Too Far? How I Taught Airbnb and Scammers a Lesson

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My very negative experience with Airbnb has turned into an amusing evening. I rent out my two-bedroom apartment in the center of Barcelona for just 35 Euro per day (yeah, that’s correct, in January the off-season price is that low). I had guests from Turkey who were supposed to stay for three days. On the last day of their stay, they found out that the bathroom curtain was damp. That’s correct – it turned out that the bathroom curtain was humid after three days of their stay.

Airbnb sent me an email that the guests were “experiencing some serious issues with their stay and they need my urgent assistance”. They gave me a 30-minute deadline to reply to them. I noticed that email in 40 minutes and at that point the reservation was already cancelled on my behalf with a full refund. The Airbnb case manager wrote me that everything was okay, and the guests were willing to continue their stay (obviously for free). I asked them to explain the background of their decision, but as usual they just ignored my messages (they always do so when they rip off the host; no one answers your messages and calls and nobody cares anymore).

Then I got really mad and I sent a message to the guests asking if they had already checked out. What did they reply after staying for almost three days (it was a late evening already) in my flat? They told me that they were going to stay a little longer and they would let me know once they wanted to check out. I headed to the flat hoping to face these impudent motherf*&%ers.

When I entered the flat, there was no one inside. All their stuff was still inside, so they really decided to continue staying in my flat for free and enjoy their vacation. I grabbed all their stuff and gave it out to the homeless people on the street. By the way, they were very thankful to me. One of those homeless women was also kind enough to tell me that there was a passport in the jacket I gave to her. I checked the passport and noticed that he had no visa to stay in Europe and in fact the guest was here illegally. What a gift of fate. I passed his passport through a shredder as it was not valid.

Furthermore, I also changed the locks in my flat as they had the keys with them, so they were afterwards unable to enter the flat. When I returned home, I noticed tons of messages from Airbnb support. Finally, for some reason, they decided to reply to me. The support agent begged me to open the door for the guests and let them take their stuff.

Which guests did they mean? According to my payout statistics, I had no guests at that point. I had to reply to Airbnb that since I had no current reservations, I was unable to help them and of course I would not let some strangers into my apartment.

They first promised to pay me for one night, then they promised to pay me for the entire reservation. Of course, that was very kind of them, but I could not accept the money for the reservation I never had. Airbnb threatened that they would involve the police and of course I supported this idea. The guests went to the police station, and obviously the police officer called me to ask for my permission to open the door to these guests, which of course I didn’t give. The photo shows you what a passport of a bad tourist looks like.

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Slum House Throws Female Guest out at 2 AM

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This was my first Airbnb, and it will be my last. I thought it would be nice to stay with someone local since I wouldn’t be in the room most of the time I was there. Checking in was easy, but I was confused about the key situation even though I read the rules.

My room had a bed that was unmade, and host said his cleaning lady hadn’t come yet. No biggie. I just slept on another bed. The sheets had an odor to them. I didn’t think much of it because I wasn’t going to be there often. I saw a key outside my door, but assumed it was the previous tenants’ key since the room had not been cleaned.

I came to find out I was using the lockbox key. I was called to return it and retrieve my other key. The person’s voice was full with attitude when I explained I couldn’t close the lockbox. He said he would do it. I didn’t let it get to me.

When I came home that night, I had some problems with the front door, and my new key. I used the lockbox key to open it, and then to my dismay could not shut it. I did not want to leave the house key outside, because it wasn’t safe, and I did not want to take the key again, and be met with attitude. It was late.

I texted my host to ask for help, but then figured it out and apologized for bothering him. I locked the door and went to my room. I saw my light was on, and the door was wide open. I left in the afternoon with some friends. My door was shut, and lights were off. I also saw three plastic cups. One was empty, another was full of water, and the last one had a brown liquor. Then I noticed my luggage had been searched, and there was a sports bra on my bed. That sports bra didn’t even belong to me.

I did not want to wake my host since I had already with my lockbox question. I just needed to be sure that I had rented the room for myself, and was not sharing it with others. This was my first time using Airbnb, and I thought maybe I had made a mistake. When I texted my host to ask I was quickly met with sarcastic remarks, and told that it wasn’t working out – I should just go.

