On May 1st I made a reservation and paid $1,920. I left numerous emails using the Airbnb website email but didn’t get an answer. Then I emailed the host from my regular email and still didn’t get an answer. Less than two days before my departure, the host cancelled with no explanation. My biggest beef is that I can’t even give a poor review because the website doesn’t allow me to post unless I have actually gone through with the stay. That doesn’t seem fair or democratic. If the business revolves around trust, then we should be able to leave both good and bad feedback. At the very least, that host should have been barred and immediately suspended from renting to anyone. But Airbnb said they won’t do that.
I manage Airbnb properties in Edinburgh but have never stayed in an Airbnb property myself until I went to the States recently and stayed in a trailer in Monument Valley, which just happens to be on the Navajo reservation. In fact, the trailer was owned and run by a Navajo indian and his wife, who was a white American. Now a bit about myself: I have travelled extensively all over the world and love experiencing different cultures, and don’t for one minute consider myself superior to cultures that are not westernised, but obviously this host thought differently.
The trailer we were staying in had no water; we were told that on the listing, so it wasn’t a problem. We also knew the toilet facilities were not in the trailer. Again, no problem; we were were expecting relatively basic conditions. The problems began with the directions. They were more than useless, a fact a few of the guests had noted before. We got lost then lost again. Eventually, the host’s wife came out to meet us as it got dark.
The trailer itself was very basic, with no lock on the door, rusty cutlery and thin torn plastic acting as windows which would flap violently in the wind. There were one pan, broken cupboard doors, and bare electric wire hanging down from the lamps. The water was kept in a large plastic water container which was fine for us. There was a shower a few metres away but we were told that it may be difficult to get going and to go to the husband’s relatives in the trailer next door and ask if we could use their shower if we couldn’t get this one to work. Needless to say I had no intention of doing that.
It was not what we were expecting and we were very disappointed. We sat late into the night humming and arguing whether we should go or stay. The next morning we left but not before I tried the shower – which of course wouldn’t work – so I washed my hair outside the trailer as my friend poured water over my head. I then used one of two hand towels to dry my hair. We left and sent a text voicing our disappointment and suggesting ways of improving a guest’s experience… well, what I got back was nothing short of insulting. The host’s wife said that not only was I a habitual complainer (I met her for ten minutes and never stayed in an Airbnb property before), I was culturally insensitive and what’s more I had lied about having a shower.
To cut a long story short, I was determined that my review was factually both positive and negative (there were positive points, such as location), but the review written by the host that appeared on the site was appalling: it was nothing but a rant insulting me (bearing in mind I had never spoken to nor seen the host). He basically wrote what she had put in the texts to me but doubled the insulting bits and telling other hosts never to have me stay. At no point did I ask for a refund. In fact, initially, the host’s wife suggested she would give me a refund, but it wasn’t about money. Not only did he call me a liar, saying the towel was wet therefore I had taken a shower, but to personally attack me was appalling. I asked for the review either to be edited or taken down as it wasn’t a review but a personal attack on someone he had never met, and some of it totally irrelevant to the actual review.
Airbnb of course did nothing and basically said just forget about it and move on. Dare I say this, but they don’t want to upset their indigenous host by taking it down and be accused of favouring the white person. In the meantime, it is there for all my clients both old and new to see, which doesn’t do my business any favours. I am now debating to take it further and put in a complaint to the top guy. Maybe if we all did that something would change.
What gets me are the reviews; on the whole they are all five star although sometimes there is a thread of discontent. But what is it with people? Were they so glad to be staying in Monument valley for cheap it didn’t matter where they lived? Correct me if I am wrong, but doesn’t an Airbnb property have to meet certain criteria: a lockable door, clean (which it wasn’t), safe. Bare wires aren’t safe and suitable for accommodation. We weren’t expecting the Hilton but we did expect a clean safe place with serviceable cutlery and more than one pan and a door to lock that would protect our belongings.
