Unfortunately, my experience at Liz’s place has to be added to the list of Airbnb horror stories. First of all, her profile photo was fake, and not a picture of her. That should have been my first warning sign when I checked in. I arrived at her apartment to find it in a state of disrepair. The doorknob to my bedroom was missing; she said a previous Airbnb guest had broken it (scary sign number two). The linens and bed were soiled, and had not been washed from a previous guest’s use. The bedroom was covered with dust. When I tried to shower my first evening in the apartment, the loose glass shower door fell to the floor, nearly shattering and injuring me. Because of the broken shower, I was unable to bathe or shower for the duration of my stay. During the course of my stay, Liz began asking me for cash for various things in her apartment she said were broken (that were already broken when I arrived). One night, she arrived at the apartment drunk at about 2:00 AM, waking me and behaving in a threatening and scary manner. I promptly checked into a hotel the next morning. On top of this, every review I have attempted to write about this experience has been deleted entirely and censored by Airbnb, so that other guests cannot be warned.
My wife and I stayed at this Airbnb in Barcelona with a host who has had rave reviews. My review was also quite positive as we had no complaints. Upon posting my review, I saw what our host, Gloria, had written. Her comments were slanderous fabrications with no basis in fact. What happened is that we left the room early in the day. While we were gone Gloria, without our permission, let a “worker” in the room to do some “repairs.” After the worker had left she smelled smoke. That evening, upon our return, we were confronted by Gloria and accused of smoking in the room. Neither my wife nor I smoke and we were not about to take up smoking at seventy years old. We assured Gloria that we had not smoked and the accusation was false. It was pointed out to her that the fact that there was no smell of smoke before we left for the day or in the evening should be a clue as to who smoked in the room, i.e. the worker. I thought that was the end of it.
When I read her review I was livid as she persisted with the slander and a whole lot of other accusations. Filing a complaint with Airbnb, I was advised by a representative that there was nothing to be done, because a review is a review. My response to Gloria’s review was taken down. The reason was that I shared what Gloria had told us, in great detail, upon arrival in her place. She claimed to be one of twenty-five people in the world with a rare kind of brain tumor. Believing her, I had given her the benefit of a doubt and in my response indicated that Gloria’s rant may be mitigated by the fact that she has brain tumors. Apparently Airbnb decided that a comment on the host’s health condition violated their policy, even though the host herself had gone through excruciating detail telling us her medical history. Confidentiality did not seem to be a concern with her. My protest, a matter of honor, has been ignored. The host’s falsehoods stand while my response has been taken down. Needless to say we will not be staying at Airbnb properties again. My trust in them has been badly shaken as it is clear that some hosts are, in my opinion, less than stable.
I have stayed at three Airbnb accommodations. The first two were great. I always got excellent ratings and feedback form hosts. The third experience was not good. The ratings were all five star for the accommodations. Well, the other guests who stayed in this accommodation obviously do not know what a five-star rating means…. the living room sofa needed cleaning, the screens were ripped and falling off of two windows, there were huge cigarette burns in the outside deck upholstery, and the oven needed maintenance. Her personal clothes were in cupboards and drawers. The dresser drawers fell out when I tried to open them. There was partying outside all night for two nights – it was a rough area. My friend yelled at them as the noise was loud and went on for hours.
When we left we did not do the dishes. The kitchen was so small one person could hardly move around in it. There was very little counter space, the sink didn’t have a drain plug that I could find, and there were no dish towels. I was quite sick when we left. We did not put out the garbage; however, it was all contained in bags. I left a note to say why we did not do the dishes. The host said they could not recommend me again as a guest, saying we yelled profanities at the “people who were just celebrating St. Patty’s Day”. We did yell at them at 4:00 AM to be quiet after hours of yelling and fighting on the street, but there was no profanity from us. The people on the street were yelling at one another and uttering lots of profanities.
This review is now on my file. My understanding is that this will never be removed. This host is a little batty… we did not break anything. She did not hire a cleaning person – she expected us to clean afterwards. When I am on a holiday I do not expect to have to clean the place before I leave. I will never stay using Airbnb again. This review process has no recourse and can be very damaging to guests’ reputations. Airbnb should be inspecting these places and negative reviews should be shared between host and guest so both sides can learn from the experience. I would have been glad to pay for a cleaning service if I had known this was expected. I was very ill. However, Airbnb should require hosts to use a cleaning service.
