Crime and Punishment under Airbnb’s Business Model

This morning I received a threatening robo-email from Airbnb titled “Remember: Cancellations impact your account.” I was charged $16 for speaking to a human at Airbnb, and had a threatening message telling me that “I’m off track” on my Airbnb Dashboard. The email listed the various penalties and punishments imposed upon hosts when they cancel a potential guest. Yesterday morning I cancelled my first guest because I felt that he was beyond creepy. Although I am super explicit about potential guests emailing me prior to booking to inquire about availability, this guest nevertheless used the Instant Book option at 3:00 AM (which I’ve since disconnected) to book a four-night stay, then modified to a three-night stay, two weeks in the future.

When I woke up in the morning, I checked him out and saw that he had only one previous Airbnb stay, which provided me with zero feedback about this person. Then I read his email, which began with “Hello, my lover” and it proceeded to go downhill from there. Needless to say, I was creeped out, so I cancelled the guest. Immediately, those dates were blocked by Airbnb and I was notified that I had been sanctioned.

Since yesterday, I’ve spoken to several customer service reps at Airbnb in an effort to get a resolution. That said, I cannot help feeling that there is a bigger issue at play here and it has to do about whether or not we, the hosts, and Airbnb are equal partners. If we are indeed partners, why then are we treated as adversaries? If we are partners, why does Airbnb threaten and intimidate us when we cancel a potential guest that makes us feel unsafe?

Hosts assume all the risk associated with having strangers in their home. I don’t have a problem with that. I have consented to having guests stay in my house. However, I have not consented to having someone in my house that makes me feel unsafe or uncomfortable. Airbnb demands that I make a quick decision, a judgement call, about whether on not to approve a guest. If I don’t act quickly, I get penalized. How can I do that when I have little to no information on this person? I’m not looking to waste anyone’s time.

As a seasoned traveller, I know that time is of the essence when guests are looking to book their accommodations.. Nevertheless, I also feel that I must be given the freedom to trust my instincts, which have rarely steered me wrong, especially when the site provides little or no data on a potential guest. All I’m saying is that safety must come first. Airbnb must take our safety concerns seriously, and not just pay lip service to the notion of host safety. If Airbnb were truly concerned about hosts’ comfort and safety, they would not punish hosts and make us jump through a million hoops when we dare to cancel a guest who makes us feel uncomfortable.

What would happen If a host gets seriously hurt or killed because Airbnb pressured him/her not to cancel a sketchy guest? I’m certain that Airbnb as a company would face a scandal and huge public backlash. The scandal would be “grist for the mill” for the many municipalities who vociferously object to home sharing. They could shut home sharing down because they would claim that it threatens public safety.

It would also most certainly become a PR nightmare similar to the one faced by Delta Airlines, when they somehow decided that it was a good idea to drag a 60-year-old doctor off an airplane that they themselves had overbooked. Delta had gotten away with treating passengers terribly for years, but that unfortunate incident focused a spotlight on the company’s greed, bad policies, and complete disregard for their guests. In short, it became a disaster of huge proportions. Everything was fine, until one day it wasn’t. If a host gets hurt because of Airbnb’s negligence, the Delta Airlines scandal will pale in comparison.

There are very few reasons that a responsible host would cancel a potential guest and forfeit making money. Most of us would do it only if we had real concerns regarding the guest. Airbnb is capable of tracking our bookings, our responses to guests, and the feedback we receive. The company is able to read guest reviews and determine how a host treats their guests. I am posting this because I am hoping that Airbnb will not be short-sighted, that they will think through their policies, and make host safety a priority and a core company value.

There are no “one size fits all” solutions. Perhaps cancellations ought to be judged on a case-by-case basis. Perhaps there should be a drop-down menu option, that allows hosts to cancel someone they deem unsuitable (even after they’ve booked automatically). Especially if the cancellation done within a reasonable time frame, which would allow the guest can find other accommodations. Please, let’s find a way that works for everyone.

Moldy, Faulty Wiring, Broken Windows, Next to a Prison….

