Charged over £1,000 for a 16-Minute Booking

We were the victims of a double booking at our first property. It actually wasn’t Airbnb’s fault, but the subsequent events had everything to do with an Airbnb host. This was not an individual, in fact, but a faceless and greedy property management company. After the double booking fiasco, seven of our group were stranded in the remote Tuscan countryside in rural Italy with, realistically, a couple of hours to sort it out and find somewhere to sleep. I was the eighth member of the group, travelling by train to meet the group. It was up to me to find an alternative at very short notice through Airbnb as I’d made the original booking and the money immediately reimbursed by Airbnb for the double booking mess up was allocated to my account. Network coverage on the train was very patchy.

Looking at alternative accommodation for suitability and availability on a mobile device was extremely difficult. It was hot. The train was packed. Going from Milan to Florence, you pass through an enormously long tunnel. Meanwhile, I was trying to converse with the group who were also wrestling with poor phone signals and trying to assess alternatives and report back to me.

Long story short: the circumstances were extremely difficult. Partway through this process I made another booking. It was a mistake caused by confusion and fat fingers. I take full responsibility for making an error but in the circumstances you can perhaps understand how it happened. I realised what I’d done and cancelled the booking within 16 minutes. Once we’d finally sorted out alternative accommodation, I contacted the host and asked for a refund. I figured he’d been put to no trouble; he could not have lost a booking in 16 minutes and could not have incurred any cleaning fees. He refused.

Of the £1953 we paid for the 16 minute booking, the host chose to refund only £842, citing his Strict Cancellation Policy. The 16 minutes cost us £1,111. This is the villa – beware if you’re booking it. The host was within his rights according to his and Airbnb’s policy. Is this fair? Reasonable? In the spirit of the Airbnb community? Someone you would like to trust with your holiday? Those are questions you might like to consider before making a booking with Airbnb.

Ridiculous Airbnb Service Fee Never Refunded

I wanted to reserve a room in Bar Harbor so I did a search and some places came up that said Winter Harbor, which I assumed – yes, I know – was a neighborhood around Bar Harbor. After booking, I went to a map to see where the place was. It was close to Bar Harbor, but only if you had a boat. Within a few minutes I called the owner and he immediately agreed to allow me to cancel. He tried to cancel, but emailed me saying that I had to. After figuring out how to do that, Airbnb stated that I wouldn’t get any money back because the owner had a strict cancellation policy. I wrote him back and he did agree to refund my money, thank goodness. However, Airbnb still wanted to charge me their service fee, which is significant. All this trouble for a mistake or error caused by them because they listed a home more than an hour away from where I was requesting and I realized what had happened within two minutes of them taking my booking. I have used Airbnb quite a bit before and this kind of thing has never happened before. I guess I’ll have to be extra careful with them before I book another place or use them again.

Strict Cancellation Policy Means Hosts Can Keep Your Money

I travel quite a bit for my job. Someone told me about Airbnb. I checked it out, then used it for the first time in Pennsylvania. The host and the house worked out great. I thought Airbnb would be perfect to use because of the travel required for my job. I was wrong about that. I was scheduled to be in Casa Grande, Arizona on a Thursday. I contacted my host Tuesday night before my Thursday arrival to book after asking him multiple questions. I thought this place was perfect for my ten-day to a month stay. The next morning I received a phone call from my boss stating we had an emergency; we were going to the east coast instead of Arizona. I immediately contacted my host. Oddly enough, my host wouldn’t respond to Airbnb messages, phone calls, or text messages. So, I went on the Airbnb app to cancel. That’s when I discovered the host has a strict cancellation policy; I wouldn’t receive my full refund of $685 – I would only receive a refund of $178.

I called Airbnb. The gentleman to whom I spoke on the phone was hard to understand with his thick accent. He did explain to me he could do nothing to help. The host I rented from has a strict cancellation policy (which basically means the host can do whatever he wants with your money) and there’s nothing Airbnb can do. I didn’t accept what he was telling me. I couldn’t believe a company this big would allow someone to keep my money, when I called to cancel less than 24 hours after I made the reservation. Even airlines let you cancel within 24 hours of a reservation. The guy on the phone said he would escalate my complaint to a case manager. Another 24 hours passed and no one contacted me: not the host, not my case manager, no one.

I took matters into my own hands: I sent out 10-12 tweets while tagging the CEO of Airbnb in every tweet. Eventually someone contacted me from Airbnb. About 36 hours after my original complaint, the case manager told me he could help. All I had to do was send in a document on letterhead explaining what my extenuating circumstance were; my time frame was 48 hours. I had my boss fill out a letter. I also showed how my company is contracted by the government, and presented W-2’s to prove where I worked. I emailed Airbnb five times, and in every email I asked for someone to verify they had received it. Of course, no one called – I had to call and ask the day of the deadline.

