Worst Customer Experience, Fake Airbnb Fees

I booked an Airbnb about a month in advance of my trip to San Sebastian, Spain. I had a few messages with the host and felt good about the booking (good location, all good reviews). My last comment to the host was that I had to arrive late: about 10:30 PM due to traveling all day from another city in Spain. I sent this 24 days in advance, yet four days before my trip he replied saying that he will have to collect a 40 euro “late check-in fee” at the door.

I immediately contacted Airbnb to voice my concerns and to find out if this was something he had the right to do. This “late check-in fee” was nowhere on his listing. After three phone calls and a lot of being put on hold, customer service at Airbnb said the host is not allowed to charge an extra fee that’s not clearly on the listing for all to see. They said they would reach out to him right away to “resolve” this as they did not want to cancel the booking without hearing his side of the story.

I called Airbnb for three consecutive days begging for some sort of answer up to the point that I had passed the cut off for cancelling without a penalty and no one could help. Finally I had to beg and plea the night before my trip to escalate to a case manager. She attempted to assist, but literally said she was hamstrung and they do not issue refunds or reimbursements – ever – without at least letting the host respond. Since it was past the cancellation period, she said there was nothing she could do now that they should have reached out to the host sooner. She also said they could issue a coupon for a future stay, but that the max they could ever issue is $200 USD. I don’t know if any of this is true, but it sounded like complete BS to me.

I called my credit card company. They said I was not the first to dispute an Airbnb charge, that it’s not a problem, and they would take care of me. How dare Airbnb take the side of the host. He had three weeks to reply to me and towards the end I bet he was dodging the calls and emails from Airbnb. Airbnb needs to get their act together.

Malibu Horror: Charged More for a Dinner Guest?

If anyone is considering staying in Malibu, please read about my experience with this host. I will include the email exchange I had with him so you can see what type of person he is.

All I was trying to do was have a relaxing two-night stay on the water. I told the host that we had four people in our immediate family plus my niece and her baby may join us for dinner. I texted and emailed; there was no response. Nearly a week went by. He said that if my niece stepped foot in his house that I would have to pay him an additional $800 plus a cleaning deposit, that she couldn’t come over for even a moment without me paying him. This would bring the total to $1600 for two nights.

He waited one day past the time that I could cancel for a full refund to tell me this. I have spent two solid days, countless hours, and twenty phone calls disputing this with the resolution department. They all say they are sorry and that this is unbelievable and awful, but they are letting the host do whatever he wants. Here is the communication between the host and me. If this helps one person not to have to deal with a host like this and the hell I have been through, then posting here is worth it.

Me: We are a family of four: two adults and two kids (9 and 10) wanting to enjoy the beach. My niece will stop by with her baby. We are quiet people just looking for relaxation. We would not be bringing any pets. We do not party, just want to hear and enjoy the water. We have one car, a van, and my niece has an Altima.

Me: I sent you a text many days ago but didn’t hear back so I’m going to try through here. I wanted to let you know my niece and the baby (two years old) will be spending one night. No one will be partying; there won’t be any loud noise. Will we need to meet you for the keys or will they be inside the unit? Is there any chance of getting into the unit before 4:00 PM? Maybe 2ish?

Host: You’ll need to update your guest count, please. I can check with my cleaning service but they will charge extra.

Me: The information about the property says that it can accommodate ten people. Why would there be an additional charge if I’m within the number of guests that the property can hold?

Host: It’s a flat rate, up to four and then an additional charge per guest after that – all explained on the listing page at the time you booked.

Me: Never mind. I didn’t see any of that in the listing page. This is my first time using Airbnb. It’s my birthday and wanted something special. I will just have them come for the day and put them in a hotel nearby if it’s a problem. They will rejoin us in the morning.

Me: Can you please let me know if I will need to arrange a time to meet you for the keys or if they will just be inside? Will 2:00 PM be okay for check in? If there is a problem with the reservation, please let me know now so we can arrange an alternative while there is some time to do so.

Host: Everyone who needs to come to the house needs to be on the reservation please. This is all stated very clearly multiple times throughout the listing. My cleaning service will charge extra for an early check in.

Me: I wrote “very clearly” that my niece and her baby were going to come over. If this wasn’t acceptable why did you accept the reservation as it was? I’m not able to pay another 700-800 for the reservation. If this isn’t going to work on your end just cancel it and we can get something else.

