Charged over £1,000 for a 16-Minute Booking

We were the victims of a double booking at our first property. It actually wasn’t Airbnb’s fault, but the subsequent events had everything to do with an Airbnb host. This was not an individual, in fact, but a faceless and greedy property management company. After the double booking fiasco, seven of our group were stranded in the remote Tuscan countryside in rural Italy with, realistically, a couple of hours to sort it out and find somewhere to sleep. I was the eighth member of the group, travelling by train to meet the group. It was up to me to find an alternative at very short notice through Airbnb as I’d made the original booking and the money immediately reimbursed by Airbnb for the double booking mess up was allocated to my account. Network coverage on the train was very patchy.

Looking at alternative accommodation for suitability and availability on a mobile device was extremely difficult. It was hot. The train was packed. Going from Milan to Florence, you pass through an enormously long tunnel. Meanwhile, I was trying to converse with the group who were also wrestling with poor phone signals and trying to assess alternatives and report back to me.

Long story short: the circumstances were extremely difficult. Partway through this process I made another booking. It was a mistake caused by confusion and fat fingers. I take full responsibility for making an error but in the circumstances you can perhaps understand how it happened. I realised what I’d done and cancelled the booking within 16 minutes. Once we’d finally sorted out alternative accommodation, I contacted the host and asked for a refund. I figured he’d been put to no trouble; he could not have lost a booking in 16 minutes and could not have incurred any cleaning fees. He refused.

Of the £1953 we paid for the 16 minute booking, the host chose to refund only £842, citing his Strict Cancellation Policy. The 16 minutes cost us £1,111. This is the villa – beware if you’re booking it. The host was within his rights according to his and Airbnb’s policy. Is this fair? Reasonable? In the spirit of the Airbnb community? Someone you would like to trust with your holiday? Those are questions you might like to consider before making a booking with Airbnb.

Airbnb Unable to Handle Clients When a Host Double Books

The following is a letter that was sent to Airbnb:

Thank you for sending this email last Saturday. As per your request, we are am responding with receipts for our unnecessary lodging accommodations in Vancouver BC. Please find the following:

– Receipt from Poco Inn and Suites for the night of Sept 2nd, 2017

– Receipt from Expedia.com for the Budget Inn Patricia Hotel for the night of Sept 3rd, 2017

– Receipt for food is attached, though we are a little confused by this as you did not ask for food receipts over the phone.

Based on our phone conversation, it was our understanding that the $50 towards food was extended as a courtesy. We do not see the need to verify that we ate while on vacation. Nevertheless, a receipt from Sept 3rd is attached. We are aware that the amount on the food receipt exceeds the $50 you had extended to us. We do not expect a full reimbursement on this receipt. We expect Airbnb to uphold its obligations laid out in your email: $500 reimbursement for lodging and $50 toward food. We expect this to occur in an expedited manner. We expect an immediate reply to this email as well as same-day confirmation when the funds will be processed. We expect that the funds transfer will be completed by EOD Friday, September 8th, 2017.

Regarding our receipts, please note the following:

As you were equally aware during our phone conversation, finding lodging in Vancouver on such late notice was difficult. Our budget did not allow for high-priced rooms and I’m sure you will agree that hotel room prices tend to be higher when booking the same day, let alone in the early evening. Poco Inn and Suites was one of the only hotels in that area that had a room for under $300. Please be aware that this hotel was 30 miles away from our originally planned location. Also, once we completed our phone call with you (which lasted nearly 1.5 hours), it took us another hour on the phone to find a this room. The additional travel time to this hotel was also unwelcome. From a financial point of view, it is lucky we were able to use a credit card, but also unfortunate. I would hope that others who have experienced a similar dilemma were able to find cash on hand to cover Airbnb’s inability to find other lodgings.

The Budget Inn Patricia Hotel was cheap and available, but a quick look on Tripadvisor.com will inform you that the hotel is less than safe. Again, the travel time had been added to find this hotel but is disappointing to be confronted with safety concerns. We await your prompt reply to the above.

