Systemically Sick Customer Service at Airbnb

As a really respected and successful Airbnb Superhost, when I hit the road, I bring a serious set of expectations to the traveling guest side of the equation. As long as everything is perfect and there is no wrinkle in the reservation or use of the selected Airbnb, I have to admit that I generally enjoy exceptional experiences.

My only hedge in ensuring that outcome is picking properties with Superhosts at the helm. I know what it takes to get that status and keep it and it involves a level of commitment that should be the minimum requirement for being an Airbnb host. I wouldn’t have to be wasting a perfectly beautiful afternoon writing this if that was the case. It’s not.

One-hundred percent of my contact with Airbnb support over the last five years has been a nightmare. The level of competence can only be described as several sandwiches short of a picnic. Powered by the deadest batteries in the bunch. Problem solving individuals need not apply.

The sad part is that the robots Airbnb puts in these jobs didn’t start as robots. They are first people that have a brain and heart. However, after being held accountable to uphold and execute the policies Airbnb has in place to resolve the simplest to the most complex issues, they turn into idiots, non-thinking livestock that salivate when the phone rings and they fire up their prepared scripts, emails, messages that all say the same thing: “We can’t help you, it’s not our problem, it’s yours…”

This happens every painful time I attempt to get “support.” They are racing Comcast to the bottom on this one.

Example #1 – Travel Disruption (TD)

This topic is a multilayered nightmare when it rears its ugly head. Every organization I deal with in the “real travel industry” has solid plans and strategies for dealing with TD. It comes with the territory. Try getting Airbnb to help when there is a TD in your plans and you might as well go back to the alternate universe you apparently came here from. Airbnb is not a travel company; they only masquerade as one. You have an Airbnb problem? Good luck, because they have a policy that alleviates them from any help. Incredible. You’re on your own.

Example #2 – No Airbnb

This is different from a travel disruption because it precedes it and is directly caused by Airbnb and their blatant distancing from the false environment they’ve created. They don’t own any of the properties, so why should you expect them to manage them? You shouldn’t but you also shouldn’t have to pay for them when they don’t exist and you have a contract with an organization that says they do. The system is flawed, so buyer beware. Have that direct line to the credit card charges dispute line on your speed dial. It’s the only way to combat the incompetence built into the system to handle anything but a perfect rental.

I could go on, but the real work needs to be done a systemic level within the Airbnb organization, instead of wasting resources on “animal stay promotion” or “experience” sales. They make enough money on the float from the transactions, obscene amounts that haven’t been seen since American Express was in the check printing business.

There are no shortage of travel companies that could be used as a model for Airbnb customer support. Marriott and Westin come to mind. Avis and Alaska Air work. Don’t hold your breath. Airbnb is building a Part Patrol that will be as ineffective as the rest of their organization when it comes to service…

Ghost Airbnb Hosts and Gaming the System

I first used Airbnb in 2014 and have used it 15-20 times since with good results most times. As a journalist, I even wrote a favorable article on the subject. However, in last three years I have noticed five troubling trends.

One: ghost hosts. The person or couple pictured is allowing use of their photo and bio by a third party. On a trip to Florida, a young woman was ghosting for her elderly grandparents who spoke broken English and did not know how to host. In Tennessee, a woman switched her listings to hide bad reviews. Also in Tennessee, a young couple with young children fronted for several properties in an apartment building and resented being contacted by phone for instructions to get into the place.

Two: Fake reviews. In Montana, a host buried a bad review that carefully and credibly listed problems under several one sentence reviews that looked fake. Tip-off in Tennessee: overuse of the word “amazing” in reviews of the host. The Airbnb rating scale is badly designed. “Met expectations”, for example, could be very good, but is only three stars.

Three: Increasingly impersonal. The founding principle was person to person. Now that is rare. Four: Customer service is awful. Impersonal, manufactured, and ignores constructive thoughtful critics. Five: Pricing is deceptive. Cleaning fees of $50 to $75 or more added to a list price of, say, $48, which can change as suddenly as airline ticket fares.

Someone’s Trash could be your Airbnb Furniture

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I checked into my Airbnb last night. As my son and I opened the filthy front door, the smell of mold filled the room. We walked up four flights of filthy carpeted stairs to reach the apartment, where the front entrance had a huge filthy moldy stain the size of a Labrador. The sofa looked like it was picked up from the side of the road when someone put it out as garbage; it was sunken in and dirty, with stains throughout the whole thing.

