Left Stranded in NYC with Only $500 Because of Airbnb

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I am writing Airbnb an official complaint regarding their handling of my three-week reservation that was cancelled on the day prior to checking in. I understand that this cancellation may have been out of their control but the following steps towards fixing this was just a blatant failure on their part.

I’d also just like to point out that their lack of severe penalties to disincentivise this behaviour is also a contributor so let’s just make sure they’re aware that this is what can happen when policies are designed extremely poorly. I’d like to chronologically recount to you my 8-hour ordeal (to which at the time of writing, being 2:00 AM, the issue has still not been resolved and I have no accommodation for the next 22 days in NYC).

On the first call to Airbnb’s helpline, a complaints representative told me the host who cancelled on me was obligated to help me find other suitable accommodation and I should sit tight and wait for a call within 10-15 minutes. When I pushed back she said “Sir, you need to trust the process…she will call you”. She did not.

For the second, third, and fourth calls I was constantly told to call back until I was finally redirected to a case manager. He could only provide me a 500 AUD coupon to supplement my next booking. All subsequent bookings in a similar area range cost at a minimum 1000 AUD more. This was not good enough and I asked him politely if he could escalate this to someone who could do better. He escalated this urgent request over email and then his shift ended – with no further correspondence or reasonable handover to another manager. This is not okay.

On my fifth call I had been informed by my new case manager that the other case manager cannot be reached and that he will endeavour to look for another suitable accommodation that would work with my budget and transit requirements. He proceeded to then send me a haphazard “Brooklyn” search and asked me if I had “looked” at the listings.

It took me ten minutes to convince him that what he had sent me was all in USD and that if you convert to AUD it would be much more expensive. He then proceeded to tell me he needed to restart his computer (due to computer issues) and that he promised he would call me back. I waited another 30 minutes before I decided to call back and repeat the process.

Call number six was with a “resolution specialist” who looked for other accommodation for me after reassuring me that she will be able to help. The listings she provided were also in USD and when converted, finances were unfavourable. On top of that, the listings she provided were so inadequate for my transit needs (to school in midtown) that I just gave up calling for help. I have since messaged Airbnb on Facebook messenger and they have also asked me to await another “case manager” to address my issue.

As you can see, a lot has happened and there is no resolution to show for it. On top of that I’d like to highlight some key failures on Airbnb’s part: poor escalation of issues as each “manager” or “specialist” I spoke to wasn’t really a manager or special enough or had enough authority to increase the limit or convert the coupon to a currency/amount that actually made a difference.

I’m surprised that the response approach was so varied. There are smaller banks in less developed countries that have better authority limits and remediation procedures than Airbnb does. The suggestions made by Airbnb’s specialists very clearly point out to me that they have no understanding around the context of my situation and the context of the area in which I’m trying to stay. If I knew that was the case I would not have called so many times as they were not helpful in the slightest and just wasted my time.

The amount Airbnb refunds and additional coupon offered does not match or reflect the additional accommodation costs I will incur due to my last minute booking circumstance.

Finally, I’d like to point out that this is my first time in New York and due to Airbnb’s inability to resolve issues promptly and adequately, they have made me miss my first Broadway show that I had booked, ruined my first New York experience and have broken my trust. They are a company that provides a service that I’ve constantly recommended to others and I was always a huge supporter and fan until this atrocious experience.

All I ask for at this point in time is some accountability and fair compensation for an extremely poorly handled interaction. I will take further action if necessary as the way this case has been handled is completely unacceptable.

An update from later the following day, four hours after I had to check out from my previous Airbnb accommodation. Please see attached photos of my conversation with yet another case manager. I would honestly just like to speak to someone that isn’t offshore and has some semblance of logic and reasoning.

Word of Warning: Do Not Book Airbnb for Popular Cities

If you are like me, Airbnb has become my #1 priority when booking accommodation for a trip abroad. However, Airbnb cancelled my booking in New York with only weeks to spare, even though the booking was made eight months prior. Their customer service has no responsibility to find you alternative accommodation.

For Airbnb this is good business, because now the betrayed and baffled traveler has two expensive options: to book again with Airbnb and either pay more for a similar listing, or select a poorer quality listing. Alternatively, a person can book a hotel which is also more expensive as there is such a short time left prior to the trip.

What was shocking is that Airbnb originally blamed the host for cancelling. Moments after this, I received a message from the Superhost stating that he had no idea why it was cancelled. He had 50+ five star reviews. Airbnb removed all traces of the booking including our conversation chain and the host’s profile.

Airbnb might be good for small cities but for big ones, I would avoid booking as there is a high risk your booking will be cancelled and you have no way to expect the sudden additional expenses.

