Our Bad Experience With AirBnB Rental Had A Happy Ending

airbnb-bedroom-quebec

While on our road trip through Canada, we rented a two bedroom apartment in Quebec City.  The reviews at AirBnB were great and made the place sound clean and well-appointed.  It had a large kitchen with plenty of room for us to cook.  The living room was spacious and had enough seating for our family of five.  The bedrooms had comfortable beds and plenty of linens.

When I first walked in and the host toured me around his apartment, I thought, “hey this place looks great!”.  I was taking in the big picture of where we would be relaxing and enjoying our vacation for the next week in this beautiful city.  As soon as the host handed over the keys and left, Mrs. Root of Good looks at me with this look.  It’s hard to describe, but it’s the “oh no, something is really wrong” look I rapidly discovered.  It turns out the place was filthy and I was somehow enamored of the big picture of the place and didn’t pay attention to the tiny, crusty, hairy, grimy details of the general state of filth of the place.

Hey, it looked clean enough from a distance...

Hey, it looked clean enough from a distance…

We knew the owner had a cat, but we requested the cat not be present during our stay due to mild allergies suffered by one of our kids.  We didn’t know the owner would leave us with an apartment filled with the cat’s weight in cat hair.  Adhering to all the upholstered surfaces in the living room, the furry critter’s discards made inhabiting the apartment nearly impossible for us.  I’m not talking a little cat hair stuck to the couch and rug and wispy hairballs floating across the floor as we walk by.  I mean 3/4″ of pure unadulterated cat hair quilting everywhere we might have chosen to sit.

I make it sound like the cat hair was spread out everywhere around the apartment.  However that’s far from the truth so I don’t want to oversell it.  Some of the cat hair was highly concentrated in one place.  The owner left us with a trash can half full of cat hairballs (and the cap from a new stick of deodorant).  Bizarre, I know.  I wish we discovered it on the first day instead of later in the stay.

WTF.

WTF.

The cat hair was only half the problem.  The floors were incredibly grimy and dirty.  I didn’t realize how bad they were until I took my socks off (we were there to relax, right?) and after a few minutes of walking around the soles of my feet turned black.  Not good.

Two rounds of sweeping and mopping later and I managed to bring it down from DEFCON 5 to DEFCON 3.  In non-military parlance, that means just a moderate amount of grunge instead of the initial thick coating of grunge.

Somewhere during hour #2 of cleaning some other dude’s apartment, I started getting a little disheartened.  Sure, travel is supposed to throw the occasional challenge at you to keep things exciting.  But I seriously didn’t know what to think or do.  While completing the second round of mopping and sweeping, I was still committed to making the apartment rental work (after a little more cleaning, of course).

Improvised sofa cover (=bed sheet from the linen closet).  We tried, folks, we tried.

Improvised sofa cover (=bed sheet from the linen closet). We tried, folks, we tried.

While I was busy getting the floors to some reasonable level of cleanliness (all I ask for is “reasonable”), Mrs. Root of Good found the vacuum cleaner and started battling the blanket of cat hair in the living room.  Those valiant efforts didn’t last long though.  I can’t recall what she figured out first.  It might have been that the vacuum cleaner sucks in the pejorative sense (as in it doesn’t produce an adequate vacuum pressure).  Or it might have been that the vacuum constantly trips the circuit breaker (cleverly hidden behind artwork hanging in the kitchen).

living-room-airbnb-dirty-1

A few hours into our less than pleasant stay, we started to get hungry.  Heading to the kitchen, we discovered it wasn’t much cleaner than the other common spaces.  Pink mold surrounded the sink basin and faucet.  Countertops, cabinets, and kitchen table were all slightly sticky to the touch from years of substandard cleaning efforts.

The floor continued to get dirtier even though we would wipe our feet on the kitchen rugs constantly.  We soon discovered it was the rugs that were actually soiling our feet due to being heavily saturated with an emulsified mixture of cooking grease, dirt, and cat hair.  I rolled those rugs up and stuck them somewhere before mopping (again).

What cat hair?

What cat hair?

Mrs. Root of Good made the call that the kitchen was not fit to cook in, and that we would be escaping our den of uncleanliness for dinner somewhere clean.  Smart choice!

The bathroom was reasonably clean, so we were able to enjoy some nice hot showers and steal a few moments away from the filth.  As soon as we woke up the next morning we both realized this apartment wasn’t going to work out.  We quickly made the joint executive decision to cut our losses and move on.