I was a woman staying alone in another city that I didn’t know. It was 2:00 AM, and he was asking me to leave. I told him I didn’t have anywhere else to go. He kept with the insults the whole conversation, so I packed, and left. He kept insisting that he wasn’t a hotel, and it wasn’t worth his time for what I was paying. I was also made fun of for not locking my door. The lockbox key I was using previously did not lock my door, so I assumed the other one didn’t as well.

I was shaken, and betrayed. Who would just throw a woman out on their own at that time of night? This horrible person would. I was refunded close to $40. The house in the pictures looks funky, and cool. In actuality it is a run down dirty house with hardly any art at all. It stinks, and felt like I was staying at a halfway house, or men’s dorm.

I would not recommend Airbnb, especially for women. I’m sure the host will have a smart response to my story, and try to belittle me. It is okay. I just want to expose him and his crappy art house so no other woman will feel violated, as I did that night.

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Airbnb Wants to Collect All Your Private Information

I will never use Airbnb again. They try to collect all your personal and private information, and there is no guarantee that you will get the booked apartment. Yes, hotels and apartments from sites like Booking.com are not as cheap as those on Airbnb but you are not treated like a criminal.

Yesterday, my husband and I found cheap flights to Malaga and decided to spend some days in the South of Spain. So, we bought plane tickets and booked an apartment on Airbnb in Malaga. We paid the total amount in advance. Today we received an SMS from the host telling us that the reservation had been cancelled because he forgot to update his Airbnb account. On November 1st, his apartment was not available.

We chose another apartment. When we started to reserve it, a message appeared asking to upload a copy of an ID. My husband uploaded a photo of his driver’s licence but it was not enough. The next message asked him to take a selfie. Airbnb insisted he take selfie with their mobile App but we ignored this recommendation because we didn’t want to have any spyware or malware in our mobile phones. My husband took a selfie using the webcam on his desktop.

In less than an hour we received a new message from Airbnb asking to upload one more selfie because the uploaded selfie was not clear enough. The uploaded selfie was more than clear. What games are they playing? Why do they want to collect all your private data? We agree that for security reasons Airbnb may ask for some information but… it’s too much. First of all, we also live in Spain. We paid with a Spanish credit card. We have Spanish mobile phones. We don’t use Proxy, TOR, or VPN when making reservations. Why are we so suspicious? Can’t they find us on Facebook?

Sorry, Airbnb, but we are not stupid and don’t want to expose our private lives, friends, and photos to the whole world. We don’t want to install their app. They already have enough information. They have our names and surnames. They have our credit card number, that is saved on their servers. They have our mobile phone number (in Spain there are no anonymous mobile phone numbers). Even all prepaid SIM card users must identify themselves when buying one. They have our email address. They have our IP address. Is this not enough? A copy of our driver’s licence… okay… is this still not enough? A selfie? Okay. Still not enough…? Another selfie? Now we are waiting for new messages from Airbnb. What will they ask for next? A nude photo? Childhood photos? All family member photos? Bank account information?

Burgled within 60 Minutes of Checking into Airbnb

My wife, our young daughter, and I checked in to this apartment in Lisbon, Portugal mid-afternoon. When we arrived, the first thing we noticed was the dangerous staircase; it was nearly impossible to lift a large suitcase all the way to the third floor and I struggled to do so. Despite this property being listed as ‘child friendly’, the staircase was an extreme hazard and at this point I was already concerned about our three-year-old.

When we finally reached the staircase summit and the apartment, a young lady was waiting inside who spoke limited English but showed us the apartment and seemed helpful. The apartment seemed nice and in a great location. It also seemed like a low security risk for the following reasons: a very steep, straight staircase; two other apartments (one on each floor); no escape points for potential thieves; and tourists/cars around outside. Keep in mind it was also about 2:45-3:00 PM at this point (broad daylight). However, we learned that safety and security was a big problem.

Here’s what happened. Shortly after check-in, we went for a brief walk to look at the surrounding streets and picked up some food. Upon our return (approximately 45-60 minutes later), we opened the building door, walked upstairs and discovered the apartment door had been kicked open (visible footprints over the door) with a broken lock. All our possessions including passports were stolen (including my three-year-old daughter’s).

