Two days ago, I reserved a flat through Airbnb in Makati and was going to pay for it with a Visa card. When I pressed the “Book It” button on the airbnb site, a screen came up saying that my reservation had to be approved. So I waited and was expecting to be prompted to enter my credit card information. Soon after, another screen came saying that I had been approved, immediately followed by another screen that said my booking was confirmed and was paid for by my American Express card.
Without my authorization, airbnb had automatically charged the American Express card that I had used for a previous booking. First of all, I was not even aware that they had retained my card on file. Secondly, my experience of making payments on the internet has been that there is always a screen that asks how you want to pay for something. Since my American Express card charges were quite substantial, I had planned on using a Visa credit card.
My first reaction was to look for contact information on the airbnb site. That in itself was a project. One has to go through tons of FAQs before being able to send an email. No phone number was readily available. I later found out that I had to press urgent to get a phone number. Well, my reservation is a over a month away, and I did not feel it was urgent. At least not at that moment.
I immediately informed airbnb via email that I wanted to switch the charges–reply from them was that it would take a few days to address my problem since they were inundated by support requests. Since it seemed that the problem was easy enough to solve, I decided to give airbnb a call. My host who was aware of the issue provided me a couple of phone numbers, and I called– the wait time on the phone was close to an hour.
Here is the best part: upon hearing about the problem, customer service informed me that they would email me a link where FIRST I had to provide them with my Visa card number and that they would charge my Visa and THEN REVERSE the charges on my Amex. Well, I told them to first reverse my Amex charges, and then I would give them my Visa card no. After all, my reservation was over a month away. More importantly, I did not want to give airbnb control over two of my credit cards after they had unscrupulously charged my Amex without authorization. Would you? What I thought was a simple matter to resolve was quickly becoming a best practices issue. I spoke to a supervisor (supposedly) and was told that at his level airbnb was not set up to refund me first and then switch the charges. They wanted me to pay up a second time, and then they would refund the first charges.
To add insult to injury, airbnb’s customer service arrogantly informed me that if I disputed the charges on the American Express card and the reservation was cancelled, their cancellation policy would apply. What is their cancellation policy? Their cancellation policy is unconscionable: 50% penalty plus the airbnb fee on ANY cancellations made up to one week before the reserved dates. Bigger penalty on cancellations within one week of reservation. My reservation is more than a month away. Customer service informed me that if my reservation was cancelled for whatever reason, I would only get 50% of my money back. Airbnb, get your act together. RENTER BEWARE!