My partner and I stayed at an Airbnb in Palm Springs on Monday, February 17th. The room was booked for that night and the following night.
Upon arrival, the front gate was open, as the majority of the facility was under construction, something that was not disclosed when we booked the place. The door code provided to us in an email and also reiterated in text message for the door to our room did not work.
We toiled with the door for a while and after becoming frustrated, a maintenance person came over, tried the code we were provided, and could not gain access. He then used a different code to let us in. He apologized profusely, introduced himself, and said he would reset the lock and send an email with the new code. He also said we could reach out to him if we needed anything.
Once inside we tried to take a nap, but the loud construction in the unit above and the surrounding units was too disturbing. There seemed to be renovations happening in most of the rooms, as doors to most of the units were open and construction workers were coming and going throughout the property… not exactly the relaxing environment we were paying a premium for.
I made a mental note that I would not be lounging by the pool in my bathing suit the next day as I’d been planning. After waiting several hours for the code that never came, we called the number provided in the welcome email, and texting the number that had been given to us “if we needed anything at all.”
After calling several times and waiting on hold, we were given a new code which worked on the door to our room when we tested it. We left for dinner, a reservation for which we were late due to the delay in getting the code.
Upon returning, we could not gain access to the property’s main gate with the code provided to us in the original email. We both tried many times to input the code we were given for the gate but it did not work.
We again called the number and were told by the same woman who had reset our door code earlier that she could see us in the security camera and to input a code she gave us, which was the same code we’d received in email. She watched us as we tried that code over and over again. When it did not work, she put us on hold for over 15 minutes.
We were standing outside without coats, freezing in the pitch black for this entire experience. This was around 8:30 PM and sunset was at 5:30 PM that night. It was our first trip to Palm Springs and had no idea how safe this neighborhood was at night. We were on hold for so long my partner tried calling the customer service number from her phone, which went unanswered.
Eventually, another guest arrived and put a code in which opened the gate and we followed them into the property. The new code, provided to us before we left for dinner, worked on our room door and we went inside.
We were still on the phone with the customer service woman, who was rudely asking us to repeat back to her the code we had been using that didn’t work — which was the exact code she had been telling us on the phone. I’m unsure as to why she wanted us to repeat it back to her. She clearly was accusing us of putting the wrong four-digit code into a lock. This was not user error.
She also told us to go to the room of the other guests we followed in, knock on their door, and ask them what code they had put into the gate. That sounded like a great way to get the police called or get shot in the middle of the night. Not to mention anxiety-producing for them to have two strangers knock on their door in the middle of the night to work out logistical nonsense that the property managers couldn’t figure out.
Well within our rights and on the basis of sanity, we did not go knock on their door. As we were having this conversation with her, we got a knock on the door. It was the same maintenance worker who let us into our room earlier upon our arrival earlier in the day when the code wouldn’t work.
When I answered the door he was profusely apologizing both for us being locked out when we arrived and for us being locked out when we came back from dinner. As we were listening to him, another man who did not identify himself and was dressed in track pants and t-shirt came out of nowhere in a very aggressive way and started demanding that I, a female, leave our room and go with him to the front gate of the property to show him the code we had tried to use that wasn’t working.
I explained that I intended to check out of the facility as soon as possible and I would not be needing to leave and come back to the site, therefore I was no longer in need of a working code for the front gate. He screamed at me that I was being uncooperative and I would not be getting a refund for not staying there the next night unless I went outside with him and showed him the code I was trying to put into the gate.
I explained again that I intended to leave the property first thing in the morning and would not be returning so I was not in need of a working code for the front gate. At one point, the maintenance worker put his hand on this man’s shoulder to hold him back and calm him down because he was acting so aggressive and uncontrollable.
At this point, I realized I didn’t know who the man was and asked him – “who is this guy?” – to which the man shouted “I’m the manager of this place!”
