Guest demanding refund - what is reasonable?

Emilia466
Level 2
D.C., DC

Guest demanding refund - what is reasonable?

Hi all,

This is a first for us so I can use the help of the community. I currently have a guest who demanded a 50% refund. Immediately upon arriving she complains that the house is too cold (@68degrees), asks where the thermostat is and how to turn on both fireplaces and all space heaters. I direct her to the space heaters and the thermostat which is prominently on the wall in the entrance, she claims the ac doesn't work and asks for the fireplace again. The ac works. It takes some time to crank up the heat. I explain how to use the fireplace thermostat in addition to the ac. Turns out the previous guests used all the propane and we are out. I apologize and tell her we will get this fixed asap. She sends me a message complaining about the lack of face cloths and too few towels. I tell her where to find a whole cabinet full of all types and sizes of towels. She then messages me saying that she is not happy because the fireplace is not working, she booked the house because of the fireplace. At this point I offer her a full refund if she leaves. She refuses to leave because it's Friday afternoon. I offer her to stay the night and leave the next morning, and a full refund of her entire stay. She says no, I want to say but I want 50% off. 

At what point does this become extortion? Do I report this to Airbnb? I am sure she will leave a nasty review even though we had propane delivered the next morning. Will Airbnb block a review if I report her? 

I've been hosting for a year and have had wonderful guests for the most part.  Totally taken aback by this. 

What would you do? 

 

Thanks all! 

31 Replies 31
John6614
Level 2
Birch Bay, WA

some people are simply not going to be happy no matter what you do. Thankfully I have only had to deal with a few. One was quite memorable though. He arrived at the unit and I was gardening, crouched behind some bushes so he could not see me when he arrived. As this individual got out of his car he was already agitated and unhappy about something (not sure what) and then proceeded up to the door of the unit saying something like "I don't like it already. This isn't going to work out well, I bet there isn't space for my baggage". Keep in mind he has not even gone inside the rental yet. I waited to say hello until after he got settled but he immediately dropped his bags after crossing the threshold of the door and turned around and exclaimed "this is crap". At this point I walk up and introduce myself and ask him if there's a problem. He tried hard to find fault after fault with the place so I said he could leave and I would give him a full refund. This was a concession on my part because he was past the cancellation deadline and I was assured of losing revenue for the weekend he booked. He accepted my offer to get a refund and I walked away expecting him to collect his bags and leave. Instead, he proceeded to make coffee in the unit, take a shower and deposit an unusually large amount of trash in the garbage bin. To add insult to injury he still left me a 1-star review despite not even staying in my rental. I lobbied Airbnb to have the review pulled telling them this story but my appeal to them was rejected. I almost stopped hosting over that incident but I'm glad I didn't. Today I just shake my head and feel sorry for the occasional guest who simply is not going to enjoy their stay no matter what I do. I cater to the 98% of guests we have who enjoy their stay and who appreciate what we do.

Trude0
Level 10
Stockholm County, Sweden

I find it extremely hard to understand why Airbnb would choose to act (or rather, not act) the way they do in cases like yours. Needless to say, it makes them very vulnerabIe, to have so many of their hosts just waiting for another player to come up and take over. Which I have no doubt will happen, sooner or later.

John6614
Level 2
Birch Bay, WA

That's a very good point. They provide access to the marketplace today and are doing very well because of it. And many hosts like me have a material amount of income that is derived from marketing through Airbnb. I've come to believe that there is no way to screen for unhappy people. And I can attest that having a couple of bad reviews does not affect your bookings as long as you have a majority of positive reviews. What I find aggravating about Airbnb's Superhost program is that it is much easier to obtain Superhost status if you have only a handful of reviews. For hosts with a hundred or more check-ins, a couple of bad reviews can prevent you from being a Superhost. It seems to me that there should be a way to not count those extremely negative reviews since they tend to be part of what one expects dealing with so many different guests. For example, in the last review period, I had 121 - 5 star ratings, 3 - 4 stars, and 2 - 1 stars and I did not achieve Superhost. When I look at those figures I am pretty happy with them but in Airbnb's estimation, I am substandard. That is frustrating especially when I consider the two lowest ratings, in my opinion, had nothing to do with me, my hospitality, or my rental. I think the guests who gave those scores would have rated any place they stayed the same way - they were unhappy long before they came to stay with me.

 

Hopefully, I am making sense and not just sounding like sour grapes - that's not it. My point is there must be some way to look at a series of reviews and see that a host with hundreds of positive reviews and just a few negative ones that there is likely was no way to make certain people happy. Instead of penalizing me as the host wouldn't it make better sense to eliminate the extremes when they are soclearly in the vocal minority

Emilia466
Level 2
D.C., DC

@John6614  Wow, that story is something special. I can't believe Airbnb did not take that review down. Just wow. I am sorry this happened to you but thank you for sharing. I feel a little less stressed over this lady's behavior. I am convinced that she came in looking for things to find fault with, and there will be others of this type. She is finally gone and good riddance! We are composing our review of her group's stay now 🙂

 

John5097
Level 10
Charleston, SC

@Emilia466 

This is the ABB refund policy. 

https://www.airbnb.com/help/article/2868/rebooking-and-refund-policy

The guest may be eligible for a partial refund if a major amenity such as heating isn't working. 

