New Hosts Beware: Airbnb will Change your Listing

We are writing this in the hopes of saving other new Airbnb hosts the trouble we have had in our first two weeks as hosts. So, far we have encountered two major problems – three if you count Airbnb’s arrogant, incompetent, inadequate, and totally unacceptable response to our problems. I hope you keep reading because this stuff is actually hard to believe and you need to know it if you are going to try to become an Airbnb host.

In our first week as hosts, we encountered two major problems. One was disappointing. The other amounts to fraudulent representation and downright theft in my opinion. I’ll try to make this as concise and informative as possible.

Creating a listing is not hard. It is tedious. The Airbnb help system does little more than guide you through the screens. No insights, no explanations and absolutely no flexibility. But, with the assistance of the many hosts who posted their experiences in the Airbnb online community and other Airbnb informational websites, we got our listing up and running.

Our listing is a private home. We have two private (each with its own separate entrance) guest suites available. We set the price for our listing at $125, thinking we would be renting each suite for $125. We made sure to disable Smart Pricing and Instant Booking. We got our first booking at our set price of $125 minus a 20% discount as our first guests. The disappointment was learning from our first guests that although we made it clear in the text of our listing that we had two separate guests, that was not the way Airbnb presented our property.

Airbnb applied the pricing we set to the entire listing – i.e. “both rooms” not “each room” – resulting in us getting half as much revenue per room as we wanted and thought we were going to get. Furthermore, we learned when one room was booked, Airbnb marked that date as unavailable on the booking calendar, so no one could even see we had an additional room available. We were surprised by this (and monetarily penalized… keep reading).

After reading through the community forums we discovered we were just one of hundreds of Airbnb hosts who were both surprised and disappointed to learn this. We found out that if we wanted to rent each guest suite separately we had to list them separately. This cost us money with our very first booking. If our first guests would have known they could have booked our other guest suite, they would have booked another family member to stay with us.

We learned our lesson. We will list both guest suites separately, but why did we have to find this out the hard way? Nowhere is this made clear in Airbnb’s guidelines for setting up and creating a listing. We have noted hundreds of complaints going back more than five years about this particular issue but Airbnb has done absolutely nothing to address it. In fact, Airbnb appears to deliberately obscure this critical fact in its listing guidelines. That’s bad. What happened next is far worse.

Within a week we got our second booking, which we accepted. Big mistake. To all hosts: never accept a booking until you have examined every little detail. Here’s why: we had set our price. We made sure we turned off Instant Booking and Smart Pricing. We weren’t looking for bargain hunters. We were looking for folks who wanted a special experience in a magical place and were okay with paying a little more to get it. Airbnb cares nothing for that. If they see a new listing that isn’t getting enough action (making Airbnb money) then they will take action and arbitrarily lower the price without even notifying the host. That’s right – they will cut your listing price without even telling you. Little did we know Airbnb had lowered our price from $125 to to $60 for both rooms, i.e. $30 per room/per night.

Now, we are stuck with a booking that is paying us less than our set price, because as a new host we don’t want to cancel the booking. That’s not even enough to cover our costs. We reset the listing price, using the Airbnb hosting interface, to no avail. The host interface reports the price we set, but the listing continues to show on Airbnb’s website at much lower prices that on average are less than half of the price we set.

We thought this must be a glitch in their software. We spent hours on the phone with Airbnb support, who were absolutely no help. They could neither fix the problem nor explain why it occurred. They said they had to escalate it to “IT”. The bottom line is that Airbnb’s customer support people are essentially script readers. If the problem is not covered in their script then they are useless.

This problem is now a week old. Calling back Airbnb tech support is a waste of time. They just say the incident has been reported to IT and there is nothing they can do. They can supply no time frame as to when or if the problem will ever be resolved. Are you kidding me? I’ve worked in high tech for almost 40 years. I’ve run customer service departments and development projects. I worked in development at Microsoft. This is the most incompetent, arrogant, and totally inept customer service I’ve ever encountered. Microsoft’s customer support (of which I’m not a fan) is a 10 by comparison. Airbnb’s support doesn’t move the needle on the scale. It’s worse than nothing. You think it can’t get any worse? Nope. It can. Keep on reading…

As I said, this problem is now a week old. In that week, we’ve been doing lots more reading and research on Airbnb. We’ve read hundreds of online posts from other frustrated hosts. This is what we’ve learned: this pricing issue is apparently not a glitch but corporate policy. Many, many other hosts have had the same experience. Clearly, what’s happening is that Airbnb is using an algorithm (an automated computer program) to set whatever arbitrary price they think will net the most bookings (meaning money for Airbnb), totally ignoring, and in fact actively circumventing, the wishes of the owners of the property.

