I have been a loyal Airbnb customer now for almost ten years, staying at places both in the U.S. and internationally. I have received nothing but positive reviews from hosts I’ve stayed with, and I have never canceled a stay.
Over these last 9+ years, hosts have either cancelled or ghosted me after confirming my reservation at least three times. I don’t mean cancelling my reservation within a reasonable amount of time before my trip starts. I’m talking about less than 30 days, and in some cases, less than two weeks for trips that I had booked months in advance.
I know folks have had it worse, but the fact that Airbnb continues to let this happen is garbage. All they can offer is a voucher worth 10% of the booking costs. What is the host penalty? Anywhere from $50-$100. That’s it – it’s often a fraction of what guests have paid, many times upfront.
Well, I’ve reached the final straw with Airbnb. I’m turning 40 this year, and as you might imagine with such a major occasion, I began planning festivities well in advance. I typically go to Palm Springs with family around my birthday every year (in mid-March) anyway, but for this milestone birthday, I thought I’d open up the trip to friends.
I polled people I wanted to come to gauge budget and availability, and in November 2019, I booked an affordable place for eight people. While many 5+ bedroom options in Palm Springs exist on Airbnb, the ones that cost less than $800/night are few and far between. Especially in March, which is the beginning of peak season in Palm Springs because of major tennis tournaments, auto shows, music festivals, etc.
Again, being a regular visitor to the area and knowing about these regular events, I always book as early as possible to have the best choice of affordable options. My trip was booked for March 13-18, 2020.
On February 17 – less than 30 days before the start of my trip – I received an email that the host had canceled my reservation. No reason was provided in the auto-generated email, but when I called customer service and asked, I was told that the owner was planning to sell the property.
I obviously don’t know this person’s circumstances, but I don’t think selling one’s home (unless connected with a death) is necessarily an extenuating enough circumstance for such a short-notice cancellation. I spent nearly $3500 on this rental and booked it months ago. It was in a location chosen specifically because it was near where other family were going to be staying.
Of course, when I quickly searched Airbnb after getting the cancellation notice, the cheapest comparable option available was $4691, a difference of over $1300. I was told Airbnb’s policy was to offer a credit of 10% of the original booking cost.
If you’re not a math person, let me explain the problem here: 300-some dollars will not cover a $1300 cost difference. Not only did I express my extreme frustration, but I emphasized that since I booked this place back in November, nonrefundable flights had been purchased, time off from jobs requested, etc.
A host cancellation didn’t just mean my group was out of a place to stay; there was a domino effect of other potential cost implications. After berating customer service about this BS policy, I was approved for a $670 credit. This would have been a fine solution, because since the new property was a bit larger, the cost per person would effectively be the same as the original booking.
There seemed to be some confusing information about the place I was hoping to book, so I immediately contacted that host to get some questions answered. One of which was why I wasn’t able to split the payment as I did with the previous booking and on other listings I had seen. I was not prepared to make a single $4500+ payment, especially given the fact that I was automatically issued a refund, and with Monday being a holiday, it would be several days until those funds would be available.
I was told by the host to contact Airbnb, and when I did, not only did they take forever to respond, they told me I would see the option to do two payments on the final “Request to Book” screen. I think you can guess what happens next. There’s no option to split the payment. I’m still being told I’ll be paying $4691 right now.
I messaged Airbnb again to tell them that – quelle surprise – I have no option to split the payment. You guessed it again – during the time this all transpired, the place I was trying to book was snatched away and showed up as no longer available.
Not only has Airbnb wasted hours of my time, they’ve now cost me more money. Given the ticking clock and the big group I needed to accommodate, I was forced to book the next least expensive property I could find at $4849. Again, if you’re not a math person, we’re now at almost $1500 over the cost of the original booking with only a $670 credit.
To say that I am livid, pissed, irate, beside myself with anger is an understatement. I’m officially done being screwed by Airbnb. I had not intended to spend the few weeks before my big celebration being stressed out dealing with this nonsense, nor had I intended to shell out more money for an already expensive trip which had already been budgeted for.
The absurdly minimal recourse guests have against hosts is unconscionable. Hosts – particularly in big or popular tourist markets – are making hand over fist dollars for these rentals and when they screw up, the guests pay. What started out as being a genius idea has, like most, gone to s%*t because no one seems to care about quality or the consumer. That’s not accountability – that’s greed.