On August 5th, my husband and I booked a one-month long rental for a house in Aruba, inland in the Noord area, not near the beach. The total was CAD $2161.23 for the two of us from January 31st to February 28th, 2019. A daily rate of $145 had been posted, but once I put in the 28 days, a more favorable monthly rate had popped up and we were happy with it, though a 28-day rental falls under a Long Term Cancellation Policy and the first month is nonrefundable. In our case this meant if we had to cancel we would not get any money back.
The same evening I received an email confirming our reservation and payment of $2161.23, and the full payment has since been debited from my visa account. I thought we were all set. Three days later I received a message that the host wanted to change my reservation; if I agreed to the change I would immediately be charged an additional $2908.37, for a new total of $5,069.60.
We were in shock. We thought there had been an agreement and commitment from both sides for $2161.23, but in the meanwhile the host had left a message saying that the daily rate for that period was $335 (much higher than what was advertised on the web site), but for a monthly stay it was $3,500 + the cleaning fee + a 15% service charge.
I called Airbnb. A polite representative took my information and said someone would be in touch with me soon and try to resolve the issue. Within the same day an Airbnb support staff called and explained that the host was new at this (I figured that already since there were no reviews – something I should have seen as a red flag), and obviously does not understand the Airbnb smart pricing system, though she had agreed to it. Obviously she had also agreed to automatic confirmation.
The staff member gave me the sense that Airbnb wanted to give this new host a break, let her out of her commitment, and issue us a full refund. She told me that we had the choice of either accepting the new price (more than double the original one), or agreeing to a cancellation of our contract with a full refund, and they would send us some suggestions of other listings.
While we sympathize with the predicament of the host, we don’t think this is a fair solution for all parties. Because in the meantime I looked in the area and could not find a comparable listing in terms of location, features, and pricing. I told Airbnb that we were really looking forward to renting this particular house and don’t want to rent another, but it seems Airbnb is siding with the host. They said I could email the host and tell her we want to stick to the original agreement and price. I just did that, but I don’t see the point; if the host had been okay with that price we would not have this situation now.
I will post an update once I have it. By the way, this unexpected increase in pricing is not new to us with Airbnb, except that in the past it happened when I made inquiries with hosts prior to booking. It seems that once they know you are interested in a certain time frame, they increase the price before you have a chance to book. I also discussed this issue with the support staff, but her answer was that it was then up to us to book or walk away from it. Are there no ethics in business anymore?