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Creeped Out: Bedroom in the Kitchen, Host Makes a Pass

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This host is no longer active. I rented a room in lower Manhattan, which turned out to be a bed in the kitchen. I would soon be met by a giant water bug (2+ inches long) crawling on the white bedspread. I know in NYC bugs are rampant, but those suckers are huge and I was freaked out nonetheless.

The weirdness was the host who was present. After chatting with me, he decided to try and make a pass at me. By this time it was late in the evening, I was tired from my overseas trip, and was not expecting my 27-year-old host, (I’m a good 20 years older mind you) to tell me my legs were sexy and carrying on about what we might do. I was like WTF? Seriously?

I handled things, and he refunded me, knowing Airbnb could get involved. And after the freaky bug that followed, I was creeped out. I ended up sleeping in the host’s bedroom (with the door locked) while he slept in the living room.

Prickly Airbnb Hosts Give One-Star Ratings

I got bashed by a host in Brooklyn because of one four-star rating in one category (everything else was a five), but I guess I cannot be truly honest nor give constructive criticism. Other guests I noticed who didn’t rave about the host also got a very heated response that implied the guest was somehow at fault or unfair. The host reply doesn’t show the original criticism so it is out of context. I also had a potential host turn on me quite suddenly when I asked for clarification on which unsafe areas to avoid in Harlem since I was advised by a neutral 3rd party NYC acquaintance that there were dodgy areas in that particular neighborhood.

As a woman traveling alone, I thought it was a legitimate and fair question but after a bit of a wait, the host asked me to cancel, which would’ve incurred a fee. I phoned Airbnb to discuss the matter. The customer service gal read all the emails and couldn’t understand the host’s sudden negative reaction either… maybe the area was dodgy. So far, only one out of three hosts have been honestly kind. The other two were just faking it apparently.

I’m now back to using hotels. Some aren’t that much more expensive and you get to deal with professional staff instead of a thin-skinned, petulant host. I have come across articles on how unsafe some venues/hosts can be since there’s not much vetting of hosts. A registered sex offender could be a host.

No Review is Safe from Removal on Airbnb

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I have to share two host stories. One relates to systemic fake reviews. I recently had the most horrible guests at my house. They were incredibly messy, rude and blackmailed me to have free pool heating during their entire stay free of charge with the threat of a bad review (pool heating is about $200 per day).

Once I reviewed them, I simply stated that they were very messy and overall very difficult to deal with as I had heard that Airbnb tends to delete bad reviews based on “policy violation” and therefore didn’t want to get too factual to avoid any frivolous claim retracting my honest review (note that this was my first ever “bad” review and frankly it wasn’t even that bad).

Airbnb said that, based on a summary investigation (note: I even sent pictures of various damaged objects as well as messages from my neighbors stating how impolite and ‘obnoxious’ those guests were – I wasn’t even asking for any dollar compensation), they determined it was “fair” to delete those reviews. They stated as follows:

“We adhere to the community’s goal of friendship and trust which in total built Airbnb.”

Note that these guests were exactly the opposite. As a result, anyone can dispute any review and get it removed saying it’s not ‘friendly’ and it’s really hard to trust anyone’s reviews.

The second story happened in my New York apartment. A crazy guest claimed (after using my apartment two weeks) that my neighbors threatened to get her arrested as Airbnb is “illegal” in New York. While she had no factual evidence whatsoever and she spent her time in my apartment, she was given a full refund after the stay (at my expense since Airbnb took out the full $4,000 from my next guest’s stay without letting me know).

What this means is that, contrary to popular belief, Airbnb takes the strong stand that they are illegal in NYC and will refund anyone who makes up any similar story without evidence. So, if you are dishonest, go for it.

Hell’s Kitchen, Airbnb Nightmare Apartment in NYC

I just got back from four days in NYC. I rented an Airbnb from two guys who had an apartment in Hell’s Kitchen (okay, should have given me a clue). Upon arrival everything seemed okay; there were no dirty dishes in the sink, and the toilet looked clean enough. THe tub was stained, but acceptable (not taking any bubble baths in it anyway, so sufficient for showering).

However, upon closer inspection, I came to discover that the whole place was filthy. Dirty dishes were left in dishwasher (no dishwasher fluid to clean them with either). The couch was stained, and there were stained, dirty duvets and sheets. Sheets were crumpled and did not appear to even be clean. Baseball-size balls of hair and dust were around the entire apartment, especially on the baseboards and beds. There was a repulsive oven (it set off smoke alarm when we tried to use it) complete with an old hard, burned French fry, and a dirty refrigerator.

