Bait and Switch at San Diego Corporate Lodging

I reserved a penthouse in San Diego two months ahead of my visit. I arrived early in the day last Friday and went to eyeball the property at the address in the email. I felt odd as the view from the posting could not have been from the same address. There was no pool or spa and I felt like bad things were about to happen to my weekend. My host sent to me an address nearby.

About an hour before checking in, the host cancelled and I was offered another Airbnb and a 10% credit if I chose one of the offered locations. None had a view like the penthouse did. I went to the address the host provided to find out they had a very strict policy against Airbnb in the building. They only lease to corporate clients and when I showed them the pictures they confirmed it was their building.

They were pissed. I had been baited with the pictures and the view. They tried to switch me to another lesser property claiming maintenance issues. What a load of garbage. All the people I spoke to at Airbnb were the same, amateurs acting like they knew what they were doing. My trust level left me and I went to a hotel never to use Airbnb again. These bait and switch artists should be arrested for fraud.

I Paid Outside Airbnb for a Condo, Not a Filthy Trailer

I contacted the host for this Airbnb and was asked to pay her directly, circumventing Airbnb payment system to get a reduced rate. When I arrived at the rental I was shown to a filthy trailer seething with decades-old cigarette smoke. The pictures were of another trailer nearby occupied by the host’s mother and depicting a charming residence being advertised as a condo at the time. She has removed that claim from the posting as of now.

As we stood in the trailer my throat began to swell from reactions to the toxic smoke coating the interior of the trailer. I explained to her I could not stay there and asked for a refund, to which she agreed right away. She and her mother were as charming as could be and I left confident they would give me the refund they promised. I asked several times, and finally she relayed that I would get the refund “the next week”.

Next week came and went with her continuing to ignore further inquiries about my refund. Finally she texted me asking why I really needed the refund since I was so wealthy (not true at all). I then contacted Airbnb, who responded telling me they couldn’t help since I paid her outside the system (at her request of course) and as of this posting they continue to advertise for this fraudulent listing. Beware of renting from this listing – it’s a fraud.

Attempted Airbnb Bait and Switch in Amsterdam

It was supposed to be a dream trip to Europe, then we found ourselves on a one way trip to Airbnb hell. We searched the map of Amsterdam and found a small but suitable room in a location that was close to all of the things we wanted to see and do. The property didn’t have any reviews but the host had dozens and all good. We figured it was a new location for her. We booked, paid, and thought we were done.

Two weeks later we crossed the river Styx. We got a request from the host to change the reservation to another suite, in the same building but smaller. We were told we paid the wrong price, that she had booked it to someone else on another site for the correct price and it wasn’t available for us anymore. We declined to switch and asked her to cancel it so that we would get a full refund. She refused.

Luckily we are eight months from departure so we have a little time to correct. The first thing I did was book a hotel room. Honestly the $300 we were going to save isn’t worth the hassle of dealing with Airbnb. In some locations around the world Airbnb is a great idea but in the busy capitals of first world nations there isn’t much advantage to balance the risk of having your vacation ruined.

The next step was to contact Airbnb. We found the phone number on this site, called, and laid out the scene to a representative who took details and told us we would get a full refund once a manager had taken a look at the file… I’ll believe that when I see it. Has anyone been through this? Did you get a full refund? Should I contact my credit card company and start proceedings there? To be continued…

Three Types of Airbnb SCAMS

One of the most common and heartbreaking stories we hear at Airbnb Hell is about scammers. Newbies to the website think they’re paying a legitimate host for their dream vacation, when in fact they’re getting a room in a flophouse, or nothing at all.  What are some of the scams we’ve heard about?

 

Bait and Switch

It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book. Airbnb guests book what appears to be an amazing property at a more than reasonable price, only to be told on arrival or just when it’s too late to look for alternative accommodations that the house in the pictures isn’t available due to an “Airbnb glitch”, but what luck! The host has a comparable property at a different address.

News flash: the first listing never existed. It was all a lure to get you to pay and then force you to accept a worse deal because you’re now desperate and in an unfamiliar city. The biggest giveaway here is a lack of reviews, and a price too good for the quality.

 

Paying by Wire Transfer

NEVER, never pay for an Airbnb reservation by clicking on an email link – no matter how authentic it may look – or a wire transfer directly from your bank. Airbnb is slow to crack down on fake listings like these brazenly telling guests to click on a link in their profile to book; the more clever ones wait until you make a legitimate booking or inquiry through Airbnb, then send you a fake email with Airbnb logos with payment instructions. In the end, Airbnb may continue to list the scammers but – as far as we’ve heard – has never refunded anyone.

