“Pseudo Hosts” using Airbnb as a Money Machine

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We are a couple in our 70s who travel the world and have used Airbnb since its inception. Through the years we have experienced many disappointments but as good soldiers we accepted minor imperfections as part of the experience in a foreign country. My husband did book a horrendous accommodation in Iceland this past year but let it slide. Our experience here in Costa Rica, however, cannot be overlooked.

We booked an Airbnb in Costa Rica for nine nights. Upon our arrival at Liberia Airport we rented a car and drove the hour and a half to Playa Potrero where this unit is located. We tried to find our way with the directions the host provided. It took us to the general vicinity. We were advised to pick up the key from a local laundry place in Potrero between 3:00-5:00 PM as arranged by the host. When we arrived shortly after 4:00 PM no one was there. We waited a bit and no one arrived.

We asked a local business to please call the laundromat’s telephone number which was listed on the window. She was advised that the key was with the guard at the entrance to the condos. We were never given the correct name of the complex. After spending too much time trying to find right complex it was already late and we were travel weary. Finally we found the guard who had the key and he pointed out where to park and walk to the unit.

We entered a unit that was pathetic. The Airbnb ad promised a queen size bed, a dining room, and kitchen utensils, which was important as we eat in most of the time. There were two twins beds with very thin mattresses and cigarette burns in the sheets. The closet was in disrepair. The bathroom was funky and foul smelling. There was no dining room as advertised. The only table and chairs were out on the patio and inaccessible as the sliding door was inoperable. The kitchen area was barely usable, with very few utensils, no coffee maker, and a stove that needed cleaning.

By the time we got to the unit it was very late for us to find somewhere else to stay so we spent the first night, kept our luggage packed and left the very next morning. We advised the host that we were leaving and he offered another place with the stipulation that we commit until February 28. We attempted to inspect the offered unit but were denied access. Anyway, we could not commit to that lengthy a stay.

We submitted a request to Airbnb for a refund for the nine nights we did not stay but the host denied our request. He also posted a very nasty personal attack on my Airbnb profile. We requested Airbnb mediation and due to the difficulty in communications between here in Costa Rica and the US we waited days for a response, having had no fewer than three Airbnb case managers respond – no personal touch at all.

This entire ordeal regarding my request for a refund for totally unsatisfactory accommodations has become frustrating and really diminished my confidence in Airbnb. I did submit a request to Airbnb to become involved in my request due to the the host refusing to make the refund. What happened to the statement “Our Guest Refund Policy protects you and your money”?

I am stranded in Costa Rica waiting to recoup my payment in order to continue my trip. It is urgent that I receive the refund as soon as possible. I feel that this host is nothing more than a con man who uses the Airbnb forum as a means to dupe unsuspecting travelers. We received a response from Airbnb as follows:

“We have reviewed this case once again, and as previously said, unfortunately, as the guest refund policy wasn’t followed, we can’t adjust the host if the host doesn’t agree with the refund. I’m really sorry to hear about this situation, but unfortunately, there’s not much I can do. However, I would be willing to offer you a $100 coupon, and even though it’s not near to what you requested, is what I would able to give.”

An absolute insult. We paid over $1,000 for one night in a sleazy accommodation that we would never have committed to if we had seen inside first. Airbnb has neglected its responsibility to protect the renter. This man should have been investigated further by Airbnb since it is obvious he is using the platform to his advantage in representing unsatisfactory accommodations which he does not own but merely acts as a rental agent for various properties.

As a company, Airbnb seems to only be interested in their fees from acting as the forum for hosts and guests. They assume no responsibility for allowing unsavory con men from using their forum and falsely describe their accommodations knowing that they will be paid upfront and have the upper hand.

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Airbnb Experience from Hell in Costa Rica

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First of all I would like to say I have always been a big fan Airbnb and absolutely love the concept. I have always have great experiences with hosts and the booking process has always been quick and seamless. However, with that having been said, the past weekend I had the most horrific experience, which actually led to my vacation being ruined, inflicting loads of anxiety that has severely affected me.

