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There’s no denying that Airbnb has changed the way that many people (myself included) travel. I have stayed in several Airbnbs throughout the world (including an amazing one in Athens, Greece) and have had good experiences for the most part. That’s not to say my Airbnb and vacation rental stays have been without problems, and I’ve certainly had mixed results dealing with the Airbnb resolution center. I’m also an Airbnb host and while I’ve had mostly good luck there as well, there have been a few issues there. I’m starting to wonder if it’s even worth considering Airbnbs. And I’m not the only one who’s starting to come to this realization.

Problems With Airbnb

The other day, I read one of the recap articles from View from the Wing talking about problems with Airbnb. He shared an article from Nomadic Matt who says “It’s Time to Break Up with Airbnb“. He shares a few stories from his traveling history where he has had some pretty major problems. One involved Airbnb freezing his account but not telling him anything other than he had to leave the place he was staying in, and another where Airbnb refused to issue a refund. Because he’s famous :-), he has the cell phone number of Airbnb’s CEO so he was able to get things resolved, but he decided that he is “breaking up” with Airbnb.

My Experiences With the Airbnb Resolution Center

I’m not sure I’m ready to break up with Airbnb completely, but it can definitely come with hassles. If it all works fine, it’s great, but if there are problems, then you’re kind of on your own to work things out with your host. Here are a few of the issues I’ve had with Airbnb:

  • Trying to book a house in Barcelona, the host tried to charge me $410 more after I booked. I was able to work it out to just cancel the stay.
  • Then at the Barcelona Airbnb we actually stayed at, the host tried to say we broke things and left his place a mess and wanted thousands of dollars.

But as I mentioned, I’m also a host on Airbnb and I’ve had my own share of problems:

  • Guy threw a party in my unit, smoked inside and broke things. I had to pay someone more than $1,300 to repair and clean it and after going through their host resolution center, they sent me $87. (Yes, literally.)
  • Had a guest stay for the weekend and then didn’t leave. After talking with her, she agreed to stay for the extra day. Because it was already past the check-out time, I couldn’t extend her stay through Airbnb. Airbnb host support suggested I just request money for the extra night. But when I did, she didn’t accept. When Airbnb tried to charge her card, it was declined so they sent me nothing, even though it was THEM who told me to do it this way.

Like Matt suggests in his article, it would seem reasonable to me that Airbnb customer service have the ability to just take care of minor issues. Matt suggests that Airbnb sides completely with hosts, but my experience is more that Airbnb tends to go for the side of doing nothing. If the host wants money but the guest doesn’t want to give it, Airbnb will do nothing. If the guest wants a refund but the host doesn’t want to do it, Airbnb will do nothing. It seems like they want to continue the charade that they are just “connecting hosts with guests” when we all know that they are really a lodging company. It’s like Uber and Lyft saying “we’re just technology companies…”

Hotel vs Airbnb – Pros and Cons

There are pros and cons for staying in hotels vs staying at an Airbnb or another vacation rental. Some things about Airbnb that I like are:

  • Location: Sometimes there just aren’t hotels where you want to go. I stayed in an Airbnb in Billund, Denmark, to go to Legoland with my son. There weren’t any hotels (or at least any points hotels) in the whole city.
  • Having a (larger) place to yourself: We are a family of 8, so being able to spread out and not have to worry about disturbing the neighbors is a nice feature.
  • A full kitchen: Being able to cook our own meals can drastically cut down on our total food budget.

On the other hand, hotels offer:

  • Hotel points! This is a miles and points blog, after all, and getting “free” stays is a big reason I prefer hotels. With Airbnb, there aren’t really very many good ways to use points to pay for Airbnb stays. You can get $35 off if you create a new Airbnb account, or use purchase-erasing points like Capital One Venture miles, but that’s about it. Some cards like the new Capital One Venture X offer credits toward vacation rentals.
  • “Free” breakfast and/or dinner: With a family of 8, staying in a hotel that offers “free” breakfast or dinner can also be good value.
  • Consistency of experience: This goes back to the original point. When I stay at a Hampton Inn or a Holiday Inn Express or a Hyatt Place, I know what I’m going to expect. While there are a few brands (Choice for one) where you have to be a bit careful about that, knowing what to expect is a huge benefit.

The Bottom Line

I’ve had mostly positive experiences with Airbnb both on the guest and host side, but there’s no denying that they have some issues that they take a pretty hands-off approach to resolving problems. Contrast that to our stay with Vacasa in the Smoky Mountains. The customer service there was much better, including sending someone out twice to try and fix the Internet. I get the feeling that Airbnb would have just been like “too bad, so sad.”

What’s your take on Airbnb? Have you had any negative experiences with them? Leave them in the comments.

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