Bad Experience with Fake Studio in Hamburg

My husband and I wanted to spend some time in Hamburg, Germany. We booked four days in September 2017, during my husband’s birthday. I was looking forward to this event and we also booked tickets as a birthday present for the Elbe Philharmonic.

When we arrived at the Airbnb, our host wasn’t there at first. He showed up telling us that there was no electricity at the moment because of a short circuit and he wanted to get it fixed (which he successfully did). The moment we entered the apartment, my husband turned around and looked at me horrified: the stench of a dog was just unbearable. He wanted to leave immediately. I stopped him and thought that maybe ventilation would help. Despite the fact there were strict house rules concerning the guests like “no pets allowed ” (and this made me believe that there would be no cat or dog living there), at least one dog was sharing the apartment with this “host “and his two kids.

The apartment didn’t conform to the pictures in the listing; there was no table in the room, and no chairs in the kitchen. Instead of a bed, there was an old 120-cm sofa for the two of us, and setting up the bed was only possible by putting some support items below one part of the mattress. The apartment was raised off the ground floor with huge windows and no way to darken them – no curtains or other items – but the pictures showed something else.

We found the dog’s food bowl in the kitchen sink. Worst of all: the disgusting smell of the apartment wasn’t gone when we came back into the “studio” (the space offered on the website), just the opposite – the smell increased. We found out that the smell was worse because one of the pillows must have belonged to the dog.

Because my husband suffers from dog allergies he could not stay in there any longer and had to leave the place, spending the night in our car. Of course I couldn’t get any sleep but preferred to stay in the room, waiting for my husband to come back and take me somewhere else (it was his birthday that day – what a pity). Meanwhile I had already informed our host (who had left with his kids to stay somewhere) via WhatsApp that we couldn’t stay any longer, telling him exactly what was wrong with his apartment and that it doesn’t deserve the word “studio” (which he has changed now into “apartment”- and this is also flattering). The terrible smell wasn’t disappearing, despite the fact windows were cracked open all night long (with no way to darken the room – and the surrounding area was crowded, being next to the Reeperbahn).

We both had a very horrible night: he in the car and me all by myself in this room. The host answered my SMS, telling me that he agreed to a refund and that he had already informed Airbnb, letting them know that he agreed with our refund request. We had paid 91 € a day for four days and were assured by the host that we would get the overpaid sum back (273 €). All we had to do was send Airbnb a message telling them about the refund and that the host had agreed to it.

This was exactly what we did – and what happened? Airbnb told us that our “host” had already taken payment and we had to get along with him. Great idea! Of course I did never expect to get any money back from this guy, but I thought that this should be the duty of Airbnb – after all, they take money from their customers. Nothing had happened until now, no answers to my complaints. This is not the way a respectable organisation should act. It was our first experience with Airbnb and for sure our last one. Besides I will tell all my acquaintances to free their hands from this company; it is not to be commended.

One Discrepancy in my Airbnb Ad Cost me a lot of Money

This past weekend, three lads from London were supposed to stay at my apartment, as I was out of town. After one day, however, I received an email from their agent at Trip Advisor, speaking on behalf of these men who stated they had left my apartment.

The reason? I had -unintentionally- misqualified my couch, classifying it as a “bed sofa” when the correct phrasing should – as I’ve come to learn now – have been a “sofa”. Airbnb agreed with their complaint, and imposed a penalty on me: the young lads would get all of their money back plus a restitution of their hotel expenses (except for the one night they did stay). This implied that I was left with nothing but a bad review and no revenue from renting out my apartment for the other two nights.

To make it very clear: I have one king-size bed, which is for two guests. My second bedding option for any third guest is my sofa, which is perfect for sleeping and measures the exact same as a normal person-sized mattress. It’s not a matter of me not being transparent or being dishonest by not offering three beds or sleeping options. I have three bedding options. I just ticked one box wrong in my ad (clicking “sofa bed” instead of “sofa”), without being aware of this immense aberration. As I’ve come to learn from Airbnb, a sofa bed is one that you pull out and a sofa is not (my couch is not a pullout).

This is according to Airbnb regulations which are nowhere to be found on the site. Even the manager I talked to acknowledged that that is something at Airbnb that ought to be changed. Still, Airbnb lets me ‘bleed’ anyways, instead of taking part of the responsibility (e.g. have me cover a part of the cost, instead of 100%). How should I have known this difference? English is not even my first language and I’m not a bedding expert.

The penalty is disproportional in my view, since I will not receive any money for the two nights they had booked, plus I am certain I will get a bad review. I have no doubt about that. I have never heard any Airbnb guest or other guest sleeping on my sofa complain about my couch. It’s truly a comfy couch, as is the rest of my house. I daresay that about my apartment because I spent months renovating my home and decorating it (one of my hobbies). My home truly is my sanctuary.