I found out we could cancel the AirBnB reservation and get a full refund (less AirBnB reservation fees) for the unused nights remaining on our reservation.  I only had 30 minutes to cancel before incurring costs for another day, so I went ahead and processed the cancellation and immediately received a refund for the last six nights of our stay.

At that point, getting a refund was secondary to getting out of that apartment.  We spent the rest of that day sightseeing around Quebec City.  After a day of touring the town that we had planned on visiting over the course of a whole week, we returned to the apartment, packed everything we could into the trunk of our Accord, and went to sleep for night number two in our dirty apartment.  First thing the next morning we set out for the long drive back to North Carolina.  Home.  And cleanliness.

I can agree with half of this:  Behind the couch is a great place to store Christmas wrapping paper and a cat turd.

I can agree with half of this: Behind the couch is a great place to store Christmas wrapping paper and cat turds.

After returning home, I called AirBnB to see what they could do to make our poor experience better.  The phone representative seemed genuinely shocked about the conditions at our apartment, and suggested I send any photos of the filth to them.  The phone representative said she couldn’t promise anything, but that AirBnB would review my case and take the appropriate action (if any).

AirBnB eventually reached out to me after a week or two and offered a full refund of the customarily non-refundable AirBnB fees and a full refund for the two nights we did stay in the apartment.  In other words, our entire stay at the apartment turned out to be dirty, but free.

AirBnB also apologized for the condition of the apartment and gave us a $150 AirBnB credit valid toward any future AirBnB stay anywhere in the world.  They also reaffirmed their commitment to assist me with finding last minute alternative accommodations should there ever be a similar problem with a future rental.

 

Thoughts on AirBnB

As far as I’m concerned, AirBnB ranks up there with Amazon and Ebay for buyer protections.  They looked at the facts surrounding my problem and made a sensible decision to keep me happy as a customer.  Instead of losing me as a customer forever and leaving me with a poor impression of their business, they left me with some positive goodwill toward their operations.

I won’t hesitate to consider their rental listings in the future (along with competing lodging choices from other vendors).  The apartments and houses I found while browsing on AirBnB were competitively priced compared to hotels in the cities we visited.  Other vacation rental sites like Home Away and VRBO.com had a decent selection of properties, but didn’t seem to have very competitive prices or flexible booking terms.

AirBnB’s site has an intuitive and robust search interface that lets you drill down with filters to find exactly what you want, where you want it, when you want it, and within your desired price range.

If this sounds like sales copy for AirBnB, it is.  I think they have a compelling business model of connecting consumers of lodging with owners of lodging.  They allow people to make a little extra money off their house or apartment, and provide vacationers with a more affordable and more spacious alternative to a hotel.

Unfortunately the occasional issue arises, but if my own experience is any indicator, they work to make things right.  I would encourage you to take a look at AirBnB’s listings the next time you need a place to stay while on vacation.  If you want to save $25 off your booking, please click through this link.  (Note: Airbnb gives me $25 toward my next stay if you sign up through my link and complete a stay).

 

Updated January 28, 2015:  Looks like this owner took his rental listing off of airbnb.  One less problem property…

 

Have you ever stayed in an AirBnB or similar rental?  How was it?

 

41 comments

  • Good on them for making it up after the fact.

    Is the apartment still listed? Seems like AirBnB has a responsibility to take the listing down so that other people aren’t deceived.

    Do you know what recourse you would have had if you’d needed to stay in Quebec for longer? Would AirBnB put you up somewhere else? Lots of people don’t have a schedule as flexible as yours.

    I’ve had generally good AirBnB experiences, but the cleanliness thing has always been somewhat subpar. In my experience they are never as clean as they should be. Cheap, great location, and a kitchen usually makes up for it… but I also have a high tolerance for dirt 🙂

    • “Is the apartment still listed? Seems like AirBnB has a responsibility to take the listing down so that other people aren’t deceived.” – See my comment to Insourcelife.

      After talking to Airbnb, they said I should have called them immediately and they could have helped me find alternative accommodations. I took a look online and didn’t see anything in town on airbnb for less than 3x what we paid, so I didn’t even bother calling airbnb at the time. I also didn’t feel like packing up our stuff, 3 kids, and then unpacking and trying to get settled back in. We were worn out by that point and wanted to relax more than we wanted to tour around the city (and our “staycation” upon our return home was awesome!). I guess airbnb would have put me up in other accommodations or in a hotel and maybe covered the extra cost. They alluded to that on the phone when I called them after returning home.

