At 11:55 AM on June 21st, I was enjoying an amazing time with my wife of ten years, driving up the coast without a care in the world. Little did I know that Airbnb had just decided to blow up our long planned anniversary trip. When I had first started planning, I was hesitant about using Airbnb because I worried about the potential for homeowners to make sudden changes. However, I was assured by friends that Airbnb had always worked out extremely well for them, so I decided to go for it.
On March 27th, nearly three months before our trip, we booked our stays and were extremely excited. We paid in full, paid off our credit card, and were so eager for our getaway. Fast forward to our actual trip, and once I got wifi access later in the evening, I discovered an email informing me that our bookings had been cancelled without explanation. We had no place to stay, on a weekend, in June.
Panic set in quickly. We called customer support but were only told that it was for a ‘technical reason.’ We were told it would be escalated, but who knows when we might get a response. It was only later that the explanation email arrived and we knew what ‘a technical reason’ meant, which was that somehow I’d been tagged as having failed a background check.
I’m a pragmatist. I understand that businesses must minimize risk. However, the onus must be on the business to minimize their risk in a way that does not harm their customers, that does not strand them 2000 miles from home. When I found out the real reason for my cancellation, I immediately filed a dispute. As expected, that dispute was resolved in my favor, because the information provided to Airbnb was in error. However, winning the dispute eight days later doesn’t fix the emotional turmoil that Airbnb caused on what was supposed to be an amazing trip. It doesn’t give me back those lost hours with my wife where we were both crying and agonizing.
Had Airbnb made this mistake in March, three months ago, it could have been easily corrected. I’d have disputed, and everything would have been fine. However, because Airbnb decided to do so the day before our stay, we had no recourse or remedy. Brainstorming, we tried to sign up my wife and have her book the stays, but she was also denied. She was told that because she was connected to me, she was blocked as well. My wife was devastated when she was told that, because she was married to me, she wasn’t allowed to have an Airbnb account, either.
The follow up email that Airbnb sent to her was brutal, and brought her to tears yet again. Not exactly the emotion one is going for on an anniversary. Airbnb did its absolute best to destroy our long planned, long saved for trip. It hurt us both financially and, more importantly, emotionally. This is the kind of story you only read about; you never think it will happen to you. Now that it has happened to me, I do think people should read about it. It seems like exactly the kind of publicity that Airbnb deserves. Wouldn’t you agree?