My first uncomfortable situation after 5 years of hosting was yesterday. I had a guest send me a reservation request for 8 days. He was a student with his dog who needed a place to stay before his apartment was available. He asked for a discount and since I have kids in college I gave him a $200 discount. We messaged back and forth about his dog as I wanted to be sure he know my rules about keeping pets in a kennel when he was not present. I accepted the reservation feeling good. Then I Googled his name and found it was a name mentioned in a tv show. There were no students in the student directory with that name. There was a facebook account with that name with lots of friends so I wasn’t worried. I did send him a message asking if that was his legal name. I started to get concerned when he said no but that he does go by that first name. He did not provide his legal name in the message. He said he registered for Airbnb by logging in to Facebook which creates an account using Facebook information. So he had a funny name on Facebook. Okay. I asked Airbnb for his legal name and they would not tell me. They said they have verified his identity and that should be sufficient for me. So I messaged him and asked what is your legal name? He didn’t answer. So I asked again and said to send me his legal name within 24 hours or I will cancel. Sounds harsh but his reservation was only 5 days away. I wanted him to have time to find an alternative if he wasn’t willing to share that. Bantering back and forth and THEN cancelling would make it harder for him.
He replied that he likes to keep his information private and doesn’t appreciate me digging in his private life. Then in a separate message he gave his legal name (or was it?) with a comment that he is no longer comfortable staying at my place with my prying into his personal information. I do Google my guests and try to verify information that they provided in their contact messages. If they are a student at the university, I search the public site for their name. If they are attending a conference, I check to make sure that conference is occurring that date. Sometimes I check Facebook to make sure their pictures matches what they uploaded to Airbnb. AND I google their name and 'arrest’s to see check to see if they have been arrested for a violent crime or been in the news for something that would make me uncomfortable. The apartment is only 20 feet from my house.
I changed my cancellation policy to flexible so he wouldn’t be penalized but he said he couldn’t get a full refund. I called Airbnb and they said the reservation is in conflict resolution and the only person who can change it is a case manager. The case manager calls me and said that I have to be the one to cancel plus I incur a $100 fine and it will affect my Superhost status. I said well I could ask the guest to cancel and send him his money via Paypal. After some discussion the Airbnb support agreed, this one time, to cancel the reservation without penalizing me or the guest since we both wanted to cancel. But support advised me to put in my house rules that legal names must be provided in order to make a reservation. In the end, the student said he was pursuing a career in the intelligence field and works very hard to keep his name off the internet. Actually very good idea that I should be more careful about myself. I don’t know what’s true or what’s not but I learned that if I’m uncomfortable with a guest, we probably aren’t a good match, even if my gut is off.