We are greatly disappointed in Airbnb and its apparent lack of preparedness to take care of situations such as this. In our case, a host reneged on her obligation and we were unnecessarily thrust in to a situation that cost us more money out of pocket as well as cost us a great deal of wasted time – time that was intended for vacation, not for talking to customer service and looking for last-minute lodging on a very busy weekend. This loss of funds and time were completely unnecessary had Airbnb a stronger vetting process to avoid hosts who are uncommunicative and irresponsible. Airbnb’s options, as you described them over the phone, are weak strategies to protect users of your service.

Option 1: We, the clients could find new lodging using the Airbnb app. But as you were quickly able to understand by your own searches, this was simply next to impossible. On that day there were no Airbnb listings available within our budget.

Option 2: “Instant Book”. This seems like a good solution on the surface, but as we understood from your description of this option, we were expected to accept a new booking sight unseen. This is unreasonable. We asked for more details on the location, room size etc. and in the time it took you to look up this basic information, the room was booked. We are surprised that your customer service team is not better equipped to find listings more quickly and with greater detail.

Once Airbnb’s first two options were quickly exhausted, you offered to reimburse us for our hotel costs. However, you were clear that Airbnb has no way of booking a hotel for its displaced clients. This left us to find last-minute lodging, thereby defeating the entire purpose of using Airbnb in the first place. It also seems clear that Airbnb is incapable of vetting their hosts. As you’ll recall, when we arrived at our host’s location, we followed her instructions very carefully. Her instructions were sent out automatically and, ironically, mentioned she required clients to be in contact with her prior to arrival as she “had been burned in the past”. We can verify that we attempted to contact her several times.

However, we never heard back from her on Sept 2nd, nor have we received any communication since. As you will also recall, on Sept 2nd you made two unsuccessful attempts to contact her. When we arrived at the host’s location we followed the host’s instructions and went to the rented room. As per her instructions, the door was open. However, upon entering we found the room was unready and still contained the luggage and personal affects of another client. There was another resident at the house. He informed us that the other guests were out of the city but had no intention of leaving as they were under the impression that they were allowed to stay.

We would prefer to leave a review on this host’s profile – but this situation does not feel safe. To write a review, a user must allow a host to write a review of the user. However, we are hesitant to write a review (and thereby warn other Airbnb clients) that this host was negligent. Why should a client who was stood up by a host be required to allow the host to submit any review at all? I hope that customers can expect Airbnb to address these problems. Indeed, you mentioned over the phone that we were not the first to experience difficulties on that day and in that location.

This was our second experience with irresponsible hosts. Our first was a host who cancelled our reservation 12 hours before check-in, also for the same weekend and in Vancouver BC. We booked another location on Sept 2nd and received confirmation as well. If Airbnb is unable to process same-day reservations, or if Airbnb is unable to provided hosts the proper support they need, then Airbnb needs to step up.

The bottom line is this: Airbnb allowed a host to double book a room; Airbnb allowed a host to remain out of contact with a client; Airbnb allowed a client to become displaced because the client trusted the integrity of the services that Airbnb offers. By not vetting your hosts and by leaving clients for fend for themselves when stood up or double booked, it is clear that Airbnb is more interested in making a profit in the easiest and cheapest way possible than looking after its clients and therefore Airbnb’s own reputation.

Your services cannot be trusted and this is too bad. Your business concept is a good one. Perhaps you should do more to make it function well. It is clear from a quick Google search that Airbnb has many problems protecting clients from unethical behavior by hosts: Airbnb Hell came up quite quickly. I’m sure a more thorough search would reveal much more. We will be posting our experience to social media in hopes of adding our voices to a growing chorus of dissatisfaction with Airbnb’s sloppy business practices. In the mean time, we truly hope that Airbnb can become a better business, or that some other entity can step in where you left off.

Airbnb Host Refuses to Cancel After Changing Rooms

I know my complaint pales in comparison to others. However, I am frustrated that I cannot review the host and want to warn others. I booked an Airbnb about six weeks before our trip. According to the booking, we would get a private bedroom with a king bed. About a week before we were to leave I reached out to the host to inquire about changing the length of our trip. At the time she informed me the room was no longer available and had been taken by someone else. She told me that we could sleep on a queen bed in the common space beside the kitchen.

