Airbnb Host Review is a Means to Extort Hosts

I can’t convey the degree of muck and disgust added to my life from being an Airbnb host. I have a nice, well-maintained, and spotless home in a nicer part of town. I spent months and thousands preparing my home for hosting, including a local license and expensive changes to meet short-term rental requirements according to local code, along with new furniture and mattresses in guest rooms and other parts of the home, and an expensive internet connection.

One of my first guests left a negative and false review clearly caused by him not reading the details of my ad. Airbnb didn’t care that I told them the review was illogical and clearly based on his not reading the ad. I came to understand that Airbnb’s standard reply is that it shouldn’t matter because good reviews will outweigh the bad ones. My response was that guests are entitled to their opinions, but not fabricated ones or ones based on the guest’s not reading the ad.

Not long after, I contacted Airbnb again when a local couple who had repeatedly rebooked to extend their stay, never telling me but springing it on me knowing that if I knew, I would have prevented their ability to rebook because one member of the duo was extremely difficult. They finally had to leave because other guests booked the room. Angered that it was somehow my fault, they retaliated by leaving a fake review.

On the day they were to leave, one member of the duo left with their vehicle, supposedly coming back at the official check-out time, but when he didn’t show, it was clear he intended to pick up the other guest only when they could check into their next place four hours later. The remaining guest refused to remove all of her belongings from their guest room and bathroom so that I could prepare it for the next guest, leaving me to do it while the guest lounged around and made excuses and ugly, snappy remarks.

Waiting four or more hours against raising an alarm with neighbors by calling the police, I avoided her and made due; when the boyfriend finally came to retrieve his girlfriend, she left screaming that she would cancel her credit card to ensure I wouldn’t receive any additional payment and screaming even more obscenities like some backwoods hobo.

Knowing I could still contact Airbnb to ask for payment for their overstay, the crazy guest used the host review to slur me to help ensure she could get out of any additional payment. She also left dog crap all over my yard, which was so plentiful and dried that it was obvious she had taken it out of the garbage that last day and dropped it all over the yard on top of what was already there, again using the host review to pre-empt any request for payment.

Even though I never bothered asking for additional payment, I spent an entire evening trying to have the fake and filthy review removed and learned that it could take a month for a “team” to make a determination whether to remove the host-harming review. That guests can place fake reviews under a host’s account with no requirements for evidence to back their statements is a clear opportunity for guests to use their reviews for extortion.

The boyfriend, whom I contacted to remove the review — since it was under his name, but under her credit card — claimed he had recently broken up with her due to her outlandish and hateful behavior. He agreed to remove the review stating she had broken into his account and the review wasn’t true and certainly not his own sentiments. In fact, he claimed I was the best host he had experienced, which was why they kept renewing.

I waited for him to remove the review, but it didn’t disappear. When he finally called back, he instead attempted to finagle himself a room long-term and also expressed his desire to get to know me more personally. I refused to respond to what appeared to be extortion (served up thanks to Airbnb’s extortion-assisting host review policy).

After another claim that he couldn’t figure out how to remove the slanderous review, I discovered that my evening of repeated angry calls to Airbnb and refusal to accept that it would take up to a month to have the long, hateful, and fake review deleted was finally removed by Airbnb. That this caused me many hours of my time, had endangered me to an extortion-wielding guest who appeared to be hoping for a room and an intimate relationship in exchange for removing the review, caused extreme stress, as it was my only source of income at that time.

This was the direct result of Airbnb’s flat-out dumb policy of allowing guests to say whatever they want and requiring no evidence to back up their statements. I said nothing about the male guest to Airbnb at his urging and frankly, was concerned that if I had, he knew where I lived.

I would never have been placed in that situation had Airbnb not created such a insanely naïve and business-poor host-review policy. I also don’t believe guests would so easily stoop to take advantage of hosts if not for their awareness of Airbnb’s review policy.

The last guest was the last straw. I had converted to hosting only longer-term guests and received one who initially presented himself as congenial, but then one evening, he apparently needed an adrenaline and sick ego boost so tried to lure me into arguments.

When I refused the repeated bait, he spit out a slur clearly hoping to finally spark a verbal confrontation. I again refused the bait. As he arrogantly walked away, he tried to flip it claiming that my mere physical presence weirded him to make his ugly remark. Weakened by revealing his own ugliness without payoff, he avoided further contact with me and the other guest, who was there as a potential witness and who had pegged him as trouble early on after one conversation with him.

