Add to the List of Reasons Why Airbnb Sucks

This isn’t a very exciting story, but add it to the list of complaints about this rotten company. Here is a letter that I wrote to Airbnb this morning:

I made a reservation this morning for a trip with Airbnb. I have been an Airbnb customer for a long time, and a host for almost as long. I was looking for properties that were not Instant Book, and thought I had submitted a request to just such a place. My request was approved before I expected though, just as I was in the process of booking a different place and cancelling the first request. I cannot cancel this new reservation myself without incurring fees.

I called customer service and of course due to your famously abysmal customer service, the rep couldn’t help me, and couldn’t even tell me when a representative might be able to help me. This is a problem that needs to be fixed immediately; it just can’t wait a day or two for a rep to get back in touch with me. Now I am in effect stuck with a reservation that I don’t want, and this host is stuck with a bunch of guests who are very unhappy to be heading to his place. This is a horrible situation for everyone.

My point is that as with anything related to travel, like airline tickets or hotel rooms, there must be a penalty-free grace period after a booking in which to cancel. Even if it is just a few hours, like it is with most airlines. I would suggest that you add this to your service. I must say though that even if you do add this grace period, it will be too late for me.

I have been increasingly unhappy with Airbnb for a couple of years now, it’s very clear that you prioritize your profit over the experience or safety of your hosts and guests, and while I appreciate the fine human exchanges that sometimes come with hosting and guesting with Airbnb, what I now appreciate are the nice people hosting and guesting despite the rotten treatment we all get from your company. I am at an end with you. But first I have to go stay in this house that I paid for and do not want.

Host Cancels Four Days before Arrival in Norway

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Two months before our trip, I booked a full apartment rental for four nights in Rjukan, a small town in southwest Norway. Nine days before our arrival, our host informed us that he was planning to go on a ski trip, but his partner was injured. He was wondering if he could share the apartment and sleep on the sofa bed of the small apartment.

While I pondered the decision of sharing an apartment with a stranger, he cancelled the reservation. The town is fully booked due to a climbing festival and there are no available homes or rooms during these four days. Airbnb customer service assured me that “they are with me every step of the way.” However, they have only managed to find rooms 1.5 hours away and offered no reimbursement. They used the phrase “rest assured we’ll have this taken care of” three times, and taken over 24 hours to respond, which sort of undermines it. At this point I’m just trying to get them to admit that they can’t help.

Bounced Between Customer Service and Trust and Safety

I’m in the U.S. and have a local co-host who manages the bookings for my house in Belize. Things have always gone smoothly with other booking sites. Then I signed up with Airbnb. They deactivated my co-host’s account. I’m not sure why. I think it may be because they sent her a verification code to my number in the U.S. and she didn’t receive it.

We have tried endlessly to get her re-activated. They told us she needs to call the U.S. office directly. She has racked up a hefty bill being put on hold. Calls from Belize are expensive. Then they told us they would send her an email with a link to a site to activate her account. That didn’t work. Since her account is deactivated there is a hold on my account too so I can’t respond to requests for bookings; they just expire.

Each time I call (after a lengthy stretch on hold) I get a different story, or I get cut off. I have spent hours on the phone. Customer service doesn’t have access to records of calls, and can’t do much. They bounce everything up to a department called Trust and Safety. They can’t be reached directly and only share limited information with customer service. The last person I talked to said I should just remove my co-host then I could do the bookings myself. This is not what I want.

In addition to lost bookings, there is a safety issue. There was just an emergency email from an arriving guest which my co-host couldn’t access. Fortunately I received it and was able to get the guest’s direct email from Airbnb so I could get her in contact with my co-host. The next suggestion from customer service was that I “snooze” my listing at times when I am not able to manage it. Why can’t they just work on re-activating my co-host? Why can’t I communicate with Trust and Safety?

Answering Simple Question Leads to Terrible Customer Service

Over the past eleven days I have been trying to resolve – with absolutely appalling assistance from customer service representatives – a rather minor issue with my Airbnb account. To briefly summarize: I did in fact qualify for Superhost status across all metrics for the last quarterly review. However, there seemed to be an issue with the ‘Review Rate’ metric – which was showing me as having received six reviews across thirteen bookings (for a review rate beneath the 50% threshold).