Dangerous safety and health issues, among many other problems, prompted us to leave our Airbnb in Buena Vista, Colorado after one terrible night. We have stayed in comparably priced facilities in Colorado and have never encountered anything even remotely this bad. Good luck getting any money back. We aren’t the only ones to have problems with this property either.

1. The house smelled moldy, especially in the downstairs bedrooms. In the kitchen trash were the lids from two “Damp Rid Odor Genie” units which confirmed that the place had moisture and odor problems. We both had runny noses for the remainder of our trip.

2. The smoke alarm was in pieces on a shelf. In a house with iffy wiring (#3) that was of particular concern.

3. When I plugged in my phone charger in I found another plug in the socket, connected to an extension cord-type wire that ran outside through a hole drilled in the window frame. In the kitchen there was another jerry-rigged extension cord for a light fixture, with a broken in-line switch. Upstairs there was a light over the bathroom sink similarly jerry-rigged. It did not work at all.

4. During the night I got up to close the window, which was open when we got there. It would not work. The next day I saw that the closing mechanism was not connected to the window itself. When we left the next day we closed it and another window by going outside and pushing them shut.

5. In one bedroom there was a large hole in the floor that had various odds and ends stashed in it.

6. That bedroom contained a laundry machine which still had wet items inside from the previous occupants.

7. The kiva fireplace was blocked by a large TV set.

8. The wifi worked properly only in the kitchen.

9. Both bathrooms had problems. The tub downstairs was very slick, the cold water control hard to shut off, and the toilet seat was terribly discolored. The upstairs shower had the hot and cold controls reversed. When we hung a towel on the hook by the shower the hook came out of the wall.

10. The front door lock and deadbolt were hard to operate, somewhat of a concern given the men’s state prison a short walk from the house.

11. The sorely needed “warning tape” on the many interior steps was worn off in places.

We have photos to document the above. Per this KKTV report the owner does not like negative reviews, which is the only leverage customers have. In short, stay away.

Domestic Horror at Airbnb Forces Guests to Call 911

My husband and I decided to use Airbnb for the first time because we were looking to spend a romantic weekend in the Poconos area of Pennsylvania. When we got to the house we were greeted by the hostess’ husband who informed us that his wife was delayed by a flight coming from Texas and he would go pick her up at midnight. My husband and I were offered beer and later this man asked my husband to go fishing. It all seemed wonderful and when they returned from their fishing trip we went to bed expecting that the man would go out around midnight to pick his wife up at the airport.

Sleep was difficult because the mattresses thrown on the floor were uncomfortable and squeaked at every turn. Nevertheless we had agreed to make the best of the one-night stay. Well, around 1:00 AM, I was awakened by loud cursing and yelling by a male voice, which I tied to ignore. Soon I heard more yelling and now a female voice was involved. I figured the hostess had been picked up from the airport and was settling home to go to bed. However, the voices got louder as did the cursing and it all seemed to be outside.

I looked outside our window and saw the hostess’ husband yelling at another man and later as the other man got back into his car the hostess’ husband kicked his car, which angered the man in the car (I later found out he was a taxi driver the hostess had used to get home). The man got out and the two men began to argue again, but eventually the taxi driver got in his vehicle and left. The issue did not end there as the hostess’ husband continue to argue with her, to the point of smashing her fingers on the door. This caused her to scream which caused us to come down.

We offered the hostess to call 911 as she told us that he smashed her fingers and also poured beer all over her luggage which was still outside the house in the driveway. We offered to assist bringing it in, but her husband would not allow it. When she tried to go get it, he tried to lock her out of the home. He escalated in his loud verbal attacks and threats to the point where we had to call 911 at around 2:00 AM. Once police arrived we waited to get the okay from them to be allowed to leave. We left around 3:30 AM and had to sleep in our car. While this ordeal was going on, we found out that the husband was never consulted by the hostess about her plan to make their home into an Airbnb, which he disagreed with. He informed us that he had assaulted another guest who arrived at the house around 10:00 PM on a night when the hostess’ husband was expected to work the next day. We found out from the hostess that her husband was on parole and has a criminal record. What a night.

