Avoid Bait-and-Switch Airbnb Hosts in Paris

The following is the story of the last 20 hours. On April 1st, I received an email that my Airbnb flat wasn’t accessible 10 minutes before arriving on site. Since I was travelling, I only noticed when I arrived.

I was offered a different flat in exchange which was 7 km from the original one (I had my reasons to choose the area and good luck travelling through Paris during rush hour). I took it and spent the night there.

The morning of April 2nd we had an appointment at the original flat at 9:30. I was there; nobody came. After 45 minutes in the rain, a delivery service delivered some badges and a key. I entered the building as described in the access instructions, but there was no door that matched the description or the key.

After another endless back-and-forth via mail there was no conclusion because I realized that the person who claimed to be the owner didn’t actually know the premises at all. I went to the gardienne of the residence and with her help we found that the studio was in a completely different location, obviously without a lift as described in the access instructions.

While going to the studio with the gardienne we stumbled upon the owner who claimed not to know anything about the rental, and that he delegated everything to an agency. This meant that the person I was talking to and who claimed to be the owner was not. He didn’t tell me his name, even after I asked. In any case, the “real” owner rejected any responsibility, which I found outrageous, considering he was the owner.

When entering the location, I found a tiny room without daylight, dirty cupboards as if just installed, and so small that opening the only sofa for sleeping meant not having space left to move anymore. I felt very uneasy because of this unprofessional treatment. I lost an entire day because of these people’s inability to get organized, a day that I had planned to meet people that were only available this day.

I came here for business and instead of taking care of my business I had to chase down access to a studio, because nobody at Airbnb even knew where it was. When I saw the dirt on the cupboard I had had enough and booked a hotel nearby.

Alas, I didn’t take photos and I’m bracing for a long email exchange with Airbnb. There was another commentator who mentioned it looked like a cash cow and they weren’t concerned with the guests. That’s exactly my impression with this host.

Complain to State Attorney General About Airbnb

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Back in December I tried to book a room via Airbnb. The host sent me the offer and asked for payment. Within minutes they retracted their offer and raised the listing price. It was a classic bait and switch.

I reported it to Airbnb and provided the screenshots of the offer and change. The rep went on about fluctuation, pending time, etc. The retraction and change was clear and concise. They did nothing.

I booked a room with a host in Las Vegas. I chose his establishment based on his Superhost status and reviews. The reviews all said the place was clean and so on. One thing to remember is that to some people who might be nasty, this place might have very well been clean. He listed his place as a sanctuary and a private retreat for writers.

I arrived and there was a photoshoot going on and I could hear the music and chatter from the street which was 100 feet away from the front door. Upon checking in, he stated that the photoshoot would be ending within the hour. I decided to take a shower to kill time and found the tub riddled with mildew, some around the sink drain, as well as hair all over the floor.

Long story short, the next day I asked for a partial refund in which he obliged and was apologetic about the situation. Then he later left a scathing and false review to which I rebutted. I gave Airbnb screenshots of our text correspondence and photos of the conditions. As per the usual, they did nothing but dance around the subject, stating that the review could not be taken down because it was his experience with me.

I reminded the rep that the photo evidence I showed proved he was lying about the people making noise being community residents and he, in writing, said they were from a photoshoot. It made no difference.

I was compelled to do further research and found that the host/establishment did not have a business license. The lady at the county clerk’s office advised me to report them to the business licensing department because they were in a zone where it was required. So, I did. I also filed with BBB.

I advise anyone who wants to see results or at the very least put the hosts on notice to research the address with the business license office in their jurisdiction to see if it is required and if so, report them if they do not have one. In Las Vegas a host was fined $72,000 for operating without one.

Also, if they offer food or snacks they must provide a permit for that as well. Airbnb takes no responsibility for anything because they are unregulated. If your room is dirty it’s just your opinion, and no one really cares about that. However, the government absolutely will have no problem launching an investigation against hosts with no business license because they are not paying taxes.

Airbnb should be forced to display that the host’s license has been verified and that they are indeed the owner of the property they host and if not, they should be forced to provide a notarized agreement between the owner and the renter stating they have permission to host on Airbnb.