 

Lying About Vermin

Scams on Airbnb can affect hosts as easily as guests, and this particular one is why Airbnb Hell got started in the first place. A seemingly normal guest makes a booking, is friendly in his communications, and arrives without incident. Near the end of his stay, he abruptly leaves, files a complaint with Airbnb claiming there were cockroaches, rats, or some other vermin on the property, and expects a 50% refund.

These scammers usually book longer stays so they can maximize their ill-gotten refund. They might even bring bugs onto the property so they can doctor photos. Airbnb policy hasn’t changed much to protect hosts from these types of lies.

Airbnb Blames Guests for Hosts Violating TOS

My brother had spent hours trying to verify himself via Airbnb’s verification process for creating an account. He called me for help, and after Googling it, I discovered that there is a known issue with Android phones and verifying with Airbnb. Since we had found an entire house available for ten days for my brother to stay in while visiting California, and at a reasonable cost, I emailed the hosts, told them about the trouble my brother was having verifying, and asked if I could book the house for him using my verified Airbnb account. The host said I could book on behalf of my brother, and in fact, she book on behalf of her son, so it was “no problem”.

When I took my brother to the house to check-in, we were really surprised and dismayed to find that he was renting a room in a four bedroom house, and that four other people would be staying in the house while he was there. I’ve used Airbnb for years and booked many rooms in houses, full homes, and so on. I understand that when it says “a room”, it means a room in a house. However, in all the Airbnb rooms I’ve booked, I knew that the host was either staying in the home as well, or the listing stated that other people would be staying in the home at the same time I would be staying there.

If the host is not the person staying in the home, I don’t book the property. Why? Because obviously I do not want to stay in a house with people I do not know and who come from who knows where. If the host lives in the home, their photo, information, etc. is known to you when you book it, and they are verified. I do not want to sleep in a house of strangers when traveling alone.

This particular listing did not say that there would be others staying in the house. We actually thought that it was a small, one-two bedroom house that my brother would have all to himself. I contend that the listing and the photos and the description were vague and misleading. The host offered to give the money back, or, try to find an alternate place for him to stay, but having just arrived from New York and it being evening time, we were stuck. There were no other choices for him.

We did not check him in; we went to my place and I called Airbnb to try and find a solution, and two things happened. First, they told me that hosts are not obligated to let you know that other people will be staying at the house. Now, think about that: if I were a single woman who had booked this room, and three or four other men or people whom I did not know, who came from who knows where, were staying in the same house with me, I would not feel safe. I think hosts should tell guests that other guests will be staying in the home with you.

The person at Airbnb told me also that “for security reasons” the hosts are not obligated to tell guests there will be other people in the home. Really? Whose security, I wonder? Second, the guy at Airbnb told me that I had “violated the third-party booking policy” by booking the room for my brother, and that that negated any help they would give me. I lost it at that point, and told him that the hosts agreed to me booking the room for my brother. They were the ones who broke the policy.

My brother and I went back to the house, and he checked in, again, because he had no other options. Guess what happened? The other guests, a couple who booked another room in the house, who also thought they had booked an entire house for themselves, were checking in and were arguing with the host because my brother was there. They too “misread” this listing, thought they had booked an entire house to themselves, and were upset to see my brother in the house.

My brother is a really sweet guy, but he is huge and very imposing looking. If I did not know him, I would be dismayed at this very large Italian-looking guy (very handsome, though) was sharing a house that I thought I had booked to myself. The couple wound up talking to my brother, and all agreed: this was really a dishonest ‘bait-and-switch’ experience with Airbnb, and they have the worst customer service. Airbnb blamed the guests and refused to help us. Now Airbnb wants me to “review your experience with your host” which I will not do.

One other thing: while my brother was staying there, the host had a contractor there to enclose the deck into another bedroom that they can rent out to yet more Airbnb guests. I’ve written to Airbnb, and not received a response. So, I’m taking to social media to tell this story. If you rent out rooms via Airbnb, great, good for you. Run your home like a hotel. But hotels have to be honest to guests, and have rules they must follow for the safety and security of the guests. Airbnb cares only about the hosts, not the guests.

If you are a single woman traveling using Airbnb, be very very careful when booking a “room” and make sure to ask if other people will be staying in the house with you, and who they are if they are not the host.

I just got an email from Airbnb that is really just unbelievable:

“About two weeks ago we were recently notified that you may have made a reservation on behalf of someone else… Transparency builds trust, which is why it’s important for everyone on Airbnb to represent themselves honestly. Given the circumstances, as this is a violation of our Terms of Service, we have revoked the capability to leave reviews. If you have any questions or concerns, just reply to this email. We’re here to help!”

