Beware Custom Pricing Algorithm used by Airbnb

The original listing price of this Airbnb was $63 per night. This is when you look without dates, like you are planning a few days here and there while traveling and don’t know the exact dates. Once the dates are added, the price can go up four times in the same month. Not seasonal, but because there is an algorithm used by investment property hosts to help them surge prices.

There is nothing to indicate which hosts use surge pricing so if you use a filter for prices but don’t add dates the lowest price for the month shows up. The price we were billed was considerably different. Shown below is the bill summary and a screenshot of the page the unit was listed for. When I made the reservation I was in a hurry and I didn’t pay much attention to anything past the initial price on the main page. The bill is summarized below.

I went back to go through a reservation process for five days (but didn’t actually reserve the place). It started out with the $63 per night. After I put in the start and end dates for a five-day stay, a bill summary popped up showing a very different price. This shows the price going to $252 (four times $63) and then being reduced to $126 for long stay discount.

Please explain how this could be advertised at one price and then changed completely upon going through the steps to make a reservation.

$258 per night x 5 = $1290

(subtract long stay discount)

$1290-$645 = $645 (for 5 nights) is $129 per night

Cleaning – $49 service fee – $89.53 occupancy taxes and fees =$162.38

Total : $945.91

After Confirmation, Airbnb Host asks for more than Double the Money

On August 5th, my husband and I booked a one-month long rental for a house in Aruba, inland in the Noord area, not near the beach. The total was CAD $2161.23 for the two of us from January 31st to February 28th, 2019. A daily rate of $145 had been posted, but once I put in the 28 days, a more favorable monthly rate had popped up and we were happy with it, though a 28-day rental falls under a Long Term Cancellation Policy and the first month is nonrefundable. In our case this meant if we had to cancel we would not get any money back.

The same evening I received an email confirming our reservation and payment of $2161.23, and the full payment has since been debited from my visa account. I thought we were all set. Three days later I received a message that the host wanted to change my reservation; if I agreed to the change I would immediately be charged an additional $2908.37, for a new total of $5,069.60.

We were in shock. We thought there had been an agreement and commitment from both sides for $2161.23, but in the meanwhile the host had left a message saying that the daily rate for that period was $335 (much higher than what was advertised on the web site), but for a monthly stay it was $3,500 + the cleaning fee + a 15% service charge.

I called Airbnb. A polite representative took my information and said someone would be in touch with me soon and try to resolve the issue. Within the same day an Airbnb support staff called and explained that the host was new at this (I figured that already since there were no reviews – something I should have seen as a red flag), and obviously does not understand the Airbnb smart pricing system, though she had agreed to it. Obviously she had also agreed to automatic confirmation.

The staff member gave me the sense that Airbnb wanted to give this new host a break, let her out of her commitment, and issue us a full refund. She told me that we had the choice of either accepting the new price (more than double the original one), or agreeing to a cancellation of our contract with a full refund, and they would send us some suggestions of other listings.

While we sympathize with the predicament of the host, we don’t think this is a fair solution for all parties. Because in the meantime I looked in the area and could not find a comparable listing in terms of location, features, and pricing. I told Airbnb that we were really looking forward to renting this particular house and don’t want to rent another, but it seems Airbnb is siding with the host. They said I could email the host and tell her we want to stick to the original agreement and price. I just did that, but I don’t see the point; if the host had been okay with that price we would not have this situation now.

I will post an update once I have it. By the way, this unexpected increase in pricing is not new to us with Airbnb, except that in the past it happened when I made inquiries with hosts prior to booking. It seems that once they know you are interested in a certain time frame, they increase the price before you have a chance to book. I also discussed this issue with the support staff, but her answer was that it was then up to us to book or walk away from it. Are there no ethics in business anymore?

Long Beach Bungalow Host Needs More Money

In April we booked, were accepted, and paid for a bungalow in Belmont Shores. Three weeks prior to our arrival the host requested an additional $413 because she got a better offer for $325 per night instead of the $200 per night that was her posted price. I declined as you can’t change the price after you accepted our money. She then canceled our reservation through Airbnb two weeks prior to our arrival.

Where can I find another rental on the 4th of July weekend? We made plans for airfare, car rental and other hotels. Airbnb penalized her $100, which she will gladly pay it as she is making $325 per night for five days. This is totally unethical and poor business practices. We will incur financial consequences for her cancellation. I also had rentals on VRBO a few years ago. I would never do that to my pending guest. No protection for the renters. At least when you stay at the Hyatt or Hilton you know the standard to expect… no service or cleaning fees either. I’m sticking to the hotels. Airbnb better wake up soon.

Airbnb Host Raised Rental Price After Booking

As my French friends advised me to book an Airbnb place instead of my already booked hotel, I decided to book a place on Airbnb in Paris. As this was my first time booking with Airbnb, I was giving special attention to reviews. After trying to contact a few hosts before actually booking, just as it is advised, and getting no answers, I found a host who was verified by Airbnb with pretty good reviews. I booked the place, sent a message, and waited.

There was no message from the host, no confirmation of my booking, and as it was already close to my departure date and possibility of cancelling my hotel booking, I decided to stick to my hotel and cancelled the request for the Airbnb booking before it was confirmed. Not more than a minute later came a message that she was about to confirm my request and another message came from Airbnb with a special price offer.

I accepted the special price offer, paid Airbnb, got confirmation, and cancelled my hotel booking. This was already three days before my departure for Paris. The next day I got a message from Airbnb saying that the hosts wanted to change my booking, raising the rate by more than 400€. I immediately tried to contact the host on the number given after confirmation, but no one answered my calls or SMS.

I was thinking ‘What the hell!?’, refused the change, and Airbnb again messaged me saying that my booking was confirmed. Half an hour later I got a message from the host saying she made a mistake and offered a price that was too low and that Airbnb was putting too many provisions on her request for a change in the booking.

I am not answering any more messages as I found this site with similar situations. She then cancelled my booking and sent me another offer for booking her place with a new price. Did she think I would book it again after all? I gave up booking on Airbnb, booked another hotel, paying more than my first booking and not in a part of Paris I wanted. I guess never again I will try to book Airbnb following all the ‘proper advice’ from them.