This Airbnb complaint has a big, unexpected problem

Jonathan Cordone wants a $6,711 refund from Airbnb. But his request has a big, unexpected problem — so big that our advocates can’t help.

Cordone’s story is a textbook case of how not to handle an Airbnb complaint. If you’re thinking of participating in the sharing economy this summer, it’s worth a read. Otherwise, this could happen to you.

Nuclear option failed

Cordone contacted me after a chargeback with American Express failed. Chargebacks are known as the “nuclear option” because they’re typically a last resort of consumers with a problem, just before heading to court.

That’s when Cordone told us a remarkable story — a story, it turns out, that wasn’t even his.

His parents, both in their 70s, had checked into a Florida vacation rental. It was messy, and his mother began having an allergic reaction for unknown reasons.

“Instead of contacting me about the condition of the property right away, my parents set about trying to fix it,” he says. “They cleaned the house from top to bottom and tried to find and remove all of the air fresheners. When I finally called them on day two and could tell something was wrong, I pressed them for more information. That’s when I learned of the cleaning, sleepless night, and my mother’s allergic reaction.”

Cordone immediately called the host on behalf of his parents. The host cheerfully informed him that “they feed the four or five feral cats inside the house on a daily basis,” he says.

That explains Mom’s allergic reaction.

Concerned with his parents’ health and well-being, Cordone sent them to a hotel. He told the host.

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“I tried to work directly with the host to come up with an equitable resolution, and the host promised to call me back,” he says. “Instead, the host canceled the reservation on me and then refused any refund whatsoever.”

His parents stayed in the rental one night. Airbnb billed them $6,711.

The opposite of the resolution process

Cordone did almost the exact opposite of what he should have. He failed to contact Airbnb and follow its steps to resolving the dispute. Instead, he told his parents to leave, contacted the owner and then filed a credit card chargeback.

People! If you’re ever in a similar situation, please do yourself a favor and follow the preferred steps to a resolution. And I don’t just mean their steps, but ours too. Here they are.

Further complicating the issue is the fact that it wasn’t even his stay. He was trying to help his parents. That’s a laudable thing, but it confused my advocacy team and probably threw the Amex dispute department for a loop, too. Also, we have a policy about dealing with third-party complaints.

No way out

Because of the confusion and crossed wires, there wasn’t much my team could do with Cordone’s complaint. That doesn’t mean he or his parents are wrong. In fact, I think Airbnb should take a hard look at any property that feeds feral cats in the house.

Cordone’s story reminds me of my last Airbnb rental. And by “last” I mean I will never rent another home from Airbnb again. When I arrived, the owner pushed a bag of cat food in my hands and ordered me to feed her feline twice a day. She also announced that because I’d rented her house, she now had no place to live and would have to stay with a friend.

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Like I said, never again.

I wish my team could help, but right now Cordone’s best option — his only option — is to take the owners and Airbnb to court.

Should we have taken Jonathan Cordone's case?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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