Host: I didn’t accept it – you Instant Booked it after agreeing to the house rules and terms of service

Me: It shows that it was accepted. If you’re not going to allow me to have a guest then cancel it. I’m not going to alter my plans if I can’t see my family on my birthday.

Host: I can’t cancel it – you Instant Booked it after agreeing to my house rules and terms of service. You have to cancel it if you don’t intend on staying and following the rules.

Me: So you’re saying I can’t have my family over for a meal unless I pay you another 700-800?

Host: Your reservation is for four – how many more people would you like to invite to my home? I will do my best to come up with a fair solution for both of us.

Me: My niece was going to stop by after work with her 19-month-old daughter.

Host: Two more? Any others besides the original four?

Me: It’s just those I have already mentioned. I don’t understand this. If I book a hotel and someone comes into the room I don’t get charged extra.

Host: I’m sorry I wasn’t clear – is it two more, or more than that? Will there ever be more than six people at any point, day or night?

Me: I contacted you Thursday, June 29th initially. You never responded. If anything that I had initially written had been an issue, Thursday or Friday would have been the time to say so. Now nearly a week later, problems are arising. I don’t feel comfortable staying at your property based on our interaction. I expressed that this is my very first booking. Instead of you gently guiding me through, you are making me feel very uncomfortable. I don’t feel like staying at your property will be the relaxing birthday experience that I want. I feel like I will be under scrutiny. You said in your profile that you are laid back. Pretty much the only things you have said to me are that I have to pay more and more money. You have said I need to pay for my niece to have a meal with us, then that I need to pay for an additional cleaning fee, beyond the original $100. If I want to come at 2:00 PM instead of the very late check in time of 4:00 PM I will need to pay extra for that as well. All I have heard from you is money, money, money. Where is the humanity or comfort of your guests? In addition, I have from Thursday said that my niece and her baby may come over. I have never heard of being charged for someone to spend some time with you in a place that you are already paying for. Please just cancel the reservation. We clearly are not seeing eye to eye on this.

Host: I can’t cancel the reservation for you. All of this is outlined on my posting – so I’m a bit surprised you are acting like this wasn’t disclosed at the time of your booking which you very clearly had to agree to in order to complete the booking. We came to an agreement for a stay for four people from 4:00 PM on the 11th to 10:00 AM on the 13th as outlined on your confirmation. If you’d like to change the terms of this I’m willing to work with you but please do not act as if I am being unreasonable. Feel free to check out my reviews – I have a ton of experience with this. If you do wish to cancel, my suggestion would be to do so ASAP so I have the opportunity to re-rent it. Otherwise it will become increasingly difficult

Me: So you’re saying I can cancel it for a full refund?

Me: I very clearly said who would be there. I very clearly saw that your place can accommodate ten people. I very clearly didn’t see that there was an additional charge. Why do I have to pay for a family member to step foot onto the property? It’s illogical and unreasonable.

Me: Why can’t you cancel the reservation?

Host: Your refund will be based on my ability to re-rent and the new reservation amount

Me: That doesn’t give me a figure. If it’s a $50 hit I’ll take that, even though this isn’t my fault as I clearly stated who would be in the property. You would rather I be forced to go to your property and not be able to have my family with me on my birthday unless I want to pay 800 plus a cleaning fee. Thereby I would have a bad experience, and write a review reflecting this experience. I have stayed at properties all over the world and have never experienced anything like this! This is a two-night reservation. I agreed to the initial amount, clearly stated who would be there, contacted you, waited nearly a week, never heard back from you, and now you want an additional 800 plus. I feel like I’m being extorted. I believe it is within your purview to cancel but you won’t because you’re only interested in money.

My Case was Closed Before the Case was Closed

I booked a place in Cusco, Peru that only said it accepted up to two people. When a friend decided to join us, I had to cancel and find a new place. However, upon contacting the host, she confirmed we could have three people; I rebooked the same place for the same time. Airbnb refunded $229 of the $401 fee but hasn’t refunded the cancellation portion of the fee ($172) of the first reservation that was placed in error. I am now staying at the same place for the same dates and have overpaid by $172.