Airbnb Guest Has Few Valid Complaints, Plenty of Disrespect

I had a guest who is actually from across town in Halifax. She stayed at one of my properties for two nights. She arrived by bus and went to my neighbour’s house by mistake. She had a very powerful personality and I think she was upset or insulted when I went out to do my yoga, work, and meet with friends. She used all of my toilet paper in two nights. I hope it was just in her bag and not in my drains. She complained about my towel detergent and all her illnesses and sensitivities. I asked for her passport, as I noticed my listing somehow had the validation restriction lifted. She was very upset. I explained the Airbnb website asked to show ID.

Then she commented on my insulating plastic wrap on my china cabinet handles. This is my house and I have this cabinet for my china. There are plenty of dishes to use for my guests in the kitchen. What concerns me now is the long letter she wrote over nothing; it was a personal attack on me and my character. I have not experienced this disrespectful behaviour from any guest. She was so overbearing. I am afraid to write a comment about her and feel she will definitely downgrade my rating due to her own unhappiness. What do I do? I am getting my lock changed at a cost of $117, as I feel this lady was so unbalanced. She wrote about a towel that she was concerned about but that is minor. I told her not to worry about it; there were only three there. I usually put four but I could read her aggressive energy and just wanted her out. I offered to give her a lift in my car, in a diplomatic way. This was a guest from hell. I lost money to host her, but learned my listing validation was turned off.

Airbnb Host Locked Women out of Granada Apartment

My daughter just made an emergency call to us from Granada, Spain. She and her friend have a room in an Airbnb apartment, and went out for the evening. They came back about 3:00 AM and the host (a woman) would not let them in. They have been outside for hours, and called the police, the American Embassy, and Airbnb, and no one would help them. These are two young girls (about 22) who have recently graduated from college. Their passports are in the apartment, so they cannot get a hotel room or anyplace else, until they get their passports. This woman is horrible. They know she is doing this on purpose – this is a horrible and scary situation. Their bags and all IDs are inside this woman’s apartment. Airbnb won’t do anything. They should not have such despicable people as hosts that would abuse their guests… Airbnb has put my daughter and her friend in an unsafe and scary situation.

The Roof Caved in at our Montréal Airbnb Apartment

It has been a year since we went to Montréal, Québec, where we had a nightmarish experience which could have been lethal. Indeed, the two-room apartment we rented looked very nice on the Website pictures but when we moved in, there were lots of missing features and, worst of all, it looked shabby (quite a few damaged and broken things, not least of which was the toilet seat) and filthy (among other things, the sheets had been slept in and not changed). After getting in touch with the host, we were given unconvincing explanations about supposedly careless guests prior to our arrival and handed a few extra towels and sheets. We mentioned the cracks in the ceiling as something rather preoccupying but the host did not seem to pay attention.

On the second day of our stay, when we got back home in the evening after some sightseeing around Montréal, we were absolutely shattered when we stepped inside the apartment. The roof had caved in where the cracks had been and collapsed onto the bed where our eighteen-year-old daughter had slept the night before, damaging her iPad and leaving the tiny bedroom littered with rubble which could have killed her had the accident taken place during the night. We once again got in touch with the host lady who seemed as stunned and devastated as we were when she rushed to her place and then helped us call Airbnb to try and solve the issue.

We spent half the night talking on the phone with an Airbnb employee in the US but the company representative claimed that the homeowners were responsible for any occurrence inside the place they rent through Airbnb. Accordingly, the company cannot be held responsible for anything that occurs if the host did not take out rental insurance. After some discussion, the host agreed to refund the remaining days but we insisted that we wanted a whole refund of the amount we had paid through Airbnb. The company clerk only offered a token $100 (less than 5% of the price we had paid) as a refund and did not offer any help at all in finding a place to spend the night and go on with our two-week stay. Shame on Airbnb.

For all her faults for renting such a shabby place, the host lady was nice enough and agreed to refund the whole sum, which was okay with us. However, the company did not suffer any loss in the matter, which is really shocking as they are the ones who should suffer most from providing such a lousy product to tourists.

