A Terrible Experience with Airbnb During Omicron

In late November 2021 we booked a trip to Los Angeles for a week in January and paid $3,100 for a stay in a condo in Marina del Rey. In late December, omicron appeared and we realized that we could not risk traveling, especially with a two-year-old.

We contacted the host a few days before the date that we would not be able to get a refund of half of the amount. We asked to rebook in the spring but could not do it online because the calendar did not go out far enough. We contacted our host, asking her to do this and stating that we could not travel at this time. We never heard from her and so we contacted customer service.

They promised that they ‘had our backs’ but did nothing except run out the time until we were past the deadline. The host contacted us once to say that she heard from Airbnb but thought we were another booking so didn’t answer. Then after we were due to have arrived, she contacted us and said that she was not going to give us a refund, a credit, or rebook. Customer service kept promising help but never delivered anything but hours on hold listening to the same piece of horrible music over and over.

As it turned out, one of our party got COVID during the time we would have been in LA but this doesn’t seem to be enough to trigger a refund. When I called to ask about what kind of proof they needed of this COVID case, I got put on hold for 40 minutes. I finally sent a message asking to be called back and hung up.

We never were able to ascertain what responsibility to answer inquiries the host needed to fulfill and in what time frame. We got inconsistent and inaccurate answers from customer service (referred to in the future as customer disservice). Between us we spent literal hours on hold. All in all, an appalling display of purposeful incompetence, lack of ethics and callous behavior far below any other travel entity we have dealt with during COVID. We will never use Airbnb again.

My Airbnb Host Lied about COVID to Cancel My Trip

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Picture this: you are a 20-something business professional who event plans for a job and loves to celebrate every birthday. 30 is a big one, right? All you want is an amazing home with family and friends where you can eat delicious food and drink yummy wine.

After hours and hours of scouring Airbnb, you find the perfect home that sleeps eight people, has an ocean view, and even a spa. Amazing. You book this six months in advance (you’re very organized). You also message the host to double check that you are allowed to have a friend visit (not stay) to enjoy birthday cake and the property in the day time bringing the number of guests on the property to nine. You also want to ensure you send everyone’s vaccine certificates (you’re organized and respectful, remember?)

The host immediately thinks this is now a party despite your best efforts to say it isn’t. They go on to say they previously had a terrible guest that ruined their home. You sympathize and understand it must be difficult to trust other guests. However, you do your best to reassure the host.

Luckily, your birthday falls just after New Years so everyone is already enjoying their Christmas holidays, yourself included. Fast forward to Boxing Day and you receive a long winded message from your hosts explaining they need to cancel 11 days in advance as they had “close contact” with a COVID case (not confirmed person) staying in their home.

We’re in New Zealand; bear in mind there were maybe two cases at the time and none in the town or city where this home is located. The host then went on to say they were “devastated” but could not find a cleaner prior to our check in. Isn’t the home meant to be cleaned upon arrival anyways? In 11 days? They then went on to say they needed to cancel the listing until the end of January.

Okay no problem. I took it upon myself to find a cleaner so our place wouldn’t be cancelled, because you can best believe I have family and friends traveling more than ten hours and cancelling is not an option. Before I can even suggest this, the host cancelled and terminated any dialogue.

I’m absolutely devastated and also now out over $2000 NZD. Fast forward a few days. I went to check the listing and what do I see? My weekend was still available to book on the host’s calendar, and the following weekend which was available was now booked. What’s more, they updated their listing to include “no parties, 8 people max” which was never in the listing to begin with.

Being an understanding person, I decided to give the benefit of doubt and thought I would ring up the first cleaning company I could find on Google. They were available that weekend, as were two others.

It’s obvious this host not only lied to us about COVID but forced me to dramatically change my 30th birthday plans with zero remorse. I have family members and friends back home (I’m from North America originally) who’ve passed from COVID so to use this as an excuse is not only negligent, but disgusting. As I mentioned I’m respectful and organized, but also petty.

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Airbnb Refunded Guest After Telling Me They were Ineligible for Refund

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We received a booking in December 2020 for check-in on Dec. 25. The guest messaged us a few days before to say that they were nervous to come down as the COVID numbers had been increasing. We offered them a keyless check-in and to keep to all the COVID protocols strictly.

On the day before check-in, they messaged to say someone in their family passed away from COVID and they would not make the booking. Our cancellation policy is 14 days and strict. We offered to move their dates and they agreed. On the 25th, they said they could not make those days either (2 weeks later). So we lost on multiple bookings due to reserving these dates a second time. The guest then requested we refund him in full.

