Airbnb Horror Story

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(Edited)

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I've been a member of Airbnb since 2016 and have used their services many times over the years.  I like the idea of helping regular people rent out their space and make extra money for themselves rather than using big corporate hotel chains.

I've had great luck with hosts and finding the spaces as advertised and in most cases, very gracious and helpful hosts.  My beef at this point isn't with any owner, it's with Airbnb itself and their customer support team.

We came to Florida (a 1,200-mile drive) to stay in an Airbnb rental in Key Biscayne, FL that we had rented (and paid for in its entirety back in December).  This booking was for a month and the price was just shy of $3,000.

The listing we booked in Key Biscayne, FL
The listing we booked in Key Biscayne, FL

Have you driven I-95 in Miami in rush hour?  Wow, what a nightmare.  After creeping along in traffic for hours, we finally reached Key Biscayne.  We decided that we would get the shopping out of the way first so that we could get out of the car and STAY OUT OF THE CAR for a long time!  There was a nearby Publix and we stocked up with about $200 worth of groceries and staples.  On to the condo, where we carried up luggage, supplies, and groceries for a month's stay across a parking lot and up a flight of stairs to our 2nd story apartment.  The key code provided in our Airbnb email worked fine and the apartment was exactly as shown in the pictures on the website. What a relief to get everything inside and unpacked.  Now time to relax!

We were sitting on the sofa in PJs discussing going to bed when a loud knocking commenced on our front door - this being 11:00 pm at night.  A distraught Spanish-speaking woman was at the door.  When we were unable to communicate because of the language barrier, she made a phone call and put another woman on the phone with us.  To make a long complicated story short here is the gist:

The woman we were speaking to on the phone was the owner of the apartment (since 2012) and she had NEVER listed this apartment with Airbnb.  She had leased it for one year to a private individual in the prior year but that lease had expired.  This individual had placed the apartment on Airbnb for rent through an agent called Turn Key Rentals.  For some reason, the listing had not been taken down and we were able to rent it.  The door code apparently had not been changed because it worked for us to enter the apartment.

Now the owner is telling us we have to get the (bleep) out because she has the apartment rented to another couple, who were arriving the following morning.  Urgent phone calls to both Airbnb & Turn Key Rentals got us profuse apologies for the "inconvenience" and promises to immediately look for alternate bookings.  The owner did allow us to spend the night since it was so late and we had moved in with everything, but we had to pay her $100 for the night and the cleaning fee to ready the apartment again for the new tenants, and we had to be out by 9:00 am.

We received no phone call from either party despite the promises made the night before.  Being a holiday weekend coming up and the last-minute circumstances to rent something for the entire month, the pickings were very slim. I found another listing with comparable amenities but it was 20 miles away in Miami Beach and the listing was $600 more than our original booking.

I sent the link for this booking to Airbnb and asked them to make the alternate booking for us.  I was told by the first service rep on the phone the first night that Airbnb would usually compensate with a 10 - 20% voucher toward the new rental.  20% of our already paid rental fee would be almost $600, so I didn't see a problem with them covering the difference, especially since we were out another $100 for that night's stay.

No one from Airbnb returned our call.  We had to make 4 phone calls during the day after we were kicked out of our unit and driving around in the Miami heat waiting to hear something.  Each time we called, we reached a different service rep and had to retell the circumstances, each one apologizing for the "inconvenience" and talking about how it takes time to get a coupon authorized.

On the 4th call at about 4:00 pm that afternoon with still no place to go, we were advised by this operator that a $200 coupon had been issued for us to use.  I told her that was not acceptable, after all, we had been through, they should cover the full difference.  I asked to speak to a manager.  I was told it took 24 hours to get a call back from a manager, there were no direct lines.  Ridiculous!  She advised us that a refund had been issued to our credit account for the original booking and that we should just rebook ourselves with the listing I had found, which meant we paid the entire $3,600.  And she also advised us not to use the $200 coupon because we were holding out for the full amount.  I told her we still wanted that phone call from a manager.

We booked our new place and were able to move in about 6:00 pm that evening, after being left hanging all day by Airbnb.  Not one time did they make a call back to us as promised, we had to call them back 4 times and with no good results.

