Family Vacation to Paris Leads to Airbnb Scam

We are a family of five that took a long anticipated vacation to Europe in the summer of 2016. We stayed at Airbnbs in Barcelona, Germany and London, and planned to in Paris as well. That’s where things fell apart. This transaction involved an Airbnb host that was a no-show, and that we know scammed us. The transaction was placed in February and arranged to be “fulfilled” in June, a simple deposit and subsequent payment for an apartment rental. We followed all the Airbnb regulations and processes fully. We contacted Airbnb immediately when we discovered that there was going to be a problem with the transaction. Prior to departure, we were in contact with the Airbnb host regarding any special instructions for our Paris check in.

We arrived as a family of five on our prearranged date in Paris with reservations and prepayments made as agreed. This is what occurred: we texted back and forth and had a correspondence between us and the host. No specific check-in deadline was noted to us by the host. We gave the host information regarding our arrival time at Orly Airport to drop off our rental car and take the train. There was no timely response from the host and no message noting any problem. At no time did the host mention a meeting or conflict. The host did not give us clear instructions in the event of a delay… and we were delayed getting from Orly to the city by an hour or two, arriving in Paris by about 6:00 pm or so. We sent an email notifying the host we were on the bus. The host never provided instructions as to what to do when we arrived at the building. Upon arrival, the host was not present.

We could not locate his name on the apartment directory call box. The host then contacted us via text message that evening that he had a “meeting” (this was on a Monday evening) and he was having some difficulty with his schedule in order to meet us. He then directed us to “come to [him]” across Paris to pick up the keys to the apartment. The apartment was miles from the address and the new address provided by the host to pick up keys did not match his description. He directed us to go to “25 Rue del la Butte”, to pick up a spare set of keys, noting that he was “waiting for us” and that these keys would be on the “5th floor, door on the right”. The address was quite far from our host location in Paris. I took a cab with my son ($40.00 Euro Cab fare expense) while my wife and daughters waited with our suitcases at the original building address. Arriving at the “Rue de la Butte” address, (confirmed by the address sign on the side of the building) again the host’s name was not on the call box, and no one answered the buzzer. Most importantly, it was only a two story building. He had said he was on the fifth floor.

Because he was not responding, we also sent the host a Facebook message noting that we could not locate him at the “25 Rue De La Butte” address. Looking at the destination address, the host did not have his name anywhere on the entry letterboxes. He just scammed us, and scammed Airbnb. Upon returning from the alternate address we knew we had to find alternate lodging. We waited on the streets of Paris with three children until after 11:00 pm, repeatedly attempting to contact the host via email, text, and Facebook. We finally checked into a hotel for one night only, wondering if we’d hear anything further. We planned to move to the Airbnb the next evening, but the host did not contact us to offer this. We also thought that Airbnb would help us with a resolution, but this proved difficult.

We assumed at this point without any follow up from the host and the false address that we were the victim of an elaborate internet scam. This thinking prompted us to cancel our transaction with the host. We were in immediate communication with Airbnb via the website form and called on three different occasions to speak with three different case managers to try to resolve the issue. There is no phone number on the Airbnb website, just the dispute form which we completed that evening following our check in to the hotel. The important thing to know is: AIRBNB DOES NOT CARE AT ALL IF YOU GET RIPPED OFF. Their “resolution department” will pay a lot of lip service to you when finally cornered, but really, it is a ridiculous sham of a customer service department.

We kept email records of all of our communication with Airbnb trying to outline the events. It is important to note that this was one of four Airbnb stays that we scheduled for our recent trip. The other three stays were quite pleasant and the hosts were all responsive and amicable. In this regard, this was a simple and straightforward transaction dispute. We were out over $1500.00. We entered into an agreement to stay at a specified arrival date. We contracted for a product and did not receive it. Pretty straightforward, right?

Airbnb issued a tax credit of $18.00 and a ‘lodging credit’ of $125.00. Try putting a family of five up in two rooms by the Eiffel tower for $125. We reasonably asked that the remainder of the charge – $1572.00 – be credited to our credit card account. Airbnb was basically non-responsive. I got the impression that they do whatever is necessary to obfuscate and delay any resolution. You cannot call them from the website: there is no number and you get directed to a FAQ/community page. This was especially frustrating. Finally, we contacted our credit card company. After about 90 days or so, Airbnb did not respond to them either, so the amount was fully credited to us.

Here is the takeaway, folks:

1. Airbnb can work well and may do so for most folks, much of the time. The other folks we dealt with were honest and the locations were as advertised.