      Our other apartment rental in Montreal was 98% clean and I couldn’t complain at all really. It was obviously cleaned well before we arrived. Not quite “hotel clean” but clean enough.

      After seeing how Airbnb made things right, I wouldn’t hesitate to rent through them again, but I might do some more due diligence and not aim for the absolute cheapest properties!

  • I have a high tolerance for accommodation quality vs. price when travelling (i.e. don’t mind staying in 2 start motels to save $$) but this looks gross. We have a cat and tend to grab a vacuum before someone is coming over our house even for a short social visit. I can’t imagine living in these conditions let alone renting out the place to strangers for money. AirBnB did the right thing here – I wonder if they do anything with the host? Tell them to shape up or drop the listing? Out of curiosity, did you mention to them that you run a blog or did they decide to do the right thing without any prodding at all?

    • It was really bizarre to see how dirty the place was. I kept waiting for Ashton Kutcher to jump out and steal grab the mop out of my hands and say “You got Punk’d!” but by hour #2 of cleaning I just wanted to relax on a couch not covered in cat hair. I figure with a working vacuum cleaner, some rags and some cleaning products we could get the place pretty clean in a day (or pay a house cleaner a couple hundred bucks for a deep cleaning??).

      I’m not sure how they penalized the host, if at all. He still has the listing for the 1 bedroom and bathroom (but no access to the other BR or living room and front balcony). Those areas are pretty clean.

      I can tell the host is getting frazzled by his response to some of the comments. “The cat is annoying” is a common comment/complaint, as is “the house rules are strange – like making us wash our own dishes after breakfast” and “no access to kitchen during the day – only a quick continental breakfast, we wanted to make tea during the day”. I think he keeps people out of the kitchen because it’s so dirty.

      The host deleted his listing for the whole apartment (but kept the 1 BR/1 BA only listing) after we booked but before we stayed. In hindsight, that should have been a sign. Probably others had complained about the gross factor.

      I didn’t mention my blog and figured I’d get treated like a mere mortal when making my complaint. I didn’t even ask for a full refund or any credit, just to have them address the issue and give me whatever they felt was appropriate.

  • Did you throw your weight as an affiliate around in order to get a refund?? “Now you listen here, ma’am, I run a big blog and influence a lot of people with a lot of money…”

    🙂

    Sorry about the wrapping paper. I agree, it is ridiculously disgusting to store it behind a couch.

    • I thought about using my 800 pound gorilla status as a blogger to persuade them to give me better service, but didn’t. I was curious how mere mortals were treated by Airbnb.

      And that wrapping paper was gross, wasn’t it? Who wants to find Santa peering up at them like a creeper from behind the couch.

  • That is hilarious. I haven’t had a bad experience yet with a vacation rental. Not really bad anyway. I’m still waiting for the one time. I’m sure it’ll happen sooner or later. Hey at least the owner got a free cleaning out of you!

    • Yeah, it was hilarious in a way. More so now that we aren’t living in the middle of it and we aren’t a thousand miles from home.
      We considered the fact that he might rent out the whole apartment periodically when he’s looking for a deep, thorough cleaning.

  • Yikes. I’d run from that place. I’m deathly allergic to cats so that is the first thing we ask when we rent off of airbnb.

    • One daughter has a mild allergy (as in she can’t pet a cat then rub her soiled hands all over her face, otherwise just a bit of red eyes and maybe running nose). She ended up being fine, but the 2 year old had a little stuffy nose (could have been cat unrelated).

      We knew he had a cat ahead of time and asked that the cat not be present when we were there. I guess we should have asked how much cat hair he was leaving for us to clean up! 🙂

  • Oh my goodness, that is seriously disgusting! Glad you were able to get a refund – I should think so!

  • Oh man, I can’t believe that someone renting an apartment out would keep it that dirty and expect to get away with it! Maybe they only had cat lovers stay in it previously who didn’t care and he left the cat there? Or maybe a bunch of relatives just left their reviews, haha.

    I haven’t used AirBnB yet, but was planning on using it for a trip next Summer. Glad to hear that everything worked out for you in the end as that gives me even more confidence to use the service.

    • Could be he had a bunch of cat lovers staying there before. It’s a mystery to me. The only thing I could figure out was that he had a listing for a bedroom and bathroom only, and a separate listing for the entire place (including living room and kitchen). The BR/bathroom only rental wouldn’t be so bad – it was relatively clean.

