Yesterday I had an experience, where Airbnb customer service chose to punish the host (me) for playing by the book and rewarded the guest for lying to Airbnb and to me. While I'm used to Airbnb throwing the host under the bus in a different circumstance (https://community.withairbnb.com/t5/Help/Guest-damages-apartment-customer-service-refuses-to-grant/m-p/721157#M162527), I was shocked how readily Airbnb disregarded their own policies snug up to a deceitful guest.
A guest made a reservation over two months ago for 5 guests —let's call her Eve. As Eve was going to check in within a few days, I messeged her to see when she was planning to arrive at the location, so I can meet her. She didn't respond to my Airbnb messages and it appears she disconnected the phone number she had listed on Airbnb. Three days later, I still hadn't heard from Eve and she was about to check in within two days, so I involved Airbnb. When she saw Airbnb's message she immediately called me on a different phone number. When I asked her when would she and her friends would be at the apartment, she craftily slipped it in that all SEVEN of them would be arriving at 2:00 PM.
The building management has policies for the maximum number of guests we are allowed to have. I explained to Eve that they had made their reservation for 5 guests and I would not be able to accomodate 7 guests, even if I had agreed to it. Eve said should want to cancel, then, and hung up.
An hour later I received this threatening message from Airbnb customer support:
My name is Tahji and I am a case manager from Airbnb Trip Experience. I am reaching out to you about your reservation with Cijie with the utmost of urgency. This is an urgent time sensitive case and I must hear back from you by 24 hours. As a reminder, if I do not hear back from you, I will need to take the appropriate actions by canceling the reservation and providing a full refund to this guest; host penalties will be applied in addition to this.
Please write back or give us a call at +1-415-800-5959 to discuss this further.
Eve had called Airbnb and told the agent that I had full knowledge that there would be 7 guests total from the beginning. She apparently said that we had a phone conversation, in which I had confirmed to her that they can bring 7 guests. Of course, I denied this baseless claim and pointed out that I wouldn't confirm their booking for 5 guests, if this was true.
It is prime time peak season where my listing is located. This booking had been active for over two months. Tahji decided to cancel Eve's booking with no fees or penalties, because she wasn't able to "Neither confirm, nor deny that [I] had spoken with [Eve] on the phone and said that they could bring 7 guests." I received no reimbursement.
Good luck, fellow hosts. I hope you never have to deal with Airbnb customer service.
TL;DR: The guest disobeyed Airbnb policies by intending to bring more guests than declared on the booking. Airbnb disregarded their own cancellation policy, based on the groundless claim of a guest, who had already lied about number of guests, that I had told them over the phone that it would be ok.
I might be wrong but... In the case of a cancellation like this where 'theoretically' the Host cancels - which is how this is being treated, won't the guest be able to review you too despite not ever having stayed?
Is that right @Ian And Anne-Marie1 ? I've never cancelled on a guest and never had a problem with a guest in this manner. I guess I'll have to wait and see. If this guest is able to leave a review for this bookin I will definitely post an update. That would just be the cherry on top.
@Gulay1 Not sure... I'm searching community at the moment. I'm sure I've seen it somewhere. The best thing would be to contact CS and get confirmation (hopefully not).
Lots of posts where guests have cancelled/not even turned up and still left reviews. :-(
Thank you for the heads up, @Ian And Anne-Marie1. I certainly didn't cancel this booking, but I'm not sure how the case manager filed it on the system. I guess, if the case manager decided that I made the cancellation, I will be receiving a review from this guest too. Wonderful.
To be fair, @Ian And Anne-Marie1, they didn't block the dates. There is no difference, however, between cancelling a reservation two days before check in without any penalties and blocking these dates. They are virtually identical in how they affect the host.
As the cancellation was made two days before arrival, it won't be possible for host or guests to review each other. I think that perhaps the posts @Ian And Anne-Marie1 are referring to, are probably relating to same-day cancellations where the guests haven't even checked in to the property, but reviews are still permitted.
@Gulay1 Do you have Instant Book enabled for your listing?
@Gulay1 Good reason to turn off Instant Book. Have you noticed a drop in bookings during that period?
Also, just wondering... I notice that you have a £38 charge per extra person over 4 on your extra charges. Were you also providing free accommodtion to those extra guests as well? If you were accommodating 7 you would be applying for extra fees - but didn't. Did you point this out to Airbnb CS?
The number of days I've had booked decreased slightly since, but that could also be attributed to decreasing the maximum number of guests I allow. When I had Instant Book on my capacity was 8 adults and about half of my bookings were parties of 8. I can't say for sure, but I feel that turning off Instant Book hasn't had a significant effect.
I did point that out! I said exactly that I doesn't make sense for me to accept a group of 7 for the price of 5, since I charge more for larger groups. CS did not care. All they cared was that the guest's claim of a phantom phone conversation (that never took place).
@Gulay1 Cynical of me... and playing devils advocate... and in hindsight.. 7 guests instead of 5 and £38 extra per person (maybe $50 ea.) over 4, might have £152 or $200 been a worthy addition or were the vibes from this guest so negative that it wasn’t to be considered?
I like rules. This way you invest in yours?
Actually, @Ian And Anne-Marie1, the guest didn't want to pay a cent more. She just wanted to bring more guests for the same price or cancel. Again, in hindsight, I'm actually glad a she never set foot on my property. Good faith is very important when doing business in general, I've come to believe. She definitely wasn't acting in good faith.
This has been my experience as well. I had all dates booked out during the school holidays which included the Easter break and a customer cancelled her three day booking ( for next week) because she got the wrong dates. She thought she had booked the Easter weekend. How on earth can you get Friday-Sunday booking mixed up with a Sunday-Wednesday booking? So she cancelled leaving me high and dry now with three days vacant during peak times as everyone else has already made arrangements weeks in advance. The sad thing is the customer is an air B&B owner herself. So I lose three days $ and vacancy filled because she changed her mind. This shouldn’t be allowed as a reason to cancel in my opinion.
I see that you have a Moderate cancellation policy. You have a beautiful cottage, by the way, I love it! If this is a recurring theme for you, like it was for me, I would suggest considering changing your cancellation policy to Strict.
We are not hotels, after all. A hotel is rarely fully booked at any given day (unless they're doing very well), whereas our rooms go from fully booked to 0% booked with a single cancellation for those given dates.
When you choose a moderate or flexible cancellation policy you're betting on the odds that you will attract more guests and book more dates that otherwise wouldn't be booked with a Strict CP, than number of days that go unbooked, because a guest cancelled too close to their check in date.
I honestly don't know what the better option is. It may be different for different cases. It's a business decision that you'll have to make. I use a Strict CP for my listing, because I receive almost all of my bookings months in advance and I don't recall receiving a booking earlier than 3 weeks in advance. I imagine this is the case for most listings that have a higher occupancy limit, i.e. host bigger groups as opposed to a single guest or a couple. So, if I had a Moderate CP and a guest cancelled the booking a week in advance, I would lose those dates 100%.