Airbnb and its Hosts’ Unfair Business Practices

I was looking for an Airbnb place for me and my son in the vicinity of Woodstock, New Hampshire, for Feb. 8-15, 2022. Because of my age and the circumstances due to COVID-19, I needed a private bathroom and two rooms.

I used a map displayed on my computer, as provided by Airbnb. I picked this property because it appeared very close to Woodstock and met my requirements. I booked it and paid a full fee of $910. As soon as my booking was confirmed I received an address of the property and it became clear that it was a mistake. The property was in Vermont, a one-hour drive from Woodstock. The mistake was caused by the scale of the map, in which the property appeared close to Woodstock, and I did not realize that.

Within less than 15 minutes I cancelled my booking and requested a refund from the host. I explained in my request that I made a mistake. The property was off the market for less than 15 minutes and was advertised as available immediately after my cancellation.

The host responded that he could not issue the refund. He did not explain why. He referred me to the Airbnb management. I explained my situation to them and requested a refund from the host again. He responded that he would answer in an hour, as required by Airbnb. He did not. He was holding my money, while at the same time he was advertising his inn on the Airbnb website.

I felt trapped. Obviously, I could not look for a different place since I paid the booking fee. The next day the Airbnb representative began negotiating with the host to obtain a refund. At some point during the next day around late afternoon or evening the Airbnb representative informed me that the host refused to issue the refund and that Airbnb could not overrule his rejection.

The host made money off my mistake and was listing his property as available for booking.
I understand that when someone books a property in advance and then cancels shortly before the planned arrival the property owner may legitimately face a loss of potential customers, but my case was totally different. I cancelled my booking within minutes of receiving an address of the property, and then it was back on the market.

The host kept me hostage and engaged in unfair business practices under the protection of Airbnb. Sometime late in the evening I received a message from Airbnb that the host agreed to a 50% refund. Considering the cost of this booking I could not absorb such a loss. This was totally unethical. The Airbnb representative agreed with my grievances, but appeared to refuse to overrule the host’s response.

My only option to which the host agreed was to rebook. I was stuck with this place. I drove an extra two hours every day during my five days staying there to reach my preplanned destinations.

Two days later the host sent me a message that if I would like to cancel for a second time, he would issue a full refund. And again, a day later he offered a full refund if I cancel again.
Everyone knows that when the number of days before the planned arrival gets smaller, the availability of places to stay declines rapidly. Every day, every hour counts. By the time the host decided to offer me a refund. I couldn’t find anything close to Woodstock that met my requirements.

Airbnb’s refusal to overrule the host’s response and his lack of timely responsiveness during the Airbnb negotiations, which continued for two days, inflicted great emotional harm and stress on me. I felt trapped. During my stay, I accrued additional financial cost, loss of time and unnecessary two hours driving daily to my destinations in New Hampshire.

Also, during our stay in his property, we suffered from vertigo, teary and itchy eyes due to the presence of enormous amounts of various laundry, house and personal cleaning volatile chemicals as well as air purifiers, and even charcoal starter above the kitchen stove. It was impossible to relax on the sofas due to the constant sneezing. And the TV was losing connection all the time.

I wrote this review to be publicly displayed on the Airbnb website, for the benefit of potential tourists. This information needs to be available to protect the travelers from the unfair practices of Airbnb and their host.

Unfortunately, Airbnb prevented me from publishing this review under the pretext that it violated their rules. I wrote the address and host’s name in my initial version of this document. While writing my review I found that the host’s name and address of this property are in full view on Facebook.

Thus, the privacy restrictions invoked in this case by Airbnb were used simply to prevent publication of my critical review and to protect their host and the company from publishing the inconvenient truth. The fact that this information is openly available on Facebook implies that I could not have violated the privacy rule of Airbnb.

Please note that I agreed to remove anything that Airbnb finds objectionable in order to resubmit my review. Airbnb refused.

Airbnb laissez-faire when it comes to customer service

In April, I booked a room in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico wanting to visit a festival in January 2020. The room was not cheap. The reviews of the host were good. The listing contained a street name. After booking, I asked for a full address. To this day I have no exact address and the confirmation email link leads to a museum.

This feels like a complete fraud. Airbnb already took hundreds of euros off my credit card, offering no refund so far since I have complained. To make sure I did not get stranded or relocated far away from the action, I also booked a hotel (this week) because I think Airbnb is very laissez-faire when it comes to customer service.

I travel alone and safety is a priority. I am done with the fact that they do not check the location of the rental nor do they check if the host has any right to rent it out. Beware because you may be next to get stranded or lose a lot of money. No more Airbnb for me.

