My Airbnb Fraud Experience: Nightmare in NYC

Dear Airbnb,

I’m absolutely disgusted by your service and lack of concern for your customers. Before I start in on you, I’d like to start by explaining my situation, solely for the entertainment of the readers. Last week, I found out that I was a victim of fraud through Airbnb. Two of my friends and I decided to book an apartment in New York City, to spend four days of our Thanksgiving break there. The apartment we found seemed amazing: great location, cheap price, and just perfect for three international college students. The host of the apartment had listed his contact number on the website and it said to contact that number in order to book the apartment. We tried reserving it on the Airbnb website itself, but for some reason it wasn’t happening. We were scared that if we waited too long, the apartment would no longer be available; therefore we decided to contact the number that was listed.

We messaged the number, got in touch with the host, and reserved the apartment. He asked us to do the payment through Western Union, which is generally a credible way to wire money, and so a week later we made a $700 payment ($300 for the apartment for three nights + $400 as a security deposit). We received confirmation emails from Airbnb as well and believed that everything was confirmed. The payment was made to someone called Michael Harrison. The next day, the host reached out me and asked me to make another payment of $600; he said it was some sort of tax fee and that is when I realized something sketchy was happening.

I contacted Airbnb immediately and then found out that the apartment listing was invalid and the apartment doesn’t even exist in real life. I contacted Western Union after this, but the receiver had already collected the money. We tried resolving the issue with the host, but he blocked my number and the only way to resolve the problem was through Airbnb. I contacted your customer service number at least 15 times. Your staff was extremely unhelpful and didn’t seem to take my situation seriously. I waited about three days after calling and finally decided to send an email. I sent three emails and did not receive any response. After calling a few more times and finally tweeting, you decided to respond to my emails. You were not willing to compensate us for the cost or provide us with accommodation. Our transport has already been arranged, but unfortunately we will not be able to go on this long awaited trip, since we have nowhere to stay and already lost $700.

If the apartment listing was invalid and non existent, it shouldn’t have been available on the website in the first place. It is so misleading to your customers. More than anything, your staff didn’t seem to take our concerns seriously, considering our trip is next week. They were rude, unhelpful and extremely unapologetic about the incident. Being a frequent user of Airbnb, I was completely put off. I’ve never had such a disastrous experience before. They were not willing to compensate us for new accommodations or refund at least the security deposit ($400). I have nothing more to say, except that I am never using Airbnb again. I’ve tried everything in my power to resolve the issue with you, but you were unsympathetic and indifferent to this situation. Losing $700 is no joke. I’m disappointed at your lack of concern and overall approach to this whole situation. Your staff is unhelpful and not willing to do anything to help me. Being such a well known, world-renowned company, this is absolutely appalling.

Creepy Experience with Airbnb in NYC

I am just sharing a very bad experience with Airbnb that I had a couple of nights ago. I booked for a friend who is out of the country with a host in Hamilton Heights, New York. First of all, her listing says that it is a quiet and spacious place. The sleeping area was just part of the living room, with a couch, separated by a curtain. The day after my friend arrived, the host’s mother slept in the living room, snoring all night, and making my friend very uncomfortable. The room didn’t have any blinds so my friend needed to sleep with pillows to cover herself from the light. In addition, she asked my friend not to speak one night at 9:00 PM when she received a call, because her mother was sleeping in the living room. Apart from that, the host’s boyfriend was living in her room. So in a very small apartment there were four people.

The third night, my friend went out to smoke a cigarette and when she returned (around 12:00 AM) the door was locked from the inside. She tried to enter, but she couldn’t open the door. After that she knocked on the door without any answer from the inside. She knocked several times. She was able to call me from outside, because she is from a foreign country and didn’t have internet. So she called me through Facebook. I heard how she knocked on the door without any response. She spent the night in my home, but she was very scared without any money, ID, clothes, and unable to speak the language.

The next morning I went back with her, and there was the host, telling me “that she should have rung the bell, and that they didn’t hear the door because they used earplugs.” Of course, my friend took her things and we ran from that kind of host. I then called Airbnb customer service and I requested a refund. They only refunded me one night, and I lost $430 dollars, which covered the rest of the stay. She said that my guest should have read the lock instructions (she never saw any lock instructions, nor this is explained on the listing). Also the customer representative said that my friend should have rung the bell. What is the difference between a bell and knocking on the door at 1:00 AM in a small apartment? It makes no sense.

I was treated badly. I feel robbed and disappointed with this company. This host charged me $40/night for this horrific experience.  I will never book through Airbnb again.

