COVID Refund Nightmare Over France Airbnb Cancellation

VRBO

My family of four was supposed to travel to France at the end of June. Clearly with the state of things we can’t go. I cancelled the reservation.

On my host’s page, it clearly says that I am entitled to a 50% refund minus the Airbnb service charges. When I talked to Airbnb, they told me that the host had refused the refund due to her “strict policies”. The host told me (albeit with a language barrier) that it was Airbnb. I also received a message after cancellation stating the amount I was to receive back. I have verified this with a lawyer in my family.

Now Airbnb won’t answer my messages and I am totally stuck. There’s no way that anyone will be travelling to France anytime soon, but I am so angry that I want my money back on principle. We even offered to take a full credit to use another time but they refused that as well. The blame game going on is astounding. This is the worst customer service I have ever received, and we are both in the hospitality industry so know a thing or two about this.

Any suggestions?

VRBO

Another Person Staying in my Booked Airbnb

VRBO

My worst Airbnb experience happened in Tours, France. I arrived around 21:00 to pick up the key from the box to the apartment just to find out there was no key from it and there was already someone staying in the same apartment. The other guest was surprised too. It happened that this other guest had a cousin living in the same town, so she left the apartment for me.

At first I was happy that I didn’t have to look for another place to stay… until I entered the dirty apartment. There was hair on the sheet, wet towels, and crumbs on the table. The host promised me clean sheets just the next day, but she gave me a refund for a one-night stay. The most ironic part is I got a bad review stating that I left the apartment dirty. I left it the same as I found it and a cleaning fee was included. Not recommended.

VRBO

Men Break in at Night while we are Asleep

VRBO

This summer, my girlfriend and I stayed at an Airbnb in the South of France for three nights: a one bedroom apartment in the heart of the old city of Aix-en-Provence. We arrived around 6:00 PM. The young guy who greeted us hadn’t finished cleaning up the place yet, so we just left our bags there and went out for dinner.

Fast forward two days. It was around midnight and we had just gotten back to the apartment after a long day. We went to bed, exhausted. I woke up around 9:00 AM, walked into the living room to grab my laptop from the couch – no laptop. I looked around; no phone either. Maybe I left it in my bag? No bag. My girlfriend’s bag was also missing.

I noticed large black footsteps on the tile floor (looked like a construction worker’s boots). I noticed that the window was wide open. My girlfriend still had her cell phone; she kept it in the bedroom during the night. We did our best to stay calm and focused.

We called the host who said he would be there in about an hour (he lives in neighboring Marseille). Meanwhile we went to the local police office to file a report. When we got back, the host was there, searching for any damage to his property. At first he said it didn’t look like there was a break-in. I showed him the footsteps.

Then he blamed us for leaving the window open. I pointed out to him that it had been 110 degrees out, that we were up on the second floor, and that the apartment had no AC. I also pointed out to him that the other window in the living room was broken, and also the window in our bedroom (though that one has bars). He shrugged and blamed the damage on previous Airbnb guests.

Then his tone changed a bit. I think he realized that we were still in shock and at a loss about what to do next. He admitted that when we called him he suspected we were lying, but that he believed us now. He assured us that all would be taken care of, that he had insurance, as does Airbnb. That we would get compensated for our stolen goods (computers, wallets, bags, phone, etc.). He promised to help us as long as we didn’t mention anything about the break-in in our review.

Awkward pause. Then, more gently, he asked us to please check out as soon as possible, since new guests are coming, and he needed to clean the apartment. Another awkward pause. My girlfriend reminded me that we still had lots of stuff to take care of (calling our banks, credit cards, my phone company, getting cash somehow…) so we may as well head out anyway.

Once we started packing all our stuff, she also reminded me that he was a Superhost so he must know how to handle everything with the insurance. I expressed to him my concern about the next guests – maybe the burglar is targeting this apartment? He reassured me it was all fine, and that he would just tell the next guests to lock the windows before they go to bed.

Once we were out on the street, all the admin stuff took us longer, and we ended up having to stay in Aix for one more night. We called the Airbnb host in Avignon (the next town on our trip, where we had another booking for three nights) to tell him what had happened, and that we would only arrive the next day. He said no problem, but that he must charge us still for that unused night. We understand. It’s not his fault that we were victims of a break-in, after all.

