This isn’t a very exciting story, but add it to the list of complaints about this rotten company. Here is a letter that I wrote to Airbnb this morning:
I made a reservation this morning for a trip with Airbnb. I have been an Airbnb customer for a long time, and a host for almost as long. I was looking for properties that were not Instant Book, and thought I had submitted a request to just such a place. My request was approved before I expected though, just as I was in the process of booking a different place and cancelling the first request. I cannot cancel this new reservation myself without incurring fees.
I called customer service and of course due to your famously abysmal customer service, the rep couldn’t help me, and couldn’t even tell me when a representative might be able to help me. This is a problem that needs to be fixed immediately; it just can’t wait a day or two for a rep to get back in touch with me. Now I am in effect stuck with a reservation that I don’t want, and this host is stuck with a bunch of guests who are very unhappy to be heading to his place. This is a horrible situation for everyone.
My point is that as with anything related to travel, like airline tickets or hotel rooms, there must be a penalty-free grace period after a booking in which to cancel. Even if it is just a few hours, like it is with most airlines. I would suggest that you add this to your service. I must say though that even if you do add this grace period, it will be too late for me.
I have been increasingly unhappy with Airbnb for a couple of years now, it’s very clear that you prioritize your profit over the experience or safety of your hosts and guests, and while I appreciate the fine human exchanges that sometimes come with hosting and guesting with Airbnb, what I now appreciate are the nice people hosting and guesting despite the rotten treatment we all get from your company. I am at an end with you. But first I have to go stay in this house that I paid for and do not want.
In 2017, I was touring Europe with my bicycle. I camped most of the time, but it was quite cold and rainy during a week in September. I decided to stay with Airbnb. The first night went quite well, so I made another booking the next morning. It was 60 km away, in a small village in Germany. Instant Book was enabled, so I immediately got a confirmation.
I set off and reached the address around 5:00 PM. When I rang the bell, there was no response. I messaged the host. After approximately an hour, the booking was canceled, without any explanation. It was cold and getting dark fast, so I headed to the nearest hotel. It was only five kilometers, but with the rain and the mud, it took me another hour to get there. At 75 euro, it was much more expensive than some of the other hotels I could have stayed with. Later Airbnb messaged me, saying the host enabled Instant Book without realizing the implications. They kind of blamed me for choosing a host with little experience and did not offer to pay part of the hotel bill. They have much more data on the host than me. They should not allow inexperienced hosts to enable instant booking.
This morning I received a threatening robo-email from Airbnb titled “Remember: Cancellations impact your account.” I was charged $16 for speaking to a human at Airbnb, and had a threatening message telling me that “I’m off track” on my Airbnb Dashboard. The email listed the various penalties and punishments imposed upon hosts when they cancel a potential guest. Yesterday morning I cancelled my first guest because I felt that he was beyond creepy. Although I am super explicit about potential guests emailing me prior to booking to inquire about availability, this guest nevertheless used the Instant Book option at 3:00 AM (which I’ve since disconnected) to book a four-night stay, then modified to a three-night stay, two weeks in the future.
When I woke up in the morning, I checked him out and saw that he had only one previous Airbnb stay, which provided me with zero feedback about this person. Then I read his email, which began with “Hello, my lover” and it proceeded to go downhill from there. Needless to say, I was creeped out, so I cancelled the guest. Immediately, those dates were blocked by Airbnb and I was notified that I had been sanctioned.
Since yesterday, I’ve spoken to several customer service reps at Airbnb in an effort to get a resolution. That said, I cannot help feeling that there is a bigger issue at play here and it has to do about whether or not we, the hosts, and Airbnb are equal partners. If we are indeed partners, why then are we treated as adversaries? If we are partners, why does Airbnb threaten and intimidate us when we cancel a potential guest that makes us feel unsafe?
Hosts assume all the risk associated with having strangers in their home. I don’t have a problem with that. I have consented to having guests stay in my house. However, I have not consented to having someone in my house that makes me feel unsafe or uncomfortable. Airbnb demands that I make a quick decision, a judgement call, about whether on not to approve a guest. If I don’t act quickly, I get penalized. How can I do that when I have little to no information on this person? I’m not looking to waste anyone’s time.
As a seasoned traveller, I know that time is of the essence when guests are looking to book their accommodations.. Nevertheless, I also feel that I must be given the freedom to trust my instincts, which have rarely steered me wrong, especially when the site provides little or no data on a potential guest. All I’m saying is that safety must come first. Airbnb must take our safety concerns seriously, and not just pay lip service to the notion of host safety. If Airbnb were truly concerned about hosts’ comfort and safety, they would not punish hosts and make us jump through a million hoops when we dare to cancel a guest who makes us feel uncomfortable.
