I am retired, and I have six children who live abroad so I don’t get to see them that often. We planned a family vacation in September, and since we are a big family, I looked for a listing that could accommodate us all. I found the perfect listing on Airbnb – a nice house in the city, a verified host – so I booked it for three nights.
After a few days, I realized we would need an additional night, so I asked the host to add one more night. She told me we would need to cancel the reservation and do the process again, and that she would send me a new invoice through Airbnb. I received this invoice, from “Airbnb” (firstname.lastname@example.org) instructing me to send payment to Airbnb Holdings.
Once the payment was done, I got a confirmation from Airbnb stating “pack your bags, you’re going to Germany” – the text you see in the regular emails with links to the Airbnb website, policy, etc. In other words, I got an Airbnb email from an Airbnb address, and because I was sure Airbnb is building “a trusted community”, I did not doubt for a second that something could be wrong.
The day before the trip, as the host wasn’t answering my emails, I called Airbnb, who told me it was a scam, and there was no booking. However, the listing was still online, on the Airbnb website, waiting for people like myself to fall for it. I had to find a last minute booking (at twice the price) to accommodate all my family, because we were all on our way from all over the place, with nowhere to stay. Airbnb declined responsibility for scams they advertise, even though we paid for the service. They did not do the simple verification steps to check that the listings actually exist (not that complicated – just ask the host to send an invoice or official paper with the address). You had one job, Airbnb.
I lost a lot of my pension money, not counting the stress, frustration, sadness of being robbed when you feel secure on such a well known website. Airbnb refuses to refund anything, not even the fees they took for the reservation, which is the minimum they could do in that situation. The truth is, I am sad and disappointed that Airbnb takes so little responsibility towards the community they claim to be building. It’s easy to take fees on our transactions, to encourage us to open our doors and trust their users, and then they disappear when something goes wrong.