It is at this moment that our vacation officially ends (not on paper, as we are still in France, but for all other practical matters) and the saga with Airbnb’s customer service begins. It was the usual progression of “we will call you back” then “please send us the police report for the Nth time” then “please send us all the receipts for the stolen items for the Nth time” then “sorry we can’t help you” then “we can offer you $100 as compensation” then finally “we can offer you $500 out of our goodwill and the case is now closed.”

It took three weeks of constant calling to get to that point. $500 barely covers 10% of what was stolen (not to mention the stay itself, the extra night in Aix, and the lost night in Avignon). That aside, what shocked me most was how little Airbnb seemed to care about our overall experience and about the safety of future guests at that specific Airbnb.

The host, on his end, was always “on vacation” or “busy” when we tried to reach him. He never filed a claim with his insurance (does he even have insurance, we began to wonder). He continued to rent the apartment to guests nonstop through the Airbnb platform.

I became a little paranoid: who knows how many times that apartment has gotten broken into? Who knows how many other former guests now wake up in the middle of the night from nightmares about a man breaking into their apartment? Airbnb knows, but not the rest of the Airbnb community, because we were cheated into not mentioning it in our review. I’m angry with myself for agreeing to that deal. I’m angry with Airbnb for not caring about anything or anyone excerpt for their own profit and growth. Let the truth be known.

UPDATE: Now at nearly four weeks since the incident, we managed to get a hold of the host. He began by apologizing that it didn’t work out with his insurance in the end. He assured us that he did his absolute best. The reason the claim was rejected? We left the window open.

We told him we had done our research on the topic – that an open window voids insurance in France only if the break-in happens on a first floor/garden level apartment. He insisted that his insurance told him otherwise. We asked for the type of insurance policy he has, but he refused to tell us.

Finally, clearly angry at this point, he told us the name of the insurance company, then hung up the phone. We tried calling him back, but he wouldn’t pick up.

We then called the insurance company he had just mentioned, gave them his name and address, explained the situation, and they informed us that a claim was never made. They also told us the type of insurance policy has has: the most basic policy (what in France they call “Assurance Habitation”), which only covers his own belongings in the case of a break-in. Definitely not the insurance policy one should have for a full-time Airbnb rental.

As we had suspected by this point, his whole promise of helping us get reimbursed for our stolen belongings was a charade – a way to manipulate us into not mentioning the break-in in our review during high-season.

As for Airbnb? They know the full story. We’re still waiting for the promised email from their elusive case manager.

VRBO

Airbnb Doesn’t Always Allow Negative Reviews

We have reviewed our stay at a place in Chamonix, France where we stayed from February 5th until February 19th, 2019. However, it never was published by Airbnb because the guest never wrote a review about us, the guests. This is, in our opinion, an incorrect action on Airbnb’s part.

Because the owner feels that our review would not suit her, our review will not be published so future guests will not have a reference to how we have experienced our stay at her chalet. I see that as a wrong policy from Airbnb and it is, in a way, cheating. Those who look for reviews will not be adequately informed about this accommodation. We all look for reviews and photos because the principle is ‘what you see is what you get’. That is why there is a gap in the reviews of her place between April 2018 and February 2019.

My advice: If there are hardly any reviews or there is a big gap between reviews, especially in areas like Chamonix during the skiing season, don’t take the place because something is wrong. That was our experience as well. The bathroom was dirty, the shower cabin had a sewer smell, the water tap for mixing cold and hot water did not function well, there were a number of things not provided although advertised, and the bedrooms are upstairs, but the shower and toilet downstairs which, for us, was not clear in the pictures, among others.

We still gave it three stars. However, the review was not published. For us this shows the lack of responsibility by Airbnb where it comes to publishing reviews and informing future guests adequately.

Airbnb Guest Booked Property to Commit Suicide

Setting: a major city in France. On Monday a prospective guest – let’s call him Laurence – requested to book a room in my apartment where I also living for one week starting on Tuesday. He had a blank profile – no photo – but wrote a brief message saying he was a young man coming to the city for a job interview and wanted to look around. I accepted the booking.

