Poorly Designed Policies Allow Airbnb Extortion

I recently had an unpleasant experience while traveling in Cannes, France with my wife, baby, and a friend. I explained the situation to Airbnb’s support team, but they sided with the host due to Airbnb policies. I’ve come to realize that the policies are flawed and the only way to fix it is to bring it to the attention to someone with the ability to amend the policies.

I live in the United States and work in residential real estate development. When listing the number of bathrooms in the U.S., “2.5 bathrooms” would mean two full bathrooms with a shower and toilet and a second half-bath with just a toilet. Evidently, in France 2.5 bathrooms means two bathrooms with only a shower and a third bathroom with only a toilet. Thus, there is only one toilet in a three-bedroom apartment.

We were shocked and felt somewhat duped especially since the host knew better. He was a residential real estate broker in the U.S. for four years. You would think that this would be cause for cancellation, but it was not according to Airbnb support. This was unfortunate, but not the end of the world.

Upon nightfall the unit was overrun with mosquitos – dozens of them. We killed a couple on a dish towel (a photo was taken and sent to Airbnb). My wife and I had our five-month old baby with us. We could not allow him to get eaten alive while he slept. The only responsible thing to do was to leave and check into a hotel.

Evidently, according to Airbnb policy, mosquitoes are not a viable reason to cancel a reservation. I’m still shocked that this does not qualify as uninhabitable. Airbnb is competing against hotels. If I were to check into a hotel room with dozens of mosquitoes, they would have refunded my money. Why wouldn’t Airbnb?

After contacting the host that evening and not receiving a response, I sent him a nice message saying that my experience was clearly unpleasant, but since I didn’t stay there overnight and he would not need to clean the premises, I stated the obvious by saying that if he would just refund my money, I wouldn’t leave a review. What a mistake. He was a pro and knew that according to Airbnb policy, he got me.

He accused me of extortion which I thought this was crazy since extortion clearly implies a falsehood. The intent of an extortion policy is to protect hosts from guests who had a pleasant experience and then demand a refund in return for a positive review. Airbnb’s policy doesn’t read that way and thus provides a loophole to unscrupulous hosts. Since it’s “policy” there was nothing Customer Support could do.

I lost $1,037. I thought to myself that this was unfortunate but at least I can warn other travelers of the two issues mentioned above. After leaving my review, Airbnb then informed me that it was being removed due to the extortion policy despite the fact was that it was completely honest. Not only do I feel like $1,000 was stolen from me, I am now not even allowed to warn other travelers. I know Airbnb is a young company so there will be holes in the system, but I just thought I’d bring this one to their attention.

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

4 Comments

  1. As the listing is in France, the host is not obligated to use American definitions of what constitutes a bathroom. The host shouldn’t “know better” and wasn’t duping you when he used the locally accepted definition of a bathroom. It doesn’t matter that he worked in real estate in the U.S. He is now in France.

    You were clearly practicing review extortion when you offered to not write a review in exchange for a refund. Below is the dictionary definition of extortion. It doesn’t mention falsehood. Also, how would Airbnb know whether your review was true or false?

    “The practice of obtaining something, especially money, through force or threats.”

  2. The world doesn’t revolve around you or your baby – and mosquitos haven’t killed anyone. I guess it’s best you don’t leave home, so you’re safe and have the proper amount of bathrooms.

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