I had completed a booking from December 24th-30th (which was included as part of the thirteen bookings), and the guest had left me a review on January 1st (which I was told is the ‘cutoff date’). When you factor in that review (which should be included), you can see that I actually had seven reviews across thirteen bookings, which would have bumped my review rate up to 54%, thus qualifying me for Superhost status.

Since I first brought up this issue with Airbnb, I have spent in excess of three hours on the phone speaking with various representatives, on top of the time I spent engaging in email exchanges with case managers/supervisors. Again, I understand these things might take time to resolve, and I have been extremely reasonable about that. What I find utterly unacceptable is being told to expect a callback by the end of the day or the next day and then never hearing anything. This has happened to me five times over the past eleven days.

I have to keep wasting more of my time calling Airbnb and retelling my story just to get an update, only to be be told that the representative I am speaking with has no power to do anything, and that the supervisors are always (conveniently) ‘in a meeting’. Yesterday I went through the exact same process two more times (being told to expect a call back the next day), and as of 3:00 PM EST, I still have not received a phone call or any email notifying me of anything. Absolutely nothing.

I like Airbnb, and I was fully intending to use the platform as a host and a traveler repeatedly over the years. Whenever friends and family brought up the topic of Airbnb, I always spoke highly of it. I am a relatively new host, but the guests we have hosted overwhelmingly praise our hospitality. I was looking forward to continue delivering that experience well into the future.

Unfortunately, dealing with Airbnb customer service over the past eleven days has made me wonder: “If this is how they handle relatively basic issues, how would they handle a serious issue like a guest who causes damage to our home?”

When I spoke with the customer service representative yesterday, I told him that if I did not receive a call back today I would pull both of my listings and stop hosting. I would also stop using Airbnb as a traveler, and would refrain from praising the brand to friends, family, and anyone else I encountered. That would be a real shame, but I need to draw the line at a certain point. If Airbnb doesn’t respect their hosts enough to even have the decency to communicate with them then why the hell would I willingly keep doing business with this company?

Airbnb’s Unfairness Leaves me without Answers

I booked and paid twice with Airbnb, then both of my bookings were cancelled by the hosts without an explanation from them or Airbnb. I got my money back those times but my third host was a scammer. I know I should be more careful, but after two cancellations I was desperate to find a property in London for my family at the busy time of year.

My host approved my booking and was recommended as a good host by Airbnb. He claimed he had flats in London and Florence, but he was totally a scammer. Before I sent all the documents verifying this to Airbnb, they closed my case and my questions were not answered:

1. What procedures do you take to determine if hosts are good?
2. Do you have proof of the existence of your hosts’ properties, the identity of those hosts, and their contact information?
3. Did you really think my host was a good host to recommend to me?
4. Can you contact my host on my behalf?

I wrote here because I asked these questions but Airbnb closed my case with auto-reply emails. I tried to write the Airbnb trust and safety team back, but my emails were blocked by them and my negative comments on Facebook were blocked. That’s why so little negativity is shown on their Facebook page.

One way communication makes me feel bad. It is so unfair. Airbnb approved my host and now said he was a scammer, mentioning they are not responsible for any money loss or fraudulent information being circulated around Airbnb as well as outside the platform. Airbnb helped these criminals when they were recommended on a public site, and are still doing it. Can you really say Airbnb is not responsible?

Police suspect these scammers get inside help because; Airbnb didn’t even deny this when I asked. As upset as we were, the day of check-in, December 28th, 2017 in London, we waited for a return phone call from a supervisor at Airbnb’s customer help desk to help us to find an alternative property in London. They promised me twice over the phone and we waited three hours in a café in central London while checking other sites. We didn’t get any calls from them and all we got was an auto-reply email three days later.

We had to book an alternative place to stay through Booking.com and spend extra to buy a same day check-in. Airbnb promising something it couldn’t deliver was more upsetting. We also saw another young couple were waiting to get in to the property. How many more people will get scammed because of false recommendations by Airbnb? I hope they reconsider their system errors, and give some support and proper answers to me and my family after all this irresponsible service.

First-Time Airbnber Realizes Customer Support Doesn’t Care

Last week we decided to use Airbnb due to the size of our group and the need to have our dogs go with us. After I tried contacting potential hosts who never bothered to reply, We finally found a great host in Miami, accommodating and flexible.

On to sign up and verification. I went through the process as required, submitted everything via their app, even more than once for the ID after I received a message saying that it was a blurry pic. I paid, got back a confirmation and I said to my family, “That was easy!”

