No Refunds, No Matter What? An Airbnb Guest Weighs in

It was my first time using Airbnb and I was excited. After researching and looking at over 20 places in San Juan, Puerto Rico, I found a place that looked amazing (which it does, in the pictures). But this is not about how amazing the place is or the conditions of the place once I arrived. This is about eight hours later booking the place for a last-minute trip.

Once I booked, a few moments later I got really sick, and it seems I got food poisoning. I’ve traveled around the world for work and always enjoyed using mainstream hotels. Because of this, I never considered that there would be a subjective and erratic refund policy where one place gives you a 48-hour full refund with no questions asked and another just plain no refunds… period.

I was finally able to get a hold of the host, and they advised me to ask Airbnb to resolve this. After finally getting someone with Airbnb they said they couldn’t do anything and the host was the one that could refund me… It turned into a ping pong hot potato game and was getting nowhere. At this point I was vomiting and feverish with a rash all over my body.

They said, “Well, it was on the refund policy when you booked.”

I was confused since I did not see “anything” about this anywhere, so I looked. After running a search on the page in the browser, I found it past “everything” including the reviews at the bottom in the footer area of the page.

At this point I spoke with my business credit card company and will need to wait for the charges to post, so I can submit a claim. This is absolutely unethical and in a world where most services are customer-centric I am baffled. I spent some time reading about nightmare situations from hosts here. Airbnb seems to be based on an overall unethical business model. I’ve had people rent my home and destroy it to the point it cost me $30,000 to repair, so I understand the side of being a host. It seems the business model is focused on a win-win model that only Airbnb can win.

Do not use Airbnb unless you are comfortable losing money. Look for the refund policy, which is randomly set by the host. Airbnb is not there to protect you as a consumer. They are there just to make the process easier for you to spend money and not be safer.

If you are a host, you need to be comfortable in being able to resolve issues without Airbnb being involved or have insurance that covers vandalism. You are playing in their sandbox, and they hold all the cards. Unless you are one of those individuals that have the time to go after them and get pleasure out of it… your time on this earth is better spent elsewhere.

To my friends and people in Puerto Rico: you are the reason our reputation at Airbnb has fallen so low. I am deeply disappointed. My time is worth more than your petty no-refund unethical smoke screen expense. As a business owner, I know personally you will pay a hefty price, and it’s not always in money.

Airbnb Customer Service Line ‘Disconnected or No Longer in Service’

I made (and paid for) reservations for a farmhouse outside of Frederick, Maryland for a weekend stay in summer 2020 so that my siblings and their children could all be together when we buried my mother’s ashes at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Frederick. The pandemic caused us to postpone our stay until the summer of 2021 (after paying an additional amount representing the difference between the 2020 and higher 2021 rates).

Several months prior to our 2021 stay, my brother-in-law informed me he had a scheduling conflict, and because he is a preacher and my mother specified that she wanted him to officiate at her burial, I informed my host that we had to postpone until summer of 2022. She said she had no problem as long as dates were available (and they were).

Using Airbnb’s website, I attempted to make the date change, fully expecting to pay an additional amount representing the difference between the 2021 and the higher 2022 rates. Once I started the process of making the change, the website informed me that the stated rates were only good for a short specified period of time, and if I didn’t complete the transaction within that time, the rates would go up. The problem was I could not complete the change-of-date transaction without first paying full price for the new 2022 reservation — the website was not giving me the option of applying the funds from the fully paid-for 2021 reservation.

I sent the host a message asking for guidance, and while she had always gotten right back to me prior to this moment, for some reason, I did not hear back from her prior to the transaction deadline. I went ahead and charged the full 2022 reservation on my credit card, assuming that of course, the already paid full 2021 reservation amount would be refunded to me. I wasn’t trying to rip anyone off, but at this point, I had now paid the full amount twice for a weekend stay at the farmhouse. I thought surely I’ll be refunded the funds for the cancelled 2021 stay. I mean, I was using Airbnb’s website and the host didn’t respond to my request for guidance.

