Leaves Guests Homeless in Athens Rather than Give them a Refund

To start off, I’ve used Airbnb a lot. I’ve given them tons of money in fees and pretty much never had any problems in the many years and countries that I’ve used it. I have great reviews. I thought that being a long-term and good customer would be something they value but clearly they don’t.

I booked this place in Athens, which clearly said it was a house. The pictures suggested it was a house and all communication with the host suggested it was a house. Since I planned to stay there for December and January, I specifically looked for a place with heating, which was a given here. Also, I liked the fact that it was recently refurbished and certainly looked so in the pictures.

I arrived at the property at 7:00 PM only to discover that it was a ground floor flat. The heating was a single A/C unit located in the living room, with the host saying, that the master bedroom does get cold. In fact, when I arrived, he had locked the master bedroom and prepared only one room for me with one of the two single beds. He seemed very surprised that I said that I would like to have a double bed for myself. He unlocked the master bedroom and then went on to lock the two-bed bedroom, saying that I won’t need it anyway. I was surprised to say the least and said that if I pay for the whole property, I would like to have the whole property.

In addition, the flat looked sad and worn, with dampness in the bathroom, paint falling off the walls, an electricity socket falling out of the wall in the kitchen and the sofa cover being worn and looking dirty. Furthermore, I pointed out to the host that there was no TV nor hairdryer. The host replied that no one in his how-many-years doing Airbnb has asked for a TV. But in fairness he did say he would get a TV and hairdryer in a few days.

After spending about an hour in the really sad looking flat and freezing my butt off, I decided that it was time to give Airbnb a call. Little did I know that my nightmare was just about to begin. I got connected to a case manager who works in the PST time zone. The first few minutes she didn’t sound that terrible, until she saw that it was a long term reservation; then she let out a groan.

In that split second she flipped from someone trying to help to someone most definitely not trying to help. She started off: “Do you realize these aren’t big complaints at all? Do you realize it is around Christmas time, so all other places will be booked? How will you find a new place.?

I said, “Well, I can’t stay in this place.”

She said she would send me an email, which she wrote right there and then, to which I would need to reply with pictures of the defects and then she would contact the host. A mere half an hour later I received the email which among other things said:

“As per the call, please inform your Airbnb host of the issues you are experiencing. I should point out that if the reservation is cancelled under our guest refund policy this would have to happen tonight and as I mentioned on the call, it is getting late to find an alternative. If you stay at the listing tonight, and decided to leave tomorrow then an alterative to end the reservation could be possible and a partial refund for nights not stayed upon agreement with the host to end the reservation.”

At this point I was confused because she never said I had to contact the host. It was already 9:30 PM in Athens. I called Airbnb again; they had her call me back. She now started to use her favorite phrase which is “following the process.” There was a process and that was I had to write to the host right then and tell him about the issues. It didn’t matter that I had already told him and I couldn’t do it then next day; I had to do it then. She also looked at the pictures that I sent, but they were not good enough for her. Then she wanted wide angle ones. I also say that I wanted to get a full refund, so what was I supposed to do? Could I stay at the property that night? What about their 24-hour reporting policy? What if I’d only reported all this the next day?

She said that she had sent the host a message and that we would have to wait for him to respond, which might not happen that night. That did not solve my housing and refund crisis, so I asked her what I was supposed to do. It was two hours before midnight and I was willing to book a hotel. She said she would ask her manager and call me back in 5-10 minutes. A mere 25 minutes passed… no call. I called Airbnb again and asked for her. Meanwhile I got a support message on the Airbnb platform:

“As per our guest refund policy: have used reasonable efforts to remedy the circumstances of the Travel Issue with the host prior to making a claim, including messaging your host on Airbnb to notify them of the issue. We’ll verify this in your account. Also please send me the wider photos of the apartment you took. I will send him an email and inform him of the issues you are experiencing.”

This was not helping me at all, so I asked again and again: “What am I supposed to do regarding my overnight stay?

Airbnb customer service: “Please bear with me. As I mentioned we have to follow a process. Did you message the host over Airbnb as I mentioned?”

