Another Story of an Airbnb Vacation Nightmare

This was a very recent experience – mid-October 2017 – for a long planned and awaited trip to New York City. I am still immersed with the mess which I will relate in the following. Enclosed is my review of the experience, which Airbnb recently informed me they would not post onto the listing. Before posting it on the listing, they reviewed it. They said I had one chance at writing a review and since it didn’t follow their strict guidelines, I would not be given the opportunity to edit it so it could be posted.

In my research I learned that 95% of their posted reviews are positive. The bad ones never make it. That meant that people would not learn the truth of what caused my case to be the nightmare that it was.

“I wish I did not have to give a terrible review, but my experience was so negative that I have to warn others about this situation. The host was avoidant and unresponsive in her communication and her unwillingness to address critical problems about her living space led me to have to forfeit my stay with her and greatly upset my long planned trip. She was initially prompt in responding to my interest and I booked the room for nine nights.

As it was a brand new listing when I booked it, there were no reviews. I was excited about staying there. Unfortunately when I arrived in late evening, the elevator was not working and she did not mention that she lived on the 7th floor on her profile or anywhere else. I am a senior citizen and although active for my age, the seven-floor climb – each floor consisted of two long flights, fourteen total – to the room with luggage was horrible. I texted and phoned the host before ascending, but received no response.

Along the way I met three sets of residents who all said that this unreliable elevator was a long time, ongoing problem; indicating that she likely had prior knowledge of this malfunction. I stayed the night because it was so late. I called Airbnb immediately after reaching the apartment and they were sympathetic to my not being able to stay there. The next morning I called and texted the host asking her to speak with me so we could figure things out. She texted that she would call me when she was out of the subway. She never did.

The next three days were consumed with dealing with Airbnb customer service – 15 emails and 16 phone calls totaling 3 hours and 36 minutes. The host unexpectedly canceled my reservation, stating she did not feel comfortable with me staying there. Under Airbnb rules, she was able to keep my money for the nine nights even though I only stayed there one night.”

I was very upset with the final determination to refund a token amount of my money. Airbnb never accounted for the lack of full disclosure in the listing as well as the host’s total unresponsiveness in the situation. Certainly if I knew the listing was on the 7th floor in a 97-year-old building, I would not have booked it. Three weeks later, with full knowledge of my experience at the site, there have been no revisions on the listing to state it is a 7th floor rental with an unreliable elevator.

Airbnb, in denying the posting of my review, has contributed to/aided and abetted the dishonesty of this listing. The host continues to offer the listing omitting vital information that definitely would compromise her ability to rent it out, and Airbnb stands silently by taking their cut of the bookings.

I have done research on this site and many other resources to realize the ugly truth about Airbnb. You think their customer service is being helpful when all they are doing is wasting your time and wearing you down with the expectation that all will be resolved justly. It is disheartening that a $30 billion company consistently and definitively demonstrates a lack of regard and interest for the well being of its guests.

The Pros and Cons of Using Airbnb in Other Countries

Airbnb may have started in San Francisco to fill the needs of visiting business travelers as guests and vacationing homeowners as hosts, but obviously it’s become something much, much more… and not all good. Plenty of guests swear by the platform for all their vacations, domestic and international, but if something should go wrong, where would that leave them? Here are some of the factors to consider when you book an Airbnb in another country.

Pros:
– Even if you’re renting an entire house or apartment, an Airbnb is a window into another culture abroad: how homes are decorated, what foods people eat, how they cook, where they live.
– You can have that “at home” feeling instead of the sterile cookie-cutter environment of a hotel room or a crowded hostel.
– Airbnb properties can be cheaper than hotels, and don’t always conform to peak season prices.

Cons:
– Checking in and meeting the host is difficult if you don’t plan ahead by getting a local SIM card or arranging a place to meet.
– Your host may not speak your language. Though this isn’t always a problem if the Airbnb is pristine and in working order, if something goes wrong, you’re going to have a hard time explaining it.
– Should there be a major problem with the property or the host, it’s a little daunting to just walk out the door into a foreign country without a backup plan.
– It’s harder to report a scam or fake listing for some of the reasons above. Airbnb scams in NYC have been so successful with international guests because they’re unfamiliar with the area, may not be able to stay in touch with Airbnb – calling online instead of by phone – and can’t always arrange replacement accommodation on short notice.
– Though there are plenty of Airbnb properties near tourist attractions and accessible by public transportation, these are people’s homes; they’re scattered across the countryside, suburbia, and the city and don’t always make it easy for travelers to get in and out.