Fleeced and Kicked Out by Crazy Airbnb Host

This nightmare began when I saw an ad for a three-bedroom house on a cul-de-sac in Walton, Kentucky. I contacted Airbnb and made a reservation only to find out the address that I was sent to wasn’t the correct address. I called the host who gave me an address some 30 minutes away.

When I got there, there wasn’t any three-bedroom cul-de-sac; it was a rundown trailer park with a bunch of rundown trailers. When I got inside, the nightmare turned real: the floors had large holes in it with pieces of carpet trying to conceal it.

There was another guest there that told me to run but I thought he was joking. The host put him out for telling me and I told her she should put locks on the doors so guests could have privacy. She flipped out on me.

I stayed up that entire night and went to work the next day. When I came back, she had changed the locks and kept my stuff. I contacted Airbnb because I had nowhere to sleep outside. For three days I called Airbnb and they had the nerve to say go get pictures.

Then they said the host refused to give me a refund. Did you really think that I would ever get any resolution? No refund, no calls back, nothing. I just got ripped off. I am going to the news stations to sue.

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Let me teach you about Airbnb’s fees

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I have reported this issue to Airbnb. It involves booking issues. A courteous young man tried to help. Unfortunately, he works for a company that has no control or, evidently, no interest in the legitimacy of its listed rental properties.

My friends and I are planning a trip to Spain and Morocco. We are trying to pay ahead and have all issues resolved before our departure date. We have, so far, had very little trouble with booking in Spain. The only issue is that when searching for a property you enter the number of guests and the number of nights requested. Then a list of available properties appears, and you choose a property and book it.

At that time most properties either give you the option of either a partial or a full payment. We always chose the full payment option. As to the number of nights, that isn’t exactly the information the computer needs; it needs the day of arrival and day of departure, not the number of nights. It took us a while and several mistakes to figure this out. A clue from Airbnb would have been helpful.

Other than the number of nights issue, Spain, so far, has been relatively smooth sailing. I say relatively because here comes the headache… Morocco.

As with Spain, we entered the dates and number of guests and a list of available properties appeared. We read the comments, compared prices, and chose a place that was listed at $87/night. As with our other bookings , when a partial or full payment was given, we would chose the full payment option. Our total appeared on the screen as $524.22. Okay, fine, we say. Joke was soon to be on us.

The next email from this property was about a new charge of $976, with add-ons of a cleaning fee of $39.84 (reasonable) and a service fee of $111.60. A charge of $137.54/night was being charged per guest. Whatever happened to the $87 originally quoted in the initial property description?

After making an inquiry as to the change, a new total cost was emailed to us. This time the total was in Euros – €725.00 – with a cleaning fee of €35 and a service charge of of €27.13 deducted from the total. So, when you look at a property, after having submitted all the necessary information, and you receive a list of available properties that meet your criteria, and they advertise a price, beware. Once they have your credit card, it’s open season for bait-and-switch scams, and Airbnb can but won’t do anything about it. Buyer beware.

Outrageous Bait & Switch: Airbnb No Help

Here is the letter I wrote to Airbnb feedback. I’m still in the process of working with a case manager, but I’m not very optimistic.

I’ve been working with someone in Airbnb Support, who has been spectacular. However, she encouraged me to share my feedback with the company, as I feel the policies of Airbnb are having unintended consequences. I’ll start by sharing my most recent experience, and close with a few suggestions based on my number interactions with my host and Airbnb support.

We have a group that goes to the Final Four (NCAA Basketball) every year. This year is special as it’s my father’s 60th birthday, so we wanted to make sure we had an upscale Airbnb close to US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

After communicating back and forth with the host about our intent to go to the Final Four, inquiring about how close the house was to the stadium, etc, we decided to book a listing on October 29, 2018 for April 6-9, 2019. We booked well in advance because we know it’s a busy weekend, and we have a large group of nine people to celebrate my father’s birthday. We paid a 50% deposit up front ($1,273 of the $2,547 total), and confirmed our reservation.

