Yet more AirBnb issues

I know you’re wondering why I keep using AirBnb if there are so many issues

It’s basically because I’m homeless and I need a place to stay. Other than a hostel the cheapest hotels are $100-$150 a night. Go to booking.com and check. Pretty much every city there’s 5 tiers of prices. Bottom teir is hostels. Next tier up is $100-$150 a night. That’s $3k to $4.5k a month which is a lot of money. Yes, I’m finally working on settling back down and renting an apartment at which point I won’t be looking to rent short term apartments. In other words I’ll stop using AirBnB. That said wasn’t going to bring up this latest issue .. until AirBnB called. See below So back in April (or was it March) I search on AirBnb and find this listing

I’m looking for something specific. I want a place that’s modern, clean, not too far from the station given that it’s going to get super hot and humid. At a station that is convenient to the places I hang out. No one wants to stay somewhere where they have to change trains 2 to 4 times to get to the places the frequent. I also want it to have a washer and a nice bathroom. Japanese bathrooms come in various styles. For AirBnB rentals the most common style is called a “unit bath”. The bathroom is molded out of one giant piece of fiberglass. The bathtub, sink, and toilet are all part of the same room / mold. It’s almost but not quite like an RV bathroom.

I lived with one of those for 8 years and often those are what cheap hotels have as well. I don’t want that, especially at the price I’m paying for a place so I look for a more traditional and nicer Japanese bathroom that looks more like this

Traditionally the a Japanese bathroom has a tub for soaking and an area outside the tub for cleaning. You sit on a stool in front of a mirror outside the tub. Clean yourself. Then when you’re clean you soak in the tub if you want. Me, I shave in the shower. Being able to sit on a stool and use a mirror is very useful for that.

The sink is in a separate room. Usually the room right outside the bathroom. The toilet is often in a completely separate room.

Anyway, this listing had all those things and it was near the station but on 2 very small streets so unlikely to have any noise problems. I know where those streets are so I book the place.

Then, a few days before I show up the host sends me instructions. I don’t look at the instructions because I already know the area. AirBnb has the address which I had clicked previously and marked down.

The day I move over there I start to look at the instructions because there are details about getting the key. That’s when I realized the instructions don’t lead to the place listed on AirBnB.

The location is several blocks away from where it was listed on AirBnb. It’s not on small streets it’s on highway 305. A street with not a small amount of traffic.

I’m of course pretty angry. You don’t pay $5585 for something and expect it not to be what you paid for but of course I’m f*cked. I’m walking down the street with my suitcase, backpack, coat, 2 hats and a duffel bag. What am I supposed to do? Sit on the street while I scramble to find a new place? Go to a hotel at the last second? Note: No hotels in Japan are available for 6 weeks. There’s a shortage of hotels in Japan so if I choose a hotel I’ll have to move every 1 or 2 weeks, possibly more.

Fine, fucked again. I’ll check out the place. Hopefully it’s not too loud on such a busy street. The most I can reasonably do is leave a scathing review for being ripped off.

So fine, I say at the place. If the host had not lied I would never have rented it given it’s location but otherwise it’s not a bad place. Still I can’t let it slide that he lied to me and sold me a place different than he advertised.

Fine, I moved out 3 days ago at the end of term. Wrote the bad review which basically said what it says above “Not a bad place but not the place I explicitly paid for”. I also wrote to AirBnb. That only goes to their community support. In other words not actually anyone from AirBnB but volunteers who like helping out. One of them responds and says I should flag the listing. So I do with a short explanation of the issue

That’s when a day or so later I get a call from AirBnb and the reason for this post. I wish I had recorded the conversation. I wonder if there’s an app that will always record all phone calls. That would be awesome. It would answer and say “this call will be recorded. hang up if you don’t want to be recorded”. Then it would start recording and ring me.

Anyway, the rep tried to first tell me the listing only show areas not locations. This is false-ish. When you search AirBnb shows a map with exact locations.

When you pick a specific listing and go to that listing’s page AirBnb shows a circle and lists it as “neighborhood”

We went round and round on that with the rep claiming the listings only show a circle and me pointing out I’m not talking about the listing I’m talking about the search. On top of which no search result has ever been off in the ~20 or so places I’ve rented until this one.

He then went on to claim the listing never said it was “quiet” to which I replied that’s irrelevant. The listing said it was in one place and it was somewhere else. That makes a huge difference. If you book a place at 5th and Mission in San Francisco but it turned out to be one block away at 6th and Mission those are like night and day. 5th and Mission has 4 hipster restaurants and a blue bottle coffee. 6th and Mission is one of the skankiest places in SF with video porn booths, check cashing stores, liquor stores with bars on the windows, and lots of homeless mentally ill people. Or take another example. Say you booked 4 blocks off of Times Square NYC but it turned out you were actually on the main street. It’s night and day. If you rent a place that says it’s on the beach and it turns out to be 6 blocks from the beach that’s not what you paid for. I paid for a place a block from a river on two tiny streets. I got a place several blocks away on a busy street.

