I sent a notification of a dispute and an attempt in good faith to negotiate an informal resolution. The dispute involved my confirmed reservation for an Airbnb listing in Clearwater, Florida. My confirmed reservation was for Dec. 11 to Dec. 18, 2021. This story shows that Airbnb has fake listings on their site, does bait and switch with listings, and allows host to cancel at the last minute if they can get more money elsewhere or from a different guest.
On Sept. 28, my husband’s sister called us to say she was driving to Clearwater to spend a couple months on vacation. We had not seen her in over four years and were really excited. After talking it over, my husband and I decided to drive from Baton Rouge to Florida and spend a week on vacation at an Airbnb to spend time with his sister. I spend several days going through the Airbnb listings and finally found the perfect one. I knew I would not find any listings the week for Christmas so we decided to celebrate the week before.
It was a whole house, would take the dogs, had a fenced yard, was on one of the canals, had a heated pool and included a pontoon boat you could take to the beaches. It was also only a few minutes away from where my husband’s sister was staying. I wrote Airbnb about the issue that the listing asked people to book on the Sandbar Vacation Rentals website instead of with Airbnb. I did not do that, but instead booked from the Airbnb site where I had originally found the listing.
As you can see my reservation was confirmed right away. Half the payment was made and we started to prepare for our vacation. I had not had a vacation in years and had been saving up my vacation days for a trip to Europe after COVID died down, but decided to use some of my days for this trip to visit with my sister-in-law. I applied to my employer to take the days and before I left for vacation, as required by my employer, I entered the vacation days into my timesheet. As far as I know once you do that they cannot be recovered.
I baked Christmas cookies, made fudge, and ordered some wonderful lamb tenderloins for our Christmas dinner. We planned an outing to the aquarium, a pontoon boat ride to look at Christmas decorations and even ordered our first meal from Casa Tina. We also planned a drive to Orlando to pick up a dog I was going to rescue. I got regular emails from Airbnb confirming my reservation, notifying me that the second half of my payment was due, and then received. I assumed the host also received these notices from Airbnb.
We loaded up the car and proceeded to drive eight hours to Tallahassee. At 2:00 PM on Friday, Dec. 10, I texted the host to let them know we would arrive and check into the house at 4:00 PM the next day (Dec. 11). The host asked me to confirm my name, saying he did not have the cell number on file. I texted my name and reservation confirmation code back to him.
He replied, “I’m sorry, but you booked a listing that does not accept reservations. We do not have a reservation for you.”
I texted back the confirmation number and that I had paid in full. The host confirmed I was talking to them and said they did not have my money, suggesting we call Airbnb. I got sent to a “customer ambassador” that would help me with my issue. He was nice enough but did not speak great English and seemed to not understand the situation. He said he would call the host and get back to me. He seemed to be reading from a script and was very concerned that I have the Airbnb cancellation policy, even thought I was not the one cancelling.
After he talked with the host, he called me back and essentially said they did not have a reservation for me but gave me no other explanation of how this happened. He admitted that Airbnb had a fully paid active reservation for me on an active listing but did indicate why the host was not going to honor the reservation. He said I would get a full refund but that it would take 5-15 days. I asked if it could just be applied to a new listing as we would need a place to stay. He said that was not possible as they just didn’t do that. I said we still needed a place to stay and could he find us comparable accommodations. He said he would work on it and call me back. I never heard from him again.
When we got to our hotel in Tallahassee, I immediately got on my computer and looked for a place to stay. My sister-in-law also started looking. Even the host sent some suggestions, but Airbnb never did. None of the listings that the host sent worked as they would not take two large dogs and were also not even in Clearwater. Everything, even nice hotels, that would take two large dogs and were close to my sister-in-law’s house was booked, since it was only a week before Christmas.
They next day we had to decide to drive on to Clearwater with no place to stay or to return home. My husband, bless his heart, felt like Airbnb would find a new house for us to stay in and wanted to drive on. I did not share his opinion since they had never called us back. With a grumpy husband, a grumpier wife, and two large dogs lacking exercise I said we were driving home.
Everyone was angry and depressed. He broke out in hives, his sister cried, and I tweeted my displeasure. My tweets got responses from Airbnb saying they would follow up. It’s been five days and the only real follow-up I got was to say I would get a refund: no help finding another place to stay, no apologies, except they were sorry for the “inconvenience”. Every message I got sounded like it was a canned AI responding to me with no mention of my situation.
My vacation was ruined, my vacation days stolen, and I am depressed and have started on medication. I submitted my mileage, my hotel bill, and the value of my lost vacation days to Airbnb, asking to be compensated. I got back another stupid canned message saying they couldn’t issue a refund as per their policies.