Our party of eight had booked this 5-bedroom in Manhattan for our family vacation. Approaching our departure date, we discovered that the host been cancelling on people very close to their arrival or directing people to an address different than the one that we had booked through Airbnb, with one bedroom fewer and bunk beds. We were traveling all the way from Denmark and naturally we would have liked everything to go smoothly upon our arrival. So we began to worry. Three days prior to our departure, we got a message from the host with a different address, four blocks away from the original. In light of several prior reviews stating the same thing happened to them, we contacted Airbnb in the hope of getting a return. The host has a strict cancellation policy, so we could’t just cancel ourselves, as then we would lose all the money for the booking.
This is when we really experienced the fear and horror of trying to get proper customer support from Airbnb. It was nearly impossible to get someone on the line who was able to help us and we called Airbnb back repeatedly the following days (getting six different representatives). They kept promising a certain group called “The Trip Team” would call us back and that our case was marked as urgent as possible. That call never happened and every time we called back to follow up, we had to start all over with someone new. We were also told that if The Trip Team did not call back, we could call and ask for the emergency hotline. However, after calling and asking for this emergency hotline, we were told it did not exist.
The supporters gave very vague messages and empty words of comfort back (such as a generic “I can understand how frustrating this must be to you, but rest assured, we will find a solution” about 100 times or so…), but they did advise us not to contact the host any further – they were going to take care of that – and asked us to look for another listing in New York, which Airbnb could offer us instead. They also told us that if we could not find another suitable listing, we could get our money back. Since none of the available listings could host all of our family together, we thus opted for the refund. Over the phone, Airbnb agreed to the refund and we asked for it in writing.
Less than a day before our departure, we got the following in writing: “After speaking with her [referring to the host], that’s the only time we can apply a cancellation on this particular reservation. Your host payout is already frozen so rest assured your funds are safe with us.” At least this meant our money wouldn’t be transferred to the host, so Airbnb could honor their promise of a return, right!? While not exactly as concrete as what they’d promised over the phone, this is the last communication we managed to get from Airbnb prior to our departure and we had clearly made them aware that we might not be reachable via email. At least Airbnb and the host had a US number they could reach us at after our arrival in the US. And we clearly and in good faith stated our intend of having Airbnb cancel the reservation with a full refund. Hence we “rest assured” that there was nothing more that we could do.
Meanwhile we had booked a hotel in New York, certain that the Airbnb deal was off and it was only a formality to get our money back. Airbnb even acknowledged that we could book a hotel by compensating us with a tiny amount of $162 for the first night, i.e. at this point they even acknowledge that there is a problem. What a terrible thing to go through right before leaving on vacation! But it didn’t stop here…
After checking the email connected to Airbnb several days later, we were shocked to learn, that despite Airbnb’s promise of the opposite, the money had been transferred to the host and on Airbnb’s site it looks as if we made a cancellation. Consequently, our family paid approximately $3000, which has already been distributed between the host and Airbnb!! At the time of writing, we have tried all that we can with Airbnb to get them to honor their agreement and return the money, but to no avail. They only evasively answer and insist that we had simply misunderstood the host. Yet we have in writing that the host changed the address prior to our arrival and in light of the other reviews stating the same, we cannot accept Airbnb’s unfair ruling in this matter.
Furthermore, we have been acting all in good faith and based on the advice from Airbnb support and been promised a refund, in addition to being told explicitly in writing to “rest assured” that the money was frozen… only to find out later that Airbnb went ahead and completed the transfer. In any simple matters of trade, the buyer cannot be required to pay for something, which is not what was agreed upon in the first place. This matter is no different! Rest assured, Airbnb, that we will continue fighting this until we get our money back. Meanwhile we hope that this posting helps others learn how few options they have of getting a return (if any?), if they have booked one place through Airbnb and learn in advance that upon arrival the host directs them to a different place. And how terribly Airbnb treats guests in such matters. It is pretty obvious that there is a severe conflict of interest, when, by siding with the host, Airbnb earns money, and in case they side with the guests, they don’t. So before you go out and book your vacation through Airbnb, have this very costly and horrifying experience in mind!
Last, but not least, avoid booking a “Huge UWS 5 Bedroom by Super Host” in New York from this host (Kyleen Taylor). And yes, she’s still a Super Host, despite her cancellations and scam! If it helps others, the original address of this listing is “168 W 78th St, New York, NY 10024, USA” and the address the host gave us three days before was “78 W 82nd Street”.