Can’t Even Contact Airbnb Customer Service

I recently booked two nights through Airbnb for the Manhattan area in New York. I was very excited to find such a great deal for the area. It turns out it was too good to be true. Within minutes of me booking, my “host” contacted me via text to request an additional security deposit of $500. This amount was not included on the additional costs page and was not included in the total that I had already been charged. I cancelled because I didn’t feel comfortable. This all happened within maybe 20 minutes. Now I cannot get my “service fee” back and there is no direct customer service phone, or email. I am extremely disappointed and upset that I just lost money because I was scammed. It doesn’t seem fair, does it?

My NYC Nightmare: Building Doesn’t Allow Airbnb

My daughter and I booked an apartment on the Upper West Side of New York City several months in advance of our September 1st visit. I was in touch with the host via text several days in advance, who told me to tell her when I was landing, and she would give me directions on how to get to her apartment. Upon my arrival at the airport from Nashville and on the way to the apartment, I called her, at which time I was told that she was changing the location to her son’s apartment on the Upper East Side. I was also told not to tell the doorman that I was an Airbnb guest, but “a friend of her son’s girlfriend Zoe.” I was very upset and told her to cancel the reservation and I requested a refund of by $1,345. So far, in spite of repeated attempts to reach her and Airbnb, I have not received a refund. Help!

Airbnb Representatives Ruined my Vacation

What a nightmare I had with this company. I had guests flying in from Atlanta and we planned on spending the weekend in NYC. I live in central New Jersey. The original house we rented was in Bayshore and totally misrepresented on the Airbnb site. There were holes in the walls, trash on the floor, large dead insects, exposed electrical wires, and dirty overflowing laundry baskets. The pool we were told we could swim in looked more like a black lagoon. Hence, we never even bought our luggage inside. As we were entering the house, there was a young man with a barking dog exiting. Did he have a key? Was he coming back? Was he coming back with friends? more dogs? Was he staying in the house at the same time we were? We had no idea who he was nor did we feel the need to ask.

We were a party of four girls and extremely concerned about our safety. After calling Airbnb right away to cancel, the four of us went out to dinner and tried to find new accommodations with the help of Airbnb. This was the true beginning of my hell ride with this company. From this point, I spent the next three days speaking with representatives. They called and emailed all hours of the day and night. Although I paid in full, there was a problem getting me verified. This verification process took no less than five representatives and had me at a near mental breakdown. Several times I could not continue the phone conversations which I now viewed as a barrage of harassment from the representatives.

The constant calls and emails ruined my vacation. I did not spend a lot of time with my guests because Airbnb took most of my time. Twice I had to get my guests to get on the phone with them because I could not allow them to continue to consume my time. Each day I logged almost 8 to 10 hours dealing with multiple representatives. I was getting emails at 3:00 AM and phone calls before 6:00 AM. On the fourth day, my friends left for home and I never got to spend any quality time with them. I was able to find another location, which was fantastic. The constant communication via email and phone, being placed on hold, taking photos, sending photos for which they “never received”, getting verified, getting a refund from the first location, finding and making a second reservation in NYC at midnight, and taking almost two days to get verified ruined my entire vacation with my friends. My three girlfriends are also doing their part in spreading the word on the incompetence of this Airbnb’s representatives.

Reservation Cancelled Last Minute in NYC

So, I had this wonderful, romantic trip planned for my girlfriend and me: tickets to a Broadway show and a “fantastic” room right in Times Square that I booked through Airbnb. However, less than two weeks before our scheduled trip, I received an email from Airbnb that simply said: “Unfortunately, your reservation has been cancelled.”

That’s it! No explanation, nothing except the option to credit my account or receive a refund. There is no option to contact the owner from whom I was renting. This is my first experience with Airbnb and will very likely be my last. How can one make plans under these circumstances? My son has several upcoming Airbnb reservations. I will advise him to cancel and book hotels. I would certainly never recommend Airbnb and have no intention of giving them a second chance. Oh well, back to Hotels.com.

Ruining NYC: Airbnb Neighbor Nightmare

I would suggest a new category of victim for this website: Airbnb neighbor. My home and four other apartments in a small 6-unit building were all unwilling dragged into the pitfalls of the sharing economy. We had involuntary, front-row seats to the joy of when one individual volunteers access to your doorstep to the world without your consent and lies to everyone involved for her personal financial gain. Stephanie Browne is a serial Airbnb “host” who at one point listed up to three separate full apartment rentals in Bushwick, Brooklyn; this is illegal to do in NY for less than 30 days.  Having reaped much financial gain as a full-blown gentrifier with two separate rental apartments in one building, she proceeded to expand her hotel room business by signing a lease in another small 6-unit apartment building. Our new “neighbor” proceeded to rent the apartment out as early as two weeks from when she moved in to the unit.

