Dodgy Keys, Dodgy Hosts, and Airbnb Scheisters

I can honestly say Airbnb is the worst company ever. My very first experience: halfway through my stay the host was caught stealing utilities, the Internet was cut off, the entrance lock was broken, there were no bins, causing rubbish to be left in open bags for days on end, and to cap it off, my host left me with a departing gift: head lice. Upon heading to the nearest Internet cafe (because there was no Internet) and sharing my woes with Airbnb customer service, were they able to quickly offer a resolution? No, that was too complex, but they would call me back at their leisure. Four hours later I got called back while I was in the middle of the city. Obviously I didn’t want to share the more embarrassing elements of my stay in the middle of the street, but I agreed with the case manager that because the host was unresponsive and they had been caught stealing Internet that had been cut off, I could terminate my stay.

The next morning the host still had not been in contact to arrange an orderly exit so I headed out into the street at 6:00 AM to get reception. I contacted customer service to terminate my stay, only to have the new customer service agent decide that not being able to offer the agreed services wasn’t a good enough reason to terminate my stay and I would have to get pictures of the cockroaches and a doctor’s note for head lice. After some battling we agreed if I could capture pictures of the cockroaches I could leave, so I went off to sneak around the flat taking pictures. I sent the pictures to Airbnb and customer service promised they would sort it out. Meanwhile, I headed off to sort out my own accommodation.

So how do you imagine they sorted it out? A full refund, maybe? That would be the least you expect, right? Nope. What about a refund for the portion of the stay that had to be cancelled (you would expect there would be no debate on that)? Nope. They nickel and dimed me and gave me a partial refund of the amount of the stay that couldn’t be completed. You would expect that now they had photographic evidence of hygiene issues, cockroach infestation, an unresponsive host, the previous guests’ reviews all raising hygiene issues, and a guest who now suffered health problems because of his stay the listing would be suspended, right? Nope. It was still open for bookings. It took an angry week and multiple case managers until finally one agent looked at the case and after an angry email finally came to the conclusion that this was really bad (cockroaches, rubbish left out, key didn’t work, Internet cut off, and I got head lice; it took five case managers to get to someone who agreed this wasn’t acceptable).

So finally Airbnb grudgingly offered a refund (but cancelled their goodwill voucher gesture). Since this agent was streets ahead of her awful colleagues and by this point it was way beyond my expectations of Airbnb, I actually felt really good about having achieved something. I decided I would give them another chance by taking my nephew away for a short couple of days; this would be a perfect no-risk way of giving Airbnb a second chance. I tried to book a cabin in the mountains for two days. I found a cabin that was available on instant book, confirmed the dates, clicked instant book, was routed to the payment page, and everything looked good: Airbnb won’t charge you until the booking is confirmed. Instant book is easy: either it gets booked, or it doesn’t; there is no risk.

I clicked the payment button when suddenly there was a new step that hadn’t been there when I chose instant book. My first awful experience: they required government ID (passport or driver’s license). I didn’t have a driver’s license and my passport was being renewed, but it seemed all good because the booking was marked as pending. There was no payment success message and no text or receipt was issued. I thought to myself: Airbnb won’t charge anything until the booking is confirmed. I just cancelled the pending request, safe in the knowledge I still had money in my account and headed off into the real world armed with my phone to book somewhere else, only for my card to be declined. It turns out that despite not having confirmed the booking, not having displayed a message highlighting that there were further steps needed, not having displayed a payment confirmation, and not having issued a receipt, Airbnb had taken payment just in case it would go through.

Having given them a second chance, I would have expected customer service to be super helpful. Not at all. They just lied about what the process was like, claiming I had been warned, until I told them I had screen captures of the payment steps. Then they claimed that instant booking wasn’t instant booking, no payment had been taken, and it had already been refunded. In the end, I just wanted a receipt so I could take the issue further here in the UK with the authorities. The agent tried to send me to a blank page claiming it was a receipt, just point blank refused to provide a receipt for the funds taken, refused to discuss it, refused to escalate the matter and then he just hung up. Despite the rest of this story being appalling both with regards to the accommodation provided initially and the customer support, how could Airbnb refuse to provide a receipt for funds taken? This is statutorily required both in your jurisdiction and mine. The initial accommodation was appalling but the customer support and the disregard with which they treat guests in stressful situations is just beyond imagination. My experience has been embarrassing, frustrating, tedious and unrewarding. Now despite having had to stay in an unfit, unhygienic property, suffering health issues as a result of my stay, I am out of pocket yet again and because of Airbnb’s behavior my nephew and I are disappointed.

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