Host only Obligated to Meet at Exact Check-in Time?

My elderly mother was due to arrive in Strasbourg this evening at 6:30 PM. The host told me he could not meet her until 8:30 PM. I rang Airbnb customer service to ask for general advice on how to deal with the situation – while I was walking – and they refused to give me any information until I was verified. Because of a glitch – an old and expired visa card was listed as the default – they would not verify me and hence refused to give me any advice. I then stopped in the street, set up a personal hotspot to use my computer, and verified the card. This was on my way to work where I would be in meetings all day. Now verified, Airbnb told me that as the host had listed his check in time as 2:00 PM, he was under no obligation to meet my mother at all after that time. Firstly, that’s a risk I think all customers should know about. Secondly, this meant my elderly mother, who does not speak French, would have to stand in the cold, with her heavy bags until the host felt like meeting her, if indeed he did at all. I then had no choice but to cancel and make alternative arrangements. In followup emails, the same patronising bureaucrat told me I didn’t have to cancel; Airbnb could have called the host to help you. He could have told me this before forcing me to stop in the street and verify myself. I have had to book a hotel at huge cost as well as pay for the Airbnb. I am stunned at how appalling they are at customer service.

Airbnb Providing Refunds to Gift Cards

First of all, I want to say that I’m really an Airbnb fan and I’ve used it in Southeast Asia, China, and Korea. Every time I got a surprising experience and I’ve been trying my best to recommend the site to my friends (you can see the list of friends I’ve invited in my account). Now here is the problem: I booked a house in London for my next trip there on January 27-28, 2017 and I fully paid for it with my Airbnb gift card. The host just cancelled this booking today without any communication ahead of time. What he did really caused a problem with my trip planning. Because we have four people in our group, we need three beds total and as you know, the houses in London are always very hot (difficult to book) – that’s why I booked it three months prior. Now I need to choose another house in London, which becomes more difficult. I saw Airbnb’s statistics during my booking which showed only 13% of houses were available in London for those dates. What’s more, I checked my booking today but found that the host had already cancelled my booking on November 3rd; Airbnb didn’t send me this information until today, November 29th. I want to ask for the reason, but there’s another problem. As I said before, I paid for this booking with my gift card one month ago and now I found Airbnb said they provided a refund directly to the gift card. After my payment, I just threw away the card, code and all. I need the refund to come back to my account so I can use it to book another house in London. In brief, I have nothing and lost 1087 RMB. Meanwhile, I don’t know how to spend that night in London as houses for four people are difficult to find now. I think Airbnb is always responsible for its customers and I look forward to receiving compensation from them.

Airbnb Policies Don’t Work if the Guest Cancels Early

Don’t trust Airbnb with their cancellation policies. I had a guest arrive late one evening around midnight. They seemed quite happy with the apartment, then the next day called to say that they had found a place closer to the sea, and would like to leave. I said that would be fine, and then they asked for their money back. I responded it was not possible as I have lost other bookings. The next day they left and cancelled with Airbnb and requested a refund, which I declined. They also left the place filthy and full of rubbish. I heard nothing from Airbnb until after my next guest arrived, then they processed the refund from the payment of the other guests. Without telling me. This is daylight robbery. So hosts: beware your Airbnb cancellation policy means nothing. You are not covered. And what’s worse is they said that the apartment was listed incorrectly, which is all they have to do to get out of the cancellation policy. Do not list your property in Airbnb if you are a host.

Dodgy Keys, Dodgy Hosts, and Airbnb Scheisters

I can honestly say Airbnb is the worst company ever. My very first experience: halfway through my stay the host was caught stealing utilities, the Internet was cut off, the entrance lock was broken, there were no bins, causing rubbish to be left in open bags for days on end, and to cap it off, my host left me with a departing gift: head lice. Upon heading to the nearest Internet cafe (because there was no Internet) and sharing my woes with Airbnb customer service, were they able to quickly offer a resolution? No, that was too complex, but they would call me back at their leisure. Four hours later I got called back while I was in the middle of the city. Obviously I didn’t want to share the more embarrassing elements of my stay in the middle of the street, but I agreed with the case manager that because the host was unresponsive and they had been caught stealing Internet that had been cut off, I could terminate my stay.

