This Airbnb host lied about what she is offering and although Airbnb has been notified and provided with documentation, they still run her listing which is unchanged on the crucial points I will mention. Although I got a full refund and half the cost of staying at a hotel for the first night from Airbnb, I found dealing with Airbnb support to be quite challenging. It took a great deal of time and aggravation. It unnecessarily became the focus of things for me during the first 24 hours of my vacation, when I was exhausted and uncertain where I would be able to spend the night far from home.
Please note that Airbnb will encourage you to write a review and to put lots of detail into it, but not inform you that they will only post a certain number of words of it, whether that means they cut you off mid-sentence, making you look like a lunatic or not. They will not inform you that you only have 48 hours to edit your review. If most people are like me, they will write the review and spend the first 48 hours checking the host’s listing to see it if has been posted yet. Then, when it is too late, they will check further and see that by that point Airbnb will not allow editing of the review. Airbnb are terrible in many ways and I would be hesitant to consider booking using their site again.
The best part of the whole experience was the people of Gloucester who were unfailingly kind and helpful when they saw I was in trouble. I initially planned to stay in the room on my own, looking forward to several days of relaxing on the beach and catching up with cousins in the area. Although I didn’t need a second bed when I first asked for permission to book, it had stuck in my head that the listing said there were two beds. I looked at the listing again and confirmed that there were when a cousin from a bit outside the area said she’d like she’d like to join me. I was a bit confused, though, since the photograph of the room clearly showed just one bed. Maybe it was a bed that could be split into two? My cousin told me she had an air mattress she could bring if necessary.
I messaged the host through Airbnb to ask what the story was. Suddenly the lightning fast responses I’d gotten previously when asking if I could book dramatically slowed down. I tried calling her at the number provided by the site. A text came in from her while the phone was ringing that said “I can’t talk now”. Okay… I’d called during business hours and she was busy. Later I received a text back from her saying “who is this?” If she had to know who was phoning her, wasn’t there a more polite way to ask? I texted her back identifying myself and apologized for bothering her. No response. I received a message from her through the Airbnb system that said I should “bring the air mattress just in case”. Just in case she wasn’t being honest about her listing, which clearly stated two beds?
In retrospect, I wish I had cancelled then and paid the cost of the hotel I eventually went to instead. I should have known further trouble awaited. I arrived half an hour early in front of the house, where there was street parking, not “private parking” as was listed in the amenities section of her listing. I texted the host to ask if I should come back, or if she could possibly check me in a little early, since it was very hot in the car, but received no response. After a little while, I phoned and left the same message on her voicemail.
A few minutes after the agreed upon time, she pulled up. She made no indication that she’d received either of my messages. She took me inside and we chatted a bit. I mentioned that one of the reasons I’d been interested in getting away is that the air conditioning at home had been on the blink. It wasn’t until she took me downstairs to the room that she revealed the room had no air conditioning, only a small fan. The “private” room also had no door between it and the rest of the house, being at the bottom of a flight of stairs from the living area. It had its own door to the outside on the opposite wall. Only a baby gate stood between the rest of the apartment and your “privacy”.
The biggest problem came while we were still upstairs in the kitchen and I asked her about a key. She told me that she “never locks” the apartment. She must have seen the utter shock on my face, because she then told me that if I expected her to lock the place all the time she would give me a key. There was quite a bit of hostility in her voice when she said this. Having just had a very long drive and being exhausted, I said nothing while I decided what to do about the situation. I certainly didn’t want to stay in an unlocked space, nor was I comfortable asking for the key, given the hostility expressed towards me just for mentioning it (I should note that this was in a small apartment where the host herself lives). Given that there was already bad blood and I was overpaying for an air conditioned room that didn’t exist, the best I could do was get out of there as soon as possible.
Airbnb support did assist, but they also failed to express a shred of empathy for me in the situation, demanding that I take photos as evidence and repeatedly asking if I had addressed the problems with the host. As pointed out on this site, not all problems are photographable, and not all problems can be rectified instantly. In those cases, it is ridiculous to repeatedly interrogate the guest as to whether they have “brought the problem to the host’s attention”. Why would I need to bring something to her attention that clearly is not as she stated and that she obviously knows about? After all, she lives in the space.
Please also note the importance of acting quickly when you first find a problem with Airbnb accommodation. The amount of support I received would certainly not have been there if I had waited until the next day, not fully adequate as it was. One of the ironies of the experience was that I was on the phone with Airbnb at the time I left the apartment to get my iPad from the car and shut the front door behind me… and found myself locked out. A door knob lock must have been engaged. Having the phone in my hand, I called the host and left a message on her voicemail saying I was locked out. She pulled up in her car soon afterwards, but gave no indication that I’d left her an emergency message.
After taking the necessary photos, I exited the apartment with my belongings. I was certain she knew that I was gone, but began sending messages to me through the Airbnb system. She seemed to be trying to make it look like I was still there. She sent one saying she just wanted to let me know the door upstairs was unlocked, and another saying she’d left a key for me on a table. Completely weird. Checking her listing currently shows she is still lying about the number of beds, the lack of air conditioning, and the “private parking”. She fails to mention the room has no door between it and the rest of the apartment. She does go into a long explanation about leaving one of the doors to the place unlocked all the time (I wonder how her landlord would feel about that if they knew?) and about the easy availability of street parking. Why lie and say there is private parking?