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When Vacations Go Bad: Everything You Need to Know about AirBnB Customer Service

Everything You Need to Know about AirBnB Customer Service | CosmosMariners.com

Vacations are supposed to be everything wonderful in life: time spent with family, long days filled with sunshine, explorations of new food and new places, and an escape from the same old routine.

They're great...until they aren't. It might have been the food made you sick or that the "incredible ocean view!" is anything but. On our recent trip to Miami, it wasn't the food or the view that let us down: it was our AirBnB. Thanks to that experience, I've come away as a bit of an expert in AirBnB customer service.

So, if you find yourself away from home, and your AirBnB isn't what you were promised online, here's what you need to know.

How Things Went South

As a travel blogger and a lifelong lover of traveling, I'm no stranger to hotel rooms, Homeaway, AirBnB, and VRBO. My husband and I adore AirBnB in particular and even rented all of our Ireland accommodations through the site with nothing but incredible results.

So, when Landon decided to run the Miami Marathon this past January, I immediately headed onto AirBnB.com and started researching. After many hours debating the pros and cons of several listings, he and I decided on a studio unit in Miami Beach that would be great for our 2 young kids and ourselves during our 5 night stay.

The listing stated that it needed some refurbishment and that it was an older unit with a great view. The photos confirmed this: it wasn't fancy, but it looked clean and it was RIGHT on the ocean with a pool (aka everything my 4.5 year old could ever want). I'm not a luxury traveler and am just fine with a clean, comfortable room that isn't sporting the fanciest television or latest tech gadgets.

We booked it back in October since Miami's high season is right when we would be in town for the marathon. I honestly didn't give the AirBnB another thought--between blogging, freelance writing, starting a new business (more on that in another blog post!), and homeschooling our preschooler, and keeping up with our 1 year old, my life seems to go by on warp speed.

It wasn't until we were already in Miami exploring Wynwood Walls that I realized I hadn't heard anything from our AirBnB host: no messages, no emails, no phone calls.

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I knew the address we would be staying at, but there wasn't any information about the unit # or check-in procedures. This was very different than every other AirBnB host, who has gone out of his or her way to make sure we knew what was happening at every single step.

We texted the host, waited 3.5 hours, and got nothing in return. We tried to call the number he had listed, but discovered it was an Argentinian number. At this point, it's 3 PM the day we're supposed to check in (check in was at 4), we're several hundred miles from home, I can't reach our host, my credit card has already been charged, and I'm sitting in a city where I don't know anyone with 2 little kids.

Oh, and did I mention that we needed to get to sleep super early that night since we were all getting up at 3:30 AM the next morning for the marathon?

Needless to say, we were in dire straights with few options. So, we called AirBnB customer service for the first time ever.

Getting AirBnB Customer Service Involved

Whenever possible, I like taking care of issues myself without getting a 3rd party involved. But in this case, I was completely out of options. AirBnB isn't like a hotel where you have a fully staffed front desk 24 hours a day: if your host isn't helping you, you're out of luck.

We found the number for AirBnB customer service online. If you need AirBnB, the best numbers to reach them are1-855-424-7262 o1-415-800-5959. 

 My husband and I explained that we needed more details for check-in, that our host hadn't been in contact at all since we'd booked the place 4 months before, and that the only number he had was an international one. The first agent registered our complaint and said she'd call him.

An hour later, she called us back and said he should be sending the information over.

About 45 minutes after that, we got a one line message with the unit number and that we just needed to talk to the people at the front desk of the condo property. The host didn't apologize for the confusion or the delay or the lack of communication--or even welcome us to Miami.

That interaction should've been our first clue.

We got to the building, checked in without any issues, and got to our apartment. As soon as we stepped in, all I could think was, "I have made a terrible mistake."

Sure, the apartment had a great view as promised, but the window was so old and dirty that the view was cloudy. My 1 year old was clumsily walking and crawling on the nasty carpet that was so threadbare we could actually see the subflooring through it. My husband found metal shards sticking up in the carpet (great when you've got little feet around!), and there were even a few random metal screws hanging around on the floor, too.

The bed covers were stained, and there was a queen sheet haphazardly stuck on a double bed. Paint was coming off in sheets on the bathtub. The hairdryer didn't work. The stove had two coil burners that were permanently stuck at 45 degree angles.

But the best part was where a part of the cabinet unit housing the refrigerator had been ripped apart in order to make room for a microwave cord: this partial deconstruction job had been left unfinished with rows of small nails poking out.

This unit wasn't in need of refurbishment. It was in need of a complete gut job--about 10 years ago.

