Horrible Experience and Resolution for Hong Kong Airbnb

I tried to open a resolution case on the Airbnb website. It was really challenging so I’m just writing this long email to Airbnb. I think the part of my user experience differed from that four years ago. I started using Airbnb back when you could reach a live person about your problems; nowadays, it trys to automate everything.

My latest stay was in Beijing from April 13-16, 2017 in what was advertised as a modern, quiet, and relaxing apartment near the CBD. The resolution center kept asking me to “request money” from this stay which I didn’t have a problem with.

However, I am writing about my stay in Hong Kong, during which time I was overseas so it was difficult to call Airbnb. I was contacted by a local Airbnb resolution center specialist but it was handled really poorly. The room itself was horrible. It looked nothing like the pictures. In fact, I have pictures to prove what the actual living conditions were (will reply to any email with the pictures).

I landed in Hong Kong on April 6th. I was pretty jet lagged so just booked a place and fell asleep. The second day while I was in the city touring around, the owner moved my luggage into a different room. It was slightly bigger; however, there was a sewage problem with the bathroom (not to mention the fact she moved my stuff and suitcase and entered my room without permission). I was pretty upset, but still jetlagged. I decided to just go to bed.

In the middle of the night, I woke up from the unbearable odor from the bathroom. It was so strong and the room was tiny, with no window for ventilation. I was very upset and called Airbnb for help. Someone picked up the call and promised he would “call me back soon.” He asked me to “find a cafeteria or some place, wait for his call, and try to book a hotel: Airbnb would reimburse me.”

It was 2:00 AM at the time, and I had to leave and try to find another hotel. Nothing online allowed same-night bookings (in fact, I accidentally booked something for April 9th and was charged on booking.com even though I was supposed to fly out of Hong Kong the afternoon of the 9th). Finally it was 3:30 AM. I took an Uber and found a hotel to sleep in. The whole experience was horrible.

The next morning, someone from the local Hong Kong team finally contacted me, I couldn’t talk to her for long because I needed to check out of that hotel and try to catch my flight. I told her I would “reach out and resolve this once I can settle down.” She went ahead and cancelled my resolution case. Right now, I am asking for a formal resolution process to start. Due to the unresponsiveness of Airbnb as well as false advertisement of this “hostel” trying to be a house, I lost my valuable travel time in Hong Kong, spent money on Uber both ways, booked a hotel at 3:30 AM, and had to spend 30 minutes on international calling. Overall, my experience of Airbnb in Asia was just a much lower standard when compared to that in the US.

He Said/He Said Airbnb Dispute with Surveillance Cameras

My host planted surveillance cameras in at least one area. I am posting my original review, the host’s review, and my response. When I first arrived I took photos of the guest facilities as they were a mess, and stank. I had the sense that I was being watched during my entire stay, including in the bathroom. There is an area that he calls a kitchen but there was no new dining room table, and no cooking utensils or appliances other than a coffee maker that I used. I placed their large cup underneath it in case of further dripping and threw my coffee filter in the trash. I sat and ate lunch at a wooden table for twenty minutes and there was no leakage, no water or coffee damage when I left. Perhaps one of the other two guests spilled the coffee I was blamed for? The important point is his admission of checking the camera to note the time that I was in the kitchen. Does this mean I was monitored in my room and the restroom? A surveillance camera is a violation of my privacy and constitutional rights in a private setting. Here is the review that I left: “Peaceful, quiet and comfortable with many perks!”

I said more positive things but for some reason they’ve disappeared. Here are the host’s remarks:

“We would not host Jerry again, even though his other reviews were great. Jerry was polite upon arrival, but that’s the only thing he had going for him. With over 60 guests we’ve had in our home, he’s been the first guest we’ve had to call Airbnb to document a complaint about. He’s also the first guest that’s made us question continuing being hosts. He originally booked two nights, Wednesday and Thursday.