  • We have two cats, and while I can’t disclaim the occasional hairball in a corner I rarely go into, I try to keep the house as clean as possible despite them. I don’t worry about the couch and their “beds” – which are specific spots on our beds, but if someone was coming over to visit much less stay, I’d be going over the house with a vacuum and broom!

    • I think that’s pretty standard procedure. Clean up a bit before guests come over. If the host would have done that and the couch and floors were reasonably clean, we never would have needed to move furniture and roll up all the filthy rugs in the first place and discover all the hidden dust bunnies (or complete fur-cats in our case).

  • I’m on the other side of the coin, as I use airbnb to rent our house every summer while we travel.

    From the property owner’s perspective… airbnb is pretty good. We also have our house listed with HomeAway, so I can make some comparison.

    As a property owner, what I don’t like about airbnb is exactly what rootofgood likes. Airbnb takes the payment from the customer, and is solely responsible for deciding if a refund is due, etc. They (airbnb) are in the entire transaction of the rental from start to finish, including the money.)

    Compare that with HomeAway, where they merely put the renter in contact with the property owner (who pays a flat yearly listing fee). In that case, we must use a different payment mechanism to accept payment, handle refunds, etc…

    So the airbnb system works great for property owners since it’s very very simple and efficient. That is… until we got our first renters who enjoys their 2 week long stay at our house, made NO complaints and did not mention any problems to our property manager. Then after their stay, they contacted AirBnb and complained… and they (airbnb) promptly refunded the rentor’s money by withdrawing the amount from our connected paypal account.

    So ya… “buyer protection” is great. But it is a massive liability for the propery owners, who have absolutely no recourse whatsoever should there be any kind of dishonesty on the part of the rentor/buyer.

    I suggested to airbnb that they should have some kind of condition/inspection report that we could use, to “prove” the house is in acceptable condition… but they declined saying it wouldn’t be reasonable to expect the renter to complete it. I next suggested that no refund should be allowed after the 2nd day of rental, since continuing to stay implies acceptance and no problems… and I never heard back from them after that.

    So now, for airbnb rentals, our property manager is forced to meet the customer at the front door of the house and go through an inspection report with them manually before we deliver the keys. I don’t know if even that would protect us should we encounter another dishonest renter… but it (I hope!) is a major deterrent.

    Anyway, that’s my 2 cents about airbnb from a property owner’s perspective.

    Also, as a renter who has used them myself several times (with my family), I think they’re awesome.

    • That’s great to get the perspective from the other side of the situation! That’s pretty crappy that the guest complained and got a refund of all rent. I can’t imagine what would motivate the renter to be vindictive and ask for a refund without contacting you first (assuming there were no severe problems).

      Between Airbnb and Homeaway, which do you prefer overall? I’ve been thinking about what to do with our house when we go out of town for weeks or months (most likely during the summer) and wasn’t sure if trying to rent out our house was worth the trouble. Right now, we have a close relative who’s willing to house sit for us as necessary (for free!) and he even pays a part of the utility bills. However making an extra $800-1000 per month for the periods when we are gone would bump up our travel budget quite a bit.

      • Hello,

        >> I can’t imagine what would motivate the renter to be
        >> vindictive and ask for a refund without contacting you first

        Honest, I think they simply planned it from the start. There’s a lot of dishonest people out there who have absolutely no problem stealing from anyone they can. Airbnb is a safe haven for such people, since “the customer is already right”, and those people know this and exploit it.

        The airbnb people said the renter did not give any explaination. They requested a refund from ebay, who granted it to them. Consequently, airbnb was “forced” to either swallow a loss or recoup their money from us. So that’s what they did.

        In the end, anyone paying with paypal or a credit card can request a refund for pretty much any reason. There’s no “proof of delivery” for this kind of thing, so paypal and the credit card companies are always going to refund the consumer’s money. And then we, the vendor, get screwed.

        It’s the cost of doing business, I suppose, and property owners are not exempt.

        >> making an extra $800-1000 per month for the periods when we are gone

        This is exactly what we do. We go away for the summer every year, and we use the money from renting our house to pay for our airfare, etc…

        >> Between Airbnb and Homeaway, which do you prefer overall?

        Homeaway.