Now let’s discuss Airbnb’s Customer Service or lack thereof. I contacted them to explain what had happened and the agent claimed she would try and contact the host to resolve the situation. The whole issue happened because the Airbnb system won’t allow for the correction of a cancellation made in error and they force you to rebook and pay again. Anyway, the agent wasn’t able to reach the host and I received a followup email asking if the case was resolved. I had one week to reply or the case would be closed. I did reply (three times) and finally after a few days, Airbnb sent me an email stating the case has been closed and I could resubmit to open a new case.

What just happened? There are now several other companies that do the same service as Airbnb (Hometogo for example) so I guess I’ll be looking elsewhere for my next vacation booking.

Boyfriend and I Wanted a Unique Airbnb Getaway

My boyfriend and I wanted a unique vacation. We found a small place a couple of hours away that offered “glamping”. We figured it would be a fun experience. The strange thing is this boutique glamping hotel exclusively uses Airbnb as its booking platform. I wasn’t excited about that but figured I’d sign up and give it a shot.

It’s been nothing short of a hassle. First of all, signing up is pretty invasive. It asks for you to upload a picture of your ID or to give your social security number in lieu of that inconvenience. I don’t know about you, but no one is getting my social security number. I reluctantly uploaded a picture ID.

Secondly, have you read the terms and conditions? They are already assuming you are a dirty, messed up person and they are already thinking of ways to kick you off the property and keep your money if you have to cancel.

Apparently someone signed up for the same nights as me right around the same moment I made the reservation. Instead of contacting me, they just let the 24-hour period run. I got an email saying the host had not responded to my request and so I should simply pick another place. Another place? This place was the only reason I was on Airbnb in the first place. Why isn’t there an option for picking another weekend? Maybe it is because Airbnb really shouldn’t be used as the booking platform for a hotel. I had to go back through the system again and pick another weekend.

My second request was accepted pretty early and my card was charged at the same moment. That is fine. What’s not really fine are the hidden costs. The ad for the place reports you will pay $X per night, a $75 cleaning fee, and a $250 deposit. I thought the deposit seemed hefty, but I budgeted for it to be held. It turned out there were additional charges. On top of the things advertised above, they also charged me $56 just for using Airbnb (hefty – I’ll pay for the service but $56 seems like they’re gouging me). There was also a $27 occupancy tax, which I expected. All fine and done.

I received another email saying my host had requested even more money. $61 more was needed to cover taxes (6% county, 7% state of Texas). Taxes are taxes but I could not figure out how they arrived at $61. I calculated $50 and some change. I didn’t find the $11 worth asking or arguing over, so I sent the additional money while wondering how Airbnb could possibly be cheaper or better than a hotel. They’re currently sitting on $856 of my money (if you count the $250 deposit being held in suspense) for two days in a fancy yurt in middle of nowhere Texas, where you make your own meals, etc.

Is this an Airbnb scam? I start doing more research to see if others found it to be a little too expensive. Apparently Airbnb is being used to scam money out of people and seemingly not doing enough to stop it or help. I wish my $56 would go toward designing a more secure platform.

One week before we were supposed to check in, I received a call from the “host” (he claims). He was very nice but I was immediately suspicious. He went into a long, rambling, nearly incoherent story about how the property just switched owners and as a result, I booked under the wrong owner. He said (I think) that Airbnb wanted me to rebook with the right owner. He said it should be easy. He confirmed my email address and said I would receive an email asking me to “reapply the funds to [his] account”. I told him I would await the email.

It’s been three days and I haven’t received an email. I’m supposed to check-in in four days. I hope all goes well. I am already preparing myself to be kicked off the property or not booked due to a misunderstanding. I will probably pass on any hotels that use Airbnb as their booking platform exclusively from now on. I just feel it’s a bad business model. Why let another non-affiliated company have a say and a share in your business?

Update 6.12.2017:

I never got the email from Airbnb that the host said I would receive. I called Airbnb yesterday morning to ask about it.  They had no idea what I was talking about and put me on hold for 10-15 minutes. They then said they would look into it and contact me. I got an email this morning saying that my reservation had been canceled and that I had been given a voucher for what I paid with the option to reapply the funds to the same or similar place (like the host said I would).  I started going through the steps and realized the voucher does not cover the $88 in tax that I already paid. Airbnb wants for me to repay the $88 in taxes in order to complete this process. In addition, Airbnb is actually requesting that I reach out to the host to work this out… encouraging me to reach out to the host to discuss bookings even after all these scams they’ve been having?

