I’ve used airbnb before for a stay in Portland, Maine and it was great. I had no problems. My wife has used airbnb several times and has had no issues.
We had issues this time.
Both of the places we stayed at had major issues. One property “host” near Bethany Beach tried to shake me down for $350 after I checked out. The other one in Hampton, Virginia was flea and rodent infested.
For me, the fleas were the worst.
The first night at this house, there was a family of raccoons living in the crawlspace and a family of large mice living under the kitchen cupboards. The host responded to my concerns about the racoons quickly. Some guys came out the next day and set traps. They didn’t catch anything, but they did scare off the mama racoon and her babies. The next evening she was pacing and whining outside the house, calling for her babies to come down. We didn’t hear from them after that.
The giant field mice remained and ate much of my food. I bought some traps and was able to get rid of one of them. The other undoubtedly is still there.
I can understand rodent infestations. It happens to everyone. So it didn’t bother me that much and I was happy to help get rid of them. But the fleas were another story.
I told the airbnb host at the first notice of the fleas that this was an issue.
That was day two at the property.
She responded that she would send a cleaning crew out to take care of them. The cleaning crew never showed up.
The days ticked by and we figured they weren’t coming. The fleas were so bad on the final night, we considered packing up everyone and just leaving that night. My wife pulled a flea off of our 16-month-old baby. We were capturing the fleas and killing them in a ziplock bag.
If you’ve never killed a flea, they’re not easy to kill. They often have to be crushed more than once to die. When my wife killed the flea that came off my baby, blood squirted out. The flea had been drinking my baby’s blood. It was disgusting.
We spent that last night laundering all of our clothes in hot water. We carefully packed up our suitcases to avoid bringing the fleas home with us. On our way home, we picked up some special bug killer to spray on our suitcases once we got home and unloaded everything. It was a major ordeal.
Once I got home, I sent the airbnb host a message that we had left that morning and I inquired what had happened with the cleaning crew. Why didn’t they show up?
Here’s her response.
“I’m so sorry Keith. The cleaning lady said that she walked through, didn’t see anything. Colby apparently was in the house at some point as well – they both thought that perhaps the dog/cats next door were the culprit and Colby sprayed again. Best wishes to you and your family.”
Let’s start off with the point that she begins with accusing me of either being a liar, or not knowing what a flea is. Now it’s true that I’ve never lived in a home with fleas in it. It’s also true that it’s not hard to recognize a flea. My wife did have to deal with a flea infestation at an apartment many years ago, so she quickly recognized them.
Oddly enough, when we were vacating the house, my wife and I discussed the bag of dead fleas we had collected over the course of the week. Initially we felt like just throwing it away. Who wants to drive around with a bag of dead fleas? But then I thought, “What if airbnb denies there were fleas at the property?”
Keep in mind that before I received this response from the airbnb host dismissing my concerns and failing to respond effectively to a serious infestation, I hadn’t considered any sort of refund for having to live in a flea-infested property. I just felt that it’s important that future guests not have to live with fleas.
Taking the bag of dead fleas seemed silly, but I’m glad I did because once I read the response from the airbnb host, I was like, “Fuck this, I want my money back.”
It was really that second part of her response that pissed me off the most. The assertion that the fleas were probably coming from the neighbor’s dog or cat, and that “Colby sprayed again.”
What she’s saying is that, “Even if there are fleas, they’re from the neighbor’s dog or cat, so fuck it.”
What did Colby spray? Where did he spray it? When did he spray it? Whatever he did, it didn’t work.
Setting aside the point that the family of racoons or the family of field mice are the more likely culprits, it doesn’t matter what the cause of the fleas may be, what matters is that there are fleas in the property.
So now I decide to contact airbnb support and I tell them what happened and I say I want a full refund.
The initial response was annoying.
In it, Jay the airbnb case manager said, “I cannot promise a full refund since you opted to spend all the nights that you booked.”
I stayed all of the nights I booked because I had already paid for this vacation rental. I didn’t have another huge pile of cash lying around that would allow me to book another property, with a kitchen, for a family of five, within walking distance to the beach, at the last minute for anything approaching what I paid for this rental.
Then Jay from airbnb chastised me for not contacting them directly.
He said, had I contacted airbnb, “We could have transfer[red] you over to another listing by using the money that you paid for her place or we could have put you in a hotel at that time but we did not receive any call from you.”
Again, the chances of finding a place comparable to this at the last minute was nearly zero.
But the reason I didn’t contact airbnb directly is because I assumed by contacting the airbnb host that I was contacting airbnb. I wrongly assumed that there was some sort of training or at least some expectations placed on airbnb hosts when it comes to issues, particularly those of infestations and unhealthy living conditions.
I told Jay that I had no knowledge of what airbnb, as opposed to the airbnb host are capable of doing or not doing.
The last update on this issue is that it’s unresolved.
There are people staying at the property tonight and those fleas are undoubtedly still there.
Maybe I’m just making a big deal out of nothing.
When I stay at airbnb, fleas and rodents are apparently considered acceptable housemates.
A nice hotel will work well next time I travel.