How to Avoid a Cancellation

Guest writes in today to say she’s cancelling. She made the reservation more than two weeks ago and her check-in date is 3 days from now.

She said she had gone through Airbnb to cancel but they would only refund her the $29 cleaning fee, but she was still on the hook for the $525 reservation. She asked if we could please refund that to her - because it was an EMERGENCY! Although she never stated what the emergency was!

When people claim they have an emergency but they don’t tell you what it is - that means they don’t have an emergency.

Look what happened!! The guest wrote in this morning and said this:

“Sorry to let yo know that I have to cancel this trip to New York. Because there is an emergency happened that I have to cancel this reservation. When I click the button “Change or Cancel”, I see the total refund is only $29. I understand that there is a rule for cancellation. But I am still wandering that is there a way that I can get most of the refund. I would truly appreciate that if you could understand us. Thank you for your understanding. It is too late right now, I would like to give you a call in the afternoon. Sorry for that.”

So, my strategy is…

  1. Humanize yourself first and foremost. Show them that you’re not some big faceless corporate entity that can easily absorb a cancellation. You have to put a human face on yourself and let them know they’re going to cause you a BIG GIANT emergency. They supposedly have an emergency, so you have to let them know that you now have an emergency too! An emergency caused by them!

  2. Make them feel STUPID. Point out something so obviouis that they’ll blame themselves for not doing it - and it will rob them of some of their motivation to continue pursuing a refund from you. If you can lessen their intensity in pursuing the refund there’s a greater chance they’ll just go away and drop it. If they continue to insist upon a refund, they may contact Airbnb and make up some story that Airbnb will fall for. We all know Air has a very soft spot in their hearts for these kinds of stories. So, you want to try to take away some of their motivation so they won’t contact Air. Making them feel like it was their stupid mistake that caused all this - I think takes away some of their motivation to continue pursuing it.

  3. Sit back and wait for their next message which will tell you - the emergency has passed and they’re going to be able to make it after all!! Once they realize they’re not going to get a refund - it’s AMAZING how suddenly their emergency evaporates. Because guess what? Losing the $500 or whatever numbers of dollars they were going to spend with you - turns out to be a bigger emergency than the one they originally had!

And keep this in mind too. A lot of times the “emergency” somebody has is that a friend or family member has requested that their presence to help them out with something during the time they were going to be with you. Or maybe their boss suddenly told them they’re needed at work during that time - even though they already approved those dates for a vacation. Maybe their friend is sick and needs their help. Maybe their friend is moving and needs their help. Whatever it is, there’s a good chance your guest doesn’t really want to do it - and they’d rather be vacationing at your place! So when you give them a firm no - they’re actually glad you did! Because they can then call their friend or boss and tell them they can’t get out of the reservation.

Problem solved for you and your guest!

Anyway, in response to my guests’ message this morning, I wrote back and said this:

"Hi, I’m so sorry - but we can’t do anything for you on that. That’s because you’re cancelling just 3 days before your arrival and that doesn’t give us any time to rent the room out to someone else and we won’t be able to pay all our bills this month. We rely on Airbnb for most of our income. And we have a new baby on the way so our expenses are really skyrocketing and we really can’t afford to live without the Airbnb income we would have received from you or somebody else for the week of your stay. We just can’t afford to lose a whole week of income this month.

That’s why trip cancellation insurance is always recommended because if you do have to cancel for any reason then you would be refunded everything 100%. Did you buy trip cancellation insurance for this trip? You could have bought it for this trip for around $60."

1st paragraph humanizes us and shows what an emergency she’s causing for us.
2nd paragraph makes her feel stupid for not purchasing trip cancellation insurance.

Less than an hour later, her emergency suddenly evaporated!

“Here is a good news that we are going to keep the room and we are able to go to New York this time!! Things has been sorted out. So we do not have to go back to China. I am sorry for the confusion. But we would like to keep the room. Thank you for taking your time to help me.”


The cynic might suggest that all those issues you mention would be classified as Extenuating Circumstances.