But this point, it was 8 PM the night before Landon's marathon, the kids were exhausted from being up at 4 AM that morning for our flight, and we had another super early morning coming up. We tried to touch as little as we could and fell asleep the first night.

In Which We Really Get to Know the People at AirBnB

The next morning, Landon ran his marathon and killed it! (He finished all 26.2 miles in 3:50, which was right at his target goal.)

When Vacations Go Bad: Everything You Need to Know about AirBnB Customer Service | CosmosMariners.com
Up very, very early at the starting line for the Miami Marathon!

We were so happy for him, but we were all dreading going back to that horrible studio apartment. On the way back over to Miami Beach, Landon called AirBnB again and explained that the apartment was dirty, gross, and basically falling apart.

This agent, Agent #2, could see that we'd never complained about an AirBnB before in all of our years of renting, and agreed that our situation seemed unreasonable. She asked that we send over photos of the offending areas, and that she would see if she could mediate a resolution.

At that point, we told Agent #2 that the only resolution we wanted was to move from that AirBnB as quickly as possible. However, she insisted that we follow their procedures. She said she would call the owner to see what was going on.

Hours and hours passed after we sent over the photos, and we didn't hear anything. Agent #2's shift ended, and we were passed over to Agent #3, who called us and said that the host wanted to send over a maintenance person in the morning to fix the issues. At this point, we told Agent #3 that it was going to be difficult to rebuild a cabinet, refloor the place, and install a new kitchen and bathroom while we were staying there. We also told them AGAIN that we wanted a refund and/or to be moved immediately.

Agent #3 refused both a refund and a move to another AirBnB, but said we could revisit that after the maintenance man came.

So, we spend a second night there. While talking to other guests in the condo property, we discovered that the entire place needed help: one family didn't have working A/C, while another had major plumbing issues. (Do yourself a favor and don't rent anything at the Casablanca in Miami Beach, either from the hotel directly or AirBnB, as the entire place needs some serious rehab.)

The next morning, we got up, left the apartment as quickly as we could and headed to the Everglades. When we got back that afternoon, we saw that the maintenance man hadn't ever shown up.

And we called AirBnB again. This time we talked to both Agent #3 (who was completely helpless), and our first manager, Luis. Luis was little to no help, but passed us along to Agent #4, John.

John is where this entire story pivots. I don't know if he was a more senior agent or one who just had some compassion, but he made things happen quickly. Within an hour of getting John as our agent, we had packed up, left the rathole apartment, gotten booked into a different (much nicer!) AirBnB downtown, and gotten a partial refund.

So, the moral of this story is to keep trying if you have an issue with your AirBnB. It might be a frustratingly slow process, but they seem to want you to give up. Keep calling. Keep pushing.


When Should I Call AirBnB Customer Service?

First of all, if you're not safe in the AirBnB, there are pets or animals there that weren't disclosed, or the place is falling down around you, just leave. You can sort things out with customer service after the fact. 

Also, know that AirBnB wants you to message them, and it's not easy at all to find their phone number (we had to sift through multiple websites to find the contact number--and it wasn't even on the official AirBnB site!). But, if you use the phone number, you're more likely to be able to connect with an actual person, so keep trying the number even if you are put on hold.

AIRBNB CONTACT NUMBERS: 1-855-424-7262 o1-415-800-5959. 

You should also call AirBnB if the listing is misrepresented, as it was in our case. (PSA: last time I checked, the first Miami listing was still up. I've left a blisteringly bad review, and the host has given me a horrible review in return saying that I am the type of guest to avoid since I clearly am just looking for a free vacation. Uh, so not true, dude. But thanks for trying to excuse your horribly bad unit.)

If your host is being unreasonable or (heaven forbid) violent or uncommunicative, go ahead and get AirBnB customer service involved. You might be renting from a 3rd party host, but those hosts have contracts with AirBnB that requires standards, communication, and safety. 

You obviously always want to try to talk with your host first, so don't call AirBnB if you're missing some towels or your bathroom light won't turn on. 99 times out of 100, your host will be happy to help you with that issue quickly, and calling AirBnB over trivial stuff like that will only clog up the phone lines and message boards for people who really do need to get out of their AirBnB units.

So, will I stay in an AirBnB again? Probably. It was tough to have a host and property like this one, but AirBnB customer service did come through in the end for us to allow us to finish our Miami vacation properly. Plus, we've stayed in dozens of incredible properties, so the statistics are still way in our favor!

(Still want to try AirBnB after reading all of this? Use my code for $40 off of your first booking! Just don't rent the bad unit in Miami. You've been warned.)

Have you had a bad AirBnB experience? Tell me about it in the comments!

Everything You Need to Know about AirBnB Customer Service | CosmosMariners.com


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