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.