Airbnb Doesn’t Delete Confidential User Data

I wanted to unsubscribe from Airbnb emails but they have no unsubscribe function as required under Australian law (Spam Act 2003). To unsubscribe, Airbnb’s terms state only to “send us an email” to terminate the agreement. An email was sent as requested with the subject and body “cancel my account” for two accounts (i.e. Germany and Australia).

For the first account, Airbnb advised me with three reply emails sent from a third party (zendesk.com) that the requested account was cancelled. I conducted a test five days later to confirm the cancellation had failed. Access was granted to the cancelled account on login with the last password. Confidential account and profile information including my date of birth and phone number were still accessible, able to be updated, and obviously still held by Airbnb.

Airbnb refused to cancel my second account unless a “government ID” was provided, in spite of the request being sent from the same email address used to login. Airbnb was advised that the email reply was indistinguishable from a “phishing” scam. Airbnb was asked to state what legal authority Airbnb relied on to demand a government ID from me to cancel my account.

Airbnb simply continued to demand proof of identity to cancel the account without stating the legal authority for their demand other than suggesting it was merely an Airbnb policy. After replying to all further Airbnb responses with automatic resending of the original “cancel my account” request, Airbnb finally advised that the account had been cancelled but the data would not be deleted due to my failure to provide ID.

Airbnb has demonstrated their: failure to provide an unsubscribe facility as required by the Australian Spam Act 2003; failure to terminate (AKA “cancel my account”) the agreement while claiming to have done so; failure to give physical effect to the termination of the agreement granting Airbnb the right to hold confidential personal information necessary for service delivery by not deleting that information on termination.

The above evidence shows blatant breaches of Airbnb’s own policy, the Australian Spam Act 2003, and the German GDPR, which proves Airbnb’s intention not to protect consumer information.

Finished Dealing with Amateurs at Airbnb

Although I have never had a horror story with Airbnb as some people have, in the six or so years that I have been using it, this is what I have found:

90% of the time, there is some significant issue. Either it is in trying to find the place, or in trying to gain entry. Or the place is dilapidated or has many maintenance issues. I have found the reviews to be unreliable as well. In contrast, when I book a hotel, there are only significant issues around 10% of the time, plus the reviews are much more reliable.

In using Airbnb, I am relying on amateurs. The problem is that when a person travels, they are more vulnerable and insecure because they likely have no network of friends in the area. Traveling is generally stressful enough without unpleasant surprises. I find that in using Airbnb, I really save little money and its just not worth the hassle. In the future, I will be using hotels and other alternatives.

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.

Breezehome in Overveen Haarlem Netherlands near Amsterdam

I have been visiting the Netherlands since the 1990s and have come to understand the mentality of the people quite well now. It is quite normal for some Dutch people to misrepresent something in the interests of business.

This Airbnb rental is located in Overveen close to Haarlem or Harlem, which is about 17 Km from Amsterdam in The Netherlands, or Holland or Nederland Europe for Dutch speakers. In the near future, Formula 1 racing events will be held at Zandvort or Zandvoort, which is close by. This operator told me about all the money that can be made by local people renting out rooms locally.

I don’t want to seem harsh to the host because he isn’t a bad guy and is quite pleasant and interesting to be around. However, I do have some objections to his listing as it stands on Airbnb right now (October 2019). Unfortunately, this rental is listed in a way that is not representative of the condition it is really in now.

The main complaint I have is of misrepresentation and omission. Haarlem is a nice alternative to Amsterdam, an authentic medieval/Golden Era town which is well worth a visit, with easy and quick railway connections with Amsterdam and the airport. The location of the apartment is 15-20 minutes from the town center or the railway station on foot.

The room that you will be renting is not a separate room, but is on a blind landing at the very top of the apartment, with no door. The room is a good size but has no window and no form of external ventilation. There were two fans but the room was still very stuffy even though the fans were on and the summer was over by then.

Sleeping in this room for me was similar to sleeping in an underground bunker. With all the lights off, it was absolutely pitch dark and too warm. The in-house ventilation fan in the electrical cupboard in the room made a continuous noise. I resorted to sleeping on the floor in the living room. The room made me feel very claustrophobic. It was not really possible to hang-out in your bedroom because it was not a comfortable experience in that respect. The lighting was provided from one energy-saving bulb in the ceiling.

There were other problems. The living room was cluttered and untidy and in need of a cleaning, as was the whole apartment. The sofa covers absolutely stank. When I removed the covers from the duvet and pillows to wash them at the end of my stay, I saw they were not very clean and in need of dry cleaning. The mattress had a few old stains on it. The kitchen area was not all that clean and there was always a huge pile of washed utensils in the drying area by the sink.

