A Messy, Dangerous Experience with Airbnb

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Mar 26, 2018
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#1
I recently had a lousy experience with Airbnb and one of their hosts for a vacation rental. For several months afterwards we tried to get a partial refund back for the cottage we rented ($300 of $600), but were unsupported in our case. After many phone calls, we were informed that we had to report the situation while it was happening, instead of after our trip.

Our experience was as follows: My boyfriend and I booked two Airbnb cabins over the Thanksgiving holiday. We have been traveling and enjoying Airbnb for many years, always having wonderful experiences. We had many issues with the first cabin - it was like someone left their messy house in a hurry and overcharged for the stay. We also had a dangerous event with the fireplace. I tried to reconcile with the company and then the host. Since we hope to keep building this great resource (of Airbnb), we were professional and respectful, but we ended up being really disappointed and unsupported in our claims.

Our trip was from November 23rd-29th. Upon returning (we had stayed in a second cabin afterwards - which was perfect, and exactly what we expected), I called Airbnb to talk to them about our situation. They advised us to chat with the host to work something out. Here are the messages we wrote to the host:

1) December 2nd, 2017 (After we had called Airbnb and made our complaint. They encouraged us to be in contact with the host and work it out with them. Before we wrote a public review for the host's (Gretchen's) place, we wanted to resolve things, privately).

Hi Gretchen,

Thank you so much for the stay at your sweet cabin. We had such a relaxing, good time and loved seeing the area.

Although we had an overall enjoyable time, there were many things we were displeased about that we wanted to bring to your attention. These include:

- Fireplace / flames from chimney, which resulted in a visit from your neighbor.
- Leftover food in the fridge.
- Overall cleanliness (dirty floors).
- Loft/bed was ill-represented.
- Basic customary amenities were limited (hand soap & pepper).
- No instructions on cleaning procedures; garbage/ recycling.
- Drying rack for linens in the main room; no direction or heads-up that we may need to use those items, or whether they were even clean; Quality of towels.
- Various personal items around in bedroom, kitchen.

We have been members of Airbnb now for several years, and are both professional house-sitters. We have stayed at many places over the years and have seen a variety of places, recognizing that each place is individual with it's own idiosyncrasies. Your place is great and has a lot of potential. However, we felt that you could have represented it more accurately in your posting with further details and pictures. There is a lot more room for improvement.

We loved the location, your comfortable bed with nice sheets, and cooking in your lovely kitchen. We appreciated your communication (when we found service) and the Youtube video to locate your place. The Yuba River and Emerald Pools are extraordinary and we hope to return soon!

We are requesting a partial refund to reconcile our displeasure while staying at your cabin. We are happy to discuss details and ways to improve your listing. We would love to visit again and wish you all the best. Thank you.

Kind regards,

2) Gretchen doesn't get back to us. Instead she responds, rudely, on Airbnb's website, giving us a poor review, blaming us for not knowing how to have a fire in the fireplace. She makes no attempt to resolve or apologize. She denies giving us a partial refund.

3) But we tried again in a private message on December 11th, still trying to be respectful of a new Airbnb member:

Hi Gretchen/ Anne [her name changed during this process!?]

We would like to discuss our stay with you further.

We thought we did understand the quirkiness of your cabin, but there were several things that we were dissatisfied about once we were there. We weren't in immediate communication because it was a holiday, we were on vacation, and we didn't have wifi at your place and the next place we stayed. We are very tolerant people, and just tried to overlook these details. Maybe it would have been reasonable if we weren't paying so much? We would've appreciated more communication on your part. We use woodstoves frequently, so I'm not sure this was a 'user error'. Plus, your neighbor said this happened with other visitors. Also, we didn't know if the towels were clean or not? Your bar soap was nice, we were referring to the empty hand soap container. In the spirit of the Airbnb community, we would like to work this out with you and receive some of our money back.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards,

4) Obviously she wasn't interested in working with us. She never gets back to us. And then for the next month and a half I was trying, repeatedly, to get Airbnb involved since they seem supportive, and we've had nothing but fantastic experiences with them. They investigated the situation (which took multiple phone calls, on my part), where they looked at our correspondence with the host, and heard our case. Eventually they said they would refund the cleaning fee - but they never did. They never clearly gave us a return phone call, an answer, nor a refund. They couldn't help us further because we responded to the trip afterwards (instead of when it was happening). We also wanted to change our nice public Airbnb review of the host, but were unable to do so. The situation wasn't so bad to up and leave (especially on Thanksgiving night) but it was too much money to stay in someone's messy house, out in the middle of nowhere. I am disappointed that neither the host nor Airbnb would accommodate for this situation and work something out.