The list went on and on. We stayed in a tent in the Sahara Desert once that was cleaner than this place. I immediately texted the owner (he didn’t respond to us, so called another guy in charge) that a cleaning crew needed to be called. Of course, we were assured that one would be there first thing in the morning. We used the towels – that did seem clean – to cover the pillows and ourselves so we could sleep. Suffice it to say that the “cleaning crew is coming” lie was told to us for three days.

The final night the guy texted us at 9:38 PM wanting to send a cleaning crew. In retrospect we should have said yes, as my guess is he was bluffing then too, but trying to cover his #$%. By that time we had bought new sheets after hiking over two miles to BBB and back. Finding this was no easy task in NYC. Quite pricey too, as there’s no Walmart in NYC.

When I got my invitation to post my review, I was loaded. Like I said in my review, I’ve seen animal cages that were cleaner than this apartment. Every night when we returned to the apartment because we’d left for the day – so this magical cleaning crew could appear while we were gone sightseeing for the day, as we had been told over and over by the host – only brought more disappointment, frustration and a string of phone calls to the host and Airbnb. We came to believe that the elusive “cleaning crew” must have lived in the land of the unicorns and lost their metro passes because they never came.

I just got a review from the host. I use that term loosely, as it implies that these guys did something to treat us as guests. He slammed us (me) with a vicious lie saying that we put our used linens and towels in the bathtub (no exit instructions so we called Airbnb and told them what we were going to do; they okayed it. What do you do with dirty linens and towels anyway? This is what we do at a hotel) and urinated on them. What kind of sicko mind can even come up with a defense that gross? Of course you can’t photograph this and he knew that we were staying with a child – pretty low buddy, blame the kid. Little does he know that this child is not a “child,” but a mini-adult who definitely does not wet the bed if that was his implication.

Anyway, I was pretty much pleased with Airbnb for giving us a full refund and eventually resolving our complaint, but it did take five different reps and a lot of phone calls. I also had a lot of pictures (that I really don’t want to post in case I need them for further action) and evidence to present. Even though I probably won’t use Airbnb again, I can say that I’m overall satisfied with Airbnb. It still makes me mad that these guys are out there, ruining other people’s vacations.

Even after this review, they can just list under other names and open new accounts? And the reviews? These guys were Superhosts with 21 positive reviews. It’s not like I didn’t do my due diligence. Buyer beware. All I can say is the next time I’m in New Orleans I’m buying two voodoo dolls.

Checkout Hour Drama, Trying to Pull Something?

I booked a couple with no reviews. I have booked folks with no reviews before and usually everything goes very well. After they showed up at 12:30 AM to check in (I do not have 24-hour check in), the woman mentioned to her partner that the place looked too nice, almost like it would have been a problem running something by me because the place wasn’t a dump. I stood there and observed carefully their interaction as they arrived.

The gentleman then left at 1:00 AM and returned at 10:00 AM the next day to slam the door as hard as a human being can slam a door. I gulped. I sat there saying to myself, “you wanted to be a host, here you go…”

They then hibernated in the room after that; they hardly went to the bathroom or out for food. Another thing that was odd since people dont come to New York City to hibernate for two days. They went to their alleged wedding and showed up at 5:00 AM. Checkout is at 11:00 AM.

At one hour before checkout, the guy said: “Hi there. Can I talk to you? Is it okay if we stay here untill our flight leaves? We would have to sleep in the airport and don’t really know when the flight leaves. We still haven’t seen the city at all and would love to go to the Statue of Liberty.”

Mind you it was one hour before checkout. I said, “Well, you can stay until 3:00 PM.” Then the little voice in my head said, “You do know if you let them stay past their checkout time without a paid reservation you will probably need the police to get them out of your house?”

I knocked on their door again and said, “I just spoke to Airbnb and they told me I would have legal problems if I allow you to be here past the checkout time since another guest is coming in.” I knew there was no guest coming that evening, but I wanted to be polite and very firm.

Then he said, “But you are the host. I thought I would come talk to you instead of going through the site.”

“You didn’t come to me to make a reservation. You used Airbnb to contact me and book for you. We don’t have anything else to talk about; everything has to go through Airbnb.”

The woman inside the room farted. They placed a call to someone and said, “My wife is nervous about this.” My walls are paper thin and I can hear air as it moves. I was now in the kitchen and they were leaving. He dropped his suitcase, nervous as can be. I shook their hands and said, “I totally apologize for not being able to help you stay past checkout, but it’s hard to do that between reservations.”

They left, and the door closed behind them. I wonder if telling the next hosts these scam artists are worth dealing with. I have no idea what type of a review they might leave me, but in all honestly, I trully dont care. He never looked me in the face as he asked me if they could stay past checkout.