This is where my son was supposed to sleep the night and we would pass our days watching TV and socializing for six nights, for which I paid $620. There was a loft with a filthy futon mattress up above this dirty yellow staircase. The bed sheets were stained and looked unclean.

I contacted Airbnb right away and spoke with someone for 35 minutes on their 1-800 number, after which I realized I was calling from the UK to the US on my cell minutes; I knew that was going to cost me a lot of money. I was told to go to sleep and someone would contact me in the morning. I contacted the host as well, sending photographs to both. Still, with no response this is taking up hours of my few days I have here in Leeds visiting my son.

These hosts seems to have many rentals and are considered to be Superhosts. I’m baffled. I did read the complaint of the last person that stayed in this apartment, which should’ve raised a red flag. I figured if Airbnb gave them a Superhost badge, that would have to mean something. I really don’t understand how people can be so unethical in running a business.

Hospital Stay Prior to Hosting Questions Policy

I recently applied for a refund within 24 hours of booking. I spoke to the host to explain the situation but Airbnb refused to give me more than a 50% refund because I had visitors coming to my home for a week. The week before their arrival, I broke my ankle and was in a cast and wheelchair.

When I got home from the hospital I realised that in two days I was not going to be ready to host guests in my home so I took a lovely little apartment for them to stay in which I booked in the middle of the night. The next day, my guests decided that because I wasn’t well, they would not visit.

I applied for a refund to Airbnb with this story which of course I am prepared to present proof of hospitalization, documentation, etc. From a 700+ Euro booking cancelled the next day, they refused to refund me more than 300 Euros because it was not my guests who were staying in the apartment who had the accident. They were healthy enough so this did not apply.

I find this quite far removed from the community-based hospitality concept that started out with Airbnb. I wonder who gets that 400 Euro difference, Airbnb or the host? Someone needs to come up with a new Airbnb-like concept.

Stay at Airbnb Once, Shame on You. Twice, Shame on Me.

I booked a room in London for myself and my boyfriend for one night because we were going to look at a gallery or museum and I also had an appointment. I paid online and turned up in Pimlico where we were meant to stay. I rang the host and then rang a few times after but there was no reply at all.

We walked a long way; my partner has a very painful knee and I had an injury. We walked to a block of flats and not only was it a long walk from the tube but also a long walk inside an estate that looked the same for hundreds of blocks. No map in sight. We walked and asked, asked and walked, and a woman we met who lived there was even a bit outraged on our behalf.

I tried to ring Airbnb many times but there was a wait and also in some parts of London there was no signal. Hours went by and it was very hot weather. We had to buy a cold drink and snack in a cafe and still had no room for the night.

Airbnb was very unhelpful and suggested I pay for another room. I protested that I did not have the funds for that but that also there was no signal at times for the phone (not the internet, which I have data for ). The very relaxed rep did not seem able to get any contact from the host I had paid.

After walking round the estate for a long time we realised we would have to find another room for the night and we had to stay due to an appointment I had. After many calls with Airbnb, in which I tried to get a refund, I managed to get them to agree to give me enough to get another room, but it was nearly evening by then.

We found a room that seemed nice online and went there. It looked okay, a bit scruffy for the price, but the bed looked clean enough. We went out for the evening nearby and slept there. The next morning there was no breakfast which had been advertised as part of the price nor was there any light in the bathroom then or the night before. This made things difficult of course.

The woman who owned the flat was okay but did not bother with us at all: really and clearly just wanted the money. Her boyfriend was not clothed in the sitting room where they were sleeping. I did not write a review of the awful experiences on Airbnb because I forgot. I wish I had.

The second host had the cheek to message me on the site and tell me I was lucky to have gotten a room and that I should be grateful. I was disgusted with the whole process but was given a voucher for a few pounds to put towards another room. I know some people have great experiences, e.g. my daughter abroad somewhere, but if this is the standard in London… what a rip off.

I am trying to book a room with my voucher now but have found out that guests need to verify their identity nowadays on the site by sending a copy of an official document such as passport or driving license to the host using a link that has not worked for me. Customer service has rung me back twice to try to help but the woman on the phone was laughing at what I told her.

It’s not inspiring but hopefully I can get somewhere better this time (if I can work out how to send the document and I need to send a ‘selfie’. A nice little – I mean big – earner for some hosts who just provide a bed or mattress and not much else sometimes it seems. Good luck out there.

Confirmed Airbnb Reservations Mean Nothing

My wife and I had a reservation for Cologne, Germany from August 31st to September 3rd. We booked an Airbnb three months before. The apartment was confirmed and we send an email to the host. When we arrived in Cologne we reached the host at 6:00 PM. She said that she wasn’t in Cologne, and that she was in Berlin. She said she was going to contact the host, because, according to her, there had been a mistake and it was Airbnb’s fault.