When I saw the common space, it looked like we would be sleeping on a pullout couch. She didn’t even offer a reduced fee and was not willing to accommodate us regarding our request to change the length of our stay. Of course I was frustrated and told her that she, as the host, can cancel the reservation, as per the policy on their website. She refused because she didn’t want to get penalized. In order to get an resolution on this I had to phone Airbnb multiple times until a case manager called me back. Airbnb ended up cancelling it for both of us, which meant the host got off free. In the meantime, I was scrambling to find another place less than week before our trip, in the middle of summer vacation season. Be warned about this host. She may have positive reviews, but that may only be because those who may have given negative ones were not able to do so.

Double Airbnb Booking in Hawaii on Fourth of July Week

I booked a vacation to travel to Hawaii with family and friends for the week of July 4th. We excitedly booked a beautiful home in early February, and counted the weeks down until we would land for our respite in paradise. I’ve used Airbnb many times, recommended it highly to friends, and have had nothing buy incredible experiences, until 11:00 PM on June 30th.

We arrived at the airport, rented a car, and headed toward the property. It dawned on me that I had not received the email I had grown to expect from each host with a greeting and instructions. I had received numerous emails from Airbnb, and recalled seeing one with the house rules, so I decided that I must have just overlooked the details on how to enter the home. We were weary travelers, and had wandered our way to this property down a narrow road with no street lights.

As we arrived, we exited the rental car and went to the front door, assuming there would be a lock box, or instructions, or an indicator of sorts how to enter the home. Nothing. I promptly pulled out my cell phone and dialed the property manager. No answer. I pulled out my laptop and looked up the email from Airbnb to see if I had overlooked instructions. Under the ‘House Rules,’ there was no information about entering the home. I dialed the property manager again. No answer. I sent a text message. I looked up the number for Airbnb and called them. An automated system placed me on hold. There was no messaging explaining how long I would be waiting, and given the fact that it was late at night on a Friday, I had no idea if a person would even come on the phone.

I waited and waited and waited (for twelve minutes), and finally I received a call from the woman who was listed as the property owner (who was actually the property manager) on Airbnb. She explained that she had been fired by the owners, and they had retained a new property manager. She told me I needed to call the new manager. I promptly hung up and dialed the number she provided. The woman explained that someone else was in the home, and I wouldn’t be able to check in until they checked out the next day. I asked her what she would have me do in the interim. She told me she’d have the former property manager phone me back. I tried to call Airbnb again and waited and waited and waited yet again (in excess of ten minutes).

We decided to drive to a restaurant so that we could have light and hopefully wifi. About twenty minutes passed when both women called me back on a conference call. One explained that they had a miscommunication and the property had been double booked, and that I can only stay there for 2 of the 8 nights I had rented. I asked them what they would have me do. Both women sat in complete silence on the phone. I explained that it was now midnight on an island that was closed down for the evening, on one of the busy travel weekends of the year to Hawaii, and we had no housing accommodations. I again asked them if they had suggestions about what we should do. Again, dead silence. I explained, calmly, mind you, that I was traveling with four additional people, and that we have no familiarity with hotel or rental accommodations on the island, and asked what they can suggest. My questions were met with silence.

The fired property manager explained that she would have Airbnb refund my money. I asked if they had any suggestions about a hotel I could call to get last minute reservations. Silence. Literally. I finally explained that they were not being helpful, and that I needed to hang up so that I could find accommodations for five travelers at midnight. With no wifi (the little diner didn’t have it) and bad cell reception, all five of us got on our cell phones to research options, which turned out to be a painfully slow process. Every hotel was labeled “sold out” except two.

I called the first one, and they explained they no longer had rooms. I called the second one, and explained our circumstances. The front desk staff at the resort explained that they had one room prepared and one room that was dirty. She said she would find a way to get the room cleaned, and advised us to come over. Traveling to the resort required us to traverse the entire island.

