During the early days of the pandemic I understood that people were unsure about hosting strangers, especially someone traveling from another country in their house. In March, I had a few hosts either just not respond to my booking or else politely tell me that they’d suddenly had a family member turn up and therefore the room wasn’t available. They cancelled the booking and I got my money back… eventually.
Sometimes it can happen several times in a row and that can hurt you because I’m a world traveller, not a tourist, and I book for a month at a time to save money. Long after the pandemic fear was an issue, I sometimes had lazy hosts who may not have even been renting their house, just failed to respond to a booking. Sometimes it took a ridiculously long time to get my money back.
I arrived in Mexico after one fraudulent booking and I only had enough money left to take a cheap place for a week until I could afford to book again, which of course cost me more. Then I booked a really nice house in the mountains. The guy had only one review and it was terrible but I could also see that the person complaining was being completely unreasonable. I can see through those sort of reviews — some people are just whiny and expect champagne on a beer budget.
One thing that bothered me was that the guy had a long response time listed, so I tried to message him first. I didn’t get a reply for half a day. My current place was about to expire and I didn’t want to book again for a single day at a higher price, so I took a chance. I mean… people can be busy, right? So I booked for a month.
I waited. After 24 hours he hadn’t responded and Airbnb said I would get my money back. Sometimes this takes a few days. Sometimes it takes a week. Airbnb will always say that it’s PayPal’s fault or your bank’s fault, but I have a very efficient bank (Citibank) that accept intra-bank deposits instantly, and updates my account statement instantly. I don’t have that problem. When there are delays, it’s never my bank.
This time… the money just didn’t come back. I had to borrow money in order to make a new booking, which was really awkward. I’m stuck overseas. It’s hard to find work when I slap down a month’s rent and the renter doesn’t even answer. Airbnb has taken my money that really leaves me in a pickle.
I contacted Airbnb and of course it took a day to get some outsourced, incompetent idiot, to whom I complained at length, who ignored what I said, and gave me canned responses. When I complained further they escalated and then still gave me a canned response saying it could take “2-5 days” to get my pending transfer released. I pointed out that at this point it had been two weeks and then they changed their tune and said, “Well, actually it can take up to 30 days depending on your bank.”
I was just like, “No, man. Make up your mind. Is it 2-5 days or is it 30 days? It’s never been that long before.”
I’m currently at three weeks and my bank says the money hasn’t been released. PayPal say it has. Airbnb just says, “It’s not our problem.” But the thing is, I’ve had this crap happen several times this year and Airbnb just doesn’t care. I’ve been outright defrauded by hosts who’ve demanded huge (one month) deposits in cash and Airbnb hasn’t delisted them after complaining.
I’ve tried to book at places whose hosts have immediately cancelled the listing and messaged me saying, “That’s really just an advertisement. We don’t really accept bookings through Airbnb. You have to pay us directly.” Airbnb hasn’t removed those listings either.
Airbnb doesn’t care. They don’t remove fraudsters and they don’t remove people who just don’t bother answering their messages or accept bookings. It doesn’t matter how much you complain. They’d rather have millions of listings than actually weed out the BS ones and make sure that they have some sort of quality control, and their system of taking your money before the host accepts your booking is absolutely unconscionable.
If you’re a young backpacker, or a student, or you’re just living from week to week on a tight budget… if you slap down a month’s rent on a place and then it takes 21 or 30 days to get it back when the host doesn’t even bother accepting your booking, you’re up the creek without a paddle. Regardless of whether it’s your bank or PayPal’s fault, Airbnb should not do things this way. They shouldn’t take your money until the booking is confirmed and it’s absolutely ludicrous that they will take your money for up to a month on a speculative “this booking might be accepted.”
I’m so sick of having my money taken by Airbnb and having to fight with them to get it back, or have them tell me I just have to wait a month. I’m not some rich jetsetter. I’m just a schoolteacher who is trying to make a life moving from country to country. I don’t have the sort of money to have month’s worth of rent tied up in failed bookings. This system clearly has no regard for the customer’s rights and is designed with mistrust as the primary motivation. There is no situation in which it makes sense for anyone to take a customer’s money and hold onto it for a month before a booking is accepted. That’s not protecting anyone.
We’re all verified users with our passports on file. We’re not going to make fraudulent bookings. We can’t. No one’s going to book a place if they don’t have the money. If they did that even once, they could be reprimanded or banned. Instead the attitude is, “We don’t trust you. But we do trust the hosts. So we’re taking your money now just for expressing interest and even if the host completely ignores you… you’re not getting that money back for a long time so I hope you have spare cash to book something else because you might be waiting up to 30 days to get the money back. Sorry not sorry.”
It’s just not good enough. You shouldn’t pay for goods or services before it’s confirmed that they are available.