I made a reservation for three weeks in Coral Gables, Florida. Based on the information in the listing, it looked perfect for my daughter and me. I’m 70 years old but my daughter is 38 and positively brilliant. She took a look at the listing and said “Dad, did you see these reviews? They’re pretty bad… and I think there’s no wifi or internet.” I had not looked at the reviews. Having had very good experiences with Airbnb for the last few years, I trusted their vetting process. Sure enough, this host had five different listings for the same property, under different headings. This normally isn’t a big deal, but every other item in “amenities” apparently had problems according to the reviews (of which there were 79). The property was an apartment building, not the home of a host; there was nothing kosher about this guy. According to the reviews, the listed wifi was essentially non-existent, 30Kb/s at best – virtually dial-up speed, if that. The electricity had gone out, there were stained sheets and mattresses blackened by the filthy tiled floor, unusable pots and pans, one towel for four guests, and two instances of this host canceling reservations a day before due to “a calendar sync issue.”
The list went on, from severely uncomfortable spring mattresses to the host being inaccessible. When I called this host, the phone number he’d listed with Airbnb had a recording I’d never heard before: “This customer is not taking incoming calls.” Ok, the plot thickens. First I called my credit card company, and before I could say anything, they wanted to know if there was fraudulent activity for a charge in Miami of about $1,400. “You bet your ass!” I replied. My pal at Capital One said, “Hold on, I’ll get Airbnb on the line and you explain your situation, see if they’ll cancel this recent charge… geez, it’s not even an hour ago! I’ll be listening in.”
Well, I got an amiable young man at Airbnb and explained my situation. He brought up my booking request, informed me my request had been accepted and if I wanted to cancel, the host’s strict cancellation policy applied: I would lose half the amount for canceling, since he said the payment had gone through. Although the reservation had been confirmed, the payment was still pending.
I replied, “No money was transacted, am I right? Airbnb is still holding that money, isn’t that correct?” Of course Mr. Amiable goes circuitously vague and obtuse. I continued: “This charge has not ‘gone through’ – it isn’t even an hour old! The reservation was made under false pretenses. Regardless, this host shouldn’t even be with Airbnb; this isn’t his home, he’s just renting out apartments and doesn’t give a flying crap about any guest-host relationships. He lied about a few things in his listing and I’m not going to be staying in his crappy apartment.”
“Well, you have to cancel the reservation, then take the issue to the Resolution Center and they will resolve the issues between you and this host,” said King Solomon.
“No,” I replied, “because by canceling a reservation, I will be reaffirming that the reservation was made legitimately and will be bound by the host’s cancellation policy, isn’t that right?” Dead silence on the other end of the line, so I answer my own question. “Yes, that’s right and that’s why I’m not canceling this reservation. Instead you, an Airbnb representative trained in conflict resolution, are trying to get me to validate this fraudulent host and his cancellation policy, so that I will be out $700 for services not rendered in the slightest and you are refusing to cancel a charge that was made one hour ago, for a reservation based on fraudulent information.”
I caught my breath and simply asked to speak with the supervisor. After a minute, Mr. Aimless came back and tried one more time to spin what was clearly a losing argument, for which I presented his points as illogical, incorrect and otherwise invalid again. “And by the way, why are you not letting me speak with your supervisor?” I asked this because I had been hearing this knuckle-dragger consulting with that supervisor several times, while I was talking.
“Sir, he has to deal with about 40 Airbnb agents…”
“Fine, you tell that young lady helping you that I’m retired and have nothing better to do but sue Airbnb for the most ridiculous refund policy ever presented. I would hate for a lovely corporate friendship to end in a court of law but you leave me no choice. Oh, never mind. Just do what you want. This charge is not going through and if you pay that crook of a landlord money, you will not be getting reimbursed.”
There were some clicking sounds, after which my pal at Capital One said, “Mr. Haber, once the charge is submitted to us for payment, we will explain why there will be no reimbursement. Capital One has your back.”