The normal guest urged me to cancel the jerk’s reservation. But since I already knew he was there for a limited time, he was avoiding contact, and there had been no further issues, I hoped there would be calm and chalked it up to his astounding immaturity and emotional problems. He did speak to me a few days later to confirm that he would be leaving in a certain number of days, which were already booked.

Instead, the next day, he left, clearly hoping, as a last manipulative act, to stick me without notice to cause financial harm if I was unable, at the last minute, to find another long-term guest. Since he was obligated to pay for his reservation, I didn’t worry, but contacted Airbnb to advise that he had left so they could remove the blocked out dates and my ad could go live again.

What I discovered was that he had additional filth to serve due to Airbnb’s host review policy: he had contacted Airbnb and plotted to stick me without the additional room income by making a false accusation along the lines of claiming he needed to leave because we had a conversation where I expressed sympathy with (to give an equivalent: the despicable acts of ISIS and the Taliban).

He also fabricated a claim that I had told him my residence had been broken into many times, obviously in hopes it would frighten off potential guests if not permanently damage my business. He also wrote all of this in a review. Airbnb “customer service,” who had read the review to me before it was published, told me that since the review included personal attacks, which they don’t allow, as well as a political type of statement, which their policy didn’t allow, it would “eventually” be removed.

Shortly after, Airbnb sent a follow-up email stating they wouldn’t remove his review because it was his opinion. That Airbnb customer service could make such a statement with no emotion, knowing the ramifications, was unbelievable. My foaming reply was that not only were the statements pure fabricated filth, but bore no resemblance to anything based on reality, and that this obvious psychopath was clearly using Airbnb’s stupid host-review policy in hopes it would cause me financial harm by slandering me and my home to future potential guests.

Even though I had by that time had well over 60 positive reviews, Airbnb again refused to remove it. I was seeking full-time employment so told Airbnb that such disgusting fabricated filth could permanently harm my ability to find employment. Airbnb customer service clearly couldn’t care less.

Such a review also put me in jeopardy of someone who might book to attack me for the fake, filthy statements. Apparently, hosts who receive hideous and false reviews are left with no option but to hire an attorney and wait for the slanderous damage to their livelihoods and reputations so that they can then sue for damages. Preventing such filth in the first place is not part of Airbnb policy.

Weeks after the psycho left, he texted me expressing his delight in harming my Airbnb business (apparently, because he no longer could find my ad, he believed his review had prevented my ability to find another guest; but I had taken down my Airbnb ad and found a guest through another venue).

I contacted Airbnb telling them that their failure to tell him they would remove his false and despicable statements was likely the direct cause of why this hideous scum bag was emboldened and still contacting me. From where I sit, this was caused by Airbnb seeing me as an insignificant gnat not worth their time to protect from emotionally unstable and abusive guests when the ability to protect me as a host is fully within their power.

Airbnb has no business sense in how to create a fair review system that also prevents guests from being able to manipulate the system. I’m not alone in being the target of these evil and psychopathic guests. Other hosts have expressed outrage and disgust at a policy that allows guests to fabricate anything about a host or their home without evidence, which Airbnb euphemistically labels “transparent communication,” leaving the host to endure up to a month of fake reviews, damaging their income in the meantime.

If Airbnb refuses to delete it, it could potentially permanently damage their business and their online reputation. In fact, leaving reviews that spark extreme behavior could leave a host open to receiving guests who specifically book them to retaliate against the host based on the fake review.

What Airbnb tells hosts who complain about personal and business harm from fake reviews is that the good reviews will balance out the bad, as though having false and reputation-killing reviews is acceptable and left fully to the host to hire an attorney to sort out. This allows evil guests to have control over a false narrative of the host, which leaves the host in a situation of either allow the filth to be broadcast on Airbnb’s website or remove the account, no matter the expense, time, and effort spent to become a host.

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Ghost Airbnb Hosts and Gaming the System

I first used Airbnb in 2014 and have used it 15-20 times since with good results most times. As a journalist, I even wrote a favorable article on the subject. However, in last three years I have noticed five troubling trends.

One: ghost hosts. The person or couple pictured is allowing use of their photo and bio by a third party. On a trip to Florida, a young woman was ghosting for her elderly grandparents who spoke broken English and did not know how to host. In Tennessee, a woman switched her listings to hide bad reviews. Also in Tennessee, a young couple with young children fronted for several properties in an apartment building and resented being contacted by phone for instructions to get into the place.

