I’ve been stuck in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula for many months in quarantine because because it’s more dangerous to travel back to the US, and I’ve been following very carefully local protocols. Finally I decided to reserve a place near the beach near the Progresso port (Chicxulub port) for June 2 for two nights (about hundred dollars).
A lot of listings are closed due to the pandemic, but I saw that a new one popped up. It was a small place built with two shipping containers joined together. The host replied that the place was open and there were no COVID cases reported in that beach town, so I reserved it.
The day before the reservation I got a terrible cold. I sent the host a message that I was sick.
In Mexico, they are in the height of the pandemic, and due to severe lack of testing and unavailability of testing, you are required to stay home if you have any mild symptoms even if it’s just a cold. It would have been free to simply change the dates, but I wasn’t sure if it was COVID-19 or not. I wanted to wait for two weeks and then make another reservation.
I sent a cancellation request with COVID-19 as a reason so the request was automatically sent as a full refund, and carefully explained the situation. It was sent less than 24 hours before the check-in time, and I wasn’t sure what would happen if the host ignored my request. I supposed that if so it would be a normal refund, paying only for the first night and getting a refund for the rest. That’s what the COVID-19 option in an automated message told me. Airbnb would refund the service fee as a travel credit.
This host deliberately ignored me (I know it because I sent him a WhatsApp message as well and it turned blue with double check, meaning he saw the message right away). I suppose it’s because he didn’t want to give me any refund. First of all, if he didn’t want to give me a full refund back he should have messaged me back saying that I could choose a normal cancellation option instead. He didn’t, and then I got no refund, which didn’t make any sense, since I made the request before the reservation started.
I thought it was an error so messaged and called Airbnb and explained the whole situation. Then the nightmare started.
I got a message from Airbnb’s safety team saying that they needed to gather more information and that my account had been “temporarily limited from making (and receiving) further reservations at this time as a precautionary measure.”
Then they called the host. I’m not sure what the host told them, but he privately messaged me saying that I needed to make the cancellation because he could not do it. This was a lie; he just didn’t want to give me any refund.
If I made the cancellation, there would be no refund since the reservation had started, and I wouldn’t even be able to leave reviews. So, I held out and I messaged Airbnb again. The next day, Airbnb’s security department called me early in the morning. I was asleep so I sounded quite groggy. I told them that the host was trying to make me cancel and previously ignored my cancellation request from before the reservation started.
Later that day I got another email saying that they decided not to give me any refund (only at the host’s discretion, which means none) and that I was suspended for 30 days unless I could provide a doctor’s note saying I don’t have COVID. I couldn’t even make a refund request because of the suspension. They forcefully cancelled the reservation indicating that I did it, which is a blatant lie because I did not cancel the reservation.
Airbnb also said that I was not allowed to leave any reviews, and completely shut me down this way. I was so shocked with what they did. I called Airbnb Mexico and the US office numerous times. All of the reps said that they could not do anything because my case manager was “higher up” and that they couldn’t even connect me to the right department because this “Security Department” does not have a phone number; you can only message and they call you. You just have to wait for whenever they call. They don’t even ask you what time is convenient for me.
What is this, the secret service? Am I a criminal for following local COVID protocols and wanting some refund? All my email replies got completely ignored, and I sent Airbnb another message through the help center saying I needed to open a new case about an Airbnb employee and how poorly and unfairly he handled the case. The Help Bot replied saying that the thread was closed and it’s merged with the previous thread.
I had a perfect track record for seven years. I had been a Superhost and used it to travel all over the world. All my reviews are very positive. This host used it only a few times and he is a new host, put out a new property that has no reviews, and he has no idea how to use Airbnb ethically and to accommodate guests. All he cared about is taking all the money he can, and had zero regard for safety and health issues.
A host like him could easily bring COVID to his lovely beach community that has zero cases so far, because if he doesn’t respond to guests saying they are sick, they could show up anyway to fulfill the reservation. He should be the one suspended.
On top of all this, the tropical storm came. Everywhere in Yucatan peninsula it’s flooding. There is no way that staying in a little container house by the coast is safe at this time. I was ripped off for $100 by this host and Airbnb, but the real issue is how I got mentally emotionally abused while I was battling the flu. I was simply being correct and extra careful. The only fault I have is that I expected other hosts to be like me.
This happens all the time. I don’t get offended if people cancel at the last minute. I will send money back according to the cancellation policy, and if it was me, I would even have given a full refund taking the situation into consideration; it’s only $100. I’d rather make the customer happy and it’s a smarter business move as well.
We are in the middle of a global pandemic, and very dangerous hurricanes. This kind of behavior that the host exhibited is unacceptable, simply dangerous, and it’s even much worse that Airbnb rewards such hosts and penalizes guests like me who are being extra careful and exactly following the local COVID protocols.
In the end, I never even got a normal refund or the Airbnb fees back. My account was suspended for 30 days, since I’m not gonna lie about getting tested or provide a fake doctor’s note. It’s impossible to get tested here unless you have severe symptoms. Airbnb only pretends to care about the COVID situation but they don’t. They don’t take into consideration at all what is going on in different parts of the world at this time.
The cancellation request and COVID-19 as a reason button is a complete failure. If you fall sick within 24 hours of the reservation, and you request the COVID refund, if the host ignores your request the host can take all your money, it does not automatically fall back to the original cancellation refund of the time you requested, which makes no sense.