24 6 / 2013

From angry to awesome: an AirBNB experience

One of the things I’ve always dreaded is calling customer service.  We’ve all been there at one point or another: sitting on the phone, gnashing our teeth as agents pass us from one person to the next, or worst of all, being told that there is just nothing that can be done.  The company, of course, is just not at fault.  *cue sad trombone*

Then came the era of social media.  Like many people, I’ve had some magical moments thanks to social media.  Whenever I am frustrated with something or another, I instinctively bust out my phone and share my experience.  It’s cathartic, it’s satisfying, and best of all, companies are learning to care and responding.  

And in that vulnerable, emotional moment of frustration… it’s amazing how a simple acknowledgement can assuage even the most ruffled feathers.

All of this initial rambling is to share another recent customer service experience.  My fiance and I got engaged last year, and we decided to host our wedding festivities in Napa.  A priority of ours was to find a place that was comfortable and close to the church in St. Helena.  We searched high and low and considered several options.

Then we found the perfect solution on AirBNB.  There was an adorable cottage in Yountville up for renting, and it was the perfect size for my bridesmaids and me to spend the night and get ready before the big day.  The plan was that after the wedding, my fiance and I would spend husband and wife together there as well and then the day after our wedding have guests over for coffee and pastries.

I was so ecstatic.  I had been stressing over the perfect location and I had found it.  With prices in Napa usually being incredibly steep and hard to swallow, it was like AirBNB was an answer from a travel deity high above. After booking, I sent an email immediately to my bridesmaids and my family.  I patted myself on the back, and I was even more excited for the big day.

Fast forward to three months before my wedding.  There, in my inbox, was a cancellation notice for my reservation.

We had already told our friends, booked a limo to pick us up from the house, and told all of our guests to stop by that location the day after our wedding.  Suddenly we were stuck without a house and we had to scramble - fast - to find a replacement during the peak season in Napa.  My diligence in booking a place more than a year in advance was for naught.  

I was frustrated, angry, and just wanted to vent.  I took to Twitter, and immediately got a response.  Eve, the customer service representative that was tasked with helping me, sent a detailed email outlining my options.  I could rebook, or I could get a refund.  She sent over alternatives, but none that fit the criteria that I needed.  

I shot off a quick reply:

Hi Eve,

Thanks for your email.  Although I know it’s not within the control of AirBnB, I just find myself in an extremely frustrating position.  Not only did I purposefully book this more than a year ago because I knew we are getting married at peak season and all of our options now are extremely pricey —  we also had several other plans in place when we had this location locked down.  There are also no other alternatives that currently match what we need on AirBnB (and we’re forced to pay close to $200 a night extra for our other options).

It’s unfortunate that this happened and definitely a lesson learned.  Although AirBnBis great for some circumstances, in this case the owner and service really did (pardon my french) f*** us over royally.

Just venting my anger and frustration.



I thought that would be it.  I would get some wishy washy apology back with the ask that I would hopefully try out the service again.
She responded with: 
Hi Shay,
Thanks so much for the honest feedback. I can’t even begin to imagine your frustration and devastation. We know this cancellation is a huge disappointment for you, your fiance, and your bridal party. However, we want your big day to be incredible and not overshadowed by this bump in the road. If it would make it easier for you to find a new place to stay for the three nights on Airbnb, we are willing to pitch in an extra $1000 towards the rebooking.
I know you mentioned that you’d prefer a full refund, but think this over and let me know what you’d like to do. I look forward to hearing back from you.
Although I had immediately given up on AirBNB after that initial debacle and taken to manically searching on Google for other lodging alternatives, her email and offer to help us in our desperate situation had me surfing the site again, scouring for options.  Maybe, just maybe, something will work out. The same travel deity must have taken pity on my potential Bridezilla rampaging, because I found a place (admittedly more pricey than our original one) that seemed like it would work.  As promised, Eve helped reimburse the difference.  My feathers were soothed, and I had a place to stay.  A few days later, with the burden lifted off my shoulders, I came home to a package at the door.  When I opened it, I immediately read the card…


Now, I’m not saying that the solution to every problem is to send a gift (if only that were possible!)…but really, what made this awesome was that I thought nothing would have been done.  Not only did someone actually, in fact, care … they treated me like a person, not just a faceless, upset customer to be swept under the rug.

They took to heart that I was using their service as a big part of a momentous occasion in my life, and they did what they could to fix my situation…and to recognize that it was important.  

It was an amazing next step taken by AirBNB, and I am 100% confident in booking with them again and will recommend the site to friends and family because I know AirBNB has my back.  

Thanks Eve from AirBNB!  You’ve earned my gratitude and my travel loyalty.