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Airbnb boots a Washington state user off the site

(News Item #0421, Published: 11/09/20, Author: , Seattle Times Classifieds)

Airbnb locked a Washington state user out of its site, then refused to provide an explanation — until Travel Troubleshooter Christopher Elliott stepped in. (Waldo Swiegers / Bloomberg)

Mark Donohue can’t use his Airbnb account anymore. But the company won’t tell him why he’s been kicked off the site. What’s the issue?

Q: Airbnb kicked me off the site and it won’t tell me why. All of my emails and requests for an explanation have been answered with a canned response. Airbnb says it’s sorry, but it’s not changing its mind. But they’re not telling me why.

I’ve read your column a few times where you have readers with the same experience. It seems ridiculous that the only way they will actually review their gravely broken process of dropping customers is to get a request from a travel or troubleshooting professional at a paper. Can you help me reactivate my Airbnb account? — Mark Donohue, Tumwater, Washington

A: Here we go again. Of course, Airbnb should have explained why it kicked you off the site. But the company is notoriously tight-lipped about its account deactivations and the reasons behind them.

Airbnb must not need any new customers. Consider all the cases we’ve had like yours. They follow the same pattern. Airbnb expels a customer. The customer asks for an explanation. Denied! Goodbye.

Interestingly, when I ask Airbnb about the suspensions, it blames a system error and quickly restores the account.

What does this mean for the average reader? If your Airbnb account stops working, and you’ve done nothing wrong, you might want to take your problem to one of the Airbnb executives I list on my consumer advocacy site, Elliott.org. If you don’t get an answer, feel free to reach out to me.

But first, check Airbnb’s terms on its website to make sure you haven’t done something worthy of a ban. Airbnb reserves the right to suspend your account if you’ve “materially breached your obligations” under its terms. Causes for suspension may include violating applicable laws, regulations or third-party rights. Airbnb may also ice your account if it’s necessary to protect the personal safety or property of Airbnb, its members or third parties.

Remember, there are lots of other vacation rental sites out there, including Vrbo.com and TurnKey. Airbnb is by no means the only game in town. You might want to consider taking your business where it’s wanted.

Personally, I’m perplexed by these Airbnb suspension cases. I can’t think of another time in 30 years of consumer advocacy that I’ve seen a company show so many customers the door. Does Airbnb think it’s too big to fail? Does it care about customer service anymore? And, if this is how it handles paying customers, can you imagine how it treats its employees?

Forgive me for thinking out loud, but after advocating several Airbnb suspension cases, I think the company has a bigger problem than anyone knows — or is willing to admit.

I contacted Airbnb on your behalf. A representative reached out to you and said the company reviewed your account. “It appears your account was suspended in error,” he added. “We have reactivated it for you and everything should be back in working order now.”

Another unfixable problem suddenly becomes fixable. Imagine that!

Christopher Elliott Christopher Elliott is author of “How To Be The World’s Smartest Traveler” (National Geographic) and the Travel Troubleshooter column that appears Mondays on seattletimes.com/travel.