Airbnb Trips Turns into Extortion in DR


My friends and I went to Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic on June 10-19, 2017. During our stay we had a couple issues: the grill not turning on, the fridge spoiling our food because it was not working. We booked an ATV riding experience and paid in cash on the spot because we wanted no surprises; some reviews stated the host had extorted money from guests for similar tours. We told them we had booked a catamaran with another company and they seemed a bit upset.

The next day we were told the catamaran company would pick us up at 8:45 AM. He said the company told him that; we were a bit confused by this because we had an email saying it was an 8:00 AM pickup. We thought maybe they worked together. We went on the catamaran. It wasn’t what we expected; it was boring, and even the best parts were mediocre.

After getting back we were then told the hosts had taken us on their catamaran (not the one we had booked) and they knew how to cancel our original PayPal transaction; they insisted we should send them the money after the tour. We were confused how they could do such a thing without our permission. They put it in a claim with the other company, saying they had come and taken us.

The next day the workers came again, telling us to pay $100 more then what we paid with our original plan. We told them PayPal had not given us our money back yet, and we would do it as soon as the money was received.

We left the 18th at night. One of our friend’s flight was later on in the day so she stayed. The host would not let her leave, brought security saying she couldn’t leave and the police were on the way. A guy friend of ours was in the same villa so he gave the host $350 and she charged the credit card that was on hold for $500 and the Airbnb account $720 in order to let our friend go.

We called the original company that we booked. They notified us they came and the host had said we didn’t want to go with them. We were also told they don’t issue refunds, so we payed for two catamarans. This host is a fraud and must be stopped. How can she live with herself, extorting people? She made a few thousand off of us for the Airbnb and extorted us for more. She told us a pickup time of 8:45 because we told her the pick up was at 8:00 AM. The company couldn’t reach us with all the security and they wouldn’t have waited 45 minutes. She set us up so we didn’t know we were on her catamaran.

Paris Airbnb Host Tries to Extort Positive Review

I rented an Airbnb in Paris, mainly because the location was so good. Check-in was delayed from noon, which is what was advertised, to 8:00 PM. That wasn’t much of an issue, because the host did let me know with plenty of time. When I got to the apartment, it was pretty dirty. I let it go because I wasn’t planning on spending much time there; I had the beautiful city of Paris to see. However, it was reflected in my review.

About a week after I rented the apartment I received the following message: “The apartment was dirty, and some of my belongings were touched and damaged. Did you have a party, and did you use my things? Please tell me directly as I would like to settle this with you directly, rather than legally.”

I did not touch any of his belongings nor did I throw a party (I was in a foreign city alone – who would I have had over for a party?) When I told him I did neither of those things and asked for more information, he responded with: “Ok. I must be mistaken. I suggest you change your review or I’ll put a bad one also for you, which is not good for either of us.”

So, first of all, I can only assume he was trying to extort money out of me. But, then he went so far as to try to influence my review? I don’t even know how he saw my review. I thought those were confidential until they were uploaded, to prevent exactly this type of scenario. I know there are worse stories, but it kind of ruined my day.

Extortion is Easy When There are no Receipts

I enjoyed my stay at Andre’s place. It was a little small for the price and did not have a microwave. However, I was willing to pay extra because it was close to work and friends. I enjoyed it until it came to actually dealing with Andre at the end of my three-week stay. I stayed for a period of three weeks. During this time the apartment had gotten messy so I was prepared to hire a professional cleaning service (despite there being a cleaning fee involved at the time of booking) that would have cost me no more than $50 for the entire apartment. However, on the last weekend there I lost my US credit card and had no access to any cash. The cleaning service would not accept my Indian credit card. I had hoped to be able to speak to Andre and offer to PayPal him money for a cleaning service at checkout as he seemed like a reasonable person. Andre did not show up during checkout.

I decided to write him a message later offering to pay. However, I was running late for my flight and could not get to it just then. When I landed, I was greeted by an extremely disrespectful email message about the state of his apartment, despite him exaggerating the messiness, I calmly replied offering to reimburse him for a cleaning service as I had done earlier. Andre is currently asking me for $130 for a maid whom he hires that cleans his apartment “a specific way he likes” and says that he has paid her in cash for which there is no receipt and hence no proof.

Secondly, I placed a cup with some water on Andre’s nightstand and this left a light stain (from the bottom of the cup) on the stand. Andre is currently asking me to pay $150 for repairing this stain, and when I asked him for a receipt for the same as proof, he claimed that he is a woodworker and that it took him two hours to repair and that his time is worth $75/hr. Once again, this amount seems absurd and is unverifiable.

Thirdly, in his rude email, Andre asked me to replace a stainless steel pan to which again, I calmly agreed. The same pan on Amazon costs between $15-$30 and he is asking me for $90 (you can buy an entire set of high quality stainless steel cookware for $90). He boycotts Amazon and only buys from a local store that apparently charges him six times the amount. Once again, I asked for a receipt and have not yet received anything.