On Tuesday, there was no communication from Laurence. I took the initiative and contacted the mobile number given asking for his arrival time. There was an exchange of messages. I repeated several times that I would not leave the key with my neighbour. Because the guest would be arriving while I was at work, he would have to arrive after I’ve finished work, around 9:30. My policy is always to be in when people arrive, I’m not giving a stranger keys to my home when I’m not there.

The young man arrived. His name wasn’t Laurence – let’s call him Gilbert. I showed Gilbert around the flat. He settled into the room, had a shower, and went to bed. On Wednesday I was out early, returned for lunchtime, and saw Gilbert briefly. I left the apartment mid-afternoon, and returned around 8:30. I wasn’t sure if Gilbert was in his room or not.

On Thursday I left early and was out all day, returning home around 7:15. There was no sign of Gilbert having been in or out the apartment. On Friday I left early, returned at lunchtime, and noticed the shutters to the guest room which faces the street are still closed. I knocked  on the door to the guest room several times. After getting no response I entered to find a very dead Gilbert curled up under the duvet. His suitcase was opened but not unpacked. There was a bag next to it with quantities of medications, and blister packs opened. I didn’t look too closely because I didn’t want to touch anything. There were several empty beer bottles.

The remainder of Friday afternoon was spent dealing with the police. Eventually the body was removed and I spent that evening deep cleaning the flat. I’ve had to throw out the mattress (looked like blood had been vomited) as well as the bed linen. On Friday night, his parents called me, saying they had not heard anything from Gilbert since Wednesday, asking if he was alright.

“The police will call you Madam.”

“What do you mean the police will call me? I don’t understand…”

“The police will call you Madam.” That’s all I can say. I put the phone down and switched it off.

On Saturday, his parents flew into the city. The mother called me in tears. I agreed to meet and let them in the flat to see the room where their son died. On Sunday, I was back at the police station repeating myself: “When did I last see Gilbert? Did I hear anyone else come in or out the apartment on Wednesday night? Did he allow anyone into the apartment? Did I observe anything about his mood?” Anyway, I’m not suspected of anything, but this is still nerve racking and extremely unpleasant.

Until the autopsy is carried out on Monday, the cause of death can’t be determined. I guess he either chose my place to commit suicide, had some undiagnosed medical condition, or died accidentally. I’m continuing to host on Airbnb and I’ve changed the settings, so everyone has to request to book. I’ve made the house rules even more explicit and will copy and send to prospective guests who must read through and confirm them before I’ll accept the booking.

I’ve reiterated I have zero tolerance for alcohol/drug intoxication as well as stating I must be told about any underlying medical conditions such as diabetes or epilepsy which might cause an emergency. Guests should also give me emergency contact details. I’ve said that I will meet guests in the street outside the apartment and if their photo ID doesn’t match the name of the person who made the booking they won’t be allowed in the building, let alone given the keys to the apartment. You have to protect yourself in this day and age.

Poorly Designed Policies Allow Airbnb Extortion

I recently had an unpleasant experience while traveling in Cannes, France with my wife, baby, and a friend. I explained the situation to Airbnb’s support team, but they sided with the host due to Airbnb policies. I’ve come to realize that the policies are flawed and the only way to fix it is to bring it to the attention to someone with the ability to amend the policies.

I live in the United States and work in residential real estate development. When listing the number of bathrooms in the U.S., “2.5 bathrooms” would mean two full bathrooms with a shower and toilet and a second half-bath with just a toilet. Evidently, in France 2.5 bathrooms means two bathrooms with only a shower and a third bathroom with only a toilet. Thus, there is only one toilet in a three-bedroom apartment.

We were shocked and felt somewhat duped especially since the host knew better. He was a residential real estate broker in the U.S. for four years. You would think that this would be cause for cancellation, but it was not according to Airbnb support. This was unfortunate, but not the end of the world.

Upon nightfall the unit was overrun with mosquitos – dozens of them. We killed a couple on a dish towel (a photo was taken and sent to Airbnb). My wife and I had our five-month old baby with us. We could not allow him to get eaten alive while he slept. The only responsible thing to do was to leave and check into a hotel.

Evidently, according to Airbnb policy, mosquitoes are not a viable reason to cancel a reservation. I’m still shocked that this does not qualify as uninhabitable. Airbnb is competing against hotels. If I were to check into a hotel room with dozens of mosquitoes, they would have refunded my money. Why wouldn’t Airbnb?

