What to do if a guest may be putting themselves at risk?

in
Morton, Australia
Level 2
496 Views

Superhost here, with a conundrum AirBnB seems unable to address.

 

We recently contacted AirBnB and asked them to cancel a booking a few hours before the guest was due to arrive because a bridge required to get to our place became too dangerous to cross. We could not contact the guest (nor could we cross it ourselves to warn anyone approaching).

 

We were acting in accordance with AirBnB's own policy (https://www.airbnb.com.au/help/article/2022/can-a-host-cancel-a-reservation-without-adverse-conseque...) which says in such circumstances it is OUR RESPONSIBILITY to contact AirBnB and ask them to cancel and we can do so without adverse consequences. This is exactly what we did. But then we got hit with a cancellation penalty. Why? We can't figure out what we did wrong, or what we should have done instead.

 

Even the guest agreed (later) that we had done the right thing in the circumstances. We have asked AirBnB for advice on what we should have done in case a similar situation occurs again, and had zero response to this question in almost a week now. They just keep saying the penalty cannot be waived. Ok, but that's not actually answering the question we asked!

 

So, I will ask here ... what SHOULD we have done?

Tags (2)
15 Replies

Re: What to do if a guest may be putting themselves at risk?

in
Daylesford, Australia
Level 10

You did everything by the book. 

Re: What to do if a guest may be putting themselves at risk?

in
Morton, Australia
Level 2

Yes, we thought so too. AirBnB disagrees, but cannot explain what we should have done instead.

 

Perhaps there is NO WAY for a host to deal with this issue without incurring a penalty? If so, might an unscrupulous host be tempted to just ignore the issue and hope the guest goes away and cancels? Either way, the guest gets their money back and the host makes none - but by simply pretending you didn't know about the issue, an unscrupulous host could avoid the US$100 penalty.

 

Thanks goodness there are no unscrupulous hosts on AirBnB! 🙂

Re: What to do if a guest may be putting themselves at risk?

in
Daylesford, Australia
Level 10

I cancelled via airbnb once because of a fire nearby potentially approaching .  Short notice, a few hours. No penalty. Same deal. There is no way you are penalised but CS reps are not always very good, nor consistent. Ring, message, do not stop. This is wrong. QLD is flooding. 

Re: What to do if a guest may be putting themselves at risk?

in
Daylesford, Australia
Level 10

I did have to explain a lot about what fire means in my region  since I was talking to someone in another country. Also directed them to a news site. It did the trick. I have no history of cancelling guests for whatever reason. If you are a solid host, they can see that very clearly. 

Re: What to do if a guest may be putting themselves at risk?

in
Morton, Australia
Level 2

" If you are a solid host, they can see that very clearly. "

 

I don't think they care any more. They now have so many hosts on their books it is cheaper for them to lose a few than to employ people to engage with hosts in any meaningful manner.

 

We have just had yet another bot-generated reply saying "your penalty will not be waived". I keep writing back and saying we are not interested in the penalty, we just want to know what it is we were supposed to do.

 

It seems there are no actual people left in AirBnB Support. It's just an algorithm. And not a very good one.

Re: What to do if a guest may be putting themselves at risk?

in
England, United Kingdom
Level 10

@Ross634 have you tried calling them? At least you'll talk to a person

Re: What to do if a guest may be putting themselves at risk?

in
Morton, Australia
Level 2

Yes, we have called, emailed, and posted messages on Twitter and Facebook. The last time we called, we got told our "Support Ambassador" was on another call and would call us back ASAP. They never did. Instead, they just sent the same canned reply we have had several times now, which is that the "penalty cannot be waived".

 

We can't seem to get them to even understand the issue.

Re: What to do if a guest may be putting themselves at risk?

in
Berlin, Germany
Level 10

@Ross634   It's unfair that you were penalized for trying to do the right thing. I think the underlying problem was that Airbnb no longer has in-house customer support staff that is capable of dedicating time to a ticket and comprehending the nuances of a situation. Even if it was a human that received your support ticket rather than a bot, the only thing they got out of it was "activate host cancellation protocol."  It is possible to cancel penalty-free if you're speaking directly to an agent on the phone, but reversing a penalty that's already been applied is like pulling your own teeth out.

