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This is an answer to Connie’s question “Just wondering if any of you are having any luck trying Air BnB?”  I decided to start a new thread on this, since I think it is a substantive issue.

I have used Airbnb a few times, with positive experiences up until last month, when a host canceled my reservation.  The host, who is listed as a Superhost with all good reviews, canceled my fully-paid-for reservation “because a family member needs to use it”.  I was refunded my payment by Airbnb, but am not happy that my reservation could be canceled on a whim with no repercussions or remedies offered.  I concluded that Airbnb is the reverse of the normal hotel room reservation system:  with a hotel room, the guest can often cancel right up to the date reserved without penalty, while the hotel cannot.  With Airbnb, the guest cannot cancel, but the host can without any penalty.  This does not make it a very valuable service for business people, including artists, who need reliable accommodations.  I for one do not intend to use Airbnb in the future unless there are no other alternatives.

You may be as surprised as I was that a host can cancel your reservation with no repercussions.  On the Airbnb web site https://www.airbnb.com/help/article/990/i-m-a-host--what-penalties-... they state that a host who cancels a reservation will lose their Superhost status and that there will be an automated review posted on the host’s listed “that can’t be removed” indicating that a reservation had been canceled by that host.  But almost one month after my reservation was canceled, the host is still listed as a Superhost, and there is no automatic review posted.  Airbnb will not allow me to post a review, because I never had the chance to rent the condo. 

Also, note the language “that can’t be removed”.  That implies that hosts can remove any customer written reviews that they do not like.  Looking around the internet, there is a general consensus that Airbnb hosts remove reviews that are not to their liking.  So you cannot trust the reservation system, cannot trust the penalty system, cannot trust what they say Superhost means (“0 cancelations” – see https://www.airbnb.com/superhost ), and cannot trust the reviews.

After my bad experience I looked around the internet and discovered lots of Airbnb horror stories.  One person even described Airbnb as “a paradise for fraudsters” (which introduces a whole other set of risk factors).  Caveat Emptor!

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Comment by Reid Watts on August 30, 2018 at 11:49am

I suppose that if you are in the business of renting out part of your house, or are in the market for such a rental, Airbnb is the only game in town.  However for renting whole units, there is significant competition (HomeAway / VRBO, Vacasa, Booking.com, even TripAdvisor, plus lots of local outfits and property managers).  So I have to wonder, given Airbnb’s bad reputation for host cancelations and other horror stories, why either hosts or guests would use Airbnb over the alternatives.

HomeAway aka VRBO reportedly has better customer support than Airbnb (which appears to be universally viewed as horrible), but it also has a host cancelation problem, although it may not be as bad as Airbnb’s.  Their terms are vague – they state “Members are prohibited from cancelling a material number of accepted bookings”, but they do not define what “material” means, or what the consequences are.   Perhaps that works better?

Airbnb is very clear on what they claim to do for host cancelations, which is reassuring for guests until you discover that they do not actually implement their own policies (which means they are engaging in false advertising).  The host for my cancelation is still listed as a Superhost (which means “0 cancelations” per Airbnb), and there is no automatic review posted about the cancelation (as per Airbnb’s policy).  It appears from her calendar that by canceling my 3 day reservation she was able to book a 5 week one, so I think that was the motivation behind canceling my reservation.

Booking.com requires that their hosts find another accommodation for a canceled guest.  That takes some of the incentive away for cancelations and provides some comfort for the guests.  But unlike Airbnb and HomeAway, Booking.com is not necessarily in the payments business: your money may go directly to the host, and it is the host that charges your credit card, does any refunds, etc.  According to their terms, it the host’s policies on cancelations that prevail.  But they are primarily used to dealing with hotels, not condo owners.

Vacasa is a property management business: they have physical presence with all of their listings, and it is they who maintain the property, inspect it against their standards, take care of any issues that arise while you are there, rent it out, take your payment, etc.  Owners block out dates that Vacasa rents out: it is Vacasa who sets the rates, collects the rents, deals with refunds, etc., not the “host” or owner.  They have no published policy on “host” cancelations, but it may not be as much of an issue as with AirBnb, Booking.com, or HomeAway (which Vacasa classifies as “Advertising Companies”).  They probably have to abide by hotel regulations, unlike AirBnb, etc.

AirBnb, apparently in recognition of one of its flaws, has launched a new service called Airbnb Plus that actually inspects properties before they can be listed.  But their cancelation policies are unchanged.

TripAdvisor has also entered the game by purchasing FlipKey and renaming it Tripadvisor Rentals.  Their terms for host listings state: “Travelers will be able to see the number of cancellations you have initiated, as this figure may be displayed next to Your Property Listing.” Perhaps that will work better at discouraging host cancelations, but I could not find a “number of cancelations” figure next to any of their listings that I looked at.  They do put a “Visited by TripAdvisor” label on some listings, which is comforting.