There was a tiny part of the fridge for guests. When I offered the host some coffee I was planning to brew he said that he did not drink coffee, which meant that there was nothing to brew it in available. I was not really invited to use the kitchen so I did not use it.

The open hats and coats area by the front door was a cluttered jumble of shoes, very untidy and certain to create a poor impression with many visitors. There were two very steep flights of stairs from the living room to the guest room. Not a problem for me, but should be mentioned in the listing. The bathroom and toilet need a cleaning. The cover to the toilet cistern is missing and the toilet bowl below the water is black and denotes a lack of care over a long period of time.

The décor in the apartment is rather tired and there is a huge pile of water-soaked cigarette butts in a dish out on the terrace and more on the floor. This is the best part of the apartment, but again it was neglected.

I did ask the host if he could print out my return bus ticket, offering him a couple of Euros for his trouble. He said it was okay and he would do it. I left an old USB flash drive on his coffee table where it remained for several days and then I noticed it was gone. Because time became short I got it printed at a local printers.

I asked him if had picked up the stick and he said that he hadn’t seen it. In order to be diplomatic I shrugged off the incident and make no conclusion about it. The stick was worth nothing, only had the bus ticket on it, but it did disappear from one day to the next and I had to accept a denial from the host. I did also check the living room very thoroughly when he was out, but it did not turn up. He did not further enquire as to whether I had got the ticket printed.

This is one of those pointless and quite surreal incidents when using Airbnb when you have to make an instant decision to insist on something or just laugh it off. If he had said that he lost the stick rather than presenting me with an adolescent explanation then everything would have been fine.

I paid just over £200 Sterling for six nights here (approximately US$246). It is not the worst Airbnb rental or the worst host, even if he could be described as bad, I have encountered by a long way and I am used to accepting differences and inconveniences as part of the interest in staying in different places. I think that this rental is probably worth half what I paid.

I have given up complaining or making suggestions to hosts or Airbnb. I do not like leaving bad reviews on Airbnb because I do not wish to get into an on-line dispute and Airbnb sanitises reviews anyway. Airbnb expected me to provide pictures of this let, which strikes me as a strange and anti-social activity in itself.

The presumption that the paying customer is somehow a bit of a fool and that they are there to be milked by the Dutch is still alive and well in the minds of a lot of them. If you are pleasant, personable and respectful then it is possible that you will be seen as something of an idiot.

Airbnb is not going to ask the host to list his property more accurately, because I did not take any pictures during my stay. My comments are corroborated by the feedback given by other guests. I did not read all of the feedback when I booked in the Spring of 2019 and so missed the crucial detail about the lack of a window.

We are not Alone in our Airbnb Complaints

As I have read on numerous posts on your site, we are not alone. Airbnb is annoyingly uncooperative in providing a refund based on two reservations. However, in this post, I will only discuss the first one. A reservation was made in error. In order to correct the situation, I reached out to customer service and had the agent told me that we would lose the bulk of the deposit, I would have never agreed to cancel the reservation. The excuse, repeated again and again from the agent, to the case manager, to the supervisor, is that’s the policy and they can’t do anything to help, no exception, not even a goodwill gesture. Now, we’re out of pocket for more than $1000 CAN.

Airbnb Hell for the Poor Person Renting Property

I had a few nice tenants to begin with. I thought they would all be nice, but then I had one lot who complained about everything: “the sheets were smelly, the room smelt, and the dishes weren’t washed.” They left.

Meanwhile I was left with a big cleaning bill, a steam cleaning bill for carpets, and with a person who lied about my place on Airbnb. Now how does that sit with a person who has, with her cleaner, spent six hours cleaning and preparing a nice place, buying extras to make them feel at home while the guests prance off and leave another cleaning bill for me after one night?

“Okay,” I thought to myself, “What happens now?” Are her lies going to be plastered on Airbnb without finding out first what the real deal was? I bet your bottom dollar that is how it went over. I am now out of money and tired. Now my head is thinking – what will happen when the next lot of people arrive? Will they read the liar’s story and perform the same ritual?

I was so right in my thinking. They said exactly the same things that the previous liars said and now I will be out more money.

Thinking of being an Airbnb host? These last lot brought their cat… need I say more? I am very tired and very heartsick that a big company such as Airbnb allows renters to tell lies, believes them without asking any questions, and takes money from us poor suckers. Am I alone in this horror story? Obviously not! Will I continue to be a host? You be the judge.