2. If you have a dispute as a guest, you are basically screwed. You will not get much attention and Airbnb will not delve into any detail or take money back from a host. Document everything as you go. Put all important communications in writing as email whenever possible.

3. When you use your credit card, remember that there may be a 90-day window to dispute a charge. In this regard, if you make reservations months in advance, you may struggle to get the money back. We did, but our bank (Verity in Seattle – kudos to them!) worked with us to do the right thing.

4. Take a few minutes to look around the destination at your location, so you will have a {lan B if your host is a scammer.

5. Most importantly, DO NOT CANCEL YOUR AIRBNB TRANSACTION. This basically shuts you out of reviewing the host and cuts off all contact between the two parties – just what the scammer/host wants.

Identity Theft From Guest, Steps Moving Forward

I wanted to share my story, and hopefully get some feedback. I do not want to be easily identifiable so I will not give detailed specifics. We are Superhosts. We rented our house to a guy that had a verified email, phone number, and an “offline ID.” This guy stole my identify along with a good chunk of money. The police report has been filed, there is a detective assigned to the case, and I’ve been working with Airbnb’s “safety and trust team.” They offered to pay us for Lifelock that we had put on our lives, and also for door locks that we replaced. When I asked about my security deposit, she without hesitation sent us the entire amount, without asking for proof of anything (making us think they know more than we do).

Long story short, this guy booked under a fake name, a fake profile photo (I reverse Google searched it), a drop phone number, and a fake brand new email. Shouldn’t Airbnb be held responsible? Don’t they have a due diligence to properly vet all guests that will be staying at hosts’ homes? Surely this guy’s name that he made up for the profile and the ID name and photo do not match, so do they really check these, or just act like they do since this person wants to book so they can make an extra buck, while neglecting their hosts? The detective is looking into video footage of confirmed activity on the money that was stolen from us, as this will be his best lead. They connected him to another theft of checks around the same area, that same night. So there are at least two incidents in one night, by this guy, under two different names, and the checks were made out to a different name as well.

We do not think Airbnb cares about their hosts as much as they claim, as none of this would have happened had they throughly vetted each guest’s profile. But they did not. They have offered to reimburse the money only if we owe it back, which does not make since. I have not responded to that offer, as I’m waiting on the detective to look at the video footage, so we can identify this guy, so this “guest” will eventually have charges pressed against him. Does anyone think we should go to the media, and make people aware? Does anyone think we should hire an attorney? Does anyone know of any good attorneys that have handled cases in which the host is the plaintiff, and Airbnb as the defendant?

Airbnb Nightmare: Sitges Spanish Dump

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We booked a stay at a small, basic apartment in Sitges. We weren’t expecting anything flash, but certainly clean. It looked nice in the photos. We didn’t arrive until 00:30 and were greeted by our host’s daughter, as he was away. She gave us the key and left, so we went in. We found hairs in the bed and stains on the sheets. The bathroom was filthy and stank of urine. The sink was dirty and had hairs in it. The shower was gross and dirty. The toilet had stains down it and urine on the seat. The kitchen had food debris on the floor. The fridge was gross, mouldy, dirty and had hair in it. The whole place was disgusting. We spent the night sitting on the sofa searching for alternative accommodation as there was no way we could stay there. Once we had secured somewhere else the next day, I messaged the host to tell him. He was defensive and did not respond very nicely. We took photos and sent them to Airbnb. Thankfully we got a full refund, so we had no complaints about them. This host should not be letting out this property in such a disgusting state. There’s no excuse for cleanliness. It’s such a shame we can’t leave a review on Airbnb to warn others.

Deceptive Listing Leads to False Damage Claims

Our party rented a house in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. The house was not as represented. The overall cleanliness of the house was gravely subpar. Upon entering the house, stains on the carpet were noticed immediately and discussed between members of our party. The overall consensus was that the carpeting was in such bad condition that it gave us concern. The entire house was re-cleaned prior to our party moving in. The lamps, light switches, doorknobs, sinks, toilets, showers, dresser drawers, TV remotes, hand rails, counter tops, and stove, as well as the cupboard doors and refrigerator were cleaned by our party. The filth that was picked up from the towels we used was evident by turning all of the white towels dingy, and then black. Some items in the kitchen were used and required washing before and after our use. Most items had food residue on them.

On the first day, we noticed two chairs were significantly unstable. They were placed next to the wall and excluded from use to ensure nothing would be broken as a result of our stay. Evidence on the chairs suggest that they had been previously repaired. Later, on the second day, while grilling outside, the septic tank began to spew out foul water. Upon presenting this issue to the owner our party was told that we were taking too many showers. At that time, there had been only six showers taken within the approximate 24 hours we were present. The owner suggested that showers be taken outside. All subsequent showers were taken outside to avoid overflowing the septic tank again. She stated that someone would come to the property to assess the situation. No one was observed on the property.

