Family Vacation to Paris Leads to Airbnb Scam

We are a family of five that took a long anticipated vacation to Europe in the summer of 2016. We stayed at Airbnbs in Barcelona, Germany and London, and planned to in Paris as well. That’s where things fell apart. This transaction involved an Airbnb host that was a no-show, and that we know scammed us. The transaction was placed in February and arranged to be “fulfilled” in June, a simple deposit and subsequent payment for an apartment rental. We followed all the Airbnb regulations and processes fully. We contacted Airbnb immediately when we discovered that there was going to be a problem with the transaction. Prior to departure, we were in contact with the Airbnb host regarding any special instructions for our Paris check in.

We arrived as a family of five on our prearranged date in Paris with reservations and prepayments made as agreed. This is what occurred: we texted back and forth and had a correspondence between us and the host. No specific check-in deadline was noted to us by the host. We gave the host information regarding our arrival time at Orly Airport to drop off our rental car and take the train. There was no timely response from the host and no message noting any problem. At no time did the host mention a meeting or conflict. The host did not give us clear instructions in the event of a delay… and we were delayed getting from Orly to the city by an hour or two, arriving in Paris by about 6:00 pm or so. We sent an email notifying the host we were on the bus. The host never provided instructions as to what to do when we arrived at the building. Upon arrival, the host was not present.

We could not locate his name on the apartment directory call box. The host then contacted us via text message that evening that he had a “meeting” (this was on a Monday evening) and he was having some difficulty with his schedule in order to meet us. He then directed us to “come to [him]” across Paris to pick up the keys to the apartment. The apartment was miles from the address and the new address provided by the host to pick up keys did not match his description. He directed us to go to “25 Rue del la Butte”, to pick up a spare set of keys, noting that he was “waiting for us” and that these keys would be on the “5th floor, door on the right”. The address was quite far from our host location in Paris. I took a cab with my son ($40.00 Euro Cab fare expense) while my wife and daughters waited with our suitcases at the original building address. Arriving at the “Rue de la Butte” address, (confirmed by the address sign on the side of the building) again the host’s name was not on the call box, and no one answered the buzzer. Most importantly, it was only a two story building. He had said he was on the fifth floor.

Because he was not responding, we also sent the host a Facebook message noting that we could not locate him at the “25 Rue De La Butte” address. Looking at the destination address, the host did not have his name anywhere on the entry letterboxes. He just scammed us, and scammed Airbnb. Upon returning from the alternate address we knew we had to find alternate lodging. We waited on the streets of Paris with three children until after 11:00 pm, repeatedly attempting to contact the host via email, text, and Facebook. We finally checked into a hotel for one night only, wondering if we’d hear anything further. We planned to move to the Airbnb the next evening, but the host did not contact us to offer this. We also thought that Airbnb would help us with a resolution, but this proved difficult.

We assumed at this point without any follow up from the host and the false address that we were the victim of an elaborate internet scam. This thinking prompted us to cancel our transaction with the host. We were in immediate communication with Airbnb via the website form and called on three different occasions to speak with three different case managers to try to resolve the issue. There is no phone number on the Airbnb website, just the dispute form which we completed that evening following our check in to the hotel. The important thing to know is: AIRBNB DOES NOT CARE AT ALL IF YOU GET RIPPED OFF. Their “resolution department” will pay a lot of lip service to you when finally cornered, but really, it is a ridiculous sham of a customer service department.

We kept email records of all of our communication with Airbnb trying to outline the events. It is important to note that this was one of four Airbnb stays that we scheduled for our recent trip. The other three stays were quite pleasant and the hosts were all responsive and amicable. In this regard, this was a simple and straightforward transaction dispute. We were out over $1500.00. We entered into an agreement to stay at a specified arrival date. We contracted for a product and did not receive it. Pretty straightforward, right?

Airbnb issued a tax credit of $18.00 and a ‘lodging credit’ of $125.00. Try putting a family of five up in two rooms by the Eiffel tower for $125. We reasonably asked that the remainder of the charge – $1572.00 – be credited to our credit card account. Airbnb was basically non-responsive. I got the impression that they do whatever is necessary to obfuscate and delay any resolution. You cannot call them from the website: there is no number and you get directed to a FAQ/community page. This was especially frustrating. Finally, we contacted our credit card company. After about 90 days or so, Airbnb did not respond to them either, so the amount was fully credited to us.

Here is the takeaway, folks:

1. Airbnb can work well and may do so for most folks, much of the time. The other folks we dealt with were honest and the locations were as advertised.

2. If you have a dispute as a guest, you are basically screwed. You will not get much attention and Airbnb will not delve into any detail or take money back from a host. Document everything as you go. Put all important communications in writing as email whenever possible.

3. When you use your credit card, remember that there may be a 90-day window to dispute a charge. In this regard, if you make reservations months in advance, you may struggle to get the money back. We did, but our bank (Verity in Seattle – kudos to them!) worked with us to do the right thing.

4. Take a few minutes to look around the destination at your location, so you will have a {lan B if your host is a scammer.

5. Most importantly, DO NOT CANCEL YOUR AIRBNB TRANSACTION. This basically shuts you out of reviewing the host and cuts off all contact between the two parties – just what the scammer/host wants.

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2 Comments

  1. even if there are comments, they are not reliable!
    We also had a big problem with a host at Venice (David Sciarky), appartment at Aleardi in Mestre; who dind’nt show up and we had to take a hotel; we did not cancel but airbnb has put the comment in my name: host canceled day before arrival, which is a lie.
    If only he had done that, it would have saved us a lot of trouble! I didn’t even have the chance to write a review!!!

  2. Did you book with someone that didn’t have reviews? Just curious. I think I would be hesitant to book internationally with someone unless they had a lot of reviews. I know everyone had to get that first review… As a host myself we did.. but as a traveler i might take a “chance” on a one night reservation but not something international and so expensive for a long duration. I’m sorry this happened to you and I’m sorry BnB didn’t do the right thing

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