Edinburgh Fringe Hell After Last-Minute Cancellation

I booked a central location for myself and eight actors for the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe on October 13th, 2017. All was good until four days before the largest arts festival in the world, I got a message from Airbnb saying my reservation had been cancelled: no apology, no reason, and a mere £100 compensation to find somewhere else for nine people, four days before the festival.

I phoned the host who told me Airbnb hadn’t charged festival rates so I had to pay an extra £1,600 if I was to stay. I then phoned Airbnb who constantly read from a script, thus never giving me a clear answer. They constantly put me on hold and hung up on me on five occasions, only for me to go through the whole process again.

Three hours later, at 2:30 in the morning, I finally got a call from a case manager who told me not to worry and they would find me somewhere. They also told me to keep looking myself. Two days passed and I didn’t hear a peep from them. This was at a time when accommodation for so many at a festival for my cast number was constantly getting rarer and more expensive. I finally (and very luckily) found a place costing an extra £650 out of town, meaning I also had to pay for each cast members travel expenses.

I emailed the host saying how disgraceful they had acted and they replied immediately saying I could still have the room at the original price… too little too late. They informed me it was Airbnb who had made the cancellation with no explanation to them and to me. Throughout the Fringe Festival, on top of performing in two shows and producing and directing one, I emailed Airbnb on four occasions with no response.

After the festival I phoned once more to be told that the case manager wasn’t responding but my case is of urgency so they will find me a new case manager who will phone me in 24 to 48 hours. Still no response. I contacted Trading Standards who told me to email them saying they had clearly breached my consumer rights. I emailed Airbnb; two days later there was still no response. I phoned them and spoke to someone yesterday who said my case is ‘urgent priority’ and she will continue to pursue my case manager and let me know by the end of her eight-hour shift or today.

I still haven’t heard a thing. This spat between the host and Airbnb should not have affected me as I paid the said amount nine months in advance. They should have honoured this but instead have made me suffer both mentally and physically on top of all the other work I had going on at the festival. They ruined my experience as I could no longer afford to network and eat as I had planned due to my losses. They have also wasted a lot of my time.

We’re Heading to Where Airbnb Offers Nothing

My relationship with Airbnb has become more and more rocky as I have observed their tactics. I have watched them drop off lower price units that bolstered supply (and thus brought average costs down) trying to justify the move on the basis of quality control. More recently I have seen them shut complaint cases after providing a poor response – with no opportunity to see if the complaint response is useful – and more recently still shut cases without even responding. Either through negligence or design, I am currently ring-fenced.
The attached is a very recent complaint that has been closed with no solution provided.  I have lost the last three property opportunities due to this.  As an account holder where ‘legal consideration’ has passed, Airbnb is contractually obliged to afford a duty of care.  So many fundamental things are failing such as automatic acceptance of bank statement uploads and the promise of a couple of transactions to hit said bank account to be subsequently identified to finalize verification. This would suggest really bad glitches in areas such as banking and security or purposeful black balling techniques.
Either way, they selected the wrong customer for such fun and games because I have OCD when it comes to seeking remedies.  I am a god with a bone when it comes to man’s search for truth and justice. The good news is that my organization has a competing app on the horizon and if my situation is not unique there is a ready made queue emerging for the new services.  Thank goodness for Airbnb Hell as a platform.  I hope this gets resolved before the “open letter to CEO” phase.

Problems with Airbnb Platform, then Customer Service

I had an issue with the Airbnb app so this is a horror story about that. I was trying to book one night somewhere I was passing though and wanted to check out the outdoor scenery for a day. The app kept saying error every time I’d click to the end to book. I found out apparently two of the places were booked, but I wasn’t made aware they had even been booked.

I didn’t stay at either of them; I ended up at a hotel instead. Now I am being charged for two places on the same night, neither of which I ever visited. Airbnb is being monumentally unhelpful. The first time I called, the “customer service” lady hung up on me while I was talking. Then I talked to some guy that supposedly opened a case and I could message him on the site. I messaged and got no response in over twelve hours.

I just called again a few minutes ago and got a dial tone then an auto hang up. I really feel like this is a legitimate scam and not just a tech problem. If this isn’t a scam like I suspect I hope their whole customer service department gets fired and replaced.

After Confirmation, Airbnb Host asks for more than Double the Money

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?

Reserved Eight Months in Advance, Host Canceled One Month out

I booked a condo eight months before an event I attend every year. Usually I book a hotel, but I thought it might be nice to have a kitchen and an extra room for my son. I booked early because the event is very popular. Since I wanted to be within walking distance of the venue, and I wanted to have a place to leave my car, I knew that lodging with those qualities would be in high demand.

Just over a month before the event, the host canceled, as his property is not zoned for short-term use. His last message said that “Airbnb says they will help you find a new place to stay.” That “help” has so far consisted of phone support sending me other Airbnb listings that are miles from the venue, that don’t have parking, or that are five times the price of my original listing for the dates I want because, again, it is a popular event.

