Another Customer Service Incompetency Story
Guests complain the house is not clean. I offer to send a cleaning lady the next day, they refuse saying they have already dusted the place. They ask for a refund of the cleaning fee. I say OK. The next morning, guests complain they, 7 people, drank limited water because the fridge is not cooling. !!! At first, I am guilt-tripped into thinking that the house is in such an awful condition that seven people had to go thirsty. They ask for 2 days refund. I accept that too. Then they say I should be paying right away. I say I haven't got my money from Airbnb and can't refund something I haven't got. They keep on pressuring. When I ask why they are in such a hurry, they answer they want to have money to spend on vacation.
At that point, I become aware that they are not so good-intentioned. I also realize how stupid a comment is saying they spent the night with limited water just because the fridge was not making ice! Mind you, I had bought a 19 liters tank and several water bottles along with fruit and ice-cream as hospitality. So it's not because there is no water available in the house, not that they couldn't drink water, it's their caprice. Realizing their exaggerations and trying to put blame on me even when I am trying to help them, I no longer accept their claims. I tell them to contact Airbnb.
They stay the week and leave. Stove top full of grease and burnt meat, my camp chairs broken and gone. I chalk it up and forget about it. More than a month goes by. Airbnb writes to me to ask if the guests completed their stay. It is a Sunday night. And as I said, it has been more than a month since the guests have left. I say to myself I'll be answering Airbnb the next day. There is no urgency, after all.
Surprise! Bad surprise! Airbnb has written that they are refunding the guest since they haven't heard from us. Hey! It has not been even 24 hours!
I go mad at their unjust way of handling the issue, making a refund on our behalf without hearing our side. I write to them several messages. Case managers change, but none of the four see the injustice of their conduct. They keep repeating the same useless rhetoric, not giving any answer to my totally valid questions.
We walk out of the platform.
We have a summer house in Kaş, Turkey. It's a beautiful house with a wonderful view. We gave it on Airbnb once during holiday season and that was it. This year, again, we just gave it for a week. I wish we hadn't as it turned into yet another snake story down the rabbit hole.
The story with the guests' messaging is on a Turkish post, but is recounted here too as answers to Airbnb Support. The conduct of Airbnb after the guests' complaint is simply unbelievable and should be thought at management schools as a case study; as a mismanagement example that is.
The booking was from August 16th to August 23rd. More than a month had passed after their leaving our house. I thought it was just finished and gone down the drain. Then, on September 27th, we got a message from Airbnb.
Ok, I thought. I'd be answering in a day or two... This was a Sunday, I had better things to do, other priorities to attend to. After all, it had been more than a month since the guests had left, it could wait two more days, there was no urgency.
But what is that?! The next day, there was a big surprise waiting for us!
I was, as understandably (I hope), furious!
They had reimbursed the guy! Reimbursed him without waiting to hear from us!
During the time of the guests' entrance and during their stay, I take care to be online. Just so that I can take care of any problem that may arise immediately. However, we are not people who are constantly online. The emails come to my husband's phone and as that is a private email, he doesn't check it every second like the work email on workdays.
Besides... As I said, it's been more than a month since the guests have checked out, what's the urgency? How can Airbnb take such action without hearing our side of the story??!
Right afterwards, there was a bot, asking if we got the assistance we needed!
I responded no and sat down to write a full rebuttal, a diatribe!
"You cannot imagine how outraged I am at this obnoxious conduct of yours! And this is Airbnb?? A multi-million dollar company with I don't know how many millions of users worldwide??
So you processed a refund on my behalf without even waiting for an answer from me for 48 hours?????!!!! So we, as hosts, have to be online and at your demand within 24 hours to any message or we get punished???!!!!
This is TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE!
I was thinking you'd have read my answers to Veysel at least through translation. I was going to respond to you later on during the day but seriously, this is disgraceful, scandalous and appalling! Veysel and his friends have stayed in my house and finished their reservation even though I had accepted to refund them even the first night, even when your policies do not provide for that. They chose to stay. Sure, I accept there were some issues with the cleanliness in the house but definitely not as much as they tried to convey. They didn't accept my offer to send a cleaning-lady over the next day, they said they dusted themselves and wanted money back. I said okay. Then, they complained some more. As I said, I told them they could leave and I would refund them in full. You know very well that they have a right to that anyway. They chose not to use that right, they stayed.
They were obviously trying to exploit the situation and get money back from me. I even accepted paying them, they insisted I pay immediately, even before receiving my money from you. They even said themselves that they wanted this so that they would have money to spend during their vacation. Obviously, they were cheapsters trying to get their cheap vacation even for cheaper.
They have written to me in the morning saying “We seven people had to drink limited water due to the fridge non working.” Come on!... I again accept, the fridge was not cooling properly but it was NOT totally unfunctional. Plus, what kind of a person does not drink water if it is not freezing cold and prefers to go thirsty??! Their message, emphasizing the 7 people and pressuring me was obviously a way to stress me to abide by their requests. I emphasize the fact that I had bought and put a 19 LT bottle of water, plus several 1.5 liters bottles in the fridge for them. I also bought fruits and ice-cream as a treat because I was working with someone new for looking after the house as I live abroad. I do NOT accept any of their claims and I find your refund to them, deducting money from us totally against any concept of fairness.
The fact is, I have claims against Veysel and his friends for all the trouble they have caused me with their baseless claims, wasting my time for all this, plus, my camping chairs have been broken and gone missing, my hair-dryer has gone missing. The way they left the kitchen was totally unacceptable, with burnt meat and grease all over my gas-stove. It was disgusting to clean. But I chose to chalk it up instead of filing a complaint with you.
I have read so many horror stories, even national scam stories about Airbnb, I have heard several complaints from guests who were refused their valid refund claims. If this is the way you are ruling over, I suppose you seriously need to oversee either the personnel or your policies.
So we were supposed to drop everything we had to do right now only to answer you within 24 hours, for a reservation that was completed more than a month ago, something which had no urgency at all? Is that what you are saying? And not even a line of warning? For example saying that you will be getting ahead with the refund unless you hear from us?? Seriously??
If you have actually gone on with the refund, I ask you to please kindly take it on yourself and put our money back on our account. We will not be accepting this kind of conduct. If you disagree, of course we cannot force you. We will just be leaving the site and publishing your unfair procedure online all over social media and on our websites.
