Why It Doesn’t Pay to Bypass the Airbnb System

Some time ago, a girl sent an inquiry about the apartment we listed on Airbnb. Let’s call her S.

I haven’t met any particularly annoying Airbnb guests, so S decided she wants to become my first. S first sent an inquiry saying that she intends to stay at our place for 3 months but the Airbnb service fees of between 6-12% was too expensive for her as a student and she wants to save on that, so she would like to deal cash.

I had been a foreign student in Japan before I started working here, so I could understand how saving as much as possible is important. I did the nice thing and decided why not?

The Airbnb chat system doesn’t allow sending of email addresses, URLs, or phone numbers before a guest makes a booking, but she managed to work around the loophole by typing parts of her email address in Japanese. For example, she first typed her ID like “xyz” and then she sent another message that reads “Gメールです” which means “it’s Gmail.” And then we ended up corresponding over email.

Since it wasn’t booked over Airbnb, I had to manually block out the 3 months she intended to stay so no one else could book it. Also, to show empathy for her as a student, I gave her a 30% discount (about $1,350) plus an additional 10,000 yen (about $120) off but the cash has to be paid in full upfront on the first day.

She agreed.

Some many days later, which was like 4-5 days before the day she was supposed to check in, she sent me another message saying she changed her language school to a slightly further place which increased her transportation cost from our apartment by around 45,000 yen (about $550). And her message was “either you give me further discount or just cancel my booking.”

WTF!

How can there be such abhorring shamelessness? I agreed on cash payment to save her about $300 and went out of my way to give her an additional discount of about $1,500 but she still has the cheek to come back and say she wants to cancel if I don’t give her further discount for her $550 of increased transportation cost. What has the school’s location got to do with me? And because it was canceled less than a week who knows how many bookings we might have lost because of her irresponsible behavior.

One thing I’ve learned from this experience is that, if you want to be nice in the future and save guests on Airbnb service fees, make them reserve through the Airbnb platform and agree to reimburse them the fees in cash when they arrive. Also, only do it 24 hours after the time they are supposed to check in, which is when Airbnb starts sending you their payment. At least, if they cancel at the last minute, you are protected by Airbnb which will charge them a certain amount depending on how strict you set your cancellation policy.

I sometimes wonder if that is a fake account created by Airbnb to punish hosts who try to game their system.

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