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

blank

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!

Unusually Warm Airbnb Stay with Frenemy

I stayed in Temecula to train my dog as my service dog. My host knew I had a medical condition. She came across as pleasant and friendly. I left her some private feedback as I didn’t want to affect her business. She took it very personally and left me a bad review. This happened after staying three separate times at her home, being invited into her pool, and using her goggles! Service with a smile, right?

After the final review she left me I don’t know if anyone will let me book with them. And I had given her all stellar public reviews. Now I’m going to give the true review to let others beware staying with her. There was no toilet paper in the designated bathroom when I arrived. I had texted her about this and didn’t get a response as she was at work. I had to search through a strangers home while I desperately needed to go poo! Imagine after driving three hours in a heat wave!

There was also no use of the air conditioner except during the party she had on my next stay; she let the air stay on for that! The host does not use an air conditioner and the full house fan system is not enough to stay cool. Temecula is a desert community. It’s regularly in the high 80s or 90s and during my first stay there was a heat wave, with the temperature around 110 to 115. Private feedback was given. The host did not provide obvious hand towels in a restroom shared with others. Again, I gave her private feedback. The screen to the bedroom window was broken at the bottom. She’s in horse country and a lot of horse flies were coming in. She did fix this by my 2nd visit. The privacy curtains block air flow and without curtains there is no privacy.

This room never cools down. I brought a temperature gauge on my second visit to make sure I wasn’t going crazy and it stayed 76 to 84 degrees in the room. There is no breeze at night. Even though the temperature can get down to 60s late at night the room never gets a chance to cool down, even with a room fan. Again, I communicated this information privately on my first review. Wanting to get along and realizing I’m going to be staying in a person’s home which is different than a hotel on the rest of the stays, I didn’t give my host any more private feedback and tried to stay on the positive side of things as there were very positive things.

I mean was I not supposed to tell her that flies were coming in…? That I didn’t know what towels to use because her brother and son were sharing the bathroom..? She also put towels in the room in a nice basket, well I guess these were only for decoration as when I opened them naked and wet in the bathroom they were off white and I saw light yellow and brown stains. Yuck! I had to put my clothes on when I was wet and get towels in the hallway. There were new looking towels hanging in the bathroom for her son and brother, but the Airbnb guest towels were really worn and a bit hard on the skin. I left private feedback that this was noticeable as a guest and the towels she left confused me as I guess they were for decoration only.

I don’t know because she never got back to me about that. I brought my own towels and toilet paper for my second and third stay, as well as a cool water bottle and baby wipes. I’d never put towels in a guest’s room and not expect them to be used. I don’t know… maybe that’s just me? I told her about all these things so she could be a better host. I mean if I had flies coming in and my guests were sweating it out… I mean I didn’t sign up for a sauna experience! As retaliation, this host said I didn’t clean up after my dishes in the kitchen. Well this is true as her brother came home during my first visit and offered to do them. I guess I was supposed to decline….? I can’t believe this was used against me and gave one side to make me look bad.

She claimed I didn’t clean up after my dog. It’s actually a big pet peeve of mine for people not to clean up. I cleaned up every time. I think maybe she wanted me to use a hose too. She could have let me know at any time during my three almost consecutive visits. She did stress energy and water conservation. I’m pretty sure she would have put it negatively in my review in either case. Knowing how she left me an unfair and slanted public review with no communication about these issues I would really not trust this host in my opinion. As a matter of fact, during my second stay she said I could leave the dishes undone, but my boyfriend did them. Talk about a two-faced, lying… well, you fill in the blanks. She also invited us to her pool to swim with the family on my last visit. I thought this was a nice gesture, but say it with me again: “Two-faced blankety blank told me everything was fine and left me a terrible review.”

Falsely Charged By A Scamming Airbnb Host

My family stayed at a beautiful Airbnb in the central village of New York City, owned by a man named Nick. After our stay, he specifically asked us for a good review, which we found odd at the time. Once we had done so, he waited a few hours to accuse us of the most absurd damage claims. He claimed we completely destroyed his apartment, including a washing machine, a chair and a bunch of towels that we had literally never laid eyes on in our lives. He asked for 1000+ Canadian dollars, thinking we wouldn’t fight it, and just pay to make it go away. Not only did we spend hours finding holes in his story, which clearly proved that we were being scammed, but Airbnb didn’t even help us, taking Nick’s side almost immediately. We clearly proved he was lying on all points, but they took the lazy way out and charged us about half the amount, to make it, in their words, “fair.” There’s no telling how many people he’s first asked for a good review, then charged when it’s far too late to make an edit or delete the review, just for the sake of improving his apartment. I’ve attached the link here, so i warn you, AVOID THIS AIRBNB AT ALL COSTS.

Negative Review: Host from Venice

We were unlucky during our trip from Zagreb to Venice. We missed our bus due to some administrative fault with the bus company in Venice. We had no choice but to take the next bus which was at 10:00pm that night, so our timing was way off to check in to our Airbnb. We messaged our host about it in advance, telling her that we had no choice but to check in late. She asked us to pay an extra 40 euros for the late check in. Eventually, we paid. So during our stay in Venice, we paid the city tax (3 euros per night), cleaning fees (20 euros in cash), and 40 euros for a late check in. In regards to the cleaning fees, there’s a problem with her listing: she is NOT SUPPOSED to collect cleaning fees in cash, but she did. When I tried to resolve this issue with her, she just brushed me off by saying that the cleaning fees are to be paid to the lady who cleans the apartment.

I’ve submitted a report to Airbnb about this and they are still not getting back to me. Initially, I didn’t want to post this story over here but I’m left with no choice as she left me a negative review (which I couldn’t view until I wrote a review for her). I ended up writing a good review for her but was shocked to find a very negative review! Please, those who are going to Venice: DO NOT RESERVE THIS HOST!

Fearing Bad Reviews, Airbnb Host Accuses Guests

blank

A couple of my friends and I traveled to Siem Reap, Cambodia during early monsoon season in June. I decided to go for my first Airbnb experience and to be safe, I chose a superhost thinking that will be the safest option. What was in store during this off-peak season at ‘My Home‘ (name of the superhost’s house) was a super warm experience, literally. As the temperature was high and with a little bit of rain, it was difficult to sleep at night as it was very hot (35 degrees Celsius) and humid with only a tiny fan available (if you can call it that) to circulate the air.

On top of this, there were lizards and insects coming out of the wooden roof from small crevices. As my partner is afraid of lizards, we changed rooms with my single friend living in the other room. It worked for five minutes before a lizard came out of the ceiling and my partner was paranoid it might fall on us. At the same time, a small bee started hitting the light on our mobile phone, in the dark; she thought it was the lizard and started screaming. After I calmed her down, we decided to go to a hotel the next day as the place was booked for two nights.

The next day, we left the place after coming back from sightseeing as the hosts were asleep and my friend staying in the other room was there to explain why we left. The French couple were fine the entire length of the trip and, expecting a bad review, ended up writing a nasty review that we left like thieves and gave a fake note to the driver they hired for us. We did not ask for a refund nor did we create a fuss. I ended up giving a nice short review that they guided us well, but as for the review they wrote accusing us of being thieves and cheats… it made us realise the lengths people go to discredit guests from whom they expect bad reviews. I wrote to her to explain and make amends to the wonderful driver who took us around and her replies can be seen here and here. I realised that people can be racist to people they think won’t fight back. How can such people masquerade as superhosts is a mystery.