        I feel airbnb has the better website, and as a renter I really like their setup. It really works well, and it good. However, as a property owner, I hate the fact that it’s airbnb who 100% decided how the money works. We have zero say in it. If the renter complains, airbnb will refund them unless there’s some way to prove the renter is incorrect. This means you (the property owner) must be sure to have an inspection condition report upon first entry of the renter… which means you have to have someone there to manage the property, etc…

        With homeaway, the payment part is up to you. You can request a check from the renter, wire transfer, or whatever. There’s a lot more work for you, as the home owner, and for the renter… (since they can’t just enter their credit card and *poof* it’s done)… but the “protection” is worth it, I think.

        That being said, last summer we did 1/2 our rentals through airbnb and 1/2 through homeaway. The summer before it was 1/4 through airbnb. So airbnb is growing fast, and if you don’t list your house on airbnb you are losing out on a lot of possible renter eyeballs.

        We’ll continue to use both homeaway and (unfortunately) airbnb, as I think airbnb is a necessity since so many people are using it now. Hopefully airbnb will figure out a way to minimize renter fraud, but as I mentioned… ultimately it isn’t their choice. The renter can request a chargeback from their credit card or paypal, and even airbnb can’t fight that.

        • Thanks for sharing your experience with both. I can see where the owner’s protections are much better at homeaway. It’s hard to believe Airbnb would give a full refund without some form of documentation. Especially if the renters stayed the entire time. Guess there are unscrupulous folks all over. Hopefully that will be an isolated occurrence for you.

          • >> It’s hard to believe Airbnb would give a full refund
            >> without some form of documentation.

            I don’t think they really had much choice. It’s likely the renter paid with either paypal or credit card, and then did a chargeback or dispute directly with paypal.

            So airbnb was probably told their money is being taken away from them (since they can’t really contest a chargeback or paypal reversal as there is no delivery record or any way to “prove” the renter is lying).

            They (airbnb) then turned around and took the money back from the property owner (me), since they aren’t in the business of losing money.

            The only way this could have played out differently is if:

            – airbnb decides they’d rather lose the money and keep the property owner happy. (ie: It wasn’t my fault the renter did a chargeback, so airbnb either splits the loss with me or eats the whole thing themselves.)

            – airbnb can come up with some way to successfully contest the chargeback from the bank or paypal. This would involve requiring a condition inspection report, and possible a dozen other difficult-to-implement actions to cover the many possible reasons the credit card bank or paypal would allow a chargeback.

            • I see what you’re saying. Yeah, airbnb probably decided to stick you with the loss. I haven’t looked into airbnb from the owner’s side, but it’s good to know about possible risks.

              Ebay is like that – they tend to favor the buyers over the sellers. I’ve had situations where I wasn’t sure if a buyer was scamming me on refund requests but it wasn’t worth the effort to dispute it given my poor chances of winning a dispute without any real evidence. Luckily the USPS free priority mail insurance mostly offset my losses in one case.

    • As an regular AirBnB host rapidly approaching “SuperHost” status, it’s my impression that prospective guests place way too price-sensitive and not sufficiently quality-sensitive. That is, in choosing between a rental that’s listed for $75 (a night) or one that’s listed for $100, they’ll usually go for the $75 version. It’s a lot easier to write “up” a rental than explain a higher price, so in an auction situation — which AirBnB is — it’s more likely to err in terms of choosing an inadequate, in this case “dirty” place rather than one that costs “too much.” Inexperienced renters especially fall prey to this heuristic all the time, as did the renters in this case.

      It costs the host to hire a professional cleaner, which is reflected in the price of a quality rental. Get over your cheap self if you want a guaranteed good rental.

      (… And when a host says he or she has a cat (as we do and say), it’s generally unwise for a person with an allergy to rent from that host, whether or not they clean well.)

      As for AirBnB’s role in all this, it’s in it for the money. It chose the auction method of provisioning customer demand, so it necessarily must go for volume to make its nut. This means promoting low prices to customers, not value. Too bad. Then you have these sorts of situations occurring, which serve no one well.

      One last note: having now encountered a guest who played the cat cambit as a way to avoid paying up and simultaneously make a few hundred dollars by getting an undeserved rebate, I put nothing beyond anyone. Caveat emptor! Caveat vendidor!

      Still, we enjoy very much serving our appreciative guests. Even if we don’t get rich doing so. It’s all about service, loyalty, trust, and honor.

      • Thanks for providing your perspective as an Airbnb host, Sol.

        I find your comments a little curious. Are you suggesting that guests should accept a genuinely dirty place as a given in a lower priced rental?