Then I realized... They had not waited even a day. So five minutes later, I added that point too:
"Actually, you didn't wait even 24 hours! We get a message from you asking if the reservation was finished at 3:55 PM Sunday, September 27th. The next morning, at 11:30 AM, you say “Since we haven't heard any response from you we will do action according to our policy.” and go on with the refund right away, informing us at 1:43 PM on September 28th. Even before it has been 24 hours have passed from your first message!
You owe us 275 Euros for this damage and inappropriate conduct!"
The response from Airbnb was short, that is dismissive.
I was once again furious at this... how should I say... this insolence! No word about their processing a refund without even hearing from us! Without even waiting for 24 hours for a response from us!
I sat up way past midnight and wrote another message rebuking their conduct.
This was sent on September 30, at 1:49 AM.
Oh so you "UNDERSTAND" we are not happy about the “resolution” you provided for this issue!
WHERE IS THE SORRY FROM YOU FOR COMING TO A CONCLUSION WITHOUT LISTENING TO OUR END??! WHERE??? WHAT KIND OF A PLATFORM DECIDES ON SOMETHING WITHOUT GIVING THE OTHER PARTY THE RIGHT TO ANSWER TO A COMPLAINT????
Oh yes??!! You can see there is a violation on OUR END???
Oh yess?? So you have “just based the severity of the issue from the photos they have provided” to you???
OH You did?? Good for you!
And what if I provided you proof that I sent money to their account in Turkey? What then??
Do you know if those photos belong to my house or which parts they belong to??? Hmm?? Do you??! Have you seen the photos of how neat and clean the beds were? How brand new they were?? Hmm?? Have you??
Do you know if those photos were taken after they dirtied or if they were like that when they entered?
And why did they not leave my house if it was so horrible??
Do you know they asked the neighbor for a breakfast price and do you know how much he quoted and they found “expensive”??
Do you know all the things they have said to me, giving away their intentions??
And seriously... Did I agree or want them to stay in my house for the full term under these conditions at this price???
Do you know how much a camping site charges in Kaş and how prestigious the peninsula where my house is? Do you know how many square meters they've got to themselves?
You should know that our nextdoor neighbor charges the same price I charged for the whole house for just one room as it is listed on your site too! And a very tiny one where you cannot move around at that??
So you think it is fair that these people complain and send some unrelated photos and get refunded 30 % of what they paid?
And I repeat my question: WHY DID THEY NOT LEAVE MY HOUSE IF IT WAS SO DIRTY??
Plus, why did they say all was fine when the person in charge showed them the house when they entered?
Oh but my house is in such violation that they deserve a 30 % refund, oh so you based the severity of the situation and your decision from their photos. Good for you (!)
Oh good, so you have answered us within 24 hours! Good for you!
But you still have exceeded the amount of time you have allowed us to answer you before going on deducting money from our account! So based on my argument of YOUR UNFAIR ASSESSMENT WITHOUT GIVING US A RIGHT TO ANSWER, PLEASE JUST GO ON AND PUT THAT MONEY BACK, PLUS AN EXTRA 275 EUROS FOR YOUR UNACCEPTABLE CONDUCT!
And this is SENIOR management??!
We are not obligated to be at your beck and call 24/24. or are we?? I mean we basically are obviously! Otherwise, you just assume we will not answer and say Ohhh... “Since we haven't heard any response from you we will do action according to our policy.” !
It is YOUR JOB to answer questions and complaints on your site. And you reply late. LATER THAN YOU ALLOWED US TO!
Let alone that, why has it taken you more than a month to come back for this issue?? If you were going to refund them, why didn't you refund them back then?
So why did you even bother to write to us??? Why on earth?
Why did you even bother to say “I would like to know if you have made arrangements with guest and if they were able to finish their reservation with you.”??
Did I want these people in my house??? They are the ones who did not leave after the first day, they are the ones who refused the cleaning-lady, and they are entitled to a two days refund plus the cleaning?? WHAT FOR???!
Oh I know... They are the ones claiming they have lost two days when it had not been even 24 hours since they entered the house! Oh, of course, such people are supposed to be given credit (!) The more they exaggerate, the more they assert and stress the host, the more right they are, right?!
And they are the ones who complained that the fridge was not working when they had in fact food in the fridge and the person I sent to check -paying an extra amount of money at the top season in a posh neighborhood asking for urgent attendance- confirmed that they had food in the fridge and it was working?
And then they are the ones claiming I did not send anybody! Even when they are the ones who have left the key in the postbox for someone to check! Just because they were out late and were not home at the time, it makes it that I did not send anybody, right?!
And you give credit to someone who writes that -oh 7 people had to drink limited water because the fridge was not cooling??! When there was about 25 liters of drinking water in the house? Water that I had bought for them?? SO THESE ARE THE PEOPLE WHOSE WORD AND COMPLAINT IS SUPPOSED TO BE HEARD AND GIVEN CREDIT TO?? SERIOUSLY??
I have this message written in my sms box. So you say such people's complaints and claims are valid??
Goood for you (!)
Plus... Oh you understand I am not happy (!) What “not happy” are you talking about?? I am OUTRAGED! And it is not only about the money you deducted, even though it has a part... I AM OUTRAGED BECAUSE OF THE WAY YOU DID THIS THING! UNACCEPTABLE UNACCEPTABLE UNACCEPTABLE. TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE!
And there is no acknowledgement of that even after I have written about it and made you aware of your wrong conduct! (If you were not already! Which is something not acceptable at all on an international platform of your size and prestige!)
I am waiting for someone from TOP MANAGEMENT to sort out this issue and say sorry!
You owe me big big time for this waste of my energies, time and upset due to your total mismanagement of this issue!
Airbnb responded five days later.
Again.... No sorry about their improper, unprofessional and unethical conduct.
"I personally apologize for the decision"?? What does that even mean??
I took my time to respond this time. One cannot spend so much draining energy on a useless topic that shouldn't have taken place in the first place.
On October 7th, at 11:32 PM, I wrote:
Hello Bianca. Just to notify you in advance, I am going to be very blunt here. Please cut the bullshit!
