Air bnb: A seasonal warning

My wife Julie and a group of seven of her friends recently planned a trip to London, to meet up. They were coming from all over the UK, so a central location was preferred for easier travel. One of the group found an ideal apartment, a short walk from Hyde Park Corner. She booked the place for the desired night, and sent a link around, so everyone could see the ‘luxury’ flat they would be staying in.

Unfortunately, that turned out to be a scam. The online photos were ‘stolen’ from a flat that was for sale, and the advertiser had no access to the premises, and certainly did not own the flat. Fortunately, this was discovered in time, and the lady received most of her money back. So she tried again, using a website called ‘booking.com’ to source an alternative flat. They found one in Covent Garden; very central, handy for transport, tourist sites, and restaurants. From the photos, it seemed to be basic but comfortable, and suitable for the group to stay in for one night.

However, when they arrived and were let in, they discovered that the flat they were expected to stay in was not the nice one advertised. It was dirty, with condom wrappers and drug paraphernalia evident, as well as blood spatters on a wall, and unsuitable, dirty pillows and bedding. They complained, and went out for lunch while the place was ‘cleaned’. That cleaning consisted of a quick tidy up, and the replacement of two sheets, as well as the removal of pillowcases with no clean ones provided. The seating accommodation provided for eight people was just two small plastic chairs, and two bar stools. Others had to sit on beds that would be slept on later, or on the floor.

Of course, they could have just left, and tried to get the money back. But after travelling for many hours to spend one night together, they were unlikely to find, or be able to afford, alternative accommodation in the heart of London during the busiest tourist season. So they did what British people tend to do, and they made the best of it. Julie has formally complained online today, through booking.com. However, I think this story warrants more coverage, and suitable outrage.

***Update*** As of this evening, and following complaints from Julie’s group today, booking.com has removed that particular rental from its website. So, it pays to complain, if only for the benefit of others.

So, be warned. Be very careful with any choices from both Air bnb, and booking.com. You might end up travelling a long way to stay in somewhere different to the place you booked, and find it filthy on arrival. Even worse, you might find it doesn’t exist. If you know anyone who is considering doing this, then please make them aware of this post.

***I can only talk about our own experience. I am sure that most Air bnb owners are genuine, and many dealings with booking.com are trouble free.***

80 thoughts on “Air bnb: A seasonal warning

  1. How awful! We’ve used AirBnB quite a few times as it is easier to rent an apartment with Little O than go to a hotel. We’ve never had any issues but I can imagine there are a lot of shady people out there. I have only ever used Booking.com for hotels and only once ever had a problem but that was really more on the hotels’ side. Good to be wary.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for the warning, Pete. I have used Booking.com but ended up booking accommodation at a university campus (very good). I had a friend who has a similar experience to the first one your describe, but in her case she did not find out until she went knocking on somebody’s door who had no idea her apartment was supposed to be for rent! It’s difficult to know what to do for the best, other than check specific reviews for the place in question from different sources, but the sites should have a better system to check the quality and veracity of their ads.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Olga. Sadly, many of the ‘rave reviews’ are often fakes too. Personal experience of others seems to be the only way to be certain that the place will actually exist, and be good to stay in, or not. That does restrict options of course.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Like

  3. Sadly, there’s always a scammer seeking opportunity. I’ve read about a few people getting scammed by people putting up properties that are for sale, which they didn’t own. We have to do our due diligence before booking these places because obviously, the sites representing them don’t give a damn! 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Debby. I doubt the sites bother to make many checks on those giving them commission. But it was good to hear that they did remove that property after receiving the complaints this week.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve never used a service like that, and it’s unlikely I’ll have an opportunity in the future to do so. However, I might rent out space to others. I have an old jalopy in the driveway with a small camper shell on it. Better than a leaky pup tent, eh?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It seems to be a rare occurrence, Kim. Maybe Julie and her friends were unlucky. But they won’t be using either company again, so that’s 8 customers they have lost, plus all the families and contacts of those 8.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. We used Airbnb during our trip to Kyoto and it went smoothly without any problems at all. But apart from the scams, Airbnb have been responsible for places such as Edinburgh suddenly seeing a surge in house prices hence why there have been calls to heavily restrict Airbnb operations.

    As for booking.com, we’ve not had problems with them but we’re using expedia.com more and more now.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Then there is the possibility that prospective renters could demand references from prospective abodes beforehand. Do you have an equivalent of The Better Business Bureau where you live?