Fast forward to December 23rd, when I received an “alteration request” from our host. Our host stated: “We just sent you an alteration for your reservation; it being the final four week we had not updated our price, please let us know if this price works for your group”. The new price was $8,594, an additional $6,046.

As you can imagine, outrage struck me, as this is a classic bait and switch tactic by the host. More disappointing was how unethical and deceitful the host was being, as I clearly stated in my first note to the host before the reservation was confirmed “We are interested in staying for our annual Final Four Trip”.

I spoke with Airbnb support, and they suggested I decline the alteration request, and per Airbnb policies, the host would be required to honor the original reservation. I declined the request, on December 23rd, and the host replied to me on December 28th stating “Unfortunately we will not be able to host those dates, just wanna give you enough time so that you can find a different place, and you are still in the period for no fees on the cancellation!”

The audacity of this host to cancel my reservation because I didn’t want to pay 400% more, and to suggest I should cancel… Despite the host sending me that message, they still have not canceled my reservation as of January 2nd, 2019. As you can imagine, we are very worried that we will show up on April 6th and the house will be occupied or we won’t be able to get in, which would leave us scrambling.

I therefore spoke again with Airbnb support, and they said “don’t worry, you will get a full refund if the host cancels”. Let’s pause here. This is where my frustration with Airbnb policies is at an all time high, and I’d like to explain why:

1) We booked this reservation 2.5 months ago, and of course listing availability has gone down and prices have gone up since then.

2) A refund therefore will not cover any suitable replacement property.

3) Airbnb’s host policy is if they cancel there is a $100 fee and they cannot rent the property that weekend. That is a rather weak deterrent for a host cancelling in the scenario they realize they can rent the property out on a competitive platform (VRBO, Craigslist, etc), pay a small $100 fee, and then be back on the Airbnb platform with no penalty after those dates.

4) As a guest, I am now stuck with my money back, but no reservation, a lack of listings available, and more expensive options. I cannot imagine a scenario where a confirmed, paid hotel booking would be canceled with no replacement room at the same cost.

This is the second time this has happened to us on Airbnb: we book a reservation, the host finds out it’s a more popular weekend than anticipated, they cancel, pay a fee, rent it for higher, and we as guests are stuck high and dry.

Short term solution: We fully expect Airbnb to cover the cost of a comparable listing if it costs more than our initial reservation, which it will. We need to be less than two miles from the stadium, which our existing reservation was, and it needs to be at least six bedrooms and four baths.

Long term solution: Airbnb needs to fix the incentives/punishments in the policy and guidelines, as it is driving bad behavior. In this scenario, the host can rent out for three times that on VRBO, pay a $100 fee to Airbnb, and then have access to Airbnb as soon as the dates we originally reserved have passed. There is a near-zero deterrent for the host to act disingenuously.

On top of that, guests are left with a refund, but no place to stay. It’s very stressful and time consuming to have to search for a new place and correspond with Airbnb support. I’ve spent two hours on the phone with Airbnb support throughout this process and another three hours researching and messaging Airbnb through the platform.

I’m having second thoughts on Airbnb because of this experience, and I can only imagine how many other guests are experiencing this. Please fix your policies so guests aren’t left high and dry in the future. I’d be happy to chat further if anyone is interested in speaking to me.

Airbnb Ruined Holidays with Poor Customer Service

We recently booked a long haul xmas holiday with a stopover in Hong Kong. We booked two-night stay in a place advertised as an “arty, bright and quiet oasis in trendy Sheung Wan” by the host. The photos looked perfect.

When we arrived, the flat did not match the photos. It was filthy and disgusting. The bed sheets and pillow cases had not been changed from when previous guests stayed; there was hair and oil.

There were food scraps and hair everywhere. The shower door was broken and the toilet seat was loose. The listing said it accommodated three people, but there was only a double bed and a small two-seat sofa. We could not sleep a third person in the flat.

The location is twenty minutes from the MRT station, up several slopes from the street to the building, The flat is on the fourth floor with no lift; there were many stairs to climb. None of this was mentioned in the listing.