The next morning the host still had not been in contact to arrange an orderly exit so I headed out into the street at 6:00 AM to get reception. I contacted customer service to terminate my stay, only to have the new customer service agent decide that not being able to offer the agreed services wasn’t a good enough reason to terminate my stay and I would have to get pictures of the cockroaches and a doctor’s note for head lice. After some battling we agreed if I could capture pictures of the cockroaches I could leave, so I went off to sneak around the flat taking pictures. I sent the pictures to Airbnb and customer service promised they would sort it out. Meanwhile, I headed off to sort out my own accommodation.

So how do you imagine they sorted it out? A full refund, maybe? That would be the least you expect, right? Nope. What about a refund for the portion of the stay that had to be cancelled (you would expect there would be no debate on that)? Nope. They nickel and dimed me and gave me a partial refund of the amount of the stay that couldn’t be completed. You would expect that now they had photographic evidence of hygiene issues, cockroach infestation, an unresponsive host, the previous guests’ reviews all raising hygiene issues, and a guest who now suffered health problems because of his stay the listing would be suspended, right? Nope. It was still open for bookings. It took an angry week and multiple case managers until finally one agent looked at the case and after an angry email finally came to the conclusion that this was really bad (cockroaches, rubbish left out, key didn’t work, Internet cut off, and I got head lice; it took five case managers to get to someone who agreed this wasn’t acceptable).

So finally Airbnb grudgingly offered a refund (but cancelled their goodwill voucher gesture). Since this agent was streets ahead of her awful colleagues and by this point it was way beyond my expectations of Airbnb, I actually felt really good about having achieved something. I decided I would give them another chance by taking my nephew away for a short couple of days; this would be a perfect no-risk way of giving Airbnb a second chance. I tried to book a cabin in the mountains for two days. I found a cabin that was available on instant book, confirmed the dates, clicked instant book, was routed to the payment page, and everything looked good: Airbnb won’t charge you until the booking is confirmed. Instant book is easy: either it gets booked, or it doesn’t; there is no risk.

I clicked the payment button when suddenly there was a new step that hadn’t been there when I chose instant book. My first awful experience: they required government ID (passport or driver’s license). I didn’t have a driver’s license and my passport was being renewed, but it seemed all good because the booking was marked as pending. There was no payment success message and no text or receipt was issued. I thought to myself: Airbnb won’t charge anything until the booking is confirmed. I just cancelled the pending request, safe in the knowledge I still had money in my account and headed off into the real world armed with my phone to book somewhere else, only for my card to be declined. It turns out that despite not having confirmed the booking, not having displayed a message highlighting that there were further steps needed, not having displayed a payment confirmation, and not having issued a receipt, Airbnb had taken payment just in case it would go through.

Having given them a second chance, I would have expected customer service to be super helpful. Not at all. They just lied about what the process was like, claiming I had been warned, until I told them I had screen captures of the payment steps. Then they claimed that instant booking wasn’t instant booking, no payment had been taken, and it had already been refunded. In the end, I just wanted a receipt so I could take the issue further here in the UK with the authorities. The agent tried to send me to a blank page claiming it was a receipt, just point blank refused to provide a receipt for the funds taken, refused to discuss it, refused to escalate the matter and then he just hung up. Despite the rest of this story being appalling both with regards to the accommodation provided initially and the customer support, how could Airbnb refuse to provide a receipt for funds taken? This is statutorily required both in your jurisdiction and mine. The initial accommodation was appalling but the customer support and the disregard with which they treat guests in stressful situations is just beyond imagination. My experience has been embarrassing, frustrating, tedious and unrewarding. Now despite having had to stay in an unfit, unhygienic property, suffering health issues as a result of my stay, I am out of pocket yet again and because of Airbnb’s behavior my nephew and I are disappointed.

Shell Cottage? More like Smell Cottage!

Last month my partner, young daughter and I checked in to our new reservation at the delightfully named Shell Cottage, planning on staying for a month. I’d paid over £2,000 up front to Airbnb – a bargain price, or so I thought, as it was listed at £160 per night and we’d got a great discount for a month’s stay. When we opened the door a stale, musty smell hit our senses, mingled with a strong aroma of artificial air fresheners which was obviously an unsuccessful attempt to mask the bad smell. We discovered the living room furniture was ancient and stained and there were a lot of marks on the paintwork. Clearly the place hadn’t been decorated for a long time, but we figured maybe we could put up with it if we could open the windows and let the smell out. We are between homes at the moment, having had to move out of our long term rental in August and still completing work on the new home we purchased last year. We had been staying in Poole for a month and it took us a couple of days to move all our belongings from that apartment to this new one. So we didn’t stay in the cottage until the third night.

