Obviously I didn’t know a thing about his intentions, and that happened three days before I was supposed to arrive. When things started to sound weird after contacting customer service for the first time, I reserved another place (not the house of my dreams… but what can you expect with a very last-minute booking?) with flexible terms, in order not to find myself homeless in Sevilla.

Since the host just “announced” his intentions to Airbnb’s staff, but didn’t really cancel the reservation, customer service did it in his place. I got a full refund from Airbnb. I don’t know what this guy had in mind… if he wanted to scam me, or if he is just an awful person who for whatsoever reasons wanted to leave me without a place to stay, ruining my holiday in Seville.

Malibu Nonsense Leaves Wedding Party Stranded

Stay away from Airbnb when you plan to travel to Malibu. An Airbnb host in Malibu cancelled on our bridal party of eight twenty minutes before the check-in time. The wedding was two hours later. Below is a transcript of my message to the Airbnb case manager, along with the whole conversation with the host; this guy said I was “not a good person” while I was scrambling before a wedding due to the Airbnb fiasco.

Hello Jhoe, I regret to inform you of a devastating experience that our party had with Airbnb over the weekend. I had the responsibility of hosting eight guests, some of whom flew internationally to attend a wedding in Malibu, CA. We were looking for accommodations for June 3rd, 2017. The first bad experience was my reservation for a property in Malibu with Francine, who cancelled immediately upon my reservation request, citing that there had been a death in the family, which may or may not have been true.

She gave multiple other excuses at first that did not make logical sense (from “going away for a week” to “it’s already been rented”). The good part at least was that she did indeed cancel, only after I had tried multiple times to contact her to no avail. However, shortly after this, I had confirmed a reservation with Airbnb at a nearby property hosted by a person named Shawn. I thought it was odd that a Malibu property would be available for just one night, because this is typically not characteristic of available properties in this area. I attempted to contact Shawn several times with no response, but relied upon the assurance that there was a reservation by Airbnb. I then coordinated amongst my party of eight to all meet at the property, where we would prepare for a wedding at 4:30 PM.

On the day of the reservation, half an hour before we were to check in, Shawn contacted me finally through Airbnb (somehow the messaging system magically started to work right before our check-in time). He stated that the property was not available and that Airbnb had made a mistake. He stated that Airbnb had a glitch or bug in the system. He then flippantly dismissed the case and blamed Airbnb, and was quite rude to me as a host. As it was now about 3:00 PM, we now suddenly had nowhere to go to prepare for the wedding, and nowhere for our party to stay. On top of this, Shawn’s ridiculously rude demeanor was adding salt to fresh wounds caused by this disaster. Our recorded interaction is here below, and you will see the kind of threatening language this individual uses.

The ultimate result of this “glitch” was that we had to scramble at the last moment to find alternate accommodations that were significantly more expensive, and also not sufficient for our party… not to mention an excessive amount of emotional distress on this special wedding day. As you will see from the conversation below, Shawn had contacted Airbnb the day before the reservation, and I was able to confirm this with a call center representative on the afternoon of June 3rd that there was in fact an escalation that took place internally at Airbnb. The problem is that Airbnb did not take action to contact me, as the guest with a confirmed reservation, when there was still ample time to make alternate reservations – not until twenty minutes before the check-in time.

There is clear evidence of this failure to perform on Airbnb’s part, unless Airbnb can prove this to the contrary. We find that Airbnb is at fault for negligence and allowing the consumer to rely upon false information to create plans and take specific actions. There are specific damages that were incurred as a result of Airbnb’s error. We will be demanding an equal amount of the reservation cost in compensation ($3555), although the actual and proximate damages are in fact much larger than this. This week, our attorney will be initiating legal action if this matter is not resolved in a satisfactory manner. Needless to say, there will also be significant fallout and I will initiate a massive social media marketing campaign to ensure that any other potential customers are aware of Airbnb’s negligent business practices. I have a relentless resolve about this kind of injustice and will ensure others do not have this kind of miserable experience in the future. Thank you for your swift action.

Regards,
Peter

Transcript of messages exchanged between Shawn and Peter:

Peter: Hello Shawn, Hope all is well! We are Santa Monica locals who are attending a wedding in Malibu. We are a clean, professional bunch who are just looking for a place to sleep on Saturday evening rather than driving back down the PCH at night. Thanks for your consideration!

Peter: Hello Shawn! How are you doing?

Peter: Thanks for accepting our reservation. I’d like to just confirm that you’re good with our group staying at the property tomorrow evening.

Peter: By the way, this estate is magnificent. We’re really looking forward to our stay.

Peter: We had one question – do you think it might be possible to check out at noon instead of 10:00 AM on Sunday? Please let us know, thanks.

Peter: Hello Shawn, are there any particulars about how we can enter the property today? Like a lockbox or a hidden key somewhere?

Shawn: I contacted them a day ago and they were supposed to reach out to you yesterday. Airbnb has made a mistake. The days are not available and there was some sort of bug in their system.

Peter: We are hours away from a wedding! Oh my goodness, there is going to be a huge problem.

Shawn: I have spoken with them and they were supposed to contact you.

Peter: This isn’t cool, man.

Shawn: I totally understand and it totally sucks and I am sorry that they messed up. The dates were blocked out on my end. I didn’t have anything to do with this reservation and it should not have been made. Airbnb was notified immediately and they are responsible for this mistake. I’ve been trying to reach out to you since we made this reservation.

Peter: You couldn’t tell me this yesterday.