We contacted Airbnb immediately and told them we could not trust the hygiene standard the host kept and would like to change to a hotel. We asked Airbnb to recommend another place for us to stay. The agent said she could not and insisted we send her photos. We sent the photos as she instructed.

It was very stressful as we had a long haul flight – over ten hours – and arrived in Hong Kong in the early morning. This was already in the evening. We were very exhausted. The Airbnb agent did not seem to understand this.

We told Airbnb we preferred to stay in another place. This place was dirty and the listing was dishonest. They admitted there were cleaning issues but insisted we work it out with the host. We could not sleep in such a flat and had no clue when the issue would be solved. We left the flat and found a hotel.

When contacting Airbnb for a full refund, the agent said we should contact the host ourselves. We did contact the host. He tried to bully us to shut us up. The host insisted his flat was clean and refused to provide a full refund. He told us a negative review on Airbnb would harm his business. The host did not care about his guests and was dishonest about the listing. It is only money. Airbnb encourages that.

Hours and days spent communicating with the host and Airbnb agent. To say the least, we feel humiliated by both. It’s end of our Airbnb experience. We had to cancel our two other Airbnb reservations for our holidays. It is loss for us. We feel sorry for those honest hosts who do care about their guests, but the experience we had was so bad. We cannot risk having any more.

Ant-infested College Dorm Poses As Luxury High-Rise

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My recent Airbnb was undoubtedly the worst stay of my life. I live in Los Angeles and decided to rent an apartment in Downtown LA to celebrate my birthday with my girlfriends, somewhere more luxurious than my own home. Unfortunately, that did not happen.

The night before my trip I messaged the host to ask about parking. He didn’t respond, so the morning of my stay I called him to ask where we might put our cars. He said, without apology, that my apartment was under construction and he would be ‘upgrading’ me to another building. Taken aback, I asked if it had the same facilities, as the main reason I was paying $347.71 for one night was that I wanted a hot tub and rooftop pool to enjoy. He claimed it did and I had no choice but to switch.

He didn’t send me the listing but did tell me I had two parking spaces. At least our cars would have a reasonable stay. I wondered what would have happened if I hadn’t called, and when he was planning on telling me my reservation had changed. Perhaps when I arrived and noticed that 80% of the building wasn’t there. We arrived that afternoon and while waiting for our host to show up, admired our temporary home. Instead of an early 20th century expression of luxury this place resembled a late 2000’s college dorm welded together with gorilla glue.

The next issue was parking. He didn’t have two spaces for us. My sister’s car had to be parked blocks away at some random building with no access to it until we checked out. Obviously this would have been problematic if we’d wanted to sightsee. Luckily we prefer drinking over culture.

Finally we got into the apartment and it was, frankly, a barren concrete mess. The interior was seemingly decorated by an alien whose only resource was a Pinterest board and a $20 gift card to the dollar store. There were numerous framed inspirational quotes, placed on the ground and the TV table, as I’m sure if you nailed anything to the paper-thin walls you’d risk breaking through to next door’s kitchen. There were also cheap plastic bushes placed strategically over floor stains and a couch that screamed ‘I filter by price not the best match’.

At this point, we still believed we’d have time for a quick dip in the pool (what fools we were). We quickly found there were only three towels. As a skilled mathematician, I immediately found this alarming as there were six of us. But, an even more pressing issue was the lack of any toilet paper. I called the host and he advised me to go and buy some. So, instead of popping a bottle of birthday champagne, we traipsed down to the nearest store to stock up on his supplies.

On the way back from our TP mission we checked out the pool facilities. Instead of the rooftop pool I’d booked, it was a dingy floor-level puddle. Even more pressing, there was no hot tub… honestly, the one thing I’d wanted from this stay. We double-checked with some residents who’d clearly learned to expect disappointment from this ‘luxury home’. Confirmation? No hot tub.

Disappointed, we headed back up in the world’s slowest elevator, arrived in the apartment and closed the door… at which point the handle fell off. With handle in hand, I decided it was time to call the host. On the phone, the host tried to convince me that there in fact was a hot tub. He asked ‘had I checked next to the pool’. Surprisingly, I had. I then listed all the other problems with the apartment including the door handle I was currently holding.