 

In this particular situation, I think the best thing you could have done would have been to advise the guest of their options and let them decide whether they wanted to pursue an Extenuating Circumstances cancellation from their end or change their booking dates. It definitely complicated matters that you weren't able to contact the guests, but cancelling a booking won't stop anyone from crossing a bridge - especially if they're not able to receive notifications. A message of warning would have been sufficient.

Re: What to do if a guest may be putting themselves at risk?

in
Morton, Australia
Level 2

"It definitely complicated matters that you weren't able to contact the guests, but cancelling a booking won't stop anyone from crossing a bridge - especially if they're not able to receive notifications. A message of warning would have been sufficient."

 

Yes, in hindsight this may have been better ... except that this is in direct violation of AirBnB's written policies, which clearly state that it is our responsibility to contact AirBnB and cancel the booking in these circumstances. Which is what we did.

 

This is the bit we are finding hard to understand. And, I think, AirBnB Customer Support is finding it equally hard.

 

Their answer seems to be to just refuse to engage.

Re: What to do if a guest may be putting themselves at risk?

in
Berlin, Germany
Level 10

@Ross634   I interpreted that policy somewhat differently. It's true that you as the host are responsible for cancelling a booking if the extenuating circumstance would make it impossible for you to fulfill the booking even if the guests managed to arrive safely. For example, if a storm flooded your home or knocked out the utilities, the onus would be on you to initiate the cancellation. However, my understanding is that you don't have to be the one to cancel when conditions such as road closures or bad weather prevent the guest from reaching the destination.  Basically, everything outside the boundaries of your property is outside of your jurisdiction, so you're not required to get involved with it (even though, of course, providing relevant safety  advice is just plain good hospitality).

 

What should have happened is that when you called Airbnb to explain the situation, an agent who's well versed in the policy listened carefully to you, explained the options available to the guests (cancel or request a date change), and steered you away from any actions that would have resulted in penalties. 

 

Unfortunately, they don't seem to have this kind of quality customer service anymore. Getting a confused outsourced agent or nascent AI involved only makes matters worse, so it's usually best to do whatever it takes to avoid contacting CX.

Re: What to do if a guest may be putting themselves at risk?

in
Jersey City, NJ
Level 10

@Ross634  I would think if you are willing to spend enough time you can eventually get the penalty waived, but you will have to keep messaging with the Airbnb TOS that are applicable, literally cut and paste their own guidelines and include documentation on the danger.  Keep referring back to the TOS.

Re: What to do if a guest may be putting themselves at risk?

in
NY, NY
Level 10

I had a well run dry a year ago @Ross634 and had to cancel half a dozen bookings.  I got a customer service representative on the phone and explained that I was going to refund every guest fully but didn't want any black marks on my record, and she sorted out all 6 cancellations at once without any penalty to me.  She just needed an email from my plumber.

 

At the time I felt she was so relieved she wasn't going to have a squabble about refunds that she didn't stop until she'd taken care of the whole thing.  But perhaps the difference is that this was my property, whereas the bridge was outside yours, as @Andrew0 notes?  

 

In any case, I agree that you should sit on CS as @Mark116 says until you get the penalties waived.  You've got right on your side.

Re: What to do if a guest may be putting themselves at risk?

in
Oregon City, OR
Level 10

Similarly to @Ann72 , we've twice had to cancel  on short or no notice due to water supply issues, and have not been penalized. But it's been some time and I hope we don't have to do it again as I would not be sanguine about the outcome under the current CS regime.

Re: What to do if a guest may be putting themselves at risk?

in
Jersey City, NJ
Level 10

It seems like the moral to this story is that if you have to do any kind of cancellation that could or should be considered neutral, never do it yourself and expect things to work out according to the policy, always involve Airbnb in real time.  

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