After the fact, it's now 6 days later, and we have been told via messaging that the $200 coupon is the extent of their offer.  And also, it could not be applied to our current booking because that was already completed.  (This, despite the advice of their own service rep not to use it yet).  The only way we can use this $200 credit is if we booked ANOTHER booking by Oct. 16th.  

I have argued consistently with the customer service team about the poor customer service.  The fact that we were thrown out of our apartment after totaling moving in, and had to pay $100 for the night's stay, and had to wander around for a full day while we received NOT ONE RETURN CALL from the team - and they call that an "inconvenience"?  Your TV not working is an "inconvenience" - this was a horrible disaster and an extremely stressful situation!  This was their last answer - basically take the $200 and they are closing the case.

Seriously??  I'm still not giving up.  I wrote back that I still want to talk to a manager.  I also explained that WE are part of that community that they should be protecting.  Plus, we have another booking in January for $5000 and if we were to cancel it for some emergency of our own, we would not receive ANY refund other than the $157 cleaning fee.  So if we cancel, it's perfectly all right for them to keep our $5000 but THEY canceled on US and they won't even make up the $600 difference in the booking price?

This is another excerpt from our service rep:

In regards with the new booking, I understand that you would like Airbnb to cover the full cost, unfortunately we are unable to process your request as Airbnb did not gain any profit from the canceled reservation since you've been fully refunded.

This clearly shows their only motive is PROFIT and not customer service.


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16 comments
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Yes that was a real nightmare, and what made it so bad was the fact that they didn't even bother to call us back, knowing we were stranded with no place to go, a simple call back would have gone a long way with me. And even now, several days later, we are still waiting for a manager to call us back, quite frankly the worst customer service I have ever experienced

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Keep on 'em sweets, they can't do you like that. Pretty sure I would have refused to leave the house I rented to begin with, especially since that was documented.

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Well the owner was actually pretty sweet about it, seeing as how someone had illegally rented out her apartment and was shocked to find someone in it, plus had other guests arriving the next morning. It wasn't her fault any more than it was ours.

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That's just awful!!
So obviously they really just don't care!
I hope that didn't spoil the rest of your stay in Miami.

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It was definitely a rough start, but I think we ended up in a better place. Never had anything like that happen in my life!

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This post has received a 100.00% upvote from @fambalam! Join thealliance community to get whitelisted for delegation to this community service.

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OMG...what a nightmare. I never would have even thought of such a thing happening. You must have been shocked when learning about the whole situation. That certainly is unfortunate and crappy service on Airbn's part. I've used Airbnb a lot all over the world and have always had good experiences. Further more I always message back and forth with the owner before I buy, because I always try to negotiate. Not sure how well negotiating works in the US, but all over the world, my airbnb strategy is to find like five places that I like, then make them an offer of maybe 20% lower, and 9 out of 10 times, I find myself getting a phenomenal deal and build a good little back and forth with the owner to make sure there is no confusion about anything.

Very well written article and I like your blog. Following, up-voted, and added to my auto-voter as my time is limited and it's hard to catch every post; but happy to support your blog. :)

Keep up the great work!

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@world-travel-pro Thank you for the support, I really appreciate it! I've never tried to negotiate directly with the owner before booking, do they lower their price on airbnb or do you do an off the airbnb service then? I've never had problems with airbnb in the past, so this is the first time I've had to put their customer service to use - and they failed miserably.

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You are very welcome :)

What they will do is send you a special offer through the messaging system on the airbnb platform. You click the link and that leads you to a checkout page at the reduced/negotiated price. I think you should give it a try, it will probably lead to some good savings, and seems like a good time to negotiate as the supply and demand is out of whack with covid.

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Not one time did they make a call back to us as promised, we had to call them back 4 times and with no good results.

This is really a horrible experience - unfortunately, there is no straight way of taking any action against them. Same goes with Ola, Uber etc. The service quality is deteriorating and all of these companies are more interested in profits.

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Yes it's a shame that they abandon good customer service in the face of few dollars at the time, but don't realize that losing a good customer is going to cost them more in the long run.

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Wow, what a nightmare! I am so sorry about that. I have been using AirBnb since 2015 and have´t experienced anything that would even be close to this... Were there any reviews on that listing? We always take only listings with enough reviews. If there are only a few, we check out on the apartment manager through conversation at least. I am very surprised by the unconcern and ignorance of the AirBnb customer service in this case though. Would never expect them to act like this...

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