After two hours she called us and said there was no apartment. That it was a mistake from Airbnb and that we should contact them. We did so and contacted Airbnb Germany. Airbnb said that the host was a mess and they proceeded to cancel the reservation. I asked them what to do, because we were alone at a city we didn’t know. We asked for Airbnb to find us a place, because it was not possible to leave us just like that in a foreign city. They said they were going to do so and they were going to contact us.

They never got back to us and we had to stay at a hotel. We asked Airbnb to help us pay the hotel. They said they could pay 50% of what we were supposed to pay on our reservation. That was 30 Euro. The hotel was 189 Euro. That was the cheapest hotel we could find that night, because there was a world event at the city. Airbnb said that was all they could do.

They never took responsibility for never contacting us and not helping us find a place to stay that night. Airbnb said they are only brokers, so they can’t do anything if a situation like this happens, because they are not liable for bad hosts. So if you don’t get a confirmed reservations you won’t be able to do anything.

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Not Airbnb Hosts, but Still on Mailing Lists

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I pity the poor investors who will eventually be parting ways with their money when (and if) Airbnb gets their act together to file for an IPO. Today I received the Airbnb Magazine in the mail. I am not a host or guest. The name on the “To:” portion of the address label was to a Mr. Richard Fabian. Mr. Fabian was the supposed “host” of our home when he set up a fake account portraying my family as Airbnb hosts.

The outcome of that story is buried somewhere in the Airbnb Hell server but basically we had people dropping by the house unannounced looking for their key. The fact that we never heard back from anyone at Airbnb regarding this fraud does not surprise me now that I’m receiving their magazine. Throwing away money by mailing on what looks like an expensive rag to a fraudster is par for the course of this organization.

Airbnb, you grew too big too fast. Stop for a moment and count the bedbugs.

Airbnb Hosts Aren’t Allowed to be Offline

I put my house on Airbnb a few months ago. I’ve stated in my rules that the house is a self check in house and I have stated the codes to enter the house, as well as, of course, the name of the street and also the number of the door. I’ve called my house “Beach&bike”, because I have two bikes and the house is near the beach. My house is located in a small plaza with eight other houses. It sits on top of a hill and it has a bike nailed to the upper floor.

My first guest was unable to find the house, and canceled the reservation, with Airbnb’s permission, and no refund. As if I’m obliged to be the guests GPS. I could go on for hours criticizing Airbnb for trying to enslave hosts. For instance: you’ve missed a text message at 4:00 AM? You’ll get rated as a person of “slow responses” because you, as a host, are not allowed to sleep.

However, it was what happened next that I found surprising. Airbnb allowed a guest that was never in my house to comment on it. And so, the guest give me one-star ratings for everything. The guest rated the house as very dirty – without ever being inside. The guest commented the house was a “scam”, thus implying that I – the host – am a dishonest person.

I’ve contacted Airbnb several times, explaining that a lie is a lie and that if the guest admittedly was never inside the house then the guest could not comment, at least not on that subject. I’ve told them time and again the house was no scam – as proven by dozens of happy guests. Airbnb cares as much about the truth as Trump.

It’s a rule Airbnb has: a person can rate the cleaning of a place without entering it. It’s an Airbnb rule that a person can rate an area as terrible where he was sitting for an hour, and knows nothing about it. It is an Airbnb rule that a person who was not ever your guest and doesn’t know you can commit libel and lie about you, imply that you are dishonest, and leave these comments forever on the Airbnb site for everyone to see.

Why? Airbnb cares only about one thing: earning money. If that includes lying, cheating, and having no respect for morality, so be it. They call themselves a “community”. Don’t be fooled. They are just like Uber, another money-seeking giant trying to squeeze you.

Guests can Extort because Airbnb doesn’t Enforce its Policies

The Airbnb Extortion Policy prohibits “guests threatening to use reviews or ratings in an attempt to force a host to provide refunds.” However, Airbnb doesn’t appear serious about enforcing this policy, so guests can happily extort hosts to provide refunds for any frivolous concocted reason. Hosts have little recourse because the guest can always state their frivolous reason as their “personal experience” in their review and leave a one-star review in retaliation if their unreasonable demands are not met.

Here is what happened in my case. The guest knew at check-in that there was another concurrent guest’s dog on the property in the shared apartment listing but she claims she did not know that at the time of booking and that my not telling her that explicitly was unacceptable. She knew within moments of check-in that there was a dog locked in the other guest’s private space.