I had a closer look at your listing. 

It doesn't specifically say there is Central Heating. You also said guest complained about it being too cold and then said the AC works, and also guest wanted to know about space heaters. 

If you have central heating you can update your amenities listing. If there are just portable heaters and the said gas fireplace and there was no propane the guest may be entitled to partial refund if one of the primary sources of heat were not working. 

If guest had to rely on space heaters I think the host should be very clear that is how the place is heated. If that's the case, the guest does have a valid point, and space heaters are generally against mast codes for heat source. 


This is your amenities for AC and heat. It doesn't specify what kind of heat source. 
Screen Shot 2022-10-24 at 9.07.15 AM.pngYou can click on your ammenities to specify what kind of AC and Heat are available for guest. This is what Customer Service will go by.  

This is what mine looks like to guest, so host need to be more specific and keep listing accurate and updated. 

Screen Shot 2022-10-24 at 9.16.40 AM.png

These are you options for for heating under amenities. 

Screen Shot 2022-10-24 at 9.18.49 AM.png







 

Hope this helps! 🙂 

Emilia466
Level 2
D.C., DC

@John5097 We have central heating through a split AC system. That's the main heat - the fireplace is gas and mostly an "add on". Hardly anyone uses it, and people regularly leave it on after they leave (thus we ran out of propane). We have a separate electric radiator just in case someone needs it. 

You are absolutely right we need to update, and we will right now. 

 

John5097
Level 10
Charleston, SC

@Emilia466 Great! Good practice to keep checking your amenities regularly as sometimes things get checked off or some bug. 

As sometimes host check radiant heat for space heaters. In reality they just have space heaters that gets to be dangerous and tripping breakers. (Radiant heat would be hard wired baseboards, that is "permeant" source of heat. Space heaters use radian heat but very dangerous and huge risk and liability that insurance likely won't cover.

That just seemed like odd typo as they were complaing about AC and being cold, but its the time of year when might need both. Good luck, I find that being as straightforward and clear as possible helps cut down on these kind of situations! 

If gas fireplace contiunes to be source of frustration and guest hardly use it consider removing it from amenities. Gas is pretty expensive if they leave it running the entire time. But there are always amenities that are kind of like that. 

 

John5097
Level 10
Charleston, SC

@Emilia466 

Sorry this is happening to you. In this situation I would try and cite Airbnb policy and post a link. First the host has the option to have the issue resolved. If propane was delivered then its resolved. If they are expecting some kind of partial refund, Airbnb also does that based on the severity of the issue. A 50% refund for no propane for the fire is too high, might be 20% refund at the most, and that would be very high IMO. You gave her the option to cancel her stay, and she chose not to, which means at most a minor discount or no discount at all. At this point I would go with no discount at all. In this situaiton I would refer them to customer service. She is trying to bully you. If she manages to get 20% discount just move on. Once again I would cite Airbnb policy each time, and provide a link. You already offered the guest the option to leave, even next morning with full refund. She decided to stay so just send link to ABB policy that if guest decides to stay they have to pay. You can't control what guest do so you did your best and don't even worry about it. 

Emilia466
Level 2
D.C., DC

@John5097 Thanks, John! I had never fully read the Airbnb policy until now, but will have a link ready with some prepared language for future use. 

@Richard531 @Fred13 and all who have responded- many thanks! 

One thing that sticks out here and in other threads that I have read: So the guest can be unreasonable and we have no recourse with Airbnb? And no way to block bad reviews? 

 

What stops someone from picking a new listing with, say, 5 great reviews, go there and "find" all kinds of problems and demand refunds? A lousy review on a new listing is a killer. Sounds like a great strategy to get a discounted vacation to me. Thankfully I am not in this boat but it seems no brainer there should be safeguards around this. 

Mark116
Level 10
Jersey City, NJ

@Emilia466  Nothing at all.

John5097
Level 10
Charleston, SC

@Emilia466 

Did you see my post below? What kind of heat does your listing offer? Central heating? Space heaters? Gas fireplace? 

If it only has a gas fireplace and space heaters you have misrepresented your listing and misrepresented the situation here. 

IMO host shouldn't be able to just offer space heaters and gas fireplace for heat source. That would violate building codes in the US. 

If you do offer Central Heat, than this wouldn't apply. Your first paragraph isn't clear as you said the guest was compiling about no central AC, so assumed you mean Central Heat. But if there is no central heat then the listing would be misrepresented. 

