Airbnb Refund Hell: Designed to be Complicated?

Airbnb has no mechanism for dealing with outright reservation mistakes. I inadvertently clicked on the book button when I just wanted to see how much a stay was going to be. It took several days before a refund could even be considered because the steps to initiate a refund is kept in a deep, dark hole accessed through a maze of misinformation and platitudes. There is no easy 24-hour buyer’s remorse option which should be standard for cases like mine. To initiate a refund, you have to get out of the main website and go to a resolution site. The steps initially shown for refunds are misleading. It is not as easy as it sounds; you do not get all of your money back.

The whole refund process is extremely stressful because Airbnb does not make it easy, period. I had to contact the poor, unsuspecting host and tell them I made a mistake and didn’t mean to book at the time. I’m lucky the host was sympathetic and you will need yours to be, if ever you make the same mistake I did. Why? Because Airbnb will ask them to advance half the refund amount. Who does that? Who would advance a substantial amount of money on behalf of someone they don’t know? Apparently, 100% of the money that I paid first goes to Airbnb. Airbnb did refund me 50% of what I paid right away, less the booking fee. As for the remaining 50%, they absolutely have to keep this money for 60 days for reasons unknown before they release it to the host.

If Airbnb has my money, why can’t they just refund me? Why do they even have to involve the host who doesn’t have any of my money and who hasn’t been involved in the whole process? Why even release the money to the host 60 days after the fact when they already know that the booking was made by mistake? There is a lot that can be done to make this whole process easier but I believe Airbnb set out to make the whole refund process complicated. It’s like Airbnb is hoping that people just walk away in frustration and forget about getting their money back. That way they get to keep it all. Even if it’s not intentional, this unwieldy way of getting refunded one’s money is shameful of a big, extremely profitable company.

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

One Comment

  1. Agreed. I just had a guest book today using “instant book” then send a question to which the answer was “skiing is closed then”. They wanted to come skiing. I was happy to refund them the full amount for this mistake on their part, but my listing comes with a standard “strict” cancellation policy (to protect me from people making frivolous bookings and cancelling them last minute, this is the only way). When I asked Airbnb if I could change the policy for the 1 booking so that the guest would feel OK to cancel they say there is no way. And if I cancel the booking as the host, then I am punished for 1 year with a nasty message in my listing saying I cancelled a guests booking (like some sort of nightmare host) and with a lowered listing standard. So the guest must cancel. What I found to do to get around this a bit was to 1. Propose a booking change to the guest to change the booking to 1 night instead of 7 and to reduce the nightly fee to a small amount. When they accept that change, and then cancel it, then they know that even if I was a “bad host” and did not go ahead and reimburse the 50% remaining of the reservation fee, the amount they’d be out was under 50 euros. So that is the way to get around it. Ask the host to change the booking to 1 night (that is the minimum you can do) and put 1 person on the booking for a very minimal price. Then the guest can accept that booking change (no damage to either party in that case). Then when the guest does the Cancel request even on a “strict” reservation policy, you will not be out tons of money while waiting for the mysterious “refund process” of the remaining 50% to take place (or you are also protected if the host decides to be a jerk and not refund the cancellation fee they agreed to do in writing or on the phone …. )

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