Why, we wondered, are families of five who obviously don’t know anything about the neighborhood carrying bottled water and coolers into a one bedroom apartment when our “neighbor” was nowhere to be seen? Sure enough, the apartment was listed on Airbnb for rent, with Stephanie Browne claiming to be the owner. This started a full year of random vacationing strangers parading through the building at all hours, with one guest at one point threatening the host by calling the police when she was locked out, and causing the entire building’s locks to be changed. She gave out building keys like party favors to the whole world. Meanwhile, she was not even residing in the country and had moved full-time to Europe.

Stephanie Browne is the diametric opposite of the “good actor” Airbnb claims makes up their hosts who only need to rent periodically to afford their rent. Browne, by holding three leases for apartments she neither owned or resided in purely for the use of temporary guests, is the exact cause of why everyone’s rent in NYC is going up. After much complaining and lackluster enforcement of the law by NYC Department of Buildings, she gave up the rental unit one year early. As a parting shot, she tried selling the books and furniture from her hotel room to her “neighbors” in the building and wrote this pitiful, inaccurate justification of her noxious lifestyle.

Meanwhile, she still continues to list two illegal rentals while living in Europe. Airbnb’s community complaint line is joke: they enabled her lies to the guests, the building owner, and the occupants of the building she put at constant inconvenience and risk. The moral of the story for other afflicted neighbors who become unwilling concierges to hotel rooms in their own building: know your rights, contact your management company, elected officials, local enforcement agencies, and get these hosts that are your neighbors where it hurts, their wallets.

Another Airbnb Scam: Stranded in NYC

I booked a verified listing that was an amazing apartment near Central Park in New York City. The host contacted me with information on how to receive the keys, and asked about my stay and how he could help with suggestions. After arriving at the “place” only to find that the building had been torn down (the police said three years ago…), I was effectively stranded with nowhere to go; we had to book the only hotel we could find available for $500. When we called Airbnb, we were put on hold for over 20 minutes to finally be told they would refund the amount that we paid. When I insisted they pay for the hotel bill that night, they refused saying they would book us in another Airbnb. When I asked them how they would verify that that building was not demolished either, they had no response…

This is a complete joke of a verification process. At least drive by the building to see if it is still there before allowing scammers to post fake listings. One of the customer service agents agreed to pay a portion of the hotel bill, which I have yet to receive…

Airbnb is for Business, not Community

After years of being an Airbnb guest and months of being a host in NYC I’ve concluded something that I long suspected but couldn’t zero in on because I’d never hosted. Airbnb is 100% for people who are using it as a business. This story of them building a community is false. First, from the guest side: ever try to find a whole apartment or house that didn’t look like it was just some real estate guy trying to make tons of cash? I have. Ever finally arrive and never even meet the host? Just put the code in the key safe, right? Ever look through the kitchen and realize that no one has ever used this kitchen because if they did they’d realize that everything necessary to cook was either missing or broken? I have. Not once. Not twice. Every single time.

Now from hosting side. Hosts are treated like a commodity, like they are out to make as much money as possible and will do anything to get the next guest. I wonder why? Because good little hosts accept every single reservation regardless of whether the guest asks, “Can I arrive at 1 AM?” or asks you something like, “I’d love to stay at your place. Where is Brooklyn, anyways?” Or you receive a request at 2 AM for someone who wants the place for your maximum stay length four months in the future. You think I’m exaggerating. I’m not.

Dear Airbnb,

This is my home. I live here. I’m not a real estate professional. Generally the tools to connect with the right guests work. You can set the minimum and maximum length. Turnover times. Open and close calendar dates. Seems pretty friendly. If you’re still reading, I’m finally to my point. The kicker: If you aren’t making Airbnb lots of money by renting your home like it’s a freaking hotel they will make your life hell.

Here’s how: 1. They randomly shut down your account for “not accepting.” 2. They modify how your listing shows in results. This is a really big deal because they have all the power and there is no transparency. But the results of this are clear. When you’re making money all the reservation requests are from people with lots of great feedback. When you start getting more selective the people they send your way signed up the night before… with no feedback. No travel experience. No community – you are a hotel to them. And that’s how Airbnb lets you know what a good little host is supposed to be.