So then he changed his story to “the street doesn’t look that big to him”. It’s still irrelevant but let’s check Google’s opinion of those streets. Here’s the location of the apartment. As I zoom how notice how Google maps starts getting rid of unimportant streets. Notice how even though I’m way zoomed out the street this apartment is on is still one of the few streets shown. In other words this is a major street for Tokyo

Note: I know that google maps highlights certain roads based on what you’re searching for but you’re welcome to try it yourself. No matter if you search for nothing or search for something else that road will stay visible through various levels of zoom as a major thoroughfare.

Next he tried to convince me it’s made very clear when I sign up that the listing locations might be off. That sounded like lawyer speak to me to hide behind small print. I don’t think a judge would care but no matter, let’s try to find this so called “very clear statement that locations shown might not be actual locations”.

First he claimed this “very clear notice” would appear when I signed up for a new account. Okay let’s try that. (warning, boring video)

Basically if you watch the video you’ll see nowhere could I find anything that says clearly or even unclearly that the locations shown are not accurate.

Here’s another video of me searching the site trying to find anything in any terms of service, help, or other spot that claims locations are not accurate (warning, super boring video)

Of course maybe they’ll add that after my bitching so they can then point to it and say “see, here on page 11 of EULA it says the location of the place you rent may be up to 1km from the location shown on our maps” or some such nonsense.

The rep claimed AirBnb has to let people lie about the location of their rental units because putting actual addresses on the internet would be dangerous. Oh really? So Redfin, Craigslist, VRBO, etc all somehow manage to do it? His response was basically, that’s why AirBnb is more successful than those other sites. O’RLY? AirBnb is more successful because of false advertising? Okay. Good to know.

Finally the rep offered to find me a new place. I guess he didn’t notice I already left. He then claimed if I had called at the beginning he could have found me a replacement. I’m sure he believes that. I don’t. Whether or not he’s helped other visitors in Japan I’m not those other visitors. Other visitors it’s most likely their first visit to Japan. No matter what kind of shitty place they get they’ll just chalk it up to their Japan experience. If they rent a 2 bedroom place and it turns out only to have 1 bedroom they’ll just assume that must be the way things are measured in Japan (they aren’t). If they get one of those unit baths they’ll just assume that’s the way it is. (It’s not) If it says it includes internet but it only includes a slow pocket wifi with limited internet they’ll just assume that’s the way it is in Japan. (It’s not)

Having looked for another place in August (hopefully the last one before I get my own apartment) I can tell you the number of places available that fit my criteria are very small and that’s looking > 4 weeks in advance. The odds of finding something at the last minute approaches zero.

Finally after trying to get him to admit his position is undefensible he just reiterated its AirBnB’s policy the locations are not accurate and that’s made super clear when signing up. I then pointed out the actual address in AirBnb itself was wrong. In AirBnb, once you are accepted to rent a place you get a more detailed info page. That page has the exact address. You can even click “get directions” which forwards you to Google Maps. This is what I did back when I first booked the place weeks before I arrived. That address was a lie which he finally got. Still no harm to the host. The host is free to lie as often as they want. The worst that happens in someone complains and they update their listing. Zero repercussions.

Note: Checking the place today they (AirBnb or the host) have moved the location. It’s still a lie. It shows itself on some quiet alley instead of on the highway. You’ll have to take my word for it the location it claims it’s on is quiet. The street it’s now listed on is quiet street. So quiet it’s the type of street you walk down the center off because there’s no traffic on it. Next time I’m in Japan I’ll be happy to go video the difference between those 2 streets. I suppose the rep would claim it doesn’t say it’s quiet. BUT I’VED LIVED IN TOKYO 9 YEARS. I KNOW THE STREETS. So based on the map I’m renting what I know.

Starting to wish I was Peter Thiel so I could afford to blow some money on lawyers and stuff.

To make it clear I don’t hate AirBnb but come on! Have some self respect. Effing fix your shit! Hosts should not be able to lie about their listings. AirBnb should hold them accountable and have punishments in place when they fail. Mark the rating down. Fine them. Etc.. Stop letting hosts lie about their location. Stop letting hosts lie about the number of bedrooms. Stop letting hosts lie about parking. Stop letting hosts lie about internet. How fucking hard is it to disallow that? In fact it says it right in their terms of service

To create a Listing, you will be asked a variety of questions about the Accommodation to be listed, including, but not limited to, the location, capacity, size, features, and availability of the Accommodation and pricing and related rules and financial terms. In order to be featured in Listings via the Site, Application and Services, all Accommodations must have valid physical addresses

  • Bat Manson

    With Airbnb, you have no one to turn to when it goes bad. I never got refunded my “night” (4h spent trying to get their support from midnight til 4am) in a rat infested place. “You should have called me earlier” was the official answer. It’s part of the script, genuinely written to make you feel guilty of having not followed an undocumented, counter-intuitive procedure.
    The second time I had a big issue, in a place were there was no working bathroom, I knew the script. I called immediately, in the front of the “owner” while I was visiting. They all ended up embarrassed, the script didn’t work as it relies a lot on “a man in the middle” attitude, a lot in “I will see what I can do with the owner”. Guess what? Down the road, they still didn’t do anything. Nada. Niet. Rien du tout. So be prepared and only book a place you can cancel. Or just figure out who is the owner and bypass Airbnb altogether. Only book the minimum stay via Airbnb and extend in person with the owner. Nowadays, Airbnb doesn’t provide enough guarantee for the renter to justify paying an extra 30% on everything.