Smoke and Mirrors: Guest’s Performance Art Scam

The reservation was for two people. On Wednesday, March 8th, our guest arrived with her mother (who had a black eye), two dogs, and a cat. We expect people to tell us in advance that they are traveling with a pet. They just showed up this way. Who does that? Because of the black eye, I ignored the imposition of these pets and let them in. For a few days everything was just fine as far as I could tell. Then on Monday afternoon, March 13th , I got a text from the guest saying that the toilet was blocked and water was coming up in the shower. This must have just started, right? Wrong. An email from Airbnb was timestamped at 9:30 AM. It stated that we had exactly two hours to get in touch with Airbnb about the guest complaints that had apparently been mounting for days from the bowels of the quiet clean apartment. If we fail to act by this deadline they will automatically rule in favor of the guests. Well, that boat had already sailed. The plumbers damaged the sidewalk, but had the pipe dug out and replaced by early evening. It cost me $2500 to repair the blocked sewer line quickly so no one would have to go the night without toilets. The stoppage from that apartment had put all three units in the complex out of service.

The next day was exciting. I received a series of bizarre pictures from Airbnb that had been taken by the guest and submitted as proof of the unhealthy conditions that we allowed to go uncorrected here in our slum. Our place was, mind you, the cleanest apartment in the world, but not in those pictures. There were bugs and bits of debris in the narrow tight shots of various kitchen surfaces with rust (like the bottoms of pots) and in one of the pictures the living room sofa was sitting with the upholstery covers removed. The foam cushions were in their underpants and one such garment had been pulled apart at a corner to look warn and dilapidated. They included, of course, a picture of the sewage in the shower.

This makes me laugh because the plumbing had clogged (I was told) at around 2:00 AM. I was intentionally left out of the loop about this until 1:30 in the afternoon. They were painting me as negligent so they could ruminate about my failure to correct a disgusting condition and setting the groundwork for the timeline of hardship that would win them a refund. They hung out with a sewage pond for nearly twelve hours so that it would remain unresolved until after they were rewarded the damages they requested. Some things are just worth the extra inconvenience, don’t you agree?

Ultimately, Airbnb gave them half of their money back, which was entirely too much for me to refund on top of the $2500 it cost me in repairs. The whole ten-course tampering they served us was so weird that I felt like I funded a conceptual art project that was meant to be seen from many different angles and leave the onlooker with a residue of mystery and cultural significance. The person at Airbnb that made the misguided decision to refund this money did so because she was still operating under the belief that the photos of the dirty conditions are authentic. I am lost for an explanation as to how anyone with such a dazzling analytical mind could be allowed to operate in a position that requires rational processes to reach feasible conclusions. There is a problem with the way Airbnb gathers and fact checks the information it receives. It needs to do much better. It has failed to establish a stream of reliable data for its policy decisions.

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