Airbnb got back to me to say that the guest does not qualify for extenuating circumstances after their investigation of the matter. The guest kept harassing us so we refunded him 50% through Airbnb and I notified the support consultant. We got a new booking in December 2021 and Airbnb deducted the full amount of the previous booking off of our payout. After knowing that they said he does not qualify and after knowing that I had also decided to refund him 50% as well.

The guest now ignores my messages requesting my 50% be paid back. Airbnb is pushing me from one consultant to the next on messages. I called them and they have the same story: pushing me from one consultant to the next. They did not notify me until a whole year later once my payout for my recent booking was processed, that they had refunded this guest.

This is daylight robbery and fraud in my opinion. If the guest was refunded, why would they have my account in a negative figure? What if I never got another booking or closed my account? This makes no sense. Someone at their accounts department is highly confused.

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Reasons to Stop Using Airbnb in the Future

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I booked a trip to Montreal for February of next year to get out of my city and celebrate my graduation. The Airbnb I selected did have a strict cancellation policy which wasn’t an issue at the time because I had no intentions of cancelling. However, very shortly after booking the COVID situation in Montreal became dire with the whole city declaring a state of emergency. This week, Quebec reported nearly 10,000 cases. Montreal is on a complete shut down and will likely have similar strict measures in place come February. I decided it was best to cancel my trip early instead of waiting and having to do so last minute.

I contacted the host, whose profile says “response time one hour”. He did not reply to any of my messages. I contacted Airbnb customer service, which was of no help. They took a patronizing, condescending tone with me and constantly reiterated the “policies” by which their hands were tied. Airbnb does not protect customers in the case of COVID-related travel bans, closures, etc. Thus, even if I wanted for an official travel ban to be enacted, I still would not get my money back. My best option was to request a refund from the host. I did this and the host declined, citing this ‘policy’. Airbnb will not issue any credit to my account either. I have effectively lost my deposit.

Firstly, I do not think it is ethical or socially responsible for Airbnb to allow such policies in a pandemic. Obviously we’re all tired of this and want to get out and travel. However, there should be measures in place to protect customers in the event of unforeseen circumstances. I am aware the host has a strict cancellation policy, but this is an exceptional circumstance and I was at least providing him enough notice to find another guest.

I have accepted that I have two options: I can go through with my trip (or try to) or cancel now. I did not anticipate things would get so bad so fast and I do not want to risk traveling in February when COVID is likely to still be ravaging Montreal. I have decided to wait until the very last day to cancel my reservation, in hopes that it lessens the chance the host can find a new guest. I am also deleting my Airbnb account immediately after and will be boycotting the service going forward. When I think about it, I’m not saving that much money compared to a hotel. Maybe hotels will cost more, but I also won’t have to pay a cleaning fee and be responsible for cleaning the place lest I get tacked with additional fees and a bad review.

People like this host make the world a worse place to live in. Airbnb’s treatment of their customers is beyond poor. I refuse to give any more of my money to this platform. I always knew it was unethical, but I compartmentalized what I knew because part of me did like what Airbnb had to offer. The reality is, Airbnb is contributing to rising rental prices and housing scarcity.

If you’re on the fence about Airbnb or questioning whether you should boycott it, let this be a sign. At the end of the day, once they have your money, they couldn’t care less about you as a person. Customer service is not a priority once you’ve already paid them because absolutely nothing is forcing them to deliver. Put it this way: if a hotel has your money and for some reason you can’t travel due to unforeseen circumstances, they aren’t going to waive some draconian policy in your face and talk to you like you’re stupid. They will refund you or compensate you in some other way. A hotel isn’t going to charge you more money for not cleaning your room or subject you to a rating system that serves to encourage guests to ignore obvious problems with the unit and accept subpar service.

 

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Rude Host Refuses to Take Lockdown Under Consideration

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When lockdown hit in Bondi Beach and surrounding areas, it was physically impossible for me to travel to and from Bondi. Informing the host of this, she refused a refund, and Airbnb’s extenuating circumstances does not offer refunds for anything COVID related. I never actually ended up staying at this property, but still had to pay 100% of the cost.

I am a part time student and this was a lot of money that I lost. A little empathy in an unforeseen situation that none of us could have helped would have been appreciated and ensured I would have stayed with this host again. However, because of this situation I will never consider it, and I actually won’t consider Airbnb again in the future.

