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Last minute 10 day (possible) cancellation, considering switching cancellation policies

Hello everyone,

Here’s another request for advice. So, back in May, I got a slightly odd inquiry:

Myself and my daughter are looking to stay in Mumbai for two weeks, Do you have an additional discount for 2 weeks ? How do I apply the discount to the booking - do you provide a coupon code?

The thing is, this guy was at the time an Airbnb host. What coupon codes was he talking about? I offered him a 10% discount, and never heard back from him.

Then on the 29th of October, I got a 10 day booking request from him, from 13th November to 23rd November,. I was outside, and I didn’t have a data connection on my phone, so it took me a few hours to get back to him with a followup question. He didn’t reply during the 24 hour period, and I finally wound up accepting his booking shortly before the acceptance/rejection period expired. I was a little concerned about the earlier weird message. It’s tempting to say something like - “next time I’ll listen to my instincts”, but I really didn’t have much info at the time.

Note, in May he had (I think) 6 host reviews, a live listing, but no guest reviews. In October nothing had changed, except his listing was no longer live.

The eventual response, which came a bit after I had accepted the booking, included a weird sentence about discounts.

We will gladly accept your discounts but we already paid so any cash back could be a good alternative if possible.

I wrote back, saying I didn’t know what he was talking about, and that a discount was already included in the cost of the booking (I’d just increased my weekly discount from 5% to 10%).

Then, when I asked about check-in and check-out time, he wrote:

We will check in around 12 noon. Departure to be advised.

My normal check-in is 4 pm. In my limited experience, it’s not a good sign when guests tell rather than ask.

Finally, yesterday evening, around 16:05 local time (8th November) he wrote:

Due to unforeseen health concerns we have to cancel our booking. We are very sorry but this is enough time I’m sure. Thank you and we would love to come along another time.

But he hasn’t actually cancelled as of right now, 3 am local time.

Note: I’m currently on a moderate cancellation policy.

So, some questions:

  1. Would I be correct in thinking that the guy is now inside the 5 day period? So in theory he’d get some financial penalty. The Airbnb page says

For a full refund of accommodation fees, cancellation must be made five full days prior to listing’s local check in time (or 3:00 PM if not specified) on the day of check in. For example, if check-in is on Friday, cancel by the previous Sunday before check in time.

So according to this, he would have needed to have cancelled Tuesday before 4 pm. Hmm, that’s actually exactly when he sent the message, except he didn’t actually cancel.

A reservation is officially canceled when the guest clicks the cancellation button on the cancellation confirmation page, which they can find in Dashboard > Your Trips > Change or Cancel.

Which he didn’t do, unless there was a software glitch.

Cancellation policies may be superseded by the Guest Refund Policy, extenuating circumstances, or cancellations by Airbnb for any other reason permitted under the Terms of Service. Please review these exceptions.

That’s so reassuring.

  1. What should I do at this point? Two things come to mind. I could:

a) write to the guy, pointing out he hasn’t actually cancelled. But is it possible it takes some time to process a cancellation? Does anyone know?

b) write to Airbnb (I usually use Twitter) saying that the guy has written a message saying he is cancelling, but hasn’t actually cancelled.

Advice? If the guy isn’t going to show up, which at this point sounds pretty likely, it clearly makes sense to get my calendar freed up as soon as possible. Thanks in advance.

And final thoughts - this kind of thing really makes me think that I should seriously consider a strict cancellation policy, despite concerns that it might affect bookings.

I would want my calendar opened immediately and be done with this wishy washy guest.

I have no idea how it works with extenuating circumstances. For example: let’s say the guest finally gets around to canceling right after your payout is being sent. He cancels, and then Air tells him to submit his documenation for “unforseen health issues.” - Will Air then apply his refund to your future payouts?? I have no idea how that works.

Or let’s say he waits to do this 2 days before arrival and uses extenuating circumstances. If Air gives him a full refund then you have kept your calendar blocked the entire time.