I told her I would go ahead and book a hotel (it was almost 11:00 PM)

Airbnb: As per our guest refund policy: have used reasonable efforts to remedy the circumstances of the Travel Issue with the host prior to making a claim, including messaging your host on Airbnb to notify them of the issue. We’ll verify this in your account.

Me: Sorry?

Airbnb: We need you to raise the issues with your host over Airbnb messaging.

Me: Ok, I’ll do it after I go to the hotel. I have the 24 hour reporting time.

Airbnb: We spoke about this two times on the phone, that you have to message your host with the issues if you are to be valid for the guest refund policy. Also you host said he would replace TV tomorrow and the host also said that you mentioned the hairdryer to him and he said he would send a hair dryer. (So I don’t understand if she has actually been able to reach the host at this point?)

At this point I was taking off to the hotel and told her to contact me on the phone. That ended up a total clusterf&%k with her asking me to meet all of her demands by essentially midnight, without a care of how I could stay in a freezing cold flat, where I would sleep instead, that I am a human being, and so on. I told her I would continue the next morning. She sounded happy about that.

The next morning (doesn’t get any better) I called Hellbnb again at 9:00 AM. I was informed that the representative to whom I had spoken was not there and that they couldn’t do anything about my case until she came back. They didn’t know when she would be back. They said they were hopeful my case could be resolved that day. I told them that I literally didn’t have a place to stay so I would like to have a different case manager. After some struggle they agreed.

It didn’t get easier. I was told by the new agent that because I left the property, that means I didn’t try to resolve the issue, so it was not their problem anymore. No matter how I tried to explain the situation last night, I was at fault. I asked them how they imagined the host could have solved the issue that it wasn’t a house but a flat, that it was not refurbished, but apparently that was no problem for Airbnb:

“Did the flat have a separate entrance? If it did, then that is a house.”

“No,” I said, “it didn’t.”

“Aaah,” said the agent, “but you haven’t proven it! You have to film it!”

I said, “No problem; I’ll go back and film it.”

The agent clearly didn’t like that answer. She searched some more, then said that if I had searched for “entire place” on the Airbnb website then there was also a category for “entire apartment”. That’s what the flat clearly was and always has been, so clearly I was in the wrong. She completely dismissed the refurbishment and said that the host will bring a TV… so that surely solved all my problems?

At that point I was losing it. I had a long and difficult year so I was looking for at least a pleasant ending. Now I was literally having a nervous breakdown. The Airbnb agent couldn’t have cared less. She told me to talk to the host and plead with him to refund me.

At this point I needed to check out of the hotel and I was homeless on the streets of Athens. After a while I called the host and asked what was going on on his side. He told me he actually agreed to refund me because the flat didn’t fit the description but now Airbnb wasn’t approving the refund. We had to wait. It was 3:00 PM when I finally got someone helpful from Airbnb on the phone, who was actually nice and resolved all of the issues in 30 minutes. He also told me he would be able to transfer the money from my previous booking to the new booking.

At 3:30 PM Airbnb called me again. She said that nothing was possible; it was most definitely not possible to transfer the money. The nice person I spoke to clearly didn’t follow the process, because they have a process and returning money is not part of it.

I told her that I was on the streets and that I don’t have enough money to make a new booking. It was getting dark. Being a human being is clearly not part of this process, so she was more concerned about the nice person not following the process rather than helping me find a home. At this point I told her I didn’t want her on my case. I maxed out my credit cards and made a new booking, extremely stressed out and depressed at this point. Later that evening, I received a message from Airbnb:

“I am sorry if this has been a stressful time for you. If you experience any issues with your new reservation please do not hesitate to contact us.”

…if this has been a stressful time?

Impossible to Withdraw Payment for Completed Stays

We have had this space posted on Airbnb for over a year. Bookings have ticked over nicely, and money came in regularly, via PayPal. Then suddenly, from July of this year, there was an hiatus of more than four months in which, according to PayPal (on our bank’s Forex site) the balance was undeclared, and it was impossible to make a withdrawal. After multiple visits to the bank, as well as calls to PayPal, it was revealed that the balance was a minuscule R17000.