It started when I booked two nights in Playa Tamarindo, Costa Rica. My husband and three-month-old baby left early in the morning on Saturday, July 15th to embark on the bumpy five-hour ride. We were so excited to arrive when I received an email from the host saying the place was not available. I was very disappointed, as this had never happened before and almost put me into a panic. I called Airbnb and explained what happened. Within the hour we were able to book another place, a little more expensive but the case manager said Airbnb would send a credit to compensate for the other balance. I was very happy and grateful for that. However, he did not follow through with his promise and said I needed to pay.

Now in a frenzy waiting in the hot sun, I was willing to do anything to just get settled into a place. Airbnb reached out to our new hosts, who accepted our reservation right away and met us at the supermarket to follow them back to the place. We checked into a beautiful house and thought we could finally relax. This is when the drama began.

I received a call from Airbnb demanding I pay for the new reservation, $517, when I had already paid $467 for the original place and the funds were already taken from my account. Now I felt like he was disrespectful. He transferred the case to another case manager. I kept getting emails saying I needed to pay but was told in the first place the funds I already paid would be transferred to the new reservation.

The next day I was approached by the host saying they canceled our reservation because I didn’t pay. Airbnb called him and said we didn’t pay, but I sent several emails of my bank statement showing that the payment had gone through and was posted. The next twelve hours I was on the phone on and off dealing with numerous customer service agents, being put on hold for thirty minutes at a time, when no one could figure out how to solve the issue. I spoke with many other case managers and supervisors and kept getting promised things would be resolved. I was even on speakerphone for over 1.5 hours with the host beside me and a customer service person. Nothing was solved.

I was then told that this was not Airbnb’s responsibility, but the host and I had to figure it out. At this point I felt extremely uncomfortable being in the house with the host thinking I had not paid. I was calling the entire time on my international phone and my cell phone bill had $300 worth of charges. On Sunday night, nothing had been resolved. Every time I called no one knew anything and kept blaming me. I am still dealing with anxiety.

I have never had such a bad experience with any customer service. I have spent thousands of dollars, referred superhosts, and recommended Airbnb to friends and social media followers. I was a loyal customer but this experience has not only left a bad taste in my mouth, it has left emotional damage.

They offered me $25 worth of travel credit. That’s almost an insult. I would never ask for any sort of compensation but in this case I think it’s necessary. I spent so much money to not have enjoyed a single moment on my vacation. I wish I could be sending an email expressing how much I love the service (which are the only emails I usually send) but unfortunately this is one that’s not so positive. I’ve sent numerous emails to customer service explaining this and have been ignored. I spent over 325 minutes on hold while talking to Airbnb, over 620 minutes in phone calls, spoke with over 15 representatives, and been hung up on six times.

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Costa Rica Airbnb Yard Shared with Pitbulls

The listing shows some nice bungalow with a hammock overlooking the beach. What the pictures don’t show are two vicious pitbulls ten feet to the right of your patio that are poorly tied up, with no fence between you and them. We returned the final evening to find the dogs had gotten free. Luckily, a neighbor had warned us as we approached that they might have broken free. Fortunately, I also had a rake in my hand as my friend struggled to open the front door. The dogs attacked and I fended them off with a rake. This wasn’t just barking, but a full-on attack. They ran up on my legs so fast I couldn’t believe it. If we had come home after drinking or unaware this would have been a complete nightmare. We were so shaken up we left and booked a hotel. I’m 47 and a big guy. A smaller person or a family with a child could have been seriously injured or killed. I guess next time I book a place I’ll inquire if there any dogs around, assuming I use Airbnb again at all. I tried to reach out to customer service that night to find another place – was on hold for 1.5 hours – and never reached them. Airbnb should implement a “safety survey” for hosts that need to be asked things like “Do you have dogs? Or are there any potential dogs in your vicinity that guests may be exposed to?”

Sometimes, All That Matters at Airbnb is Wifi

Let’s start a hashtag #airdoesntcare (I just did on Twitter). Beware Airbnb. My host lied on his listing about several things but the Internet was the biggest problem for us. We are a party of four business associates in Costa Rica on business and have already been here a month. We moved to this place on December 13th and immediately realized the host and his property caretaker had lied about the Internet connectivity (among other things). The caretaker also lied about speaking English. We told him the night we arrived that we would leave. We stayed two days while looking for a new place. Our booking was for 32 days. Airbnb refunded me less than $250 and refused to escalate our case, regardless of the extensive and very specific email trail of problems and obvious lies documented.