        I mean, if it’s disclosed in the listing, I’m okay with really dirty places being offered up for rent on airbnb, but the listing should really say “Hey, I don’t clean the common areas so it’ll probably be dirty when you get here. And I like to roll around in cat hair on my couch and don’t own a functioning vacuum cleaner anyway.” If the listing said that, I would have moved on to a different listing for sure! Otherwise, I figured it would be reasonably clean (not perfect). I don’t think it matters to the guest whether the host cleans it themselves or whether they hire a cleaning service. Reasonably clean is reasonably clean, and I certainly give plenty of leeway when it comes to what constitutes “reasonably clean”. If this place we stayed at was reasonably clean, this article wouldn’t exist and we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now.

        As for the cat at this place, we knew about it and were okay with it. Our friends have cats and just being around furniture that cats have been on doesn’t bother our allergic kid that much (and if it does, there’s benadryl). This place didn’t set off her allergies. But it was dirtay! Not just the cat fur, but cat feces, cat litter, pink slime/mold around the kitchen sink, grime, grease, and dirt on the floor, etc. The problem wasn’t a lack of professional cleaning, it was a lack of cleaning at all (other than inside the 2 bedrooms and the bathroom, which were “reasonably clean” other than the bedside trashcan full of cat fur balls).

        Sol, I hope your guests have a better experience than we did at this particular rental in Quebec City. We had a pleasant stay at the one other airbnb rental we stayed at. And we trust the service enough to rent 2 more places for this summer’s trip to Mexico. We did learn to read a little more into the rental descriptions and pay attention to a lack of pictures or unusual things in the description or photos that might tip us off to a bad host.

    • I agree with this as well and discovered this blog doing research for a similar experience I’m having currently.

      This is my first time here so apologize if any offense is taken by the lengthy response but feel compelled to share my story. Rather than explain everything from scratch (which I’ve been doing a lot if lately), I’ll just share the review I write for the guest.

      I received a message from Airbnb today stating that a full refund was given to the guest. The email also states that we don’t meet Airbnb’s cleanliness standards. I am baffled. I have been a travel agent for years and havestayed in countless 5-star hotels. I know exactly what clean is. I keep my places pristinely clean and would put it up against the cleanest Hotel in America any day of the week.

      In fact I’m so anal about it that I require pictures to be taken before and after each cleaning which helps me determine if there are any things missing or broken as well as provide proof specifically in case of issues like this one. But more so, it comforts me when I’m not around so that I know everything is being done like it’s supposed to be done.

      I just cannot believe that Airbnb is giving this person a refund. This is despite my loyalty, track record, ratings, reviews, proof that we delivered an impeccably clean space, offered a full refund, proactively engaged Airbnb moments after the guest arrived and and took absolutely every precautionary measure and reactive resolution possible.

      Here’s the review I left for the guest which explains:

      Mr. Guest was a delight to deal with during the booking process but the pleasantries ended when he arrived at my place.

      I’ll start with the facts, the first of which is that my space has received five star cleanliness ratings 100% of the time. Secondly, after each cleaning, the person cleaning my space is required to take pictures of each room, some from multiple angles, in order to be paid. This is all done through an Airbnb Host Management app called “Properly”.

      Here’s what happened from my perspective: I was out of town when Mr. Guest arrived “disappointed” because the space was dirty. I apologized profusely and immediately sent my co-host to the space to take care of any issues or concerns. Despite this being a perfectly reasonable reaction, Mr. Guest turned my co-host away when he arrived stating he didn’t want the problem to be solved but instead, wanted a refund.

      If Mr. Guest had an issue but refused to allow us to fix it, I couldn’t possibly justify a refund, especially after looking at the pictures of the space taken minutes before Ron arrived, in the Properly app.

      Wanting to make sense of the situation, Mr. Guest was asked for pictures backing up his claim. Obviously, having seen the pictures we took already and knowing how clean the place has always been after each cleaning, I doubted the legitimacy of Mr. Guest’s claim to a degree, but wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. After all, I didn’t have visibility to every square inch of the space so there was a possibility something was dirty that I couldn’t see in the pictures.

      After Mr. Guest refused to let my co-host take care of the problem, demanding a refund instead, and didn’t want to backup his claim with pictures, my doubt quickly turned into suspicion.

      Wanting to get in front of any baseless claims that might result in the guest getting a refund, I called Airbnb for guidance. Also, for help contacting the guest to resolve this because I was going to be unreachable soon due to traveling. My co-host remained reachable and nearby, of course.