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He grumpily offered me a laughably small refund that kept him in profit and me losing my birthday and to an extent my mind. He also said that I was lucky he hadn’t just cancelled my booking earlier that day when he’d realized his error. How lucky I was that he still wanted to take my money and put me in this cardboard cutout of an apartment. Irked by this woman who dared to have an opinion, he then threatened to cancel my booking right then.

With the desire of wanting to sleep somewhere that night I asked him not to. He said that Airbnb wouldn’t care about my complaints because he has 37 (I’m sure, equally impressive) locations on the website. Basically, this guy was a big deal. At 5:30, with the hopes of salvaging what was left of my birthday afternoon (it was too dark for the pool now) we went to fix some drinks. Let’s not forget where we were: the apartment from hell.

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We opened the freezer to get some ice and instead of cubes we found an old slab of ice covered in cigarette burns. Warm drinks it would be. We gathered with our tepid beverages in the living area making sure to sweep away some rogue broken glass and carefully avoid the couch’s dried food stains. The sun slowly set and then, darkness. Not just outside: the only light source in the communal area wasn’t working… because the outlet was broken.

Six women, enveloped in blackness clutching increasingly warm solo cups finally realized there was nothing left to do but laugh (because I’d already cried). We moved the light, (still partially wrapped in its IKEA packaging) to the kitchen and decided that dim lighting could be atmospheric. I’m sure you’ll be happy to know that once we left the building, our evening really improved. We had a fun night on the town and temporarily forgot about the day’s struggles.

The next morning, we woke to the bustling streets of Downtown Los Angeles and the busy work of a family of ants. That’s right, the ants had arrived. I assumed they’d been attracted by the one solo cup we hadn’t thrown in the trash can which, I’m sure by now you can guess, was broken. One of the girls then explained that she’d noticed them the day before. She’d held back the information because she’d feared it would have tipped me over the edge and out of the poorly constructed window.

In the bright light of day, we could see the place for all that it was: a dirt-covered storage unit for humans masquerading as a modern living space. All the towels were stained and dirty, the bathroom floor and doors were covered in who knows what and after inspecting the sheets we’d slept in, we discovered blood stains and more. I feel like I’m flogging a dead ant at this point, but one last time let me iterate this stay was less than ideal and truly ruined my birthday and my poor willing friends’ weekend.

I’m very unimpressed that Airbnb allows this management style and low quality of rental. This guy and his minions run 37 properties which is very apparent considering he didn’t even know what facilities they have. They’re unwelcoming, unprofessional, and clearly see this as a high-turnover operation with zero concern for the enjoyment of their customers. I hope my cautionary tale can be used to help others. Others that were thinking of maybe staying anywhere this money-sucking moron deems worth $300+ per night.

No promised garden, no heat, no hot water at this Airbnb

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We booked a cute garden flat in Haymarket, Edinburgh. There was no garden. Instead there was a dog potty area during ongoing construction. The host never apologized in person or tried to admit his blatant “misrepresentation of the amenities” of the flat which is contrary to the five core obligations as an Airbnb host.

My sister and I reviewed many other apartment options and carefully planned this overseas trip for over seven months. Finally the main reason we booked was the expectation of having our morning coffee and evenings chats in the “garden”. As guests we were completely disappointed. To add all of the other seemingly minor issues one thing after another just piled up to make this a “horrible” experience.

I did as per Airbnb suggests make the effort to negotiate a reasonable solution with the host prior to escalating to the resolution team. With no results, I was left with no other recourse. We are well educated ladies in our early retirement years that expected that the host would understand that offering an amenity that was not accurate or accessible for guests who pay, in good faith.

To add to the situation the heating was not working properly for three nights and television operation had not been explained. When it did work, it was sporadic, as was the internet. Eventually the entire seven-day holiday deteriorated as each issue that could have originally seemed minor piled one on top of the other. This listing was sub-standard, and absolutely misrepresented, our trust in the reliability of Airbnb hosting was ultimately shattered.