The case manager sent me an email stating my claim had been denied. Apparently, the government I subcontract for isn’t the same government they were talking about in their rules for extenuating circumstance. I sent an email back and received no response. Then I started tweeting again. I have posted as many stories on Twitter as I can to warn others not to use Airbnb. Their customer service is obsolete. The company does not look out for their guests. This company is a great concept but if something goes wrong don’t expect Airbnb customer service to help you. I’ve read stories way worse than mine. I want to share my story because everyone needs to know how horrible this company is; if problems go south on your trip this company will not help you. If you cancel, guests can’t even warn others about any terrible mishaps.

Careful Not to Book with Strict Cancellation Policies

I had reserved an apartment and then the airlines canceled our flight. When I requested a refund, I only received 50% of the paid amount. I gave the host four months’ advance notice. She claimed she had already blocked the dates and would not refund us in full. She could easily unblock the calendar and rebook the place. If I had canceled a reservation four months in advance at any normal hotel or business I would be refunded with no questions asked. This is what makes Airbnb a grind: greedy hosts and company. Be very careful about booking outside of the country these days. There are way too many scams happening abroad. And you really do not want to be stuck in a foreign country in a hellish situation. Stick with reputable hotels and inns. Go to Tripadvisor and get the latest reviews on an accommodation before booking. The reviews on Airbnb are often unreliable. I’m tired of dishonest hosts and listings. It’s not worth the time or money (not to mention frustration) anymore. Guests are not respected. The Airbnb model is currently dysfunctional. Trust and honesty issues are rampant when there is money involved. Don’t shell out your money in advance on often broken promises.

“You have to use the Resolution Center, sir.”

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.”

Airbnb Cancellations and then Double Bookings

I have been an Airbnb user for the past three years and was always happy with it. So much so that I encouraged my workplace to use Airbnb instead of hotels. When I first tried to book an apartment for a business trip, I got three cancellations for dubious reasons or no reason at all. Given that the trip was approaching I started to be very stressed out but finally found a place, which I again intended to book, only to be asked for a verification of my passport. I did allow Airbnb to verify my passport but then I did not get confirmation that the booking had gone through. Having had the three earlier cancellations I got even more stressed and found a fifth place, which I booked and this time it went through. Unfortunately for me though, the first booking had also gone through and the system did not make me aware that there was a double booking. The emails to that regard came through 20 minutes later (all four of them at the same time). I panicked and tried to cancel the second booking straight away (in the same hour) only to find out that the host had a strict cancelation policy and of the roughly $420 I was charged I would get $30 refunded, even though I cancelled within the hour. I contacted Airbnb using the phone number provided on this webpage and got through to an agent, who nicely thanked me for using their services for three years and told me that he would put my case through for the full refund. Thus far I still have both reservations going, as I do not dare cancel one; I was told Airbnb would do so. I strongly advise any Airbnb user to be super careful with bookings and wait at least an hour to see if a booking has gone through or not. The Airbnb refund policy is simply ridiculous.

Airbnb Cancellation Policy Cost Me $1200

Beware of this Airbnb host. I am sharing my experience so that no one else books a strict policy booking with this host and loses their money. I accepted a lower priced invitation (1200 USD) to sleep in this hosts living room for the month of January. She encouraged me to book and pay immediately since there were other interested parties. I did. Unfortunately, two days later, a family emergency arose and I realized I would have to cancel the stay. I immediately contacted the host so that she could rebook with the other interested parties and reimburse me. This is when I discovered that she had imposed a strict cancellation policy on the booking. I did not even know such a policy existed since, in my experience, normal and fair business practices are flexible bookings. The strict policy means that no matter what, you do not get any money back. Family illness, death, force majeure… it doesn’t matter. The host declined to pay back the 1200 or any part thereof, even though she had ample time to find someone else; I was not due to arrive for a few days. As a landlord, if a tenant’s plans change, I try to reimburse what I can. I would not keep a full month’s rent when there’s the possibility of finding a new tenant. I find that such an extreme position shows a lack of class and character. I have always had positive Airbnb experiences but the fact that they even allow such a policy makes no sense to me. There are hosts offering real private rooms (not living rooms) at similar rates and they offer flexible bookings. Most people are reasonable. Things happen in life. Unless you are prepared to throw away money on services not received I would not risk a strict booking with this host or any other hosts on Airbnb. Flexible bookings are another matter, but make sure you check.