In fact, one reason I bought this couch recently is because it’s a perfect couch for sleepovers, which happen literally every week in my apartment. A good friend of mine sleeps on it every week, and believe me, he’s someone who is tall with a poor back and not afraid to tell me when my couch is not comfy. I know it’s not about my couch not being comfortable; it’s just petty people who have a working knowledge of Airbnb regulations (they’ll receive full restitution for the hotel they stayed at instead).

I just can’t believe anyone would go to these measures, all just because there is one wrong qualification in my ad. It’s not like they couldn’t sleep in my house (or had to sleep with their legs pulled up or whatever). The guest who had booked with me didn’t even consult me about my misqualification, but went straight for the official institutions – Airbnb and Trip Advisor – as if I were some scammer. I feel severely mistreated, both by these guests as well as by Airbnb and am seriously considering withdrawing from Airbnb altogether.

From Host to Host, Payment to Payment, Until Finally Something Stable

I booked a historic firehouse Airbnb five miles from SOHO in Jersey City for August 6-13, 2017. My Discover card was charged $1509. While we were on our way on August 6th, I realized I hadn’t received access instructions. Since I was driving, I asked my son to message the host for access instructions. He messaged back that the property wouldn’t be ready until September 4th. My son messaged him that we had a confirmed reservation and my credit card had been charged. His only response was to call Airbnb. This was about 10:40 AM.

We did call Airbnb and worked with the customer service representative to try to find another place to stay. He sent an email around 11:20 AM with some other properties for us to consider and an offer of a $143 credit toward another property. My son was searching for places on my phone while I drove. I pulled off the PA turnpike into a McDonalds parking lot and we booked a townhouse in Brooklyn, based on the description and pictures in the listing. This was about 11:40 AM.

About an hour later the host of that property called while I was still driving on the PA turnpike. He told me that he noted that we were bringing two dogs and that they treat dogs like guests. I actually thought that sounded good. What he meant, but didn’t tell me, is that he was going to charge me $40 per dog per day for the dogs. It was the next day when I realized this and he had charged my Discover card $611.25. He never got my approval for this charge and I would never pay such an outrageous “pet fee”.

We arrived at the property about 5:45 PM. The property was not as described or pictured in the listing. The property was filthy, smelly, and uninhabitable. Walls were water damaged. Outlets had missing covers. The “couch” in the living area was a wooden bench covered with a throw pillow. The only TV was in one of the bedrooms. The bedrooms were on the upper level and the kitchen and living areas were on the lower level. They were separated by very steep stairs with no hand rail. The “back garden” was an enclosed, paved area with plants that had been cut down and left to decay. As a result it was smelly and bug infested.

There was no way I could stay there with my son and dogs. I immediately called Airbnb. I sent them numerous pictures documenting the condition of the property. I have attached the pictures at the end of this email. They refused to apply the money I had paid and the credit I had been offered to another property. They were awful to deal with. They were supposed to call me back that night and never did. I also called on Monday August 7th, left a message, and never heard back. By this point it was almost 8:00 PM.

In desperation, I found another place and reserved it. My Discover card was charged another $1,572.31. It turned out to be exactly as described and pictured. The host immediately cleaned it up and got it ready for us. We stayed there for the full week and found it to be everything we expected.

To summarize the amounts we were charged and amounts I believe we are due credit for:

– Charged by Airbnb to Discover card 6/19/17 for Airbnb historic firehouse in Jersey City 8/6/17 = $1,509.00
– Credit issued by Airbnb 8/6/17 = ($533.02)
– “Pet Fee” for townhouse in Brooklyn 8/7/17 = $611.25
– Two-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn = $1,572.31

– Amount I should have been charged = $1,509.00
– Credit offered by Airbnb for reservation cancelled by host = ($143.00)

Total = $1,366.00
Credit Due = $1,793.54

Images on Airbnb Never Tell the Real Story

We are a family of four who loves traveling and exploring. We have been an avid fan of Airbnb for a few years and appreciated what it stands for: ‘community’, ‘trust’, etc. We understood that there are always unavoidable inadequacies with the advertised properties, and the photos do not represent reality. We never complained when some of these inadequacies arose, but left a fair review of the situation instead.

We were holidaying in the Spanish island of Majorca last August and stayed in three different Airbnb properties. The first one was beautiful but noisy. A cockroach appeared in one of the rooms. Other than that, the place was immaculate and lovely. It wasn’t a cleaning issue and the noise wasn’t the host’s fault. We left happy and our review reflected that.

The second property was another story. The bedrooms and kitchen were damp ridden, which was most visible in the main bedroom’s recessed wardrobe. The rest of the walls were repainted very patchy, trying to cover the visibility of the damp areas. At check in with a man who spoke no English (which is fine – that happens often), we thought the smell was the kind you experience in old houses. Anyway, the man simply pointed to an tiny old dehumidifier which was meant to resolve the problem of the smell in the air.

Once we realised it was more serious than that at first we felt helpless and cheated by the host. At peak season with two young kids, what were we supposed to do? We paid top price for the property. We had stayed in much better accommodations for that price, before and after our stay. Instead of ruining our only family holiday, we thought we would just bear with it until the next accommodation (which was a decision we were to regret later of course).

