Airbnb Cancelled Our Reservation… Just Because They Can

We are a family with a four year old daughter. We booked two residences through Airbnb in Bangkok. The first was for an 11-day period and since the first host was already booked from that point on, we chose the second residence for an additional two weeks. All bookings were made well in advance of our arrival in Thailand.

Upon reaching Bangkok and having spent the first three days in our first house (which was actually excellent), we received a cancellation from Airbnb for our second reservation (by now eight days away). Their explanation was that the host was being suspected as a fraud. They gave us a 10% credit and told us to either find a new residence via Airbnb or ask for a refund.

Needless to say, with all three of us still in the wake of our jet lag, scrambling to find new accommodation wasn’t exactly our idea of a good time. My wife and I have travelled extensively in all sorts of countries (including Thailand, where our Airbnb crisis was unfolding) and this was the first time ever to come across such a situation. We had repeatedly arranged for accommodation over the phone with hosts of all kinds in many locations and no one ever cancelled a reservation, even in cases where there was nothing but their word binding them. No credit payments, no deposits, nothing. They kept their side of the deal regardless.

Airbnb on the other hand not only had the audacity to cancel our fully paid reservation while we on our behalf had done nothing wrong, they even acted like everything was cool and we should be happily going through the hamster wheel of finding new accommodation through their (so called) service, just because they gave us 10% credit. Just to clarify, we are from Europe. Imagine being stuck somewhere 15 hours by plane away from home and trying to resolve this mess.

Of course, trying to book a new place within a short time window (even though this wasn’t a high demand season), meant that we were left with poor options in the price range we had initially booked (i.e. places that were far from the city center or metro stations, or both). An equivalent residence via Airbnb would now be not 10% but 35% more expensive. We decided to opt for the refund – this was quickly devolving into a fully fledged scam – and book either via Booking.com or go around asking.

What would you know: Airbnb refunded our initial payment, but didn’t even give us the 10% credit back for all our trouble, or at least store it in our account for some later booking. We contacted their customer service through chat to complain and try to get some resolution. They initially tried to play it down and pretended we should be happy with their lousy 10% credit that we weren’t even entitled to anymore. We threatened to get vocal with our dissatisfaction unless they did something to set things right.

After several messages being exchanged and being passed from one “representative“ to the other two or three times (while we were arguing it was their responsibility to arrange for new accommodation, not ours) they finally obliged to at least provide a list of recommendations. When we pointed out we would take one of these alternatives, provided we were only charged what we had already paid for our cancelled accommodation, they ceased all contact. That’s quality customer service for you right there.

We know that online services of all sorts have their flaws. Airbnb is setting an all-time low, not so much because of their bad handling of bookings, but their inability to address the situation once the inevitable screw-up occurs. Giving a lousy 10% credit and forcing someone to an almost certainly more expensive last minute re-booking (which he is required to complete on his own) is an outright scam, not a valid method to appease dissatisfied customers.

All in all, I’d say our overall experience with Airbnb was atrocious and would seriously advise everyone to stay away from it. You will be far better served by respectable online services or go the good old conventional way of finding your own accommodation on the spot. Do not be deceived by the enticing price tags of Airbnb. This is an unreliable “service”, plain and simple, and it isn’t worth the risk.

Airbnb Admits There’s an Unfixed Bug on their Site

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When we first starting hosting a year ago, I noticed that when you put the name of our city into the Airbnb search engine, you get zero results, even though there are dozens of hosts in our city. When I complained about this, I was told there was nothing that Airbnb can do, that they rely on Google Maps.

Fast forward several months. I started looking into Google Maps, and noticed that the map is correct for our city. Airbnb put up the wrong map. The one they put up was for a city called Capacabana instead of Copacabana. Armed with this new information, I was sure Airbnb would finally listen to me.

Each time I wrote to Airbnb customer service, they acknowledged the error. They said they had reported this to the tech department and then closed the case. I finally got furious and insisted they not close my case until this was fixed and I got this response: “I apologize for my previous colleagues, but if you have any other inquires you can message me here and I will personally answer you. I won’t close this ticket until the issue has been fixed. I give you my word.”

The next message I received: “This support case is closed. Still need help? Visit our Help Center.”

I’m sorry but what is wrong with Airbnb? Not only do they not care, now they lie to me. A customer service representative gives me his word that he won’t close the case and several days later, case closed, with no resolution. You can imagine how much fun it is finding guests when your city doesn’t even exist on the Airbnb search engine. I have been complaining about this for a year and Airbnb does nothing to fix it.

