Below is my true and sincere experience with Airbnb. I will give you ten reasons why you should not deal with Airbnb, and I hope that governments and consumer protection organisations will do something about the ever increasing risks imposed on internet consumers. The big companies certainly will not.
I received a confirmation from Airbnb that I had “express” booked a deluxe room for five nights in South Africa, and a confirmation that the MasterCard that I had previously used for reservations with Airbnb was now registered for further purchases. I immediately logged on to my Airbnb account only to discover that someone from China (I am located in New York) had logged into my account yesterday, and someone from South Africa logged into my account today placing a reservation for a room in South Africa (total of $650) debited to my MasterCard.
My MasterCard details were now disclosed to whomever hacked my account. At the same time I called my bank making sure my MasterCard was blocked. The bank informed me, however, that the $650 had been debited. The bank urged me to call Airbnb and have them to cancel the reservation.
I tried to call Airbnb. Forget that; they deliberately don’t disclose a telephone number (Reason #1). I tried to find an email address; forget that – they only allow communication through your Airbnb account, making it difficult for you to record and keep track of the correspondence (Reason #2).
I wrote Airbnb through my account only to receive a standard reply that I could expect an answer within two days. Considering that someone with help from Airbnb (though Airbnb presumably was unaware) had stolen $650 from me, I could not accept waiting two days (Reason #3). I promptly replied demanding a call back. I got a call back within an hour’s time. The lady on the phone argued that it must have been me who did the reservation because hacking the Airbnb account was unthinkable. Basically she called me a liar (Reason #4).
I referred to the fact that I was located in New York and within 15 hours someone had accessed my account from China (a hacker), South Africa (a hacker) and New York (myself). She tried hard but couldn’t really provide a comeback. She tried though (Reason #5).
Then she argued that it must be a family member or friend that had accessed my account and that I should check up with them to make sure that it was not them who had made the reservation. Again I argued that no one but me has (legitimate) access to my Airbnb account and no friend or family member could ever dream of booking a room in South Africa on my account. I also (again) referred to the fact that the logins were made from three different continents within one day. She was firm in her “belief”, but her arguments were forced and it was easy to tell that she was instructed in “never accept liability or cause” and “always deny, deny and deny” (Reason #6).
After 40 minutes of telephone conversation, she came to the conclusion that my account may have been exposed, which most likely was due to the fact that I had either logged on from a public computer (and then forgot to log off) or responded to a “phising-mail” disclosing my password to the hackers, or that I in other ways had been careless (Reason #7).
I could easily dismiss all of her accusations, and as I was getting pretty exhausted by the whole conversation I stated that we did not need to discuss this further. If they did not cancel the reservation immediately and retuned all the money to me I would without further hesitation have a lawyer represent me. Not really because of the money (the fees would exceed those from Airbnb in no time) but because of the principle. After this I was told that my “case” would be “prioritised”. Conclusion: you need to actually make a “lawyer threat” to get serviced (Reason #8).
Later the same day I received an email in which Airbnb warned me that they had detected that my account might have been compromised. Is this really how they treat their customers? (Reason # 9). In the email they stated that they would try (only try – Reason #10) to return the money.
The above shows what I think we all now (but don’t like to admit): Airbnb (and similar super big companies) don’t care about their customers (or users as they tend to call us). They get maybe 10,000 or more new users every month. Their business model is based on the masses, not one or a few thousand that experience problems.
I’m not trying to get political here – but honestly I don’t think this would have happened if I had just stayed with small hotels and family owned shops. I have no doubt that should my Amazon, Facebook, Uber and similar accounts be hacked – it would be the same. These are my ten reasons for hating Airbnb (and similar super big companies) – but what I really hate is that I can’t stop using them. They know that all too well. I would really love if we all just gave up on those super big firms and regained control, respect, care, and decency in the course of trade.