En route, during the 1.5-hour drive, a representative from Airbnb called me, and explained that the property manager called to advise that they were canceling my reservation and had requested my money be refunded. He was very nice, and kept repeating that this situation was horrible and unacceptable. He repeatedly apologized. He advised that he was going to do something to make this right, and he would send me an email with the details so that I could focus on driving. Including tax we paid $600 for each of the two hotel rooms, a total of $1,200 (the only two hotel rooms we could find on the island).

Our entire week at the house rental was going to be $2,300. I was panicked because we could not afford a $9,000 hotel bill for our vacation. I woke up the next day and phoned Airbnb to see if we could find another property. The agent told me they would have my particular customer service agent call me back. Fearful of being unable to check out of the hotel, and with the clock ticking, I got online to see if I could find another property myself. I lucked out. I found a beautiful house and the property owners were lovely, and incredibly kind. I was able to do an “Instant Booking” which allowed me to get contact information for the homeowner. I called them immediately, and explained our circumstances. The couple was great, and prepared the house for us.

Eventually, the agent from Airbnb called me back. By this point I had received an email from Airbnb explaining that they were going to refund my money, and give me an additional $100 refund to held defray my expenses of having to stay some place else, and additionally they would give me $100 credit towards a future rental. When the agent phoned me, I explained that I had already booked a new property, and no longer required his assistance to do so as time was of the essence. I inquired about whether Airbnb would considering reimbursing my additional out of pocket expenses due to this mishap. He explained that he would have been able to do more for me had I called Airbnb the night prior when the crisis was occurring.

I explained that I had attempted to reach Airbnb multiple times with no success. He explained that due to the holiday week, they were exceptionally busy and their hold times were very long. I shared that there was not even an indicator in any of their recordings that someone was actually working that late at night. I told him I just started to assume that it was so late, I actually might be holding until someone reported for the next workday. I explained I was very surprised when someone actually did call me back, and considering that he had worked the late shift, I was further surprised that he himself was calling me back again the next morning to help me find a new place. I jokingly asked him was he working a 24-hour shift. Ultimately, I asked Airbnb if they would refund me any additional money, as I was out $1,000 in hotel expenses. They refused.

Lessons learned: check, double, and triple check with the host prior to departure. Assure they are ready for your arrival. When a host is not personally responding timely to your email messages or seems to have disappeared, that’s a huge red flag. Based on my past experiences, I assumed all was well. I had found Airbnb hosts to be remarkable people with incredible attention to detail. My mistake.

Lesson number two: don’t count on Airbnb to rescue you or reimburse your expenses. Had I not found another location, I could have netted an additional $6,000 in hotel expenses, and Airbnb would have not suffered any loss. Additionally, the moment Airbnb cancelled the reservation at the original property that night, they disconnected my ability to leave a review or comment about my experience with the property owners/agents. The Airbnb agent assured me that they were taking ‘disciplinary’ action against the property owners, noting that they had ‘other complaints’ from other travelers about them as well. By the agent’s comment, Airbnb knew there was an issue was this property, but I had not been warned. I was out $1,000 in addition to the night from hell we spent on the first night of our vacation finding new accommodations and driving. Buyer beware. I wouldn’t have believed it myself had it not happened to me.

Airbnb System Allows Everyone to Request Same Dates?

This is my second time booking through Airbnb; the first time was fine. I sent a request for one apartment for two days and the next day the host declined it, saying that “it conflicts with another booking.” Now, my first thought was: what? What other booking? Shouldn’t my selected dates become unavailable for other people to book? Or does Airbnb allow everyone to send requests for the same dates, so that the host can then dig through them and pick her favorite one? On top of that, after I had been declined, that property was still available to be requested for the selected dates. I messaged the host, asking her to explain, and she said she is “waiting for confirmation for a couple that are looking to book for more days.”

Apparently, it’s true that Airbnb allows unlimited requests to stack up for the same dates. That’s a terribly immoral business model they’ve created, creating competition between guests for the host’s favor. Now, it’s understandable that hosts would prefer longer bookings over shorter ones. However, if their system allows requests for same dates to stack up, allowing the host to pick and choose, then people who need a short stay basically have no chance against longer-stay guests. It’s basically an auction system, where guests bid on who will rent a longer stay. Imagine if hotels started to operate on the same principle: there will be public outrage. Or, imagine if hotels would accept “bids” for a maximum price the guests are willing to pay per night. Then rich people would take all the rooms, leaving everyone else with nowhere to stay. It’s the same here, except with lengths of stay.