Think to yourself: would you want to lose all your accommodation costs with no chance of a refund if you are forced into another lockdown? Definitely not. Book a hotel. Understanding the importance of reviews and always written with the upmost respect to any business operations especially supporting small business practices but in the instance there is nothing positive to pass on with the experience.

Due to the sudden COVID outbreak in Sydney, I requested a reschedule date. Concerned I may have got stuck with no way of getting home if there were a lockdown to take place, I was well aware of being inside the cancellation timeframe so prepared to forfeit a fee under the cancellation policy in hope to reschedule so I wouldn’t lose the full amount that had already been deducted. However, the host was not accommodating nor was she prepared to compromise in any way other than suggesting to contact Airbnb directly for further information, which I did.

Airbnb said I could still request a refund or a partial refund from the host even if the policy stated otherwise. Desperate, I reached out to her again requesting some kind of resolution explaining so I could come to Sydney to celebrate a close friend’s birthday. Otherwise, I would not have planned to travel during such uncertain times. I was simply hoping to reschedule the trip for one month later aligning for when the birthday celebrations had been rescheduled. Further to this, I was happy to pay a fee for the inconvenience, only to receive a devastating response without even considering my request.

Lost $900 Because of Airbnb’s COVID Policy

I have tried getting Airbnb’s help over the phone, I’ve tried getting help from the host and I have messaged four senior executives, including the CEO. I have not received a positive response so far. So now I’m sharing my issue publicly, to see if the company does something about it.

I booked a trip to Istanbul from May 7 to May 12, and made a reservation with an Airbnb host for all those days. A few days after I made the reservation, the government in Turkey has announced their first full lockdown. Although tourists would still be able to walk around, I’m sure you can understand that traveling to a place that has just entered their first full lockdown is not ideal, for many reasons. The main one for me was the possibility of being locked in Turkey and not able to travel back to my country of residence, Dubai.

Once we heard the news, my husband and I decided to postpone the trip. I messaged my host and politely asked to change the dates of my trip. He refused. I then asked for a refund, as I spent $900. He refused. He refused any refund whatsoever… not even 10% or 20%. I lost $900.

With that, I called Airbnb, who informed me that they have an extenuating circumstances policy. It says that trips booked before March 2020 could fall under this policy, but since I booked my trip two weeks ago, I’m not entitled to it.  Obviously, Airbnb is entitled to define its cancellation policies, but in my opinion, I believe this extenuating circumstances policy is completely outdated.

During COVID, all the major players in the tourism business, like hotels, airline companies and travel agencies have implemented much more flexible cancellation policies to encourage people to continue traveling during the pandemic. Today, if I buy a ticket with Emirates for example, I can change the dates without no extra charges. If I book a hotel, I can most likely change the dates or get a refund.

I had no issues at all changing the dates of my flight to Istanbul, the dates of my flight from Istanbul to Cappadocia or canceling my hotel reservation in Cappadocia. None of them have charged me anything for it, because they all understood the situation in the country.  Only Airbnb couldn’t be flexible on their policy and its host couldn’t offer new dates or even a partial refund.

I don’t think this is fair. But more than that, I don’t think this is smart. I would love to hear something positive from Airbnb, to help me get my $900 back. Is anyone interested in helping?

Customer Service? Airbnb Doesn’t Know the Meaning

I joined Airbnb in 2020 but had to cancel all my trips due to the pandemic. Now that the EU is considering opening up to fully vaccinated Americans, I thought I could re-visit Italy. Having had a good experience with the different hosts on a previous trip (booked by my traveling companion), I made the (terrible) decision to join.

I made my first reservation and that was accepted. When I tried to make the second, a dialog box showed up saying “we can’t let you pay as your account is under review.” This was the start of the nightmare customer service saga. Service cannot be used in the same sentence as Airbnb as it’s a complete oxymoron.

The first line of representatives you reach on the number, which is deftly hidden behind multiple tabs, leaves you feeling frustrated, angry but most of all, powerless. Here’s some of what the representatives told me about my account review:

  • They were carrying out background checks on me. I’ve been in various government jobs that required those. I didn’t know registering on Airbnb required a background check.
  • From Jan. 2021, all Airbnb customers not only had to inform their banks about potential transactions with the company, but in fact, had to get in touch with Visa and Mastercard to let them know that reservations would be made on this platform. Didn’t these representatives get the training memo that it’s actually banks that block/unblock transactions because Visa and Mastercard supply the plastic and technology that makes our life simple with credit cards?
  • I had to get in touch with the potential host I was going to stay with in Italy because apparently, her software hadn’t been linked to Airbnb and this was what was stopping me reserving with her. Don’t they have an IT department to do that? Isn’t that their responsibility?
  • I did actually contact the host in Italy. She took the trouble to contact the Italian customer service platform and they were scathing in their response. They laid the blame squarely on the U.S. side saying that tech support was clearly able to help me and should do so without pushing blame on to the host. Sound familiar?
  • The trite sentence of “I’m so sorry. I know how you feel.” No, you don’t, so stop trying the empathy game with me. If you were really sorry, your IT team would stop faffing around and could have fixed this block on my account already.