I contacted Airbnb’s customer service department who told me the host had to agree to me receiving a full refund of the cancelled 2021 reservation. I contacted the host who agreed to the full refund, and I informed Airbnb’s customer service of the host’s agreement. The customer service representative explained how my full refund would consist of two amounts: the amount paid for the original 2020 reservation ($1,980.87) and the additional several hundred dollars I paid for the 2021 reservation, representing the increase in rates between 2020 and 2021. The customer service representative repeatedly used the term ‘full refund,’ which frankly were the only two words I was listening for.

Within minutes, I received a full refund on my credit card for the smaller, several hundred dollar ‘increase in rates’ amount. As the minutes ticked by and the bigger $1,980.87 amount never showed up on my credit card account, I started to get worried. When I called Airbnb customer service back, I was informed the ‘full refund’ of $1,980.87 was actually a credit for future use. I told them I’d like to take that ‘credit for future use’ and apply it to the 2022 reservation. I was told that couldn’t be done. So my promised ‘full refund’ morphed into a ‘credit for future use’ — a future use of their choosing.

Airbnb customer service did suggest a possible resolution: I could cancel the 2022 reservation and make a new reservation and apply the ‘credit for future use’ funds toward that. I pointed out that their suggestion would certainly resolve the ‘credit for future use’ funds left over from the 2021 reservation, but now I’d be stuck with a new ‘credit for future use’ from the cancelled 2022 reservation. They suggested I work it out with the host. I called the host, and explained to her what had transpired. She seemed to be sympathetic, but she asked me to have Airbnb customer service call her and walk her through the process of fixing the situation because she didn’t want to make any mistakes, which I could understand after trying to use the badly coded ‘change of reservation date’ section of the Airbnb website.

When I contacted Airbnb customer service again, I pointed out that this all could be resolved within seconds, but the customer service representative insisted it couldn’t be done. The next time I called Airbnb customer service, I got a garbled recording stating that the number I was calling had been disconnected or was no longer in service. I figured I must have made a mistake punching the numbers when I made the call, so I called again, and again got the garbled recording.

Once I picked my jaw off the floor and pondered the thought of a customer service department of a major American corporation having a disconnected number and no apparent new or forwarding number, I was at a loss; it just didn’t make any sense. Then, a truly ridiculous thought entered my head: they didn’t block me, did they? To shoot down that ridiculous notion right away, I decided to call Airbnb customer service using my landline phone and not my cell phone (the number on my Airbnb account). Bingo: no garbled disconnection message when I called using my landline.

I got into customer service — that is, if you call answering a few questions put to me by a machine and being ultimately referred to an online FAQ page as ‘customer service.’ That is pathetic: I was blocked by Airbnb customer service.

Now I know what you’re thinking: I’m a hothead and I was speed dialing into Airbnb customer service 24/7, hurtling expletives at meek and mild customer service reps. Not quite. I called Airbnb customer service maybe four times total. I was always civil, and most of the time I was simply requesting information. The most confrontational (if you can call it that) was when I was told by the customer service representative “It can’t be done” in reference to the promised full refund. I very politely pointed out that actually it could be done — it was promised. A partial refund was accomplished within seconds after the first time I called in, and a full refund of the remaining funds could be done within seconds.

So as it stands now, I supposedly have a ‘credit for future use’ for $1,980.87, even though there is nothing in my account that indicates that. I guess I’d have to contact Airbnb customer service in order to access that credit, except they blocked me. I didn’t go to business school, but I can’t imagine there’s a business school out there that teaches business people that it is better to lie to and cheat a customer — a customer who is using your services so that he can bury his mother’s ashes and turn the customer into a lifetime enemy of your company than to put in perhaps twenty seconds worth of effort to push a button to issue a refund check. Whenever I hear someone utter the word ‘Airbnb,’ believe me, I let them know of my experience with them.

Mislead by Rental Description of ‘Entire Home’

At the end of January 2022, I reserved this place under the search setting “entire cottage.” I expected this cottage to be entirely available to us for two weeks.

At the time of the reservation, there was no mention on the description that this was a four-bedroom apartment on the main floor of a house. There was still no mention in this description of a tenant living upstairs. This was information buried under a large amount of text under “house rules” at the bottom of the page.