I received an extremely bad, fabricated review in retaliation from a guest who I reported to Airbnb because she had additional people staying in my apartment for whom she did not register or pay. Although our email correspondence on the Airbnb website clearly showed that the woman had additional guests, Airbnb awarded me a minimal and unacceptable settlement. Their reason? The guest did not make herself available to them for verification of my claim, and the term of infringement was not clear to them. I made numerous complaints to no avail. Airbnb’s inflexible transparency policy has allowed this false review to remain on my page. Since it appeared, I’ve had 73 views of my page but not a single rental. Previously, my apartment was always being rented. That means not a month has gone by without guests until now. Airbnb is more concerned about the guests than they are about the hosts who make it possible for them to earn money. I intend to change to Vacation Home Rentals and hope my experience will be better there.
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.
We had stayed in an Airbnb in Singapore and since we were asked for a review, we posted the challenges we faced during our stay in the most polite way possible. It was simple feedback on insects being present and some inflexibility. We had been very mild with the feedback since the host was a student. In reality, the place was dirty and messy. The host, on the other hand, replied maligning us in a very personal manner, and since we had used a Facebook account to verify our account, this information was also available. As a precaution to all people who are booking through Airbnb: please try to avoid linking it to a Facebook account. Try using a name which is not traceable. The system is highly unregulated and unprofessional. In fact, it makes me wonder about the authenticity of the reviews. It is better to pay more and book via Agoda or Booking.com and move into a decent place, where you would be more sure of what you’re getting. Our other experiences are similar to what many others have faced, including a feeling of intrusion, lack of privacy, and fear of persecution. All in all, Airbnb is not worth it.
This is a story about an unpleasant experience but more so, the entire loss of trust in a like home sharing platform like Airbnb. To me, it raises questions regarding the future of the sharing economy. My girlfriend and I stayed in a private room in a house in a large southern California city. All names have been changed in this story. Tom was the host. We saw a very well-priced private room available, and pristine and luxurious photos of a beautiful very high dollar home. The pictures included the bedroom, the front of the home, two patio areas, a large kitchen, an entry area room with sofas, and a living room with a sofa and fireplace in the background. They looked like pictures from a realty company. The written content looked like it was promoting a high dollar hotel. He wrote – in my opinion, not very clearly – that the kitchen was not available to guests. But the other areas looked nice, and the place had good reviews. We expected a nice place where we could enjoy some calm comfortable down time in the city for a few nights. We were wrong.
The nice description and pictures of this home were like a nice façade on the scammer’s hotel. We learned that by canceling our stay here, we were not able to write a review to warn others about our experience. This threw all my trust in Airbnb out the door, as people who cancel their stays at questionable places are not represented in the review system, leaving a bias of only good reviews at each home. I’ll never use Airbnb again, and I write here because of how disappointed and frustrated I am that people can take advantage, by taking a cool idea and using it in such a horrible way.
We arrived to find an older man and a kid there, and I guess that they were guests there for a month while their other home was being remodeled. Then later we learned that the man was actually the owner. He was there with his kid for a month. I was a bit confused. He didn’t seem like he wanted to converse at all. In our room there was a welcome book like you would find at a hotel. In the book there was a written introduction to the house, as well as any restrictions – not using the kitchen, no control of the air conditioner (we felt too hot) – and how much they loved their previous guests. I was surprised because the laundry was an amenity listed on Airbnb, but in this book it was written it cost 6 USD. It felt like we couldn’t use as much of the home as we expected. In addition, I thought it was strange that we were only given the contact information of the host, who turned out to be the person in charge of bookings.
