The Travel Troubleshooter
When Joel Brown checks into his Airbnb rental, he quickly finds he needs to check out. When the host puts him in an alternative accommodation, it isn’t suitable. Then Airbnb gives him a partial refund, but he wants more. Can our advocates help Brown secure a full refund for his ruined vacation?
Question: Through Airbnb we rented a two-bedroom, two-bathroom condominium in Kauai, Hawaii, for 8 days at a cost of $2,107. Within 36 hours of occupying the location, we discovered a bug infestation, and we were covered in severe bites.
At the host’s belated proposition, with my partner virtually screaming from the bites, we were transferred to another location. Despite originally renting a two-bedroom, two-bathroom property, at the second location we were requested to stay in a one-bedroom, one-bathroom location. We were unknowingly transferred to a non Airbnb location.
The second property possessed nearly unusable internet and also had corroded stairs. Our refund requests to the host went unanswered.
As our vacation was ruined, we are not wealthy and are still suffering from these injuries, we requested a full refund. Following this ruined trip, without examining all the facts, Airbnb claimed we did not sufficiently communicate with it and then determined we should receive a refund of $377 after spending $2,100. Can you help get a full refund and apology for ruining my first week off trip in approximately five years? — Joel Brown, Portland, Oregon
Answer: Wow. Having seen the photos (which you wisely took) of the bug bites you and your partner received, we would love to help you, Joel. It’s clear that accommodations provided to you were not acceptable. You should not have to spend your first vacation in five years getting bitten. And then the host sends you to a property that was not similar in size to your original reservation, with corroded stairs and unreliable Wi-Fi — these conditions were egregious.
We reviewed your paperwork, and it was clear that despite what Airbnb alleged, you did follow the correct procedures. First, you tried to resolve the matter with the host, and when that did not work, you contacted Airbnb.
It said that for future reference you should follow its communication policy and communicate directly through Airbnb rather than with the host.
To me, that policy applies to the booking process rather than disputes. Interestingly, Airbnb also referred you to its guest refund policy. That policy tells you to contact the host, which is exactly what you did.
Having looked at your paperwork, Airbnb decided to refund you only two nights on the basis that you spent those nights dealing with the insect bites. Again, wow.
Airbnb told you that it could not give you anything more because the second location was not an Airbnb registered property. It seems to have overlooked the fact that you were moved by the host, which was an acknowledgment that the first location was not acceptable.
Clearly Airbnb realized you were not happy with the outcome, because the very next day it contacted you to say it had decided to refund you the service fee of $167. Nice try, Airbnb, but you did not do enough.
I am not surprised you contacted Airbnb again — and its response was surprising. It said you might be eligible for a refund in accordance with the guest refund policy, and that it would look at the case — again.
Just when it seemed Airbnb had understood your complaint, you were denied a refund yet again on the basis that you took an alternative non-Airbnb location, and therefore it couldn’t provide a further refund.
In my view, Airbnb was still missing the point that the first location was not up to standard. On that basis alone you should have received a full refund for the Airbnb location. The second location was irrelevant, yet Airbnb claimed that it could not mediate a dispute because the location was a non-Airbnb property.
You did try one last time to resolve the dispute by way of a conference call with Airbnb and American Express (as you had paid for the stay with its credit card). Airbnb was not prepared to offer anything more, and even told you that if you disputed the payment with Amex, you would be banned from Airbnb.
When Airbnb would not provide a full refund, you asked our advocacy team for help.
Our advocates contacted Airbnb, and it agreed to take a closer look at the case. To its credit, Airbnb decided that you should have been refunded when you first complained about the bug infestation and serious bites. It therefore agreed to refund you in full.
To have threatened to ban you is shocking and appalling, since the company hadn’t looked at your case properly.
Let’s give credit where credit is due — it took a while and a lot of persistence from you, plus some help from us, but finally Airbnb did the right thing.
You were very happy with the outcome and said, “From the bottom of my heart, thank you so much. The physical healing and emotional loss of our one and only vacation continues, I’m so very grateful for you help.”
You’re most welcome. We’re glad we were able to help you get back all your money, and we hope you have a much better vacation in the future.
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