A (Nearly) Objective Flight into Airbnb Support Madness

Last week I wrote a satirical exchange, Kafka meets HAL 9000. I would love to share with you the specifics of what that non-fictional, though unbelievable (and still ongoing) exchange looks like.

On June 3rd my listing, along with 60,000 others in Japan, were suddenly taken offline, without warning, without explanation.

June 11th: I tried to re-list with my license number and got a ‘caution’ message, stating that I could not re-list. I contacted Airbnb support and was told to keep trying to re-list.

June 12th: After repeated trying to re-list, I sent Airbnb support a message, but the thread (case) had been closed. After many phone calls and messages of “we are working on the problem 24/7” in English that were going in circles, I got my wife to contact the Japanese Airbnb staff.

June 12th: First contact with Airbnb staff in Japan. Back and forth messaging four times. Phone calls.

June 15th: After three days of no contact we sent a message and received a reply.

June 17th: After two days of no contact we sent a message and received a reply.

June 18th: We sent a message, and received no reply.

June 19th: We sent a message and received a reply.

June 21st: After two days of no contact we sent a message and received a reply. I was pretty fed up, as nothing seemed to be happening, I asked to speak to someone higher level in English.

June 22nd: A manager speaks to my wife.

June 23rd: We are put onto someone else, who messaged: “The issue has been reported, can’t confirm a deadline, we have flagged this as urgent.” I, not quite understanding the use of present progressive, which indicates recent activity (even in the passive voice) replied, “When was this reported?”

“June 21st.”

“Please give me specifics, did your other rep not report this?”

“Can’t confirm anything.”

June 25th: After two days of no contact we sent a message.

“I was out of the office, please be patient.”

June 26th: A guest, who emailed me worried that our site wasn’t online, cancels. I sent a message to Airbnb:

“Please put me on with someone who can help me.”

“I won’t put this any higher than myself.”

June 30th: No further replies from Airbnb.

“I will call Airbnb customer support everyday until this is resolved.”

June 30th: Called Airbnb’s USA number and talked with someone there. He said 20 days with no resolution is not very good. He said he will prioritize this case (probably the 10th time I have heard this). When we tried to re-list (probably the 15th time I have tried this) a new ‘caution’ warning comes up, stating that “Our records show that your country of residence does not match the listing. Please contact our customer support team if that is not the case.”

I weep and bite my hand. Customer service asks for a screenshot, so I sent it with the question, “Is this big enough?”

June 30th: No reply, but apparently support case is closed, because I can’t reply to the thread.

July 1st: I call Airbnb USA again and get someone who says the guy I had been talking to earlier is not my case manager, then after a long silence contradicted himself. I said I was confused. There was a long silence, then he said someone would call me tomorrow morning.

July 2nd: No call, so I called and got: “Your case manager does not seem to be available.”

“This is a known bug. I will prioritize your case (I give up trying to remember how many times I have heard this). Someone will call you, but I can’t give you a time frame on the call.”

July 3rd: Getting ready to call again…

Airbnb Support: Kafka Meets 2001’s HAL 9000

Fictitious conversation between two Airbnb upper management staff. Disclaimer: This conversation has no relationship to anyone or any company, living or dead.

UM Staff 1: Hey, I’ve got a great idea for saving money!

UMS 2: Yeah?

UMS 1: We just set up a support team that basically blocks customers from causing us hassle and money.

UMS 2: Ok… but won’t there be problems?

UMS 1: No, no… you see, we keep the customer absolutely powerless. Sure they will get frustrated and suicidal and their finances will go down the toilet, but they will have no way to get past the wall that we set up, so they will never be heard. That way we can keep the commission low on the vast majority of hosts, the vast minority will sing our praises, and the minority who complain will be drowned out. Even if the customer threatens legal proceedings we can cover it from the vast amount of money we are raking in. The complaining customer will never be able to compete.

UMS 2: Hmm, sounds a little risky.

UMS 1: No, see I’ve read Kafka; you just basically gaslight the single customer, suggest their reality (fairness, morality, responsibility) is completely wrong. As for the people who have to actually interface with the… ‘customer’ we set up the HAL scenario.

UMS 2: What’s that?

UMS 1: Well just get the support staff to repeat ‘Siri-like’ computer generated phrases like “we have a team working on it 24/7” and use passive statements like “it has been reported to a team (that I cannot tell you the name of).”

UMS 2: Beautiful. Let’s do it!

I was delisted on June 3rd (wrongly). I can’t enter the details of my license (first attempt June 11th) into their network (computer error they say). I have been given the runaround ever since, with the last ‘senior customer service staff’ member being the least helpful. No surprise there. I am exhausted, beyond frustrated, angry, and depressed.