Travel Tip: How to avoid getting ripped off by Airbnb!


I need to preface this brief post by saying that Airbnb is great in concept and it often gets you superior accommodations at superior prices. However, the company is run by greedy, big business assholes that will screw you whenever they get the opportunity. As it is the fees they take are rather hefty for being nothing more than a glorified Craig’s List of homes, apartments and rooms for rent short term but that’s OK; compare it to other options and if it’s cheaper or offers you something that suits your needs better you take it. You do have to really read the fine print though because Airbnb really allows the hosts to run whatever kind of scams they can imagine as well like overpriced cleaning fees, charges per person even when you rent an entire property and more. I have even seen listings that charge extra for sheets and towels and once even heat! So caveat emptor for sure!

The real problem begins when a host doesn’t deliver as promised. Maybe they try to bait and switch you or even just plain don’t show up. Fighting with Airbnb is frequently a total nightmare. When you submit a complaint first they direct it to a community forum where you have to wait for some idiotic answers from some other users and then the “question” you submitted will “expire” if you don’t sign back in and indicate that “no this is not an acceptable answer” after you received some answers from other users. Then and only then does it get forwarded on to an actual employee. Frequently the employees of Airbnb will fight tooth and nail against you but sometimes if the behavior of the host is really outrageous (i.e. not showing up) they will refund you the money the host received by they will try to keep their “service fee”. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw this, I’m sure it’s in their fine print somewhere but how brazen is this fraud that they would even attempt to keep the “service fee” when they haven’t even provided any service. On the contrary you’ve probably lost time and money because you had to change your accommodations last minute, if anything they should pay you or give you a credit! But no, even if they refund you the actual accommodation charges they will try to steal that fee from you and hope you don’t notice. Sometimes it’s minimal but sometimes it can be significant depending on what you booked and for how long. You should ensure you get all your money back back just on principal.

Here are my tips for dealing with Airbnb:

  1. Always use a credit card so you can dispute the charge if you have a problem. Airbnb’s dispute resolution process is designed to benefit Airbnb first, hosts second, and guests a distant last.
  2. If you have a problem immediately vacate the property if you are already there and in any case submit a complaint to Airbnb right away documenting how the property differs from its description and/or how your host didn’t hold up their end of the bargain. Save this text for cut and paste later.
  3. Just dispute the whole charge with your credit card automatically. Having been on both sides of a lot of credit card disputes it’s way more trouble for the merchant than the card holder. Most cards let you submit a dispute online in about three minutes, if yours doesn’t get one that does. Dispute the whole charge as soon as you can because remember even if Airbnb sides with you they will try to screw you out of the service fee. If you have any documented details that differ from the Airbnb listing and/or the reservation dates and times chances are your credit card company will side with you while Airbnb will fight tooth and nail to try to keep some of your money. Cut and paste the description of the problem you sent to Airbnb earlier and show screen shots of the listing as well as copies of any emails that support your case.
  4. If you have time on your hands (maybe stuck in an airport for a few hours), or a personal assistant go ahead and submit a Better Business Bureau complaint just for good measure, fuck Airbnb for trying to steal from you, let’s make them write some letters.

If you followed my advice above, now you’re in pretty good shape. If Airbnb does not give you a full refund right away which they probably will not you can just say “Fuck you, argue with my credit card company assholes!”, which I absolutely love to do by the way. Your credit card company will put the charge on hold and force them to defend it in a long painful process of letter writing. Some credit card companies will write you back with retarded questions but usually if your original complaint was well written and well documented you can just keep cutting and pasting and sending it back to them and eventually their third world call center retards will get it. If Airbnb does not fight the case you win automatically but chances are you will win even if they try to fight it because they have no case. You cannot sell someone A, provide B and expect the contract to be valid. It’s important to note that this is a different case than a simple cancellation on your side because you changed your mind, in that case of course they can get away with fine print that allows a “cancellation” or “service” fee; what we’re talking about here is when the property says it has a pool and it doesn’t – you have a right to cancel that shit and pay nothing!

Credit card disputes in general are a powerful tool for the Single Dude Traveler. The banks will frequently side with you because they are incentivized to do so. The banker scumbags make money no matter what happens. They skim a percentage off every single credit card transaction that takes place. If you dispute a charge they will just fuck the merchant and in fact they will often screw the merchant with a “charge back fee” which is even more than the skim they would have made on the original transaction. As a card holder you have many options, credit cards are pretty fungible and many are as good as any other so your bank needs to kiss your ass a little bit to keep you on board. With merchant accounts sure you have different merchant providers but you will always get fucked on disputes, always! If you have a merchant account the bank always owes you, no matter what, even if they pay you the next business day they will always owe you money so they can always fuck you. What are you going to do? Stop taking credit cards? Sue them (yea right!)? You’re fucked. So in credit card disputes buyers always have unfair advantages. I’ve been fucked as a merchant even when I had a proof of delivery of the product to the credit card’s billing address and they still stole the money back. I’m getting off on a tangent here though, my point is use credit card disputes to your advantage when somebody tries to fuck you, for a buyer of a good or service it’s an extremely powerful tool.

UPDATE: Found a great website called Airbnb Hell that documents many Airbnb stories from hell. Be sure to check it out.

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