Bad Experience Using Airbnb for the First Time

On August 28th, 2016, I paid the total amount for a two-bedroom condo with three beds in Chicago in full (which hotels never require). When my family arrived, there were only two beds, so that meant that three adult women all over 5’9″ had to share a queen bed. What a mess. With no permission or explanation beforehand, my host gave our room away to someone else. Even though I paid in full it didn’t belong to me. You see, the Cubs had won the World Series, and she most likely had made more renting out the larger unit. I texted her and asked her what had happened. She replied, “Oh, there is a queen mattress in the closet.” What an insult. I had no idea they could even do this. I was floored. Even though I had 24 hours for a cancellation, everything downtown was taken. Where would we go? I informed her there would have to be some sort of refund, and she said she would get back to me. In the end, I got $400.00 credited back to me, but only after I asked for it. The large queen mattress was put in the living and kitchen area, which limited our use of these rooms. It’s so unfair that they have my money, and I can say nothing. I will never book with Airbnb again. I’m sticking to hotels, where my stays have never gone wrong.

Family Vacation in Paris Ruined by Bed Bugs

I travelled to Paris for three nights in October 2016 with my three children. It was supposed to be a dream vacation. I was so excited to stay in the “Romantic Suite Saint Germain des Pres.” I have been a huge Airbnb fan, spending over $5000 in 2016 alone with the platform (as Airbnb customer service explained to me). We are a large family, and we had never had a bad experience with Airbnb. In fact, I was promoting the site among friends and family. I felt very hip to be using the service. We arrived at the flat, and it was slightly disappointing, in the way that you realise that the photos were staged expertly showing the best possible angle. Our host did not meet us; he sent his cleaner instead.

The flat could have been cleaner, and had a strange odor. However, with three kids waiting to see Paris, I didn’t think to complain immediately or call Airbnb for help. I kept telling myself: “it will be fine.” On the last morning in the flat, my son woke up with bites on his thumb, two on his ear, and one on his face. In 40 years of international travel, I never encountered bed bugs. I was horrified, but again – we had only an evening flight; I had to get through the day. Our host told me we had to be out by 11:00 AM but could leave our bags until 3:00 PM.

We came back at 3:00 PM, and the flat stank. There were strange black spots on the bathroom floor, the cleaner had not yet arrived, and, with a bit of help from Google, it became clear to me that the flat had telltale signs of an bed bug problem. I contacted the host from the airport. He didn’t respond until 24 hours later. I then called Airbnb customer service. I spoke with “Jeffrey M.” who told me that I should stop talking and “hear him out.” I realized quite quickly in the conversation that a 20-year-old dude working the phone lines in California has not a clue in this world what it’s like to be a 40-year-old mom travelling in Europe with three children aged 6, 8 and 10 and having this experience.

I asked for a refund. Jeffrey laughed, and told me that in the history of Airbnb that never happened. He asked me to send photos – which I did – and promised to follow up with the host. Jeffrey read from his script, “I, too, travel with Airbnb and understand your frustration.” I grew up in Arizona, I can smell SoCal tripe when I hear it. The speech had all the buzzwords of empathy, but no admission of fault and no promise to resolve anything. The next day, the host finally answered, and told me that he believed there was absolutely no problem with his flat. He refused to return any funds at all. No apology, nothing. He did offer me a discount if I were to come back for a five-night stay, and suggested that perhaps my son had been “bitten during the day.”

He showed a total lack of understanding for how bed bugs operate and didn’t seem keen on finding out if his flat had them or not. He also didn’t seem to give a care in the world about what it’s like to wake up with your child covered in bites. He suggested that there could not be bed bugs because “only one of you was bitten.” With the help of Google, I now know that to be totally false. The story gets better, though!

I tried to contact Airbnb through their Twitter handle, @AirbnbHelp. I figured maybe Jeffrey M. is just a bad apple, and maybe someone at Airbnb actually cares about customers who spend thousands each year with the company. At first, the Twitter chat was friendly; they promised to look into it, etc. I sent them all my photos, and screen shots of my conversation with the host. Then I got an email from Jeffrey. He wrote to accuse me of extortion, because I dared ask if I was allowed to write a review while my claim was being looked into. Jeffrey/Airbnb officially disabled me from being able to review the property.