Arriving home Thursday after work to clean between my two jobs, I could only smell a strong coffee odor. I came to find out an entire cup of coffee had been spilled over the brand new kitchen table, down the side, and all over the hardwood floor with zero effort to clean it up, despite Clorox wipes and paper towels being two feet away. We looked back at the camera footage to confirm he spilled the coffee around 3:00 PM that day and got up and left it there. Up in the bathroom, soap had been poured all over the bathtub floor, causing a slipping hazard. It took a while to clean that up. I went to check the hamper in the room for towels. The hamper was half full of garbage, which ended up staining the brand new cloth hamper. Even though there’s a trash can provided right outside the bedroom door, in the dining room, and a third one by the garage, he chose to use the hamper. Instead of using it for towels, he just tossed them on the floor despite them being damp. He left the lights on 24/7 and even took our entire roll of Clorox wipes into his room without permission. I had the bathroom clean when I left for my second job. I came back to a filthy bathroom again, with toothpaste spit all in the sink and on the floor. A huge puddle of water was also on the floor that I had to clean at 11:00 PM. Friday, checkout day, he waited until 3:00 PM to checkout. Since our next guest arrived at 1:30 PM, we had to place him in a room that wasn’t meant for him. Jerry thought he’d booked for Friday night as well but had not and left upon the realization he’d accidentally booked one day too few, complaining about having to now book a hotel. After checkout we found half a dozen towels, hand towels, and wash cloths used for only a two-night stay. We only charge $30 per night to help travelers out and to help with our renovations of our new home, but his stay has cost us much more than what we made due to the damaged hamper, and ruined kitchen table that was brand new two months ago. Hopefully our hardwood floors will be fine. I work too hard to have my home treated so poorly. If he books again, I plan to ask Airbnb to cancel it.”

Finally, my response:

“Wow, I’m shocked! I wish Staunton had said something to me about all this. First, regarding toothpaste spit? I don’t have toothpaste at all. I noticed the towels being used by two friends of his that stayed one or two nights. I figured there was a shortage of towels. I did try to make coffee but only got half a cup. I did not notice any spills and I put the used filter in the trash. Maybe he’s talking about another guest? I gave him a great rating out of kindness as he’s new to the business and I overlooked a lot of inconveniences, e.g. the smell of animals in the house, no small refrigerator for personal use, no way to boil water for tea or coffee, no way to lock your room in spite of three guest rooms and finally the inconvenience of three guests/strangers using one small bathroom. The home itself was in disarray, the front yard was growing weeds and the parking was too tight. I did mistake the length of my stay but apologized profusely to his partner for the error and made no complaint regarding finding a motel room for Friday night. Based on his inaccurate and hostile comments I wouldn’t recommend this not-so-private Airbnb to anyone. By the way, I called Staunton on Friday to see if an extra night was available as he had told me originally that after Wednesday I’d be his only guest. He sent a cryptic note that he was at work and too busy to talk. This has been an unfortunate experience, the only such one since I began using Airbnb. Staunton should have talked with me about his grievances before going off on me after my kindness to him in my rating.”

A brief review: At my age of 74, I am compulsively clean:

1. I hang my towels up to dry. His guests threw theirs on the floor.

2. I do not use toothpaste as I have dentures. I noticed the toothpaste spit from the other guests. I don’t clean up after other guests.

3. Soap naturally sinks to the bottom of the tub when washed from your body.

4. Three guests for one bathroom is too much, especially with only two towel racks. I kept a dry towel in my room in order to have one when I needed it.

5. My room was not cleaned once during my stay.

6. There was no communication that anything was wrong.

7. I apologized profusely to Staunton’s cleaning man for the late checkout and my confusion about booking dates. I at no time complained about having to get a motel room.

8. There was a tiny trashcan in the bathroom that was full. There was no trashcan in my room.

9. I am totally offended by this young man and his hostile review. This has become a nightmare that I will not repeat. His review and the surveillance camera are unacceptable and deceitfully full of allegations harmful to my good standing with Airbnb with which I am now done with unless they take action in admonishing this young man.

This has ruined me to Airbnb. They are not available to hear or follow up on complaints. They need to investigate this particular listing for the surveillance cameras and take them off their site.