It was at this point we discovered the state of the beds, carpets and bathroom. The mattresses were of varying degrees of age and uncomfortableness, on one the springs were actually visible through the thin fabric covering. The bed linen was so old and musty it made us feel sick. The carpets were dark brown, covering a multitude of sins, but they were clearly very old and smelly. At one point I decided to get closer for a sniff – the smell of old feet and dirt was quite overpowering. How the host could expect us to be happy about letting our 14-month old crawl over them is beyond me! And the smell from under the bath was just as bad – years of accumulated dirt in a damp room led to a strong smell of stinky socks emanating from the area. Plus there was mould around the bath and the shower didn’t stay on the shower rail – to use it, you had to hold it or prop it up with one hand.

It was 9:30 pm on this third night that I wrote to the host to tell her how deeply unhappy I was about staying with my family in accommodations with such a catalogue of problems. I listed every issue, from the smell to the stains, uncomfortable beds to mould. I told her I was not prepared to keep my family in such unsanitary conditions and for the sake of our health and well-being we would be checking out the next day. The host’s reply could not have been sweeter. She seemed so kind and understanding, sympathising with us being between homes. She ended her email by saying she would contact Airbnb the next day about our request to leave early and that “as stated on our website, a refund is made after satisfactory inspection of the property when you have vacated the premises.”

I felt so relieved to know we would have no trouble getting a refund. We spent the whole Sunday packing up all our belongings and moving out. Two days later (as I thought it was purely a formality) I cancelled our booking through Airbnb and requested from the host a refund of the £2139 I had paid. I was shocked when she declined to give any refund and stated we were not entitled to any refund in accordance with the long-term cancellation policy as we’d “cancelled our holiday on a whim” and that our “criticisms of the holiday home were just… our personal opinion” and claimed no one else had complained. The tone of her email was so brusque – the absolute opposite of the sweet charm of her email on the day we checked out. I felt so angry and sick.

I immediately contacted Airbnb to tell them what had happened and sent them photos and video evidence of the visual issues. However, the main issue was the disgusting smell of the carpets, the beds, living room furniture and from under the bath and the second main issue was the uncomfortable beds, both of which you’d have to visit the property to experience. Airbnb did their best to be helpful, but they confirmed that the host had a strict cancellation policy under which a guest leaving early from a long term reservation was not entitled to any refund. But I had not simply “cancelled on a whim” – I felt I had no choice but to leave for the health of my family. Airbnb agreed that the bathroom looked like it needed attention and liaised with the host on my behalf.

What I didn’t realise was that Airbnb had already paid out all my money to the host, so they would have to try to re-coup it from her. Judging by the tone of her last email I felt my chances of getting it back were slim. They managed to get me a 20% refund for cleanliness issues and an Airbnb credit for their fees. But that still leaves me more than £1,500 out of pocket without any clear next step to attempt to get my money back. Airbnb tell me they have done all they can, and it’s the host who has my money. I feel disgusted and powerless, and would like to share my story here in the hope that others will benefit from our experience and possibly be able to suggest what, if anything, I could do now to get my money back.

Italian Vacation Includes Mountainous Hike and Mouse

My situation began when I was planning a 25th Anniversary trip to Italy and booked a place on Airbnb many months in advance. I saw the strict cancellation policy but the place looked so cute and private that I didn’t want to take a chance of losing it; the ad stated that this place was usually booked far in advance. I emailed the host to ask how close to the beach it was. He replied it was a 25-minute hike downhill. This was acceptable to me, but when I went back to the page to book, the price had gone up by $25. I questioned this but he said many people had inquired for the dates I wanted so the price went up accordingly. That was my first red flag and I should have stopped right then… but I didn’t. I booked it.