No further information was provided by the owner. As adults we knew to stay clear of the septic tank area to avoid harm because of the unsafe health risk of sewage on the property. Due to our understanding that the initial response was going to be observation only, we continued to take all showers outside. On the sixth day, we assumed that the septic tank issue was resolved and attempted a couple showers. The septic tank overflowed with a greater stench present at the rear of the property than that four days prior. We were willing to make accommodations by only bringing this to the owner’s attention and not Airbnb’s. We did not allow the lack of meeting our expectations to ruin our vacation. When we returned home, the host filed a claim for $500 to replace the carpeting. Despite providing our proof and complaints, Airbnb sided with the host.

Airbnb lost my trust. Where do we go from here?

This is a story about an unpleasant experience but more so, the entire loss of trust in a like home sharing platform like Airbnb. To me, it raises questions regarding the future of the sharing economy. My girlfriend and I stayed in a private room in a house in a large southern California city. All names have been changed in this story. Tom was the host. We saw a very well-priced private room available, and pristine and luxurious photos of a beautiful very high dollar home. The pictures included the bedroom, the front of the home, two patio areas, a large kitchen, an entry area room with sofas, and a living room with a sofa and fireplace in the background. They looked like pictures from a realty company. The written content looked like it was promoting a high dollar hotel. He wrote – in my opinion, not very clearly – that the kitchen was not available to guests. But the other areas looked nice, and the place had good reviews. We expected a nice place where we could enjoy some calm comfortable down time in the city for a few nights. We were wrong.

The nice description and pictures of this home were like a nice façade on the scammer’s hotel. We learned that by canceling our stay here, we were not able to write a review to warn others about our experience. This threw all my trust in Airbnb out the door, as people who cancel their stays at questionable places are not represented in the review system, leaving a bias of only good reviews at each home. I’ll never use Airbnb again, and I write here because of how disappointed and frustrated I am that people can take advantage, by taking a cool idea and using it in such a horrible way.

We arrived to find an older man and a kid there, and I guess that they were guests there for a month while their other home was being remodeled. Then later we learned that the man was actually the owner. He was there with his kid for a month. I was a bit confused. He didn’t seem like he wanted to converse at all. In our room there was a welcome book like you would find at a hotel. In the book there was a written introduction to the house, as well as any restrictions – not using the kitchen, no control of the air conditioner (we felt too hot) – and how much they loved their previous guests. I was surprised because the laundry was an amenity listed on Airbnb, but in this book it was written it cost 6 USD. It felt like we couldn’t use as much of the home as we expected. In addition, I thought it was strange that we were only given the contact information of the host, who turned out to be the person in charge of bookings.

There was a noticeable lack of information or even a name of the owner who seemed to be so happy to have all these guests stay at his home. You know that feeling in your gut when something is wrong. I felt that and still do today when I remember this experience. Tom arrived later that day and I talked with him about what we could do and places we could use. From this discussion, we understood that the owner reserved the living room in addition to the kitchen for himself, meaning we were not welcome to use that living room either. This was not understood from the posting. I was surprised as there was a picture of this living room on Airbnb and nothing was written that we couldn’t use it. We learned that the home was for sale, but taken off the market. The owner is moving out, and they plan to turn it into an “Airbnb hotel.”

Every room was listed on Airbnb, and no rooms had keys, meaning people were coming and going each day. I thought about how safe my belongings were. I felt like the aim and motivation of the host and owner was to get people in and out and collect the money quickly. Normally, Tom said, people come and stay only to sleep. Unfortunately, that was not what we were desiring or expecting. The next morning we packed our things and left. We took a close look at the listing and found several things that we felt misled by. This included the washer and dryer cost, that all the rooms of the house are offered, and guests are coming and going each day; there was nothing mentioned about this in the listing. There were no locks on the bedroom doors, we expected a level of comfort that upon arrival was not available, the noise outside of planes passing by was there even though he wrote that they were quiet and could not be heard, and the feeling of not being welcome in the home all added to our feeling of being misled and used.