Update 5/23/2017:

The host has contacted me again and is now saying my coffee grounds ruined his coffee maker. He also saw a host in Darlington on my wish list and he has contacted her warning her about me. Is this legal? He also tried to message me on Facebook. Here is his latest email:
Hi Jerry,
I wanted to take a moment to message you in response to your comment left on the review. Fortunately no one can see your inaccurate response from my end. I just wanted to address some things in your response. You stated you didn’t have toothpaste, but Thursday night you were the only guest that had been there between my cleaning of the bathroom at 5:30 PM and when the next guest that arrived that night whom I personally greeted. Before their arrival is when I found a blue paste (maybe not toothpaste, but some blue goo) spit in the sink and on the carpet. Meaning no other guest could have done that between my two cleanings. As for the spill, I’m not sure how you didn’t see that since the entire table was covered, as well as the river of coffee that had ran down the side and onto the floor. Again, that was between my lunch break cleaning at 12:30 PM and my evening cleaning at 5:30 PM. You were the only one there between those hours since my two uncles and partner were all gone before 10:30 AM. I do apologize for your “inconveniences” due to the animal smell even though we’ve had several reviews, including one that stated “warm, cozy, and smelled like a resort” along with other praises on how nice our rooms smell since we keep fragrances plugged in all throughout the house. Even though the smell of dog would still be expected in a listing that states dogs live inside the home, even though we bathe her frequently. Though she’s never allowed outside the bedroom unless she’s going out the back door so she’d never be in the guest portion of the home, ever, and never has been even since moving into the home.
The next day after you left, we noticed you’d used the Keurig with raw coffee grinds which ruined a $100+ machine, since they’re meant for coffee pods only. A mini fridge was provided for your use, as well as our large, empty fridge in the kitchen. Airbnb’s typically don’t provide a mini fridge in every single room, as we are not a hotel. In the kitchen, you’d have also found ways to boil water in a pot on the stove so that’s incorrect too. We also had several notes posted in the room and our listing stating that we provide room keys so that you can lock your door anytime, but you never once asked for a room key despite it being mentioned in three places and expressed verbally. As for the inconvenience of sharing the bathroom, you could read the following on our listing: “We have two other rooms listed along with this one. If other guests have booked those rooms the same night as your stay, the bathroom would be shared.” The bathroom has a lock as well as your bedroom. We get last^minute bookings daily, sometimes as late as 3:00 AM. So if I told you we’d have no guests Wednesday night, obviously that could change at any minute. Also, you’ll have to excuse the weeds in the yard as I work eight jobs and haven’t had time to cut the grass since my cousin committed suicide recently after her father had an accident, and I’ve been too busy tending to family matters to bother with weeds in the yard. You also stated you called me Friday, but I never received a phone call from you. Only a message asking me to call. And I responded saying I was at work and could not talk. I’m unsure how that could count as cryptic since it was just a few words and stated the obvious: 1) At work. 2) Can’t talk until 5:00.
I also see you have a place in Darlington on your wishlist, a home that the woman who actually referred me to Airbnb owns, so I’ve sent her an email with fair warning. I’m sorry you had an unfortunate experience, and I’m just as sorry for how insulted and abused we felt in our home with the constant messes. I should have brought my concerns up to you, but working so many jobs the only thing I can do in my spare time is clean between guests and then I’m right back out the door to my next job. I only even remember seeing you just once during your stay. I’m sure you’re a fantastic person, as I can tell from your other three reviews and how friendly you were at check-in, but unfortunately we just had our first horrible experience and were upset with how the house was treated. Unfortunately I didn’t get to know you very well and was only left seeing bad things, and that saddens me. I want to assure you that I’m a Superhost for a reason; this past week has just been a long and upsetting week for me. I wish you the best in all of your future travels.
What are my legal rights on Airbnb, or do I need to get an attorney involved?

Airbnb Subcontractors Promise More Than They Can Deliver

Have you noticed there are some companies that will book your Airbnb property and guests for you? Steer clear: they help Airbnb by keeping you from getting paid and getting guests to rent a lousy place to stay. This comes from both ends of the spectrum – host hell and guest hell – where a third party is in the middle preventing either from reaching a resolution.

