Host Switched Addresses: No Refund Given

Our party of eight had booked this 5-bedroom in Manhattan for our family vacation. Approaching our departure date, we discovered that the host been cancelling on people very close to their arrival or directing people to an address different than the one that we had booked through Airbnb, with one bedroom fewer and bunk beds. We were traveling all the way from Denmark and naturally we would have liked everything to go smoothly upon our arrival. So we began to worry. Three days prior to our departure, we got a message from the host with a different address, four blocks away from the original. In light of several prior reviews stating the same thing happened to them, we contacted Airbnb in the hope of getting a return. The host has a strict cancellation policy, so we could’t just cancel ourselves, as then we would lose all the money for the booking.

This is when we really experienced the fear and horror of trying to get proper customer support from Airbnb. It was nearly impossible to get someone on the line who was able to help us and we called Airbnb back repeatedly the following days (getting six different representatives). They kept promising a certain group called “The Trip Team” would call us back and that our case was marked as urgent as possible. That call never happened and every time we called back to follow up, we had to start all over with someone new. We were also told that if The Trip Team did not call back, we could call and ask for the emergency hotline. However, after calling and asking for this emergency hotline, we were told it did not exist.

The supporters gave very vague messages and empty words of comfort back (such as a generic “I can understand how frustrating this must be to you, but rest assured, we will find a solution” about 100 times or so…), but they did advise us not to contact the host any further – they were going to take care of that – and asked us to look for another listing in New York, which Airbnb could offer us instead. They also told us that if we could not find another suitable listing, we could get our money back. Since none of the available listings could host all of our family together, we thus opted for the refund. Over the phone, Airbnb agreed to the refund and we asked for it in writing.

Less than a day before our departure, we got the following in writing: “After speaking with her [referring to the host], that’s the only time we can apply a cancellation on this particular reservation. Your host payout is already frozen so rest assured your funds are safe with us.” At least this meant our money wouldn’t be transferred to the host, so Airbnb could honor their promise of a return, right!? While not exactly as concrete as what they’d promised over the phone, this is the last communication we managed to get from Airbnb prior to our departure and we had clearly made them aware that we might not be reachable via email. At least Airbnb and the host had a US number they could reach us at after our arrival in the US. And we clearly and in good faith stated our intend of having Airbnb cancel the reservation with a full refund. Hence we “rest assured” that there was nothing more that we could do.

Meanwhile we had booked a hotel in New York, certain that the Airbnb deal was off and it was only a formality to get our money back. Airbnb even acknowledged that we could book a hotel by compensating us with a tiny amount of $162 for the first night, i.e. at this point they even acknowledge that there is a problem. What a terrible thing to go through right before leaving on vacation! But it didn’t stop here…

After checking the email connected to Airbnb several days later, we were shocked to learn, that despite Airbnb’s promise of the opposite, the money had been transferred to the host and on Airbnb’s site it looks as if we made a cancellation. Consequently, our family paid approximately $3000, which has already been distributed between the host and Airbnb!! At the time of writing, we have tried all that we can with Airbnb to get them to honor their agreement and return the money, but to no avail. They only evasively answer and insist that we had simply misunderstood the host. Yet we have in writing that the host changed the address prior to our arrival and in light of the other reviews stating the same, we cannot accept Airbnb’s unfair ruling in this matter.

Furthermore, we have been acting all in good faith and based on the advice from Airbnb support and been promised a refund, in addition to being told explicitly in writing to “rest assured” that the money was frozen… only to find out later that Airbnb went ahead and completed the transfer. In any simple matters of trade, the buyer cannot be required to pay for something, which is not what was agreed upon in the first place. This matter is no different! Rest assured, Airbnb, that we will continue fighting this until we get our money back. Meanwhile we hope that this posting helps others learn how few options they have of getting a return (if any?), if they have booked one place through Airbnb and learn in advance that upon arrival the host directs them to a different place. And how terribly Airbnb treats guests in such matters. It is pretty obvious that there is a severe conflict of interest, when, by siding with the host, Airbnb earns money, and in case they side with the guests, they don’t. So before you go out and book your vacation through Airbnb, have this very costly and horrifying experience in mind!

Last, but not least, avoid booking a “Huge UWS 5 Bedroom by Super Host” in New York from this host (Kyleen Taylor). And yes, she’s still a Super Host, despite her cancellations and scam! If it helps others, the original address of this listing is “168 W 78th St, New York, NY 10024, USA” and the address the host gave us three days before was “78 W 82nd Street”.