…not so fast. After about thirty minutes I got a refund to my card. I called, and they could not tell me why, but said they would look into it. The agent said I couldn’t reserve anything until the verification process was complete. Why did the system allow me to? I waited for verification with the clock ticking, and… nothing.

I called Airbnb and a representative answered after a +25 minute wait. I explained multiple times what I was trying to accomplish, that the reservation had been made and I was waiting for verification. The phone connection was bad and not easy to understand. Once he understood what was going on, he said “I will put you on hold and reach out to the verification group.” He asked for a contact number and promised to call me back if we got disconnected.

As feared, I got disconnected. I waited almost an hour for a call back. After a long wait, nothing. The clock was ticking and I feared the potential loss of my reservation. I called again: long wait, same terrible connection. I explained to Airbnb the exact same things I had already said plus the connection issue and the additional hour – now taking over 2.5 hours to wait for verification. The answer to this was that I needed to wait for the first representative to call me back because the resolution is in their hands.

So I did. I hung up and waited for another 45 minutes. This went on for the next three hours after calling back, getting disconnected multiple times, and so on. Everyone had the same answer: nobody wanted or could escalate the matter; I simply had to wait for that first representative. No one could tell me what the issue was or how long their resolution time was supposed to be. What if his shift ended? Or went on break? Or worse, just did not care?

Over 3 hours late, and I still had not heard back. In the meantime I received a message from tech support that “someone will be calling me in about 10~15 minutes”… I was not about to hold my breath for that one. I had already lost confidence.

During this time I had communicated several times with the host explaining the nightmare. He kindly said to not worry, he would wait. I continued waiting for that call back, so I called back. Another wait, another explanation, and again – I have to wait until the original representative resolves it, from whom I still have not heard. Wait, call again… another wait, another voice.

Then I was told that the picture I had submitted was blurry and they could not tell who I am, which is really not true; it was perfect clear. I was told to resubmit. This was fine with me, except there was no way to do it. When I tried to resubmit, on the app or the website, the system said “OK you are all set” because I had already done this step. I explained this to the agent who did not have an answer or solution. No escalation, no other person to talk to… simply wait for that first guy. What kind of policy is this?

After I called back in the fifth hour, the representative was a bit more helpful, suggesting to try to make the reservation again because sometimes it works. I tried, but was not so lucky. I was told that I could not reserve anything because I was missing a step. I’m so tired and pissed at this point, ready to give up.

After almost six hours of this, I was finally verified using the last picture. I was able to finally pay again and got another confirmation. I waited before calling victory just in case. Finally the host contacted me a said he got the reservation also. I only hung in there because the host was accommodating and the place was what we needed. Over six hours of an Airbnb nightmare to verify and reserve. That’s it. There may be some bits of missing details, but that’s the core of the issue.

Can’t Share Phone Numbers When You Need Help

Airbnb has no way to for hosts and guests to share phone numbers via their email system. You select “contact the host”, enter your number, and it gets removed from the email, preventing the sharing of information.

Here’s the scenario. I stayed at a great place two weeks ago and left a jacket there. I contacted the host, who offered to give me the number of the person managing the unit (the host was traveling). The first few times we tried to share the number, in place of the number was a message saying the number had been removed. It took us a good number of attempts to trick the system, but we finally succeeded.

While we were going back and forth, I called Airbnb, waited about 15 minutes for someone to answer and then went round and round trying to explain the simple problem. They had no solutions. Wouldn’t it be really easy to say “we can’t share the host’s number with you, but we can give the host your number”?

That would be so simple. It would protect the host and allows us to contact each other with the host being in control. Did they do that? Nope. The person on the phone spent a few minutes telling me it was the host’s email account and not Airbnb that was stripping the numbers. Once I finally got her to understand we were using their system via ‘contact host’, she then denied that their system stripped out the numbers until I offered to send her the email with the number removed. At which point, she admitted that they did.

Then, believe it or not, she told me she could show me how to send the number. First, she said I should go to the listing. Then click ‘contact host’. I thought she understood that’s what we were doing from the five minutes of explanation we just endured. Clearly they have a serious shortage of skilled resources.

I know this isn’t a big deal for most and my issue was simple, but what if I had a problem while staying there and couldn’t get in touch with the host? What if I left some kind of medical device there? Clearly there needs to be a way to simply share a number. This whole incident shows that Airbnb is still very immature in their systems and processes and that means if you use them, be prepared for to waste time fixing simple things that their systems can’t handle. Also be prepared to get no help from folks who don’t seem to understand the fundamentals of how their own system works.