Dishes and Dirty Diapers Filled this Seattle Airbnb

I’ll try to keep this short and sweet. I booked a second floor apartment with a nice view of Seattle. The host switched us to the floor below because the nicer property wasn’t available. In exchange, he gave me a $30 refund (…so generous). All of the dishes were filthy with crusty food on them, even the wine glasses they had on display on the counter. My girlfriend went to look outside and saw a dirty diaper on the patio. When we ran the dishwasher, water immediately started pouring out of the bottom.

The best part is I tried to just leave them an honest review, highlighting the positives and the negatives, and they called me a liar. They said I stayed on the second floor and there was no patio. Therefore, there couldn’t have been a diaper (they didn’t mention that they downgraded us to the dungeon below it) and in general said I was cranky. I’m sorry for being unhappy about an uninhabitable filthy property at midnight after a five-hour flight. The smoke detector wasn’t even functioning.

When I contacted Airbnb support, someone who hardly understands the language I wrote in wanted me to send him videos of the property. I got there at midnight and it was filthy… I was so embarrassed in front of my girlfriend I started cleaning immediately. I guess that was my mistake; I should have documented it. Airbnb doesn’t hold hosts accountable. I’ve spent five grand through them in the past four months. I have requested my cleaning fee back for this location and am not expecting it. I’m also not planning any more Airbnb trips.

Abandoned by Airbnb after Fraudulent Host Swapped Houses

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It’s almost impossible to find a place to lodge a complaint or comment on Airbnb, so I’ll do it here. Our dream vacation to Cancun was entirely ruined when a deceptive host picked us up at the Cancun airport and dropped us at an entirely different house than the one we rented with no mention of any change in venue.

We initially booked a beautiful beachfront property in the hotel zone and arrived in Cancun, excited and ready for R&R and lots of beach time. What we were dropped off at (by the host’s representative) was a house on the Lagoon (the mosquitoes and crocodiles were just dandy) and a house that was rundown, dirty and quite insufficient for our party of six. It was certainly not what we rented and Airbnb easily acknowledged that fact.

After 24 hours of phone time with Airbnb and a cancelled reservation (Airbnb did that), a near fistfight with the owner of the fraudulent house where we were dropped, a host who was initially unresponsive and then unapologetic and belligerent, we were basically without a place to stay in a foreign country during spring break. We were thrown to the wolves by Airbnb.

Airbnb refused to help us find or fund hotel lodging in the Cancun hotel zone (it was more expensive) and there was no other housing available during this peak time in our target area. We gave them the names of several hotels in the right area that had availability. No go. The most they would concede (even though they acknowledged the fraud) was a 10% concession for a new booking, but the end result was that we would have to find and book the property ourselves.

We did eventually find a nice house inland and that host was great, but we were forced to rent a car at a cost of $500 and fight traffic, find parking and travel one hour each way to access the beach. It was not fun. It was not relaxing. It was exhausting. It was generally an awful vacation because of the housing issues.

We were pulled over by a corrupt policeman who demanded a $96 bribe to not give us a ticket (careful tourists – Cancun cops are on the take). That’s just another trickle down effect of the housing fraud, as we shouldn’t have been driving at all. We should have been relaxing on the beach. Airbnb should have honored their guarantee and funded a hotel in the same area that we booked our vacation.

The worst part is that despite our complaints, this host is still managing 24 properties in Cancun on Airbnb (six weeks later). There seem to have been no repercussions at all for him. I am horrified that he was not removed as a host after what he pulled, and after what Airbnb acknowledged that they knew he pulled. They were aware of the whole sad scenario.

Why is this fraud tolerated among Airbnb hosts? When I complained to Airbnb, someone responded, “Oh, we handled it. The house was removed from our listings”. It was not the house that committed this fraud; it was this host.

As far as we’re concerned, never again, Airbnb. What a horrible experience. I spent the first 24 hours crying and frantically worrying about what we would do as I had been the person in our party of six who was responsible for booking lodging. My whole party spent the rest of our hard earned vacation unable to do the things we planned for our vacation. Shame on all of them. Airbnb, honor your commitments.