“I wanted to sincerely apologize for the late response, hoping that things have been well with you. I'd hoped to reply sooner, but due to this unexpected crisis we are all experiencing right now, we had a huge number of tickets that needed to attend to.”
Seriously?? Ah thanks for your genteel concerns and thoughtful apologies! I counted roughly, I've asked you about 46 questions in my previous message. Guess how many answers I got to those questions from you? Well, this is obviously a rhetorical one and I will answer it myself. Zero! 0! NIL. Sıfır. I could write it in other languages for you to understand but Zero is Zero in many other languages as well, I am sure you have the capacity to understand what it means. Or do you not understand English or do you just pretend not to when you cannot answer questions?
Look... I even wrote this in capital letters and I repeat:
WHERE IS THE SORRY FROM YOU FOR COMING TO A CONCLUSION WITHOUT LISTENING TO OUR END??! WHERE??? WHAT KIND OF A PLATFORM DECIDES ON SOMETHING WITHOUT GIVING THE OTHER PARTY THE RIGHT TO ANSWER TO A COMPLAINT????
If you were going to “judge the severity of the issue from the photos they have provided,” why did you even bother to write to us in the first place?
Why did you even bother to say “I would like to know if you have made arrangements with guest and if they were able to finish their reservation with you.”?
Do you really believe 20 hours is enough time to wait for an answer and then say “Since we haven't heard any response from you...”?
I SERIOUSLY WANT ANSWERS TO ALL OF THE ABOVE. AND I WOULD ALSO LIKE A VERY HUMBLE, SINCERELY REMORSEFUL APOLOGY FROM A TOP AIRBNB EXECUTIVE AS IT IS SO IN YOUR FACE OBVIOUS FROM THE ANSWERS YOU CANNOT GIVE TO THESE QUESTIONS THAT YOUR CONDUCT IS UNACCEPTABLE!
I also want answers to all the questions below too, that I will be listing with numbers for you to respond properly and easily. Don't worry, I cut out the majority of the previous questions, just keeping the most important ones; again, just to ease things out for you:
1) What if I provided you proof that I sent money to their account in Turkey? What would you be doing then??
2) Do you know if those photos belong to my house or which parts they belong to?
3) How do you know if those photos were taken after they dirtied or if they were like that when they entered?
“Most of the time, adjustment should be 50% from the affected nights, but my agent just adjusted 30% as we can see you've also provided a resolution in the best way you can.”
Obviously, you have NO GRASP of the issue at hand. First of all, where does it say on your website, that if there is the slightest “violation” as you call it, that “adjustment should be 50% from the affected nights”?? I haven't seen anything like that in the link you provided.
And the indication of why you don't have any grasp on the issue can be seen from the fact that you are not even aware that 30 % was NOT something you evaluated but it was the amount that the hosts asked for. Of course, plus the cleaning fee, that makes 33 %. Which is certainly not acceptable in any case, (the most you could refund was the 35 Euros cleaning fee and that they have already recompensed for that by breaking and taking things from my house.) let alone your doing this without hearing my side of the story.
And your CEO talks about us being “partners”!
Yeah, some partner you have been!
As Chesky confesses, you could have been better partners and apparently you still need to work on that!
GET ME SOMEONE WHO CAN ANSWER ALL THESE QUESTIONS OR WHO HAS THE MATURITY TO ADMIT THAT YOU HAVE MADE A GRAVE MISTAKE, THAT YOUR CONDUCT WAS APPALLING AND ABHORRENT AND UNACCEPTABLE. AND MOST OF ALL, UNBECOMING TO THE REPUTATION OF A MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR INTERNATIONAL COMPANY LIKE AIRBNB.
WHAT'S MORE, A DRY APOLOGY IS NOT ENOUGH AT THIS POINT, WE ARE EXPECTING YOU TO COMPENSATE US FOR YOUR VIOLATION OF FAIRNESS. AS OBVIOUSLY, THERE IS A GRAVE VIOLATION ON YOUR SIDE, OF TAKING AWAY OUR INALIENABLE RIGHT TO ANSWER.
Also, Please stop giving me links to your website!
I'll give you a link for you to read and study so that YOU ABIDE BY YOUR STANDARDS in the first place, then talk about violations to others.
The global Airbnb community is as diverse, unique, and vibrant as the world around us. Fairness is what holds us together, what makes it possible for us to trust one another, integrate seamlessly within communities, and feel as if can we can truly belong.”
Do you think it is fair to pay out someone without listening to the other party?
I don't think it is possible for anyone to say yes to this even though you have tried to lamely say that by your evasive answers.
I give you one last chance to answer me properly, I have wasted more than enough of my time on this matter. So unless I get a proper apology with a refund of the money you deducted from our account, plus a similar amount deposited to our bank account, I will take this to social media, to all the top management of Airbnb, Brian Chesky and all the key executive team, and also contact traditional media to see if I can get this news of your unfair practices out there. If you believe you are too big anyway and you get negative rep anyway and do not care, fine with me. We will just be leaving the site and advocating people not to use a site with such unfair practices.
I expect integrity from such a company. I suppose almost everybody does. If you believe, Veysel needs to be refunded, take it on yourself, out of your pocket and pay him as you have not done the judgement properly and fairly. Please act like a respectable company and do the right thing.
I understand that this low performance of yours showing a complete lack of judgement capability is a direct result of your overwhelming workload due to the pandemic and the layoffs back in May. But this is no excuse. If you need to attend to too many “tickets” that you will not be able to judge properly, just refuse to do it like this. It harms both your integrity and the name of the company.
A company is as good as its customer care. You cannot tell how good a company is when everything goes fine. This unjust refund based on only on a one-side claim shouldn't have happened at all. I believe you are aware, if not, you should be aware that this has been a very wrong decision in your part. We read so many horror stories relating to Airbnb, I suppose this might also be a reaction on the other side to please guests whatever the cost. However, hosts are your clients too. Or rather, we are your partners. And such an unfair conduct is, unfortunately I have to repeat once again, is UNACCEPTABLE.
I understand that now that you have taken an action, you cannot undo it and obviously you cannot accept the wrongdoing either. So please, get me someone who has the authority to undo this action and take responsibility.
