Scammed out of my Pension in Airbnb Nightmare

I am retired, and I have six children who live abroad so I don’t get to see them that often. We planned a family vacation in September, and since we are a big family, I looked for a listing that could accommodate us all. I found the perfect listing on Airbnb – a nice house in the city, a verified host – so I booked it for three nights.

After a few days, I realized we would need an additional night, so I asked the host to add one more night. She told me we would need to cancel the reservation and do the process again, and that she would send me a new invoice through Airbnb. I received this invoice, from “Airbnb” (rooms@airbnb.com) instructing me to send payment to Airbnb Holdings.

Once the payment was done, I got a confirmation from Airbnb stating “pack your bags, you’re going to Germany” – the text you see in the regular emails with links to the Airbnb website, policy, etc. In other words, I got an Airbnb email from an Airbnb address, and because I was sure Airbnb is building “a trusted community”, I did not doubt for a second that something could be wrong.

The day before the trip, as the host wasn’t answering my emails, I called Airbnb, who told me it was a scam, and there was no booking. However, the listing was still online, on the Airbnb website, waiting for people like myself to fall for it. I had to find a last minute booking (at twice the price) to accommodate all my family, because we were all on our way from all over the place, with nowhere to stay. Airbnb declined responsibility for scams they advertise, even though we paid for the service. They did not do the simple verification steps to check that the listings actually exist (not that complicated – just ask the host to send an invoice or official paper with the address). You had one job, Airbnb.

I lost a lot of my pension money, not counting the stress, frustration, sadness of being robbed when you feel secure on such a well known website. Airbnb refuses to refund anything, not even the fees they took for the reservation, which is the minimum they could do in that situation. The truth is, I am sad and disappointed that Airbnb takes so little responsibility towards the community they claim to be building. It’s easy to take fees on our transactions, to encourage us to open our doors and trust their users, and then they disappear when something goes wrong.

The Worst Response to “Airbnb is Just a Platform!”

This little nightmare starts back at the beginning of May 2017. It has just been resolved two months later and still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. At 10:00 PM the night of my reservation, I had to cancel after the host was MIA with directions on how to get into the property. Airbnb apologized for its host and the situation. They encouraged us to get a hotel room and they’d reimburse us up to $150; we spent $129 at Hampton Inn.

You must be thinking “wow!” like we were, and “how nice is that?” They really take good care of their customers. All those good feelings about Airbnb quickly vacated as time went on. I was assured twice by two different employees that everything was in place for the reimbursement. After waiting almost two months and losing patience well past the expected payout date, I called back a third time and spoke with someone who got me over to a “Customer Service Specialist” after we discovered I needed to input a payout method (like a host would) to get the reimbursement. This was news to me.

It’s not that the two-month delay wasn’t bad enough, or the misinformation; this is when it really got hellish. The specialist barked like a dog. He seemed old, cranky, short tempered, and not at all apologetic – not what you’d expect from such a “hip” company like Airbnb. He spoke over me constantly as if he was fighting for his life and this was supposed to be top management. He made sure to remind me that Airbnb is a 37 billion dollar company that is “just a platform”. He blamed us and the Airbnb representative at the time of the incident repeating over and over, “I don’t know where everybody’s head was at the time!”

He made sure to blame the host when he wasn’t blaming his underlings and asserted they are ultimately responsible because, yep you guessed it, because “Airbnb is just a platform.” I took this to mean he felt as an Airbnb manager he had no responsibility for my unpleasant, inconvenient experience with a host they vetted or the employees they hired and trained. So keep this in mind: Airbnb takes no responsibility for their hosts or employees. You’re on your own.

Well, I had quite a bit to say to this guy who claimed to be a “specialist” in the area of customer service. After pointing out that two representatives hired and trained by Airbnb, gave me incorrect instructions and information that delayed my reimbursement, you’d think an apology was in order. Nope. He just got crasser and meaner. I had to pull out the big guns and calmly repeated my dissatisfaction. I hinted and suggested an additional travel credit could smooth this all out and make up for all the mistakes Airbnb made along the way to issuing me reimbursement. Finally, he begrudgingly mentioned, “I can give you a $25 credit if that would shut you up.”

I continued to educate “the specialist” in customer service, mentioning how important it is to go above and beyond in this situation. All my suggestions were coming from my own experience as a business owner with unhappy customers. All he could bring himself to do was issue the lousy $25 credit (the maximum, according to him). A good habit to get into when dealing with these giant call centers is “resolution before disconnection.” There could at least be a confirmation number or the agent’s ID. At the most, it would be completely resolved. Try to get an email confirmation as documentation. Things get “lost” all the time in these behemoth call centers and repeating yourself is no fun.

Well, this specialist wasn’t going to have any of it: no ID, no last name, no email, no confirmation, nothing except a hearty, “just trust me, it’s taken care of.” He did take care of it finally, but the way all of it was handled should make Airbnb hide in shame for such a blatant disregard for its responsibilities as a “platform” and the ultimate satisfaction of its guests.