I would contact Air and let them know that guest is canceling, but hasn’t done so and you need your calendar re-opened immediately. If they say the policy is for the guest to cancel, and it is out of their hands - then ask them directly if that means guest can cancel morning of, and you will receive nothing - if they apply extenuating circumstances.

Another poster went through a similar issue and had to be persistent to get an Air rep. to help her re-open the calendar since the guest communicated they were canceling, but not till they got home later that day after work.

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Hi @cabinhost,

Thanks for the advice. I thought this was the right thing to do, but it’s nice to get confirmation. Do you agree it also makes sense to write to the guest and point out that he hasn’t actually cancelled?

Oh, and can you (or anyone else) confirm that the guest is now inside the 5 day window?

Sure. You want to be rid of him…correct??

Tell him that you have no authority to cancel and he needs to do so immediately in order for Air to refund him. Act like you are doing him a favor. If Air pays you a day or he loses his service fees…so be it. It will be up to him to prove the extenuating circumstances. But be clear it is out of your hands.

No matter how it plays out…be sure to let Air know that you are not canceling. I would contact them anyway to have it on record. You don’t want a silly rep. misinterpreting anything, and assigning you as the person to cancel. Then you will be wasting time down the road - trying to prove that it was really the guest, and this is not a cancellation that you initiated.

This is what I would write to him:

“So sorry to hear about your unforeseen health concerns, and that you have canceled your trip. I hope your situation gets better. BTW - you may want to confirm with Airbnb that they have canceled on your behalf, as I have not received any notice at all. What time did you cancel the reservation? I just don’t want you to miss out on any refunds.”

Honestly I wouldn’t wait around for him to react. He could just be looking around for a “better deal.” I do hope you keep tabs on his profile and see if he gets any later reviews from other hosts (for the timeframe he rented). Actually, it would be interesting to know if Airbnb does anything if a host can prove a guest claimed extenuating circumstances, yet booked those same dates in the same area.

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Hi @cabinhost,

Ok, here is what I wrote to Airbnb on Twitter:

Hi. I just received a message from xxxxxxxx (confirmation code xxxxxx). As you can check, he wrote as follows “Due to unforeseen health concerns we have to cancel our booking. We are very sorry but this is enough time I’m sure.” However, he has not actually cancelled his booking. It’s now less than 5 days from the beginning of my reservation, so since this person is not planning to honor his reservation, I need my calendar re-opened immediately. To be clear, I am not cancelling the reservation. Thanks in advance. Faheem Mitha (http://toweerroom.net ).

Thanks for the suggestions. I was just planning to point out to him that he hasn’t actually cancelled his reservation. It seems clear to me that he hasn’t actually cancelled - the web page still shows him as booked, and Airbnb hasn’t sent me any notification.

Keep me posted. What is plan B if the Air rep. you get says “guest must cancel.” Are you going to ask him what happens if guest uses extenuating circumstances after a payout - will they try to take the money back from future payouts?

If he communicated the intent to cancel through the messaging platform, airbnb will cancel for you and then your calendar will be freed up.

This is how it went down for me when a guest said she was cancelling ‘later when I get home from work’ but I wanted the dates open asap.

Good luck!

Hi @cabinhost,

This is what I wrote to the guest:

Hi xxxxxx,

Sorry to hear about your health issues. However, as of right now, your reservation is still active. You have not cancelled it. Please do so immediately. Until you do so, your reservation will continue to block my calendar and other guests will be unable to book the 10 day period of your reservation. Thanks in advance.

I’m giving Airbnb the (possibly undeserved) compliment of assuming that the guest didn’t try to cancel and got blocked by their crappy software malfunctioning. I think even Airbnb should be able to do something as simple as cancel a reservation.

I haven’t decided what to do if the guest doesn’t cancel and Airbnb won’t do it. I’m not sure what I can do, besides complain loudly.

Thanks for the resassurance, @dcmooney. Let’s hope they do.