We immediately phoned the host who contacted the local police and Airbnb. To their credit, each party responded well: we received a refund from Airbnb and they offered to put us up for a night in a nearby hotel. We later discovered two critical pieces of information for which we should have been informed but were not:

  • The building was in fact, empty, with no neighbours. This means that had the break-in occurred while my wife and child were alone, no one would have heard or seen anything (I was on a business trip). A simple burglary could have in fact been much more serious.
  • The property had been recently burgled before our experience, which we discovered from another reviewer on Airbnb.

The break-in was perfectly timed and this property is definitely being targeted by professional thieves and criminals. From the moment of our arrival, we were being watched (either by chance or someone knew of our arrival time) and the intruders had very easy access to the building; the front door was flimsy and provided little safety. This kind of burglary would easily have required some coordination and good timing: at least 2-3 people (one outside to keep watch) and the others to lift/struggle down the staircase quickly to avoid being caught. Remember, the street outside was busy and there were cars and tourists coming past.

There were also a few peculiarities. The thieves were extremely forceful with the apartment door (it was smashed/kicked open and broken with pieces of wood were everywhere), yet they were able to access the building door extremely easily (it was perfectly closed when we returned). It also struck me as a little odd that they also stole a key. Surely, their interests would be primarily in the valuables and getting out (not returning especially as the locks would be changed). I can only theorise at this point but regardless, it scares me to think what could have happened during the night or at other times. Intruders could easily walk up the stairs (with no neighbours around) and simply try their luck. We appreciate the host’s attempt to support us but this is a serious security and safety risk and I am concerned for future guests.

Hosts are a bit too Overbearing at Spanish Airbnb

I booked with Airbnb only once, and will never do it again. It was in Tenerife, Los Cristianos, and my host was a complete psychopath. Having just escaped from another psychopath, which was the reason I left the country and traveled abroad, I was pretty overwhelmed. First of all, she lied about everything, was untrustworthy and pushy, and added hidden costs for everything. I kind of knew she was off from the first time she replied to my message when I was still in the booking process; I should have listened to my intuition.

After the first few days of my stay it became worse: she started harassing me in the apartment and sending random people to “check on me”, with the typical “I am worried about you” gaslighting. I was thinking “I am an adult on vacation and you’re not my mom. You aren’t worried – you’re a psychopath.”

I started feeling so unsafe I left after one and a half weeks. I paid for a month, so I called Airbnb. Customer service was of the same mentality, especially because I made the mistake of letting the host know I was about to contact them, and being a good psychopath, she called them first with some made up BS about me as if she were the victim. I never got any refund, and I had to find new accommodations by myself in a panic. I’ll stick with hotels from now on; those provide better quality service anyway, and they’re also safer and more trustworthy. When I’m in a hotel room alone I don’t feel like I’m exposed to a sick person with no help if things go south.

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.

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.

Host Lied About Practically Everything at Airbnb in Gloucester

This Airbnb host lied about what she is offering and although Airbnb has been notified and provided with documentation, they still run her listing which is unchanged on the crucial points I will mention. Although I got a full refund and half the cost of staying at a hotel for the first night from Airbnb, I found dealing with Airbnb support to be quite challenging. It took a great deal of time and aggravation. It unnecessarily became the focus of things for me during the first 24 hours of my vacation, when I was exhausted and uncertain where I would be able to spend the night far from home.

Please note that Airbnb will encourage you to write a review and to put lots of detail into it, but not inform you that they will only post a certain number of words of it, whether that means they cut you off mid-sentence, making you look like a lunatic or not. They will not inform you that you only have 48 hours to edit your review. If most people are like me, they will write the review and spend the first 48 hours checking the host’s listing to see it if has been posted yet. Then, when it is too late, they will check further and see that by that point Airbnb will not allow editing of the review. Airbnb are terrible in many ways and I would be hesitant to consider booking using their site again.

The best part of the whole experience was the people of Gloucester who were unfailingly kind and helpful when they saw I was in trouble. I initially planned to stay in the room on my own, looking forward to several days of relaxing on the beach and catching up with cousins in the area. Although I didn’t need a second bed when I first asked for permission to book, it had stuck in my head that the listing said there were two beds. I looked at the listing again and confirmed that there were when a cousin from a bit outside the area said she’d like she’d like to join me. I was a bit confused, though, since the photograph of the room clearly showed just one bed. Maybe it was a bed that could be split into two? My cousin told me she had an air mattress she could bring if necessary.

