DEAR TRAVEL TROUBLESHOOTER: I’ve had the most harrowing experience with Airbnb. I recently had reservations at an apartment hotel in London. When I arrived, my host told me I didn’t have a reservation (despite paying months before and receiving a booking confirmation from Airbnb). I had no place to stay.
I contacted Airbnb, and it issued a coupon to stay at another apartment. But the pictures were a complete misrepresentation of the apartment. The host even admitted that some of the images were wrong and apologized. Since it was getting late, I spent one night in the apartment and checked out the next day.
I ended up booking a hotel out of my own funds, spending $1,875. I spoke with an Airbnb senior ambassador, who agreed to refund only $500 of the hotel and issue the rest as an Airbnb coupon.
There were pretentious apologies with no real solution for the duration of my remaining trip. I was short of funds to spend during the rest of my vacation because of this new hotel I’d booked with my own money.
Forced to use the coupon code for my next stay despite the horrible experience we had, I tried logging into my account to utilize the coupon, only to find that they had blocked my account. Can you help me?
— Mehar Satsangi, Mumbai, India
ANSWER: Wow, talk about a bad stay. Just about everything that could go wrong with an Airbnb experience went wrong.
First, Airbnb should have conveyed your reservation to your host in London. It’s not clear what went wrong. Did the host have the reservation and then turn you down when you arrived? Or was this a glitch with Airbnb’s reservation system? Either way, Airbnb should have taken full responsibility for it.
Airbnb’s rebooking guarantee (found at www.airbnb.com/help/article/2868/rebooking-and-refund-policy) promises to assist you with finding “comparable or better” accommodations. But that didn’t happen. Instead, you ended up in another apartment, the pictures of which were not representative of the property. Two strikes, Airbnb.
But Airbnb wasn’t done with you. After promising you a credit for future use, the company disabled your account. That’s three strikes.
So are you out of luck? Maybe not. I reviewed your correspondence with Airbnb, and you were clearly upset. That may be why Airbnb banned you, although I can’t be sure. Your chats and phone interaction with the company may have crossed a line.
What would have worked? First, you want to invoke Airbnb’s rebooking guarantee in your correspondence. Airbnb promises to take care of you when a host cancels your reservation. You also could have reached out to one of the customer service managers at Airbnb. I publish the names, numbers and email addresses of the Airbnb executives on my consumer advocacy site at www.elliott.org/company-contacts/airbnb-customer-service-contacts/. I also have a free guide on how to book your next vacation rental (www.elliott.org/answers/how-to-rent-vacation-home-ultimate-guide/) so that this never happens to you again.
I contacted Airbnb on your behalf. The company restored your account and issued a refund for the full $1,875 as a coupon code. You also report having a productive conversation with an Airbnb manager about everything that went wrong with your apartment. Hopefully, Airbnb will use that information to ensure this will never happen to anyone else.
Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy (elliottadvocacy.org), a nonprofit organization that helps consumers solve their problems. Email him at [email protected] or get help by contacting him at elliottadvocacy.org/help/.
(c) 2023 Christopher Elliott
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