How it works: Airbnb is using start-up companies that only book with Airbnb, promising they will communicate with both hosts and guests, provide property maintenance, cleaning before and after each rental, let guests in (and secure the rental when they leave), help with any issues both hosts and guests have at any time of the day or night, collect any rental and damage fees, pay the hosts directly, and have a customer support line 24/7. I answered a local ad through Craigslist out of curiosity to apply as a “licensed cleaner” for Airbnb properties. After spending an hour or so clicking through a basic “do you know how to clean” on my computer, you are not given a background checked at all. You are signed up immediately and can take ‘tasks’ from your smart phone, including cleaning and stocking rentals. So first off, neither the host nor guest has any guarantee the rental will be damage free, clean and maintained. For someone like myself who is certified in the cleaning industry with over 20 years’ experience, state licensed and bonded, in one day I could tell this was a huge scam and mistake, but wanted to see what was up on how all this worked.

The first “claim job” day was a Sunday. There were three rentals that needed cleaning, clean bedding, and linens and a mini-stay pack (like hotels). Everything was sent to a storage unit. All jobs needed to be finished by 3:00 PM, so I got to the storage unit at 10:00 AM. I needed time to find what I needed since I’d never been to this storage place before which was in downtown Seattle, right off the most notorious intersection the city has. At least it was Sunday, so I had that going for me. Right off the bat, I couldn’t get into the unit from the code they gave me. I waited an hour and a half for someone to send me the proper information. This was after calling their “worker support line” which no one answered, and their customer support line, finding not one person knew I worked for them. So much for being listed as a cleaner – and I had full access codes to three properties. Eventually I got a single text and entered the storage unit, which was a mess: Cintas was supposed to be supplying linens but they were out of just about everything. It was disorganized, so I had to hunt to find enough supplies for three rentals.

I tried to find the first unit; the address was wrong and again, I spent almost an hour trying to get a response from anyone at this company. Then I found the unit and just about fell over: my son had rented an apartment right next to the building years before. He left because of two problems: there was a small fire station you couldn’t really see but hear go off at least every two hours round the clock, and crime was high in that area. I entered the unit which was a three story, two master bath, two bedroom plus skinny, and very trashed rental. They had a kid who loved peanut butter, which was stuck solid to the windows, walls, furniture, floors and all over the kitchen. The upstairs master bath didn’t drain at all, which is why the downstairs one was used so heavily.

This unit had been booked for a two-hour cleaning. It was already 1:00 PM when I arrived. Panic set in and I notified the company there was no way I could get all three properties finished in time. They assured me this wasn’t a problem so I set to work running up and down stairs, and unclogging drains. Thankfully I had brought my steam machine to get the peanut butter off everything. It took 3.5 hours to make everything clean and presentable. The company charged the guests an additional $300 for cleaning. This was exorbitant for an additional 1.5 hours more than they quoted, though the guests had been there a full month. I’m not sure what they expected but I am sure the guest and host both got screwed on that one.

Off to another property that had an address that did not exist on any map, and more calling the company to receive a text to find the property. I should mention in between these visits my phone kept going off from SMS messages received. They turned out to be from one of the company’s employees – the one giving me the proper information –  on who his pick was for the NFL super dream team. It couldn’t have been less professional.

Next was a 2700 square foot home in the older part of Seattle, which meant uneven climbing up zigzag steps where the cement was old and broken. The guests had arrived and the wife was furious. The place was trashed from a frat party on Friday night (the guests had to do a two-night minimum booking). I hauled all my cleaning stuff up, asked them where would be best to start (the bathroom, they wanted to shower), and got on it. I then moved to the kitchen where I found broken plates, glasses, a broken microwave plate, and no less than 27 empty bottles of liquor. The guests had a concert to attend so I was able to clean like mad without running into anyone but again, had to reach customer service to figure out where to put the duvet cover that had an entire bottle of cologne spilled on it. The entire upstairs smelled of this horrific men’s cologne and it was the host’s duvet cover. “Bag it and drop it off when you are done” is what I was told but no one would know to whom or where it belonged. I pinned a note to it, bagged it, and wrote the host’s address and last name on the bag.

Once that was finished at 8:00 PM, it was dark with no lighting to see the steps. I eventually tripped on the last one hitting the cement sidewalk. Still, I got up and headed off to the third rental. The week-long guests were compensated for three days and the host had to go over to the property to see the damage. It wasn’t fun for anyone and later I learned the guests were charged $1,200, with the host getting $200 after a month of fighting with Airbnb and the middleman company with which I signed up. I arrived at the third property greeted by some kids on skateboards who glared at me, circling my truck. I decided to take in all my cleaning stuff (Miele vacuum and steam cleaners are expensive).

