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Help with refund decision on strict policy

Hello! I am new to this site, so, even though I have gone through a significant amount of threads before posting this, I still not 100% sure I’m doing this right. I have found quite a few topics on issues similar to mine but none -as far as I could see- that truly applies to my case, so I would appreciate your input!

My family and I have only been hosting for a couple of years with zero problems so far, and we only get two or three bookings a year for our vacation home, so I have no prior experience with cancellations and refunds. This summer, we got two bookings a couple of months ago, which truly surprised us considering the pandemic, but we thought we’d accept them, thinking the guests must have thought through the risks and decided they were worth taking.

However, one of the guests who is scheduled to arrive in 9 days just messaged me saying that he wants to cancel and get a full refund because covid cases in my country (Greece) have been rising lately (of course they have, since it’s the peak of the tourist season here and the government insistently promoted the islands as safe destinations). He said that since the greek government are now taking restrictive measures, such as mask-wearing being obligatory for unvaccinated people, bars being closed after 1am etc, and since some people in their company are unvaccinated, they would no longer be able to do the “activities” they would like to do on the island so they decided not to come after all. They requested a full refund, while my policy is strict.

The reason why my policy has always been set to strict is because we manage the house ourselves. It’s a private home, not a business, and we do not live on the island during the year, which means that when a guest books, we book our own flights to get there, clean the house and get it in order and be there to welcome them, before flying back to Athens again. The strict policy has probably cost us a few bookings but it gives us a (false?) sense of security, so that we can arrange our work commitments in Athens and book our plane tickets in order to be there before each guest arrives and make sure the house is in order.

I understand that covid has created a lot of problems for hosts and guests alike and I’m all for understanding others when unforeseeable circumstances occur. We are also usually very accommodating to guests and not incredibly strict with the rest of our rules (check in/check out time etc since we are not professionals and we want to make guests feel welcome and comfortable). However, I feel reluctant to agree to a full refund in this case, since (from what I understand) his case does not fall within the extenuating circumstances airbnb has set as eligible for a full refund. Neither he or any of his co-travelers have contracted covid, nor is there an enforced lockdown or sudden travel restrictions in place. The only reason he has for cancelling is that basically his holidays aren’t going to be how they imagined them. (Frankly, I wonder how they thought partying in the middle of a pandemic in peak season in the single most touristy island of the country could work, but this was a risk they were clearly willing to take and this is why i am hesitant to be lenient with the refund).

Let me also add that we have already booked our tickets to the island in order to clean and arrange everything, and consequently made arrangements in our work commitments to accommodate that. It is also near impossible that these dates can get rebooked now.

The rest of my family tends to be much more accommodating and understanding with issues such as these, but I can’t help but think we /should/ be treating it as a business, at least to the extent that will allow us to protect ourselves from actually losing money instead of earning some.

How would you reply to this guest? Any and all advice would be much appreciated.

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People who book vacations during a pandemic know what they are doing and should not expect special treatment. They knew they were booking a non-refundable stay, stick to your policy.

I’m guessing this was not an inexpensive vacation to arrange. Shame on them for not buying travel insurance and expecting you to take the financial loss. Refer them to Airbnb to handle it and when Airbnb contacts you to issue a refund stand firm.

You already have your plane tickets, go enjoy your property!

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Exactly this.

Best of luck and let us know what happens.

Welcome to the forum and hope you stay around even though you don’t host that much.

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Offer to refund what ever dates get rebooked.
How far away are the dates?

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@KKC @DozerPug Thank you so much for your advice! I wish we didn’t have to travel at all this summer, with how covid cases are rising on the island and how risky plane and boat rides are during this time, but i guess we’ll see it as a forced holiday and try to enjoy it! Hah

@Debthecat Their check-in date in on the 29th, so 8 days away (it’s July 21st here in my timezone). As I stated in my original post, it’s quite unlikely that these dates can get booked now. I have instant booking turned off because of the reasons I have already mentioned, and there have been many cancellations in the island over the past week because of the government’s new measures.

Plus, as I said, we have already booked our tickets to arrive there a few days earlier and leave on the 29th after having welcomed them, as well as our tickets for their check out date, when we’d see them off, clean again and prepare the house for the next guest. It’s highly unlikely there will be a booking in the next couple of days for the exact same dates (so that we won’t have to change our tickets to different dates, depending on their check in and check out dates). At least, I think it is.

Should i just refer them to airbnb, stating that I don’t have their money yet and that airbnb handles cancellations and refunds, and when airbnb contacts me, then possibly offer to refund any rebooked dates (which there probably won’t be any but might make me seem more understanding)?

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Yes.

Never ever refund before the whole process has been gone through. You don’t have their money to refund anyway. Airbnb does very little to help us, this is one of the few services they offer for their fees.

Don’t feel bad, these folks should have gotten travel insurance. I don’t have much sympathy for people traveling during a pandemic and that includes many close friends.

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Yes, refer them them to CS with Airbnb.
The offer of refund if rebooked is showing that you are attempting to help them…… not ignoring their issues and trying to be fair.

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Thanks @KKC ! That makes perfect sense! I shall do that, then, and keep you posted on how it goes. Thank you for welcoming me to the forum so warmly too!

By the way, the second guest that has booked with us this summer also requested something similar, but I thought it was so illogical that it didn’t even occur to me to ask for a second opinion on it, but I might as well mention it.

She said that she had booked the house with six other friends of hers. However, one of them decided she didn’t want to come after all, and the guest asked me to deduct that one person’s “share” of the total price. I was quite baffled. I told her that the price is set per night and it is predetermined and fixed and that the number of people the guest chooses to come with (as long as it stays within the limit of people that the house can accommodate) and the way the decide to split the cost between them is none of my business. Also, again, that i do not have their money yet, and that these are no valid grounds (that i know of) to initiate a partial refund through airbnb. Quite random, I thought!