Just trying to clarify! Hope that helps! 🙂 

Emilia466
Level 2
D.C., DC

@John5097 Hi John yes, I saw it and I am grateful for the explanation. I responded below - Central heat, gas fireplace which is an add-on, and an optional radiator. The house is kept at 68-72 degrees through the central AC (heat, cold). It was on heat and at 68 when she checked in.

John5097
Level 10
Charleston, SC

@Emilia466 Appreciate the response. I keep it at 70 heat so they don't crank it up. 

With that many heat and AC options there is a risk guest will turn one on Cool and the other on Heat. For example turn down the AC so they can have a fire. Or in this time of year, early Fall, they could accidentally have one on heat the other on AC. 

Maybe some were disabled or let propane run out to keep them from doing that if that has been an issue? 

And seems odd guest would be that upset asking about a bunch of space heaters with so many other options? 

A google thermostat is also helpful. Can put sensors to see the temp and use it, can also set the temp range.   

Anyway glad you updated your AC/Heat amenities in the listing and good luck managing it all. 




Huma0
Level 10
London, United Kingdom

It's a shame that we cannot trust Airbnb CS to back us up in situations like this. There are so many comments here on the CC saying, "Don't get CS involved if you can help it. They will likely make matters worse."

 

Back in the day, in a similar circumstance, I would have just picked up the phone to CS, told them the situation and that I was willing to refund unspent nights and they would have told the guest to leave. Now, you never know what they will do. Every time you call them with a serious issue, it's like playing with fire.

Debra300
Level 10
Gros Islet, Saint Lucia

@Huma0,

 

The concern and lack of trust in CS is that no one, guests and hosts, can rely upon CS them to follow the stated policies, because they don't know them, have no experience with the type of product/service they are supposed to be supporting, and appear to be instructed not to apply common sense.  However, it's not all their fault, because even Catherine has misspoke about policies.

 

Last week, I contacted CS about a guest who sent a booking request, but their greeting message was just three words that weren't even a sentence.  I asked CS to contact the guest, because I hadn't received a response to my request for more information, and said that I may decline.  The CS agent wrote me and said that he sent a message to the guest, and that I can wait "a few days" and then decide if I want to decline.  When I told him that the host is required to response in 24 hours, he replied, "Oh, you're right. My apologies."  A host who is less familiar with the ABB policies probably would have believed his first comment, and ended up getting dinged on their response rate.

Huma0
Level 10
London, United Kingdom

@Debra300 

 

You are so right. Hosts like us who have a bit of experience under our belts, but probably even more importantly, have learnt from other experienced hosts when we were new, are able to call out the BS when we hear it from CS. 

 

I am sure there are many, many others that have no idea and will assume that the CS agent knows what they are talking about. You see a few threads here on the CC from hosts that are either new, or sometimes not that new but just new to the forum, who have no idea at all that they are being told something completely incorrect by a CS agent. Who knows how many others there are that never find their way here?

Huma0
Level 10
London, United Kingdom

@Emilia466 

 

Perhaps someone can correct me if I'm wrong, but my understanding of the guest refund policy is that the guest can stay and get a partial refund ONLY if the host is unable to resolve the 'travel issue/s'. 

 

So, obviously this does not apply in your case. The only real 'issue' was the profane having run out, and you fixed that the very next morning. Problem with this kind of guest is that she will probably try to find other 'issues' to get her 50% discounted stay. She could just be entitled and high maintenance, but I suspect she was trying to scam a discount from the start.

 

If you cancel, you will face penalties and be fined. So, ideally, you want the guest to accept an alteration request and leave. It's good that you've kept the correspondence on the Airbnb messaging system. You could also try seeing which comparable listings are available in your area for the rest of her stay and send her a list of them so that there is also a record that her claim of having nowhere else to go is bogus, as well as further showing that you tried to assist her in every way.

Jenny
Community Manager
Community Manager
Galashiels, United Kingdom

Hi @Emilia466 

 

I just thought I'd check in and see how things are now - has the guest's booking ended or are they still there?

 

Jenny

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Emilia466
Level 2
D.C., DC

She is still there, checking out today. 

Richard531
Level 10
California, United States

@Emilia466 First, you are EXTREMELY kind and generous.  Almost to the point of increasing the level of entitlement a person like this nasty guest may feel going forward (which doesn't make the world a better place).  So for future, I would not even say or offer the "R" word (refund).  

 

Now that you offered her the "R" word and she refused?  She now thinks she can dictate the terms of said "R" word while still staying in your house.  


WRONG.   She went way too far and it's time for you to seize control of YOUR property.  

 

Insist that she vacate immediately.  Refund her for unused nights.  Report her to Airbnb CS and have them assist in the eviction.  She is a very bad person at best and a downright scammer at worst. This is the kind or person that actually may damage your property.  You don't want a person like this in your house.  And you should NOT feel good about them staying in your property.  The right CS person will recognize this and you will come out on top (where you belong).  

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