Shawn: Dude what are you not understanding? There is a serious glitch in their system. I sometimes see your reservation on my app and then it’s gone the next time I log in. The dates were never available. And when I saw it I tried tapping your listing and it would crash. I’m surprised it’s working now cause all yesterday afternoon it wasn’t. Chill on me please. This is not my fault nor yours.

Peter: Just so you know, we had eight international guests for a wedding today. The wedding has been completely ruined thanks to this fiasco. It may not have been your fault Shawn, but your response to the situation sucked. If you had had my contact info sooner you could have let me know.

Shawn: I tried to let you know and every time I tried the app crashed on me. I tried to open the reservation and it crashed. I tried to get your direct contact info and it crashed. I checked on my phone and it crashed. I checked on my computer and it crashed. Up until this afternoon I couldn’t even respond to these messages. I don’t know what the hell you want from me at this point and you are being quite rude. I think based on your assumptions and behavior you are clearly upset (and I am very sorry about that, and wish I could have done more) but you should probably look to direct your anger to those responsible. I went above and beyond on this and can show you my email to and from Airbnb with my complaints. I told them that I could not reach you yesterday five minutes after you made the booking. Please do not contact me again. You are rude and I don’t think you are a good person. How dare you use profanity at me and act as if I am responsible. You are the victim here. You did nothing wrong and I empathize as to how terrible it must have been for you and those coming in for the wedding. But you have no right to come at me. Again, please do not contact me ever again.

Airbnb Christmas Present from Father Goes Awry

I booked an Airbnb for my son as his Christmas present. I immediately messaged the host informing him it was for my son and his two friends. Over a week went by with no response except for him to confirm the reservation. He finally contacted me an hour after check in time the day of the reservation to inform me he was editing the booking. I explained I was not going to be there. I asked if that was okay. He said it was, and edited the reservation. He called me back to get me to confirm the change. I did, and was charged an extra $67. I then got a call twenty minutes later from Airbnb telling me I violated their terms of service and the host complained; they cancelled the reservation and were not going to refund my money. No one from Airbnb spoke to me before they cancelled it. I would have driven down that night to stay with my son to keep the reservation. No one held the host accountable for his actions and his verbal agreement. I was out $310 total as well as leaving my son stranded the day of travel with nowhere to stay.

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.

Bad Airbnb Host Cancels our Mexico Vacation at the Last Minute

I had a similar Airbnb Hell experience with Sofia in Tulum, Mexico. I had reserved her place for a three-week stay a full month in advance. We were so excited to have found a nice place at a reasonable rate. It was priced fairly enough that we could do some of the other fun adventures in the area. Ten days before the trip I tried to connect with Sofia to ask a few questions about the place; she did not respond. As we got closer to the departure date, and after a few more attempts to contact her, I started to worry. I contacted Airbnb and they confirmed the reservation was fine. Well, somewhere between takeoff and landing in Cancun, Sofia cancelled our reservation. She never explained why, refused to answer any questions, and never contacted me again. With only one day’s notice, we ended up having to book another Airbnb that was very nice, but twice as much money and nowhere near the beach, which meant a lot of money on taxis and not the Maya Riviera vacation we had planned for, dreamed and reserved. Because I was still on vacation, I missed the window to leave feedback on her profile on Airbnb. I suspect she got a longer stay offer or more money as it coincided with spring break in Cancun. I’m very disappointed. I spent well over $1000, more than I ever intended to, and it was not a relaxing time; it was very stressful. How can a host just cancel for no reason?

Superhost and Fellow Airbnb User Throws in the Towel

I was one of Airbnb’s greatest fans. I loved the service. I was both a Superhost and a regular traveler. I could not believe it when a last minute cancellation caused Airbnb to leave me stranded with my young children in a foreign city without any assistance. First, the case manager was unable to make outgoing calls. So, all she did was periodically send emails apologizing for all the trouble. In the meantime, I was on my own with my children waiting for an alternate reservation. It was like living through a bad dream all day long. Finally, I had to find my own hotel and paid a lot more than I was planning for a last minute reservation.

Airbnb will not do anything for you if you get into trouble with finding accommodation. All they do, at best, is reimburse you. By that point it’s too late to do anything. What you need is accommodation. They truly do not care about you or anyone else. Considering the fees they charge for bookings, they are pocketing all of the money and doing very little for those fees. I would not have believed it until it happened to me. As a result, I took my listing off Airbnb. There is no way I was going to take a chance that someone would trash my place. Now I knew Airbnb would do nothing to compensate me if something went wrong. I will not be fooled twice. I was stranded and they did not even help me get a hotel room. If someone trashed my place, I knew I would be on my own as well. This company cannot possibly last because eventually, something horrible will happen to all Airbnb users.

Ripped Off After Last-Minute Cancellation in Milan

Early in the day when we were due to leave for Italy, our host sent an email advising she could no longer host us. Whilst she offered five other accommodation options through her booking agent (I presume a group that handles a number of bed and breakfasts in the Milan area), we simply had no time to try and communicate with those hosts to get a booking confirmation and arrange a meeting before our departure as we simply would not have access to any communication tools whilst travelling. Because of this, we had to urgently try to find alternative accommodations, settling on a hotel in Milan so we knew we would have reliable accommodations upon arrival, in 24 hours’ time. Since our host cancelled, I have been unable to get a refund of the $418 we paid for our booking. The host’s email no longer works and she will not respond to SMS messages sent to her phone. She has also removed our booking from the Airbnb site so we cannot contact her via our “Trips and Reservations” area of the website. Airbnb has no way of offering help on their website, instead referring people to Q&As on their website, which are useless. As a first time user of Airbnb, this has been a really bad experience and I will never use it ever again. I will do all that I can to persuade others to stay away from Airbnb. I feel totally ripped off.