Here I am, a month out, all the hotels within walking distance of the venue are now booked solid, and the ones farther away are 30% more expensive than they would have been when I booked the condo. Airbnb is offering no “help”: no compensation, nothing. Lesson learned: I will leave lodging to the lodging professionals from now on. No more Airbnb, ever.

Resolution Center Terrible, Lying Host in Boston

I had a bad experience that shows how companies like Airbnb can get away with terrible customer experiences hiding behind “we’re not responsible”. First, here is the link to the listing I rented from.

I went to Boston this summer with my wife and daughter for college orientation. The main page on Airbnb showed a rental with air conditioning, and a great location for doing a little touristy stuff (that worked out great). We showed up on a 90-degree weekend, and there was no AC in the apartment. We double checked and his listing and welcome email still included AC. The microwave and coffeemaker didn’t work (I flipped every single circuit breaker, still no luck). There was no soap. No coffee filters. Tea but no way to heat it up. No convenience store nearby to address. Ubiquitous Dunkin’ Donuts across street closed during our stay. Minimal sleep due to heat.

We texted the host; there was no reply (ever). We requested a refund (no reply either). We involved Airbnb through the Resolution Center (RC), following all their rules (noting the difficulty of taking a photo of a missing amenity or proving online that an appliance doesn’t work). Below I share the detail of shenanigans Airbnb put me through (at least eight different agents), but on the subject of the host, I saw that he has 29 other properties – (now 32; I just checked). If you click the listing above, you hear all about his family and dreams, but doesn’t mention that he’s really a property management company (he does mention being out of the country for 3.5 months). I checked the ownership of the property through the city and found a different owner listed.

Airbnb never followed up with me. I initiated contact about 15 times, and every time I had to repeat what the complaint was. Why couldn’t they refer to the original complaint? They never did anything about getting the listing changed. I see another guest about the same time noted the lack of AC stating “It would have been terrible if it had been hot” when she was there. Anyway, I never received a response from the Resolution Center in six weeks.

We contacted the Help Center and got an email stating that they’d get back to me. We got an email that the Case Manager (CM) would be out for 2-3 days. We called after ten days. A new CM sent a “helpful” email telling me to go through the Resolution Center. I called back in, talked to an agent who confirmed they could see I was already in the RC system, and a CM would have to get back to me. Finally, I got to speak to a CM who said my ticket would be closed as I was in the RC system. I asked how I could contact RC since I’d never heard back, and the CM said “there isn’t a way – they’ll call you”.

I never heard from the RC, and after six weeks I went through the Help Center again. I had to go through the short version again (then the long version when they asked the same questions as the prior agent), including explaining the difficulty of “providing evidence” of something that doesn’t exist and/or doesn’t work.

Even though I pointed out the review confirming my complaint, the listing stayed the same, noting amenities that didn’t exist or didn’t work, and Airbnb basically sided with the host on what I was owed. Ripoff, and no accountability. No “I’m sorry” from any of the agents. I spoke with or messaged with at least eight different people at Airbnb. I’m not using them again. I’m in on any class action lawsuit.

Really this is a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issue, and people should be aware that this organization has also been weakened substantially since 2016. To favor ripoff businesses like this can screw over customers (apparently hosts and guests) and they get away with it because apparently it isn’t illegal to lie about a rental property that you don’t own. I am fortunate to have a congresswoman who listens and cares about this, but I doubt things will change.

I am truly sorry to people who have gotten royally screwed, as my story is really not that bad; I wasted $250 on a life lesson. Even though my 6-7 other experiences were fine to great, and every other host has exceeded expectations, I cannot do business with a company that doesn’t even pretend to be serious about egregious misconduct. I want no part of financially supporting a company that must screw over thousands of people worse than I was treated.

Driver’s License Photo Looks Different Than I Do Today

I only wanted to make some reservations for our first family vacation to Hawaii this coming June. I was so excited. I made the first reservation with no problem – a fabulous little condo in Maui for a week. We also needed some accommodations for the Big Island, so I proceeded. When I clicked to book them, I was told that I needed to submit a photo of my driver’s license and then a selfie to verify my identification. Sounded reasonable.

It’s not an exaggeration when I say that I must have submitted those photos 17 times – I lost count. My license photo was taken either years ago – I’m pushing 50 now and have aged… well, normally, but I’ve aged. I had a significantly different hair style and color back then, in addition to the age difference. No matter how many times I took that selfie using different lighting, taking my glasses off (even though it made it so that I couldn’t see the phone), putting my hair up, leaving it down, smiling, not smiling – oh my goodness. I could not get it to match my license.

My reservations were cancelled and my money was refunded. So, I found the customer service number (no small feat) and called. I spoke with a polite and helpful rep, but his ultimate answer to my concern was that I needed another driver’s license. Well, no kidding. It happens to be up for renewal this year and of course that will happen. Even if I could get to DMV today, there’s no way it will be in my hands for two to four weeks, and time is of the essence in making these reservations.