There will be customers who have had a flawless experience with their hosts, as I did on my previous trip. My particular experience isn’t one I’d wish on my worst enemy. I have to agree with a review I read in that their representatives do seem to follow a script. It can’t be great for them to have to put up with aggravated, stressed and livid customers but if their management put robust resolution protocols in place, namely timely responses and updates to customers’ email, then perhaps 90% of this could be avoided.

What seems patently obvious from my dealings with Airbnb is that no supervisors are around to handle calls in the moment. Their procedure is to “escalate” and this gets attention within 24 to 48 hours. In the meantime, you get zero communication.

The other horrendously annoying aspect of dealing with this company is the multiple security checks that take place. If you phone from a number that isn’t on your account or if you log in from a laptop/desktop and not the app, you get a string of emails/texts asking you to confirm. Can’t somebody tell their Information Security Officer that security is only good when it doesn’t interfere with legitimate users?

That is the paradox of this company. Their engineers have crafted multiple security checks on users yet they still haven’t put in place a system to communicate with their customers that they are dealing with technical problems that hamper customers from using their accounts. How could they have not seen the importance of keeping customers informed?

It really seems to be a company that has little regard for treating its customers with a modicum of respect. My experience has shown that timely responses are not something they do. There is no communication about the progress of problem resolution and some of their representatives are clearly out of their depth. I’m just annoyed at myself for having joined such a thoughtless, uncaring company.

Airbnb Literally Endangering People’s Lives for Profit

After making the responsible choice last year to cancel all reservations when the pandemic hit and subsequently not receiving any compensation, I received $25. I took it as an opportunity to review my cancellation policy to better protect myself to reflect the new realities of travel.

Fast forward a year later and I made my place available for the month of April and received three bookings, two of which my guests responsibly cancelled due to the lockdown in the province of Ontario. The third one admitted her travel was unnecessary and that she was coming to walk around with her boyfriend. Now she booked a non-refundable option but would not cancel the reservation because she did not want to lose the money despite her choice to book a non-refundable option. Again being responsible, I chose to cancel and the guest was refunded.

I am not the brightest, but I am failing to see how after I adapted and my guest booked a non-refundable option, how she is still being refunded. At first I was upset over the money but at some point it’s not about the money. It’s about the safety of my community and I couldn’t believe the position Airbnb put me in. They refunded some person who booked a non-refundable option and did nothing to respect my cancellation policy or do the right thing and cancel all reservations in Ontario.

This didn’t sit well so I asked them to donate the money to Black Lives Matter (I am a Black person so figured this money could go to some good) instead of refunding this low life guest. They refused, stating their policy. I was laughing at their “support” team. The guy clearly was in no position to even have a conversation and was reminiscent of a robot, programmed to repeat the policy and failing to understand what “human” is.

Companies like these are greasy and hope the collective group robot think pushes your billion-dollar company to higher profits while putting the lives of people at risk. The fact that they are allowing hosts to operate in Ontario at the moment is baffling. They are literally putting profits before the public good and this goes for housing as well. Simply ruining communities.

Barbados Nightmare and $4,500 Taken During COVID

I rented a place through Airbnb in Barbados on Jan. 13 for one month to start on Jan. 20. The price of the rental was $4,500. On Jan. 17, I flew to Barbados and went to a COVID-holding hotel as required. Barbados required that we needed to stay at one of those hotels until we tested negative on the island for COVID and then we could move to our final destination. The Barbados website said that tests were taking about 24-48 hours so we booked the hotel until Jan. 20, adding a one-day buffer.

When we arrived, we were told that the COVID tests were taking up to 12 days to come back, if we could even get a test. They said the island was so behind because the demand was so high and they only had one testing lab on the whole island. We had prison-like wrist monitors on and we were not able to leave our hotel room under any circumstance until this test came back or we’d be fined $6,000 each. This was going to be our lives for up to 12 days and we were paying for it. We could not even go for a walk or get any exercise during this time. Getting food was super hard as well. It was nothing short of prison.

