My brother had spent hours trying to verify himself via Airbnb’s verification process for creating an account. He called me for help, and after Googling it, I discovered that there is a known issue with Android phones and verifying with Airbnb. Since we had found an entire house available for ten days for my brother to stay in while visiting California, and at a reasonable cost, I emailed the hosts, told them about the trouble my brother was having verifying, and asked if I could book the house for him using my verified Airbnb account. The host said I could book on behalf of my brother, and in fact, she book on behalf of her son, so it was “no problem”.
When I took my brother to the house to check-in, we were really surprised and dismayed to find that he was renting a room in a four bedroom house, and that four other people would be staying in the house while he was there. I’ve used Airbnb for years and booked many rooms in houses, full homes, and so on. I understand that when it says “a room”, it means a room in a house. However, in all the Airbnb rooms I’ve booked, I knew that the host was either staying in the home as well, or the listing stated that other people would be staying in the home at the same time I would be staying there.
If the host is not the person staying in the home, I don’t book the property. Why? Because obviously I do not want to stay in a house with people I do not know and who come from who knows where. If the host lives in the home, their photo, information, etc. is known to you when you book it, and they are verified. I do not want to sleep in a house of strangers when traveling alone.
This particular listing did not say that there would be others staying in the house. We actually thought that it was a small, one-two bedroom house that my brother would have all to himself. I contend that the listing and the photos and the description were vague and misleading. The host offered to give the money back, or, try to find an alternate place for him to stay, but having just arrived from New York and it being evening time, we were stuck. There were no other choices for him.
We did not check him in; we went to my place and I called Airbnb to try and find a solution, and two things happened. First, they told me that hosts are not obligated to let you know that other people will be staying at the house. Now, think about that: if I were a single woman who had booked this room, and three or four other men or people whom I did not know, who came from who knows where, were staying in the same house with me, I would not feel safe. I think hosts should tell guests that other guests will be staying in the home with you.
The person at Airbnb told me also that “for security reasons” the hosts are not obligated to tell guests there will be other people in the home. Really? Whose security, I wonder? Second, the guy at Airbnb told me that I had “violated the third-party booking policy” by booking the room for my brother, and that that negated any help they would give me. I lost it at that point, and told him that the hosts agreed to me booking the room for my brother. They were the ones who broke the policy.
My brother and I went back to the house, and he checked in, again, because he had no other options. Guess what happened? The other guests, a couple who booked another room in the house, who also thought they had booked an entire house for themselves, were checking in and were arguing with the host because my brother was there. They too “misread” this listing, thought they had booked an entire house to themselves, and were upset to see my brother in the house.
My brother is a really sweet guy, but he is huge and very imposing looking. If I did not know him, I would be dismayed at this very large Italian-looking guy (very handsome, though) was sharing a house that I thought I had booked to myself. The couple wound up talking to my brother, and all agreed: this was really a dishonest ‘bait-and-switch’ experience with Airbnb, and they have the worst customer service. Airbnb blamed the guests and refused to help us. Now Airbnb wants me to “review your experience with your host” which I will not do.
One other thing: while my brother was staying there, the host had a contractor there to enclose the deck into another bedroom that they can rent out to yet more Airbnb guests. I’ve written to Airbnb, and not received a response. So, I’m taking to social media to tell this story. If you rent out rooms via Airbnb, great, good for you. Run your home like a hotel. But hotels have to be honest to guests, and have rules they must follow for the safety and security of the guests. Airbnb cares only about the hosts, not the guests.
If you are a single woman traveling using Airbnb, be very very careful when booking a “room” and make sure to ask if other people will be staying in the house with you, and who they are if they are not the host.
I just got an email from Airbnb that is really just unbelievable:
“About two weeks ago we were recently notified that you may have made a reservation on behalf of someone else… Transparency builds trust, which is why it’s important for everyone on Airbnb to represent themselves honestly. Given the circumstances, as this is a violation of our Terms of Service, we have revoked the capability to leave reviews. If you have any questions or concerns, just reply to this email. We’re here to help!”
I noticed today that the hosts have changed their listing to inform guests that there will be other guests staying in the home. Too bad they didn’t do it sooner.