      I explained to Airbnb that each of my attempts to resolve the issue with the guest were met with push back and unreasonable logic. Despite this, I did take Airbnb’s guidance by authorizing Airbnb to waive my cancellation policy and offer a full refund so that Mr. Guest could stay where he would be happy. After all, I want every guest to have the best experience they’ve ever had and I was much more likely to make that happen if Mr. Guest stayed somewhere else.

      In the end, Mr. Guest stayed at my place, didn’t want to move, didn’t want us to fix the problem and didn’t want to back up his claim with pictures. He did still want a refund though. It would be unfair of me to classify Mr. Guest as one of those people who falsely complain their way to free products, free services, free food and free stays but there is certainly a chance of that being the case here. Further supporting this is the fact that Mr. Guest is a brand new Airbnb user with no reviews and recent registration.

      I have a few recommendations for Mr. Guest, depending on his true intentions: he should get in touch with his conscience, seek to understand the fundamentals of problem solving or he should better align his expectations with reality by familiarizing himself with the important key differences between someone’s personal five star Airbnb space and a conglomerate-owned five star hotel room with way too much money to care if they give away free stays.

      I have high hopes for Mr. Guest and believe he is capable of becoming the quintessential Airbnb guest but until that transformation happens, I couldn’t possibly recommend Mr. Guest to other hosts and feel good about it.”

      • That sounds insane and unreasonable but there are people of all kinds out there. I guess the good news for renters is that Airbnb is very lenient on their refund policy. They make it sound like it’s hard to get a refund but I had no problem and it sounds like Mr. Guest didn’t either (in spite of evidence that there wasn’t a real problem that couldn’t be fixed).

  • I know this post is old. but I just happened across it.
    Just wanted to tell you that DEFCON works the other way around from what most people assume, meaning DEFCON 5 is “Lowest state of readiness” whereas DEFCON 1 is “Nuclear war is imminent”.
    That suggests you actually made things worse, not better, by cleaning…

    • Ha ha, good catch! I should know that after playing the “DEFCON” computer game where the action starts at DEFCON 5 and proceeds to DEFCON 1 as nuclear war gets closer.

  • We had a similar issue (only ours was the undisclosed high crime rate in our landlord’s Brooklyn, NY Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood). After we booked and then complained about our crime findings, the landlord herself (who had a strict AirBNB cancellation policy) suggested we look for another property; saying it was her job as a host to ensure our complete satisfaction. When we agreed to do so, and repeatedly stated we expected a full refund in following through on her wishes, she pulled a bait and switch on us and ended up keeping all of our vacation money. When we escalated our case to AirBNB corporate, they refused to help. We basically got screwed out of $1200+.

    Turns out, the landlord’s property is in violation of the City of New York’s strict housing code that prohibits a number of properties from renting. This one definitely fell into that category.

    We have enjoyed at least three previous great stays via AirBNB, but this last one is so patently unfair – and punishing to us — 5-star A-Rated guests. Looking at AirBNB corporate, it’s clear that many of the problems and complaints are being “resolved” by junior league help desk personnel being paid minimum wage, who follow what appear to be inconsistent, subjective and constantly changing rules. We even wrote to Brian Chesky, AirBNB’s CEO (who proudly posts his email address on the web) but got zero response. Chesky’s problem is that he’s just a few years older than the wet-behind-the-ears lackeys running their support desk. AirBNB is a great idea, but it leaves far too much room for error with pathetically little oversight. This leaves the potential for thousands of unhappy customers, like me, to bitterly complain about the unfair, egregious way we’ve been treated. We WILL get our day in court with AirBNB. We are far from being finished with them.

    • That’s a pretty crazy story, and something I always think about when booking. It’s hard to really know what the area around your rental will be like. And since many of the rentals (like yours in NYC) are in the city, it could be in a bad area. I like to check out google streetview to see if the area looks “sketchy” before booking, and will also ask the host if the area is low crime and safe. So far, so good (in our travels in Canada and Mexico).

      And that’s wrong that the host told you she would give a refund yet refused to do so and you relied on that promise to book another place. There’s actually a legal principle called “detrimental reliance” that might cover your exact situation if you end up in small claims court (I’m not currently a lawyer, this isn’t legal advice, and get your own attorney and all those disclaimers here 🙂 ).

      Hopefully Airbnb will make good on protecting you as a guest, especially if you can show the record of communications with the host and her promise to refund. Good luck!

  • We are currently in our first night (of 6) in a similar situation. Mouse poop, mould and generally nasty home. Not sure what to do. Going to call AirBnb tomorrow.