After quite a lot more to-ing and fro-ing for two or three weeks, that balance was finally available for withdrawal but, despite the fact that November had been friskily busy and December had been booked for all but four days, not another cent, not another dime has appeared in the balance. Of course, as we all know, contacting Airbnb to get information is an unspeakable hellion of a monster. Yes, it might be an issue with PayPal, not with Airbnb, but in the absence of open communication, how are we to know? How can we ever get to the bottom of this? I no longer trust that Airbnb is paying us as they aught to. Very angry and disgruntled – we would certainly have done better, at this rate, simply to have a tenant.

Whenever You Need Help, Airbnb Isn’t There

I’ve never seen a company like Airbnb. Whenever you need help, they are there not to help but piss you off and wish you to hell. I have never gotten any help either by email or by phone. The representatives are rude as if you are living in hell and you deserve their condemnation. I have never seen a company in my life to be that unhelpful. I have received this template email at least three times and no help has come so far. I don’t know what is wrong on their end: no explanations, no information, nobody to talk to and template email responses with no real communication and no intent to communicate. Their technical errors put you on the hook for the blame.

“My name is XX and I’m a Trust & Safety specialist at Airbnb. We regret to inform you that we’ll be unable to support your account moving forward, and have exercised our discretion under our Terms of Service to disable your account(s). This decision is irreversible and will affect any duplicated or future accounts. Please understand that we are not obligated to provide an explanation for the action taken against your account. Furthermore, we are not liable to you in any way with respect to disabling or canceling your account. Airbnb reserves the right to make the final determination with respect to such matters, and this decision will not be reversed. We’ll contact you if anything changes in the future, but until then, we won’t be able to assist you any further with your account issues. Please see our Help Center for further information: https://www.airbnb.com/help/article/432. Regards, XX”

Airbnb Disavows Coupon, Accuses me of Hacking

I was notified about a coupon code that would provide a substantial discount to any stay booked with Airbnb. I went to check that this code worked as I wanted to book a mini weekend getaway and, with the code applied to the stay, it would have been very cheap, making the trip almost free. I selected a condo that was in a great location and entered the coupon code in the section provided on the pay out page. The discount was applied so I knew that the coupon code was valid.

I decided quickly to run the dates by other other parties who were planning to join on the trip before I submitted the payment. This in total took about four minutes from when the coupon had been successfully applied. I went to change the amount of guests as we now had an additional person who wanted to join. This reset the page; I entered everything again including the coupon code and the coupon now suddenly did not work. Just four minutes later, and Airbnb said the coupon had now expired.

I called Airbnb to inquire why the page reset and explained that I had successfully entered the coupon already a few minutes before and the discount has been applied – why it was now coming up as expired just minutes later? The agent then began accusing me of making this up and that they do not provide coupons (even though there is a spot for them on their payments page) and that a scammer must have hacked their system and created this coupon code to harm their company.

None of this made any sense. Perhaps the code was not meant for everybody and was a programming mistake by Airbnb that worked briefly and then maybe they noticed their mistake and retracted the offer or something. However, this was not the explanation given. They started interrogating me like I was the bad guy or making the situation up and needed to provide them proof of all of this like it was my job to to their job for them and report all my findings to their Trust and Safety Team who would now be investigating me. I said I had nothing to do with this and that the source was a reliable travel website showing the promo code. I was certainly not a hacker. If I were, why would I call in and report myself?

The whole situation left me feeling very shaken and angry. Not only was my vacation ruined as I could not afford the trip without this code that they refused to honor, I was treated like a criminal for even asking about it . What a horrible experience and abysmal customer relations provided by Airbnb. Shame on them for treating customers in such a manner. In the future I will be booking any vacation stays with hotels.

Scammed by the Host and the Resolution Centre

My partner and I decided to go for a quiet week away in the south of France. While at an Airbnb there, the apartment was okay, but there were a few issues such as a horrible smell coming from the downstairs bathroom whenever you used the upstairs shower room, the garden not being looked after, and no glasses to drink out of. Whilst on our stay we were approached by two men trying to push us into buying drugs. Our real problems started when we arrived home. Our host demanded €250 (more that what we’d paid for our stay) for a long list of things we’d supposedly broken. We were accused of burning tiles in the bathroom (not sure how we could possibly do this) and burning holes in the sofa with cigarette butts (neither of us smoke). The pictures the host provided literally showed no damage to anything she was claiming for. We took the issue to the resolution centre where they decided to get rid of all her other accusations apart from one for a broken sofa leg. They wanted £65. Not only did we not break this, when I asked for evidence of it being broken and for a receipt to prove the cost, they told me they couldn’t due to “privacy reasons”. Airbnb expected me to trust them yet now I am being charged for something that I not only didn’t break but for which they can’t even provide evidence. They have now taken this money out of my account without due cause and I will be taking this matter further.

