MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCBD)– Mount Pleasant resident Chris Hills booked an AirBnB for his daughter’s stay in Washington D.C. but as the spring break trip approached, the Clemson student had to reconsider the trip with her friends amid the spread of COVID-19.
On March 12th, Hills cancelled the reservation, telling the host they were uncomfortable with reports of the virus spreading in the area.
“It was definitely the right decision to not go but it was hard. My daughter is a Sophomore in Clemson. The four of them all wanted to go up there,” Hills said. “They are innocent kids who wanted to see the sites and the museums,” he added
Hills submitted a grievance with AirBnB support in hopes of getting a refund for the trips’s $1,564 cost but said contacting the company and getting a response was extremely difficult.
“There was a software glitch that added to the complexity. They never got back with me. My grievance got stuck somewhere. About a month after her trip I was continuing to work through it. They don’t have phone number on their website,” said Hills.
He was referred to a customer service chat box that denied his claim but failed to explain reasoning for the decision.
“They couldn’t explain why,” he said. “They couldn’t explain anything back to the policy that was listed on their website and I noticed as time went on the policy kept changing,” Hills continued.
The company’s ‘Extenuating circumstances policy and the coronavirus (COVID-19)‘ says reservations made on or before March 14, 2020, with a check-in date between March 14, 2020 and September 15, 2020, are covered by the policy. Hills’ trip met that criteria.
The Count on 2 Investigators contacted the the company. An AirBnB spokesperson told News 2 the company’s policy because Hills cancelled the trip two days before the policy was released.
The policy states, “cancellations will be handled according to the extenuating circumstances coverage in effect at the time of submission, and reservations that were already canceled will not be reconsidered.”
Hills said he was frustrated by the response especially because the company was vocal about their policy.
“The CEO was on all the national news networks talking about the policy and how AirBnB is handling it and being such good stewards to all of the renters and we had just the opposite experience,” Hills said.
Other customers shared similar frustration on Twitter, writing that the company was making it difficult for people to obtain refunds.
The company has 3,691 complaints on the Better Business Bureau. The non-profit group ranks the company as an ‘F’ rating.
“On May 7, 2020, the company advised BBB the following: Airbnb is experiencing massive layoffs, therefore complaints at this time are no longer being responded to. We do not have a timeline as to if and when a response will happen again in the near future. So at this time, any outstanding complaints will go unanswered. “Bette Business Bureau
AirBnB responded to the criticism:
“When the WHO declared a global pandemic, we applied our extenuating circumstances policy to certain reservations so guests would not be forced to choose between staying safe and potentially losing money. We were one of the first travel companies to take such an action. Today, our surveys show we have higher levels of trust from consumers than before the pandemic. We knew this decision would impact hosts, but based on guidance from governments and public health officials, we believed we needed to prioritize public health and safety.”AirBnB