In my opinion this is fraudulent misrepresentation and essentially amounts to Airbnb stealing our money. We aren’t looking for bargain hunters. We have a special and beautiful property that is worth every penny and more. All we want Airbnb to to do is turn off their pricing algorithm and leave our pricing alone. That’s where we are now. We have had to snooze (temporarily disable) our listing because we don’t want any more bookings at the prices Airbnb is setting.

Airbnb is literally stealing money from us and apparently brazenly plans to continue doing so to us and others if we allow them to. Airbnb is the most unresponsive and arrogant company with the worst customer service of any company we have every dealt with. They are a multi-billion dollar company. They need to be held accountable. They need to support the folks that are making them money not abuse them.

P.S. This is just the tip of the iceberg. While researching our problems online we read of many others, including those from hosts who have had their listings suddenly disappear and their bookings drop to zero. Beware!

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

15 Comments

  1. Just yesterday I noticed that although my booking calendar says my minimum per night, when you add days to book out, suddenly the nightly rate changes to 10% lower!! This is having for the next 2 months!! I called AirBnb and he was super unhelpful. he said it is because I have dynamic pricing on, and when I said I don’t he said oh, yah, I guess you don’t. Then he claimed to pull up the policy and he said that it was recently changed to say that AirBnb can reduce the rate up to 8% at any time if they feel the market is slow even without permission! I told him, they are lowering the rate by 10%, and that is not helpful for anyone involved because the customers doesn’t know they are getting a discount until they have already agreed to pay. And besides that, it is MY HOUSE. If I want to have less bookings and make more money with people that respect my home, that is my right. If they are brazen enough to do this, I am scared what else they will do. I am definitely getting a website up soon and will start paying to drive traffic to my site.

    • Exactly! I’m dealing with the same problem now. (With someone whose native language is not English.) Airbnb has done this before. My listing was for $70 a night, For Christmas week the price was $100 p.n. For the month there is a 20% discount.
      Even when I let go the Christmas premium and give the 20% discount that should come to $1,680.
      They gave the guest a price of $1,095.
      I also noted that I can no longer see the prices on my calendar.
      This is not the first time this has happened.

  2. How can Airbnb do this…but they do lower prices on calendars without the permission of Hosts!!! They do it without notification or permissions!! If it hasn’t happened to you, you wouldn’t understand!

  3. I am not sure why AirBnb sends out incorrect quote to the guests all the time.
    Our rooms are all individually priced and the guest still get the wrong price seems to be based entire place instead of per room..
    So irritating when we correct this on the enquiry reply for everyone both guest and host.
    We have no problem with all other websites were we are hosted on as they are not making incorrect own pricing and causing confusion.
    It is clear that AirBnB needs to update their outdated system as well as making it more user friendly for everyone .

    Please leave the price for the host to quote how is this possible that this mistake occurs and all the potential booking are then cancelled by the guest who thought that they were getting a great bargain

  4. “a special experience in a magical place” Yeah, whatever. You just want to make some extra quick cash from people as opposed to either moving to a smaller home (if the current home is too big or expensive for you) or finding long-term lodgers/tenants (which I am sure you may find many interested people who are now homeless, commuting long hours each day, or who are paying way more than they can afford for the few rooms in town that are not let through AirBnB).

    Just take your listings from the site and find long-term tenants. You’ll be able to actually vet them and you’ll be helping people who need a home, not cheapo holiday makers.

  5. I want to make a comment about Instant Book, discounts and Smart Pricing. And let’s remember AirBnB is in business to make money. I have happily been a host on AirBnb for about six years. Never, ever had a problem or a poor rating from any guest. Until about two months ago and we have had one serious problem and one moderately serious problem. We have also had several really demanding guests. That only happened once before.

    Nothing has changed except I activated Instant Book and also offered a discount proposed by AirBnB. Immediately with the except of three lovely guests, the caliber of the guests went down hill. They were demanding; they didn’t arrive until midnight well after check in cut-off; one wanted refunds because he couldn’t work the AirBnB online platform – and was furious when I didn’t give to him – because we lost income for the night he said he didn’t book (the calendar doesn’t lie); one was expecting an en suite bathroom (didn’t want to go into the hall way even though the bathroom was right next to their room) – he badly graded our listing accuracy because of lack of en suite bathroom. Full disclosure some of these complaints were the same person!

    I have also had people cancel more the last couple of months when Instant Book was turned on. This at our busiest time of the year and who knows how many other bookings we may have missed! Personally, I think it is too easy for people to cancel. If we were in a big city I would want a much long cancellation period with a refund only if someone else books the space.

    I now have Instant Book set for government ID and reviews requirement. And no discounts or Smart Pricing.

    I now have to deal with another issue. Someone booked for five days next Monday and just canceled. I have a moderate cancellation requirement for a week, so according to those rules I still get 50% of the income. As this is our busiest time of the year, I am not going to give a full refund. I am waiting for this customer to make a complaint to AirBnB and ask for her full money back. I’ll have to go through the hassle of talking to five people in the Resolution Department!