PS: The capital letters are not shouting, even though I am admittedly and rightfully enraged at your unacceptably unjust conduct. I wrote in capitals because there is no possibility to write bold letters to emphasize important points.
PPS: Oh, I said we would be leaving the site unless a proactive solution is found. But actually, we should not be leaving Airbnb. After all, we have just found the way to get accommodation at half price: Any time we stay at an Airbnb, we will just send you some random photos from any unrelated place or after we dirty the toilet seats or bed sheets etc. You will just be refunding us without listening to whatever the host says, right?
Oh how well they know how to embellish their values and standards!
Fairness my ass!
Three days later, we got yet another "case manager"!
It took Angelica four days to get back. Once again, no understanding of my main point, no remorse or accepting of wrongdoing.
Actually, you can tell from the above answer why they don't get it. These people who are answering me do not even know English! What is “a money”? Or take this sentence: “When my agent message you, we have in contact of the guest already...”
I understand, most companies today delegate this offshore to save money, but this is supposed to be top management to respond. And I know... Someone's English is not a sign of their competence; their English may be not so perfect, but they can be competent. However, it is obvious that that is not the case here.
Still... I couldn't help but refute this improper message too:
Once again, I am going to be blunt. You obviously do not understand a shit about where I am coming from!
I'm sorry for the expression but this level of incompetence -especially at a multi-billion dollar international company- is something I cannot stand!
You are again trying to defend your undefendable manner of handling the issue, i.e not listening to what we had to say before passing judgement and making a reimbursement on our behalf. Not waiting even 24 hours for an answer from us for God's sake!
How is it not possible for you not to be able to understand this simple thing??
What's more, so many different responsible people from Airbnb looks into the issue and not one of them gets this! Seriously???!
So you “were able to validate the pictures sent” (!) and “it is similar to the photos uploaded on my listing.” (!)
So the mattress, for example... I suppose you got that it belonged to my house, because obviously, I posted photos of bare mattresses without any sheets on my listing and the brands of the mattresses matched, and obviously that couldn't be any other mattress but my mattress (!)
So you verified the cable of the iron as I have published a photo of the iron plug on my listing (!)
So you validated that the photos belonged to my house as I have posted photos of my kitchen cabinet doors opening up and displaying them (!)
I also posted photos of my toilet seats on my listing (!) so you could validate that too with 100 % accuracy.
Woooow! What kind of strange details of our house have we posted?!
(* All of the above are sarcastic remarks. I felt the need to mention as you may be incapable of getting that too.)
What's more, you also validated that our toilet seats were dirty when the guests walked in and not after they had dirtied it themselves!
Woooow! I congratulate your super vision- all seeing extra capabilities! Can you please tell me the secret of your superpowers or send some over to me as well? That would be great to be able to divine all such details. So that I would know who steals things from my house and who dirties it when I am away.
I have validated that Airbnb is a crap company, as evidenced by the crappy answers of its representatives, their ineptitude and most important of all, their unjust practices.”
By the way, we removed our listing from Airbnb but for anybody interested, these are the photos of our house on the Airbnb website:
As you can see, there is no photo of our TV even. What's more, the bed is no longer on the floor, there is a proper bed. In other words, there are improvements from the photos seen on the Airbnb listing.
And below are the photos that the guests took to complain:
I am not contesting that there were some problems with the house, what I am contesting is the validity of the extent of the guests' complaint and the inappropriateness of Airbnb's conduct.
The guests tried to find some irrelevant corners, looking at behind the doors when there was such a beautiful view in front of them.
The moldy mattress was not a mattress that was given to the guests to sleep on. The house is fit to accommodate eleven guests, so it was just one of the four extra mattresses. Apparently, the previous tenants left it wet somehow and it got ruined. It could and should have been discarded by the person looking after the house, but obviously he wanted to save it. I told the guests to throw it away if they wanted to.
The plug of the iron... Again obviously, the previous tenants forced it somehow. But then again... Who goes looking for an iron the moment they walk into a summer house? I mean okay, of course they have a right to that as it is listed as an item in the house. I told them they could buy an iron and I'd be refunding, but they didn't. Obviously, they didn't really care about it. But it was something they could use to complain.
Apart from all this... All these Airbnb "senior" managers are just so incapable of understanding that that is not the point I am trying to make! The point is Airbnb making a judgement based on one-side only, their not bothering to listen to us.
In the meanwhile, while I was writing the above answer, yet another person support had written to us. After Glazia, Bianca, Angelica, we got Princess E.
I took the time to answer her too.
"Hello Princess E,
We don't want you to apologize DEEPLY for the adjustment that happened in our payout. We want an apology for passing judgement without even listening to our side of the story, be it for show, without waiting even 24 hours for an answer. Of course, at this point, we are not accepting just dry apology in words but something concrete to show your remorse. Or we do not care, we are out of this platform anyway."
That was supposed to be it; but I cannot stop when someone doesn't take responsibility for a serious transgression on their part:
Plus... Even if you take the guest's complaints as 100 % valid... Tell me... What is so grave there that they deserve a 33 % refund? How come they deserve a refund more than the 35 Euro cleaning fee? Hmm?? Tell me... How come? You think this is fair? Especially given that on our listing we state it openly that the house is being setup and that's why we kept the prices low. When the next door apartment charges the same amount for only a single tiny bedroom, they get a place with four huge bedrooms at such discounts, plus they get a 33 % discount on that? And what for?? Was it so unhygienic, was it infested? Were the bed sheets not brand new? Ok, so it was not sparkling clean and there were some messy corners in unused parts of the house. Oh no, of course they deserve much more than the cleaning fee (!) People who complain about not being able to drink water because it was not cold... Yeah, they deserve to be taken seriously for their complaints and compensated for it (!) Wooow, great judgement on your part!
Again.. I couldn't stop at that. I keep repeating the same points in different words, hoping they might understand. I suffer from a teacher's deformation.
Another point... I go into an Airbnb house. I dirty the toilet, go in with my dirty shoes and dirty the stairs, use the kitchen and then send you photos. And then you'll be refunding me without asking the host, right? You'll say to the host "Oh there was feces in your toilet" and "Sorry but "the decision made was based to evidence we've gathered from the guest" (!)
