No Truth in Advertising: Beachfront vs. Waterfront

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We planned a special family vacation to Turks and Caicos. Turks and Caicos is all about the water – being on or beside it. So, at a huge premium, we booked a rental. Under amenities, the owner selected waterfront (not beachfront). Clearly, the owner knows that the premium for properties on Providenciales is for direct water access.

We never questioned the term “waterfront”. Why would we? It was the headline and was chosen as an amenity.

The property was not waterfront. Yes, you can see the water but the property does not offer direct water access. It does not abut the water. You can get to the water either by walking down a hill covered in low brush (with no path) and crossing a two-lane road or by walking down the driveway, along two roads and across the two-lane road but not without leaving the property.

We contacted Airbnb customer service after reaching out to the owner and receiving no reply. We felt asking for a return of the premium we paid was fair.

Airbnb Customer Service denied our claim. They wrote: “Having reviewed the documentation and the information provided by all parties involved, we are not able to determine a valid claim because they do consider their property waterfront but it’s not right on the water which is why they didn’t select beachfront as an amenity.”

According to the Merrimack-Webster Dictionary, the definition of waterfront is: “land, land with buildings, or a section of a town fronting or abutting on a body of water.” Please note that nowhere in this definition is there any mention of waterfront being beachfront. Clearly, whoever created the amenities for Airbnb knows this definition.

Airbnb offers waterfront and beachfront as separate amenity choices. Unfortunately, they did not share this understanding with their customer service resolution team. I will add that while the Superhost claims that truth in their listing is one of their values, there are other “errors”. For example, the property is not in a gated community.

As a guest who has used Airbnb properties since 2012, I will never book with them again and I will tell as many people as I can about my experience. Airbnb asks hosts to sign documents certifying that their listing is true yet, they do not enforce the agreement. In addition, while they provide long lists of amenities to allow guests to tailor their choices, they do not train their customer service resolution agents in the meanings of the terms. To make it even more enraging, the host is still a Superhost and has perpetrated this “beachfront” versus “waterfront” scam in their response to reviews of the property.

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