I messaged the host through Airbnb to ask what the story was. Suddenly the lightning fast responses I’d gotten previously when asking if I could book dramatically slowed down. I tried calling her at the number provided by the site. A text came in from her while the phone was ringing that said “I can’t talk now”. Okay… I’d called during business hours and she was busy. Later I received a text back from her saying “who is this?” If she had to know who was phoning her, wasn’t there a more polite way to ask? I texted her back identifying myself and apologized for bothering her. No response. I received a message from her through the Airbnb system that said I should “bring the air mattress just in case”. Just in case she wasn’t being honest about her listing, which clearly stated two beds?

In retrospect, I wish I had cancelled then and paid the cost of the hotel I eventually went to instead. I should have known further trouble awaited. I arrived half an hour early in front of the house, where there was street parking, not “private parking” as was listed in the amenities section of her listing. I texted the host to ask if I should come back, or if she could possibly check me in a little early, since it was very hot in the car, but received no response. After a little while, I phoned and left the same message on her voicemail.

A few minutes after the agreed upon time, she pulled up. She made no indication that she’d received either of my messages. She took me inside and we chatted a bit. I mentioned that one of the reasons I’d been interested in getting away is that the air conditioning at home had been on the blink. It wasn’t until she took me downstairs to the room that she revealed the room had no air conditioning, only a small fan. The “private” room also had no door between it and the rest of the house, being at the bottom of a flight of stairs from the living area. It had its own door to the outside on the opposite wall. Only a baby gate stood between the rest of the apartment and your “privacy”.

The biggest problem came while we were still upstairs in the kitchen and I asked her about a key. She told me that she “never locks” the apartment. She must have seen the utter shock on my face, because she then told me that if I expected her to lock the place all the time she would give me a key. There was quite a bit of hostility in her voice when she said this. Having just had a very long drive and being exhausted, I said nothing while I decided what to do about the situation. I certainly didn’t want to stay in an unlocked space, nor was I comfortable asking for the key, given the hostility expressed towards me just for mentioning it (I should note that this was in a small apartment where the host herself lives). Given that there was already bad blood and I was overpaying for an air conditioned room that didn’t exist, the best I could do was get out of there as soon as possible.

Airbnb support did assist, but they also failed to express a shred of empathy for me in the situation, demanding that I take photos as evidence and repeatedly asking if I had addressed the problems with the host. As pointed out on this site, not all problems are photographable, and not all problems can be rectified instantly. In those cases, it is ridiculous to repeatedly interrogate the guest as to whether they have “brought the problem to the host’s attention”. Why would I need to bring something to her attention that clearly is not as she stated and that she obviously knows about? After all, she lives in the space.

Please also note the importance of acting quickly when you first find a problem with Airbnb accommodation. The amount of support I received would certainly not have been there if I had waited until the next day, not fully adequate as it was. One of the ironies of the experience was that I was on the phone with Airbnb at the time I left the apartment to get my iPad from the car and shut the front door behind me… and found myself locked out. A door knob lock must have been engaged. Having the phone in my hand, I called the host and left a message on her voicemail saying I was locked out. She pulled up in her car soon afterwards, but gave no indication that I’d left her an emergency message.

After taking the necessary photos, I exited the apartment with my belongings. I was certain she knew that I was gone, but began sending messages to me through the Airbnb system. She seemed to be trying to make it look like I was still there. She sent one saying she just wanted to let me know the door upstairs was unlocked, and another saying she’d left a key for me on a table. Completely weird. Checking her listing currently shows she is still lying about the number of beds, the lack of air conditioning, and the “private parking”. She fails to mention the room has no door between it and the rest of the apartment. She does go into a long explanation about leaving one of the doors to the place unlocked all the time (I wonder how her landlord would feel about that if they knew?) and about the easy availability of street parking. Why lie and say there is private parking?