Your conduct is so unacceptable and horrifying. Only one sided. Don't listen to the host. And of course, how are we to prove that the house was not dirty as the guests claim? Why don't you make a policy for all hosts to send you photos of the house right before guests walk in? Then you may have a right to take the guest's claim without consulting the host.
To me, if they haven't left the house, I'd take it that there wasn't a grave issue validating a 33 % refund. At least, not on the grounds of cleanliness.
You are all so very wrong in every aspect of your responses. I wish there was some decent, capable person to understand this over there.
Basically... My house may not have been in optimum condition; nevertheless, this doesn't excuse or even justify Airbnb's response. I was not there, but they were not there either. So neither of us can tell the veracity of the guests claims. I have two witnesses, one totally objective party, the electrician who went in to check the fridge and told me that there was food in it and it was working. And I entered the house the night of the day the guests left, and the fridge was functional. There was no sewage smell coming neither in the toilets nor in the terrace. That is a touristic area and if there was any such smell, it would have been reported by the neighbors immediately. The person who cleaned the house refuses any kind of dirt in the toilets and I trust his honesty as he is someone I know.
On the other hand... What I can tell from the guest's responses to me is that their complaints are not valid and their intentions did not sound well-meaning. Pressuring me to pay them even without us being paid, saying they wanted to use the money while on vacation, asking how much discount I was going to give them, demanding three days of loss even when it had not been 24 hours, refusing my proposal to send a cleaning lady, saying the fridge was not working when they had food inside it, making it as if it was a disaster not being able to drink ice cold water etc. They even said "You are changing your mind every ten minutes," when I had not changed my mind but had just offered them a discount instead of leaving the house, and I did that only not to put them through the trouble of finding another accommodation.
Had they been well-intentioned and not pressured me, not blamed me when I was only trying to be helpful, not exaggerated every little thing... I would have refunded them myself. But not under these conditions... Not after all their unfounded accusations and their greedy pressuring.
I wrote one last message to Airbnb Support:
Just one last thing... Let's suppose that the guests are right in everything they said, let's say for the sake of argument, that our house was dirty, we violated your rules and everything... I will never ever accept that refunding the guests 275 Euros is justified, but let's put that aside for now and concentrate on the main issue as you insist on not understanding or pretend not to understand.
Three questions I want answers to. The questions are open and clear, and similarly open and clear answers would be appreciated:
1- Why did you even bother to say “I would like to know if you have made arrangements with guest and if they were able to finish their reservation with you” if you were not interested in hearing an answer from us?
2- Do you think 20 hours is enough time to wait for an answer and then say “Since we haven't heard any response from you...” to go on making a refund to the guest?
3- Is making a judgement without listening to one side, a side you claim are your “partners” in line with your ethics and standards? Do you think it is fair?
I strongly urge you to read your own documents first. Mainly, your standards:
where it says... that is, you say:
“these five standards—safety, security, fairness, authenticity, and reliability—remain central pillars in our efforts to help ensure safety and foster belonging. We’re always working to make sure they’re upheld and enforced.”
Actually, there is a fourth bonus question:
4- What punishment do you get when you don't abide by your own standards and violate your own rules? How do we enforce the rules on you, if as Airbnb, you do not uphold your own standards?
I suppose the answer to the last one is clear, as all the others. We just walk out, but just curious to hear what you have to say.*
Still... Let's say my house was problematic. A super host's account was deactivated too due to Airbnb Support's ineptitude. I'm sure there are so many similar stories out there. We read them here and there. They are generally short complaints. Few people have the energy to write in such detail and document all this stuff. And I admit, it is sooo consuming. It would have been much simpler to walk out without bothering to write all this, but I still believe that these are important to take lessons from.
As Jon de la Souza says "Airbnb is no community, no sharing economy, but just a Silicon Valley money making machine."
Asher Fergusson took the time to document the problems with Airbnb, too.
"Is Airbnb Safe? We Analyzed 1021 Horror Stories to Find Out"
Or if you want to see thousands of complaints TrustPilot is a nice place to start from.
I wish everybody simply walked out of this unfair, problematic platform. Yet I know that people will still be using Airbnb as they see it in their interest. That's the way of the world. Even Allie Conti, who wrote an article on Vice titled "I Accidentally Uncovered a Nationwide Scam on Airbnb" admits she cannot say she will leave the platform.
First of all, I don't think Airbnb is actually cheap. There are many hidden costs that pop up later and you pay unawares if you are a novice to the website. More than that, I couldn't care less about "a bit cheaper"... I care about principles. I left Booking because they were allowing illegal activity on their site and did not bother to do anything about it. As regards to Airbnb, I would rather rent my place through some other platform or simply not rent it. Or I would rather pay more or simply stay in a random place and take my chances. I'd rather be in a position where I will not have an agency to refer to when things go wrong. I'd rather be independent and flexible. I'd rather accept the failings of a place than try to grab a bite back from them. I'd rather just walk away instead of deal with all these troubles of inefficient bureaucracy platforms require.
I understand that everybody wants some sort of protection from misconduct of other parties and Airbnb is supposed to be doing that for us, be it as guests be it as hosts. However, when the decision platform is the source of misconduct, it all goes wry; and unfortunately, Airbnb is such a platform.
Listening to both sides before coming to a conclusion is the basics of trust. Let alone basics, it is the foundation of any relationship. If that foundation is not there, you shouldn't be there either.
Count us out!
PS: I know that many people may shrug their shoulders at my recount and say "So what? They made a mistake and refunded money without listening to you. Everybody makes mistakes."
Yes, every makes mistakes. That is not the problem. I could have understood and forgiven that. What makes me so upset is the insistence on the mistake and no apologies, no stepping back from it.
* Actually, I should have left the platform at that point but since I asked questions in my message, I said I should wait for an answer... One last chance... Just out of curiosity...
I wasn't holding my breath for a decent answer. However, perhaps, I still had some small flicker of hope. Perhaps, if they passed it on to a higher manager, finally someone might accept the clumsy way this issue was handled. Instead, we got this:
There was again a bot asking if we got the help we needed or still needed assistance; I didn't even bother to answer, I promptly went to deactivating our account. They asked for the reason of deactivation and I wrote this:
“I suppose you already know. It's because of the ineptitude of dealing with a complaint and not listening to us, not answering our valid questions. Listening to both sides before coming to a conclusion is the basics of trust and fairness. Let alone basics, it is the foundation of any relationship. If that foundation is not there, if you are not given a voice and you are not heard, you shouldn't be there either. We are out.”