Charleston Fabulous Studio Comes with Sewage Smell

I travel a lot for work and often use Airbnb to break up the monotony of hotel rooms. This particular listing turned into a personal nightmare. Too often I have noticed that Airbnb owners treat their guests like a paycheck instead of as a ‘friendly host’ that the Airbnb community was designed around. These individuals are ruining what started as a fun alternative to large hotel chains.

I arrived at the host’s studio (attached to a house) apartment around 4:00. She was still cleaning up and we chatted for a bit. The heavy use of cleaning products motivated me to go for a run. I returned, showered, and went to dinner with a client. Having to be up early for an installation for work, I returned to the studio around 9:00 PM. This is where my nightmare began.

When I opened the door to her studio I was hit by a wall of sewer/urine. It was pretty unreal. I held my breath, and grabbed my things and got out as fast as I could. So here I am standing outside at 9:00 PM in front of a sewer. I sent her a text letting her know that I had to leave because of this smell, I had an early morning and would deal with everything after work. Instead of apologizing, sending someone to check, or checking herself, she immediately denied that anything could have happened; she told me it “must have been something I did.”

She finally got to the studio later the next morning where she acknowledged the sewer smell, told me I could stay in the main house (that didn’t smell as bad). She said, “You’re a guy with one bag – here is a bottle of wine for the inconvenience, stop being mean and unreasonable.”

I’m sorry, what? I have a full day on a job site and now have to deal with this lady insulting me, and basically telling me to deal with it because I’m a guy? What century is this? Anyone in my situation would have done the same thing. It was late, I was tired, and had to be up early. She responded around 11:00 PM offering lodging in the adjacent home.

I honestly would have accepted lodging in the adjoining house (that had only a “faint smell of sewage”) but by the end of work the next day her messages had become angry, abusive, and mean. There was no way I was going to stay on any property associated with this lady. I attached a link to the back and forth messages. Read them for yourself.

I escalated the situation to Airbnb, who, in their defense, played the “keep the client happy” card. They offered a partial refund but I don’t care about the money. The place she rented me smelled like a sewage plant. She acknowledged that it did, blamed me, got upset at me for leaving, declined a refund, and told me to “deal with it”. Pretty unreal. She is also about to become a Superhost. I hope for everyone’s sake this does not happen.

Gold Coast Booking Leads to Being Double Charged

Please read this letter I sent to Airbnb less that three hours after I had made a booking:

Hi Airbnb,

I hope you are having a fabulous day. I am not and I am writing here to let you and others know why. In a few weeks one of my best friends is getting married on the Gold Coast (we never thought it would happen – he is not that pretty). I am the only member of his friends and family who is in the southern hemisphere so I am absolutely delighted to be going.

Today I decided to book my accommodation through Airbnb. You have such a good following and cheaper rates so I thought, why not? That is definitely the kind of service I need as I am on a budget and the rates seemed fabulous. I made my booking with a lovely woman who immediately contacted me. We could not wait for our trip.

Where is the issue, you may wonder? After booking this, my partner and I thought that doing a small run to the food shop would be a good idea. I checked my bank account just to see how much we could splurge after booking our trip. I was expecting to see between $400-600. It wasn’t a great surprise to me when there was a measly $28 in the account. Obviously this was a great shock. When I investigated this further it was clear that Airbnb had double charged me and also refunded me on their system.

This would be all well and good and if I were a millionaire I would find it slightly irritating; however, I am not a millionaire. I was a bit upset but because I am a reasonable person I figured I would contact you and just ask what was going on.

Firstly, I struggled to find contact details on your website – I just kept getting redirected in a loop to your FAQ pages (on a side note: this is extremely irritating). The next step was Facebook, where I found a telephone number. This was an 02 number so I assumed I was calling someone in NSW. The first two agents that I spoke to (in Southeast Asia Pacific – this is where they told me they were) hung up on me when I said I needed to find a solution to procuring the money that had been refunded. The third agent told me I did not know what I was talking about.