It sounds like Airbnb and the host screwed something up and I am the one being inconvenienced.  I sent an email to the Airbnb team explaining how inefficient and frustrating this has been and this will be my first and last Airbnb stay.  Also, I asked the host to reach out to Airbnb if there is anything else he needs.

Airbnb Promises to Pay us Back for Damages, but then…

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While Airbnb claims it has people in every major city of the world, they remain unreachable when you are locked out in the middle of the night in Paris. Whatever action you take, such as calling a locksmith, Airbnb will not cover the inconvenience, even when you rent one of those superstar flats. We had to call a locksmith who ultimately cut the lock open and charged us 1200 euros, and left us with an open door all night. When the host calls the help center (they only respond when it is a host), they promise to reimburse the guest, but then after one month of back and forth lingering, announce they are not covering the costs. Here is our 1200-euro story.

We arrived at the flat after a romantic dinner in Paris at about 12:30 in the middle of the night. When we inserted the key, it somehow got jammed in the lock. After trying incessantly to unlock the door, we finally called the host. There was no answer. The Airbnb help center? No answer. Our passports and belongings were in there, including our credit cards which are required to book a hotel. So we called a locksmith… on a public holiday. Finally we got hold of a locksmith that came over, and forced the key out. Now that the key was broken, the only option was to cut the lock with a mechanical saw. Once inside, the locksmith is quick to pimp the bill with holiday and nighttime labor fees which finally amounted to 1200 euros. The next morning we got a hold of the host who quickly contacted Airbnb (she is a Superhost and quickly gets their attention). Because she insisted, Airbnb called us and told us not to worry about the money; they would reimburse us. After one month of back and forth emails, always asking for the same clarifications, they finally announced that they closed the case, and that we should ask the host for reimbursement. Bottom line: Airbnb is like renting your friend’s flat, but without insurance. Just pray nothing bad happens.

Beware Airbnb Service Fees: Refunds are Impossible

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This isn’t terrible, but I feel like a lot of people are probably getting ripped off right now without realizing it. I booked a place that was covered under the 100% refundable policy. This policy clearly states service fees are refundable up to 24 hours before your trip, and the Airbnb refund policy in general says service fees are refundable for guests up to three times a year. See the attached pictures, screenshots from the Airbnb website. When I cancelled and requested a refund, it was not automatically given. After drilling down through multiple levels of their help center clearly intended to prevent you from talking to anyone, I finally go to chat with someone. He told me it was against Airbnb’s policy to refund service fees, but he would do me a ‘favor’ this once because I had booked another place. I thanked him for the refund, but afterwards I pointed out that it said in two places that the fee was refundable. He said, “That’s right, our service fees are not refundable” along with some other wholesome crap about Airbnb being a community. At that point, I moved from classifying customer service representatives as humans to examples of a failed Turing test, and I just hope their developers look at this and at the very least clarify their policy.

Dirty Airbnb Leaves Guest Without Refund

The first time I cancelled, Airbnb kept the reservation fee. I paid $226 for a week’s stay. I spoke to the owner and he was very forthcoming and helpful. He is operating his property from a foreign country and has a caretaker. I walked in to a big surprise. The bath room had not been cleaned and the toilet was filthy, to put it mildly. The beds were not made and they were using the same sheets without washing them. Dirty and clean clothes were all over the place and the dusty floors had not even been cleaned. I called the owner; he was very understanding and agreed to pay me the whole sum once I cancelled, but Airbnb only refund me $83 out of the $226 or so I paid. I didn’t even spent ten minutes in that place. You cannot contact them over the phone. They have no idea how they ruined someone’s good time and money. My host is willing to give me my money back but not Airbnb… how about that?