After contacting the host that evening and not receiving a response, I sent him a nice message saying that my experience was clearly unpleasant, but since I didn’t stay there overnight and he would not need to clean the premises, I stated the obvious by saying that if he would just refund my money, I wouldn’t leave a review. What a mistake. He was a pro and knew that according to Airbnb policy, he got me.

He accused me of extortion which I thought this was crazy since extortion clearly implies a falsehood. The intent of an extortion policy is to protect hosts from guests who had a pleasant experience and then demand a refund in return for a positive review. Airbnb’s policy doesn’t read that way and thus provides a loophole to unscrupulous hosts. Since it’s “policy” there was nothing Customer Support could do.

I lost $1,037. I thought to myself that this was unfortunate but at least I can warn other travelers of the two issues mentioned above. After leaving my review, Airbnb then informed me that it was being removed due to the extortion policy despite the fact was that it was completely honest. Not only do I feel like $1,000 was stolen from me, I am now not even allowed to warn other travelers. I know Airbnb is a young company so there will be holes in the system, but I just thought I’d bring this one to their attention.

Dishonest Host Refuses to Admit Shoes have been Stolen

blankblankblank

One Airbnb host, Steeve, runs a series of Airbnb apartments with his friend in Cannes. We ran into major problems with this guy when staying in one his apartments: we had over £1,000 worth of property stolen and he has repeatedly tried to cover up what happened and is not willing to help resolve the issue.

He has already duped a previous Airbnb host in the past, as shown by this review she eventually left. I tried to leave a review with Airbnb but the host obviously is able to manipulate them into siding with him.

On August 12th, we left the apartment around 12:00 PM and returned at around 9:00 PM. However, after starting to pack up the apartment, we realised two very expensive and rare pairs of our designer shoes went missing, worth in excess of 1,000 euros. We definitely had the shoes there before we left that day. After that, all three of us­ rechecked the whole apartment three times each, and definitely couldn’t find them.

We called the host and asked if anyone had been in the apartment. He said nobody had, and he would not accept that anyone could have stolen it or entered the apartment and continually said “it’s impossible” and that they “must be in the apartment”. He then came in person, and checked with us, and of course, failed to find them there.

The host just would not accept that someone could have stolen it, claiming that his workers are trustworthy and that nobody else has access to the keys. However, he contradicted himself here as on August 8th he asked if his cleaner could come into the house to clean while we were away. They actually did not turn up and he remarked to me later that day that he then “had to get the keys off her”.

The host was adamant that nobody could have accessed the flat but then could not explain how shoes could have gone missing. He also implied that perhaps we hid the shoes, or were lying. I feel this Airbnb host was unprofessional, missing the point and defensive, as he also made remarks like “extraterrestials must have taken them” and “who would steal just shoes?”

The fact still remains that: we were reporting our property being stolen under his watch; a crime had been committed; and it must have occurred within an eight-hour time period by somebody coming into the apartment. It is extremely curious as there were absolutely no signs of any forced entry, door damage, window damage or damages to the locks of the door, meaning the thief must have entered using a key. This should be great cause of alarm for the safety of future guests.

The host also seemed very nervous and hesitant of getting law enforcement involved in any way. Instead of saying “No, Airbnb should sort it,” a friend of the host’s came to visit the flat on August 12th just before 11:00 AM to pick up a baby pram/bed. He was checking each room as if he was struggling to find it. We were with him the whole time, but found it curious how he was scanning the entire flat.

The host phoned the cleaner and his friend, ­­­on loudspeaker in front of us. All that was asked was “do you have a key for the apartment?” to which his friend said “no”. However, the cleaner seemed very hesitant and confused about whether she had one or not. The host was defensive of her, and did not accept that it was possible that she would have done anything.

We were the victims in all of this, having £1,000+ worth of goods missing. Our host was not very considerate, blamed us for this, and acted as if he was the victim.

We are currently filing a report with the French police to investigate this. However, it is difficult as I’m trying to do this from the UK. Please share this with as many people as you can on social media, so that nobody else can get scammed by this dishonest person. I’d also argue that if someone was able to be so dishonest and callous with their tenants, you would also not want to engage with them in any business.

