A reader’s AirBnB warning story.

One of today’s posts is about one of our readers, Chris (@freqflyer) who got in touch about a pretty rubbish experience that he had with Airbnb.  Not only did he have an issue with not getting what he paid for (although he did eventually receive a refund), he felt forced into cancelling by the host due to a lack of trust, plus Airbnb effectively washed their hands of the matter, refusing to take any kind of responsibility for the issue.

On a recent trip to LA I realised why Airbnb doesn’t always work out.  After snagging an excellent redemption of points at the Andaz West Hollywood for the arrival day my friend and I had planned to check into an Airbnb. For the remaining two nights of the weekend trip.   When I booked it the host only had seven positive reviews which is far below my personal minimum of 7.  As the trip got closer I saw the host had pulled her reviews off of Airbnb and that caused me some concern, but she insisted she was still honouring the booking. My first thought was, well pretty hard to leave a bad review when the booking is taken off.

As it got closer I was surprised she hadn’t sent the details to access the place, and only after telling her that we would be offline did she finally send how to access the Airbnb.  I was shocked to see that she sent another address, not the place we booked.  The host also had another review where she did this and was a bad review.  Instantly further suspicious we asked why, only to be met by another issue that there was a plumbing emergency and we would not be able to access the Airbnb until much later in the day.  (And at this point we had already checked out of the hotel).   It really made for an uncomfortable situation.  The host insisted we cancel the booking and Airbnb wouldn’t give any additional credit except a full refund for the booking.  Airbnb tried to say the moving locations was due to the plumbing issue, but our documented chat proves otherwise.

At this point it was a basketball weekend and no more places were available remotely in the same price range.  The Hyatt luckily had opened up points rooms, so we were able to check back in and had a great stay.

My Airbnb tips:

  1. only book listings with greater than ten positive reviews
  2. confirm the listing address and the actual address match in advance 
  3. use the Airbnb Chat and don’t go offline. This helps Airbnb resolved any issues.

I’m still upset with Airbnb on this and will think twice before using in Los Angeles again. 

I’ve reached out to Airbnb and they said the following:

“We were disappointed to hear about this experience and have refunded the guest for this reservation.

Cancellations are rare and we have a number of penalties to deter hosts from this including fees and automatic review posting.  There have been over 300 million guest arrivals on Airbnb and negative experiences are extremely rare.”

As with any type of online travel provider, it’s the customer service that makes or breaks the experience.  I’ve personally used Airbnb before, but never had to escalate an issue to them.  However it’s when things go wrong that a company’s true colours are shown.  In this case it’s not pretty.

5 comments

  1. I’ve used AirBnB several times before, but only once successfully & it was perfect.
    The rest (at least half a dozen) were on a variety of dates, in different countries with totally unrelated hosts. Each time an enquiry/confirmed booking was made a day or 2 later the host would come back to advise the dates were no longer available. Funny that as each one had a major event eg: Eurovision or London Marathon just announced – I strongly suspect they realised they could hike their usual rates having previously been unaware of the event. ItsI made me very circumspect about using AirBnB.

  2. We rent out a holiday cottage and use Airbnb as one of the places to advertise. Have to say that so far we’ve been pretty lucky with our guests. Airbnb are not that customer friendly if there is an issue to resolve though.

    I do know friends who have booked via airbnb with similar issues to those reported in this warning article. As with anything, it seems that the mmotto is caveat emptor!

  3. I would never trust air bnb again. My account was hacked, hundreds of pounds changed to my card whilst on the phone to the support agent. Took forever to get my money back whilst the hacker was posing as myself, terrible!

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