I hadn’t reviewed it yet, as I’d read online that if you ask for a refund you shouldn’t write a review. Now the host will keep on making money, and other families will be exposed to the bed bugs. I was in a state of shock. Never in my life, not in the worst of all hotels, would this have happened. You would walk to the front desk, show the bites, ask for a refund, and would walk away compensated for the hassle. We arrived home at midnight, stripped the kids naked (literally) in front of our front door, put everything that had been in Paris in rubbish bags, and left them in the garage. I spent the entire next day washing and drying everything on the highest possible heat setting, and disinfecting our shoes and my handbag. The dry cleaning bill… a trip to the dermatologist with my son who confirmed my conclusion about the bites… the cost of this trip keeps growing even now that we are home.

I can only pray that I rid everything of any potential to bring the bugs into our own home. To be honest, that’s a thought I can’t even begin to deal with right now. After Jeffrey accused me of extortion, and removed my ability to review the property, the Airbnb Twitter chat popped up, and they confirmed that they are in full agreement with what my case manager has done. In other words, Airbnb took my money, doesn’t give a care in the world about my horrible experience, and worst of all doesn’t let me warn others to prevent it from happening again. Meanwhile, my host is still selling his fairy tale of romantic Paris.

I am, for once, left speechless. I studied at Harvard Business School. I know a bit about business models. So I’ve now come to the conclusion that this is how Airbnb rolls: ramp up as many as possible hosts & guests, generate as much as possible turnover – this in turn maximises valuation – take the whole thing public, then a few young guys who know nothing about family travel or normal people’s lives make themselves billionaires. There is no business reputation to protect. Airbnb isn’t like Marriott who cares if you come back again, or not. Airbnb isn’t a hotel replacement; it is just an online ghost, making a profit out of connecting customers (“guests”) with providers of a service (“hosts”). If either one of us gets screwed in the process, Airbnb doesn’t care. It just needs volume. It doesn’t need me to come back. It will find someone else to replace me, someone who hasn’t had a bad experience, someone who believes in the dream.

I too, believed in the dream, but now my feet are firmly back on the ground. I’m not going to shut up just yet, though. I’m going to write the owners of Airbnb, I’m going to contact journalists, and I’m going to get my story out there. My family’s trip to Paris was the quintessential European holiday gone wrong. It was so plain vanilla it could have been any of us. It will happen to someone else now, too, given that I can’t review the property and the host is still allowed to list. For the record, the Airbnb property is listed as “Romantic Suite Saint Germain de Pres” on Rue Gozlin, Paris, and in the photo you see two orange bar chairs by the kitchen. We spent $698 for a three-night stay in October 2016.

Thanks to the founder of this site, it is like therapy to find an outlet to share one’s story and know that I am not crazy and not alone. Being accused of extortion when complaining about a product or service? That is a first. Imagine if you go to the Gap to return a shirt which is ripped or stained and they accuse you of fraud? Imagine in a restaurant if your food has a problem, and the restaurant gives you the bill and forces you to eat the rotten food? Honestly, this new app economy is hilarious. Airbnb is nothing like an old fashioned bed and breakfast, where the owner would care about his reputation, and on a human level, about people too. Airbnb takes greed to a whole new level, and this is coming from the country which invented customer service.

Shell Cottage? More like Smell Cottage!

Last month my partner, young daughter and I checked in to our new reservation at the delightfully named Shell Cottage, planning on staying for a month. I’d paid over £2,000 up front to Airbnb – a bargain price, or so I thought, as it was listed at £160 per night and we’d got a great discount for a month’s stay. When we opened the door a stale, musty smell hit our senses, mingled with a strong aroma of artificial air fresheners which was obviously an unsuccessful attempt to mask the bad smell. We discovered the living room furniture was ancient and stained and there were a lot of marks on the paintwork. Clearly the place hadn’t been decorated for a long time, but we figured maybe we could put up with it if we could open the windows and let the smell out. We are between homes at the moment, having had to move out of our long term rental in August and still completing work on the new home we purchased last year. We had been staying in Poole for a month and it took us a couple of days to move all our belongings from that apartment to this new one. So we didn’t stay in the cottage until the third night.

It was at this point we discovered the state of the beds, carpets and bathroom. The mattresses were of varying degrees of age and uncomfortableness, on one the springs were actually visible through the thin fabric covering. The bed linen was so old and musty it made us feel sick. The carpets were dark brown, covering a multitude of sins, but they were clearly very old and smelly. At one point I decided to get closer for a sniff – the smell of old feet and dirt was quite overpowering. How the host could expect us to be happy about letting our 14-month old crawl over them is beyond me! And the smell from under the bath was just as bad – years of accumulated dirt in a damp room led to a strong smell of stinky socks emanating from the area. Plus there was mould around the bath and the shower didn’t stay on the shower rail – to use it, you had to hold it or prop it up with one hand.