What would happen If a host gets seriously hurt or killed because Airbnb pressured him/her not to cancel a sketchy guest? I’m certain that Airbnb as a company would face a scandal and huge public backlash. The scandal would be “grist for the mill” for the many municipalities who vociferously object to home sharing. They could shut home sharing down because they would claim that it threatens public safety.
It would also most certainly become a PR nightmare similar to the one faced by Delta Airlines, when they somehow decided that it was a good idea to drag a 60-year-old doctor off an airplane that they themselves had overbooked. Delta had gotten away with treating passengers terribly for years, but that unfortunate incident focused a spotlight on the company’s greed, bad policies, and complete disregard for their guests. In short, it became a disaster of huge proportions. Everything was fine, until one day it wasn’t. If a host gets hurt because of Airbnb’s negligence, the Delta Airlines scandal will pale in comparison.
There are very few reasons that a responsible host would cancel a potential guest and forfeit making money. Most of us would do it only if we had real concerns regarding the guest. Airbnb is capable of tracking our bookings, our responses to guests, and the feedback we receive. The company is able to read guest reviews and determine how a host treats their guests. I am posting this because I am hoping that Airbnb will not be short-sighted, that they will think through their policies, and make host safety a priority and a core company value.
There are no “one size fits all” solutions. Perhaps cancellations ought to be judged on a case-by-case basis. Perhaps there should be a drop-down menu option, that allows hosts to cancel someone they deem unsuitable (even after they’ve booked automatically). Especially if the cancellation done within a reasonable time frame, which would allow the guest can find other accommodations. Please, let’s find a way that works for everyone.
I am planning a trip to NYC in mid-November. I usually book with VRBO but wasn’t finding exactly what I wanted, so I tried Airbnb. Being my first time on their site, I wasn’t aware of the “Instant Book” feature. When I pressed the button, I thought I was only contacting the host as I hadn’t read the listing fully yet, but my card was charged immediately. I realized also in that moment by reading a few reviews that it was a room in the house with many other random boarders and that had not been made clear. I canceled within minutes but only received half back. I contacted the host in all manner of ways and he did not respond. I contacted Airbnb and they said they would contact the host for me. Five days later, they told me the host refused to issue a refund and there was nothing they could do on their end. I asked to speak to a manager but no one ever called back.
$550 was literally stolen from me and there’s nothing I can do? This host lost no booking time because of my mistake; he is just collecting free money. I have written to him now five times over the course of a week and he is ghosting me. Airbnb won’t take responsibility for the host. Isn’t this supposed to be a hospitality business? The only thing I can think of is to threaten this host with eviction by telling his property management company that he is illegally profiteering on their property (I looked up the address and called the realty company to inquire about subletting). Any ideas?
I chose an apartment in Tangerang, Indonesia for a one-night stay. I chose the Instant Book option and without confirmation from the host, the reservation was instantly approved (and my credit card was instantly charged). I reserved the room a day before check in (April 25, 2017). Up until 11:00 AM in the day of the check in (April 26, 2017), the host never responded to any of my messages. As in any Airbnb booking, I need to have information on the exact location of the property (address and room number of the apartment) and also on how to obtain the key from the host. Up until noon, there was no response. And as I could not wait any longer, I then canceled the reservation. As the cancellation was made on the same day as the booking, my credit card was had already been fully charged by Airbnb and the host. I tried to explain this to Airbnb, but it turned out it was really difficult to contact and/or to find how to file a complaint. I think Airbnb has a great policy not taking complaints. Until today (my reservation was for April 26, 2017, while today is May 2, 2017), the host never responded to my messages and complaints. There were no responses from Airbnb. I used to use Airbnb to find cheaper accommodations. It however turned out that it cost me much more than that. Airbnb is a nightmare. I will never use it again.
It’s not my first time using Airbnb. So far our first experiences have been great so we decided to use it and tried looking for a place in San Francisco. Upon checking I tried to ask some questions from 2-3 different hosts, e.g. how far their places are from downtown since it was my first time visiting. Anyway, I tried to check the dates and I’m sure that I just wanted to hold them for our reservation. I was just surprised that after a couple of days both bookings had been made and our debit card was charged. The first one was fine and I got a full refund less the Airbnb fees, but for the second one, which was more expensive, the host refunded only 50% of our payment. I tried to ask for some consideration since Airbnb’s policy states the host has the discretion of refunding the full amount since it had only been one or not even one day after they confirmed the reservation without my knowledge. Now I am trying to contact Airbnb but I have had to wait 72 hours for their replies. I have a valid reason for getting a full refund. Someone in the family just died and I hope and appreciate that someone can help me on this matter. For some people it might be a small amount of money but for me and our family and as a single parent almost $400 dollars is a huge amount for us to lose. I would appreciate if someone could at least help me resolve this issue as soon as possible. Below are some of the conversations. I have a lot of photos showing that I didn’t book the properties; I got a pre-approval (e.g. 1:39 but on the same date they charged my card as well). Thank you very much.
