Hi guys! I've been a host for a little over a year now with 2 different homes I Airbnb. I had the most frustrating thing happen to me last night and was wanting to see what your opinion is on this situation.
I had some guests book one night at my place. They arrived around 10 pm and messaged me around 10:15 pm saying "I found some bugs in the bed, so I will be staying at a hotel. What's the best way to work out a refund?"
I'm asleep at this point and was woken up by a call 5 minutes later where they informed me of the same thing their message said. I promptly offered them a new set of linens for the bed (we've never had issues with bugs in the bed but it is summer and we did just have our kitchen exterminated because bugs were getting in-- so it's plausible that some migrated). They declined and said they were going to a hotel and wanted a refund.
I reached out to the guests the next morning (actually awake enough to have some semblance of a conversation this time) and asked what the bugs looked like, how many, etc. They told me they found little black marks on the sheet (we have white sheets but there are these little black dots that look like someone marked it with a sharpie in one of the corners that I just can't get out --I'm actually pretty sure they are ash/burn marks-- but don't want to throw away an entire sheet set because of this, especially when the whole sheet is spotless white other than a few tiny black marks). They then found one hair (hair tends to stick to these sheets in the dryer--I make sure to lint roll them when I put them on the bed to avoid hairs--because eww--but obviously sometimes they get caught in folds or just get missed--not saying that's ok, it just happens). This one hair caused them to investigate at which point they found a pencil tip-sized bug between the fitted sheet and mattress protector.
Now, the point of this is not to debate whether I should get a 5-star cleaning review--I shouldn't and can completely understand and empathize with why I would not. I do my best and work tirelessly to keep this place in tip-top shape and I get a "sparkling clean review" 9 out of 10 times but occasionally things happen--as much as I would love to achieve perfection, it has eluded me haha
The question I have is--is it really fair for them to demand a full refund when the only issues they had were the ones mentioned and I offered to give them a different set of sheets (even though the ones they had were clean, it was more about making them feel at ease). It seems to me in a situation like this, the guest should leave a less than a 5-star review but not entirely leave and demand a refund. If this were how people operated, that would mean that if anything were off just a bit, people could just storm out and demand refunds leaving our calendars booked out with $0 in payments. There are definitely situations where the host is in the wrong and a refund is completely understandable and expected--(such as pipes breaking, bug infestations etc.) but this is a situation where I feel I provided a solution, it wasn't a bug infestation, there was one bug and the place was spotless and adorable (according to them) other than the above mentioned.
What are your thoughts?
@Rachel1619 I understand that to you, it seems unreasonable, but guests arriving at 10PM and then finding a bug and a hair on the sheets would be a real turnoff. If they had arrived in the middle of the day and let you know, so you could go over and deal with it, long before it was bedtime, that might have been different, but guests having to change the sheets, when they've likely had a tiring trip and just want to shower and go to bed soon- I don't find it that odd.
If I were you, I'd take this one on the chin and refund them. If they were trying to cancel a week-long reservation for full refund, I'd not have that view, but a one-nighter- sometimes it's better to just refund.
If you don't, you are likely to get a low star review all around, not just on cleanliness.
@Sarah977 and @Mark116 if they have an issue with the cleanliness, they should give me a chance to correct it. Especially if it's so easily fixable. It seems like more of a hassle to go search out a hotel, drive there, check-in, etc. then to just have me run over and change the sheets...I live in the house right next door and I had extra clean sheets in the Airbnb so they could have done it themselves if they didn't want to bother with me. Not defending a bug, but it was the smallest bug I've ever seen and it was between the fitted sheet and mattress protector so they had to go searching to find it. It was almost as if they were looking for a reason to leave, as odd as that sounds.
I get that it's only one night but one-nighters make up a majority of my bookings, so it really doesn't seem right to me to let someone ask for a refund for a fixable issue just because they're there for a night vs. 2+
Mark, those are some helpful tips, thanks for those!
@Rachel1619 Yes, there are lots of guests who just look for an excuse to leave and get a full refund. Certainly not anything I'd defend. What jumped out at me was you saying the guests said that otherwise, the place was spotless and adorable. Most guests who are scamming, I don't think, would bother to say something like that.
I could be totally wrong, but it sounds to me like they really were turned off by the hair and the bug. If I were a guest, I wouldn't be- it wouldn't be that big a deal- I'd probably just brush off the hair and the bug, as long as the bedding looked and smelled clean. I wouldn't even bother mentioning it to the host.
