DEAR TRAVEL TROUBLESHOOTER: I was looking for a cabin in upstate New York for a weekend getaway recently when I discovered I had been locked out of my Airbnb account. I received a notification that my account was “under review” by Airbnb. After six calls and several emails to the company, I received an email that said that they will be “unable to support my account moving forward” and have exercised their discretion under their Terms of Service to disable my account. This decision was “irreversible” and would affect any duplicated or future accounts, according to Airbnb.
I was shocked. My account was deactivated without any explanation or warning. The history of almost 10 years of my stays around the world as well as all of my favorite lists are gone. I have no idea about the reason. I’ve always gotten five-star reviews from my hosts and never ran into any issues with this site. I must say, this is the most brutal way any business has ever treated me in my life, and it feels unfair. Can you please help?
— Natalya Kovalenko, Brooklyn, New York
ANSWER: You’ve come to the right place. I’m tempted to rename this column the “Airbnb Troubleshooter.” Or maybe even the “Help Unlock My Airbnb Account Troubleshooter.” It’s only been a few weeks since the last case.
But your problem is different. It looks like your actions on Airbnb triggered an automatic review process. It’s unclear if a person examined the evidence against you before deciding to ban you forever. But based on what you’ve told me — and the predictable conclusion of your case — I would say that you did absolutely nothing that violated Airbnb’s terms. Apparently, looking for a nice cabin in upstate New York was your “crime.”
Airbnb doesn’t say much about its fraud-detection algorithm, and I understand why. If you talk about how you catch the bad guys, you offer them a roadmap for getting around the system. But I’ve received so many false-positive cases banning Airbnb customers, you would think they’d have done something to fix it by now. Instead, I continue to get a steady stream of cases, including yours.
I think a brief, polite email to one of the Airbnb executives I list on my consumer advocacy site at www.elliott.org/company-contacts/airbnb might have helped. But then again, given all the craziness of the past few months, your request might have fallen through the cracks.
Airbnb needs to get its act together with these random bannings. But there’s a more basic question that I have for the company: Why would you turn down customers during a pandemic — a time when your hosts need bookings more than ever? It makes no sense to tell customers like you to get lost, with no ability to appeal your decision.
I contacted Airbnb on your behalf, and it reinstated your account.
— to www.mercurynews.com