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@Debthecat Thank you very much! I will do that!

I think you gave guest #2 a perfect answer.

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Many hosts do have a per person charge.

I rented a home in Boston a couple of years ago. 6 of us were coming together from my city, and 2 friends were coming from a different city for a shorter amount of time. They had to confirm their trip later than the rest of us. I did tell the host the number of days they would be there once they confirmed and he only charged for the nights they would be there.

You already made this decision when you set your policy at strict.
Guest made reservation for a place with a strict policy in a pandemic.

Stick to your policy.

RR

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Hi everyone! Thank you again for all your replies! You have been really helpful.

The guest decided to cancel the reservation after all, and I got airbnb’s message informing me that I will be getting 50% of the payout, as per my strict policy, and the guest will be getting a 50% refund.

Unfortunately, a few minutes later I received this message from the guest. It looks like he didn’t understand my initial reply about my unwillingness to give a full refund, and he insists, saying I should be the one to contact airbnb to ask for the rest of the money to be returned to him too. I am guessing that’s what the airbnb customer service support agent told them to do, considering they gave me full instructions on how to do so. I am very uncomfortable with this situation. I stand by my decision and I know I should just tell them that , because this is a service bound by rules agreed upon by both parties at the time of the booking, and not a charity, but I am still uncomfortable with their insistence and unsure about how to make it clear to them that I do need the expenses I have already made for their booking compensated, without this dragging for too long and leaving a sour taste in the guest’s mouth.

By the way, I have not been contacted personally by airbnb to be asked about the possibility of further refund, as I thought was procedure. Looks like they left that responsibility to the guest.

I am pasting their reply below:

Hi! I’ve some news for you. If you remember we are very worried about the situation there in Greece so, we ultimately decided to cancel our trip. It’s not an easy decision cause we wanted so bad to come in your beautiful country but maybe it’s just not the right time for it. We have contacted Airbnb to get a total refund, (like we said yesterday to you), and they are able to give us all the money back. We only need your help to activate the process to end the contract, so we would need you to contact Airbnb to demonstrate that we all agree to finalize the refound.

The steps to complete the procedure are the followings:

  • We initiate the refund process (done)
  • You should see on your end that we initiated the procedure and you should be able to click on it. Even if it shows that the procedure is set for 50% refund you should be able to click on ‘send money’ to send the rest of the total payment.
  • If you have any further questions Airbnb is available to help you step by step.

Hoping it’s not too much to ask for, and hoping to see you soon in the near future, I wanted to thank you for your availability to do so. Wish you the best of luck.

Again, any advice would be hugely appreciated.

Don’t be uncomfortable. Just stick to the policy. I would only refund if you were rebooked. Plenty of hosts here have no problem keeping the money if they rebook so you could do that as well.

“Dear guest, thanks for your message. Under the strict cancellation policy you are not due any further refund. If you need a statement to that effect to submit to your travel insurance company I will be happy to provide that.”

If they continue to harass you, flag their account and report them.

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Airbnb may still contact you. It’s ok to say no!

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I might be a little gentler unless the guests have been at you with repeated demand messages. Obviously Airbnb has led them down the garden path, hoping that you the host will cave, and they’ve confused that with an Airbnb “approved” refund.

“Dear guest, thanks for your message. Unfortunately, under the strict cancellation policy you agreed to when booking, you are not entitled to any further refund per Airbnb policies. The situation here is that Airbnb provided instructions for the host to make a full refund in excess of the cancellation policy as an option. Airbnb the company is not providing nor guaranteeing a refund. I’m sorry if that was not made clear to you.

I believe that under some special circumstances Airbnb corporate has provided administrative refunds directly from the company. You could pursue that further with customer service.

We wish we could help you further, but due to the nature of the property and booking patterns we cannot offer 100% refunds and remain a viable business. You may want to look at other properties with moderate or flexible cancellation policies for future travel plans. If you need a statement to submit to your travel insurance company we will be happy to provide that.”

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Yes, stick to your guns when Airbnb pressures you:

“I can’t afford to provide 100% refunds. That would put me out of business. Then neither I nor Airbnb would make any money from this property. I trust that is not what you want.”

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I think it’s just as likely that the guest is playing the old “but Mom said… but Dad said” game.

I like to avoid giving reasons or big explanations about why… I think it’s better to just say what I am willing or unwilling to do.

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Several people have advised you to stick to your strict policy. I agree.

Several others have said to offer to refund some of the money if you get rebooked. That’s okay, too. But no one has said this: Offer to refund some of the money if you get rebooked, but not until AFTER you have been paid for the rebooking.

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Hello again, everyone! I can’t thank you enough for your time, your encouragement and your detailed replies. I have responded with a mixture of your templates and I will keep you posted on how it goes, if you’re interested.

In any case, I don’t plan (nor do I have the time) to drag this out much further. I have already replied to him twice about the cancellation policy. I was also keeping him abreast of any new covid-related government measures out of good will, so he had the chance to cancel much earlier, if he was concerned. They also should have known better than to travel in the middle of another covid wave, let alone to a massively crowded tourist destination, and to book a house with a strict cancellation policy at that.

Should airbnb contact me directly, i will stick to the policy and your advice.

Thank you again!

@KKC I had no idea about the per person charge. Indeed, it does not apply to my listing, but thanks for letting me know! This puts the guest’s reply into perspective.

@RebeccaF Great point! Thanks for that reminder. I offered the possibility of further refund if the dates get rebooked. I doubt they will or that the guest will agree to just that, but i will make sure to let them know of this fact should it come to that.

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