Kudos for AirBnB

airbnbBeing an avid reader of travel sites, many times on the consumer advocacy sites, there are negative stories and even horrific experiences suffered at the virtual hands of online travel agencies. AirBnB has been subject to my ire in the past. However, when a company does go for the gold medal, few write about it. This post is about AirBnB reaching the gold medal.

Last week, we had booked an apartment in Catania, Sicily without any issue at all. Yesterday, after a great deal of searching, it was finally possible to place two different apartments in Reykjavik to my Wish List. There were two factors complicating finding a reservation. First was the cost and the second was that there were going to be three people, not just Ron and I. Our friend Kat will be joining us.

I searched through my usual booking sites, hunting for places. The vast majority could only accommodate three people if we all slept dorm style in the same room. I knew this would never work. We tried this for one night in Vienna last year and it was less than pleasant. We needed two bedrooms. Those that could offer us two bedrooms had such astronomical rates; there was no way we would pay them.

Finally, on AirBnB, I found four potential places. One had not updated his calendar, so was not available for our dates. Another only had a mattress on the floor in the second bedroom, but was still charging close to $100 a night. This narrowed it down to two choices, but my favorite was the one with the small patio outside. Oftentimes, we have enjoyed eating breakfast outdoors when the weather permits. Reykjavik in July will be a guessing game, but possible. The rates were minimally different, but the rooms looked brighter.

This host had ‘Instant Booking’ available, so I clicked the link, progressed to the payment page, and changed my credit card from the MasterCard that was the default and entered my Visa card. The little light spun around showing there was processing going on, but when it finished, it returned me to the previous page. Having enough experience with AirBnB, I knew this was not correct. To be sure, I looked in the ‘My Trips’ section. No Reykjavík reservation showed there either.

I tried two more times with the same results. Taking a different tactic, I tried sending a booking request. An hour later, the host confirmed her place was available, so I clicked on the ‘Book Now’ to complete the booking. Once again, I went through the entire payment page, but the results were the same.

There was a reason for digging in on this. The MasterCard is a Capital One card and the points earned are not as easily used as my dedicated United Airlines Visa card. I want to buff up my United mileage account as much as possible to possibly use in the fall. After an hour of trying with zero results, I tried finding a way to call AirBnB, a near impossible task.

Elliott is a site that advocates for you.

Elliott is a site that advocates for you.

Thankfully, Christopher Elliott has a list of contacts. AirBnB contacts are here. Before calling, I tried sending them a Tweet via Twitter. Then I went to their Facebook page and posted the problem. A half hour later, a representative was sending me messages concerning my issue.

S/he suggested trying a different browser. After trying unsuccessfully with Firefox, I switched to Chrome. Then I tried switching computers. Clearing the cache on both computers in both browsers still did not get me any results. Back and forth with the rep, I tried all suggestions, but still nothing worked. Then Ron and I went to Margaret Island.

When we returned, one last attempt included deleting the MasterCard completely from their system, entering the Visa card and making it default. New card, but nothing changed otherwise.

Really frustrated by now, I messaged them again through Facebook. From the response I received it was apparent there was a change of shifts, we had gone back to square one. I firmly suggested that the person responding look at the thread of messages, since repeating a couple of hours’ worth of messaging was not reasonable.

Where is our apartment.

Where is our apartment.

A few minutes later, they messaged that they wanted to resolve the issue. Is there a phone number where they can call me? I gave them my Hungarian mobile, thinking honestly, that his was a dead-end.

To my shock, an hour later, Blake called me to review the problem. With him on the line, he asked me to try different things and then share the results. After each attempt, he asked to put me on hold a minute while he checked one thing or another. Never was I on hold more than a couple of minutes, further impressing me with the care. After several endeavors at finding a solution, Blake informed me that he would have to turn this over to another department for continued investigation. He assured me they would either call me back or send me an e-mail by the next morning. Reminding him of the time difference, if it were to be a call, we said good-bye.

To my delight, the next morning there was an e-mail from Aura. With profuse apologies concerning my obstacles in making the reservation, she was able to do it for me manually. She then offered me a gift coupon for $50 off of my next reservation. This was entirely unexpected, but well received.

There are great customer service people out there; you just have to be persistent and patient.

Kudos and many thanks to Blake and Aura.

After completing my Ed.D., the frustration of finding a teaching position where I was willing to live, led to Ron and I leaving the country. We intended to travel for a year before settling somewhere in MA or RI. We left the US without any credit card debt, no car payments and our house mortgage paid by renters. We had $10,000 in the bank to make our way through a year.