The rep told me that he couldn’t get a person to look at the difference between the two photos, that it was all done by algorithm. He is going to escalate the issue, but I don’t have a lot of confidence at this point. Keep in mind that I get through airport security with this identification. The photo doesn’t look dissimilar; it just may take a second glance. Honestly, what does a person have to do to give Airbnb money? I’ve already started looking at other sites, such as VRBO, but I was really happy with the selections that we made with Airbnb. I am so frustrated and discouraged.

Stranded With Young Children At Night In London

I booked a three-bedroom flat in Limehouse Basin on Airbnb about two months in advance of the stay. We were taking the three children to London as their Christmas present to visit Hamleys and do some sightseeing. We were in the taxi on our way to the flat when host suddenly cancelled the booking without warning, claiming the place had been ‘trashed’ by the previous guests. Amazingly this was only discovered at 4:00 in the afternoon. Airbnb did nothing whatsoever to help; they left me on hold for 15 minutes with a fast draining battery and wouldn’t answer messages or ring me back. You can imagine how we felt being stranded in central London, with three children under ten and the best Airbnb could do was offer an extra £30 and a link to the app. Be very very wary booking with Airbnb – their support and help has been non existent. I also discovered I couldn’t leave a review for the host (she has ten properties listed on Airbnb) to warn others.

Gold Coast Booking Leads to Being Double Charged

Please read this letter I sent to Airbnb less that three hours after I had made a booking:

Hi Airbnb,

I hope you are having a fabulous day. I am not and I am writing here to let you and others know why. In a few weeks one of my best friends is getting married on the Gold Coast (we never thought it would happen – he is not that pretty). I am the only member of his friends and family who is in the southern hemisphere so I am absolutely delighted to be going.

Today I decided to book my accommodation through Airbnb. You have such a good following and cheaper rates so I thought, why not? That is definitely the kind of service I need as I am on a budget and the rates seemed fabulous. I made my booking with a lovely woman who immediately contacted me. We could not wait for our trip.

Where is the issue, you may wonder? After booking this, my partner and I thought that doing a small run to the food shop would be a good idea. I checked my bank account just to see how much we could splurge after booking our trip. I was expecting to see between $400-600. It wasn’t a great surprise to me when there was a measly $28 in the account. Obviously this was a great shock. When I investigated this further it was clear that Airbnb had double charged me and also refunded me on their system.

This would be all well and good and if I were a millionaire I would find it slightly irritating; however, I am not a millionaire. I was a bit upset but because I am a reasonable person I figured I would contact you and just ask what was going on.

Firstly, I struggled to find contact details on your website – I just kept getting redirected in a loop to your FAQ pages (on a side note: this is extremely irritating). The next step was Facebook, where I found a telephone number. This was an 02 number so I assumed I was calling someone in NSW. The first two agents that I spoke to (in Southeast Asia Pacific – this is where they told me they were) hung up on me when I said I needed to find a solution to procuring the money that had been refunded. The third agent told me I did not know what I was talking about.

At this point I am willing to admit that I lost my temper a little and demanded to speak to someone more helpful. Again, somebody hung up on me. During this time my partner contacted the bank and told them about our little conundrum and they said there was a really very simple solution to resolve this: Airbnb had to email or fax the bank on an email address and/or fax number that they provided with some details.

After receiving this information, the good people at the bank said the money would be released within two hours. At this point, all of the details required on this fax or email were about myself. The only thing Airbnb had to provide was a headed fax or signed email. After some cereal, a bit of a cry, and being a little bit stressed, I called back.

This time I spoke to someone who was a little more helpful. She went and found a supervisor. This person got on the phone and relayed back the same ridiculous diatribe that the first couple of people did and only when I mentioned the word fraudulent and legal advice was anyone on the phone remotely helpful. When I pointed out that I was expecting to call NSW and actually ended up on the phone to Southeast Asia, saying “would I be getting charged a fortune for that on top of having no money in my bank account?” the supervisor hung up and called me back.

After 45 minutes of being on this call I was told the call was very irritating. I was also told that the managers and payment teams that had the capacity to deal with my unfortunate situation were in another country and there was nothing you could do. I am a human being and understand mistakes happen. However, in our modern age of technology and communication I am struggling to comprehend the fact that nobody in a global company can send an email or fax to resolve this situation. It would take less than five minutes.

I won’t keep going on but what I will say is this. You took a charge out of my bank account twice and actually tried to take it a third time. Because of this (and you not being able to send an email or fax) I have $28 in my bank account. Because I only have this much money in my account, either my partner or I are going to have to sacrifice going to work as we will not be able to both afford fuel and/or public transport to our employment. I apologize that we are not more well off and able to cope but even though both of us work 60+ hours a week we are still struggling to make ends meet. If either of us lose our employment I will be seeking legal advice.

I still have no email, fax or refund.