Lastly, when Andre asked me to pay him these ridiculous amounts of money and I respectfully and calmly responded saying that I was willing to pay provided he show me receipts, he once again rudely responded to me threatening to charge me for a few nights (out of three weeks) that a friend of mine had to crash at my place because she lived an hour away and was too drunk to drive at 3:00 AM.

When I previously mentioned this to Andre, his exact words were (and I’m copy pasting this here):

“I totally understand that you invited your friend to spend the night on a few occasions and since this didn’t really add to my expenses, other than an extra used towel, I don’t see any reason to charge for her.”

However, now that I asked him for receipts for the amounts of money he is charging me he sent me an email saying (again, copy pasting):

“I also agreed not to charge you for the extra person but if you want to be all precise, I’m happy to add these to the bill as well!”

This response is very slimy and is only adding to the already bad taste in my mouth after this trip. It’s been two weeks since I stayed there and am still dealing with his completely disrespectful emails and ludicrous demands for money. I will probably have to involve Airbnb as a mediator to deal with this situation fairly. 3/5 on the actual apartment, 1/5 on the host 2/5 overall. I would not recommend Airbnb; it’s not worth the trouble of having to deal with individuals like Andre.

Host Tried to Extort Thousands from Me

Here was my email reporting a case to the Airbnb Resolution Center:

Hi, thank you for mediating this case for us. Unfortunately, our host never met us face-to-face to deliver the apartment key and give the proper introduction of what furniture and amenities were included in our stay. In this case, she left the key in a lockbox in front of the door. Because she never showed us which furniture was ours to use at the beginning of our stay, we didn’t know what to expect. Attached are some pictures of the furniture taken on August 10th when we arrived at her apartment. As you can see, the headboard of the bed is already broken, and the bed squeaked every time we moved. Other guests have also mentioned the old bed in their reviews. However, we didn’t complain to our host since I didn’t think it was a major problem. I never checked the bottom part of the bed which she said is now broken, because it was covered with the sheets. As you can see too, the futon was covered with a red blanket when we arrived and when I removed it, I found out the black futon was crumbling on to the floor. However, the pictures we took didn’t show that, as we didn’t take another picture when we discovered the futon crumbling. We didn’t complain to our host about it because we thought she already covered it with red blanket so it didn’t matter to us. It was to our surprise that she asked us to pay such a huge amount for damage to the furniture. The damage, even though we didn’t cause it, should not cost that much.

We are also going to report to you some problems during our stay. First, the building is very noisy even late at night as it is next to a busy street. I have a small kid and he was uncomfortable with the noise. Second, the last week of our stay we were unbelievably uncomfortable because there was some construction to renovate the building. It started almost everyday from morning until after 6:00 PM. The dust was unbearable, the noise was loud enough I couldn’t focus on my studies at all (I am a graduate student), and water and dirt came under the front door when they did the flooring work outside. The bathroom was leaking because of the roof work. However, we didn’t receive any prior notice from our host that these renovations would be done at this time. We didn’t complain to her and managed to clean the apartment everyday after the work was done.

Third, our host said that we booked for three people and four actually showed up. I definitely can’t believe she would accuse us of this: it was only me, my husband, and our one daughter. You can check with some people – neighbors, my Uber driver – whose phone numbers I kept and they will be able confirm there were only three in our party. I am curious: who checked the apartments when we left? Was it just our host or a third party (maid)? I don’t know our host’s intentions by accusing us of so many things we didn’t do. We had to put up with many shortcomings on her side as I mentioned above. I could have demanded a refund due to this inconvenience. Please refer to the documents attached for my conversations with our host, photos, and also testimony. We look forward to hearing your fair mediation on this case. Thank you.

Extortionist still allowed to use airbnb while honest host loses money!

I have already started my quest to phase out Airbnb. In the beginning I thought they were this great company who would stand behind what they said, but um…. no…. I quickly found out that this is not the case at all. My first negative experience was when I was contacted by a guest with no photo or profile about renting my apartment. In retrospect, I should have realizedthe reason for this could be a criminal record. This was about the 5th month that I had been using airbnb. So, she ask ed me if the dates she wanted were  available and I told her yes.So, then she tells me, okay my friend is going to contact you with her account. The friend contacts me. Also, no photo, but a photo of something else. I asked her to fill out her profile and put up a photo, but she tells me she is just to busy with work for that. So, I tell her that everyone in her party will have to give me a photo ID. Then she asks me if they have to pay everything up front which for some reason gave me a weird feeling, and I said yes she did. She said she would email the IDs. Then she books and no IDs. She then tells me they will give them to me when they arrive.
When they arrive they tell me that they went on Google Earth and search the area inch by inch to make sure it was safe. Again a strange feeling came over me, and then excuses about giving me the IDs later when the rest of the group arrives.