Two: Fake reviews. In Montana, a host buried a bad review that carefully and credibly listed problems under several one sentence reviews that looked fake. Tip-off in Tennessee: overuse of the word “amazing” in reviews of the host. The Airbnb rating scale is badly designed. “Met expectations”, for example, could be very good, but is only three stars.

Three: Increasingly impersonal. The founding principle was person to person. Now that is rare. Four: Customer service is awful. Impersonal, manufactured, and ignores constructive thoughtful critics. Five: Pricing is deceptive. Cleaning fees of $50 to $75 or more added to a list price of, say, $48, which can change as suddenly as airline ticket fares.

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Airbnb Doesn’t Care About Basic Cleanliness

I booked a room in LA for three months. It was probably not the best move, but I didn’t know anyone in LA and I actually thought it would be safer to use Airbnb. When I finally got there, I thought it was the dirtiest place I had ever seen. I can only assume that the host and his flatmate used used all the old furniture they had to furnish the so-called guest room. There was one shaky secretary, one chair whose height adjustment no longer worked, an old drawer, and one old bed. This bed was quite a sight: its stage was broken, so the host decided to put one mattress on top of the other in order to compensate for that. The mattress on the top looked and felt like a rescue from an underfunded dog shelter: it was quite possibly older than myself (30) and it sank in when I’d lie on it to sleep. Quite soon I had a lot of back pain.

The room itself was filthy beyond belief. It seemed to have never been cleaned for over a year. I vacuumed the carpet the first morning I spent there, and I cleaned the secretary, the windows, and the drawer. Everything was dusty and stained. The sheets also did not seem to be recently cleaned. The rest of the house wasn’t much better: the furniture was far newer and more appropriate, but it was equally dirty. It boggles my mind: do these people actually think it’s normal to live like this? There was an unpleasant smell in the house. The kitchen had mold. The floor was sticky due to the accumulated filth.

I left the house after one week (as soon as I found another room). I asked for a refund, which, as expected, the little scammer that calls himself a host refused to pay. So I got Airbnb involved. What did they do? Nothing. Zero. After two weeks they still hadn’t responded to my claim. I had to call them, after spending an hour searching for their number on the internet (it’s nowhere on their website, which is indicative of their whole attitude). When they finally said something, it amounted to nothing.

“The host is unwilling to negotiate a refund.” Oh, really? Who would have guessed?

So how much did I lose? $2000, thanks to the host’s strict cancellation policy (which has already been struck down by a court in South Korea). The host then went on to double book the room. In addition, some of the reviews on his posting were fake. How do I know this? I had seen one of his flatmate’s friends when I was there, the first morning. He left a review on the posting two weeks after I left, raving about how awesome the host was.

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You Charge a Cleaning Fee? For What?

To whom it may concern: this location, though convenient to LAX, was the worst Airbnb property at which I have ever stayed. I have stayed in eight other Airbnb locations this year, and all have received good reviews. I normally don’t leave bad reviews, but the public needs to be warned. This place is that bad. The first thing that hits you is the smell when you walk in. Being that is a very old and dirty apartment, it’s not surprising there is mold growing everywhere and an unidentified slime coming out of the wall. The carpet is filthy, there is miscellaneous junk sitting along the edges of the wall in different rooms, and when you start looking around you begin to notice all the places the walls have been patched. The ceilings of both bathrooms and inside the cabinet over the kitchen sink have mold growing, literally hanging down like moss on a tree in the rainforest. The handles on the refrigerator have been ripped off and are on top of the refrigerator along with 1/4 inch of filth.

The cabinet above the kitchen sink is like something out of a horror movie. In the cabinet above the stove is more filth and a sticky trap with a dead cockroach and cricket. The ceiling in the top of the cabinet looks to have been finished by a drunk auto-body man who got a volume discount on Bondo. In the cabinet under the counter top stove are 220V wires just wire nutted together. This place has so many health and safety violations it should be condemned. The three bedrooms were sparsely furnished with cheap $5 pictures from Walmart but the worst part is the linens. For the room in which I slept (rather fitfully), the queen size bed had a king size fitted sheet, no top sheet, and a comforter that appeared threadbare and very old. The room at the front of the house was so bad that the person assigned to sleep in that room opted to sleep on the couch. All the vertical blinds had missing slats and did not allow for privacy from the neighbors. If we had not gotten into town so late we would have gone somewhere else. I think the part that makes me so angry is that I was charged and I am assuming previous occupants were also charged a cleaning fee. I have to believe that all the recent reviews that say the place is clean are fake. Unless you are okay living in filth do not book this dive.

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