The Great Airbnb Wedding Debacle of 2017

Words can barely describe how terrible my experience with Airbnb was this past weekend. Let me take you on a journey that outlines my chaotic and downright disgusting travel story all thanks to Airbnb. On July 31st, I successfully booked a two-bedroom house using the Airbnb app for August 31st through September 3rd. I was given confirmation from the host on August 11th that the booking went through and that he was expecting us.

On August 27th I reached out to the host via the in-app message tab trying to extend the stay and add two more people to the booking, The host did not respond. I tried to add the extra two more days through the app, but soon saw that they were marked as “booked” and I figured that was why I did not receive a response from the host. I figured that once I checked in on the 31st I would let the host know that two more people were joining me and I would pay any additional fees at that time; I did not see a way to add guests to an existing reservation.

Fast forward to the day of our check in, August 31st, 3:00 PM. I received no email outlining our entry code or where a key could be located. I texted the host at 3:15 PM and received no response. I called the host at 3:30 PM and the phone number on file was a Google Voice number, not even a real number. I left a voicemail. I called the customer service number for Airbnb and was told that they needed to reach out to the host themselves as per protocol and that I would get a call back from them either way.

The remaining six hours of the day was a game of phone tag between me and the customer service representative. He had to wait two hours before he could cancel the reservation because we needed to give the host enough time to respond. That I could understand. What I could not understand was being made to feel as though the representative was doing me a favor by refunding my money and leaving me with nowhere to stay for over three days. When I asked for accommodations to be provided, I was met with resistance because “I did not book a stay for four people originally”. I had told the representative multiple times that I had tried to get ahold of the host before so that I could change the accommodations and pay any additional fees required.

Here we are sitting in a rental car for over two hours in front of the Airbnb hoping that the host was just running late. We were not hungry as we had to go to a rehearsal dinner at 6:00 PM so we did not take the advice of the representative to “get something to eat and take our mind off the waiting”… he did offer to give us $50 towards our dinner, but as I told him, I could care less about food when I had nowhere to stay for three days.

We waited for our host, eagerly watching every car that came down the street thinking it was him… but it wasn’t. Meanwhile as we sat in our rental car, we were trying to find accommodations either through Airbnb or a hotel of any kind. The problem was there were no vacancies at the hotels and there were no Airbnb’s available because of the holiday weekend and the late notice.

You are probably wondering why we didn’t just go to a different city. The whole reason we needed to to be in Pueblo was for our friends’ wedding. Two people from our party were standing up in the wedding and needed to be nearby to participate in the dinners, rehearsals, and events. Going to a different city was out of the question. With the lack of long-term accommodations anywhere in the city, we were able to secure a hotel room for one night only (as that was all they had). The service representative said that he found a house that could fit all of us on such short notice that looked “really nice”, and he was “sticking his neck out” to get us accommodations for four people. Let me reiterate that we would have never been in this predicament if the original host was vetted properly in the first place. Telling us that he was “sticking his neck out” and intending to make us feel like he was going out of his way did not make us thankful.

We got settled into our first hotel for the night of the 31st as there was no Airbnb available and we needed to get ready for the rehearsal dinner at 6:00 PM. Customer service said that Airbnb would cover the stay at the “very nice” house and that we would have Friday and Saturday night covered. I felt some relief, but it was very short lived.

On the morning of September 1st, I was happy to see the entry email for the new Airbnb host. I contacted the him and asked if we could check in earlier because we had to leave the hotel; the room needed to be vacated by 11:00 AM. Through the Airbnb app I communicated with the new host and he said that we could enter the house early and that someone would be around to clean as the other guests were leaving.

We packed our cars and headed to the new location, excited to finally get settled in. From the outside, the new house looked normal. Maybe the grass and bushes were a little overgrown and the paint was peeling, but it could have been nicer inside… nope. This “very nice” house was scary, dark, dank and anything but clean. Someone had clearly been smoking cigarettes in there, and the sparse furniture that was in the house smelled musty and must have been picked out of the garbage. Our rooms that we were supposed to sleep in were in the moldy basement. The kitchen where we planned on saving some money by preparing meals, was not suitable for food because of the layer of grime on all the surfaces. Half the appliances were out of order as they kindly stated this with a sticky note. Maybe we could have slept on top of the covers and not eaten in the house, but we couldn’t even get clean because the showers had mold up the walls. Not to mention the nasty dingy towels that were supposed to dry our “clean” bodies after we showered.

There was no amount of scrubbing that could possibly clean those bathrooms, so what do we do? Do we call Airbnb back again and deal with another six-hour long back and forth just to hear the same excuses? Do we complain to the current host about the conditions? What would that get us? We needed a safe, clean place to reside for the remainder of our trip. And it was clear that Airbnb was not going to help us.

We decided to contact a hotel in Walsenberg, CO (40 minutes from where we needed to be) and they had one room left. We pounced on the opportunity to have a clean safe place to rest our heads. We packed up the car and drove straight to Walsenberg so that there was no chance that they could possibly sell our room to anyone else. I didn’t contact the host of the second house as I was to distraught to even formulate a response to what we had just experienced. Our number one concern was securing clean and safe lodging for the next two days.

You are probably wondering what I want. I am going to tell you exactly what I want and need: I expect my initial charge of $192.00 to refunded to my credit card. I expect Airbnb to pay back the amount of money I spent on both hotels (I was forced to pay outrageously high prices because of the last-minute booking). I do not want an Airbnb credit; I want a check for the amount, sent to me so I can at least recoup the cost of the accommodations (not to mention the hundreds of dollars I am now out of because a party of four had to eat out every meal and the additional cost of gas for us to drive back and forth from the hotel). I expect that both hosts will no longer be able to rent out their houses. I expect a handwritten email in response to this letter acknowledging that my concerns and needs are being heard and addressed.

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7 Comments

  1. I think people forget (assume?) that hosts may have different standards of what clean is and it may be different from your expectations. You take a chance with air bnb and to me, the risk is not worth it. If you have been on this site enough you’ll know your chances of getting any reply, any refund or even a hand written note are not going to happen. I’ve had amazing and terrible experiences and I just won’t use airbnb anymore and now use other vacation sites like owners direct, vrbo, etc.

    and the second place not being as nice as the agent described, did you expect him to say its a dump? of course he’d say its nice and even if it wasn’t there were no other options. maybe it would be nice to other people

    • honestly it drives me nuts – the comments on these posts are often SO RUDE when the OP had every right to be upset. one guy posted about being raped, and there was a comment saying he made it up. it couldn’t be more obvious that the majority of the commenters work for airbnb.

  2. Hello,

    Did all your first attempts to contact the host were made using the Airbnb messenger? They usually require that to dig into a case. Keep screenshots of every text message you have too, if any.
    Call Airbnb. Every day. Request an email recap every time as you’re still on the line with them. After 3 times, request to be escalated. That might not work, but that’s the best you can do.

    Last thing, to anyone using Airbnb, focus on SuperHosts. We have this recognition for a reason.

  3. “I expect”, “I want” : try and include the words ‘humbleness’ and ‘common sense’. Lower your expectations and for such an important event as a wedding: why did you take the risk of resorting to an online platform in the first place?

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