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Hi, so update. I just had a chat exchange with some Airbnb idiot (sorry, no other word will do).

Here are portions of the exchange.

Faheem, I was able to confirm they needed to cancel. Due to the medical concerns would you like to refund them in full?

(He’s got some nerve, I must say.)

I replied:

Hi Silas. I’d like to refunded per the terms of my cancellation policy.

And Silas then added:

So your guest would have been refunded in full if it had processed when he told you about the cancellation.

One thing to note also that we will be asking for documentation behind the health issues and if your guest provides this we also be able to provide him a refund in accordance with our extenuating circumstance policy.

(He could just say - I want to give the guest all his money back. Instead of beating around the bush.)

To which I replied.

Hi Silas, well, that’s nice for the guest.

Why don’t they come right out and admit that their cancellation policies are a joke?

And finally

I canceled on behalf of your guest if you refresh the page your calendar is clear and it will show as canceled.

The guest also responded:

We have canceled with air b&b about 12houres ago. We are very sorry about it

He didn’t. The Airbnb rep cancelled it just now, and I got a message.

I think it’s pretty certain this guy will try to get all his money back, and the chances are Airbnb will let him have it.

So, any idea about defensive measures wrt this? Is there any point in changing to a strict cancellation policy if Airbnb treats their policies like a joke? It might just serve to discourage guests. Maybe I should just put an upper bound on longer reservations and/or be very conservative about accepting longer reservations. I.e. only accept from guests with plenty of good reviews.

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I would definitely put the upper bound on reservations.

I agree it is all a joke. And I didn’t like the snakiness of the Air rep. trying to twist the situation, and try to pressure you to give him the okay to refund in full. I hope you told Air that they should do what they need to do to get their documentation. Another joke…lol.

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I’m thinking maybe a kind of secondary structure as follows.

That if guests don’t have a bunch of good reviews, limit is to x days, where x is to be decided. Maybe 3 or 4? If they have a bunch of good reviews, allow a longer length. Though I’m still not sure if a stay as long as 10 days is reasonable.

Thoughts welcome.

I know, right? What a slimeball. I guess they are teaching them to say those things. It’s not like the guy knew anything about the circumstances of the reservation - he came up with this stuff directly after I pinged him about it.

I would write to BNB and confirm that in line with your cancellation policy you will not be offering the guest any refund. However, if our course they receive a medical certificate in line with BNB’s extenuating circumstances policy, you will accept this.

Just curious, @faheem - have you had many cancellations before? I have had 2 out of 107 completed trips. I’m not the math -guy you are, but I believe that is 2%? Well, I did have a third night cancelled but that was only one night out of several because of a flight issue. Only ONE of my cancellations was because of a reported medical issue.

So the question is benefit/risk. Even my disappointed voter from California will be entitled to 50% up to 5 days prior to her arrival. So if I set my policy to strict and possibly turn away some guests so that I can protect 50% of 2% of my earnings, is it worth it?

Moderate may be better for advertising purposes and only risks, perhaps, 1% of your earnings.

Of course this would be easier for you and I as we are not renting out $1,000 cabins.

What I dislike the most is the extra work involved as each new booking takes time and energy.

Just a thought on a rainy morning in the USA.

Hi @Helsi,

Airbnb has already adjusted my expected payout per the moderate cancellation policy. Of course, that doesn’t mean that Airbnb won’t return all the money to this person if he produces a “medical certificate”. I think that’s quite likely to happen. The guest struck me as a jerk. And it’s easy enough to manufacture something that looks like a medical certificate, and it’s not as though Airbnb is going to bother to check anything. The only time they care is if they have to pay out some money themselves.

And I don’t think that me accepting has anything to do with it. They don’t care how the host feels. Other people have reported similar happenings here. It’s easy enough to find the threads.

A total of three so far. One for 1 nights, one for 5 nights, and the current one under discussion, for 10 nights. The stats page tells me I’ve had 37 trips.