I sent a message to Tom telling him about all of this, that we would be cancelling the stay, and requested a refund within 24 hours of arrival. In order to cancel, you have to call Airbnb. I called and told the customer service representative Andy about what happened. He said he would look through my messages to Tom and talk with Tom to see if I was eligible for the refund. It was during this communication with Tom that I learned how little support Airbnb offers to guests. In order to get the refund, they need to verify if there were areas shown to be available to guests that actually were not available. He confirmed that the kitchen was not available. But Andy said that when he talked with Tom, all the other areas were available. This is not what Tom told us. Andy took Tom’s word for it over the phone.

Thus, Airbnb cannot override the host’s cancellation policy, and I only received a refund for Airbnb’s fee, less than 30 USD. This really surprised me: It didn’t matter if I thought the host’s listing was misleading. I told Andy from Airbnb that what Tom said was false. Andy said that I need to provide written documentation evidence that the host told us something different than what he told you. Shall I bring a camera and record the entire experience at each stay? Or am I supposed to communicate only through Airbnb’s messaging system? No verbal communication? How is this even possible when the whole idea is to stay in someone’s home?

This is clearly impracticable. Tom was not interested in the other points where I felt misled either. The fact a host can mislead a perspective guest into booking an experience that the guest finds inaccurate upon arrival has made me loose all trust in the host listing and the Airbnb community. That he can do this while running it as an “Airbnb hotel” scares me even more. And now I have lost trust in Airbnb guest support. Where is the accountability? To add to the frustration, Tom sent a long and very nasty message to me on Airbnb’s message service regarding the entire ordeal. In my opinion, it was very defensive and immature. It seemed like he had a lot to lose. After his rant, and in the end, he did mention that he would not refund the money. But he would offer a refund if the room were rebooked. I have to rely on his good nature to see if this happens. After everything we went through I doubt anything will be refunded.

I didn’t wait around; I canceled my Airbnb account immediately. I am done with them. Where does this lead? In the wider perspective, I can see how there will be more and more hosts like this one, basically offering an “Airbnb hotel”, moving guests in and out, collecting the revenue while Airbnb collects the fees. All the while this leaves hosts unaccountable for poor service and underperforming experiences. From the hosts’ and Airbnb’s perspective, I guess it’s pretty good for them in the short term.

Now that the stay has been canceled, I’ve learned that I cannot leave feedback for future guests! Thus, I lost trust in the entire Airbnb rating system, because poor or negative stays that are cancelled, which would warn perspective guests, cannot be posted. In my eyes, this creates a biased system that favors hosts and Airbnb’s interests.

This system works on perceived trust. I’ve lost all trust in Airbnb. They have just lost a few customers for life. I cannot recommend Airbnb to anyone anymore. “Book homes from local hosts and experience a place like you live there,” Airbnb says in its app: a meaningless, disappointing and misleading statement in my opinion. My experience probably wasn’t a common one, but these little abnormal, extraordinary experiences are what can cause the most frustration, the most interesting stories, and in the end, I hope they will be a force to bring about positive change.

Another Airbnb Scam: Stranded in NYC

I booked a verified listing that was an amazing apartment near Central Park in New York City. The host contacted me with information on how to receive the keys, and asked about my stay and how he could help with suggestions. After arriving at the “place” only to find that the building had been torn down (the police said three years ago…), I was effectively stranded with nowhere to go; we had to book the only hotel we could find available for $500. When we called Airbnb, we were put on hold for over 20 minutes to finally be told they would refund the amount that we paid. When I insisted they pay for the hotel bill that night, they refused saying they would book us in another Airbnb. When I asked them how they would verify that that building was not demolished either, they had no response…

This is a complete joke of a verification process. At least drive by the building to see if it is still there before allowing scammers to post fake listings. One of the customer service agents agreed to pay a portion of the hotel bill, which I have yet to receive…

First Airbnb Experience: Ripped off in Sag Harbor

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I’m a first time Airbnb user. We were very excited to book our first trip, an entire home called a “charming country cottage” in Sag Harbor. What we found was a house that was not the same as that in the picture in the ad, and we did not have the whole home but one small apartment on the first floor. It was Sag Harbor in the summer; everything  was full and with two small kids we could not exactly sleep on the street. We had to accept the accommodation despite feeling incredibly deceived and ripped off with false representation.

Afterwards we asked for a refund of around 60% of the booking cost which seemed more than fair and we expected the host to be removed from the listings; from previous comments it was clear she had rented by the room. As soon as she saw we were unhappy she turned from nice and charming to throwing mud at us. Now our only comment on our Airbnb profile is by her: “I am speechless how insulting the experience was hosting Carter. I would want to warn other hosts of this guest.”