“Smart Pricing” is a Zombie Algorithm from Hell

As new Airbnb hosts, we set our base price at $50 a night – low for our area – and chose “smart pricing” and “instant booking” so that the algorithm would make our listing more visible in searches. We got lots of bookings right away and quickly became “superhosts.”

However, Airbnb’s “smart pricing” tool never respected our minimum, listing the guest suite for as low as $35. We called Airbnb for help. The Airbnb representative suggested switching off “smart pricing” and manually resetting our prices at $50 on weekdays, $65 on weekends. That was on September 30th.

That night at midnight, every open date on our calendar reverted to a sub-minimum price. Every time we’ve tried to fix it since then, the algorithm overrides our prices while we’re asleep. We have worked with five customer service representatives and counting by chat and by phone so far, and no one can fix it. Each has insisted on manually resetting our prices for us, or having us do so, with the same result.

For 30 days now, the correct prices have disappeared again each morning and our listing has been advertised at far below what it’s worth – an exhausting, stressful waste of time. None of these customer service representatives has been able to explain why “smart pricing” keeps posting our place at sub-minimum rates, rather than our desired $50 or more. They all promised to try to find answers, but no one seems to have access to anyone with the authority to resolve it.

We now have a guest coming at a rate of $35. We are asking Airbnb to either cancel this reservation with a full refund to the guest, or pay us the difference. One said she would try to get Airbnb to pay us the $15. We appreciate that. It’s not much, but it’s the principle at stake. When we’re cleaning the toilet between each guest, we do want that money.

I’ve told them by phone and text messages (all saved, along with images of the bad prices on our calendar) that we’ll be demanding the difference from Airbnb for any future reservations made at below-minimum prices. One representative also asked if we would switch off “instant booking” to avoid getting more reservations at sub-minimum rates, but I pointed out that our listing is already harder to find with the “smart pricing” button switched off, so removing both that and “instant booking” could send our listing in some sort of oblivion, and Airbnb could then simply forget about resolving our problem.

She did relay that a software developer insisted this isn’t a bug. The developer apparently wrote that once ‘smart pricing’ is applied, those prices will remain after “smart pricing” is switched off, for every date initially affected by the pricing tool, until those dates are history. Apparently, each time we try to make a pricing change, this outcome is extended in time, into the future.

They also acknowledged, finally, that this should be bumped up to a “senior” developer. For more than a month now, customer reps have asked for our patience while Airbnb’s software denies us the right to either set our own prices, or use a dynamic pricing tool that doesn’t go below our minimum price. This is a major bug that contradicts what Airbnb promises its hosts. We are running out of patience. “Smart pricing” truly is the zombie algorithm from hell.

Two Scams in One Summer: Airbnb’s Non-Existent Security

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This summer I booked a vacation house in France on Booking.com and an apartment in Ibiza on Airbnb. For the first time in my extensive travel life, it turned out that I booked two scams for non-existent properties. I had paid a substantial deposit for the house in France. For the apartment in Ibiza I had not only paid a deposit but also the full rent, together a few thousand euros.

I had booked a beautiful vacation house in France on Booking.com. As indicated on the website, I had to pay a deposit of euro 2,200. I transferred the amount to the ‘owner’ of the house. Due to certain circumstances, I had to cancel the house, and requested the ‘owner’ refund my deposit. There was no response and certainly no money. I contacted Booking.com, who asked for different evidence. After a long process, and emails with apologies stating that they were investigating the case, Booking.com refunded the total amount of the deposit.

With Airbnb, the first email from the Trust and Safety team started with the sentence that Airbnb was working hard on a reliable and secure website, but that in rare cases attempts at fraud happen. If you look at Twitter accounts and websites detailing circumstances like these, there are daily reports of new scams. There are certainly not only attempts and it also is not rare. This does not seem to interest Airbnb.

The email continued with a number of standard tips which might have been useful if they pop up when you open their site, but certainly not after all the misery has happened. It’s closed with the announcement that this transaction took place outside the Airbnb platform, and therefore they can’t provide support or compensation for offsite payments. I think that Airbnb forgets that the scam started on their website. What does Airbnb do for fraud prevention?

Therefore, the question that remains for me: how could this apartment end up on the Airbnb website? That is where the scam started. Wiser through my own research, I took one of the photos of the scam apartment and scanned it through Google images; this apartment also appeared on another site with a different owner and another location. A very simple and quick check.

