Airbnb Nightmare: Chicago Bait and Switch

This happened over a year ago, but I thought I’d share. Two months before traveling to Chicago, I found a small apartment (in reality, the attic of an old Victorian) on Airbnb. I needed it for five nights and the description said there were three beds, a stocked kitchen, and a full bathroom. The price was right, so I booked it after exchanging emails with the host. In particular, I wanted to make sure it was safe and that I could prepare meals for my children. A week before traveling, I got a text message (off site) from the host. She said Airbnb made an error and because of that error the space is double booked. I told her that I didn’t know that was possible and, as I was the first to book, I should get priority. She didn’t respond.

We flew into Chicago and arrived at the place. It was adorable. However, there was one bed… not three. There was, however, a couch and a loft with a futon mattress. The kitchen had a sink and a hot plate. But, we could make it work. The first night, the host approached me by walking up the internal stairs (without knocking) and said that she will need us to move downstairs the next day. I was shocked. I asked why and she admitted that she was still double booked and that their business was economically better because the next family was spending a month; she couldn’t afford not to take their reservation. She said, “Not to worry… I have another space you can stay in.” I said, “Then make them stay there until we leave.” Obviously, that didn’t please her. But, she turned and left.

The next day, we went out to explore the city, returning at 9 PM. It was immediately obvious that there was a new rental car in the driveway. As we were getting out of the car, the host greeted us and told us she had moved our stuff downstairs and couldn’t wait to show us our “rustic cabin.” I was furious! But, I had kids and it was late so… what choice did I have? We were led downstairs and the host had the nerve to complain that we’d left dishes undone and towels on the counter upstairs. Well, yeah, we thought we would be returning to that room and planned to do our dishes then.

As soon as she opened the basement door, I was displeased. The stairs were steep, unlit and rotting. A string of Christmas lights had been hastily strung as lighting but it was dark. At the bottom of the stairs was an unfinished, stone basement. A small bathroom was crammed in this little area. The household boiler and washer/dryer were to the left. To the right was a room with drywall and a small fireplace. The TV was broken. The “bed” was a rock hard futon. There was exposed piping, wiring, unsecured chemicals, and spiders everywhere. But, worst of all, there were no windows or doors. Anywhere! The only escape was the stairs.

I told her this wasn’t what we signed up for (especially since my six year old was crying about the darkness of the place). She actually got offended and said, “I live here. I gave this up so you wouldn’t be stranded.” She said, “For your trouble… I can comp you.” As we had nowhere else to go, I said ok but asked for more lamps and lighting. The next day, we got up bright and early for a visit with family. When we got back to the basement, the host was in the basement, arms folded. She said she had thought it through and prayed about it and told me she needed to charge me still. I protested because this wasn’t right and the space wasn’t safe. She then said, “I told Airbnb to refund you, so we can do this in cash since I don’t have this apartment listed yet.”

I refused. I told her we would leave and she acted offended. I ended up paying $342 for a hotel. Airbnb did nothing! When I explained the safety concerns in the basement, they said they couldn’t address them because it wasn’t listed on the site. The only thing they cared about was her attempt to use cash. But, even that didn’t bother them because, again, she wasn’t attempting to get cash for the basement listing. In the end, she got away with it. Now, however, the basement is listed despite the safety hazards.

Posted in Airbnb Guest Stories and tagged , , , , , , .

One Comment

  1. “Prayed on it and decided she needed to charge us.”

    Hahahaha, ok yeah, I’ll bet that’s exactly what God said. What an odd thing to say to someone you’re renting a basement to.

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