Prior to this, and although he had been standing at my door yelling for over five minutes, he did not introduce himself, offer any identification, nor did he appear dressed in any manner that a professional employee would. He literally ran up on us in the dark and started angrily demanding we follow him out in to the dark to put the code into the outer gate.
We refused. We did not know who this person was, it was dark, we are female, his behavior was volatile, and we were on vacation and not obligated to spend our time solving logistical nonsense because the locks don’t work.
The situation escalated, with the man yelling at us for being “uncooperative” and telling us we would not be helped or refunded any amount of money unless we went with him to try the code. He was so angry and out of control that the other man had his hand on him to calm him down and, presumably, prevent him from crossing any lines and assaulting me or my partner.
At that point I felt unsafe and threatened, was done wasting my time and vacation listening to his nonsense, and closed the door. I tried to call Airbnb several times and each time was sent an auto-generated message that I had to click which I was told would advance me to customer service. Each time I tried this I was hung up on and had to call back.
Finally, after multiple attempts to reach someone I called the neighborhood complaint line and finally connected to a real person. I explained the situation to the woman who answered, and she said she needed to transfer me to customer service. I was then transferred to a man whom I told all the same information and explained that I felt unsafe at the property and wanted assistance finding a new place to stay for the night and the following night.
He told me he was going to call the property manager and call me back within 30 minutes. I reiterated that I would hear from him in 30 minutes and he confirmed I would. I’m sure you’re not surprised to hear I did not receive a call back from the man that night or the following morning. We ended up sleeping with my girlfriend’s pepper spray out and woke up with every noise we heard.
I called Airbnb again the next morning at 8:00 AM, as we were leaving for good — a day earlier than we planned. We booked another place to stay because we were so upset and felt threatened to continue to there.
My call that morning was my eighth call to Airbnb regarding this matter. I was transferred to customer service who told me she would reach out to the property manager and call me back within an hour, but in the meantime she would message me on the Airbnb app so I had her contact information.
She called me back about twenty minutes later to ask if I knew the man’s name who was threatening me and I confirmed I did not because he did not introduce himself. She told me I would hear back from her within an hour and, unsurprisingly, I did not.
I followed up on the Airbnb message at 5:30 that night, ten hours after I had spoken to her and received no response. I then followed up again the next day and didn’t receive a response for multiple hours. I finally connected with a man telling me he was a manger with Airbnb who told me to send him my receipt for the night I had to book at a different location and he would start processing a refund for the time there and the cost to stay at the new location. He then didn’t respond for two days.
When I followed up, he said he had been out of town and was still waiting to hear back from the property on my refund. I do not understand why Airbnb needed to consult them about my refund. There is no disputing I was locked out of my room and locked out of the facility twice. There is no disputing that I was screamed at and physically threatened by a man who worked for them who purported to be the manager.
What more does Airbnb need to give me a refund? Is this a customer service experience they are comfortable with?
I got so tired of the onus of following up being on me that I called my bank and explained the issue to them. They were horrified and refunded my money and told me they would deal with Airbnb.
Every time I relay this story to someone I am aghast as are they with not only how the property treated me but how Airbnb was difficult to reach, slow to respond and seemed unconcerned that this situation had occurred.
Can you imagine if this was your vacation? How would you feel being treated like this and having to spend a tremendous amount of time and energy trying to get your money back?
I would like Airbnb to explain to me, since their reaction and follow up indicate they think this situation was acceptable: what you would have done if this happened to you? What would you suggest your family or friends do if it happened to them? There are plenty of other hospitality options these days and because of that, customer service has never been more important.
Here is my ultimate question: is the experience I had on my vacation while staying in an Airbnb acceptable? Is the customer service experience I outlined above acceptable?
If this is acceptable per the tenants of Airbnb’s corporate customer service and experience policies, then Airbnb will no longer be getting any of my business, and I will be sure to let my network of friends, acquaintances, and colleagues know their stance. If this is not acceptable, please explain to me what I should have done differently.