This is nuts. This is like going to the police because you have been mugged and then the person who mugged you gets to post defamatory comments on your page. Look at the two pictures and guess which one is on Airbnb and which one is the actual house. Then assume from looking at the nice pic you are booking the “entire home” and just get the ground floor… I am so disappointed. We are waiting to hear back from Airbnb as to what action they will take and what refund we will receive. I have found no way to have the owner’s comments removed. I guess this is our first and last Airbnb experience and we have gone from huge enthusiasts and promoters of all we had heard of the brand pre-experience to hard core detractors. It’s such a shame. I still don’t understand how anyone can ever book a home on Airbnb when owners are allowed to post pictures that are not of their actual homes!

What Amsterdam Taught me about Airbnb

Up until my visit to Amsterdam I had only good experiences with Airbnb. Some better, some worse, but all were above average, until I got to this horrific apartment. The pictures seemed okay, but nothing prepared me for this stoner’s place. The shower was filthy and I suspect that they used the same towel they gave me. Airbnb did give me back the money for one night after I sent them a video of the shower, but it wasn’t without a lot of fuss. I didn’t leave earlier because I landed at 22:00 and didn’t have anywhere else to go. On one night the hosts forgot to take their key to the house and woke me up in the middle of the night to let them in. To make a long story short, I’ve learned my lesson: use Airbnb only for whole apartments and never for a room.

Naturally, none of this information got to Airbnb since they have a policy of publishing a review only when you are reviewed by the host, and since I knew I’d get a bad review, I never reviewed this apartment.

Awful Experience San Francisco, Refuses to Refund

I had an awful experience using Airbnb in San Francisco. I paid $1545. The condition of the apartment was deplorable: food stains on the beds, cigarette butts on the floor, old and stale food open in the kitchen, excrement in the toilet, flies around the trash, chewed and ripped up rugs, broken furniture, broken shower (meaning it did not function) and it smelled like musty dog pee. It looked nothing like the clean and nice photos on the website.  We checked out well before 24 hours after explaining this to the host, who simply disagreed with my assessment, claiming she’d had someone clean the place. We were willing to pay for the one night we were there, and wanted the rest back.

We provided all communications with the host, and photographic evidence of everything we found there, to Airbnb customer service. They’ve refunded the one night and kept the rest. After five phone calls and a slew of emails, our case manager sent this: “I have looked through all the documentation on this reservation including message strings and resolution case comments. I have also spoken with you and the host by phone. based on the overall situation and verifiable events I concur that a one-night refund the host provided is reasonable. This is a dog-friendly listing and building, which is clearly stated in the listing description. It is unfortunate that you did not enjoy this experience. However, there are no apparent or significant violations by the host that have not already been compensated.”

Dog friendly was never our issue. I own a dog; she doesn’t pee in my house, so it doesn’t smell like dog pee. Dog friendly has nothing to do with food stains, flies, trash, excrement in the toilet (as far as I know dogs don’t use the toilet or wipe with toilet paper), a broken shower, broken furniture, and open, stale food. The violation is that this place is falsely advertised as clean with a working shower. Our case manager refused to speak with me to explain how he and his team came to this decision to steal over $1300 from us. Not to mention the money we had to spend on different accommodations. Apparently, he doesn’t have a supervisor, and no one at Airbnb has the power to escalate this any further. Apparently, Airbnb can’t be held accountable for anything.

We’ve contacted our credit card company to see what our options are. My advice? Screw Airbnb.

Airbnb Turned my Vacation into Vexation

We began planning our trip from Athens to New York in late June, three months in advance. After having browsed through what was available on Airbnb we booked a nice apartment that made complete sense for two couples with two small children, when compared with a Manhattan hotel. A week before the trip, the hosts cancels – just like that – claiming building safety reasons. At Airbnb’s prompting, though I was panicking, I searched for a replacement apartment and I found something nice at around the same price. I make and keep contact with the host, by phone and mail, throughout the week to reassure myself that this time it’s not going to fall through.

Well, I bet you know what comes next: the minute I turn on my cellphone at arrivals at JFK there is a cancellation message from Airbnb. This is followed up by a phone call by an assistant that says she is sorry and invites me to find something else or, alternatively, to have a full refund (as if there was ever a question about that!) Anyone can imagine my panic, with nowhere to go, at 7:00pm Friday evening, with two children dead tired after an 11-hour flight. We couldn’t find a single replacement listing in Manhattan. Airbnb simply didn’t care what was to happen to us. I asked that they put us up in a hotel; they said we were entitled to nothing, so I had to find a hotel on the Internet with available rooms, at exorbitant last-minute prices. We ended up paying double what we had budgeted, plus about one thousand Euros in roaming costs for telephones and data! Never again!