While we were trying to sort all of this out, we learned that the U.S. changed its travel regulations on Jan. 17 and that the new policy was to go into effect on Jan. 20. The policy said that if traveling outside the U.S. we must have a valid negative COVID test that was no older than three days and if we could not effectively rely on getting one we should get home immediately. The U.S. Embassy in Barbados put a warning up and called all American travelers home before Jan. 20 if they could meet the new travel restrictions.

With the slow response time for test results effectively we could not get onto the island and we were not going to be able to get home. We decided that the safest thing to do was abide by the embassy warning and go home. We wrote the owner of the house who had our money for a 30-day stay and told them we needed to go home and shared that it was related to the change in U.S. travel restrictions. I generously and thoughtfully offered a week’s rental money not wanting to inconvenience the owner, but the owner refused to give any kind of refund, fully knowing the circumstances were out of our control and kept our full $4,500.

Airbnb told me that no one had requested a rental with this owner since we had, four days prior, and that my offer was generous, but sometimes they had “stubborn and greedy” owners that were unable to work with their renters. They told me that my reason for needing to cancel was valid and they understood my need to go home, but oddly they told me they could do nothing to get my money back. I provided their policy that had just been put into place that said if there was government policy change, put into effect due to COVID, that interrupted any stay after Jan. 20 the renter would be entitled to a full refund. Even with that policy and knowing our circumstances, they did nothing to give us our money.

Additionally, Airbnb has a cancellation period where you can cancel up to 7 days prior to your stay. I tried to use that policy to say that if we pay for the first week, we were essentially cancelling 7 days prior for the other 21 days and they said no to that as well. We sent our claim to the bank. They read all our paperwork and said that this was clearly “unethical and unscrupulous behavior” and that it was clear this owner had “scammed” us and that it was essential for us to fight to get this money back, but that under Visa’s policies they could not reclaim the money due to a technicality based on a bank error.

We are working with the BBB because we are still trying to recover the money that was unethically taken from us. I am also trying to find a lawyer. If anyone can recommend one, I’d appreciate it. There was absolutely no way that we could use our rental.

We showed them their own policy that if there was a government policy change put into effect that interrupted any stay after Jan. 20, the renter would be entitled to a full refund. Even with that and knowing our circumstances, they did nothing to return our money and continued to say that this was the “owner’s decision.” Though they stated and agreed many times that it was unfair and that it was a lot of money, they could do nothing about it. I still have never seen or gotten a copy of the owner’s agreement and I am perplexed why it is a different policy than Airbnb’s.

We need help recovering the money that was unethically taken from us. We showed proof of the embassy warning, the U.S. policy, Airbnb’s own policy, what the hotel was telling us about getting negative test results and our airline tickets home but no one would help us. We offered to pay for one week which would mimic a 7-day cancellation for the remaining time. This owner unethically kept $4,500, provided no service, was given fair notice and did not follow the company’s policy.

As the representative between the owner and myself, Airbnb has a responsibility to mediate this fairly and or rectify the harm we have received. They did not. We need help reclaiming our money.

Airbnb Host Accuses Guest of Having COVID

I was staying at an Airbnb location in New York City at the height of the pandemic in April 2020. Fifty three days into a 60-day stay, the host contacted Airbnb and accused me of having COVID-19. I had no symptoms and have since tested negative with the swab nasal test and the antibody test.

Just after 9:00 AM on a Friday I received a text from Airbnb that the host accused me of exposing her to coronavirus and I had to leave within 90 minutes. Not only was my reservation cancelled but Express Booking was disabled and I was told that I would have to call and get permission to stay with another Airbnb host.

I refused to leave and the host called the police three times, but first she changed the locks. Just before calling the police for the third time, she began throwing my personal possessions onto the street. While all of this was going on Airbnb was threatening penalties, although they did not specify how much.

Airbnb refused to refund a subsequent reservation at another location and only refunded a fraction of the pro-rated charges for the first reservation. Ultimately, I did use my second Airbnb reservation at my next stop without a problem. Airbnb did apologize, but this situation was so over the top and the pandemic is still raging I would warn all guests.

Also during the three police visits, nine officers were dispatched. It was very intense with the officers. I am not exaggerating when I say I could have been killed, but thanks to connections I had I was able to get through to the commanding officer of the precinct to give him the facts directly.

The host is still being investigated. The owner of the property is being investigated. The police were investigated and my complaint was found substantiated and is now awaiting departmental trials. Finally several agencies are involved in investigating Airbnb at the state and federal level.