No way... No way people accept any wrongdoing at whatever point in an argument. No way! Okay, their decision may be final. But at least, I mean at least say “You are right that the case was not handled properly, we should have waited for your answer.”
No, not even that!
“Not ever in my life did I get even that!” I feel like saying so, turning it into a doomed postulation. However, that's not true. HAL-Holland America Lines once accepted my claim and refunded us 2000 USD. It still took a long, time consuming, excruciating amount of exchanges, but when I finally managed to reach a top level management, someone finally accepted and said “You make a very strong claim.”
Yeah, indeed I had a very strong point :) And I knew it. (Just like in this case with Airbnb.) But that recognition almost never comes. When it did, I had so much gratification. Not about the refund, even though that was a good amount as well, it was more the recognition of my being right. And that was so right in your face, too. I was right, the contract was so open, but they kept telling me that their procedures were like this over and over again. I mean, there are things that are up to discussion and argument sometimes, I am not talking about those cases, I only get into things that are so very clear cut. In this case with Airbnb, their decision about the refund may be up to discussion, but their conduct, their unfair way of handling the issue is so very crystal clear wrong.
Well... Life is just trying to weed out the bad apples and finding yourself a handful of trustworthy, decent people and companies to keep in your life ;)
I feel it very important that my being right be recognized. I suppose it is very natural, too. People who are victims of abuse, rape etc. always want the acknowledgement of society at large that they were wronged. I feel that need, too. I know I feel it too much, I know it is problematic, and I suppose I now know the reason why. Because I have never been acknowledged in my family. They have wronged me and never showed any remorse for it let alone say sorry. It is a bleeding wound in my heart. Perhaps I am trying to heal that wound by all these endless tirades against these companies. But it's over. May I go to hell if I ever get into such disputes, or publish such an article about anybody or company for wrongs they do. It's their conscience, it's their level of understanding and capacity... I'll leave it at that.
A wonderful caricature for those who know Italian! It's a play with words: "Errare humanum est" is Latin for "To err is human." And "perseverare" means "persevere/insist" on the mistake... Which is diabolical, as the saying goes. Instead, Snoopy turns it into "To persevere is surely west" as "est", that is "is" also means "east"
I am writing to bring to your attention a possibly grave breach of contract and your international rules by a Turkish bank.
I have used my Visa card on 26th of May 2018 to buy Rome-Buenos Aires return tickets from Turkish Airlines. The price was 2176.13 Euros and I got a 3D Secure code to pay for it. The card I used is issued by a Turkish Bank, Is Bankasi. As I live in Europe, my contract with them is for me to pay foreign currencies in Euros. However, they -let alone my consent, without even my knowledge- converted this amount to Turkish Liras. I noticed and objected to this charge even before my credit card statement was issued. They claimed that there was a law for the protection of the Turkish Lira, that Turkish companies could not charge Turkish customers in any other currency than the Lira and denied my request to pay in Euros as per our contract. This was a big inconvenience for me as I did not have Turkish Liras at hand, I had to get a loan and convert money at a loss. Plus, had I known, I'd never have consented to such a rate imposed by the bank in the first place as the Euro-TL exchange was fluctuating at the time.
Anyway, thinking a respectable bank like İş Bankası would not do anything against rules and laws, even though grudgingly, I paid up. However, I later realized this transaction by the bank was against Visa core rules and it fell under the category of “incorrect currency.” So I filed a chargeback request on February 2019. I only claimed 4.000 TL back as I had used the flight service in the meantime, I just wanted to be compensated my loss. The bank refused.
On delving further into the matter, I found out that they were “lying”, that the law in question did not give them any right to make this currency conversion. So I filed a claim again, this time for total reimbursement. They refused my chargeback request on the grounds that the time for objection was 120 days and it had expired. Upon which I went through your core rules and noticed that you made some rule changes recently which would go in effect in April 13, 2019. As per my knowledge, before that, the application time was 365 days. When I questioned if the period of objection wasn't a year at the time of my chargeback request, they first wrote me saying they couldn't divulge rules. Upon my insistence, they held on to their answer that the objection period had expired. (Both verbal on a phone call and in written.) However, I still wasn't satisfied as they did not answer my question if the rule changes were to go in effect as of April 2019.
On November 5th, the Customer Experience Manager Ümran Akbulut called and told me that my chargeback request was denied, not because of the expiry period but because there was a 3D Secure code for the transaction! Now... This is totally unacceptable! Their inconsistency makes one question their honesty. It certainly looks like they are trying to come up with other explanations after they've been caught "lying." If that is the case, it is very serious deceit of customer. A bank which denies a customer's rightful claim with lies violates trust and basic business ethics.
Plus, as shown below, the 3D Secure code clearly states 2176,13 Euros and my extract shows 12,060.55 TL with no reference to the original transaction in Euros. No need for me to tell you that in case of authorized conversions, the original transaction is always stated (as shown in the ARS and GBP conversions). They still deny my claims.
If I am correct in my claim, this is a very serious breach of contract and of international Visa rules. It also means that Is Bankasi has been “cheating” its customers by taking advantage of our lack of knowledge of rules and laws, denying us our rights and outright lying. Again, if that is the case, the situation is very grave. The situation is aggrevated also because İş Bankası has partnered with Turkish Airlines to process all their payments, which means they have refused my claim to protect their interests, that they have used their power in bad faith, abused their position mala fide.
As I believe what happened is a gross violation of Visa's core rules I wished to inform you. I hope you may clarify the matter for me. Thank you in advance. Looking forward to hearing from you.
Zeynep Gülin De Vincentiis
PS: A much more detailed analysis of the incident can be found in Turkish at Kanunlara Sözleşmelere ve Uluslararası Kurallara Uymayan İki Büyük Şirket: THY ve İş Bankası
At the end of our family trip to Madagascar, we had a very bad experience, we were swindled at the airport. We had hired a local guide for the trip, Jean-Claude. And I had even asked “Jean-Claude, is this a scam?” He answered “I don't know” and went on checking his phone.