This place was creepy and not well marked on how to access the basement rental as the top is the house with no lighting on either side indicating the “entrance in the back”. I walked through some bushes, a spider web, and some rocks and found the door. However, I couldn’t find the lock box for the key which had been buried under a planter, not beside the bench. It was pitch black and I was using a military grade flashlight. Still, it took half an hour to find the key. Luckily there was no one there as they were out for dinner and it was small, and not heavily used. I sighed in relief and went to work getting all the linens changed. I cleaned the entire unit and was almost done when the guests arrived. It was an awkward moment to say the least but I was very apologetic and polite. We struck up a conversation, I gave them additional towels (marked in my phone for reporting later to the company), bid them good night, and headed to the storage unit to drop off the dirty linens – which of course, was closed. I hauled them back home.

The next day they had one rental that needed an early clean and since I still had some clean linens, I headed to that home, arriving at 11:00 AM. The guests were from England and their flight didn’t leave for awhile so they were told not to worry, and they could check out before 1:00 PM. I was not notified of this and got a coffee, sent pictures from the day before to the main office of this middleman company, and also told them to get me off the SMS football list. That home was supposed to be two hours of cleaning and while the guests had done a great job of keeping it clean, it was just under 2500 square feet of brand new high-end home space: two stories with the entire downstairs hardwood, upstairs two master baths, four bedrooms. I took my time, disregarding the set pay for the number of bedrooms and bathrooms. Given how the company paid me, it worked out to under $8 an hour on each house.

Here is the kicker for hosts and guests: guests leave a 1-5 star rating on their stay, cleanliness, and amenities which is reported to Airbnb. Since all but one of four rentals was trashed in one way or another, and I was way behind due to the company not having all information handy, those ratings went against the host and some didn’t make it against the guests. Airbnb found a way to really screw over everyone by using a middleman booking company that does very little for the additional cost both hosts and guests pay for, up to 17% more per booking with a monthly cleaning cost of $500-$700 for each property no matter the size or bookings.

The really scary part for everyone else is I told this booking company I could not work for them in such a manner. I’m a professional and it costs money to pay my insurance, license, bond, gas, and cleaning supplies. So even after I told them “no, thank you”, they started emailing me bookings for other clients. I had all the information of the host, guest, payment type, link to both host and guest, plus access information. Because I was still curious, I didn’t tell Airbnb nor the booking company about this; I wanted to see how long it would take before they figured it out. After a week of getting booking notices to my email account for six days, I called Airbnb.

Airbnb had no one single person that I could talk to about the booking company or emails. I was put on hold until the line was dropped twice, transferred to nonexistent extensions, and muddled through why I was calling with agents who did not speak English as their first and possibly second language. Eventually I sent an email to every Airbnb address I could find along with a text and email to the booking company who by the way, were operating in Seattle from San Francisco with no one here at all from their office. In fact, I couldn’t find anyone who’d even been here before which explains the terrible access to things they want you to use for each rental.

About two hours after sending a text message to the booking company, someone called me back and apologized for “the mix up” though I had to let that person know that I wasn’t going to continue working for them. If you are wondering how I knew about the “Frat Party House” and how that shook out, it’s because the guests lived closer to me, hired me on a regular basis to clean their home, and told me what hell they’d been put through to prove the previous guests left such a mess… as if my pictures didn’t already show that? They were almost on the hook for the extra clean up and damage and only Airbnb would deal with them, not the booking company. Luckily I did two things: take a ton of pictures and use a stopwatch for the exact time which can be uploaded to show the date and time. Hopefully this will help some hosts and guests at the same time. I won’t be a part of it for the rest of my career.

House in the Woods Should be Called House on the Highway

People should be aware about an Airbnb property called the House in the Woods in Issaquah, WA. Cool home? Yes! Accurate listing? No! The host claimed it as a Business Ready Listing, but according to the Comcast technician, the Internet and Cable Account had not been set up. Airbnb requires hosts to notify guests in a timely manner if any listed amenities are not available. This host did not; he merely gave a partial refund for the inconvenience. The deferred maintenance issues were noted, photographed, and reported, some of which were paramount to our safety. There were dangerous steps leading to the unit, no smoke detector, and possible electrical issues including buzzing switches, flickering lights, numerous junctions boxes in ceilings, and burned out bulbs.