Can I ring Airbnb or even email them with my side of the story? I have tried both; I emailed at midnight and I was told to wait 1-2 minutes. Meanwhile, hours later, I fell asleep only to wake up and find that they had closed me down and didn’t wish to continue with my case.

Airbnb Host Does Nothing About the Lack of AC

I was flying into SoCal for business. It was hot that summer. The host confirmed I was coming in after midnight. It was a second floor walk-up. She had the windows all closed up, and it was hotter than hell in there. I opened the window and plugged in the wimpy fan across the room because the cord was too short to place it near the window.

After an hour of trying to air it out, it was still 90 degrees in there. There was no way I was going to get any sleep in that stuffy room. I left her a note that I couldn’t stay for the above reasons. I posted a two-star review that the host could’ve opened the window to air it out a bit, and/or turned on the fan before my arrival, knowing it was so hot in there. The carpet was also quite dirty and dusty. It’s just not a great place to sleep. The host had some nerve to send me this nasty message in response to my objective review.

We’re Heading to Where Airbnb Offers Nothing

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My relationship with Airbnb has become more and more rocky as I have observed their tactics. I have watched them drop off lower price units that bolstered supply (and thus brought average costs down) trying to justify the move on the basis of quality control. More recently I have seen them shut complaint cases after providing a poor response – with no opportunity to see if the complaint response is useful – and more recently still shut cases without even responding. Either through negligence or design, I am currently ring-fenced.
The attached is a very recent complaint that has been closed with no solution provided.  I have lost the last three property opportunities due to this.  As an account holder where ‘legal consideration’ has passed, Airbnb is contractually obliged to afford a duty of care.  So many fundamental things are failing such as automatic acceptance of bank statement uploads and the promise of a couple of transactions to hit said bank account to be subsequently identified to finalize verification. This would suggest really bad glitches in areas such as banking and security or purposeful black balling techniques.
Either way, they selected the wrong customer for such fun and games because I have OCD when it comes to seeking remedies.  I am a god with a bone when it comes to man’s search for truth and justice. The good news is that my organization has a competing app on the horizon and if my situation is not unique there is a ready made queue emerging for the new services.  Thank goodness for Airbnb Hell as a platform.  I hope this gets resolved before the “open letter to CEO” phase.

Airbnb: The Worst Company I have ever Dealt with

I had a long, long drawn out fight with Airbnb that I thought would never get solved. My fiancé and I booked a house rental on March 16th, with out check-in date set to May 25th. On May 24th, one day before out trip, my fiancé (the account owner) got an email saying our trip had been cancelled because “We (Airbnb) don’t believe this transaction is legitimate”.

This trip has been booked, paid for, and cleared over a month before this email. The money had been long gone. We called and were told by a woman that it was a computer glitch that Airbnb was aware of, and technical support would call us ‘soon’. She could not offer any time frame at all, and did not seem to care that we were packed, had taken off of work, and paid long ago.

The call from technical support never came. The money was ‘refunded’ to us in the form of account credits. Not money. Our trip was for five days total, and cost about $800. We missed our trip. About five days later, we got another email saying his account was now completely banned and deactivated, and “We sent you an email about this issue back on the 1st”. We searched through all of our emails, and had definitely not gotten that one. In fact, on the 20th we got an automatic email telling us to “get ready!” for our trip.

Now, there was $700 in a deactivated account. Airbnb had no problem keeping their $100ish booking fee, and we never saw it again. Because the account was totally deactivated, and our phone numbers and accounts were blacklisted. This meant if we called or chatted with someone, we were automatically disconnected and never got help. We both even created second accounts. Several customer service people had no idea what to do, and sent us just one or two messages before closing the chat. We got one single message through to someone claiming that they would “forward our message to the appropriate person”. That chat is still open. I sent a message on it every few days asking if anyone was every going to answer.

Finally, my mother-in-law made a great suggestion: go to the BBB. I am 100% positive we would have never seen that money again if we hadn’t taken that advice. I filed a formal complaint, and they kept me updated the whole way. I got an email shortly after filing that said they were escalating my claim and reaching out to Airbnb. Only four days later we finally got an email from Airbnb, offering us a gift card that we could regift. I pushed for a check, and the next week we had $700 deposited into our Paypal account.

Please, other readers, file complaints. You don’t have to be seeking just money back, you can report them for being as terrible business. If enough people do, we can get them shut down eventually. They fully knew what they were doing, and knew that we obviously count not use credits put into a deleted account, and they kept ‘their share; of the money. I fought for that, too, but was told they would not give it back.