Double booked on Airbnb — can I get a refund?

LOVE TRAVEL TROUBLESHOOTING: I was planning a bachelorette party in Los Angeles for 14 girls. Just days before our trip, the Airbnb accommodation we had booked 2½ months in advance canceled due to water pipe issues. I hadn’t secured a property for a busy weekend vacation.

Christopher Elliott, the travel troubleshooter

In the frenzy of contacting 20+ potential hosts for a new property, I accidentally got double booked for two properties at the same time. I immediately contacted Airbnb to cancel one of the properties but they stuck to my strict cancellation policy. I tried speaking to supervisors, but the answer was the same. I even tried filing a dispute with my credit card company, but that was decided in favor of Airbnb.

Airbnb’s policies are heavily aimed at protecting hosts and penalizing users. While cancellation policies are in place to minimize harm to hosts, in this case those policies have been enforced so that the host – valued at thousands of dollars – benefited greatly from it and suffered no harm.

I’d like to get my $ 5,058 refunded, please. Can you help?

– Lisa Huynh, Bartlett, Ill.

REPLY: Isn’t that ironic? Your first Airbnb home had to be canceled and you let the owner off the hook. They didn’t insist that the owner find a comparable Airbnb rental for the same price. And now that you have to cancel your rental because what you say is an honest mistake, Airbnb is asking you to pay $ 5,058.

I don’t understand how you could have accidentally booked two Airbnb hotels for the same dates. I mean, this is not Amazon where you can shop in one click. You need to navigate to multiple screens to confirm a booking.

A review of your case will reveal the answer. You have used Airbnb’s Booking Request feature which allows you to contact the owner directly to make a reservation. The owner of the first rental said the house was not available for your dates. You have booked the second accommodation using the Airbnb “Book now” function. But then the first owner came back and said it was available and then charged your credit card. Oops.

Airbnb’s most restrictive refund policy, known as its “strict” policy, allows you to cancel for free up to 48 hours after your first reservation. Unfortunately, there is small print. You must cancel at least 14 days before check-in. You were behind that window. Your case is a good reminder to read the confirmation emails you receive from Airbnb. You may find something in it that is inconsistent with your travel plans.

The next time you book something that costs $ 5,058, make sure to dot your i’s and cross your t’s. I may have tried to close the loop with the first property before making the second reservation.

I post the names, numbers, and email addresses of Airbnb executives on my consumer advocacy website at elliott.org/company-contacts/airbnb. It is possible that a short, polite email would have moved this case in your direction.

I contacted Airbnb on your behalf. Airbnb offered you a full refund.

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