** Names and location revealing details have been blacked out. As upset as we are about the situation we want to protect the identities of those involved.**
We have been a vocal advocate for Airbnb, which allows those like us, who want to experience more from our travels than the interior of a hotel room, to find unique homes and apartments all around the world that we can rent out. We probably aren't among the top users of Airbnb, in fact, I highly doubt we rank anywhere near the top, but we do consider ourselves frequent users, as we have stayed in 6 "homes" across the US. We first stayed in Hawaii
, then in Los Angeles
, and finally New York City
It's always been an amazing experience. Of course that was when things went our way. For the first time, during our trip to New York, we hit a snag with Airbnb and while trying to resolve the issue, found the side of Airbnb that isn't as enjoyable - customer support.
As a last minute idea, we decided to book a trip to NYC. The plan was to find locations that work within our budget and were in the areas we wanted to visit. For those of you who haven't used it, your best bet for getting a location in Airbnb is to message a ton of Hosts. When you are doing it last minute like us, you have to message even more. We normally set up our trips months in advance, but our trip to New York was going to happen in less than two weeks! We started selecting "homes" based on our criteria and sending out inquirys for a large date range. The plan was to figure out who was open and available for the week of May 5th-13th and then select our top two choices and split the time between them. We like to get the most of our traveling experience and that means trying out different locations in one trip when we can.
We messaged a handful of hosts and as our responses trickled in, we found a few places. Our favorite had pre-approved us.
Awesome! We needed to get them booked so we could book our airlines tickets as well. We messaged the owners and changed our dates to fit, changing the first location to May5th -11th and second location to May 11-13th and booked it. Done Wonderful. After securing the airline tickets and we started talking about the excitement that was to come. We were going to New York! We spent the next few days getting our affairs in order and prepping for the trip.
It was shortly before we were set to leave that we noticed that the price we had been charged was incorrect. We had messaged the host when the price of the first location was $279 per night. The host pre-approved us at this rate. However, as you can see below the price did not change even though our dates did.
Above is the receipt of our charges below is the host pre-approved price. THEY ARE THE SAME (the pre-approved price is missing the $40 cleaning fee.)
$2304 + $144 $40 = $2488!
We had changed our dates, from the 5th to the 11th, but unbeknownst to us, the price did not changed. Instead of paying $279 a night we were paying $384! We were still paying the price of 8 nights! This made our total rate over $500 more than we originally agreed on per night! Somehow while booking everything we had missed this.
This had occurred at our second location at well, which we changed the dates from the 5th-13th to the 11th and 13th, but we were still being charged the same price! Instead of around $100 per night we were being charged $399!
This wasn't good, but surely it was fixable. For both locations we had been pre-approved at the agreed upon per night price we would get in touch with Airbnb and straighten this out. We still had time before we had to leave for our trips. This was most likely a software error that had not calculated the date change we had inputted.
That's when we realized the complex headache that is Airbnb's support. I would like to note that both I and my SO are deaf. We cannot pick up the phone and make a call without a relay service (a person to verbally repeat what we type out) and relay systems and it has been our experience that the majority of customer support operators do not know what a relay system is and hang up before we can make any progress.
It is always in our own best interest to make contact via email or chat system due to the fact that relay service depends on an unknown third party that you are revealing personal information to. Airbnb provides neither for contacting them directly. Airbnb leads you through a complex menu to have you contact your host to resolve the issues you are having, but this was not an issue with the host, this was an issue with Airbnb incorrectly calculating the price of the locations we were staying at.
After going through the menu several times and spending several hours trying to find a way to contact Airbnb themselves we found that the only choice to get the attention of Airbnb was to contact the host, so using their "resolution tool" we contact both of hosts explaining the error and that we would like a refund for the difference. Keep in mind we still hadn't left for the trips yet. We explained to the host that we needed to contact Airbnb and the only way to do that was to have them respond to our resolution request. The first host denied our request for a refund, which put the ball in our court and allowed us to "bring in Airbnb to mediate". Maybe that would get their attention. The second host requested the mediation from Airbnb themselves.