I wasn't saying you should refund because I think it's really a legitimate reason for a refund, nor do I advocate hosts catering to guest demands and silly complaints, or ignoring bad behavior over fear of a bad review, but only because it was just a one-nighter and eating the payment might be less of a hassle than having angry guests, an overall bad review, or them contacting Airbnb to say there were bugs because they're upset about not getting a refund.
@Rachel1619 I'm going to say yes. The reservation was only for one night, so it isn't as if they cancelled a multi day stay and you're losing a lot of money. We mostly clean the airbnb ourselves so I can sympathize that hairs and so forth are hard to always catch, but, that said, if you go to bed and you first find a hair, then a dead bug you are well within reasonableness to decide to leave and to expect a refund.
ETA...whenever possible [of course we don't have any guests now], we do the beds with all the blinds up to let in as much light as possible to catch any potential hairs, you would also be surprised how helpful your phone's flashlight app can be for doing a final walk through and shining it on beds, counters, appliances etc. I've uncovered all kinds of previously unseeable spots doing this.
@Rachel1619 If the guest has an issue with cleanliness, they are obliged to give the host a chance to correct it before pursuing the refund. Under the circumstances you describe, a full change of the linens (including mattress pad) would have been sufficient for a reasonable guest.
However, if the guest specifically claimed they found bedbugs rather than some unspecified bugs in the bed, you have a different kind of issue. Small stains resembling black sharpie marks could be caused by bedbug feces, and they could also be caused by an enterprising scammer with an actual sharpie.
I don't have any direct personal experience with these creatures, so hopefully other hosts can advise about how to inspect your furniture for an infestation. But because tiny red or black spots is often the first indication, you'll want to demonstrate in your correspondence that you're taking appropriate measures.
Have the guests already canceled the booking, or is it still active?
I've actually had an inspection done and it's not bed-bugs luckily!! It was literally one bug they found (it's called a silverfish--not dangerous at all). The marks appeared after I had a long term stay where the person smoked inside (even though it's against my rules) so I'm almost 100% positive it's from small ashes falling from a cigarette.
That was my thought--if they have an issue with the cleanliness, give me a chance to correct it. It seems like more of a hassle to go search out a hotel, drive there, check-in, etc. then to just have me run over and change the sheets...I live in the house right next door and I had extra clean sheets in the airbnb so they could have done it themselves if they didn't want to bother with me.
@Rachel1619 I suppose they must have been super-fussy.... You hear of scammers who spend the night, or worse several nights, THEN find a bug & demand a full refund, thereby enjoying a free stay,if successful , but your guests won't have been scamming, cos they would have nothing to gain by doing what they did.... So presumably they were just fussy....
@Helen350 Really? I would be grossed out to find a hair and a dead bug in the bed. I generally don't have much patience for people who see a spider in the corner and want a refund, or do the white glove treatment to uncover dust on top of the refrigerator or who imagine anything black in the bathroom is deadly mold, but a dead bug and hair in the sheets is different. It would make me feel, rightly or wrongly, that the entire place was not clean.
I didn't realize a bug (the size of the head of a pencil)-- that's not even touching an area they would touch--again, it was under the fitted sheet--constitutes as a bug that would make me feel as though the whole place was unclean and merits a full refund. Especially with the offer of an entirely new bed set minutes within the complaint window.
@Rachel1619 in your shoes I would grant the refund and hope the guest doesn't report me to Airbnb for bugs in the bed, from which it's not a big linguistic leap to bedbugs, which will cause Airbnb to shut you down first and ask questions later if at all. I would also convert the spotty sheets to personal use.
The bug, singular, has been confirmed by bug experts to be a silverfish. Airbnb would have no grounds to shut me down. I'm not going to operate my Airbnb out of fear by handing out full refunds for small complaints just because I don't want to be shut down for an issue that can be disproved. Airbnb is a terrible platform and I can see them doing that but I also think that I could and would have an arguement and proof that they were in the wrong.
As far as the sheets, you're totally right and I'm starting to think I will be replacing them since I do not want to go through this nonsense again! lol
@Rachel1619 so you think Airbnb requires reasonable grounds to shut you down, and/or has a reasonable and logical appeal process?
You asked for thoughts and you got some. What you do with them is up to you.