We stayed the full week, avoided the bedroom areas, and didn’t use the kitchen much. We documented the dampness, trying to visualise the situation which was not easy. As soon as we checked into the next property and settled in, we checked the Airbnb website to see how we could complain. The first option was to ask for a refund from the host, explaining why. We were told the host rejected our request completely on the grounds that we should’ve complained during our stay to give them a chance to resolve the issue. Okay… but how? Problems such as dampness could not be resolved in an instant. Furthermore, the host clearly lied about the condition of the property which surely must be against what Airbnb stands for: ‘trust’?

The next option was to ‘involve Airbnb’. We did, and returned from our holiday to no reply. After two weeks, we had to call them and we were then contacted through email, asking for more details, stating that we should reply within 48 hours, and that the decision they make would be final. We replied and presented the photos. They replied and rejected our claim. Apparently their policy requires the guests to contact the host or Airbnb with complaints during the stay. Because we didn’t, there was nothing they could do at that point. Okay, fair enough. We appreciated that the property also was no longer advertised on the Airbnb website, which was a relief.

However, is this the way to treat guests? Despite what the policy states, did we not alert Airbnb of this unsafe property and the host’s dishonesty? Were we not cheated? We were charged the full price, a cleaning fee, and an Airbnb service fee. Do we not deserve to have at the least cleaning fee or the service fee refunded, since we can prove the property was not hygenic and the advert on the Airbnb website was misleading? Surely that’s Airbnb’s fault? All we can say is we feel shocked how greedy the company is and the way they treat their customers. We all know that good customer service in respected companies goes beyond policy.

Host Slept in Living Room While Guests Stayed in her Room

Not so long ago, I went to LA with my friend and decided to stay in the heart of Hollywood. I saw this one-bedroom place on Airbnb and decided to book it because it was heaps cheaper than hotels. The place looked amazing and the bed was massive. I contacted the host and she was very prompt in replying.

On the day of arrival, I pressed the intercom and was surprised that a guy answered and told us to come in. As far as I can remember, I was exchanging messages with a female beforehand. Anyways, my friend and I decided to go ahead. When we got into the place, we were not so pleased to see three people (two girls who were the host and
her sister, and one guy). The host was very friendly and took us to our room. My friend and I were becoming a bit jittery of the situation. We decided to go out and have dinner, hoping the three would be gone when we come back. After all, we booked a one-bedroom unit; we expected privacy.

To our surprise, they were still there when we got back. We decided to sleep just one night and leave the next day. Upon waking up, we saw the host and her sister sleeping on the couch just like it was their usual routine. I couldn’t describe how I felt that day. I was angry deep inside. I felt I was cheated. In spite of what had happened, I told the host that we were leaving and that we didn’t like the experience.

I tried to put a bad review on that listing but it didn’t get published. I made a complaint on Airbnb but there was no reply. Unfair, right? Upon checking up on the host, I found that she had moved to a new place and had a new listing. It seemed to me that she didn’t own the place at all. What she probably does is lets people rent her place so they can pay for her rent. That’s why I have been very skeptical of Airbnb, because of that terrible first experience.

Deceptive Listing Leads to False Damage Claims

Our party rented a house in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. The house was not as represented. The overall cleanliness of the house was gravely subpar. Upon entering the house, stains on the carpet were noticed immediately and discussed between members of our party. The overall consensus was that the carpeting was in such bad condition that it gave us concern. The entire house was re-cleaned prior to our party moving in. The lamps, light switches, doorknobs, sinks, toilets, showers, dresser drawers, TV remotes, hand rails, counter tops, and stove, as well as the cupboard doors and refrigerator were cleaned by our party. The filth that was picked up from the towels we used was evident by turning all of the white towels dingy, and then black. Some items in the kitchen were used and required washing before and after our use. Most items had food residue on them.

On the first day, we noticed two chairs were significantly unstable. They were placed next to the wall and excluded from use to ensure nothing would be broken as a result of our stay. Evidence on the chairs suggest that they had been previously repaired. Later, on the second day, while grilling outside, the septic tank began to spew out foul water. Upon presenting this issue to the owner our party was told that we were taking too many showers. At that time, there had been only six showers taken within the approximate 24 hours we were present. The owner suggested that showers be taken outside. All subsequent showers were taken outside to avoid overflowing the septic tank again. She stated that someone would come to the property to assess the situation. No one was observed on the property.

No further information was provided by the owner. As adults we knew to stay clear of the septic tank area to avoid harm because of the unsafe health risk of sewage on the property. Due to our understanding that the initial response was going to be observation only, we continued to take all showers outside. On the sixth day, we assumed that the septic tank issue was resolved and attempted a couple showers. The septic tank overflowed with a greater stench present at the rear of the property than that four days prior. We were willing to make accommodations by only bringing this to the owner’s attention and not Airbnb’s. We did not allow the lack of meeting our expectations to ruin our vacation. When we returned home, the host filed a claim for $500 to replace the carpeting. Despite providing our proof and complaints, Airbnb sided with the host.