There was a noticeable lack of information or even a name of the owner who seemed to be so happy to have all these guests stay at his home. You know that feeling in your gut when something is wrong. I felt that and still do today when I remember this experience. Tom arrived later that day and I talked with him about what we could do and places we could use. From this discussion, we understood that the owner reserved the living room in addition to the kitchen for himself, meaning we were not welcome to use that living room either. This was not understood from the posting. I was surprised as there was a picture of this living room on Airbnb and nothing was written that we couldn’t use it. We learned that the home was for sale, but taken off the market. The owner is moving out, and they plan to turn it into an “Airbnb hotel.”
Every room was listed on Airbnb, and no rooms had keys, meaning people were coming and going each day. I thought about how safe my belongings were. I felt like the aim and motivation of the host and owner was to get people in and out and collect the money quickly. Normally, Tom said, people come and stay only to sleep. Unfortunately, that was not what we were desiring or expecting. The next morning we packed our things and left. We took a close look at the listing and found several things that we felt misled by. This included the washer and dryer cost, that all the rooms of the house are offered, and guests are coming and going each day; there was nothing mentioned about this in the listing. There were no locks on the bedroom doors, we expected a level of comfort that upon arrival was not available, the noise outside of planes passing by was there even though he wrote that they were quiet and could not be heard, and the feeling of not being welcome in the home all added to our feeling of being misled and used.
I sent a message to Tom telling him about all of this, that we would be cancelling the stay, and requested a refund within 24 hours of arrival. In order to cancel, you have to call Airbnb. I called and told the customer service representative Andy about what happened. He said he would look through my messages to Tom and talk with Tom to see if I was eligible for the refund. It was during this communication with Tom that I learned how little support Airbnb offers to guests. In order to get the refund, they need to verify if there were areas shown to be available to guests that actually were not available. He confirmed that the kitchen was not available. But Andy said that when he talked with Tom, all the other areas were available. This is not what Tom told us. Andy took Tom’s word for it over the phone.
Thus, Airbnb cannot override the host’s cancellation policy, and I only received a refund for Airbnb’s fee, less than 30 USD. This really surprised me: It didn’t matter if I thought the host’s listing was misleading. I told Andy from Airbnb that what Tom said was false. Andy said that I need to provide written documentation evidence that the host told us something different than what he told you. Shall I bring a camera and record the entire experience at each stay? Or am I supposed to communicate only through Airbnb’s messaging system? No verbal communication? How is this even possible when the whole idea is to stay in someone’s home?
This is clearly impracticable. Tom was not interested in the other points where I felt misled either. The fact a host can mislead a perspective guest into booking an experience that the guest finds inaccurate upon arrival has made me loose all trust in the host listing and the Airbnb community. That he can do this while running it as an “Airbnb hotel” scares me even more. And now I have lost trust in Airbnb guest support. Where is the accountability? To add to the frustration, Tom sent a long and very nasty message to me on Airbnb’s message service regarding the entire ordeal. In my opinion, it was very defensive and immature. It seemed like he had a lot to lose. After his rant, and in the end, he did mention that he would not refund the money. But he would offer a refund if the room were rebooked. I have to rely on his good nature to see if this happens. After everything we went through I doubt anything will be refunded.
I didn’t wait around; I canceled my Airbnb account immediately. I am done with them. Where does this lead? In the wider perspective, I can see how there will be more and more hosts like this one, basically offering an “Airbnb hotel”, moving guests in and out, collecting the revenue while Airbnb collects the fees. All the while this leaves hosts unaccountable for poor service and underperforming experiences. From the hosts’ and Airbnb’s perspective, I guess it’s pretty good for them in the short term.
Now that the stay has been canceled, I’ve learned that I cannot leave feedback for future guests! Thus, I lost trust in the entire Airbnb rating system, because poor or negative stays that are cancelled, which would warn perspective guests, cannot be posted. In my eyes, this creates a biased system that favors hosts and Airbnb’s interests.
This system works on perceived trust. I’ve lost all trust in Airbnb. They have just lost a few customers for life. I cannot recommend Airbnb to anyone anymore. “Book homes from local hosts and experience a place like you live there,” Airbnb says in its app: a meaningless, disappointing and misleading statement in my opinion. My experience probably wasn’t a common one, but these little abnormal, extraordinary experiences are what can cause the most frustration, the most interesting stories, and in the end, I hope they will be a force to bring about positive change.