We were so upset when we found out it in fact was a scam; we faced Jean-Claude, but he denied any responsibility. As Jean-Claude worked for ToursByLocals, we took it up with them. Unfortunately, their response was disappointing as they said they could not do anything for people who did not book through them. Upon which I wrote a piece on ToursByLocals and Integrity and I tweeted it. I at least wish to warn people. The following conversation ensued:
When they said “We do care about our guides, hence our reaching out to you again”, I actually felt like rebuffing with “I would have appreciated it more if you had taken the issue more seriously when I first contacted you.” But realizing that, even if late, they were caring and trying to do something about it, I wrote to them in private in the direct messages and added “Thanks for reaching out, I appreciate it a lot.” After all, most companies do not even bother to answer; if they do, it just stays with one move and then forwarded to the backdoor out of public sight. Booking did not bother at all, Turkish Airlines used the backdoor tactic. So even though ToursByLocals seemed like doing a similar thing suggesting DM instead, I wanted to see if they'd do anything differently. Then they said something that struck me:
“We are all just trying to do our best.”
“We are all just trying to do our best.”... It echoed in my mind. Yes, they probably were. And perhaps I was unfair to them with my criticism. Perhaps it is too much to expect so much care and attention from that level of Customer Care. And the management level is generally not interested, doesn't get involved. Perhaps that's the doom of companies or the unluck of us customers. Nobody hears us who has authority.
Something extraordinary happened with ToursByLocals. They wrote “We've brought this issue to the attention of our Quality Experience Manager. He would very much like to get in touch with you to hear even more.” This was new. Someone at a manager level wanting to understand the issue. In fact, he wrote a very nice, detailed and courteous letter saying he was made aware of my blog post by someone in their social media team, he read it, and completely agreed with everything I had said. He also went and located my original mails to ToursbyLocals from back in September 2018 to have full grasp of the situation.
“Wooow!” I thought to myself. That's exactly what I would have done. And someone going into detail and trying to understand a situation was amazing.
The Quality Experience Manager Gavin also agreed that that correspondence was not dealt with correctly. “But I would now like to do what I can to respond appropriately to your feedback. I found your account of your experience with Jean-Claude balanced and insightful,” he wrote. Then he advertised a bit about his company and how they strive for 5-stars.
“We always endeavour to conduct our business in the most honest and ethical manner, and when something does go wrong, we take this seriously. This is why I really appreciated your detailed feedback, as I see this as a valuable learning opportunity, and I assure you I will now personally follow up with our guide partner Jean-Claude to ensure that this feedback is taken on board.”
This was really something. Seriously? Someone taking a customer complaint so seriously and responding in such a decent manner? Interesting...
I had stressed that this wasn't about money, I wanted Jean-Claude to understand that his behavior was wrong. Still, Gavin offered us a 100 USD promo code to be used as a discount for any ToursByLocals tour worldwide, valid for 2 years. He wrote “I do realize that you did not request any compensation; however, I would still love for you to consider giving ToursByLocals a chance to impress you the next time you travel - we do have full confidence in our process and our guide-partners’ abilities to deliver 5-Star tours.”
Of course I thanked him for the promo gesture even though we probably would not be using it because we have stopped travelling for some time. I wrote back saying I was already impressed. Impressed by his detailed and caring response. I confessed “I never expected to hear from ToursByLocals after one answer to my tweet, especially not after time passed.” The rest of my email:
“I understand that at the basic level your customer service agents cannot take up responsibility for someone who has not booked through you, it's not a part of their job or at least not a standard procedure. And the people in higher positions generally do not deal with customers and do not get back to them personally. So I am totally aware that this mail of yours to reach out to me is very out of the ordinary and worthy of praise/respect.
On the other hand, to be any meaningful, I would like to know the end result with Jean-Claude. I would like to see that he has really understood that the way to do gas is going full tank and leaving full tank. And that letting guests to be swarmed by unsolicited attention of locals is unacceptable and is failing of his duty.
The fuel cost was not the issue. Even if I would not have liked it, I would have accepted it if he charged us properly. After all, he said it, that that fuel was not included. What upsets me is the way he did it, getting 30-50 USD more out of us, charging a premeditated amount of 200 USD instead of what was actually consumed.”
Then I wrote something about money. I don't know exactly why, but to me this is very important. I don't want money myself, but I don't want people whom I believe did not deserve the money they got, to keep that money...
“I said money is not the issue, and it really isn't. I don't want money, what I want is to see that Jean-Claude has understood the above. On the other hand, I don't want Jean-Claude to keep the money we gave him, because I believe he definitely did not deserve it. So I don't know... In such cases I offer the person to pay a charity, somebody else. I think it's the best way to solve a money dispute. That neither party gets it, but it is given to a third party. My choice would be ihfonline.org , a place I've found after long research and feel I can trust. But of course Jean-Claude can give that money to someplace in Madagascar to help the country. I know he'll be spending the money in Madagascar and it will be going to the economy there, but I wouldn't want him to make use of it for himself. I'm sure you have the authority to make him do it, or the creativity to come up with a different solution to satisfy both ends.”
Gavin wrote back saying he was going to talk with Jean Claude during the week and would get back to me.
The week passed. I didn't bother. It is travel season, people might be busy. Two weeks passed. I still didn't bother much. These things take time. Then three weeks passed. I felt like dropping a line. Gavin got back to me saying he was following up with Jean Claude. He had the phone call, and then gave Jean-Claude time to absorb the feedback. Okay.
However, the rest was disillusionment. I try to understand their perspective. I understand that they are a business, that Gavin is doing things on behalf of a company. Still... I suppose that's where I have an issue. It was once again all about ToursByLocals, how great they were and what standards they expected for their customers and not about the right way to do things, a general moral and ethic code to follow in interactions with any tourist/guest.
Also, he got to the main point of his interest in taking up this issue. My removal/retracting or updating of my post! I understand, it is normal for him to expect that, but it makes the whole thing a big disappointment for me. My shoulders sank. Because I am not after interests, I am after integrity!
Here is Gavin's email, emphasis is mine, and my comments to him in parenthesis:
“I am happy to say that I have been able to reach a consensus and that Jean Claude has accepted the learning opportunities presented by the feedback you provided to us. I am truly grateful for this opportunity to connect with Jean Claude and to reinforce the expectations of ToursByLocals and our customers."
