How Airbnb Scammed me out of Nearly $2000

My fiance, our small dog, and I have been looking for short-term sublets after our lease ends this fall. We found an interesting listing on Airbnb and wanted to reach out to the host to schedule a time to view the place since we planned to stay there for at least a few months.

The interesting thing about the Airbnb interface is the “request to book” button follows you up and down as you scroll while looking at a listing, but the “contact host” button is buried way towards the bottom. All I wanted to do was reach out to the host to make sure it would be a good fit for us. I didn’t know requesting to book would put my fate in the hands of the host, especially since it clearly states I won’t be charged yet.

Apparently once I did this, the host received my “request to book”, accepted it, and my card was automatically charged for the first 28 nights of my stay. I called Airbnb customer support immediately and messaged the host, both of whom completely understood the error and said they would be able to help me out.

A few hours later I got a call from customer support who said that since I was only trying to contact the host to view the place before booking, the host agreed to let me come see the place and then we would evaluate the situation from there. They decided that because of their long-term cancellation policy, they wouldn’t be able to refund me the money.

I have called and messaged them non-stop over the last two weeks now, and they still don’t want to refund my money. I even viewed the apartment, which was disgusting and had ants, dirty dishes, and garbage all over the place. The host seemed very reasonable and understanding in person. He agreed I should have my money back but was worried about paying cancellation fees, which don’t exist for this situation.

The next day I got a call from Airbnb letting me know that the host had decided not to issue the refund. All of this could have been avoided if they had just not paid the host knowing full well that I never intended to book anything. I notified them immediately of the issue, yet they still decided to pay the host my money, and now because the host is a greedy thug, I’m out almost $2000.

Because he decided to stick with Airbnb’s cancellation policy, he thinks he’s entitled to my money for having performed absolutely no services or worked to earn it. Take a look at the attached screenshot and see for yourself. It is Airbnb’s intention to scam innocent people out of money. This company doesn’t care about its guests. They just like helping “hosts” (if you can even call this guy a host) steal money.

Charged over £1,000 for a 16-Minute Booking

We were the victims of a double booking at our first property. It actually wasn’t Airbnb’s fault, but the subsequent events had everything to do with an Airbnb host. This was not an individual, in fact, but a faceless and greedy property management company. After the double booking fiasco, seven of our group were stranded in the remote Tuscan countryside in rural Italy with, realistically, a couple of hours to sort it out and find somewhere to sleep. I was the eighth member of the group, travelling by train to meet the group. It was up to me to find an alternative at very short notice through Airbnb as I’d made the original booking and the money immediately reimbursed by Airbnb for the double booking mess up was allocated to my account. Network coverage on the train was very patchy.

Looking at alternative accommodation for suitability and availability on a mobile device was extremely difficult. It was hot. The train was packed. Going from Milan to Florence, you pass through an enormously long tunnel. Meanwhile, I was trying to converse with the group who were also wrestling with poor phone signals and trying to assess alternatives and report back to me.

Long story short: the circumstances were extremely difficult. Partway through this process I made another booking. It was a mistake caused by confusion and fat fingers. I take full responsibility for making an error but in the circumstances you can perhaps understand how it happened. I realised what I’d done and cancelled the booking within 16 minutes. Once we’d finally sorted out alternative accommodation, I contacted the host and asked for a refund. I figured he’d been put to no trouble; he could not have lost a booking in 16 minutes and could not have incurred any cleaning fees. He refused.

Of the £1953 we paid for the 16 minute booking, the host chose to refund only £842, citing his Strict Cancellation Policy. The 16 minutes cost us £1,111. This is the villa – beware if you’re booking it. The host was within his rights according to his and Airbnb’s policy. Is this fair? Reasonable? In the spirit of the Airbnb community? Someone you would like to trust with your holiday? Those are questions you might like to consider before making a booking with Airbnb.

Ridiculous Airbnb Service Fee Never Refunded

I wanted to reserve a room in Bar Harbor so I did a search and some places came up that said Winter Harbor, which I assumed – yes, I know – was a neighborhood around Bar Harbor. After booking, I went to a map to see where the place was. It was close to Bar Harbor, but only if you had a boat. Within a few minutes I called the owner and he immediately agreed to allow me to cancel. He tried to cancel, but emailed me saying that I had to. After figuring out how to do that, Airbnb stated that I wouldn’t get any money back because the owner had a strict cancellation policy. I wrote him back and he did agree to refund my money, thank goodness. However, Airbnb still wanted to charge me their service fee, which is significant. All this trouble for a mistake or error caused by them because they listed a home more than an hour away from where I was requesting and I realized what had happened within two minutes of them taking my booking. I have used Airbnb quite a bit before and this kind of thing has never happened before. I guess I’ll have to be extra careful with them before I book another place or use them again.

Airbnb Refund Hell: Designed to be Complicated?

Airbnb has no mechanism for dealing with outright reservation mistakes. I inadvertently clicked on the book button when I just wanted to see how much a stay was going to be. It took several days before a refund could even be considered because the steps to initiate a refund is kept in a deep, dark hole accessed through a maze of misinformation and platitudes. There is no easy 24-hour buyer’s remorse option which should be standard for cases like mine. To initiate a refund, you have to get out of the main website and go to a resolution site. The steps initially shown for refunds are misleading. It is not as easy as it sounds; you do not get all of your money back.

The whole refund process is extremely stressful because Airbnb does not make it easy, period. I had to contact the poor, unsuspecting host and tell them I made a mistake and didn’t mean to book at the time. I’m lucky the host was sympathetic and you will need yours to be, if ever you make the same mistake I did. Why? Because Airbnb will ask them to advance half the refund amount. Who does that? Who would advance a substantial amount of money on behalf of someone they don’t know? Apparently, 100% of the money that I paid first goes to Airbnb. Airbnb did refund me 50% of what I paid right away, less the booking fee. As for the remaining 50%, they absolutely have to keep this money for 60 days for reasons unknown before they release it to the host.

If Airbnb has my money, why can’t they just refund me? Why do they even have to involve the host who doesn’t have any of my money and who hasn’t been involved in the whole process? Why even release the money to the host 60 days after the fact when they already know that the booking was made by mistake? There is a lot that can be done to make this whole process easier but I believe Airbnb set out to make the whole refund process complicated. It’s like Airbnb is hoping that people just walk away in frustration and forget about getting their money back. That way they get to keep it all. Even if it’s not intentional, this unwieldy way of getting refunded one’s money is shameful of a big, extremely profitable company.