    I am also waiting for the other guest to complain that I won’t give him a refund for the day he says he didn’t book but the calendar says he did.

    Is anyone else having these hassles? I think we may need to set up a union for AirBnB hosts!

    RTJ

    • Turn your cancellation policy to strict and ,indeed, remain straightforward with guest demands/expectations. Unfortunately, the number of cheapskates is on the rise:)

  6. I find all the nastiness above unnecessary and rather offensive.

    I live in the UK and run a B&B, which offers what it says, bed and breakfast. People contact a B&B and book the number of rooms they need for their party. In my case, one to four. I have a small B&B that sleeps a total of 6 or 7 (if I open out the trundle bed). The problem with Airbnb is that if I listed each room separately, I wouldn’t get any group bookings, which are my bread and butter. People don’t realise that four separate listings are in the same B&B. In fact, they don’t look at room listings. They want a B&B.
    My city is a holiday and festival destination on the South Coast of England. We have a university and a major regional theatre, one of the top ten beaches in the UK, and the South Downs National Part. Groups of friends come together for sporting and cultural events all year long. They want to be in the same B&B, much as they would want to be in the same hotel. Airbnb now has a designation for B&Bs, which is an improvement, but there are still glitches.
    For example, if I have even one booking on a particular day, I cannot then block that date against further bookings. Say, I have a party of five and don’t want more guests that night. Or I might have one room booked and want to reserve the rest of the house for visiting family. This should be an easy fix, right?
    Yesterday, I encountered another, opposite problem. A couple booked for an international event on 6 April 2019. One room, two guests. My B&B has four rooms. Shortly thereafter, another party of three tried to book two rooms for 6 and 7 April 2019, and Airbnb says ‘not available’. However, I have four B&B rooms so I do have space available. Is this a recent change? What to do?

    • We have a similar set up with 3 rooms and want groups to be able to book as well. So we have a total of 4 listings – one for each individual suite, and one that is for all 3. We use the “linked calendars” feature so that when 1 of the rooms is booked individually, it blocks those dates for the 3 suite listing (and vice versa). I also mention in the description that we have other suites available and can accommodate up to 8 guests total and tell them to check out our other listings. This works for us, hope it is of help to you.

  7. To Josh: First off, I’ll put my IT chops up against yours’ any day of the week. I worked in high tech for 35+ years including 6 years in operating systems at Microsoft. I then founded and was CEO of an internet startup that holds multiple patents in predictive modeling software. My company was acquired by Macromedia which was subsequently acquired by Adobe. I made $ millions for my investors. What have you done? Other than troll people on the internet, who are just trying to help others.

    As far as AirBnB goes… I never said creating two listings was difficult. When I knew that was required I was able to do it, without much fuss. My complaint was that I didn’t know I had to do it, because AirBnB doesn’t make this clear in their setup guidelines. However, if you would have read the whole post,which it appears you didn’t, you would know my principal complaint is that AirBnB arbitrarily and without asking my permission or even notifying me, changed the price on my listing to less than 1/2 of my set price. I had specifically disabled Smart Pricing to prevent this from happening. When I was unable reset the pricing myself through the host interface, I called AirBnB customer support to find out why and have them reset the pricing. AirBnb customer support couldn’t reset the pricing either. And they could not explain how the wrong pricing happened, why it happened, or when/if it would be corrected, forcing me to inactivate the improperly priced listing to avoid more bookings at rates that are insufficient to cover my costs. It’s been almost two weeks and there is still no resolution. Apparently, you overlooked these facts when making your no-value comment.

    • You lack basic maths skills: room price set at 1/2 price coz’ you put both rooms under ONE listing hahaha Thanks for the laugh. Btw I am CEO of Dimwit Inc, I’d hire you on the spot.

  8. “I worked in development at Microsoft”
    I doubt it. I am not very gifted in IT and I found it really easy to set up 5 listings on Airbnb at my chosen prices and it’s plain sailing from there on.

  9. What?

    Maybe you should market your “special experience in a magical place” yourself. How have they “screwed you over” exactly? Where is the guarantee that once you place yourself on Airbnb that bookings will magically appear? Your suites weren’t getting bookings for a reason, i.e., your price is too high, and people weren’t “okay with paying a little more to get it.”

    If Airbnb is “literally stealing money from us,” why are you still using their service? Your expectations, from the get-go, are unrealistic. How dare they not realize you had two separate rooms? How is someone supposed to book room #2 if room #1 is already booked? Did you not look at your listing and figure that out yourself?

  10. What I don’t understand is, if they are just an online publishing platform, and they don’t bear any responsibility for the content that users post (ie not liable for fraud), how can they dictate pricing at all, or otherwise dictate content? It’s like if LinkedIn also determined what salaries would be for the jobs listed there. Clearly they’re selling a service and should be liable for content.

  11. You’re clearly IT challenged: for 2 separate suites you need to set up TWO separate listings. How difficult is that?

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