Posts Tagged: airbnb

NY Times: Airbnb Horror Story

Early in the evening of July 4, Micaela Giles’s mobile phone started sounding alerts, and a series of messages straight out of a horror movie began scrolling down her screen.

Her 19-year-old son told her that his Airbnb host in Madrid had locked him in the fourth-floor apartment where he was supposed to be staying and removed the key. The host was still there, he said, rattling knives around in the kitchen drawer and pressing him to submit to a sexual act. He begged his mother for help.

Airbnb Customer Service Fail: He Said, She Said

Last weekend we booked our first room through airbnb.  We were excited.  We were going to a friend’s wedding.  It seemed like a great way to save some money, stay in an interesting part of the city, and have a unique experience.  However, a unique experience is not the same as a good experience.

Our first night, things went well.  The host was welcoming and kind.  The room and house were clean and nice.  It seemed great.  The second night, we got a text message from the host saying they would be out late and that a friend was going to stop by and take care of their dogs.  The host has two little dogs.

We were exhausted from a long drive the day before and the wedding that day.  All we wanted was a good night’s sleep.  That didn’t happen.  The host never came home that night and the dogs barked repeatedly, waking us up.  To the host’s credit, they did say we could call if there were any problems.  But, at three in the morning?  We weren’t comfortable calling and thought the host would return soon.  They never did.

Afterward, we wrote to the host and explained about the dogs.  The host’s response back was short and didn’t do much in the way of apologizing.  Next, we asked for a refund for that lost night of sleep and the host said, no.  Moving on, we wrote a review that was overall positive, but did mention the problem with the dogs and that this could be an issue for future guests.

That’s when things got out of control.  The host then wrote an extremely negative and false review of us full of incendiary language.  The host then contacted airbnb and complained about us.  The host misrepresented everything and airbnb apologized to the host and seemed to take the host’s side.  Why?  Was it because the host was an established user and we were not?  Was it because airbnb customer service did not bother to contact us or actually read all the emails?  We reviewed and rated our experience with the host, we did not attack their reputation.

In this situation, airbnb is in a delicate position.  Who is telling the truth?  How do they determine what is correct?  Are there guidelines published on the site?  Most people wouldn’t think that Craigslist would be responsible for deals gone awry, but with airbnb it’s different.  Why is that?  Partly, it’s how they’ve marketed their service.  They are trying to be a business.  They want users to be safe and believe in the goodness of people.

In viewing their terms of service, it’s clear that the host violated them in their review of us.  The terms clearly state that users will not post anything that is “(iii) is fraudulent, false, misleading or deceptive; (iv) is defamatory, obscene, pornographic, vulgar or offensive,” yet, where is the resolution in this?  Airbnb still needs to make a judgement and take a side.  They still need to listen to both parties involved.

It took multiple emails with the host to get them to change their review and that was only after we changed parts of our review.  We didn’t delete our profile, because we felt users needed this information.  However, what is a guest to do when a host attacks a guest’s reputation because they are upset with a review?  How is that fair?

It’s been two days since we’ve contacted airbnb and this morning we received a coupon for our next booking and an apology that looks like a form letter for our negative experience.  We are never using the service again and urging our friends not to use it.  The emails with the host and false reviews sucked up precious time and energy.  Airbnb is not a business; it’s a website with no control over its users.