Absolutely Insane Email Harassment from Airbnb Host

Never have I been more wrong judging a book by it’s cover. Here’s the scoop: this past weekend, my friend and I were outside Philly for a Harry Potter festival. She was covering the festival for work (she’s a reporter) and I was there because… Harry Potter. We booked a room in a house with a private entrance and shared bathroom. Most of the reviews were positive, but one raised a few red flags, complaining of overwhelming animal urine smells and poor cleanliness. I chose to disregard this, thinking it could not be that bad. Was I ever wrong!

The room itself was fine, relatively clean with a comfortable bed, but the hallway and stairs smelled like the pound. The floor was covered in dust and dirt; this was not the best for two people with allergies and asthma. We were using our inhalers constantly. I had emailed the host the day before our stay to inform them that due to my work schedule, I would be late and the other member of our party would be arriving first. I asked a number of check in questions and others related to parking, the area, and transportation. I received no response, which was disappointing and a little frustrating.

When we settled into the room, we noticed the window was braced open with an odd screen. The host told my friend that they had just removed the AC unit; when we tried to close the window, we could not. The host had given us no contact information and was very explicit about not entering or disturbing the family rooms on the first floor, so we emailed again asking about the screen; there was no response. In addition, the room was not as described or depicted. It looked like the wall of shelves and the desk were covered with sheets and being used as storage. That night, we went out to interview the festival hosts and coordinators as well as attendees, had a quick beer, came home at midnight, and immediately went to bed.

In the morning, we saw that the door stopper for our room was not actually brown, but orange and so coated in animal hair and dirt that the color was virtually unrecognizable. We were disgusted, but just left for the festival and were out all day. We returned by 8:00 PM and decided to stay in, watching Netflix on a tablet and drinking two beer bottles each, which we immediately put in the trash can (this is an important detail). We were freezing all night, because we could not get the window closed and the single quilt on the bed was not warm enough; we had to sleep in layers of clothes. The next morning, we packed all of our items, made the bed, collected all garbage to put in the trash, and even wiped down all surfaces with lysol spray; we’re neat freaks and whenever we stay somewhere other than home, we like to leave no trace.

Our hosts posted the following review:

Rebecca was great to host. She left the room spotless. We would welcome her back any time. Cheers!

My review was polite. I did not want to bring up any of my major concerns on the public review in case it impacted their business. They seemed like a nice younger couple renting out rooms in their townhouse for some extra cash.

The room itself was exactly what we paid for/expected, with a surprisingly comfortable bed. The location was great, and our room was very neat. The only issue we had was with the condition of the hallway stairs we used to get to our room. They were a little grimy and as someone with chronic dust allergies, it was rough. Despite this, check in was easy and the room was just fine.

I also sent a private message telling them I had three main concerns I did not want to air publicly:

1. They had not responded to my message.

2. The dirt, grime, smell, and dust. I know older buildings get dusty but as someone with allergies/asthma, the hallway should have been a little cleaner.

3. The open window. We could not get it to close, they had never responded to an email, and we were really quite cold.

As someone who frequently uses Airbnb, I expected the usual response of thank you for your concerns, I’m sorry to hear that, we are fixing it, etc. Instead, we received this crazy email:

SUBJECT LINE: You never sent a message! You tried to burn our house down! You are a loud drunk! You left the window open while the heat was on! What is your problem?

“You are an idiot. I have absolutely no email from you. The last time I heard from you was the day you reserved the listing. Did you take the screen out of the window to close it? I was pretty upset that we were running the heat and you were so rude to leave the window open. We are very responsive. Didn’t you notice that when you tried to burn the house down with the curling iron, we immediately unplugged it and turned the light off? Thanks for leaving a room full of booze bottles and food and trash. The stairs and hallway were mopped. You guys drug in all of the dirt from outside. Way to bang the doors all night. It sounds like you need to work on some respect yourself!!!!!!”

Needless to say, I was shocked. I responded with the following:

Your response is shocking, unprofessional, immature, and absolutely not what I expect from someone offering hospitality. Please see below- it is a screenshot of the email sent to you on 10/20/2016- note the time stamp (here I inserted a screen shot of the emails sent) I will be forwarding this correspondence to Airbnb as well. We tried to close the window multiple times- seeing as neither of us owns this home or is familiar to the peculiarities of your windows, we didn’t dare presume to remove a screen. I can only assume based on your response we would have received another nasty email about removing it. For future reference, if the screen can be removed, please inform guests- good ones will not rip things out of your window without permission. The room was completely clear and we have pictures to prove it. As a precaution, I always take a picture of an Airbnb room when I leave. We made sure the (4) empty beer bottles and all trash were put in bags, which is again proven by picture. There was minimal cleaning for you- we made sure of it! I find it shocking that you would make such false accusations, but then again, you probably did not realize we actually protected ourselves. Regarding a “curling iron”- we did not bring one. Neither of us used a curling iron. Perhaps you had another guest who used it? If you find yourself unsure, please see all of the photographs from Friday and Saturday depicting us with straight hair. We drug in no dirt- I was hesitant regarding the cleanliness, as I had read a previous review that discussed the smell and dust. I was trying to be helpful, not attack you. I understand older houses get a lot of buildup, but I also have numerous snapchats of the hair, dust, and dirt in the hallway and stairs, as well as the horrific buildup on the door liner for our bedroom. Frankly, your response seems like one to come from a defensive teenager. I’m sorry you feel like you need to respond to an honest review with such vitriol, and I hope in the future you can take a minute and find a calm, rational place to respond to guests. I’ll end with best of luck, because based on your attitude, you need it.

P.S. Opening a professional correspondence in the hospitality industry with “You are an idiot” is perhaps a little unwise.

I know it was snotty, but frankly I was pissed. This was completely insane, and as someone with a lot of experience in the hospitality industry, I was horrified. I got no further response, and made a report on Airbnb. No one responded to me, so I made a second, more detailed report and called the number someone thankfully posted online. I was told my case was being sent to the correct department and offered a refund. I didn’t really want one. I just wanted this handled so this couple does not flip out on anyone else in response to an honest discussion of their filthy house. I was told I would receive an email, but got nothing. The next day I called again and am currently waiting for that response. My haunting concern is the comment we “left booze bottles all over”; we drank four 12-oz bottles of beer in the room, and all four went into the trash before we left. Either they went into the room when we were not home and looked through the trash after we left, or just tend to make up baseless accusations. I’m not sure which one terrifies me more.

Anyway, watch out for Sarah and Charles Adams in the West Mt. Airy part of Philadelphia. It turns out they could rival Donald Trump when it comes to shooting off ill advised, combative messages. Thanks for listening.

Threatened by Host in Asheville

On a recent stay at what appeared to be a great space with overwhelmingly positive reviews, we had the bad luck of encountering a plumbing issue (the handle for the toilet straight up fell off), leaving us without a functioning toilet for almost a whole day (this was the only bathroom in the unit). The host never replied to our message regarding the maintenance issue, so we decided to cut our losses and leave (Hotel Indigo is very nice, by the way). While we were packing up, the host came over totally unannounced, pounded on the door, and threatened us for leaving early. We finished packing up, completely terrified, and got out as quickly as possible, trying not to escalate the situation. Once we made it to safety, I called Airbnb to report the incident.

The customer service rep, “Josh,” said that because there was no evidence of what happened, we were basically out of luck (side note: I did have my unanswered messages to the host about the problem and a witness to the harassment – the other guest – which judge Josh apparently didn’t think counted as evidence). I was eventually refunded for one night, but was told that because the host has a strict cancellation policy, and the incident occurred more than 24 hours after check-in, no additional money would be refunded. This seems like a less-than-sound refund policy to say the least. I mean, what if the place burned to the ground more than 24 hours after check-in? Does the host still get to keep the money if he wants? The most troubling part of this whole incident is Airbnb’s nonchalant attitude when it comes to women being threatened by their male hosts.

Moral of the story: an unstable, violent host can intimidate you into leaving (read: escaping) early and then keep your money because you “canceled” the reservation early.

Airbnb: Business Based on Trust, but Where is it?

I recently brought a party of seven to a ‘luxury beach villa’ in Boracay in the Philippines. The listing looked fabulous and perfect for our two-night stay. I booked it on the day and arrived with my party three hours later. Then the fun started. We were greeted by armed guards. Talk about putting us on edge. The house was uncomfortably hot. There was no way to freshen the house and the two air-con units in two of the bedrooms were useless. It must have been 40 degrees C inside. There were smelly animals everywhere. When I wrote to Airbnb about this they told me the animals were mentioned in the listing. I argued that the smell was not.

Once they have your money they don’t care. There was a pond inside – part of the listing. It smelled really bad. Again, not something you can discern from a photograph. But Airbnb didn’t care. When we tried to leave the host sent her unstable husband to the villa. The husband shouted at us and acted in a most aggressive manner. He threatened us with the armed security guards. When I brought all this up with Airbnb they were useless. It was extremely difficult to get through to them. When I did and asked for a full refund as per their guest refund policy they refused. No matter what argument I gave them they took a blanket line. I will never use Airbnb again. You simply cannot trust their site and how they vet their hosts. You also cannot trust they will act in the guest’s interests in any way. In a business where trusting with whom you will stay with is key, Airbnb is extremely exposed. I suspect one death or a serious problem will see the end of this company.