It was 9:30 pm on this third night that I wrote to the host to tell her how deeply unhappy I was about staying with my family in accommodations with such a catalogue of problems. I listed every issue, from the smell to the stains, uncomfortable beds to mould. I told her I was not prepared to keep my family in such unsanitary conditions and for the sake of our health and well-being we would be checking out the next day. The host’s reply could not have been sweeter. She seemed so kind and understanding, sympathising with us being between homes. She ended her email by saying she would contact Airbnb the next day about our request to leave early and that “as stated on our website, a refund is made after satisfactory inspection of the property when you have vacated the premises.”

I felt so relieved to know we would have no trouble getting a refund. We spent the whole Sunday packing up all our belongings and moving out. Two days later (as I thought it was purely a formality) I cancelled our booking through Airbnb and requested from the host a refund of the £2139 I had paid. I was shocked when she declined to give any refund and stated we were not entitled to any refund in accordance with the long-term cancellation policy as we’d “cancelled our holiday on a whim” and that our “criticisms of the holiday home were just… our personal opinion” and claimed no one else had complained. The tone of her email was so brusque – the absolute opposite of the sweet charm of her email on the day we checked out. I felt so angry and sick.

I immediately contacted Airbnb to tell them what had happened and sent them photos and video evidence of the visual issues. However, the main issue was the disgusting smell of the carpets, the beds, living room furniture and from under the bath and the second main issue was the uncomfortable beds, both of which you’d have to visit the property to experience. Airbnb did their best to be helpful, but they confirmed that the host had a strict cancellation policy under which a guest leaving early from a long term reservation was not entitled to any refund. But I had not simply “cancelled on a whim” – I felt I had no choice but to leave for the health of my family. Airbnb agreed that the bathroom looked like it needed attention and liaised with the host on my behalf.

What I didn’t realise was that Airbnb had already paid out all my money to the host, so they would have to try to re-coup it from her. Judging by the tone of her last email I felt my chances of getting it back were slim. They managed to get me a 20% refund for cleanliness issues and an Airbnb credit for their fees. But that still leaves me more than £1,500 out of pocket without any clear next step to attempt to get my money back. Airbnb tell me they have done all they can, and it’s the host who has my money. I feel disgusted and powerless, and would like to share my story here in the hope that others will benefit from our experience and possibly be able to suggest what, if anything, I could do now to get my money back.

Arrived safely, but no one was home?

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We had a horrible host who did not prepare for our check in even when we confirmed the arrival time weeks in advance. We were supposed to have a nice stay and a nice place. What we were met with was absolutely nothing. Check in was set for 12:00 PM, so we were there at 11:40 AM. We waited until just after 1:00 PM without a sign of the key or the host to greet us. We knocked on the door and got no answer; we called – no answer. What could we have done but leave such a situation? All he had to do was leave a note on what to do with the front desk or the key. This is unacceptable behavior for a host. Saying someone will eventually show up at an uncertain time in the future is absolutely disrespectful. Leaving a paying guest waiting and exposed to uncertainty is unprofessional and, on top of that, trying to say we were a no show or late is insulting. Trying to shift the blame to the guest is a slap to the face. We are demanding a full refund and suggesting that he be removed from Airbnb before he leaves another guest rushing to find suitable accommodation in a foreign country soaked from the rain waiting on him to eventually show up. This is the most embarrassing experience in my professional 40-year career in front of friends and colleagues for us to experience such disastrous service and ridiculing responses. I’m expecting a full refund by the next working day.

Horrible Host in Lecce Left us Homeless

After informing our host, Angelo, of our arrival time at his place, 11:30 PM – well in advance of our trip (even in the first message) – we called to check everything was okay and he claimed he was not in the area. We could not access the accommodation until he arrived, four hours after our scheduled arrival time. We were stranded in the middle of the night after a long journey from Rome and effectively homeless. We were forced to find an alternative (and expensive) accommodation, as we were not prepared to sleep in the street until 4:00 AM. Angelo has since claimed this is not grounds for a full refund, and believed that refunding half the money was a “decent” goodwill gesture. In the end, Airbnb refunded the rest after opening a case on the site. Do not plan to stay here. Lecce, however, is lovely, well worth the trip, but find other Airbnb. It turns out that this profile is fake, Sabrina is in fact Angelo.