As I have made clear enough through my account of a rather scary experience, Airbnb does not assume any responsibility at all in case of any problems, and only offered us a coupon for our next stay which will never happen since we have decided to never again have anything to do with this company whose policies, were they better known, would mean bankruptcy. Their practice is a shameless way to take advantage of both hosts and guests. Needless to say, we had to fall back on a nice hotel room which cost us twice as much as what we had paid Airbnb. We were safe and cosy at long last, which is what every traveler is entitled to but which is not what Airbnb users are always likely to experience. We were also glad to still be alive and well but in retrospect we shuddered at the thought of what might have happened if one or all three of us had been seriously hurt in the accident. The conclusion that I draw is that Airbnb would deny any responsibility whatsoever in such tragic situations so beware and look elsewhere for nicer places to spend a holiday.

Sweet Dreams in the Dungeon, Hope There’s no Fire

A while ago, I stayed in an Airbnb in Southern France, in a very charming little village. It was big, it was cheap, and there was a nice roof terrace, but the host wasn’t entirely straightforward about a major issue: two of the bedrooms were in a damp, dark basement, only accessible via steep and rickety stairs and without any fire escape. One of the bedrooms did not have any windows at all. It was basically a cellar with two beds in it. The walls weren’t even plastered. The other room only had a tiny opening near the ceiling, which was out of reach, impossible to open, and of no use as an emergency exit.

If this had been a properly regulated holiday rental, these rooms would have never been allowed to be classified as bedrooms. The basement bathroom did not have door handles and my partner managed to lock himself in for a good half hour until we rescued him.

For the first couple nights I refused to sleep in the basement, instead hunkering down in the extremely dusty living room with my kids. However, when my son, who has a dust allergy, started coughing, we had no choice but to sleep in the basement. All our clothes ended up smelling damp. Every night I had problems falling asleep because I was worried. If there had been any kind of issue, an electrical fire (the wiring also looked dubious) for instance, this could have been very dangerous for us.

I did not complain as I did not make the booking myself but I will not use Airbnb again. There is no guarantee that what you get will be fit for human habitation or safe in the event of an emergency. That’s why hotels charge more: because they have to comply with regulations and the taxes they pay fund health and safety inspections by local municipalities. You may save money on Airbnb but you might die. Sorry to put it in such stark terms, but it’s as bad as that and I’ve learnt my lesson.

There’s Rude, There’s Extremely Rude, Then There’s This Host

There’s rude, there’s extremely rude and then there’s being told to “f$#@ off” by your host. That’s what happened when I phoned my Airbnb host about the TV not working (aerial feed had been torn out; bare wire remained). “I don’t see it as a problem,” he assured me. He suggested I repair it myself.

“Okay, but how would you feel about it if this happened to you?” I asked. “Get another place. Find another room.” he said. “What?” I asked, shocked. “F$#@ OFF” he shouted. Then the phone went dead. I was on another man’s property. I was with my wife and my daughter. I was now uncertain as to whether or not we could stay. I felt very unwelcome. How can I write a good review after that?

After Bed Bugs, Airbnb Cancelled Reservation

This has been the worst Airbnb experience of my life. We just checked out of a Lisbon Airbnb where bed bugs ate us alive. Please see the attached photos of the painful welts all over my body, face and neck. After complaining to Airbnb, the resolution manager proceeded to cancel the rest of our trip. We are now standing in the airport about to board a flight to Seville with no accommodations to go to when we land at midnight. Two girls alone in a foreign city. Three different resolution managers we initially spoke to told us that we would receive a refund and that we would also be rebooked in a hotel for this evening at Airbnb’s own cost (the least they could do). We did receive the refund and were trying to retrieve the hotel information when a new manager informed us that they would not be creating a reservation for us because they already went ahead and processed the refund. She claimed it was one or the other – which is not what three prior managers told us. We are now standing stranded in the airport with nowhere to go when we land. This was the most disgusting, unsafe experience I have ever encountered and I will be spreading this story publicly as far as I can so that other young women traveling don’t get put it the same unsafe and frightening situation.