So, next thing I know I am eating Thanksgiving dinner and I get a call from her with this fake hyperventilating sound asking me if the cleaning lady had keys to the apartment. The answer to that question was no, because the company I was using at that time did not allow the employees to have keys. I am sure she had pulled that scam before because she was shocked when I said no. So, I turn to my friends and I say, this girl is going to ask me for money, I guarantee it. Then after dinner, I call Airbnb to tell them what is going on and they tell me to go over there, but not to give them more than 5 minutes notice and not to go alone. I brought a camera because I was afraid they were going to steal my stuff and I wanted to document the condition of the lock.
I get over there with the handy man from the building down the street in case the lock is broken.  Upon arriving I see there has been no damage to the lock, and no evidence of a break in. When I get inside, there are piles of brand new merchandise and at least 10 wigs all over the apartment. At this point, I am really scared they are going to steal my stuff so I take photos of all my things in the apartment while they are boozing it up. Then they tell me their story which changed later, and I say okay lets call the cops so you guys can make an insurance claim(they had said they had travel insurance) suddenly the doom and gloom that had been hanging over their trip since this alleged $650 had gone missing was replaced by optimism that it would turn up. Then I remind them that I need their IDs and they tell me that they have decided not to give them to me.

During the entire time they stayed I keep getting messages from her saying that the missing money has really put a damper on her trip. Which I could already tell meant give me $650 or you are getting a bad review. This was not the only hint foretelling the actual extortion attempt that was coming, but I do not remember all of what she said now.

The first time I went there, I forgot to turn on my tape recorder which had a brand new tape in it, but the second time, I did not and the story of when and how the  money went missing was changed. The handy man again was with me and he picked up on this as well. One thing I gotta say is these girls were very charming and impeccably dressed so watch out for the charming con artists.
Anyway, she keeps emailing me with the subtle threats and about how I needed to help them solve the mystery and problem of the missing money, and how this missing money is putting a damper on her “experience in my apartment” I told her that I was not a detective and she needed to call the cops.

The entire time I kept Airbnb apprised of what was going on and they told me not to cave and not to give her the $650. They expressly told me that they had my back. However, later they told me that she had told them that if I did not give her the money she would give me a bad review and they told her that was okay as long as she followed certain guidelines. What? They told her she needed to call the cops and not me about the money. She refused to call them, and then they tell her it is okay to give me a bad review. Way to go Airbnb.

So, then she starts demanding to talk to me in person on the Airbnb message thread. This is when I knew the actual unveiled extortion attempt was coming. One of the days shedemanded that I come, I could not come and she became belligerent about it. I told her I would come on check day to assist her in making a police report. I went on check out day and again she refused to make a police report. This time I had my tape recorder with a brand new tape in it going before I even got into the place so I got all of it.

She proceeds to tell me that if I do not give her $650 she will give me a review that will ruin my reputation and destroy my business. Then she goes to lunch after check out time and leaves her friend there who will not pick up her trash. So, I start asking the friend questions which were also recorded. I asked to show me any proof that the money ever existed and shetells me banks in St. Lucia do not give receipts. Okay, how about a receipt from the money exchange here in America. Nope, we would not have kept that. Alright then, no proof this money even existed. So, by this time it is way past check out and the cleaning person is having to clean around this girl and their stuff. The extortionist comes back and I notice that theyhave not given me both sets of keys back, and I have to run down the stairs with her to make sure she gives me my keys and she starts screaming about Airbnb in the lobby of my building. After she is gone I call airbnb. The rep agrees that the messages leading up to the actual in person extortion attempt already look like extortion, but they cannot listen to the tape because it could have been altered. Really, this girl told your employee that if I did not give her the money she would give me a bad review, and they can’t listen to the tape? Not, to mention it was a brand new tape and could be examined forensically.

After this my BF tells me probably nothing will happen and with the help of an airbnb rep, I decide not to give her a review unless she gave me one and if she did, I will do it at the last minute.  I asked the rep when the last minute would be (and this is also in writing) and he tells me 11 am on a certain date. The morning of the date rolls around. I wake up and see shehas given me a review, but I cannot see it. So, I quickly write one up and try to post before 11 am, but the system tells me it is too late. Then I see she has given me a pretty debilitating review. She has done this before I am sure. So, I call Airbnb and tell them that the time they told me was incorrect. Well, guess what? They did not care and would not change it, even though the time and date they gave me was in writing.  They also would not delete the review even though they were the ones who told me not to cave and not to give her the money. The next guy I appealed to read the messages and said he did not get it and she did not have to call the cops. It was as if he had no idea what had transpired, and did not know that theytold me not to cave and not give her the money. It was like he thought I was making the whole thing up because I got a bad review. I would have been better off to give her the $650 and I would have gotten a great review. I lost almost 2 months of business after that. So, the long and the short of it was that they told me not to cave and that they had my back, and it was really all just talk. One hand does not know what the other hand is doing over there.

I was so disgusted I paid $1000 to get on VRBO. So far, I have had no problems with VRBO except their guests book a lot more in advance so it took awhile to start filling my place with their people. I actually have many more horror stories about Airbnb including being lied to over and over again by their employees, and I think their website is messed up and they will not admit it, but this is enough for now. I really cannot wait to completely phase them out.