In addition, Airbnb also does not advise you to contact the owner directly. Why is it possible that this option is offered on the Airbnb site? This is a safety check that does not seem so difficult to build in. Last but not least, how does the identity check go when placing a house on Airbnb? In my second email with Airbnb I asked for the full name and identity check of the person I ‘rented’ from. I did not get an answer to this question and the mail ended with ‘this is our last email regarding this case’. Indeed, I did not get any answers anymore.

Aside from the fact that this is very customer unfriendly, I have no evidence to go after my money. I have a strong suspicion that Airbnb cannot provide me with this proof, simply because it is not there. On the aforementioned Twitter page, it also appears that it is very easy to open an Airbnb account with a fake identity. Scammers even use Airbnb photos of bona fide placements on Airbnb.

It is no surprise that the Airbnb has to adjust their conditions of the European Commission for better consumer protection. Exactly the same case is reported in an article of The Guardian on July 15, 2017. A businessman lost £4,139 through an Airbnb scam. Following intervention, and in the face of a threatened social media campaign by the businessman, Airbnb performed an about turn: it agreed to send him the money he lost. Apparently you have to put a lot of pressure before Airbnb takes responsibility. Not everybody is in a position to do so, which makes it unequal treatment.

To conclude, I believe that Airbnb cannot hide behind warnings and the fine print. I and many others would not have been scammed if Airbnb’s screening process was good. After all, the misery starts on the Airbnb website. With a few simple checks – and especially good identity checks – a lot of suffering can be prevented. The European Commission, which has already taken steps to protect Airbnb consumers, should certainly also pay attention to this. At this moment, I would advise anyone to book on Booking.com or another reliable website. Booking.com does not offer only hotels, but also very nice apartments and houses.

Airbnb Refunds 100% of Hosting Charges but not Service Fee

I have used Airbnb a couple of times but recently discovered a few things while booking accommodation for our North America trip. Normally we would set a price range to search and compare accommodations. You are ready to pay what is shown while comparing but this is not the case with Airbnb. With Airbnb, you have to pay a charge for accommodations + cleaning fees + Airbnb service charges + city tax. It adds up very quickly; make sure you have compared prices properly.

What is a fair service charge for a broker/middleman or platform provider? I booked accommodation in Beverly Hills. The accommodation charges were less than $2000 but Airbnb’s service charges were around $200, which is a shockingly large fee to facilitate a deal. What was the $200 service charge even for? There was no reception, no room service, no linen changes when staying for multiple nights. On top of that, we also had to pay cleaning fees.

What pissed me was after booking I had the option to cancel and get a 100% refund for all the charges from the poor host but Airbnb didn’t want to refund the service charges after just 48 hours. That is a total rip off.

Now comes my worst experience of getting in touch with their customer support. Even though I run an IT company, I had to struggle to reach to a screen where I could write a complaint in my words and the robot didn’t try to take over my session. I literally had to go on their Facebook page to get some attention.

Finally, Airbnb gave me a refund but with the caveat that they could refund me only once or twice in a year; this was not acceptable to me. I asked to speak to a supervisor or manager in charge of policy to present a case for everyone, but no joy. There are a lot of such stories which I came across only because of the situation. My intention here is to highlight and inform everyone to be aware of Airbnb’s service charges, refund policies, and customer service. I am better off paying a little more for a hotel and get proper service provided by a human.

Double Charged, No Help from Customer Service

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I made an Airbnb reservation and had trouble booking with my credit card information. I kept trying until my card was accepted and the reservation was confirmed. I checked my credit card and saw that the charge went through. My trip was confirmed. I went on my trip and all was well. About ten days after my trip, I got a notification that Airbnb had charged my credit card again for the same reservation number and the same dollar amount that I paid before the trip. I contacted Airbnb and they tried to blame my financial institution. Then I explained that the reservation was paid in advance. I also submitted copies of the charge from my actual credit card statement. They still claim that the charge did not go through. I was then dismissed by Airbnb and told that they would no longer talk to me. Thankfully my credit card allowed me to dispute the second charge and I got my money back through my credit card company. Airbnb did nothing to resolve this.