Airbnb Account Confirmation: An Exercise in Frustration

Using Airbnb has been an exercise in frustration from the very beginning. Just signing up with them involved multiple headaches: confirm this, give us this ID, confirm that, wait for two deposits to arrive in the bank (I don’t remember if the deposits ever arrived). Finally my account was set up with them, so now I could book, right?

Today I tried to book my third Airbnb trip, and what do you know: “We have to confirm your account, so we’ll deposit two small amounts in your account. They should arrive immediately, but it may take two or three days.”

Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t this website supposed to provide service to travelers? If I need to book a room and have to wait 2-3 days (or longer, or forever) to confirm my account (which has already been confirmed) before I can book a room, what’s the point? By the time my confirmed account is again confirmed, what if the room is no longer available? Seriously, the concept of people renting out rooms in the homes is great, but Airbnb’s execution is awful.

For a company valued at over $30 billion, can they really not find an efficient and effective way to let their customers book when they need to without running into roadblocks (server error, confirmation messages, etc)? Maybe have customers enter their password – wow, what a concept – to confirm who they are, or the last four digits of their credit card number. Do you really need to confirm an account that’s already been confirmed, or see my bank statement (the other option, which is even more intrusive)?

When I tried to contact the company about this, I got sent into an endless loop. After hitting the “Contact Us” button, it took me to my last booking, as though that must be my problem. Is there really not a customer service team member that I can contact? You’d think for the 15% commission Airbnb takes from the hosts and customers (which is robbery, by the way), they would be able to hire a customer service team that could be available to personally address customer issues. I don’t know who is making the big bucks at the top, but I’m fed up with the “server errors,” confirmation messages, and very poor customer “service” this company provides. If you’re going to charge such high commissions to both hosts and users, could you at least provide a system that is effective, efficient, and consistently functional, and a little customer “service” when it isn’t?

Late Cancellation? Travel Insurance is a Must!

A good friend and I – both disabled vets – booked an apartment in Miami South Beach with an Airbnb host two months before our vacation days when prices were still affordable. We then booked cheap airfares – we both live on modest incomes – that could not be refunded.

Three weeks before our arrival date our reservation was cancelled by Airbnb with no reasons given. They offered us $129 as compensation for our inconvenience and invited us to re-book. We then looked at available bookings with the same amenities for January and they were now 50-200% more expensive than our original booking, which priced us out of the market.

With the $129 they attempted to fob off on us, one would be lucky to pay for one day of accommodations on South Beach; it wouldn’t cover our lost money for non-reimbursable airfares. This debacle occurred after yet another earlier booking was cancelled because the dates advertised as being available were not in fact available (or the host got a better deal with some other customer through another third party booking agency; or still yet, the host was perhaps racist and by tracking our emails on social media discovered that my veteran friend was African American).

We began to think that Airbnb is less a booking agent than an auctioneer. If hosts can cancel reservations a month after they are made without explanation to the customer one wonders if the room was rented to someone willing to pay more. In popular locations like Miami South Beach in January that is not an unreasonable suspicion.

I complained vociferously to the very polite Airbnb customer service representatives who duly commiserated with us over our misfortune at first, yet rendered no resolution. I was told to call back the next day, which is not what one wants to hear when someone has your money and has just cancelled your reservation a few weeks before arrival. Only after sending emails to their corporate headquarters in San Francisco threatening to file a breach of contract claim in Colorado courts did I finally receive a phone call from a manager of what appeared to be their customer service center in Idaho. She was a competent problem solver and she immediately offered to help with the increased cost of re-booking.

We luckily found a venue with similar amenities that cost $340 or about 30% more than our original booking. Airbnb covered the additional cost without making me jump through any hoops and we were satisfied. My warning to all is that a “confirmed reservation” with Airbnb is not the same as a confirmed reservation at a Motel 6 or a Holiday Inn. If you think you have a confirmed reservation and then feel safe to go and book an El Cheapo non-reimbursable air fare you are at risk of losing your accommodations and being stuck with a ticket to a destination without a room waiting for you. In peak travel season when the reasonably priced accommodations fill up fast your re-booking could be quite costly. Bottom line: reduce the risk by getting travel insurance.