I noticed today that the hosts have changed their listing to inform guests that there will be other guests staying in the home. Too bad they didn’t do it sooner.

Airbnb Host Refuses to Cancel After Changing Rooms

I know my complaint pales in comparison to others. However, I am frustrated that I cannot review the host and want to warn others. I booked an Airbnb about six weeks before our trip. According to the booking, we would get a private bedroom with a king bed. About a week before we were to leave I reached out to the host to inquire about changing the length of our trip. At the time she informed me the room was no longer available and had been taken by someone else. She told me that we could sleep on a queen bed in the common space beside the kitchen.

When I saw the common space, it looked like we would be sleeping on a pullout couch. She didn’t even offer a reduced fee and was not willing to accommodate us regarding our request to change the length of our stay. Of course I was frustrated and told her that she, as the host, can cancel the reservation, as per the policy on their website. She refused because she didn’t want to get penalized. In order to get an resolution on this I had to phone Airbnb multiple times until a case manager called me back. Airbnb ended up cancelling it for both of us, which meant the host got off free. In the meantime, I was scrambling to find another place less than week before our trip, in the middle of summer vacation season. Be warned about this host. She may have positive reviews, but that may only be because those who may have given negative ones were not able to do so.

Host Needs to Work on Definition of Full Loft

Our Airbnb property was advertised as a “full loft” with “dedicated parking behind the building”, which is why we chose it. We arrived in Montreal and drove right by the property twice, because it’s a poorly-marked, hard-to-find doorway between two other buildings. Behind the building there were no markings about where to park and/or that there was a safe, dedicated area for guest’s vehicles. Our email from the host suggested we park across the street on the public road. Due to the French signage and parking permit issues, I did not want to do that for fear my car would be towed.

After hauling our luggage up a narrow, tall flight of stairs, we were confronted by a narrow hallway that smelled like cat urine. There may have been a “full loft” up here at one time, but what we saw were three doorways with numbers on them. Behind our doorway there was a room that was, perhaps, 10’ x 10’ with one tiny, skinny window above eye level and a skylight. In the original listing photograph that accompanied our original reservation confirmation email, there had been a real bed with end tables; the actual bed in the room we got was a pull-out couch with a two-inch thin mattress.

There was no kitchen, only a small counter and bar fridge. No table on which to eat breakfast. The bathroom was so small, if one person was on the toilet and the other opened the door, it would have hit them in the knees and the head. The room was like a student residence, not a “full loft.” My suspicion is that this property had once been a “full loft” but, in order to pack in the people like sardines to make more money, it had been divided up with thin walls (that also needed some fresh paint). We had planned to cook and have friends over during our stay, but it was so small and embarrassing, we left within the hour and found a hotel instead.

We contacted the host immediately: he defended the property and said we hadn’t looked at the photographs closely enough. He said he would contact Airbnb to see about a refund, which I assume was a stalling tactic since the Airbnb site clearly states that refunds are up to the discretion of the host. We also got the impression that the host listed hasn’t even seen the spaces on his profile and is only managing them through text messaging and emails. We have taken a screenshot from our original reservation confirmation, along with a screen shot of the follow up emails. As you can see, at first glance, both spaces shown are similar (barnboard on wall, deer art above bed) but that’s where the similarities end. We booked this space based on the first photos from the original listing and the original reservation confirmation. I don’t know if the host was trying to pull a “bait and switch”, but to us this is misleading and why we are asking for a refund.

Horrible Experience and Resolution for Hong Kong Airbnb

I tried to open a resolution case on the Airbnb website. It was really challenging so I’m just writing this long email to Airbnb. I think the part of my user experience differed from that four years ago. I started using Airbnb back when you could reach a live person about your problems; nowadays, it trys to automate everything.

My latest stay was in Beijing from April 13-16, 2017 in what was advertised as a modern, quiet, and relaxing apartment near the CBD. The resolution center kept asking me to “request money” from this stay which I didn’t have a problem with.

However, I am writing about my stay in Hong Kong, during which time I was overseas so it was difficult to call Airbnb. I was contacted by a local Airbnb resolution center specialist but it was handled really poorly. The room itself was horrible. It looked nothing like the pictures. In fact, I have pictures to prove what the actual living conditions were (will reply to any email with the pictures).

I landed in Hong Kong on April 6th. I was pretty jet lagged so just booked a place and fell asleep. The second day while I was in the city touring around, the owner moved my luggage into a different room. It was slightly bigger; however, there was a sewage problem with the bathroom (not to mention the fact she moved my stuff and suitcase and entered my room without permission). I was pretty upset, but still jetlagged. I decided to just go to bed.