Strict Cancellation Policy, Dangerous Neighborhoods

I was looking for a property that we could reserve for four nights to take a long awaited family vacation. We are two adults and two younger children, ages 2 and 8. I thought I had found the perfect place; from the pictures it seemed very nice. However, after I booked the reservation and the host confirmed it, she sent me an email and said that she “pre-approved” my request to book and then asked me to review the house rules and let her know if there was anything I was uncomfortable with. So I did. A couple house rules suggested that I should have something to worry about: close the shades at night and don’t bring a gun? That’s fine. I didn’t have a problem doing that… but why was this necessary? So I decided to further research the neighborhood now that I was able to view the address. I was shocked. There were several shootings just around the block within the last couple of weeks, as well as arrests for drugs, car theft, larceny, and so on. Just within a couple of blocks!

To me, this did not seem like a “relaxing” destination for our family of four. I had hoped to push the stroller around town and check out the sights. There was no way I was going to put my family in danger, so I cancelled the reservation within two hours of booking it. Wouldn’t you know… I only received half of my money back, even though the dates were 90 days out and I cancelled less than 12 hours after submitting the request! This host wasn’t losing any money. She has ample time to book those dates. The host uses a strict cancellation policy. I’m okay with this and I understand the reasoning behind it. However, 90 days out and cancelled within 12 hours? That’s just not fair. So the host writes to me and says she will give me a full refund if someone books the dates in the mean time. I told her that is fine with me.

What does she do? She makes those dates unavailable so they cannot be booked. She has a four night minimum and marks one of those days on her calendar as being unavailable, effectively making them all unavailable, and then she reduces the nightly costs by 50%. I have a suspicion that she knows this is a dangerous neighborhood and that this happens all the time. I don’t think I’m the first (nor will I be the last) person who has booked with her, cancelled when we found out where this place is and then lost half of our money. This host is getting paid for doing nothing. She does have several reviews, some mentioning the neighborhood on a negative light, though I wonder how many cancelled and cannot leave feedback. I’d love to see those numbers, because all I keep hearing from Airbnb is that “she has good feedback on the property.”

Yes, I read that feedback and none of the reviewers mention having children. It would be one thing if just my husband and I were staying there. I don’t mind the risk if we are solely responsible for ourselves, but I have two children to be responsible for and I will not put them in harm’s way for the sake of a family vacation. No thanks! Not to mention that dodging bullets and crackheads is not my idea of a “relaxing family vacation”!

At this point I’m beyond frustrated. I’ve reached out to Airbnb customer service several times over the past couple of weeks, spent hours on hold, spoken to several representatives who keep saying that my case is being “escalated.” I talked to someone in the “experience department,” who said he’d call me back after they speak to the host. The host doesn’t have my money. I know it’s in an escrow with Airbnb and they could return it to me at any time. I asked them what sort of liability they would have if someone were murdered at a property they advertise and she expressed concern, then said, “Some people may be comfortable walking around Compton while others would not be.”

I realize this. I totally get it. I grew up outside of Atlanta in an unsavory neighborhood as a child, but I did not have a choice at that time. However, as an adult, I have a choice to not bring my kids to a dangerous neighborhood on vacation. Does anyone choose to vacation in Compton? I doubt it! The next step is filing a claim with my credit card company because I just want to move on with my life! By the way, this is not the first property I’ve booked on Airbnb with a strict cancellation policy. In fact, we just got married at a property less than six months ago and it went flawlessly. However, this individual is hosting a shady rip off while Airbnb idly stands by.

Airbnb Can Change Cancellation Policy Preference

I had my listing posted as having a STRICT cancellation policy, due to the fact we all know how guests can be. I did not realize that Airbnb can override these restrictions. I just had t0 give a full refund to a guest that canceled the same day they were supposed to arrive. I had it marked as strict, as I did not care why they would need to cancel. I know if I were the one cancelling a reservation I had made somewhere I would not have received a dime back. I had expenses: hiring a cleaning company on a Sunday in order to provide accommodations; as well as having to drive an hour to pick up a key that was left out for this guest. Airbnb continued to give every penny back to this guest, with of course their own fee. A few days earlier I received the “superhost” badge… what a joke. No more, lesson learned. They will not make another dime off of my property. I do not see how someone can control another’s property like this. I’m very disappointed with Airbnb.

False Advertising Keeps Guests out of Beach House

The ad claimed that it was a private room with its own bathroom close to shops and the beach. Upon arrival it was evident that the host had just rented out one of his bedrooms and everything else was shared. Furthermore, he had other tenants staying in the same house. The bedroom was so tiny my wife and I could not even move. The ad claimed the beach was a 3-minute drive; the beach was so far from the place that I presume you need a 10-minute car drive to get there. It was definitely not walking distance. After about 30 minutes my wife and I decided we couldn’t stay there so we left and when I contacted the host and explained why we left (false advertising) he refused to refund me any of my money.

In summary:

  • The smallest room I have ever seen.
  • This was not a private bedroom; everything was shared
  • The host was completely unreasonable in terms of the cancellation policy. I now realize why he has a strict cancellation policy. I am sure most people would leave after seeing the place… total disaster.