Host Switched Addresses: No Refund Given

Our party of eight had booked this 5-bedroom in Manhattan for our family vacation. Approaching our departure date, we discovered that the host been cancelling on people very close to their arrival or directing people to an address different than the one that we had booked through Airbnb, with one bedroom fewer and bunk beds. We were traveling all the way from Denmark and naturally we would have liked everything to go smoothly upon our arrival. So we began to worry. Three days prior to our departure, we got a message from the host with a different address, four blocks away from the original. In light of several prior reviews stating the same thing happened to them, we contacted Airbnb in the hope of getting a return. The host has a strict cancellation policy, so we could’t just cancel ourselves, as then we would lose all the money for the booking.

This is when we really experienced the fear and horror of trying to get proper customer support from Airbnb. It was nearly impossible to get someone on the line who was able to help us and we called Airbnb back repeatedly the following days (getting six different representatives). They kept promising a certain group called “The Trip Team” would call us back and that our case was marked as urgent as possible. That call never happened and every time we called back to follow up, we had to start all over with someone new. We were also told that if The Trip Team did not call back, we could call and ask for the emergency hotline. However, after calling and asking for this emergency hotline, we were told it did not exist.

The supporters gave very vague messages and empty words of comfort back (such as a generic “I can understand how frustrating this must be to you, but rest assured, we will find a solution” about 100 times or so…), but they did advise us not to contact the host any further – they were going to take care of that – and asked us to look for another listing in New York, which Airbnb could offer us instead. They also told us that if we could not find another suitable listing, we could get our money back. Since none of the available listings could host all of our family together, we thus opted for the refund. Over the phone, Airbnb agreed to the refund and we asked for it in writing.

Less than a day before our departure, we got the following in writing: “After speaking with her [referring to the host], that’s the only time we can apply a cancellation on this particular reservation. Your host payout is already frozen so rest assured your funds are safe with us.” At least this meant our money wouldn’t be transferred to the host, so Airbnb could honor their promise of a return, right!? While not exactly as concrete as what they’d promised over the phone, this is the last communication we managed to get from Airbnb prior to our departure and we had clearly made them aware that we might not be reachable via email. At least Airbnb and the host had a US number they could reach us at after our arrival in the US. And we clearly and in good faith stated our intend of having Airbnb cancel the reservation with a full refund. Hence we “rest assured” that there was nothing more that we could do.

Meanwhile we had booked a hotel in New York, certain that the Airbnb deal was off and it was only a formality to get our money back. Airbnb even acknowledged that we could book a hotel by compensating us with a tiny amount of $162 for the first night, i.e. at this point they even acknowledge that there is a problem. What a terrible thing to go through right before leaving on vacation! But it didn’t stop here…

After checking the email connected to Airbnb several days later, we were shocked to learn, that despite Airbnb’s promise of the opposite, the money had been transferred to the host and on Airbnb’s site it looks as if we made a cancellation. Consequently, our family paid approximately $3000, which has already been distributed between the host and Airbnb!! At the time of writing, we have tried all that we can with Airbnb to get them to honor their agreement and return the money, but to no avail. They only evasively answer and insist that we had simply misunderstood the host. Yet we have in writing that the host changed the address prior to our arrival and in light of the other reviews stating the same, we cannot accept Airbnb’s unfair ruling in this matter.

Furthermore, we have been acting all in good faith and based on the advice from Airbnb support and been promised a refund, in addition to being told explicitly in writing to “rest assured” that the money was frozen… only to find out later that Airbnb went ahead and completed the transfer. In any simple matters of trade, the buyer cannot be required to pay for something, which is not what was agreed upon in the first place. This matter is no different! Rest assured, Airbnb, that we will continue fighting this until we get our money back. Meanwhile we hope that this posting helps others learn how few options they have of getting a return (if any?), if they have booked one place through Airbnb and learn in advance that upon arrival the host directs them to a different place. And how terribly Airbnb treats guests in such matters. It is pretty obvious that there is a severe conflict of interest, when, by siding with the host, Airbnb earns money, and in case they side with the guests, they don’t. So before you go out and book your vacation through Airbnb, have this very costly and horrifying experience in mind!

Last, but not least, avoid booking a “Huge UWS 5 Bedroom by Super Host” in New York from this host (Kyleen Taylor). And yes, she’s still a Super Host, despite her cancellations and scam! If it helps others, the original address of this listing is “168 W 78th St, New York, NY 10024, USA” and the address the host gave us three days before was “78 W 82nd Street”.