Guests can Extort because Airbnb doesn’t Enforce its Policies

The Airbnb Extortion Policy prohibits “guests threatening to use reviews or ratings in an attempt to force a host to provide refunds.” However, Airbnb doesn’t appear serious about enforcing this policy, so guests can happily extort hosts to provide refunds for any frivolous concocted reason. Hosts have little recourse because the guest can always state their frivolous reason as their “personal experience” in their review and leave a one-star review in retaliation if their unreasonable demands are not met.

Here is what happened in my case. The guest knew at check-in that there was another concurrent guest’s dog on the property in the shared apartment listing but she claims she did not know that at the time of booking and that my not telling her that explicitly was unacceptable. She knew within moments of check-in that there was a dog locked in the other guest’s private space.

I offered to have the dog moved to a downstairs room on a different floor and she simply said “It’s fine. I just feel bad for the [locked up] dog.” It remained locked on a room on her floor. At nearly midnight of her last night’s stay, she messaged saying she was unhappy because of the dog’s crying (probably wanting to be taken out) and that she was allergic to dogs (surprise).

I immediately apologized and sought to address the situation but within moments of my response, she sent me another message saying she moved to a hotel and asked me to refund that last night’s stay with what was clearly a veiled threat, “I am keenly aware of review issues and I have no intention of leaving a bad review… I have left and moved to a hotel. I realize it is late and you cannot book someone for this night. However, I would appreciate a refund of tonight’s fee.”

I politely reminded her that her booking was on a strict cancellation policy, so I could not refund her. She went to write several long messages about why she deserved to be refunded, threatened escalating it to Airbnb or a credit card chargeback, tried all the escalations, and lost because her case had no merit. She retaliated by leaving a one-star review as was clearly implicit in her earlier threatening message (quoted above).

Airbnb seemingly considers her review to not violate its Content Policy because it allows a guest to state whatever they want as their “personal experience” and doesn’t seem to care to stand by its extortion policy. A guest can simply blackmail hosts by asking them for refunds on frivolous grounds, and even if they don’t explicitly threaten a bad review like in my case, the host knows the implicit threat exists.

There is little the host can do about a bad review. A guest could literally say, “I felt cheated because the place’s location felt like it was on the moon, so the listed location felt inaccurate” and leave a one-star review and Airbnb won’t do anything about it.

A reasonable customer service rep might help get it removed but that is rare and their policy is such that it explicitly allows guests to report obviously verifiable lies as their personal experience (as long as it doesn’t violate other parts of the Content Policy, like no discrimination, hate speech, etc.). Seems like a poorly worded Content Policy or at least a poorly enforced one.

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

4 Comments

  1. Yes, make sure all communication is through the Airbnb message service. BTW, some hosts have had luck with sending Airbnb customer service screen caps of text messages on their phones as evidence of review extortion and successfully had Airbnb remove these reviews.

  2. Everyone complains that Airbnb favors hosts. Here, you’re all complaining that Airbnb favors guests. Guess what? It goes both ways. I’ve had Airbnb remove a bad review for threatening language. The key to all of this is to Make Sure All Communication Occurs On The Airbnb App ONLY. You can’t use texts to prove your case. What is Airbnb sees on their platform is the evidence they have, and usually they make it right for either the host or the guest. So, learn how to do things properly and exactly how Airbnb advises you, and you’ll have a good experience.

  3. Yes, guests seem to have all the power and control. There is little support for hosts. If we give a guest a bad review it’s no big deal to them. It is not their livelihood. We have always gone above and beyond for guests but is amazing what they complain about in their reviews. Its like they need to critique and find something wrong. We have been unfairly reviewed many times when guests wrote retaliatory reviews due to us trying to address their poor behavior such as smoking in premises, bringing more guests then allowed, disturbing neighbors late at night.
    And then Airbnb has punished us at one point by unlisting us for a few weeks without notice and without hearing from us what actually happened. I am happy to be out of Airbnb. It was nice while it lasted but I don’t need the stress and headache of dealing with entitled assholes. Airbnb needs to rethink their business model rather than just trying to rake in as much cash as they can. They need to screen guests better and support hosts.

  4. I had a guest who wanted me to send her a fake invoice for a greater amount than that she paid so she could pass it to her client for reimbursement and threatened a bad review if I did not comply.

    I acted stupid getting her to spell out her demands in detail. Once I had enough evidence I emailed her instructing her to cease and desist and if she publishes or causes to be published a review I would forward the file to the police for her to be charged with fraud without any further notice.

    She did not publish a review.

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