Travel solutions: Should Airbnb refund for "biggest roach"? – Arizona Daily Star

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Q: I recently reserved an Airbnb rental in Tallahassee, Florida. A few hours after I arrived, I was in the kitchen and saw the biggest roach I’ve ever seen in my life.

There was no bug spray, and my boyfriend couldn’t kill it. It ran under the island. I didn’t feel safe and was afraid that the roaches would get into my things.

The host offered me a different rental, but I didn’t hear from her for four hours. So, we left the rental and checked into a hotel.

I contacted Airbnb, which offered to refund the cleaning fee. I’ve requested to speak with a supervisor and sent a complaint to the Better Business Bureau (BBB). A supervisor contacted me four days ago to set up a time to talk, and I replied with my availability. No one has contacted me since. It seems almost impossible to speak to someone to resolve this issue. I’d like to get a refund of the $614 I spent on the rental. Can you help? ─ Maulah Halley, Brooklyn Park, Minnesota

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A: Do you deserve a full refund for discovering a roach in your Florida rental? I’m not sure. But I’m concerned you were having trouble connecting with someone at Airbnb. And I also wanted to know how big the roach was. So, I decided to take your case.

You sent me a picture. It was very big.

I remember encountering one of those bugs when I stayed at a hostel in New Orleans during the 1980s. I smacked it hard with a shoe, and it just scurried away, unfazed. Scary.

But as your host noted in the email correspondence with you, cockroaches ─ or palmetto bugs ─ are common in northern Florida. It doesn’t necessarily mean the entire rental is infested or that you’ll ever see one again.

You did the right thing by contacting the host and Airbnb immediately. You might have given the host an opportunity to treat the living areas with insecticide. But Airbnb’s refund policy (found at www.airbnb.com/help/article/2868/rebooking-and-refund-policy) specifically covers accommodations that contain safety or health hazards, or pests. You might have argued that a cockroach ─ sorry, a palmetto bug ─ was both a health hazard and a pest.

The key to fixing this was to find Airbnb’s refund policy and hold the company to it. Airbnb would then find you alternate accommodations. Airbnb just bounced you back to the host instead of allowing you to invoke its refund policy. I think a brief, polite email to one of the Airbnb executive contacts I list on my consumer advocacy site (www.elliott.org/company-contacts/airbnb-customer-service-contacts/) might have helped move things along.

I contacted Airbnb on your behalf. A representative called you and offered half of your money back. You said no. Airbnb then offered a full refund, which you accepted.

Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. You can read more travel tips on his blog, elliott.org, or email him at [email protected]


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