The 1 night cancellation was for a weird reason - he said he needed to check in and check out outside my stated hours. I think it’s clear from my listing that that is negotiable, and people don’t pay much attention to check-in and check-out anyway. But he didn’t ask me before cancelling, and I didn’t chase him. He cancelled outside the 5 day period, so I didn’t get anything. He also seemed oddly nervous at having to give me his ID information. That may or may not have had some bearing on this.

The 5 nighter was a nice lady from Israel, who I was quite looking forward to meeting. But she was on some kind of school/college trip, and the people running the thing changed plans on her at the last minute. This was inside the 5 day limit, and Airbnb paid me per the cancellation policy. She wrote me a nice note about it, but I didn’t hear from her again, even though I wrote to her expressing my regret. She didn’t try to get back the money either, as far as I could tell.

Slightly less than 2%. :slight_smile:

I agree with the above. Also, Airbnb seems to pay increasingly little attention to cancellation policies, per my weird exchange with the Airbnb CS idiot. So it isn’t clear that strict actually has that much more benefit, and it could certainly deter regular travellers who aren’t planning to scam their hosts.

And I just got a booking for the 18th-20th. Which is better than nothing…

And the thought is much appreciated. Rain and a Trump victory? Don’t kill yourself, it’ll get better. :slight_smile:

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I’ve had a few cancellations in my time as a host. One was for medical reasons, and so despite my strict cancellation policy I didn’t get any payout on that occassion. To be honest I was irritated but I got over it.

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I got stuffed around by this stupid AirBNB policy a year ago.

An older couple from England had booked to stay for 2 weeks over the school holiday season. They were in their late 70s and there were clearly some technology struggles. They booked 9 months in advance. A few days before arrival, I got a message stating “my husband has had a fall here in Singapore (I think it was) and we may not be able to come to Australia. The insurance company is looking into it. I’ll let you know”. On checkin day, I got a “we can’t travel, please cancel”.

I sent back a message stating that they would need to action the cancellation. Nothing happened… 2 days later (2 days after they should have checked in) I got a bit of a bitchy “I’m not impressed with you or AirBNB. I told you to cancel”. I sent a more direct “this is what you have to do”. I heard nothing for another 2 days when I just got a message stating “Re: Reservation”. Sent another message and heard nothing. I eventually got onto AirBNB and asked “what do you want to do?”. They responded a week later (so basically at the end of this guests stay) and did the whole “we’ve reached out and as it was a medical issue, we have refunded the guest in full.”

I did speak with someone at AirBNB in the US, but it was clear they were just out of their depth. Annoying, these guests would have pocketed the money from their travel insurance claim AND my refund! The US consultant didn’t seem to understand this and simply said over and over “they were maybe claiming on health insurance”.

The AirBNB process of refunding for “medical issues” is a joke. A major hotel won’t do that, and they have 500 rooms to cover the cost. Given you can get a medical certificate online easily, the whole arrangement is a bit stupid

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Yes, this has happened to me too. A booking at christmas time and then the guest got pregnant and didn’t want to travel. Airbnb refunded them. The thing is with hotels you would get a refund, though not normally after the booking had started.

Doubtful that they will claim in both places but even if they do thats their issue (fraud) not yours.

For future reference call airbnb as soon as you get a message like this so you can get you calendar opened asap.

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It is a system in a very (at times) lousy human world. I am sure Airbnb wants no part of these types of situation; the guests are supposedly old and even if so inconsiderate, Airbnb is 8,000 miles away, they claim an emergency situation which they can ‘prove’ with with a certificate they can get manufactured in Timbuktu, Earth. It could all be one big hustle, who knows.

The million dollar question is: how else should Airbnb have handled it? Find out if they did indeed claim from the insurance, imagine the set of legal walls they would encounter, and the time involved. Imagine at their end dealing with some irate ‘role-playing’ psychos making all kinds of bad-publicity threats. A mess either way.

@Zandra 's suggestion is a good one,

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