At this point I am willing to admit that I lost my temper a little and demanded to speak to someone more helpful. Again, somebody hung up on me. During this time my partner contacted the bank and told them about our little conundrum and they said there was a really very simple solution to resolve this: Airbnb had to email or fax the bank on an email address and/or fax number that they provided with some details.

After receiving this information, the good people at the bank said the money would be released within two hours. At this point, all of the details required on this fax or email were about myself. The only thing Airbnb had to provide was a headed fax or signed email. After some cereal, a bit of a cry, and being a little bit stressed, I called back.

This time I spoke to someone who was a little more helpful. She went and found a supervisor. This person got on the phone and relayed back the same ridiculous diatribe that the first couple of people did and only when I mentioned the word fraudulent and legal advice was anyone on the phone remotely helpful. When I pointed out that I was expecting to call NSW and actually ended up on the phone to Southeast Asia, saying “would I be getting charged a fortune for that on top of having no money in my bank account?” the supervisor hung up and called me back.

After 45 minutes of being on this call I was told the call was very irritating. I was also told that the managers and payment teams that had the capacity to deal with my unfortunate situation were in another country and there was nothing you could do. I am a human being and understand mistakes happen. However, in our modern age of technology and communication I am struggling to comprehend the fact that nobody in a global company can send an email or fax to resolve this situation. It would take less than five minutes.

I won’t keep going on but what I will say is this. You took a charge out of my bank account twice and actually tried to take it a third time. Because of this (and you not being able to send an email or fax) I have $28 in my bank account. Because I only have this much money in my account, either my partner or I are going to have to sacrifice going to work as we will not be able to both afford fuel and/or public transport to our employment. I apologize that we are not more well off and able to cope but even though both of us work 60+ hours a week we are still struggling to make ends meet. If either of us lose our employment I will be seeking legal advice.

I still have no email, fax or refund.

Airbnb’s Business Model Doesn’t Include Customer Service

It took one very bad weekend to learn that Airbnb is merely a platform and has nothing to do with customer service. I had a lapse in judgment and allowed young locals into my home because they agreed to abide by the rules and to forfeit their security deposit if they were noisy. After creating enough noise that I was alerted 3-4 times on my noise alert system, I asked Airbnb to cancel the reservation.

Airbnb wouldn’t do this because they don’t recognize any noise alert system as legitimate evidence and problems that exist only between the host and guest aren’t managed at all. If a neighbor calls the police, or complains, then it appears Airbnb may get involved since they have a dedicated page for neighbor complaints. The “case manager”, i.e., an untrained, uninformed, completely lacking in anything related to Airbnb policy, called my guest and made things far worse. She as much as told him that my noise alert system was bogus and I was probably being too picky.

Of course I got a text at 1:00 AM from a neighbor complaining of loud noise all night. My initial phone call to Airbnb support was at 6:00 AM and this “case manager” agreed to cancel the reservation and that the security deposit could be available if the guest broke house rules. By 2:00 PM, after numerous phone calls and texts, the “case manager” looked up the policy on noise only to find out there isn’t a policy on noise. Of course I could not use the security deposit for this problem.

My take away from this experience: governmental entities are at the top of the food chain for a company as massive as Airbnb. Without permission, Airbnb doesn’t exist. Collecting the tax money from guests is its highest priority. In regards to guests, Airbnb markets cater almost exclusively to millennials (yes, others use the site but marketing is geared to the 20-35 year olds). Airbnb could lose its supply of young guests very quickly if they made an issue about noise. The word would spread like wildfire on social media and leave the door open for another platform to pick up these customers.

Neighbors of Airbnb properties count, especially in huge centers like NYC, LA, and Chicago; too many complaints and the government entities may shut Airbnb down. Unless neighbors complain because of a very noisy vacation rental, the noise issue doesn’t exist for Airbnb.