On the reservation page, the description said only “entire home”, “entire cottage” and ” you’ll have the cottage for yourself”. The picture of the entire cottage was there on the main page. The rental also came up under a search for “entire home”. There was no mention, in the description, at the time of my rental, that this was a four-0bedroom apartment on the main floor on a house.

After a few days, I accidentally found out on the web, looking for the address, from an old sale listing, that the cottage actually has two apartments. I went back and searched on the site of the cottage and I found the “house manual” where it was indeed mentioned under a long text about house rules that usually is read just before checking-in that there was another apartment upstairs with a live-in tenant.

This is not what I wanted to rent for two weeks as a cottage retreat. By then the cut-off for free cancellations had passed by a few days. I contacted the host and told her that unfortunately the cottage is not what I had in mind when I rented, and that I would like to cancel. She said it was fine and I went on and cancelled. Then I asked if she could confirm that I can be fully refunded, given the situation. The host did not answer for three days and then I requested the refund through the resolution centre.

I was charged 1,600 Canadian dollars although I cancelled 23 days prior to check in date and the host rented the unit for the majority of the two weeks to other people. I cancelled three or four days after the cut-off date and I explained what the misunderstanding was. I was left with this huge bill for nothing, while the host got $1,600 and rented her cottage for additional income during that timeframe.

What followed was a two-month long exchange with different employees from Airbnb: ambassadors, supervisors and I was told a manager, although I could not verify that I was indeed talking to a manager. I have asked to escalate the case further at each step. I have now waited for almost another month for someone to contact me to no avail. At all these levels I was told that the host did nothing wrong, that Airbnb allows for such important information as the type of the house to be under “house rules” and that I am to respect the Airbnb cancellation policy and that Airbnb apologize for the “inconvenience” — the inconvenience being that I am left with this huge bill.

I have been made to wait, to start talking with ambassadors all over again. In one case I had to insist to have my case escalated and in the last instance the case had been closed even though I had requested to talk to a higher employee. It has been a nightmare to deal with Airbnb employees for the most part. I have asked for verification that the description did not contain the information “apartment on the main floor of the house” at the time of my rental. Nobody followed up on this.

I find this situation deeply unfair to me. I have been an Airbnb customer for ten years, have excellent reviews, and could very well be called a “superguest” if such a category existed. I know how to look for rentals on Airbnb and never had any problem. I was misled by the description on this rental property. Never in my ten years of experience was such important information — the type of lodging and whether there were other tenants — hidden under house rules.

A quick look at this category over other rentals showed that usually house rules are additional rules for when entering the house, while the description part — at the top of the page, right next to the rental details — contains all that is essential to know. I have never expected a cottage listed as “entire cottage” to have another unit in the same house.

While I understand that the host is protected under the Airbnb policy, I feel that customers are not. This is a case that might be okay by the Airbnb book, but it is a case that shows how some loopholes in the Airbnb policy can be used, intentionally or not, to mislead customers. If the host is not at fault in this case, I feel Airbnb should take responsibility and reimburse me. I also feel Airbnb should apologize to me for the way I was treated: lack of transparency for the most part, having to go in circles and explain my case all over again, no follow-up of simple verification demands.

It’s been three months of dealing with incredible frustration, loss of money, long wait times and frankly quite poor customer support and understanding.

Airbnb Asked Me to Cancel Non-refundable Booking

I booked an apartment for a week in London through Airbnb: $2,800 non-refundable because I knew I had to be there that week under any circumstances. About eight hours later, the host messaged me asking for my phone number and clarifying that the listing was for private rooms in a shared space and not an entire apartment. Then he called me explaining in detail how to cancel and request a refund via resolution center. He refused to cancel on his end because of the penalties.

I contacted Airbnb support instead of cancelling (I am not that dumb) to resolve this. They verified that canceling was the only way for me to request refund. So I cancelled even with the text ‘$0 refund’ staring at me (I am that dumb). Now I have no reservation, no refund, and can’t leave a public review against the host since I have no reservation. I am down $2,800 within eight hours — not sure about my mistake or a listing created for a scam. The host has 14 listings running in parallel for the exact same room… how many rooms does this house have?

