Thursday, August 25, 2016

1 MAJOR Downside of Airbnb Bookings

TL;DR: Be aware hosts can cancel on you as the traveler on Airbnb and you get a small coupon to rebook a property but most likely that won't be enough to find a comparable property.  To look out for hosts who cancel, look for reviews that look like the image at the bottom of this post.


For the most part I like using Airbnb, I've stayed at probably 40-50 different properties through the years and for the most part, I've had good experiences and usually are cheaper than getting a comparable hotel in a comparable area.  (Hotels are usually in commercial neighborhoods vs Airbnbs in residential neighborhoods)

However, this has happened to me twice now, when the host cancels the reservation on you, we, as the renters, are kind of left high and dry.  Just today, we had a booking in NYC for mid-September that was cancelled by the host because she is having work done on her house and that's the only date available for the work to be done (her words, not mine)  Whatever the reason, Airbnb offered us a paltry $16 coupon to book something similar.

$16 is nowhere enough, even if I expanded my price range to $50+ the original booking, there's nothing remotely similar at this time.  That's because unlike hotel rooms, Airbnbs are each unique homes, apartments, etc and once 1 person books that listing, it's gone.  So that when you look for places close to when you need them, you'll be getting the leftovers.

I had the same thing happen for a property in Prague over Christmas/New Years, the busiest time of the year in Prague for hotel bookings, and the host cancelled pretty close to the actual travel date.  Back then (Winter 2014) Airbnb offered a 20% credit but I had booked the room originally 6+ months out.  And lots of hosts had ridiculous demands for bookings during that week (as in ridiculous long minimum stays, jacked up rates etc.) So imagine what slim pickings there was when I had to find something about a month out.  20% was not even close to try to get something similar.  I still had to pay extra just to find a decent place that was further out from the city center.

In retrospect, I should have complained more but I didn't.

So you may want to have a refundable booking at a hotel as a backup if you have an Airbnb booking in a popular location. What I've found is sometimes hosts will have their places listed on multiple sites and if they think they can get a better rate vs what was originally booked, they may cancel on 1 site and list at a higher rate on a different site.  (note Airbnb does not allow hosts to relist on the same dates once they cancel)

And I feel like Airbnb does not do enough to protect consumers and seems to favor hosts (and themselves), as hosts can set pretty strict cancellation penalties.  There is no way for the consumer to be able to cancel without some kind of a penalty.  I do not know if hosts can penalized monetarily for cancelling a booking but they should if they are not already.  And much more than 12.5 or 20%.

Here's a way to protect yourself against this, if you see a listing and if you check the reviews (and you always should) and you find reviews like this, you should be very wary as this means the host cancelled on the guest.  If there are multiple reviews that look like this, I would stay away.


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