In Airbnb’s business model, hosts are at the bottom of the food chain. We are easily replaceable 100% of the time. There will always be a steady supply of people willing to open their homes, rooms, or provide a sofa to make money. We simply don’t count for Airbnb other than as a place to keep their cash cows (guests) happy. I just learned this and honestly, if Airbnb would have been upfront with this, i.e. hosts don’t matter, I’d have done things differently. I would appreciate the platform, and the brutal honesty from Airbnb relative to hosts would save a lot of us time and money.

Bullied by Terrible Guest and Case Managers

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A guest from Seattle booked a room for one person at my home. As soon as he arrived, he invited his “daughter” over pretty much all the time against my rules and wishes. They both took over my home. When he left, huge amounts of used wrappers of drugs (Viagra/Cialis) fell out of his personal trash and the sheets were soiled. The creepy guest was holed up in my house all day and running around half naked in a bathrobe. I was very upset about the sexual activity so opened a resolution case to at least address the soiled sheets and other issues regarding this guest’s terrible behaviour.

The first case manager gave me the run around. A week later I followed up and a new case manager responded and tried to close the case in minutes without looking at anything and using very poor English. When I asked to speak to a supervisor and to complain, he told me he was in charge and refused to engage further.

I am surprised that Airbnb employs such poorly trained case managers who cannot write. I am saddened that I spoke up about guest abuse and was mistreated by the guest and then by Airbnb bullies. The customer service people were nice and understanding but when it came to the case managers, they just don’t care.

Airbnb Removed My Review Mentioning Bed Bugs

I stayed at a listing in Brooklyn. The room in the informal “hotel”-style accommodation (i.e. a house with a digital lock and multiple rooms) had bed bugs. I was removed from the property, Airbnb (after I was forced to fight aggressively with their customer service representatives, who lied to me about reimbursement) paid for a hotel for three nights, and I left a very honest review articulating exactly what happened.

The review was posted two days ago, and it was removed today, presumably at the prompting of the host who did not want a review mentioning bed bugs on their listing page. Lest I be accused of bringing the bed bugs to the listing, let me say that I found the bugs – a lot of them – on the second night after the host said that her “cleaner” accidentally cleaned my room, instead of another room in the house. One of the bed bugs – a large adult – came crawling out of the “clean” duvet/sheets that night.

On the whole, the three-star review was more than fair in terms of positivity (I said the listing was clean, the bed was comfortable, the house was quiet, and that guests might want to stay there again after the bed bug problem is fixed), but I did detail the bed bug experience in the middle of the review. Well, lo and behold, a day after posting the review, I get a message from an Airbnb “case manager” stating:

“Good morning! My name is CASE MANAGER and I am a Case Manager with Airbnb. I hope this message finds you well and that you’re having a great day! I am contacting you today about your review for your reservation with HOST. It has come to our attention that your review for HOST is in violation of our content policy. For your reference, you can learn more about our review guidelines in our Help Center.

Reviews are the backbone of Airbnb’s community. In order to maintain this structure, we have guidelines in place that ensure that all reviews are fair, honest, and relevant to your trips. We also don’t allow reviews to mention any actions taken by Airbnb, including investigations or mediations in our Resolution Center. As such, it is our responsibility to remove your review from HOST’s profile. As of this correspondence, it has been taken down.”

Let me be crystal clear: my review did not mention the resolution or mediation at all, other than saying “Airbnb told me to leave for a hotel.” When I called to question the review’s removal, I was told it was because of my sentence about the hotel. This is absurd, because I didn’t say Airbnb paid for the hotel or describe the mediation process. Regardless, how an accommodation provider responds to a problem is an essential thing to mention in a review. I was also told it was removed because “mentioning bed bugs would hurt the host’s future listings.”

Isn’t this the whole point of leaving honest reviews? To allow guests to make up their own minds about staying somewhere based on past experience?

If hosts are going to be allowed to get around critical reviews with such ease, guests should have zero faith in Airbnb. Why do guests even waste their time writing honest reviews when hosts can so easily find an inexperienced “case manager” to take any slightly negative review down from their listing? This is positively absurd. What should I have done instead? Left vague language about vermin, cleanliness, and then had the review removed for not being based in facts because it would have been so ambiguous? Now, a future guest may suffer from bed bugs, or other incompetence, at this listing, simply because Airbnb can’t competently execute its model.