Here is one of the first emails:

Your listing says you have Internet and wifi. Internet means you are supposed to have a working router. There was no router at all, and you would have known that. But we came prepared for the internet challenges in CR. We all have Kolbi chips in our phones but could only get service if we stood in your yard. Even that didn’t work all the time; the service went in and out. We also bought a Claro “hotspot” box to use in Costa Rica a month ago. That usually works when the Kolbi doesn’t but it did not work at your place. We had no service at all. We were depending on your Internet availability which you listed on your Airbnb profile. Also, when we first met Jacinto your caretaker, he said he didn’t speak English. My son speaks a little Spanish so he tried to communicate. Jacinto pretended not to understand but conveyed to us through mostly hand gestures that there was no Internet available. He pointed all around the neighborhood, indicating there was just bad service in the area. In fact, there was no router at all in the house.

Then today Jacinto called me and spoke perfect English (what a miracle – the guy must be a genius!) and said that we could use the neighbor’s wifi, providing the login name and password. This is not acceptable for business people. Even that option didn’t work; the neighbor probably changed the password. Why did you lie to us? We had to make plans last night to find a new place. Sorry, but we cannot stay there. We are working here. I had to move to a hotel last night because I had meetings all day today via Skype. I can’t sit in the middle of your yard getting some sporadic wifi signal. I am still in the hotel tonight. But it is very expensive here – during the very high season – and I have to move tomorrow because they are booked up. This problem has cost me and my group a lot of time and money. I rented your house based on what you said in the listing and we don’t like being told one thing and then – after we move in – being told something else. You also said in the listing that the neighborhood was quiet. The boys were there and told me it was very loud last night – some sort of major appliance tear-down situation with a truck arriving at 6:00 AM dumping dozens of refrigerators and washing machines in the yard next door for them to dismantle. Are you kidding me? If I would have been told this, I would have cancelled the reservation.

The bottom line is you shouldn’t trust hosts or Airbnb to make things right. Rent with them and you take your chances.

Three Months in Costa Rica. When did the Price Change?

I’ve been planning a trip to Costa Rica for three months, from January to April of 2017. I started looking for places a couple of weeks ago. I found a home for just over $1000 per month. It seemed like a good deal so I booked it. The entire cost with Airbnb fees was $3215. I was charged $1071 to cover the first month’s rent. That amount was immediately charged to my credit card. Within a few days I started getting friendly text messages from a person who helped the host of the home I was going to rent. A few days later this person informed me that I would not be able to stay at the home I had rented for the entire three months. He explained that the owner, Mac, had Alzheimer’s and did not know what he was doing. He offered to help me find a different place to stay for the remaining two months of my visit to Costa Rica. He informed me that I would only be able to stay at Mac’s home for the month of January.

The next day I went on Airbnb to check the reservation and the price had gone from $3215 for three months to $11,976 for one month. I also checked my credit card and Airbnb had processed $11,976 to be charged to my account. I immediately called Airbnb to find out what was going on. They expressed surprise and promised to get to the bottom of the situation. I was also in communication with Mac by text and his helper, Luis, by phone and text. They blamed the Airbnb app and the Airbnb reps blamed the hosts. At one point I was informed by Airbnb that Mac offered to lower the price from $11,976 for one month to $3000. I explained that this was unacceptable to both parties and they finally agreed that I would only be charged $1071 for the one month I was going to be there. When I received the final statement from Airbnb it was $1161 for the month with some extra charges thrown in by Airbnb. I have requested a full refund of the $1071. Also, the $11,976 that was going to be charged to my credit card was not completely refunded. Instead they refunded $11,886 charging me for their and Mac’s mistakes. Talk about Airbnb hell! I’m waiting to hear from Airbnb as to the $1071 refund and a complete refund of $11,976. To be continued.