Last month, my boyfriend and I booked an Airbnb in the Shoreditch neighborhood of London for three nights. The experience was unpleasant from the beginning. We picked up the keys from a coffee shop and the baristas were short with us and unfriendly. We then entered the apartment, which was advertised as a studio, but was completely misrepresented. The apartment did not have the amenities of a studio (it was nine square meters in total with only a microwave and small fridge, making it technically count as a studio). It was dirty, and had towels left in it that were already used and falling apart. The worst part was that the apartment was completely unsafe.
When I say unsafe, I mean that when we entered, the front doors to the apartment had been left wide open. It was easy for anyone to walk directly into this apartment building, go upstairs, and break into the rooms. The front doors were left open every single time that we entered and exited the apartment building. Our personal apartment door did not have a lock on it that was very secure, so we were completely vulnerable to any intrusion. It had the lock of a bedroom door, and a dent in the wall seemed to indicate that it had already been easily kicked in in the past.
We decided to call Airbnb customer service. Our customer service representative took down all of the information and ensured us that safety is the number one priority of Airbnb. We had to wait on the phone for 40 minutes (and this was an international call since we were not calling from our home country) and then explained the situation and how we felt extremely unsafe in the apartment for another 30 minutes. She told us to take videos of all of the extreme noise, dirtiness, and the unsafe and opened doors so that we could send them to her later. She also said that she would call us back within five minutes so that we could proceed with the case by sending all of these videos, and that most likely Airbnb would change our apartment for us that night.
The problem is that we never received a call back from Airbnb, and after a horrible night of sleep (the bed was caving in, there was noise directly outside the door, and someone even banged on the door in the middle of the night) we decided to check out in the morning. I am still shocked that there was absolutely no response from Airbnb when we had stated that we were experiencing huge safety issues. We tried to explain the situation to the host, but she was just rude and told us to deal directly with Airbnb, as the person kicking in the door was probably just drunk (this was clearly because this apartment scam has probably been going on for a while).
I had to look for another nearby hotel and spend extra money just so that we could sleep in a safe place, with no guarantee of a refund and no response from Airbnb at this point. When I arrived back home, I again called Airbnb and sent all of our receipts from the new hotel, all of our information (the videos I took, the photos, and the communications we had with the host and Airbnb), and spent approximately ten hours of my time going back and forth explaining this situation and sending all of my documented information. It is clear that we deserved a full refund, and even something extra, considering all of our time spent documenting, talking on the phone, and sending details over emails. It is clear that this shouldn’t even be a question as we were left with no response in an unsafe apartment.
However, first Airbnb offered us no refund (even though over a phone call, which customer service said had been recorded, they agreed that we should have a refund). After I insisted to have a second and third opinion on the case, we were offered only a one-night refund and a $100 Airbnb credit. This is the worst example of customer service I have experienced in my life. Our main contact told me over and over again that she had no decision making power over our case and that I was not able to speak with someone with decision making power. As stated before, she even agreed that we deserved a refund, but she was not the one deciding. How can it be explained that I could not even speak with an official decision maker?
It seemed like I spent hours playing a cat and mouse chase with no real winner and no clear answers. Why were we never given an explanation of how this refund was calculated? Customer service told me that we met all of the requisites for a refund, however in the end this randomized refund was offered to us with no real explanation of how it was calculated. It is clear that it is just in their interest to give no refunds to customers, as I had to even insist to get this partial refund; their first offer was no refund for no valid reason. I asked in various emails how this was calculated with no response.
I was also even told at one point that only my boyfriend could be in contact with Airbnb since the reservation was made on his account. So are only the guests that make the reservation valid guests? Do they discount all other members of the reservation in times of disagreement? This was also clearly a way of just trying to not deal with me, as I am a native English speaker and my boyfriend is Italian, so of course it was easier for me to be the one to explain this situation in my native tongue. I found this response one that just tried to avoid dealing with my level of discontent as no real answers could be provided.
This offer of a partial refund took almost a month to resolve. This is extremely slow, and as of today it still is not even listed as refunded in my boyfriend’s account. How can they explain that a company that is supposed to be prided on efficient service takes so long to answer a customer service query? I have never experienced such a terrible example of a company solely asserting their market power without caring at all about their customers’ experience. Clearly I won’t be using their services again and hope that this example makes others think twice before paying them for a service without any guarantee of true care for their customers.