I offered to have the dog moved to a downstairs room on a different floor and she simply said “It’s fine. I just feel bad for the [locked up] dog.” It remained locked on a room on her floor. At nearly midnight of her last night’s stay, she messaged saying she was unhappy because of the dog’s crying (probably wanting to be taken out) and that she was allergic to dogs (surprise).

I immediately apologized and sought to address the situation but within moments of my response, she sent me another message saying she moved to a hotel and asked me to refund that last night’s stay with what was clearly a veiled threat, “I am keenly aware of review issues and I have no intention of leaving a bad review… I have left and moved to a hotel. I realize it is late and you cannot book someone for this night. However, I would appreciate a refund of tonight’s fee.”

I politely reminded her that her booking was on a strict cancellation policy, so I could not refund her. She went to write several long messages about why she deserved to be refunded, threatened escalating it to Airbnb or a credit card chargeback, tried all the escalations, and lost because her case had no merit. She retaliated by leaving a one-star review as was clearly implicit in her earlier threatening message (quoted above).

Airbnb seemingly considers her review to not violate its Content Policy because it allows a guest to state whatever they want as their “personal experience” and doesn’t seem to care to stand by its extortion policy. A guest can simply blackmail hosts by asking them for refunds on frivolous grounds, and even if they don’t explicitly threaten a bad review like in my case, the host knows the implicit threat exists.

There is little the host can do about a bad review. A guest could literally say, “I felt cheated because the place’s location felt like it was on the moon, so the listed location felt inaccurate” and leave a one-star review and Airbnb won’t do anything about it.

A reasonable customer service rep might help get it removed but that is rare and their policy is such that it explicitly allows guests to report obviously verifiable lies as their personal experience (as long as it doesn’t violate other parts of the Content Policy, like no discrimination, hate speech, etc.). Seems like a poorly worded Content Policy or at least a poorly enforced one.

Airbnb still has a house listed that conned me out of money

I had a horrible experience with a home owner who was listed all over the place. You would think Airbnb would recognize that someone is a thief or con artist, but they don’t care. They “as you can see on their terms and conditions,” are not responsible for anything. They have literally washed their hands of what is happening in the world of home ownership.

This guy in Turks and Caicos rented our families an illegally listed rental, not posted with the country, not legally for rent, not registered as a rental, yet still renting. After the hurricane in 2017 the house was destroyed. The owner said that he would refund us and he did not.

Our agent continued to go after him but he and his family are crooks. All you have to do is google the host in Ontario to see he’s been shot at and he’s been a crook from the get go. Yet the country of Turks and Caicos allowed this criminal to rent his home, all while collecting taxes illegally and never remitting them (per the tourism board and their management).

I asked them for help and they told me I needed to go after him even though this guy had stolen my money. The guy continued to lie and say he was going to give me back my money but did not. He then had his attorney write me to try and say that I would get it back as soon as the insurance paid out. Guess what? Insurance paid out and he didn’t pay me back. He kept not only the insurance money (millions) but left a whole line of people that needed to be paid.

We used attorney after attorney and are still fighting for our funds. If you go to his site it’s still up, and he will pretend to be someone else, send you a contract, and take your money even though the house is not rentable. He has yet to finish fixing it, and it’s not even legal. To top that off, his attorney was then arrested for money laundering. Like something out of a horror story. I called, wrote, emailed, and nothing.

Then I went through all the websites and saw it was still on Airbnb. I wrote to tell them and they never replied. Here is the house, my proof. This con artist is still listing it and people are none the wiser. The police and tourism department will not help me. They continue to make it more and more difficult.

He took over 100K from my family and he gets to live his life out with millions from insurance fraud and vacation rental fraud. It’s all nonsense. This is all unbelievable. I hope everyone sees that these people do not care and are not a real travel company. They list things that other people list and they don’t care whose home it is or where or what.

Now that they have purchased Luxury Retreats they are now one and the same. I fear people are too quick to think they can get a deal which is not true. They are not giving you a deal and you pay to use them. I just hope this company takes down that fraudulent rental. I’ve also seen a home listed on their site that I know is not the right rate, listing completely strange information and under a company I’ve never heard of. So how can they even police such a big site? They cannot…

Be weary everyone. Call real people; don’t book online – it’s a nightmare. If you book through click it sites you’ll see nothing but more of the same. Be wise: ask for licenses, tax identifications, all of it. If they are not licensed to rent, run the other way.