 

*******Update Sept 22, 2018********

I got an email from someone pretending to be Airbnb, basically threatening me! (Photo below)

blank

Moving to France, Booking on Airbnb, Facing this Situation

Let me start by saying that I am a frequent Airbnb user. Until this happened. I moved to France (Rennes to be more specific) 11 days ago and I booked two nights in a private room in order to rest and start looking for an apartment full time (moving to a foreign country, carrying a lot of luggage, and finding a proper place to stay even for a couple of days is necessary). The host answered my messages before arrival, but when I checked in, I encountered a problem which made me feel suspicious of the surroundings.

As a foreign young girl who had to stay for two nights in an apartment with two other men, whom I had not been informed about beforehand, and was preparing to consume alcohol that night, I had to think twice about spending the night. I would like to add that even if it was a private room, I didn’t have the key to it. I was accompanied by a friend of mine who shared the same feeling about the situation, saying that he wouldn’t let me stay in there.

The host told me I should cancel the booking and he would give me my money back. In other words, no fees would be charged for my cancellation, with the exception of the website tax. When people make you feel threatened or unsure of your safety, taking pictures is not highly recommended, which is why I do not have pictures of the place/situation. I have noticed that the money was taken from my account; I had reminded him about the money and our understanding and requested a refund once more. I have contacted him four times so far with no hope for a resolution.

I was forced under these circumstances to pay for a service that was not delivered. I would like to include the link of my meant-to-be-safe host’s profile. I know that it might be in vain, but I tried my luck in sending Airbnb an email concerning my issue. I would like for others to be aware of some people and to pay attention to what they are “buying”. Thanks.

Avoid this Airbnb Nightmare in Bordeaux, France

We (a couple with a child) have nothing against simple. Some simple apartments are good, but this host’s apartment in Bordeaux was not. It was much older than shown in the pictures. In fact, every single thing in her apartment was old and of low quality. The pillows and blankets were so old that they had yellow stains and smelled moldy. It was summer, but the host and her boyfriend only gave us two heavy winter blankets (the only ones they had). Our things had to remain in the suitcases, because the whole apartment was crammed full with her belongings. In the tiny kitchenette, there was no free space to prepare a meal. The bed was uncomfortable and the sofa bed was a joke: very old with a very thin “mattress” (almost the same as sleeping directly on the floor). With the windows closed, one could hear every single word spoken on the streets. The apartment was not clean, they vacuumed only the floor (there were hairs on the bathroom door). Two light bulbs were broken. On the third day, it was very annoying: we had to open the door for her boyfriend because he wanted to have one of his books. On check-out day, instead of coming to collect the keys, he wanted us to bring them to him at his workplace. After I gave the place a negative review, he had the nerve to send me a very angry message. Going to Bordeaux? Avoid this terrible apartment.

Host Reviews Always Seem to be too Good to be True

We just returned from a really poor Airbnb experience in Chamonix, France. I looked at her reviews as host and they all were too full of sunshine. This makes me think that guests are afraid to tell the truth because then they will be reviewed negatively. So everyone says “It was great!” I’m tired of being lied to like this. The woman who rented to us was clearly crazy, micromanaged every moment of our stay, disrespected our privacy, told us what to do constantly, drove us out of the house the day before she left, gave us the bum’s rush about when we were leaving, had an infant grandchild stay in the small apartment who cried and awoke us, and smoked cigarettes. It was so difficult to relax and enjoy our vacation time. I am about done with Airbnb. It’s all roses in reviews then the reality is different. I do not trust the reviews at all. We were kind, quiet, clean and courteous guests and all we got was grief. We arrived an hour earlier than the 5:00 PM check in time and was greeted with disdain and freak out… how lovely. In addition, we thought it was a private attic apartment, not shared with her and a baby. I would have never booked a place with a baby in the house. Before we went to bed, I asked her to turn off or at least turn down a loud electronic baby toy next to the entrance to our room and she snapped and said “wear earplugs!” We were not allowed to touch anything in the kitchen due to an earlier guest. She should have stated that in her listing. We paid dearly for this crappy treatment and experience. It’s hotels or private accommodations from now on. Airbnb is not worth it anymore. There are too many flakes.