Frustration at Airbnb After NYC Host Lied

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I experienced stress and frustration with the place I chose to stay at through Airbnb in NYC. The host happened to be a fraudulent and shameless person. Below are my comments to Airbnb. To my surprise the comments are not published, with the explanation that the message has private information. I asked to remove whatever was considered private but nevertheless, my comments have not been published. Airbnb, rather than protecting and helping the perspective clients, protects the fraudulent hosts. Airbnb refunded me 130 USD and closed the case without publishing the comments that explain the reasons for my frustration.

I do not recommend this place in any condition. It is dirty, and has never been cleaned for at least a month or more. The host was also inhospitable. I snapped a picture of the apartment’s condition for the proof of my complaint. The only advantage of the apartment is its location, but this doesn’t cover the stressf and frustration that you get staying in this place even for short time.

I paid for a master bedroom but instead I was placed in a much smaller messy bedroom, because somebody else had lived there already. The host informed me about the change of the room just minutes before my planned departure to NY. Due to my visa, I arrived three days later than planned. To my surprise, I found an apartment that looked like more like a warehouse of boxes, items, and stuff scattered all over the places. The guests are forced to maneuver between those to be able to move in the apartment.

Due to the conditions above I was not able to use the kitchen. The oven was dirty and piled up with items around it, and using a gas stove may have even caused a fire. The apartment has not been cleaned for a long time, nor was it cleaned while I was there or before my arrival. Everything was covered in a thick layer of dust.

The host didn’t sound friendly at all. Prior to my arrival I called him to confirm my arrival time. Instead of a greeting, his reply was: “Follow the instructions given by email,” which I didn’t have with me at that moment.” The host’s name and the address advertised are not the same in reality. The host is trying to hide himself (it’s not clear why and from whom). My guess is that the host manipulates guests, only to get money from them with zero investments like cleaning the place.

I suggested settlement of 50%, due to the fact that instead of the master bedroom I was placed in a much smaller room, I arrived three days later, and the terrible condition of the apartment. The reply was rude and negative. In addition, I left my shoes and asked the host to sent them back. However, the host, in spite of what had happened, requested 100 USD to send them back. Of course I refused. Attached is a picture of the apartment.

I had the worst experience of my life booking with Airbnb

I’ve got the worst experience of my life booking with Airbnb. My host cancelled my stay the day I landed in New York. After 2.5 hours spent chatting with the customer care without finding a solution, I was told by my representative that she would have finish her journey shortly and another person would take care of my situation soon. I was contacted two days later after opening a complaint against them.

It isn’t over yet. Since I had no place to go I decided to book a hotel (only 3% were available that day), then asked Airbnb for a full refund of the difference I had to pay between the hotel and my room ($600). After about ten days of emails back and forth they agreed to a payment of $300. Be aware your host can cancel your reservation; you won’t have a full refund and potentially no place to go.

Active Guest Reservation and No Payment from Airbnb

I have been a pretty happy host on Airbnb the last three years up until now. I had a three-month trip to Europe planned and found a last minute three-month reservation request. The dates were perfect. I met the lady in person with her teenage son and her dog. I was pretty happy to hand off my keys to a family that was really appreciative at the time and left for Europe in peace. She confirmed the reservation and moved in.

Three weeks later she called me in tears saying she had her identity stolen, needed to move out in 48 hours, and requested her money back. By the way, it was $2,700/month for my NYC pad in a prime location. I really needed this money to pay my rent while I was not staying in NYC. I told her I have a strict policy in place so she took it to the support team. They also basically said she needs to pay. This angered the guest, so she started cussing at me, knocking on my neighbors doors saying she needs to find the landlord. She kept saying she doesn’t want to be involved in illegal activities and wants to talk to my landlord. It was so much unnecessary drama. Most importantly I was so scared for my personal stuff.

Finally the guest checked out early after creating a lot of stress and just problems, playing games with me on where she will leave the keys, and just being rude and disrespectful. I told Airbnb I was so uncomfortable with this guest and this situation. They said not to worry and I will get a partial payment if she was to cancel. The crazy lady moved out (thank god), but she never cancelled the reservation. It kept going as an active reservation.

When next month rent’s was due I should have gotten either the partial amount or the full amount since her reservation is still active but all that Airbnb did was email me saying they cannot collect payment and if the guest doesn’t pay; they are not responsible. I really didn’t expect this to happen but I’m happy the crazy lady is out of the apartment and my stuff is safe. Any advice on how I can collect one month of rent that is still active on my Airbnb account?