My husband and I were early adopters of Airbnb, having joined the platform in 2011. We hosted guests nearly every week of the year for eight years until December 2019, when we were banned from the platform.
The ban seemed to have been triggered by a same-day guest who left mid-day in the middle of a two-day reservation. My husband entered the unit with the guest’s permission to flip the circuit breaker twice during the guest’s day. My husband had met the guest earlier in the evening close to when they first arrived. He showed them the space and asked if they had questions. The entire interaction was cordial.
The rest of the story is quite strange. The day the guest left, I received a cryptic text from Airbnb asking if I would give the guest a refund. I inquired to the reason, and they said there was no particular reason. I had also asked if my account would be blocked. They said that my account would not be blocked. I said we could provide a 40 USD refund on a 190 USD stay for any inconvenience caused by the need to enter the unit with permission to flip the circuit breaker.
Within a day, I received a notice from the Airbnb security team that our listing was frozen. I called Airbnb and after a few strange beeps seemed to have reached someone in HQ who was a little out of it. They told me the guest indicated that we had entered the unit three times against their wishes or something to this effect. It was a strange conversation as the contact on the other end was so chill about the discussion; it sounded like he had just gone surfing. It was just a part of his job, but my entire livelihood was at stake.
I was then assigned to a safety team representative who told me to be ready for her call over 48 hours. I kept my ringer on high eagerly awaiting the call. It turns out she listed the wrong date and was out of the office for two days. We connected three days after the date she originally indicated. She spoke with me for 2-3 minutes tops. I felt like I was speaking with a high school student.
Another five or so days passed before we received a template message indicating that we can no longer host or stay with hosts on the Airbnb platform. We had 880 reviews as a host with additional reviews from our stays. I even use the platform for work and recommend it to hundreds of my graduate students.
I’m at odds with how this one incident ejected us from the platform after we formed so many connections. The process of being reviewed by Airbnb is emotionally excruciating for hosts. If you are a host, I highly encourage you to diversify your use of platforms. As we learned after nearly a decade of promoting and loving the platform, they can leave you in the dust over as much as one complaint.
The whole process has made me rethink my life and goals. I never want to be at the mercy of a corporation who carries too much power over our business. Can you imagine if your local coffee shop was shut down or suspended over one customer complaint? There is so much that happens in a business that involves people.
We had guests who had reserved through Airbnb (and were cancelled) reach out to me trying to stay. I felt so bad that they were impacted too. I’m not sure where Airbnb is headed. We could always be better hosts, but we didn’t become Superhosts without working very hard to meet clients’ needs.
We’ll probably never know what happened at Airbnb corporate or what was said about us by the guest. All we now know is that we have many questions about the future of Airbnb and the type of community they are trying to create. We also know they have little understanding of the experience hosts go through in the safety and review process.
Any guest could flag a host’s account and the host would be suspended for at least two weeks. Hosts should prepare themselves emotionally and financially for unnecessarily challenges in doing business self-inflicted by Airbnb’s organizational processes.