I think that AirBnb is the only one that has the “you review the host and the host reviews you” public review system, augmented by a private review system, which, along with perhaps some editing, deletions, and instant relistings, creates a game resulting in perfect reviews for almost all listings.   

I have used all of these except Tripadvisor Rentals.  No issues, so far, with any of them except Airbnb.

Comment by Tina Hospers on August 28, 2018 at 5:37pm

Sorry for the typos in my post - I was typing too fast.  LOL.

Comment by Tina Hospers on August 28, 2018 at 5:33pm

O.K. all - I must jump in here.  I AM an Airbnb Host at 100% 5 star reviews for my hosting and my property.  We were doing this as a part time venture while getting the art business started.  I have a luxury home and 7000 sq ft of space, so it meant plenty of space that I could share to others and help fund the art business.  Now, 1 yr later, having the art take off, we no longer have time to be Airbnb hosts and have blocked our calendar from potential customers.  That said, there was a glitch in my calendar a couple weeks back and someone snuck in for a few nights.  As we had a show scheduled, I was forced to cancel this person and wrote them a very nice note about the calendar glitch and cancelled their reservation.  They were VERY understanding (it all depends on the host and how the message is sent).  I was also sent a WARNING letter from Airbnb about cancelling clients and that since I had never done it before, they would let it go.  So - Airbnb does NOT approve of cancelling clients but they realize that things happen.  Good Hosts (which we ARE) with all 5 star reviews are very conscientious of our guest relations.  There are a LOT of us out there and it takes due diligence to make sure you are staying at an Airbnb that is reputable and to do your homework - just like you would with ANY HOTEL YOU STAY AT.    As a host, I am responsible for managing my own calendar and making sure all clients questions are answered.  Airbnb as an organization only gets involved if there is a conflict with either the host and the guest.  I am involved with Airbnb forums for hosts (less so now that we are 100% involved with our art with shows every weekend) and the horror stories about guests ABOUND.  There is not a lot of protection for hosts when someone tears up their home (this is my private home and I live here) or smokes in their room (forbidden in my home) or steals from the home.  I am not a Craigslist, ebay or other operation.  I have functioned through Airbnb via there guidelines to have clients stay in my home.  I have been fortunate (but also my listing is VERY SPECIFIC on my requirements and rules) and every one of my guests have been great.  It's been a mutually wonderful situation.  I know of MANY hosts who have the nightmares of people disrespecting their properties causing thousands of dollars in damage and insurance claims.  In a LOT of those situations, apparently Airbnb backs the CLIENT until proof is provided.  So, for those people here assuming that the hosts are the ones with all the support, it is not true.  When we are going to shows, I always review Airbnb options - because I know great hosts provide great accommodations at generally more affordable costs than hotels.  You get a homier experience than a hotel.  But you MUST do your due diligence and you MUST read everything in their listing as well as asking ANY QUESTIONS about the property to the owner before renting.  It's called homework.  So, since I saw many assumptions posted here, I decided I should jump in and represent the GREAT hosts on Airbnb.  It's a platform like a lot of others.  Have any of you stayed at a hotel that turned out to be a nightmare?  Noise, bad plumbing, traffic, no parking, etc. etc.??  Well - no different.  And, if we weren't doing as well as we are with our art, I would still be doing it - I meant some AWESOME people who couldn't wait to rebook with us for their next holiday.   Thanks for hearing another side of this posting.

Comment by Janet Alexander on August 27, 2018 at 10:22am

I have been using Airbnb since 2012 and I was a Super Host from 2015- 2017. I am in my 60s and feel very safe using Airbnb. Many times I learn a lot about places to go and not to go near from the host. I am a jeweler and must be diligent in my safety. In the last year I will have stayed at over 20 places.

Hosts cannot remove comments. At All. I never canceled a reservation at the last minute so I cannot say weather it is true or not that Airbnb posts a review that the host canceled.

I have had only one time when I needed to leave due to allergies to a cat in the house. When I book a home I not only look at the reviews but at the neighborhood via Google maps. Airbnb supplies a map of the approximate location. I then virtually drive down the streets in that location. I look for pawn shops, bars on windows, etc. 

For the space, room, I look for a private bath, and a lock on the door. I don't book a place that is too cheap, you get what you pay for.  Most of the places I have stayed at the hosts were middle class and upward professionals in their jobs. Some were retired professionals. The average cost is around $65.

I ask the host about parking, is it on the street, do I have to pay, can I park in the driveway, etc. Sometimes I have a trailer and I ask if there is a place to park my trailer. One time I stayed in downtown Tacoma. I have a white truck and a white trailer. The host was showing me where I could park, and realized that my nice white truck and trailer were just asking for a tag from a gang. She told me about a safe place to park and it worked out well. Communication is key! For me I feel safer knowing that someone is expecting me and if I don't show up there is a problem. Also, I don't believe a hotel parking lot is all that safe. This is where criminals are looking to pray on vacationers, and art show folks if there is a show nearby.