    • Definitely give them a call. They might be able to find you better accommodations without any extra money out of pocket, or at least get you a cancellation without losing rental fees or airbnb fees. Sorry this happened to you and best of luck in a tough situation.

  • I’m reeling from a similar bad experience with AirBNB — arrived at my Brooklyn suite to find it dirty, reeking of smoke, with a torn mattress and broken glass. My initial echat with Airbnb was that I had to document the problems, which I did, including a GIANT BAG OF MARIJUANA left on a shelf on the nightstand. I moved out after three days and paid for another place, and the owner refused to refund my money as did AirBNB. You are right, this is being legislated by junior help desk personnel. And because I cancelled my reservation, I am not even permitted by the interface to go online and give the listing a bad rating! I have now contested the payment with Amex and will write a story about my experience, as I am a journalist. But I am still out $2000 and feel totally let down by AirBNB.

    • Wait, they left you a complimentary bag of feel-good herbs and you’re complaining? 😉

      Honestly, that really sucks. I know how disappointing it is after a long day of traveling to get to what you thought would be a really nice accommodation only to realize it’s dirty and messed up inside. I hope you get a full refund (and I bet you will since you’ve documented the issues) and maybe a free credit for future airbnb use like I did. If not I imagine Amex would refund you the $.

      We have booked through airbnb after our disastrous stay and the results have been good. Nice large places to stay for less than the price of a basic hotel room.

      • My last post was on May 9, 2015, while we were still caught up in AirBnB fever. Since then, we quit the biz entirely.

        Our final straw was a surly guest who, in a hissy fit with his partner (who was delighted about staying with us, even brought us a box of candy), cancelled their stay on arrival, complaining about some imaginary problem, knocking down our hard-earned five-star rating on the verge of our becoming a Superhost. He then demanded (and got) a refund from AirBnB on grounds that … well, he and they never explained. After a terribly amateurish “mediation” proceeding, conducted by some marketing prole, AirBnB refunded the guy’s deposit, costing us $400. AirBnB was totally non-supportive nor did it care a whit for our five-star rating.

        What a bush operation AirBnB is, when you get right down to it. All cobbled together, its main advantage being loads of money that enable it to lobby for laws and regulations that benefit it and no one else. Oh yeah, a great brand. Until you look under the hood.

        AirBnB is Craigslist on Steroids. What does it care about hosts or guests? It’s just a value-pricing exchange based on volume of deals, enabled by shrewd and antisocial political lobbying. Its website compares vacancies in a way that brings rents down to sub-profitable levels, pitting local hosts against one another, making it uneconomical to operate as a business. The only thing the host “enjoys” is a meager cash flow. Given how much time and material it costs to run an AirBnB rental, the resulting cash flow for the hosts who thoughtlessly or helplessly accept this human bondage is at or below-minimum wage. Our home is a gem, worth many hundred-thousands of dollars; a lyrical, historic Mid-Century Modern construction. Staying in our home on the edge of the desert is divine, especially for the larger groups — families, etc. — who were a lot more fun than most singles or couples. For all our input and work, we earned about $15 an hour. AirBnB pocketed more.

        A far better way to operate shareable housing will be for hosts and guests to own the exchange, keeping all the cash in flow and providing even better service and savings. This concept is at the heart of the Platform Cooperative movement being organized by Professor Trebor Schultz at New York’s New School and organizations and individuals around the world. (See http://platformcoop.net/.) Using block-chain technology and similar innovations, hosts and guests will operate their own cooperative exchanges, similar to AirBnB but without the monopolist CEOs and VCs who current run the show. Platform-coop exchanges will, I predict, put AirBnB, Uber, and other platform monopolies out of business; that’s how the Internet works.

        The magazine Shareable (http://shareable.net/) discusses these issues frequently. Tools are now being built that will enable home-sharing homesteaders — hosts and their customers — to kick the corporate bullies out of the business, making it work better for all of us.

        • From my perspective as a renter, I love the increased competition. It drives the price down for us and makes airbnb type rentals much cheaper than hotels in my experience. It sounds like you’ve had a very negative experience renting through airbnb so I wouldn’t blame you for withdrawing from that market.

          • Thanks for your candor, Justin. Let’s just say, we tired of AirBnB making it possible for renters like you to exploit our hospitality on the cheap. We like charging less than a hotel, especially for people who appreciate our home and our service. We didn’t like charging less than it cost to suit your parsimony.

  • Had a similar experience except we decided not to stay…. They kept all the money and have not refunded us…

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