Warning: Airbnb Cost me $400K in One Day

I have been a Superhost for 7 years and have 6 single family homes in the highly desirable Stratton Mountain area of Vermont. I have built this business over the course of 8 hard years of dedicated work. I have had my listings on a few platforms in the past but settled on Airbnb as they seem to have the best traffic and easiest system to use. This was a big mistake.

Airbnb has always been great at supporting Superhosts until they switched to outsourcing their support tickets in 2019. It is impossible to get high level support now.

Now for the real story: a couple weeks ago I had a guest stay in one of my homes. After the second day she requested a full refund so she could book a different property. She claimed the house had a flying insect infestation, on the second night. No problems on the first. She sent pictures of what appeared to be one room with a screenless window open, and lights on at night (that window had a screen in it prior to her arrival).

I told her the bugs were attracted to the light, something a grown adult should know, and to put the screen back in. Regardless, she insisted on her full refund and the chance to book another house. As I was traveling and had little time to deal with it, I agreed to give her a refund and both agreed we wouldn’t leave a review. This was a problem of her own making and not an issue with the property. I agreed to the refund as I didn’t have the desire to argue nor the desire to have her hanging around any longer.

What happens next is astounding. She hounded me for the refund before I could have my housekeeper review the condition of the property. She booked a house next to mine a block away. The house is nearly identical to mine in every way. Then at the last minute of the review period she left a 1-star review trashing my home and promoting the property next to mine in the review as a better alternative.

I’m not sure if they were collaborating on this or not, but this was obviously meant to hurt me and help my competition. I get nearly all 5-star reviews; my rating is 4.9 and has maintained my Superhost status for 5 years. I called Airbnb to complain about the unfair review and raised concerns regarding a possible sabotage by this guest. Airbnb sided with me and took down the review.

What happens next should scare the pants off of any serious Airbnb host. The guest, seeing that her review was removed, got angry and filed a gender discrimination claim. Here’s the deadly part: without ever reaching out to me for any comment, Airbnb removed my listings and cancelled all future bookings against my guests’ will.

I immediately called support and no support person would talk with me about it. They told me someone from another department would reach out. It took a week for a response by email to come. My cancelled guests were going crazy as they picked my home for their specific event and they did not want to cancel.

Airbnb cancelled hundreds of guests and refunded them over $80,000 in bookings. I have tried several times to get them to explain themselves but without any satisfaction. They simply respond by saying they’ve reviewed the situation and their decision is final. I can’t appeal, I can’t see what this guest presented, and I can’t get anyone to talk to me, nor will anyone respond with any kind of practical explanation.

It’s astonishing considering each reservation averages 7 guests and I have 30 or more reservations a month. If you do the math I have had over ten thousand people occupy my properties through Airbnb. That Airbnb would allow a single guest fraudster to file a fake claim hence cancelling my business with them is just unbelievable. Not only is it harmful to me, my future and past guests, but it also harms Airbnb, it is beyond comprehension.

So be warned all Airbnb hosts, as this could happen to you and there is nothing you can do about it. I had, to date, produced over $400,000 in reservations this year alone and was on pace to double that next year. Now I am starting over on another platform. They claim to be a community of hosts and guests yet with the stroke of a key they can destroy a host who is bringing them hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

Airbnb is a bad investment. I am now forced to rebuild the entire business on another site. It may take a year to get back to that $400,000 level. Airbnb, what are you thinking? Hosts: look for another partner for your support.

Beware of this New York Airbnb Scammer Host

I had a business trip coming up in the Chelsea area of New York City in June 2017 and found a decent looking apartment on Airbnb a couple of blocks from the venue when I was going to be spending most of my week in NY. I contacted the host Paul on his property listing and explained that I knew my arrival date would be Sunday, June 10th, but was unsure whether I would be checking out the following Friday the 16th, or Saturday the 17th. I offered to make the booking there and then as long as he understood that the departure date might be either Friday or Saturday depending on how my schedule shaped up.

He responded by saying that it wasn’t a problem if I wanted to just take my time and figure out my schedule; he would hold the apartment for me until the end of that month. Here is what that conversation looked like:

Me: Cool. Is the ‘hold’ solid and if so when do you need to hear back from me by? Cheers!

Response from Paul: I’ll hold the dates through June 1st and then check back in with you.

Seems pretty straightforward, right?

On May 30th, after I figured out my schedule, I sent this message to the host:

Hi Paul, I just wanted to confirm my upcoming travel plans with you. I am arriving in New York on Sunday, June 11th. My flight gets in at 3:08 PM. I will be leaving Friday, June 16th. What kind of arrangements would you like to make for me to get a key?

This is where it gets funny (not really…). The next response I received from the host on Friday, June 2nd was:

Hey Colin, I have another apartment in Soho that I am renting out which is available during the same days. I could give you the same price I booked this room out because I didn’t hear from you a bit. Thanks, Paul.

And then:

Well, I booked the apartment for another guest as they wanted the whole month.

There was no apology from the host for renting the apartment to someone else. On top of that, he had the gall to try and blame it on me, saying that he hadn’t heard from me, when he promised he would get back to me and hold the apartment until the end of the month. Even with that, I responded before the end of the month to confirm the booking. This host is a scammer. He went on to offer to rent me another apartment a considerable distance from where my work was taking me on this visit, and when I asked him for a discount for the inconvenience of having to travel a considerable distance, he offered me the same price advertised to the public for that listing.

Here are some of his other properties that I know of. Do not rent from this host under any circumstances. If you do, you are likely to get scammed as I did.

Seems That People’s Expectations Were Too High

Airbnb is not a walk in the park, nor is it easy money; anyone who wants to host should not expect this. My wife and I have been running an Airbnb – private room in our house, sharing the kitchen, bathroom, amenities – since May 2015. Although the income isn’t that significant we have the advantage of meeting people from all corners of the globe and have hosted at least one guest from each continent. However, most have come from our home country of Australia or East Asia. For the purposes of this web page though I will give our best and worst stories as a host. I have also changed the names. Despite their picture on Airbnb, Dianne and her friend Angela were not fragile young ladies but a couple of girls from North America who could hold their own. They arrived in early 2016 (a relatively hot time with smoke from nearby fires) staying for five nights, spending the day touring around the local attractions and the night sleeping. One evening we all went to see the local fairy penguin parade. In terms of enjoyment of company these two were great to have around. The worst was a gentleman from France (one of their small Pacific island colonies). He was ‘bad’ but his lack of organization skills cost us a little. He arrived by taxi and was surprised that he could not easily hire a car (in the height of summer and the tourist season). It meant we had to give him lifts to various places and for him changing his plans. It wasn’t a disaster but we were glad to see him go.