I’ve researched this a bit and apparently hosts can choose whether they want the requested dates to become unavailable for others, or not. Why is there even such an option? It puts all the power into the host’s hands. I don’t want to use Airbnb if the hosts will treat me as some undesirable scum just because I only want to book two nights. It creates inequality. Guests and hosts are supposed to be on equal terms.

So, in conclusion, to remove this horrible inequality, Airbnb should:

  • Only allow booking requests for the same dates one at a time.
  • Penalize hosts who decline booking requests for no good reason (as it’s still a major inconvenience to wait a day just to receive a decline, then wait another day for another one)
  • State that a short stay is not a good reason to decline a request (because there is already a minimum stay rule that can be added to the listing)

Airbnb Hides Whenever There Are Problems – No Service At All!

In the middle of a trip through Indonesia I booked a stay in Bali. In the communication with the host we came to an agreement that it would be more convenient for both of us to stay somewhere else. That was no problem, and there were no bad feelings about it. I booked another stay for the same date. The problem I have now is that Airbnb already took the whole payment for the now-cancelled booking from my bank account. I tried to contact them on their dubious help center. There is no option in the pre-selected answers that fits my needs. After calling their telephone hotline I waited for 45 minutes without someone picking up the phone until my account was emptied. Now Airbnb is completely silent without any response. How can they charge two bookings for the same dates anyway? Do they think I split in half and stay at two places at the same time? This platform seems handy if everything goes smoothly. When there are problems, especially if the problem is caused by Airbnb itself, it is nearly impossible to get into contact with someone from Airbnb. This looks very strange to me when you consider the high sums they charge for their “service”. There is no service!

Airbnb Kealakekua Hawaii Nightmare: Double Booking

Some friends and I rented a place in Kealakekua, Hawaii on the Big Island. The accommodation was up a very long, bad road. We should have been told we needed four wheel drive to get there. We had to crawl in and out at two miles an hour. We could have walked it faster. When we arrived, we were told the accommodation had been double booked. He blamed Airbnb. Alternative housing was substandard at best. When we went to go to the proper place the next day, we drove to one side of the house and were greeted with “f$%# off, this is private property on this side and we will come and get you when the house is cleaned.” We finally got into the place we paid to rent the next night at 8:00 PM. We missed two nights of beautiful sunsets. The host was likely manic, on prescription pain killers, or a coke head. He walked aimlessly every morning talking very loudly and abusively into the phone. The place we rented was misrepresented. The second bedroom was in the car port with the bathroom being a utility shed. He kept all his construction business tools in that car port and we were woken every morning by the sound of folks loading tools and driving their big vehicles past our bedroom. It may seem like a small complaint, but there was no tea kettle in the place, and even more serious, no corkscrew. This was not the greatest way to end a beautiful holiday.

Arrogant and Opaque Conflict Resolution – Host Extortion

I went to visit my daughter in Seattle, planning to stay for a week. The apartment, given that it was the host’s primary residence, was pleasant. However, after five days the host called my daughter on the phone and informed her (not me) that I was to vacate the apartment immediately. He claimed that if I didn’t his landlord was going to evict him and charge him $600. My daughter was distraught; she took one of my checks and gave it to the host. The host gave me about twenty minutes to pack up and leave. The only review of the host stated he’d abruptly cancelled the reservation of two young women who just happened to be counting on staying in his apartment when I was requesting a reservation. I doubt that was a coincidence.

Of course, Airbnb would have liked to have washed their hands of the whole matter. I persisted as best I could and the host offered a small settlement. Airbnb claimed they’d tried to reach me; they tried exactly once. After that, they screened my calls. In the end, being the clever person I am now and then, I had my bank cancel the check due to fraud. I also immediately cancelled the credit card Airbnb had on file. Once they have your card they can do anything they like. In the end I guess I prevailed. The $600 was returned, the security deposit was returned, and I still received the settlement.