We have been very disappointed in how this all went and wish this could have been resolved better.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
11,994
12,234
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New York
www.promalvacations.com
#2
Unfortunately Airbnb has a process you need to follow for their guarantee- you need to contact them immediately. As a long time user you need to be aware of this. Once you leave the property it’s too late.

You didn’t communicate with the owner at all while you were there?
 
Likes: VoR61
Mar 26, 2018
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#4
Now we are aware of this with Airbnb. We have had wonderful experiences with Airbnb for several years. The hosts were always nearby and accessible.

No, we were out in the middle of nowhere and didn't have any reception. The host was out of the state. Plus, we arrived Thanksgiving night. We didn't have other options.
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#6
What is problematic is that you gave the owner “a nice public review” but then asked for a refund of $300 of $600, and all of this was after leaving the property.

How did you get the keys? Was there any local representative?

Did the owner not leave their phone number or the phone number of someone local to call and ask about towels etc — what if keys had been lost. And even though the arrival was on thanksgiving a telephone call to host or air bnb could have been made the next day, even if it means driving someplace to get reception.

The owner may have had someone who was supposed to clean and did not and did not know.

One needs to give the business a chance to make it right when there, and that is what air bnb asks, as do most businesses. If the owner is not responsive then air bnb should step in.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
11,994
12,234
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#7
Mar 26, 2018
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#8
Hi Christina,

Thanks for your message. This host is really new to Airbnb. She only had one, maybe two reviews of her mis-represented place. We tried to resolve things with her and be fair about it all (we only asked for a partial refund for a really unpleasant experience and we tried to give her some constructive criticism). We were following the Airbnb protocol of leaving a review of the place, after our vacation, once we had reception again. Now we completely understand that you need to report a problem immediately.

The host stashed keys for us and was relatively secretive about how we got to her place. No local representatives. And this is her house. I suspect she left in a hurry to travel for Thanksgiving. The neighbor who came over when the chimney caught on fire, said that had been happening a lot with this person's friends staying in the cabin.

After seeing that the host was unhelpful, we tried to work with Airbnb again, to complain about our situation, and also warn others. They did not support us.

I wish this had turned out better and we hadn't wasted money on such an ordeal!




What is problematic is that you gave the owner “a nice public review” but then asked for a refund of $300 of $600, and all of this was after leaving the property.

How did you get the keys? Was there any local representative?

Did the owner not leave their phone number or the phone number of someone local to call and ask about towels etc — what if keys had been lost. And even though the arrival was on thanksgiving a telephone call to host or air bnb could have been made the next day, even if it means driving someplace to get reception.

The owner may have had someone who was supposed to clean and did not and did not know.

One needs to give the business a chance to make it right when there, and that is what air bnb asks, as do most businesses. If the owner is not responsive then air bnb should step in.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
11,994
12,234
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#9
Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of hope because you did so many things that point to buyers remorse- listing what the few reviews, not contacting Airbnb as they advise, posting a good review.

We have company contacts on top of our page for Airbnb. You can try writing up the executive ladder and see if they can do anything.

And please read that story about the family in Mexico. It might not be a bad idea to call the Fire Department where you were and let them know about the chimney and that the owner is renting out the house. God forbid something happens to someone else. You might also want to call the local town or city where you were and find out if the rental is permitted. I’m not suggesting it to be retaliatory but as a safety issue.
 
Mar 26, 2018
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#10
Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of hope because you did so many things that point to buyers remorse- listing what the few reviews, not contacting Airbnb as they advise, posting a good review.

We have company contacts on top of our page for Airbnb. You can try writing up the executive ladder and see if they can do anything.

And please read that story about the family in Mexico. It might not be a bad idea to call the Fire Department where you were and let them know about the chimney and that the owner is renting out the house. God forbid something happens to someone else. You might also want to call the local town or city where you were and find out if the rental is permitted. I’m not suggesting it to be retaliatory but as a safety issue.

Thanks very much, Neil!