I bring my dog with me and at times the host has watched her for me for free. She had a great time while I worked.

Comment by Reid Watts on August 22, 2018 at 8:31pm

A bed is nice too ;)

Comment by Carol Joy Shannon on August 22, 2018 at 9:00am

You couldn't pay me to use Airbnb!  Sorry.  I'm in my 60s and I've seen a lot.  I'd rather stay in a crummy hotel where I know the situation, than someone's property where they have a key etc.  I'm sure people are very nice for the most part, but when there's no regulation, there are no rules.  Besides, I don't need a new best friend.  I need a shower and a TV. Period.

Comment by Reid Watts on August 21, 2018 at 9:58pm

Carol:

You have obviously been lucky. But just to be clear regarding my particular issue, one which you have apparently not encountered yet:

  • It had nothing to do with reading the fine print. The Airbnb fine print stated that she is a superhost which means, according to Airbnb fine print, that she has canceled zero reservations.  But I know that to not be true, since she canceled mine (on a whim, no less).
  • It was not a super cheap listing that was too good to be true. Total cost for 3 days was $556.36, half of which I had to deposit to “hold” my “reservation”.
  • The reviews were glowing. But I discovered that reviews of Airbnb properties are always positive, because customers whose reservations were canceled (the main complaint about Airbnb) cannot write reviews, and apparently because negative reviews can be removed by the host.  Most reliable review sites (ebay, amazon, etc.) on the internet do not allow sellers to edit or remove negative reviews.

My conclusion is that Airbnb is closer to a Craigslist operation than a hotels.com, or property managers such as Vacasa or Home Away, or even ebay.  Airbnb is not a reservation system or a property manager, even though it appears to be.  They are basically an automated posting service with a payments system add-on for people who want to rent out their spare rooms, unrented condos, or unsold houses.  Kind of ebay-like, but ebay is a serious operation with real reviews you can trust and sufficient expert staff to successfully shut down scams and fraudsters and enforce their rules.   

Other things to consider about Airbnb:

  • I read that a woman in Australia created a fake persona for herself, registered with Airbnb, and then listed a property that does not exist – just to show that it can be done.
  • Last year I arrived at my hotel late at night to find that it was literally under water, with a guard at the parking lot entrance waving everyone away. I tried to call the hotel chain for a solution, but kept getting routed to the hotel’s front desk that was under water and unattended.  So then I called hotels.com whom I had made the reservation with.  They immediately rebooked me at a close-by unaffiliated hotel that should have been significantly more expensive, but they honored my original reservation price and transferred the reservation.  What did Airbnb do when my reservation was canceled by the host?  Did they offer to move the reservation to another property that they had listed on their site in the same locale?    Just a refund.  Not even a “sorry” or “good luck”.
Comment by Carol Bloomgarden on August 21, 2018 at 8:23pm

I stay in AirBnBs and have rarely had a problem. You just really need to read the fine print carefully. If it's really super cheap and looks great, there might be something off about it --- but I've done it probably about 25 times now as a solo woman, and have never had a real problem.  Some questionable cleanliness issues in the really inexpensive ones, but you get what you pay for. The only host who cancelled on me was one whose listing really looked WAY too good to be true... I don't know what the scam was but my Spidey sense was off on it which I ignored and I still booked it.  Once out of 25 times... the rest have been mostly great, some I will go back to for next year's shows.

Comment by cheryl davis on August 20, 2018 at 12:26pm

I did several Florida shows and stayed at an Airbnb in West Palm Beach.  Im from CT so for me it was really nice to spend 3 weeks in a large place that was in a nice neighborhood for at least 30 - 50 % of what Id pay in a Hampton Inn type hotel.  I could stock the fridge for weeks and have things to take to shows as well as plenty of room to store extra paintings and leave them between shows so I have an empty van to drive around.  The hosts were very nice and available if needed.  I would give it another try and this time ask the host if theres a possibility of cancelling to let you know since you are traveling for work so it simply not a vacation youre planning.  Also working people tend to take better care of the house since theyre usually not bringing kids and toys and such.  Dont give up...its worth all the added benefits and space (and money saved!).  I had to cancel an airbnb and the host asked me to do it since it was a big negative for the host to cancel.  So there def are repercussions for the hosts.

Comment by Cindy Welch on August 17, 2018 at 5:07pm

I have no experience with ABnB, though a show promoter once offered one of her homes for a show, or a room in the home.  I did not like the idea of renting a room and having strangers (to me) renting the rest of the space.  It would have been dd and me there for the show.  The house would have been too expensive and too much space for us.

Like Lynn, I prefer staying in a known hotel chain in a safe neighborhood.  It is not worth the risk, to me, of saving a few bucks.  Also I don't like the idea of coming "home" to where others are renting and feel I have to have conversations with strangers.  I am usually too tired to carry on conversations.  Dh or dd, yes I can talk to them.  We can recap our day, plan for tomorrow, etc.  I can't have those conversations with  outsiders.

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