Airbnb: A Great Way to Ruin your Vacation

As a young girl new to traveling, Airbnb sounded better than ever, yet it turned out to be one of the most stressful experiences. I highly regret using the site on my month-long travels in Australia. From the very beginning, a host cancelled a week before I was set to leave the states, so I was forced to spend more money on a different Airbnb. My first host kept me waiting for over three hours outside her apartment because she left the wrong key. After finally getting in, I discovered black mold (smelt horrible), no hot water in the shower, her cat whose fur was everywhere, and her whole studio smelt like cat pee; it was just a very dirty environment in which to stay. After staying up all night on my vacation dealing with Airbnb and trying to cancel, I was forced to spend even more money trying to find another place to rent.

Then we arrived at our next Airbnb. Everything was going better. However, I was promised wifi (which was much needed) which wasn’t available and was also told we had access to the pantry food items – so I ate some of course – then after leaving, I got a message from the host saying we had to pay $50 to replace the food. This was never mentioned and when she said “stocked pantry…” she actually should have said “stocked pantry that will cost $50 for a few tiny packages of hard cookies.”

Airbnb has ended up costing me an extra $700 and still hasn’t refunded my money. The customer service is horrible. I get different answers every time I call, I’ve gotten hung up on multiple times, I’ve been forced to hold for what feels like hours, and no one can ever seem to help me. They easily take your money and can’t seem to help you when there are problems or you are extremely unhappy. My vacation has turned into many late night phone calls to Airbnb, stress, confusion, and a lot of money down the drain. I will never use or recommend Airbnb again. Spend the extra money on a nice hotel; it’s not worth the stress on your vacation.

Airbnb in Colombia: Nearly Tazed by Property Owner

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A small group of friends went to Medellín, Colombia for a quick getaway and good times. We rented the place about three weeks prior. Knowing that we wanted to party (make noise), we rented a house with no noise ordinance. The pictures appeared relatively decent. After the house was booked, it dawned on a few of us that there were really no common areas where we could hang out, which is what we wanted to do in the first place! So we emailed the host over three weeks and all she did was dissemble and evade us. When we arrived and voiced our dissatisfaction she continued to evade us. It was clear she had our money and had no intention of making us happy customers. She only paid us lip service. What was interesting was there were good reviews, which for the life of me, I still cannot understand. The breaking point for us was the fact that there was no air conditioning and the place was an oven. We found cockroaches in the kitchen and bedbugs.

We called Airbnb as per a friend’s recommendation and the customer service agent was very helpful. She did say they had an hour to rectify the issues. She did not rectify the issue and the reservation was cancelled and we were given a credit. Ok, phew! Let’s find a decent place. Well as we were packing up, some guy named Gino, who was visibly mad and speaking in perfect American English, knocked on the door, and identified himself as the owner of the building. He was with another guy and they were using walkie-talkies (strange in this day of cell phones). He told us to get out. When I noted we needed to pack our stuff, he said you have five minutes to get out. As we were preparing to leave one of the other people in the group saw a stun gun. Needless to say we hightailed it out of there and never looked back. This rental is way overpriced for Colombia: disgusting, dirty, shady, and DANGEROUS. Stay away from this rental and others run by the same people.

Host charged me for a service I did not accept

The 08/09/2014 at 1:16pm we(customer/guest) decided to book Sharon’s (host/vendor) place (https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/294657 cf copy of the ) through the mobile phone for the same night.
At 3:45pm we still hadn’t any news of the host and believed that she wouldn’t answer us as the check-in was supposed to be at 4pm (in 15min). We tried to cancel the booking request but couldn’t find any button on the mobile app.
She finally answered at 3:55pm saying that the place would not be ready before 7pm and asked for our approval for the booking since the conditions had changed (cf first mail of Sharon). Thus, as the contract conditions had changed the host or Airbnb should wait for the customer approval before charging the expense as specified by the FTC “charges for service you didn’t accept or that weren’t delivered as agreed”. (check in supposedly at 4pm being finally at 7pm)
We did not answer to Sharon’s mail and de facto did not approve the new contract (check-in at 7pm instead of 4pm). Meanwhile, at 4:47pm (47min after the normal check in), Sharon took the responsibility to accept the reservation, without our consent on the new conditions (check-in at 7pm instead of 4pm), which resulted on charging us the total amount of the night: $401.
As a matter of fact, I am requesting that the error be corrected, that any finance and other charges related to the disputed amount be credited as well, and that I receive a total refund of the $401.