There was a security issue: no way to lock door between units from the upper unit side. The property was located 60 feet from an extremely busy highway; it was very loud hearing tandem dump trucks start rolling by at 3:30 AM. There was no privacy. The previous home owner operated a landscaping company and had several sheds, trailers, vehicles, work equipment, and a large junkyard located directly behind the home. All could easily be viewed from the wraparound deck, master bedroom and master bathroom. Men were on site all day, moving equipment around, working on noisy gas powered tools, and riding around the property on a noisy four wheeler. If we could see them, they could watch us as well. When we returned from an afternoon outing, one of the men appeared to be snooping around the home. He wasn’t doing maintenance, as he had no tools. What was most disturbing is he ran away when he saw my husband approaching the house. He ran towards the highway, up around the house, and back down to the commercial business. It was scary. The host dismissed it as nothing when we notified her.

At 2:30 AM, on the second night of a two-night stay, we realized one of the men was actually living in a red pickup truck located in the workspace behind the home. We became aware of this when the truck’s headlamps shone through the bedroom window each time he started the truck. It is winter; he ran the engine about once an hour, likely to warm himself. There were questions in our minds keeping us from falling asleep afterwards: is the man homeless? Is he a felon? Is he dangerous? Do we call the police? Needless to say, we were very troubled to learn this was not a quiet serene home located in the woods as the host wants people to believe. It was crazy that other reviews describe it this way. It should be named House on the Highway, as the host’s inaccurate description minimizes the truth. We were totally wigged out by the immense lack of privacy, no separation from the commercial business operation, catching a strange man creeping around the house, and finding another man living on property in a pickup truck visible from the bedroom.

Airbnb Verification is Nothing but Invasion of Privacy

I was going to New Orleans for a work trip and thought I would find a nice Airbnb. I looked around, found one, and made a reservation. Everything was good so far. Then I started working my way through the reasonable verification process. I sent in my drivers license picture and then clicked the Facebook verification tab to complete the process. Despite having had a Facebook account for years, it seemed like Airbnb didn’t think I wasted enough time on it; they rejected my Facebook verification. Then I tried the video verification. The website said that I would get approval from their verification team within a few hours. I recorded the video, and nothing happened. There was no ‘submit’ button and it didn’t seem to submit itself. It just sat there. I figured I would let it do its magic and left for a few hours. When I got back I had an email from Airbnb saying that I only had a couple more hours to do my verification video before my reservation got canceled. I searched all over their website looking for a way to get an answer, but despite the friendly ‘we’re here to help’ messages all over the site I discovered that they were decidedly not here to help. There is absolutely no way to contact Airbnb through their website. I kept going back to the verification page trying to figure out what was wrong. When I did I saw that the Facebook verification option had disappeared and been replaced with an American Express tab. Then the video verification tab disappeared as well. When I originally tried to verify with Facebook there was a page that showed all of the data that they wanted to mine from my profile. That included all of my contacts. I deselected that box because I didn’t want my contacts to start getting hounded by this company. What are the chances that my Facebook profile was rejected because I wouldn’t give them unfettered access to my private data? I’m thinking pretty good. I always had a pretty good opinion of Airbnb and the way that they helped people make a little money. I now have a pretty lousy opinion of the company. They refuse to allow me access if I don’t let them scrape all of my friends’ information and they make it nearly impossible to get any customer service. Shame on Airbnb.

Airbnb Nightmare Ends in Police Arriving

I made the mistake of renting from someone who had never rented before. I should have known it was going to be crazy from the start with the slew of emails. From the moment we arrived we got emails threatening they were going to cancel the booking. I had violated the rules because I had booked for my son and husband despite the fact that the host was notified two weeks in advance that the booking for my son and his roommate. Upon arrival, he demanded the video cameras inside the listing be turned on or he would cancel the booking. He continued to call and email me to the point of harassment. He showed up at the listing four times in one day. After two days of continual harassment my son finally turned the cameras off at which point he showed up and told them to get out of his house. This is when I called the police. We had no idea how this unstable person would act, especially after he said he had loaded weapons in the house.