AirBNB defends re-listing scammers — I lost $700

TL;DR: There are “Hosts” on AirBNB who copy paste listings from other websites (like Expedia), Jack the prices up, and subtly book them in your name when you make a reservation claiming a hefty profit. I caught one in the act, and AirBNB advised me this is not against their policies, no partial refund would be issued, and removed my review from the host.

UPDATE: For those who think there isn’t a scam here

A little background, my Family (Me, Wife, Daughters 2 & 3) had a trip planned to South Lake Tahoe for Labor day weekend, and our original booking fell through last minute. So 2 days before we would travel, I scrambled onto AirBNB to find a listing. And in luck, we found a condo — It was pricy ($470 / night) but there wasn’t much selection. I also scanned Kayak and only hotel rooms were available and in the $300 range, so we booked.

AirBNB Booking

Ugh, after the cleaning and service fees the total was right on $1,300 (Yikes) But I’d resigned myself to it. We checked in at the “Condo” through a hotel desk, and there was an extra $30 resort fee to pay, but I’d driven 6 hours, wasn’t like I was going to turn around now. And we were in. Condo was fine, cleaners came in the mornings like a hotel, and I would have been none the wiser except at checkout the man at the desk told me that I wasn’t supposed to check out until tomorrow. I explained that I’d gone through AirBNB and he told me that no — I had booked through Expedia. I had him print the receipt.

REAL Booking (Expedia)

Now this is tough, I’ll admit. I’m mad with buyers remorse — Had I searched Expedia I could have saved $737. But I’m also pretty mad at the trumped up charges that my host gave me, and feel taken advantage of. She basically charged me $600 (The cleaning fee was included in the room charge for Expedia) for the privledge of getting to book through AirBNB. And on top of that, AirBNB made a handsome $153 referral fee as well it seems. Maybe I think she put me into another similar unit because hers was full, so I check the host…

80 “Fake” Listings

She had 80 Listings on the site, several mapping directly (and using the same photos as) Expedia Hotel Only listings and those on other sites.

Picture look familiar?

So, like any grumpy ripped off customer would I called AirBNB — I explained what I knew, and sent documentation across. And I requested a refund of the AirBNB fee, the imaginary cleaning fee, and the difference in the nightly rates between the actual booking and what I was charged. After an hour on the phone, and a second call to another agent to be sure I’d heard correctly, the answer? We reached out to the host, and listing someone else’s property is not against our rules as long as the pictures and listing details are accurate. WTF?!

And there you have it… So, in case you are wondering, it’s okay to make a nice profit on AirBNB playing “Travel Agent”, and inflating prices. I left a review with the host saying:

WARNING: Host is re-listing properties from other sites, we checked into a regular hotel that was falsely booked under our name by our “host” and paid $700 more than actual costs for the privledge. Condo was as described, and stay was fine — But search on other sites first and save your money.

AirBNB removed this review stating it “Violated their policies” (Spoiler alert: It doesn’t) — And left up her review of me as a guest, where I get called a Mansplainer and falsely claims that I asked for a full refund, and calls me entitled and ungrateful. Well, I wasn’t very grateful, at least that much was true.

Mansplain’in

I’m unlikely to get my anything back (But will update if something changes) — But wanted to put it out there to prevent other guests from getting ripped off. Sadly:

  • The host will continue doing this as long as there is free money to be made
  • AirBNB will continue to support their efforts as long as they keep getting their cut
  • And even Expedia likely doesn’t care because they get the renter as well

Only people really screwed by this system are the guests. So I’ve written this up in hopes of helping others find a better deal than I got. Check AirBNB because there still are legit hosts there, but double check using a tool like kayak (And make sure to check the box to look in the other sites as well) to verify that you aren’t getting taken for a ride.

Kevin Lohman, Software Engineer, Father, Story Teller, and former US Navy Sailor (who never set foot on a ship)

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