Airbnb Hosts: If you want to get paid, beware

I am a multi-host with Airbnb and operate in Palm Cove, Queensland as a fully qualified real estate agent. I recently had two bookings, one in Palm Cove and the other in Sanur, Bali. Both payouts were due very close together. When no payment was received I checked my account only to find that somebody had hacked the Airbnb page and added their details as the default payout party. Total money lost: just under $2000, of which $1500 belongs to my clients and I have to honour.

I immediately contacted Airbnb after changing my default details and password. I was told that the Airbnb computer system was secure and that they had no idea how this could have happened. I was told my case was being referred to their Trust & Safety Team to investigate, and that I would be contacted very shortly. Well over a week later, and almost daily calls by myself to Airbnb, I have yet to get a call back from anybody, despite promise after promise to do so, and “Of course, we are so sorry this has happened.”

I have asked to speak to the Trust & Safety team to see what they are doing about my money. I was told today that the Trust & Safety Team works in the back offices and they don’t have phones. Well I kid you not, I nearly wet my pants I was laughing so much.

If that weren’t bad enough, here is stage two of Airbnb at its best. I was invited to join Airbnb’s Plus Programme where they send a party to your nominated property to inspect and do a photo shoot. This, according to Airbnb, will elevate your listing to a preferred status whereby potential guests will be convinced to book your property because you are a trusted host whose property has been inspected by their professional team.

I put forward the two properties Airbnb had chosen from my portfolio. A date was set for each property, and here are Airbnb’s requirements: schedule your home visit; choose a date and time for an Airbnb partner to visit your home in person. The visit will take 1-3 hours and includes an inspection and photoshoot. You or someone who maintains your property should be there the entire time.

You know what’s coming next, don’t you? Of course Airbnb did not turn up to either property to either prearranged time and date, and I had to pay my staff for sitting on their backsides watching TV waiting for Airbnb to turn up. So once again I have to contact Airbnb to get a credit for $236 which they charged for these two non-visits. Then again, they are oh so sorry for what has happened and will arrange a credit.

Now I know you are going to ask, did they credit you? You already know the answer. Of course not. “Please go away and stop bothering us” is the impression you get when you ring and get put on hold time after time after time. For today’s call I was on hold for 14 minutes. I am sure they were just hoping I would go away. They are like insurance companies who receive a claim, and adopt the declined declined declined response, until they realize you mean business.

Today I have reached the end of my tether. I have been told that the Trust & Safety Team does not have phones and when I requested to speak to a Public Relations Officer, I was told Airbnb does not have one. I just got the round robin treatment of “Well, we cannot do anything from here as we are a call centre.” I asked to be directed to a phone number to speak to somebody who can actually act with responsibility. “I am so sorry, we cannot give out other numbers as we are only a ‘call centre.'”

Time to go public and tell the news media. I know they just love this juicy type of story to get stuck into Airbnb.

Problems with Airbnb Platform, then Customer Service

I had an issue with the Airbnb app so this is a horror story about that. I was trying to book one night somewhere I was passing though and wanted to check out the outdoor scenery for a day. The app kept saying error every time I’d click to the end to book. I found out apparently two of the places were booked, but I wasn’t made aware they had even been booked.

I didn’t stay at either of them; I ended up at a hotel instead. Now I am being charged for two places on the same night, neither of which I ever visited. Airbnb is being monumentally unhelpful. The first time I called, the “customer service” lady hung up on me while I was talking. Then I talked to some guy that supposedly opened a case and I could message him on the site. I messaged and got no response in over twelve hours.

I just called again a few minutes ago and got a dial tone then an auto hang up. I really feel like this is a legitimate scam and not just a tech problem. If this isn’t a scam like I suspect I hope their whole customer service department gets fired and replaced.

Cancelled by Airbnb a Few Hours before Guests’ Arrival

At 11:45 PM on the 5th of August, Airbnb cancelled my first ever reservation, a few hours before my first hosting. The reservation was validated on the 27th of July, so it was more than a week before Airbnb decided to cancel for no reason… or at least none given to me until today. Here I am with four adults and a baby, who showed me the transfer to Airbnb on their bank account and cannot understand what is happening when they drove for five hours to enjoy a few chilled days at the beach.

I sent an email, then another one, then called one operator, and then a second. “We will get back to you before the end of the day,” they all said for four days. Well after four days of vacation for free, I had to ask my guests to leave. I had no answer from Airbnb until today. At least I’ve learned my lesson and not only am I taking off both my listings on Airbnb, I’ll certainly try my best to prevent every person around me from ever using their services.