Mykonos Villa Robbed, But Airbnb Nightmare Did Not End

My objective here is to raise awareness about how unsafe any vacation rental can be if you don’t ask the right questions early enough in the process. This is especially true if the owner has not taken even basic security measures, which Airbnb either does not require or does not concern themselves with. It is your responsibility as guests to ask.

This was our first and last Airbnb experience. Airbnb allowed us to walk straight into a mine field. Airbnb did not respond to our emails for help for 11 days. When they did, it was a form email requesting that we (1) get a police report; (2) document what was stolen; (3) prove our ownership of those items. For parents, if your children are the “guests” and you are not travelling with them, then a little forethought about what to do if trouble occurs would be good planning. If you are still going to use Airbnb, here are the top ten questions we did not ask but should have:

1. Is the villa an actual home or an investment rental property overseen by a management company?

2. Where does the villa owner reside? Are they in the country? What will be their physical proximity to the villa while you are renting?

3. Does the villa have a security system? Does it work? Are there instructions for use in the event one exists?

4. Is there a home safe in the villa? Is it operational?

5. Does the villa have external lighting or motion detectors?

6. Who has keys to the villa other than the owner? Have any keys been given to maintenance personnel or former contractors? Are all owner’s keys accounted for?

7. What is Airbnb’s policy for refunds for robberies/evacuation? While their refund terms and conditions state that you must report any dissatisfaction within 24 hours of arrival, why did Airbnb pay the owner when a complaint was already sent via email within 12 hours of our arrival? By the way: no one answers a phone at Airbnb. Do they even have customer support? Who takes priority, guests or owners, or neither?

8. What is Airbnb’s advertised response time to a serious matter such as a robbery? We arrived at the villa at 5:00 PM local time June 7th; the robbery was reported to them June 8th at 5:00 AM local/10:00 PM PST June 7th. We received an email response June 18th.

9. Does Airbnb know that their online availability calendars are excellent for determining when units are occupied and precise arrival dates? I’m guessing the best day for a robbery is the first night.

10. Does Airbnb know that their interior and exterior photographs are useful for would-be robbers to study floor plans and access points?

We were robbed on our first night in an Airbnb at 4:00 AM. We interrupted the thief (in a ski mask) in the third bedroom after he had already ransacked the first two (all the bedrooms were occupied). We chased him out of the house. The adjoining villa was also robbed where the thief knew exactly how to enter (broken door that was not obvious to guests) and had a key to our villa (from a former contractor). Thief took mostly cash.

The real terror occurred when the thief returned later that same day in broad daylight. The adjoining villa guest engaged him (slashed his tires, etc.). In retaliation, the thief called “friends” and within minutes a half dozen of his buddies arrived. Outnumbered and seeing no positive outcome, we reached out to local friends who found us another accommodation.

Robberies are not uncommon on Mykonos; it is a high-end island, with lots of private expensive villas and plenty of opportunities to steal. The police are not equipped to deal with the massive influx of people during high season; when they finally arrived at the behest of the villa owner’s management company we had alerted, they arrested the thief for drug possession. No cash or possessions were recovered. Knowing his “buddies” were still on the loose, not knowing his intent for returning, and knowing he had a key, we could not stay.

Sound security measures are available on Mykonos for those owners using common sense. At our next villa we found: external cameras throughout the property; external lighting and motion detectors; management residing across the street who lives on the island; home safes in villa that were functioning. These are basic security measures. The Greek people who helped us at the next villa were extraordinary. They too were upset that guests on their beautiful island were victimized. They value having guests and depend on tourism for their livelihood.

What is Airbnb’s responsibility? Is security ever mentioned in an Airbnb listing? Do they deliberately avoid the topic? It’s probably not good for business. Airbnb leaves it to you to address the security/safety topic. If you arrive at a villa and see that basic securities measures are lacking, it is not grounds for a refund. It should be. In one respect we were lucky: the owner was so appalled by our experience she refunded our payment directly to us that day. Ironically, the owner was afraid Airbnb would not be forthcoming or helpful. Mykonos is an amazing island, but you must use common sense and take responsibility for your own safety if you are using Airbnb. At every other accommodation we did not book through Airbnb (Santorini, Kefalonia, Zakynthos) we found all the standard security measures one would expect to find in a high-end property. Shame on Airbnb.