This is only the second time that I have used Airbnb. I understand the process to be: I message the host and the host returns the message and you both decide if there should be a booking. I thought I was messaging Dorothy, based in Washington DC. There is a new feature to automatically book. So that’s what happened; I didn’t want to automatically book. She has been a host since January 17th. I messaged her instantly that this had been a mistake, and requesting that she return my funds. I called Airbnb to return my funds. There are no features on Airbnb to correct this mistake. I cancelled the booking, but both Airbnb and Dorothy are refusing to give me the money back. The charge was $3389. Then I got a message after my multiple calls to Airbnb over a week and a half later that I would get a partial refund of $2477. Then I received another email from an Airbnb representative saying I would only get $2161. I said this was unacceptable. I did not agree to a partial refund, which is what he was trying to state in his email. I said I wanted a full refund. They insinuated that I couldn’t get a refund. They will not return even a partial refund if I don’t agree to their terms. This is how they trick you.
The thieving host and I texted a lot. She was trying to convince me she had nothing to do with the transactions, but as I found out later the hosts have the power to issue a complete and full refund; she is just refusing to do so. She lied and the amount she can steal from me is over $600. All because there is no recourse for correcting the automatic booking process. This is wrong and it’s stealing. I think this new feature is a scam on Airbnb’s part and the hosts (at least my thieving host) don’t care if they harm customers financially. Airbnb’s customer service is not helpful and difficult to reach. The representatives will not speak with you or hear your complaints. Then if you don’t agree with the resolution, they threaten you with getting nothing back. Dorothy from Washington DC is a scam artist because she knew this was a mistake. I tried to send her a message. I told her the second it happened because there is no feature to undo the automatic booking. She made a fast $600 with no regard to the harm she caused. I’m a hard working woman with four children, two in college. For Airbnb to have unhelpful and threatening customer service agents and thieving hosts keep these funds and not correct this mistake immediately is egregious. Beware of the instant booking. Thieves like Dorothy use this as a means of stealing your money and customer service representatives will not help you. If anything, they will actually threaten to withhold partial payments if you don’t agree with the resolution. I don’t agree with their resolution. I want and need all of my money back.
A few tips to potential Airbnb guests:
1. Customer Service is basically non-existent. So be extremely careful not to make any mistake, or you’ll have to pay for it.
2. Do not click “instant booking” if you are not 100% sure you want it, because you’ll be instantly charged if the host accepts, which usually happens in a few minutes. It’s better to contact your host if you have any concerns prior to booking.
3. Check Airbnb’s cancellation policies carefully. They’re stricter than those at most competitors.
4. Always double check the price with currency symbols because you might get overcharged.
I did my search via airbnb.ca and found an apartment listed for 157 CAD/night. I requested to book the apartment for seven nights with four guests. The host responded and the total price was 1238 CAD on the pre-approval email; the total price was calculated based on guest numbers plus service fees. I then clicked on the “Book Now” button from the email and got re-directed to Airbnb Canada’s payment site. The price amount on the page was still 1238 CAD, so I paid. Since I had been doing all the transactions through Airbnb Canada, I assumed everything was still in CAD. Apparently the currency symbol on the payment page switched to USD without me noticing. I was actually charged 1619 CAD and ended up paying $381 more in Canadian dollars. I tried to contact customer service but haven’t had much progress yet. Overall I think the Airbnb website has an appealing UI interface, but the business practice does not favor customers. I will not use it again or recommend to others.
In early January 2016, I received an email from Airbnb that explained that since most guests preferred Instant Booking over talking to a prospective host, Airbnb would not list my home under guest searches. This is despite me usually getting great ratings from my Airbnb guests. Can you see how this could be seen as an aggressive attempt to make people offer Instant Booking when that feature does not work for their situation? Now, if Airbnb had sent me an email suggesting that I take more photos, I would do that. However, if I turn on Instant Booking, and/or offer a price considered below average for my area, I’ll lose money. My rate is already below average for my area. What will help me immensely is when Airbnb stops omitting my home from suggested places to stay. I had one guest in December 2016 and no guests in January 2017.
I have been very loyal to Airbnb and have advocated for their business in writing. I wrote a letter to the NYC Public Advocate in response to her scathing opinion of Airbnb. How do you think NYC Public Advocate Letitia James, NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio, and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams would react to NYC homeowners being forced to offer Instant Booking? Please share your thoughts.