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.