The list of house rules was excruciatingly long with a long explanation of it being some sort of backpacking club in the past but to ignore the reviews about that because now he was only licensed to rent privately. So I did ignore the part about backpackers needing an additional “club membership” that had to be paid in cash when we arrived. I assumed this was in the past, like the rules read. It also said it was a 15-minute hike uphill to reach the property and so it was not for mobile disability renters. I am not disabled and I do run quite a bit so I felt we could handle a 15-minute hike up the mountain after the bus took us the rest of the way.

When we arrived that day, we took the bus up and when we got to the point where the hike started, it was extremely steep. After 15 minutes, I began to wonder where this place was. We kept at this rugged terrain for a bit. Finally, after about 25 minutes, I called the host because the trail split and I did not know which way to go. He kept saying to follow the trail and when I asked which way he insisted there was only one trail. He finally said he could see me and to look up. I saw him way up there. So we figured out which way to go but it was obvious this was more than a 15-minute hike. My knee was starting to hurt because I had been running a few days before and somewhat overused it. Nothing major.

We finally made it to the top and I was so disappointed. This place was tiny and dirty. The tile was cracked everywhere and he had handwritten us a map that showed long hiking distances back down to the beach. He also asked for payment for the club membership. I explained that I thought that was for the backpacking club in the past and that we were private renters. He said, “I sent you the rules.” I thought that was my misunderstanding but I didn’t have the cash on me. He left and I started to take a shower. This is in Italy in the Cinque Terre. There was no shower curtain so water sprayed all over the tiny bathroom. After two minutes, it turned ice cold.

I was really upset by now but there was no way I could leave because I couldn’t make it back down that mountain in the dark. I headed up to the loft to go to bed. Once settled, a mouse ran across the conduit. I freaked out. I tried to catch it on video but only got a bad quality blur because I was so shaken and the mouse was so fast. It ran around the room four times. That was the final straw.

When we got up in the morning we took the trek back down the mountain, which was much longer than he said. We did not find a beach. We found a marina. I messaged him that we would not be staying the next night and why. He denied the problems with the house. He said it was a problem with me because my husband had mentioned my knee was bothering me after the climb. He denied there was a mouse. He said the hot water was normal and that all they have in the area is a marina, which is a beach to them. He said if I wanted a refund, the steps on Airbnb were to start with cancelling my reservation.

Now, my phone did not work well in Italy at all so I could not log onto my account at that point. I should have contacted Airbnb right then and there but my number one priority was finding new lodgings before my phone quit working again. So I did. I then did what he said, which was to request a refund. I immediately got a notice that it was denied. My phone was out at that point and I did not try to contact him again until I returned home and could look at the listing in full to see where the communication went wrong. I realized that Airbnb said I should have contacted them immediately, which I had not done. I tried to leave feedback, and realized that I could not do so even though I had stayed one night.

I contacted the host again. He still denied a mouse was there but said he would reimburse me $20 out of the $232 that I paid out of the goodness of his heart. I saw in my account that he had sent me money but it didn’t show up on my credit card. I did not see any way to reach Airbnb or to claim this tiny refund. I wanted to give this story to them but can not seem to find any way to contact them at all. It was very frustrating. I went back to his listing and he has five-star reviews. I find that hard to believe. He must be pulling this “cancel your reservation” scam a lot. I had great stays at all the other places we stayed with Airbnb but this one bad experience is enough to keep me from ever using them again. I made some mistakes but this host definitely has some experience doing this to others; he knows he owes me. I told him to set some traps and he would definitely catch a mouse but he refused and said I was lying. I will chalk this up as a lesson learned and hopefully enough people will read this site and stay away from Airbnb.

Seniors Beware: Don’t Waste Your Money

Months ago I booked two separate Airbnb rooms in two different cities. As the date neared for our travel, my husband and I both became ill. With a week’s notice, I notified Airbnb and the hosts that we had to cancel. I received a note that they could only refund $65 out of $237 due to their “policy” which they never shared, and could contact the host if I wanted more of a refund. I contacted the host and she related that Airbnb hadn’t paid her a cent; how could she give us a refund? In addition, she had no problem with the cancellation. Long story short, out of $500 paid (for two people) I’ve still only received $65. Trying to contact Airbnb is a nightmare in itself, and good luck trying to find someone to help. This is all still pending, but we are both seniors and losing so much money is a hardship. I will shout to the rooftops to anyone who will listen to avoid this company at all costs and book through other, more reputable sites.