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I booked two Airbnb rentals by accident. Can I get a refund?

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Michelle Couch-Friedman

Consumer reporter and ombudsman

No one needs more than one vacation rental in Paris at a time. So how did Virginia Wong end up booking not one but two accidental Airbnb rentals in the City of Lights?

Question

I was using Airbnb to browse vacation rentals in Paris. I found an apartment that interested me, so I hit request to book. In the message, I asked if the property was available. I didn’t hear back from the host. So I messaged him. He told me it wasn’t available, so I canceled my request. I thought the request to book process is supposed to work this way.

Then I found two more rentals I liked. Again, I hit request to book for both and again asked if the apartment was available. Within 3 minutes both hosts accepted. I was confused. Then I received a warning from Airbnb saying that I had requested to book two rentals in Paris for the same dates. So I immediately went to both of my requests and tried to cancel, but they had already accepted. I couldn’t cancel.

At this point, I was confused because I thought the host was supposed to just respond to me. I didn’t think it meant they would accept right away and charge me immediately. Both hosts have a Strict cancellation policy. I asked one host to refund my money, and he proposed a credit for sometime this year. I told him I’m not coming back to Paris this year and that I made an honest mistake. He never responded again.

I called the company to explain my situation. The Airbnb rep mentioned that users booking rentals by accident is a common problem. But the only thing he could do was ask one host for a refund. The owner refused. I asked if Airbnb could make an exception and the agent told me no. Do you think you can help me get a refund for one Airbnb rental in Paris? Of course, I only need one! I tried to correct my mistake literally within minutes. Is this fair? Virginia Wong, New York

Answer

It does seem unfair that you couldn’t cancel one of these Airbnb rentals you booked by accident within minutes of making the mistake. After all, the company quickly detected a problem with your double reservations. And it sent you an alert of the oddity.

So it’s curious why the system had allowed you to book both rentals for the same dates.

As part of the terms and conditions of Airbnb, you can’t book a rental for someone else.

Transparency and trust are vital to the Airbnb experience. People rely on information in Airbnb profiles, reviews, and other verifications when deciding whether to host or stay with someone.

We require Airbnb reservations booked for personal travel to be booked by the person who’s going to stay at the listing.

Airbnb terms and conditions

You, of course, are just one person. So after the confirmation of the first Airbnb rental in Paris, the system should have rejected any further reservations. There seems to be some detection program already in place since Airbnb alerted you after you booked the second rental. A more consumer-friendly program would prevent the user from completing a double booking.

How did these accidental Airbnb bookings happen?

You told me that all you did was click on the request to book button. Suddenly you had two Airbnb rentals covering your stay in Paris. Worse, you weren’t even sure that you wanted either. You just wanted information.

Unfortunately, the error here is yours. That request to book button does exactly what the name implies — you requested to book both properties.

All potential guests should acquaint themselves with the getting started information on the Airbnb website.

If you had reviewed this information before you started clicking buttons, you would have discovered that the contact host button is where you can send pre-booking inquiries. You should only hit the request to book button when you are ready to book the property.

You had stored your credit card in your Airbnb account which is never a good idea. (See: An Airbnb hacker took a vacation with my money!) So as soon as each of the hosts confirmed the bookings, Airbnb charged your credit card.

Trying to cancel one of the two Airbnb rentals

Minutes after you discovered your mistakes, you tried to cancel both of the accidental bookings. Unfortunately, you had selected two properties with Strict cancellation terms. Airbnb strict cancellation terms mean you can cancel up to one week before the rental with a 50 percent penalty.

Neither the owners nor Airbnb were willing to make an exception to the accidental bookings policy. And despite your plea that you just didn’t understand the Airbnb process, the representative simply pointed you to this information about accidental Airbnb bookings:

Airbnb’s cancellation policies don’t cover accidental bookings. Even if you booked a place accidentally, you’ll still be subject to the cancellation policy your host chooses for their listing.

Contacting our advocacy team about your accidental bookings

As you continued to get nowhere with your self-advocacy attempts, you contacted our advocacy team. I decided to contact our Airbnb executive resolution team and ask them to take a look at your case.

They reviewed your experience and reiterated that yours was a clear case of user error. Instead of “contacting the host” you “booked” the properties.

However, the good news is that the team decided to offer you a goodwill gesture this time. Airbnb will refund your money for one of the two accidental bookings. Additionally, their team is providing you educational information about how to use the site correctly next time.

You are pleased with this resolution and assured me that there will be no accidental Airbnb bookings in your future. Enjoy Paris!   (Michelle Couch-Friedman, Consumer Rescue)

*Before you go: How did this United Airlines passenger buy two identical flights?

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Michelle Couch-Friedman

Michelle Couch-Friedman is the founder and CEO of Consumer Rescue. She is a consumer advocate, ombudsman columnist, mediator, writer, and licensed psychotherapist. Michelle is a public speaker, and her expert guidance has been cited in MarketWatch, Consumer Reports, Travel & Leisure, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Popular Science, CNN, CNBC, Boston Globe, CBS News, National Geographic, Travel Weekly, Reader's Digest and more. You might even catch Michelle on TV reporting on a situation. :) Michelle is also the travel ombudsman columnist for The Points Guy and is the former executive director of the nonprofit Elliott Advocacy. During her six years in that position, she resolved thousands of cases for troubled travelers and other consumers. You can read hundreds of 5-star reviews Michelle earned during her service to the nonprofit since 2016 here on Great Nonprofits. She is also a member of the Society of American Travel Writers. Today, she continues to spend as much time as possible fiercely defending consumers and traveling the world with her family. Contact her at Michelle Couch-Friedman or on Linkedin, Twitter or Facebook.
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jsn55

It’s so good that you print these stories, Michelle. It’s stunning how people don’t realize that they are personally responsible for understanding how ‘things work’ online. The internet is NOT your friend. You’re dealing with a computer, and it’s your job to understand every aspect of your experience. You have absolutely no assistance when using the internet to book travel. I do think that ‘Request to Book’ could be taken as a request for information … but you cannot make any assumptions … it’s just you and the computer. It’s ten times more important when your credit card information is stored online … because the computer just does what you tell it to do. Why anyone would store that information on a website is completely beyond my understanding.

DChamp56

Maybe AirBnB should change what the button says to “Book Now”, and have another button that says “Questions about this listing”. Makes sense to me.
Great work helping this customer Michelle!

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