Airbnb is Collecting my Taxes and Not Paying Them

I was surprised to see a letter from The Department of Revenue of Pennsylvania only to open it and find out Airbnb has not paid the occupancy taxes. However, they have been collecting the money from my guests for over 16 months. They state of Pennsylvania is looking for the last five quarters of taxes from me now. I called to discuss the matter with them because the website is a nightmare and impossible to navigate. I have now called five different times on different days and have been stuck on hold every time for a minimum of 25 minutes and maximum of 50 minutes before I give up or have to end the call. To say I’m frustrated is an understatement. I have nowhere to turn… except to stay on hold to pray someone answers. You would think if they make these payments you would be copied in on the paperwork in some form or fashion. At bare minimum, on your account page there should be a way to search for these payments or have their records available to you. If anyone can point me in the right direction or would like to share a similar story please feel free to do so.

Moldy Dirty Airbnb Montclair: Why Cleaning Fees?

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We were a group of seven adults trying to get up north for a close friend’s birthday and it didn’t turn as great as we wish it had. The first weird moment was when I got a text from the host telling me the hot tub was on, and if we were going to use it, it would cost $50 for utilities and a cleaning fee, when the hot tub had already been included in the listing. Who would want to jump in a hot tub outside in the Oakland/Montclair area in February while it’s pouring rain? We arrived there to find out that none of the “entrance doors” we going to be locked during our three-night stay. The host told us it was a really safe neighborhood and that he was a part of the “neighbor safety watch council.” We obviously had luggage as we had booked from Friday to Monday morning, so we were a bit skeptical by this news that had just fallen on us. After getting some of our belonging in the rooms, we noticed some of the beds were in fact only mattresses on the floor, which was different than those in the pictures on the listing. Some of the rooms had a really dusty/stuffy/moldy smell and it made it awkward to breathe, so we opened the windows a bit, even if it was pretty cold up there.

We all went out to the birthday boy’s dinner, to find out after coming back that the kitchen counter was not even clean. Why would they rent a dirty house to people? When adding some beverages to the fridge, we realized that the entire place was just dirty. Two of the rooms had a space heater, but the third one had nothing. The people staying in there were freezing during the night and tried to turn what seemed to be the “full house heater” on the next day, but the box didn’t even work. When it came time to take a shower, we realized that not only was there rust, the towels were falling apart, the rod used for the curtain was actually a metal pipe, and the bathtub was actually moldy all over. The listing showed a $75 cleaning fee. I’m not sure who is enjoying that charge, but definitely no one who ever touched a sponge, scrubber or any cleaning detergents.

The house all around was really mismatched and decorated in a really weird way, but what was shocking is the fact that only a homemade sliding door was separating our “entire place” booking and where the host lived with his girlfriend. If the door was closed and locked all the time, it would have been ok, but in our case, we found that door wide open every morning, after a few of us had already left. The host might have thought it was cool to just go around during our “rental time” without letting us know. He could have at least warned us. Also, please read the “Hot Tub Rules” that were listed on the side of the dirty fridge, and tell me if you believe this is okay to ask your guest to be completely naked to use the jacuzzi. There is so much more I could say about our stay, but I’ll just share the few pictures I took of that place that should not be on Airbnb before getting cleaned and updated.

I requested a part of our booking fee back from all the people who rented that place with me and didn’t get any answer. I believe that rust, mold and unlocked entrances at all times should not be a part of the Airbnb policy. The nonexistent customer service pretty much tells people like us, to resolve the issue with the host and would get involved only at the crucial part. I feel like it is a great business for them as they are charging quite a bit extra to the guest and take a nice part of what the host makes as well, just for the access to their website. For all the money they are taking away, I wish they would support whoever goes through that kind of experience a little better. Hopefully someone will get back to us and at least get us the cleaning fee and Airbnb fees back.

Airbnb charged us for a flood that was not our fault

Airbnb first said this house we rented last summer was a four bedroom. One of the so-called bedrooms was a half room, with no door and a crib and air mattress inside the alcove; that’s all it was, an alcove. Then we had this flood, which had something to do with the huge construction site two doors down. My daughters were bathing in the upstairs bathtub and when we let the water out, all the water from the toilet in the powder room came flooding up – black water and everything. When we arrived you could see it had happened before as the wood tiles in that bathroom were curling up and jagged. We had to vacate the house which was not easy as we were in high season. We contacted the owner who sent a plumber but we did not see him until he knocked at the door and said we were all good; the blockage was in the street. In the dispute they would not declare who the plumber was, nut Airbnb and our host blamed us and charged us 1000 USD. Beware using Airbnb; try any other good options as an alternative to these bandits. Happy Travels!