On a snowy Christmas morning in the Rockies everyone was staying in a poorly maintained house we rented due to a malfunctioning alarm system that flashed lights without stopping on the first floor of the house after beeping without interruption for several hours Christmas Eve afternoon (a missing sensor on an exterior door would not allow us to turn off the system). Adding to this awful situation we were told we could not adjust the heat in the house, as it was remotely controlled by the owner in Boston. Cabinet doors were torn off of the cabinets. The house was very sparsely furnished and in very poor repair. A king bed was not properly put together; nails were used instead of screws and in the middle of all the chaos it broke and the mattress fell to the floor. There was a large stinking pile of garbage in the kitchen. The house had two doors to the outside, and two were broken and unusable. We had complained about all this to the property manager who said she contacted the owner. This turned out to be a lie. She was unresponsive and lied when she did respond. Faced with this charming situation, we packed and departed the house about 6:30 AM on Christmas morning in a snowstorm. The owner in Boston responded with a blanket denial of all issues. We are in the process of a well documented dispute with Airbnb.
In 2017, I was touring Europe with my bicycle. I camped most of the time, but it was quite cold and rainy during a week in September. I decided to stay with Airbnb. The first night went quite well, so I made another booking the next morning. It was 60 km away, in a small village in Germany. Instant Book was enabled, so I immediately got a confirmation.
I set off and reached the address around 5:00 PM. When I rang the bell, there was no response. I messaged the host. After approximately an hour, the booking was canceled, without any explanation. It was cold and getting dark fast, so I headed to the nearest hotel. It was only five kilometers, but with the rain and the mud, it took me another hour to get there. At 75 euro, it was much more expensive than some of the other hotels I could have stayed with. Later Airbnb messaged me, saying the host enabled Instant Book without realizing the implications. They kind of blamed me for choosing a host with little experience and did not offer to pay part of the hotel bill. They have much more data on the host than me. They should not allow inexperienced hosts to enable instant booking.
My host “cancelled” by saying something about not speaking English in German and then slamming the door in my face. When I arrived late after walking for over an hour, I could see the lit-up house. I knocked and shouted hello, but the host refused to open the door. I set up my tent in their front yard in subzero temperatures. In the morning they came out to tell me I couldn’t camp on their yard. I tried to say that I paid for the entire house already, but they basically said something in German about not speaking English, then they just slammed the door in my face. For hours upon hours I tried to reach Airbnb to get my service fee refunded. I am also completely screwed by having my vacation ruined since the dates and locations were planned according to my reservation. I still had to attend a conference in the area, but with no place to stay.
Now I am homeless, in a half-broken tent in sub-zero temperatures because Airbnb took five days to refund my money. The service fee and currency conversion fee will probably never be paid back and I have tried many many times to file claims with all kinds of subjects in the header, including “EMERGENCY”. Five days after filing a claim (which took hours – it is close to impossible to email, chat or get in contact with a human being) I was contacted by an agent. He offered no help at all, apart from booking a new place for my two remaining days (unclear if this would be free of charge). However, I had already made arrangements at that point, and couldn’t risk having to pay for those two days either way. All in all, there was no help, no compensation offered, and the host is still up for business. Airbnb cares more about making cents on the dollar than people running the risk of losing fingers in the cold. Airbnb may be cheap and lucrative, but do you want to risk freezing to death? If there is any problem, what will you do? It is impossible to get in contact with a human being. The only support available (as far as I could tell) is totally worthless enough it makes me wonder if people created it as a bad joke to those stranded.
My wife booked a house for out winter vacations in Lake Tahoe. The check-in time was at 3:00 PM. Around 1:00 PM an avalanche blocked the highway. We were 40 minutes away from the house and ready to go. However, we were asked to wait until the road would be accessible so we waited. The officers told us they would clean it up in a few hours but it kept raining and snowing; it was the biggest storm in the past decade. We had to drive back that night because there were no hotels available. I checked the news the next morning and the storm was even bigger; the road was blocked for two days, so the only way to get to our Airbnb reservation was with a helicopter. Obviously, we didn’t have one. Our host refused to give us a refund. This is ridiculous; even hotels and other Airbnb properties refunded others. This was an extreme situation and it wasn’t fair our vacation got ruined. We lost our money. There must be something bigger than a “partial refund” from Airbnb customer service.
Airbnb is great as long as nothing goes wrong. But the whole process is too complex for nothing to go wrong. In our case we were not able to travel to our booking in Yosemite National Park because of a national weather service advisory about a winter storm which clearly mentioned “not to travel unless in a emergency”. When we contacted Airbnb they suggested that we need to first cancel the booking and then claim a refund under their extenuating circumstances policy. After we cancelled the booking we filed a claim. The entire customer service experience was horrible. First of all, Airbnb could only be reached by email, which was slow. It took almost three days for Airbnb to reach a conclusion: they will not refund a single penny. When I asked for an escalation, a blunt email arrived stating that this was their final decision and they would not entertain any further communication.