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Pete, the apartment rental market is booming in the US – so many people use the service, both renters and those renting…what they never tell you here is where the people are who have rented you their place, and I have heard stories of older couples sleeping in their cars while you enjoy their house, just to make some money…that is sad indeed. I will stick to hotels thank you

    Liked by 2 people

  7. We have avoided both Airbnb and Uber. I appreciate the organizations that oversee taxi companies and hotels. We probably do pay more and use less services, but I have no interest in staying somewhere unknown or riding in a car with some man who decided to make a little money driving it.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Like others I’ve so far not had a problem with booking.com when I’ve used them. I am a great fan of Premier inn’s for 1 or 2 night stays, you know for sure what you’re getting, the beds and pillows are just fab, and it’s not that expensive.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We generally use Premier Inns too. (And have often stayed in the one not far from you, in Sunderland) But they wanted a venue where they could all ‘hang out together’, so on this occasion thought a flat would be a better option. It didn’t turn out that way, sadly.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. How awful! It’s always wise to complain. A refund or a voucher for each and every one would be a nice recognition in this case. I feel very reluctant to use Airbnb, but booking.com we have used on several occasions. Obviously many reviews are fake, sad to say.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thanks, Dina. I know of a lot of very positive reports about Air BnB, but Julie’s was not one of them. The fact that Booking.Com chose to deal with the complaint made them come out of it well.
          Best wishes, Pete. x

          Like

  9. I have heard these sites have become unreliable and I really appreciate knowing of an actual experience. The little coastal town I live in is considering licensing them and I am going to pass this along. Sorry your wife and her friends had to go through that.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I am sure that most examples are not like this. But some do spoil the experience, undoubtedly. It shows the need for seeking proven recommendations to find a reliable place. Though sadly many online ‘reviews’ are also fraudulent. 😦
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. In cities we tend to stay in a hotel. For longer stays we choose B&B or holiday cottages run by well known companies and have never had a problem. My only Air BNB experience was in Sydney, a flat let out by the owners whilst they were away. It wasn’t as pristine as the photos suggested and there was nowhere for us to unpack clothes as drawers and cupboards were full of their own stuff. We were accused of stealing a bottle of gin from the fridge after we left and leaving marks on their white leather sofa. In actual fact we only had breakfast in the flat as we spent the rest of our time with family nearby. It certainly has put me off using them again. I certainly wouldn’t have stayed in a flat where drugs had been used.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The presumed drug use was the presence of ‘wraps’, plastic parcels used to carry cocaine for ‘snorting’.
      None of the ladies concerned could have afforded to leave to stay in an expensive hotel, and they also wanted to stick together, so would have needed eight rooms in the same place, or four twins. It just wasn’t feasible in London on a Saturday lunchtime, so they stuck it out. It was also not really the fault of the management company that the previous guests had left the place in such a state. But their responsibility to get in early and clean it properly cannot be overlooked.
      Best wishes, Pete. x

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I’ve never used AirBnB but have used Booking.com for cheap deals and been lucky. However, a friend using Booking.com wasn’t so lucky and found they were booked into a dreadful place It all seems a bit of a gamble.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. As your disclaimer says, not all air bnb are scams. My stepson and partner (and their dog) had a restful couple of nights in the Cotswolds staying with a lovely couple, but how can you tell beforehand. The opposite applies as well, of course: how do you know, when letting your home that it won’t be trashed and/or stripped?
    the concept is a good one. It’s a shame that there are always people around ready to screw things up for everyone else

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I am sure that many owners are equally victims of scams and people who trash places, Cathy. I know I would NEVER trust my home to people booking online. In Julie’s case, these were apartments designed to be let like this, not people’s ‘normal’ homes. Perhaps those are the ones best avoided.
      Happy to hear that your stepson had a good experience with that company.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Like

  13. Wow: that sounds absolutely horrible. I know for a fact that I would have left right away and not spend a second in a place like that. So…really very brave and determined to stay at that place. It never seizes to amaze me hoe some people seem to take a perverse pleasure in scams like that πŸ˜ͺ

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Their only alternative was to spend a lot of money changing coach and train tickets to come back home straight away. Many had travelled considerable distances to be there, and alternative hotel accommodation would have been too expensive and very hard to find. They had also spent months planning the get-together, and that’s why they stayed, and tolerated it for one night.
      Unfortunately, the people running those apartments know this, and take advantage of customers.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

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