I would add you can ay that you are happy to refund if you get other bookings.


I have no interest in trying to make my guests feel stupid. I don’t get how that is a winning strategy.

I’d just reply that all cancellations have to be handled by Airbnb according to the policy stated in the listing if I needed to but I have flexible so usually don’t have any cancellation issues.


Yeah, but in this case I’m not happy to refund if I get another reservation. And in this case, I would not get a reservation that would fill the whole time she was cancelling for.

I’m not sure what you mean about the issues I mentioned being classified as Extenuating Circumstances? I don’t understand the point you’re trying to make.

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AirBnB in general seem very generous in what they deem to be extenuating circumstances. after all its mainly not their money.

You would only refund in the case of another booking what you received from the new guest which may be less in both time and per night.


I wonder if offering a potential, partial refund is actually the more business savvy move here. If you tell the guest that you can’t do a refund at all, they could pursue with ABB and you may have to refund anyway. But if you tell them you will refund them up to what they paid per night for nights you are able to re-book, you really may end up making a lot more money.

So if the original guest paid $50/night and you rebook at $45/night with a new guest for only 3 nights, then you refund the original guest $135 of their original price. If you’re able to rebook at $55/night, you still only refund $150 and you make $15 extra for those 3 nights than you would have if you had just not refunded.

I have a strict cancellation policy, but I generally will do this I’m the case of a guest asking for a refund. I will refund what I can based on what I’m able to rebook. I find last minute bookings bring in more money usually anyway. And that way, they don’t involve ABB and I come out the winner for just a little extra work.


Many of us don’t get last-minute bookings. We offer a three-bedroom house in its entirety on an island in the Caribbean. “Last-minute” for our guests is usually three weeks, not three days.

That said, I offer a refund for any nights we can rebook, but tell them the odds are very, very low we’ll get rebooked. That keeps us from appearing unreasonable, and lets them make the decision on taking the risk.


Location and property type definitely play a role in last minute bookings. Sounds like you’ve picked a smart strategy in handling cancellations.

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Glad it worked out and she is coming. I hate last minute cancellations. She obviously didn’t qualify for EC and was trying to get you to refund. You set the right tone with your response and I don’t think anything about it was inappropriate or off at all.

You should see how many hosts are eating it hard here on the Big Island with Air gviving refunds for locations nowhere near the volcanic eruptions!

Thanks to the sensaltionistic media!


Thanks for that info, Kona, I was worrying about you!



I’ve rarely had cancellations but when I have, I’ve decided that I have no interest anyway in hosting people who don’t really want to be here. I had a cancellation recently (just a couple of days before the stay was supposed to start) and their reason for wanting to cancel was that the weather forecast didn’t look too good.

When I’ve been asked about refunds I just explain to them how Airbnb works from a host’s point of view and that we don’t actually get the money until the stay is in progress. And then that they should contact Airbnb because that’s where their money is.


Sounds like a recipe for a bad review.


If I I suddenly needed an extra $20 a night because I got a larger than expected phone bill I don’t get to ask my existing bookings to accept a higher rate to “help out with my emergency”. In an emergency they should ask for financial help from their friends and family, not some random guy they booked a room with on AirBnB. I offer them whatever I can make up with a new booking less 20% “rebooking fee”.

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I had a late booking for this (winter) weekend, maybe because the forecast is for sunny, warm weather. Should I charge them more if the sun is shining?


I’d rather have the $250 and put up with an indifferent 3 star review. I can always use the money. 5 star reviews (of which I have plenty) not so much.


OMG!!! Run!!! There’s green lava everywhere!!!

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Glad to hear you are okay @konacoconutz I’ve been thinking about you and yours XX

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How long does it usually take for your market to improve? I found your maps to be quite enlightening… what we are seeing here in Australia appears to be Hawaii drowning in a hot molten tide!


For once I am so glad that the media hype is just that; hype. Normally that annoys the proverbial out of me, but this is good news indeed. The BBC had a reporter out with a gas mask yesterday, spouting doom and gloom… Fake news anyone? Glad you’re ok too.

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