Now they send an email a day over a bill for $19. I go to their help section and tell them I’ll send them a check. I just put one in the mail. The point is that their customer service is dreadful. It’s all skewed towards the hosts. How many young people get caught up in this kind of nonsense? They’ve gotten too big, too fast. I do give Airbnb some credit. The host has lost his privileges after extorting cash from my distraught daughter. No cash should ever change hands directly between host and guest.

 

Left in the Dark: Abandoned in the UK

I travelled in the UK Sunday for my one-night stay, planning to arrive late evening at 10:00 PM. During the day the host asked if I would switch to an alternate property. I understand now that this is common tactic from disreputable hosts. When I arrived at the property, there were three people having a discussion in the hallway – they were other residents in the same property. I headed upstairs to my room, but found it locked. As a surprise to me, the door opened and there was already someone else in the room. I phoned the host, but his phone was turned off. When I got back downstairs, the couple in the hallway had exactly the same problem. The third person was a regular resident, and he said: “At this time of night, just take any of the empty rooms.”

The couple took one such room. I investigated another but it was clear the sheets had not yet been changed from the previous resident. I tried to phone the host again but there was still no answer. I sent the host a polite text message to say I was giving up, and used my phone to book a room at the nearest hotel. Later that evening I exchanged text messages with the host, who promised a full refund, and apologised. Monday I had a busy day at the office, and then traveled home. On Tuesday, the host refunded me, but not all my money. When I pointed out that I was still owed a small amount the host said that it was Airbnb’s responsibility.

Here is where the problems start. First of all: a navigation hell going around in circles to get a refund. All options pointed me towards the host. Eventually I found a chat link. The customer service representative could see the refund message from the host, but told me they have to check my story with the host. I don’t like my word being challenged like this. Then customer support told me that if I really did not get my room there would be penalties for the host. I wondered why the host would volunteer to take such penalties? Surely it is in their interest to say, “I turned my phone on later, and if he had waited I would have cleaned and prepared another room.”

I argued for 30 minutes in the chat window trying to explain to customer service that I’m only asking for my £5 booking fee to be refunded, and do they not understand how foolish it is to upset customers. She only had one answer which is to quote the policy of checking with the host. I gave up trying to change her mind. Later I received an email from customer service saying I could not get a refund because I would not allow them to contact the host. This is definitely not true; I remember saying it was pointless, and not good service. Many emails have gone back and forth with Airbnb. It seems that each time I complain about the process, they take it as a reason not to perform that process. If you ever fail to get the promised room that you booked, cancel through Airbnb and rebook again if you choose to. Don’t let the host promise an alternative, or a refund. Don’t deal with the host. I don’t normally print the booking receipt, but the agent said that the Airbnb phone number is on the receipt, and with hindsight I should have called that number when I was left in the dark without a room.

Airbnb Cancellations and then Double Bookings

I have been an Airbnb user for the past three years and was always happy with it. So much so that I encouraged my workplace to use Airbnb instead of hotels. When I first tried to book an apartment for a business trip, I got three cancellations for dubious reasons or no reason at all. Given that the trip was approaching I started to be very stressed out but finally found a place, which I again intended to book, only to be asked for a verification of my passport. I did allow Airbnb to verify my passport but then I did not get confirmation that the booking had gone through. Having had the three earlier cancellations I got even more stressed and found a fifth place, which I booked and this time it went through. Unfortunately for me though, the first booking had also gone through and the system did not make me aware that there was a double booking. The emails to that regard came through 20 minutes later (all four of them at the same time). I panicked and tried to cancel the second booking straight away (in the same hour) only to find out that the host had a strict cancelation policy and of the roughly $420 I was charged I would get $30 refunded, even though I cancelled within the hour. I contacted Airbnb using the phone number provided on this webpage and got through to an agent, who nicely thanked me for using their services for three years and told me that he would put my case through for the full refund. Thus far I still have both reservations going, as I do not dare cancel one; I was told Airbnb would do so. I strongly advise any Airbnb user to be super careful with bookings and wait at least an hour to see if a booking has gone through or not. The Airbnb refund policy is simply ridiculous.