Even though we were upset the hosts didn't agree to the refund we were optimistic that Airbnb would help figure this error out. Unfortunately, we did not hear from Airbnb regarding the request. Our flight was to leave, and we were to arrive at the first hosts apartment in less than 24 hours. We were beyond the scope of being able to request a refund and cancel for the first location. Cancelling meant we would be required to forfeit 50 percent of the agreed price!
The second location had one day remaining before we could cancel for a full refund, but if we cancelled we still had to find an alternative location to stay at. When Airbnb did not contact us by the final day, we had no choice but to cancel on our second host. We apologized for the issue and explained our reasoning and canceled. Luckily, we were able to find another location that accepted us on short notice.
This left us still out of over $500 with our first host. This was tricky situation, we were going to be going to New York and staying at this persona home for 5 days. We didn't know anything about him or what kind of person he was. His reviews were all positive, but that was when things were going well. If we started raising a stink about the issue, he would be able to kick us out of the location. Our only choice was to wait for Airbnb to respond.
By the time our flight left the next day we still did not hear from Airbnb.
Once we arrived at the apartment in New York in the late afternoon, we hadn't heard from Airbnb.
When we woke up on the second day of our stay at the apartment, we hadn't heard from Airbnb.
It was around lunch time 3 days after requesting mediation from Airbnb to resolve this issue that they finally sent us a response.
This was incorrect. Although we had mistakingly booked at that price, this was not the price shown to us while setting everything up. But maybe Wendell didn't have all the details here. So, we would enlighten him and show him that we were pre-approved. We would like to note that the Host DID NOT have custom pricing for these dates. Either the Host raised the price after we first messaged him or Airbnb did. We have a screen shot of the pre-approved price! Surely math and logic would come through -
The attachment was as follows:
It took another day before we heard back from Wendell. We were still in the middle of our first vacation in New York, which is a busy place, with lots to see and do.
So, here we were in the middle of our "vacation" in a strangers home, dealing with this issue.
This wasn't great. Yes, we agreed to the price, it was our mistake for not checking the math before we agreed to it. Silly us for trusting Airbnb to auto correct the price. Perhaps the Host would see the mistake we made. This was tricky though, he had already denied our request, and we don't know this person. We did not meet him when checking into the location. A woman allowed us into the apartment as the Host was away. We didn't want to risk getting evicted from the location. We were in New York City trying to have a great time and not worry about where we were going to end up sleeping that night.
The host was quick and responsive and got back to us in just a few hours,
"Hi *redacted*, completely understand, I will reach out to Airbnb ASAP to get this straightened out. I'm at my parents place for Mother's Day but will reach out shortly. Hope you're enjoying the apartment,
This was a bit reassuring. He wasn’t rude or upset about it. We messaged Wendell to let him know the progress:
That was the last we heard for two days. We moved out of the apartment and onto the next location. By the second day I resent Wendell the above message after no response from him and got back
We have since arrived home from our trip and still have not heard from Wendell or anyone else from Airbnb. We contacted Airbnb again on the 14th and 16th and still have not heard from them. Since, we are no longer a "customer" perhaps they no longer care to work on our issue?
After no response from Airbnb we decided to contact the Host to find out if he had heard from Airbnb.
"Hi *redacted*, I did speak with the Airbnb team - they basically said that since you agreed to the price and were not charged for any extra days by accident that there wasn't an issue with the booking. I'm sorry but the price for the nights you reserved were set weeks before you actually booked the place, there was no deception on my part or mistake on Airbnb's. I thank you again for staying at my place and I will be sure to leave you a great review, I'm sorry about the confusion,
This is upsetting. The Host claims the price was set "weeks" before we actually booked the location. Then how do we have a pre-approved price for 8 nights at $279? Why hasn't anyone at Airbnb followed up with us as well or answered our emails?
In an article written by the CEO of Airbnb in techcrunch
, he called Airbnb - "a case study demonstrating that people are fundamentally good."
We are sorry to say that your fundamentals seem broken and that while Airbnb may go to great length to protect the host, they do not have any concern for the guests.
Despite this headache with Airbnb, we still managed to enjoy our trip to New York. You can read about it at NYC - Day 1
Airbnb contacted us this morning with the following email:
The website error cost us around $622 (we are unsure of how Airbnb calculates their own percenantage fee so that may alter the price a few dollars). While we do appreciate the gesture, it is a very small one compared to the overall cost we had to pay for the error.