This was his first message to me to after about eight hours:

1. You booked two private bedrooms in a shared apartment with strangers you do not know (other guests/ my co-host/ family/ friends ). There is no private entrance to the listing.

2. You will share the bathroom and other common areas with others, not from your group.

3. Shared kitchen/living area/balcony are only accessible during daytime, as written in “other things to note” and are occupied by the host.

I want to make sure you are 100% satisfied with my service, even if you change your mind about this reservation, so please tell me if you have any questions.

Airbnb Cancelled My Nonrefundable $1,600 Booking

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My family and I booked an apartment in Bangkok for two weeks. I paid with my boyfriend’s credit card and checked in around midnight after I got the key from the owner. I checked everything in the apartment and found that the air conditioning in my bedroom was not working.

I reported this to the host who said he would fix it for me tomorrow. The next day my family and I left the apartment around 9:00 AM and came back again at 7:00 PM. The air conditioning in my bedroom was still not working. I contacted the host again and he told me he couldn’t fix it in one day because he had to change some motor or something.

Then I called Airbnb support. They recommended I find another place or hotel. The host agreed to refund me fully and Airbnb said I would get a refund in a few days. Ten minutes after Airbnb cancelled my booking I received an email saying I was no longer allowed to use the platform anymore due to fraud. I really didn’t understand what happened but thought I could just use Agoda or Booking.com.

It’s been a week and I still have not received any refund from Airbnb. I contacted support and they said my booking was still active and Airbnb would not refund any money. They said they had already paid the host and I had to contact him.

After contacting the host, he said he had received the payout but Airbnb told they would take the money from his next booking. He forwarded that email to me. If he gave me cash, I would still be missing roughly $200. Now I have no idea what should I do.

A Terrible Experience with Airbnb During Omicron

In late November 2021 we booked a trip to Los Angeles for a week in January and paid $3,100 for a stay in a condo in Marina del Rey. In late December, omicron appeared and we realized that we could not risk traveling, especially with a two-year-old.

We contacted the host a few days before the date that we would not be able to get a refund of half of the amount. We asked to rebook in the spring but could not do it online because the calendar did not go out far enough. We contacted our host, asking her to do this and stating that we could not travel at this time. We never heard from her and so we contacted customer service.

They promised that they ‘had our backs’ but did nothing except run out the time until we were past the deadline. The host contacted us once to say that she heard from Airbnb but thought we were another booking so didn’t answer. Then after we were due to have arrived, she contacted us and said that she was not going to give us a refund, a credit, or rebook. Customer service kept promising help but never delivered anything but hours on hold listening to the same piece of horrible music over and over.

As it turned out, one of our party got COVID during the time we would have been in LA but this doesn’t seem to be enough to trigger a refund. When I called to ask about what kind of proof they needed of this COVID case, I got put on hold for 40 minutes. I finally sent a message asking to be called back and hung up.

We never were able to ascertain what responsibility to answer inquiries the host needed to fulfill and in what time frame. We got inconsistent and inaccurate answers from customer service (referred to in the future as customer disservice). Between us we spent literal hours on hold. All in all, an appalling display of purposeful incompetence, lack of ethics and callous behavior far below any other travel entity we have dealt with during COVID. We will never use Airbnb again.

No Help, No Refund in an Airbnb Emergency

My son and girlfriend rented a room in Ft. Lauderdale. The room was not as presented, but they tried to deal with it. They were supposed to have a double bedroom and no used condoms on the floor.

While there, my son was robbed, threatened to be shot, and left the property. They tried to reach Airbnb since arriving at this unit over the room situation and could not get through to a person. Police were called to the hotel after the incident. The hotel clerk told my son and his girlfriend they needed to leave before something happened. Again, there was no help from Airbnb.

They left their unit at 1:00 AM and had nowhere to go. Their money was tied up in this unit and they would not give their money back but promised to get it to them. We got a frantic phone call at 2:00 AM that our kids were on the streets. Still nothing from Airbnb. We got on the phone and still nothing. I bet if it was their kids something would have been done.

I posted this and suddenly I got a call. The kids and I had tried to get in touch with them for weeks after this happened and got a total run around. They actually put me through the whole process three more times: telling the same story, promises to do something, promises to call back. But, they did send me an email asking me to state it all over again, and then after I did, they told me “because of my lack of response they are ending the dispute.”