In the middle of the night, I woke up from the unbearable odor from the bathroom. It was so strong and the room was tiny, with no window for ventilation. I was very upset and called Airbnb for help. Someone picked up the call and promised he would “call me back soon.” He asked me to “find a cafeteria or some place, wait for his call, and try to book a hotel: Airbnb would reimburse me.”

It was 2:00 AM at the time, and I had to leave and try to find another hotel. Nothing online allowed same-night bookings (in fact, I accidentally booked something for April 9th and was charged on booking.com even though I was supposed to fly out of Hong Kong the afternoon of the 9th). Finally it was 3:30 AM. I took an Uber and found a hotel to sleep in. The whole experience was horrible.

The next morning, someone from the local Hong Kong team finally contacted me, I couldn’t talk to her for long because I needed to check out of that hotel and try to catch my flight. I told her I would “reach out and resolve this once I can settle down.” She went ahead and cancelled my resolution case. Right now, I am asking for a formal resolution process to start. Due to the unresponsiveness of Airbnb as well as false advertisement of this “hostel” trying to be a house, I lost my valuable travel time in Hong Kong, spent money on Uber both ways, booked a hotel at 3:30 AM, and had to spend 30 minutes on international calling. Overall, my experience of Airbnb in Asia was just a much lower standard when compared to that in the US.

Burned in Mexico: Airbnb Bait and Switch

This trip to Mexico was intended to be a fun get away for myself and two other girlfriends. One of my friends did all of the reservation making at least a month in advance. About three weeks before our trip, the owner of our Airbnb in El Pescadero wrote us saying that after his last renter he wasn’t going to rent the upstairs master bedroom and bathroom anymore. My friend just thought that since there were only three of us, we could make due.

The owner, however, never mentioned that all of the views were upstairs where we weren’t welcome. My friend also asked him specifically about the condition of the dirt road from the main road to the house. He said, “oh, it’ll be fine in a rental car!”

A couple days before the trip, he sent a text saying that the refrigerator had a problem but his neighbor went over and fixed it. A few days before the trip, our friend who made the reservations now couldn’t go since her husband was in the hospital with pneumonia. The two of us headed to Mexico alone for our vacation. We rented our car and drove an hour to the town. When we turned on to the dirt road it was a 20-minute drive on the most potted-pitted road from hell to the house. We had a hand drawn map that the host had sent but none of the landmarks he used existed. We had to drive 20 minutes back up to ask for help with finding the house. On our way down the RFH we kept seeing men weaving in and out of a pathway through bushes. That was a little unnerving, to say the least.

We finally found the house. We opened the door and the first thing we noticed was the place smelled bad. We looked around and saw it was dirty and grimy. The TV room had an old microfiber sofa that was lumpy and darkened, and the glass coffee table was disgustingly filmy and grimy. There was a blow-up mattress up against the wall, and the area rug was old and stained. We looked in the kitchen and the front of the fridge was gross. We opened the fridge to find it full of the host’s items with a small amount of room on two shelves for our eight-day stay. The worst part was the fridge stunk and was tepid in temperature. There was a spoiled, rancid odor.

The half bathroom was dirty with bugs in old candles and personal crap around. We were in a cell dead zone and neither of us could sign on to the wifi. We had no way of communicating with anyone. The ocean looked much closer on his website pictures. We felt stuck in some disgusting filthy house in a desolate part of Mexico with no way of asking for help if we needed it. We sent the host a text telling him his house wasn’t represented well and unacceptable. Therefore, we weren’t staying there. We then headed out to find a place to sleep. We were exhausted, frustrated, stressed and extremely disappointed.

We wound up spending a fortune to stay at a nice place and try to salvage our vacation. We have been denied a refund by Airbnb who sided with the host. This house was clearly a bait and switch. The host said we should have called so he could have had his neighbor come over and fix all of the problems. As a host, he should have had all of the problems fixed before we arrived. We are still trying to dispute the charges. $175.00 a night in that part of Mexico is really expensive, especially for a hovel like this property. I will never travel outside of the country and trust Airbnb. I see no integrity with the customer service agent assigned to our case. She won’t listen to reason or extenuating circumstances. 

Bait and Switch, Waiting Two Months for a Refund

I used Airbnb for the first time last month when visiting a friend in Kampala. I chose a nice private place not far from their house. Airbnb took the money from my account immediately after the host approved. After contacting the host, he told me the house I wanted wasn’t available and there was a similar one not too far from there. When I got there I hated the place; it was horrible and not even remotely close to the original one. I asked him for a refund, which he sent via Airbnb and I even received an email for them stating that I would receive the money within 5-7 working days. It has been two months. They aren’t responding to any of my emails which I have persistently sent. I won’t give up until I get my refund.