Are you freakin kidding me? Every time you call they mention how the calls are being recorded. Check your recordings and email history. I have called at least 15 times. The problem is, they know that this happened to young adults juggling jobs and school and they could wear them down. I won’t be worn down.

How can a company allow this? They know it happened — there are police reports. They removed this stay from their listings and they think telling me that it has been handled internally helps those kids and future kids in any way? They deserve their money back at a place they couldn’t even stay.

Poorly Cleaned Crack Den Passes for an Airbnb Listing?

Without going into the minutiae, the property was not as advertised (graphically or descriptively) on the web page through deceptive and misleading photography and unbelievably optimistic interpretation of the property condition, style and “vibe”. It was so incredibly dirty that it would not be addressed by an additional visit by a cleaner in the duration of the stay and very distressed throughout with burns on curtains, water marks on soft furnishings, dozens of scuff marks on floors and walls, chipped enamel, raised floor tiles, dirty, thread bare “linen”.

It was also potentially unsafe. The appearance and demeanor of the host’s assistant was not inviting at all: scruffy denim, no teeth, fell out of a scruffy white van on arrival and could barely walk straight or string a sentence together gave us the distinct feeling that he was a drug addict.

Based on this, we immediately complained to Airbnb, hastily took photos (because of safety issues) and left the property as advised by Airbnb. The host reached out to us within the hour and offered a further cleaning of the property. We declined as we had no intention of returning to the property as this was not the main issue. The host subsequently offered us another apartment in the same building. We declined this offer as we felt that any customer good faith had be irrevocably destroyed. In the meantime we started a full refund request from Airbnb.

Over the next several days we struggled greatly to deal with the process with many response delays, misinformation and lies from the various Airbnb Ambassadors. Eventually Airbnb summarily rejected our complaint but offered us a $500 good will gesture refund. We rejected this outright with the intention of reclaiming all our money.

Illegal Airbnb Cost Me More Than $1000

Lesson learned: do not book an airbnb with a host who tells you to not tell anyone in their community that you are an Airbnb guest. I needed a pet-friendly Airbnb for two weeks because my house tested positive for black mold. I found a private room in an apartment. One of the house rules was not to mention that I was an Airbnb guest to anyone, but I didn’t really think anything of it at first.

I told the guard at the gate that I was an Airbnb guest, and he let me in. Apparently he was new and he did not know that the complex did not allow Airbnb guests. The host repeatedly told me to not tell anyone in the community, including maintenance or security that I was an Airbnb guest. I had already done that, and became nervous after the first night. I realized that what she was doing was illegal and that I could be kicked out.

She also didn’t like it when I asked her for her last name or to see her driver’s license, even though she asked for mine. She used a fake name on Airbnb. She was super shady and I could not trust her, so I packed up my things and left. I’m out over $1,000 and am staying in an expensive hotel. Airbnb has been dragging their heels and I can’t even get a straight answer on if I’m getting a refund.

I will take her to small claims court if she doesn’t give me my money back, or if Airbnb does not resolve this. It’s looking like the latter because they have taken over four days to resolve this and have not reached out to me.

Illegal Airbnb Took Money That I Worked My Whole Life For

My host was illegally listing a property. I moved across the country to take a prestigious research job and to study at a prestigious school, but when the town apartment inspector showed up, she told me it was illegal. Airbnb promised to refund me my hotel room, gas and toll money back to my former community, but did not. I then went into another Airbnb because I was basically without a home, and that guy was a pervert and I had to flee. I got a third of my promised hotel reimbursements, and none of my gas and toll money reimbursed.

I maxed out credit cards to pay for this (some with high APRs) trusting I would get my money back from Airbnb as promised, but no. I was out of work and home for a month, and Airbnb has not done what they have promised. No more prestigious job or school, and I am in debt for $4,000 because of this. I finally found a home, but Airbnb has still not given some of my money back. I cannot afford hangers for my clothes, let alone winter boots or food now. My life is ruined, and both the illegal listing and the pervert are still on the platform.