(To me, this should have been “to reinforce the right way to do things with tourists/guests.” Any tourist, any guest. Not only your customers.)
"I have advised Jean Claude that we would of course always expect him to include fuel costs (and any other such expenses) in the overall tour cost for any ToursByLocals tour; this is in fact part of ToursByLocals model. ToursByLocals customers would always expect all expenses to be included and/or disclosed on their booking form and we would never expect any of OUR customers to be overcharged or blind-sided by extraneous costs in the way that you described."
(Again... The only emphasis is on ToursByLocals customers. No guest likes unexpected expenses. Besides, Jean-Claude includes the fuel cost in your tours anyway. I was expecting you to tell, to instruct him the right way to charge fuel if it's not included. Come full tank to the airport, fill up the tank while leaving. It's simple.)
"I have also discussed the incident at the airport car park in detail with Jean Claude and have made it very clear that it is our expectation that he will always do everything in his power to warn and protect our customers against unscrupulous vendors or other 3rd parties."
(I'm sorry, this disillusions me so much. Why is it always about the person involved and not in general? It's ethics, it's morals, these are universal values. Guides are there to protect guests, it's an integral part of their job. Jean Claude has to always do everything in his power to warn and protect anybody who is visiting his country, not only his customers either, against unscrupulous vendors or other 3rd parties.
When I worked as a guide, I mean even when I wasn't working, even as any simple local, we interfere if we feel a tourist is being cheated upon by some local. It's just basics. Basics of being a host.
Plus, he was our guide. What's more, I asked if it was a scam. I mean, think about it. Imagine, you are in your country, there is a tourist family next to you and they ask you “Is this a scam?” It is only natural you'd say “What's going on?” and ask those people. Jean-Claude, let alone doing that, just brushed it off with an “I don't know,” and went on checking his phone! It's INEXCUSABLE!
And may I say, writing now and thinking about it again, it seriously makes one question if he was in on this scam.)
"This was a very important matter for us to clarify with Jean Claude as we would always expect our guide partners to utilize their local knowledge to enhance our customers' trip and to avoid any such unpleasant experiences. Jean Claude has assured me that going forward he will be vigilant to ensure that ToursByLocals customers do not find themselves in such situations."
(Again... To ensure ToursByLocals customers do not find themselves in such situations! What about other people? You just seem to say it's fine if others find themselves in such situations. This is what I call integrity, what I've been trying to say. That you are fine with your guide putting other people in such situations as long as your name is not involved.
Of course you cannot surveil him for his private customers but you could definitely tell him that he be vigilant with all his customers, all guests in his country not to find themselves in such situations.)
"I am satisfied that Jean Claude has taken my feedback on board and that he is moving forward positively and professionally from this incident - I have full confidence in his ability deliver 5-Star tours for ToursByLocals in future."
(Again... The 5-Stars service only reserved for ToursByLocals customers! Jean-Claude delivers 5-Star tours for ToursByLocals anyway. The problem is he should be delivering the same 5-Star for anyone, even without any authority over him. Perhaps I am expecting too much. But that's my goal. To have people behave the right way even if it's not in their interest. That's why, as you might have seen on my website, I am campaigning for freedom of movement even though I have nothing to gain from it myself as a holder of a European and a Muslim passport. It's about doing the right and just thing.)
"I did advise him that I believed it would be appropriate to make a financial gesture to apologize for the lack of clarity regarding the fuel costs; however, to be honest, I do not think it would be appropriate for me to pressure him or instruct him to take certain action with funds that are not associated with a ToursByLocals transaction. But I did advise him of the promo code gesture we had already provided to you and he was happy that we had done so."
(To be honest, I do think it is appropriate for anybody who has the power to pressure anybody who has done wrong. My child may be an adult; if I believe she has done wrong, I will be pressuring her to correct herself, to make up for it. I won't say “She is an adult, I cannot interfere.” I won't try to wash my hands off, I will take a stand. The stand on the right side, the just side. Of course, if it was something disputable, if Jean-Claude had denied the issue, if you had any doubts regarding my claims, then it would have been unfair to expect you to pressure him. But it's not the case here.
Plus, it's not the “lack of clarity of the fuel costs”! It's the sneaky way it was done. What's more, the more important financial gesture to apologize for is not the gas money, it was his lack of service, falling behind/failing miserably in his duties, the nonchalant way he answered and let us be swindled.
As for your advising him of your promo code gesture code.... Why would you do that? This gives the signal that you have already covered up for his mistake and he doesn't need to do anything more about it. I'm sorry to say that that is NOT the case. I had told you it was highly unlikely that we'd be using that code as we stopped travelling for some time. Under these conditions, we will definitely not be using the promo code, you may cancel it. Promotional gestures are exactly what they are called, they are for promoting your company, not really compensating the customer.
I understand you are partners with Jean-Claude. You work together. You make him money, he makes you money. We are just someone who might be a potential for you but he is your main partner, the person you need to look after. And I understand very well that the reason you are interested in this issue is the negative post about you, that as a 5-star company you don't want any negative thing on your name.)
"I trust this concludes this matter, and I am glad that you have given us the opportunity to fully address these issues. I am so happy that this has changed your perception of ToursByLocals and that you would consider giving ToursByLocals a chance to impress you in the future too."
Ah, he trusts this concludes the matter; he is the one to judge if the matter is concluded, not us, not the party who suffered the damage. He has done his part, so let's get to what I have to do in return!
"I would also be very interested to know if you are considering updating or retracting any of your comments regarding ToursByLocals on your blog. As I do appreciate and agree with your statements regarding integrity - I am in fact very grateful to be part of ToursByLocals as I can confidently say from my experience that we are a company that truly values integrity and honesty, and that we live and conduct our business by this philosophy. I would appreciate it if you could let me know your feelings on this matter and if you agree it would be appropriate to clarify the comments on your blog in anyway?
As always, I am at your disposal - please let me know if there is anything more I can do."
So he had done all this only in the self-interest of the company!
I said I'd certainly be updating my blog. But the issue was not concluded for me. I wrote:
For it to be concluded, I need two things:
You say you are satisfied that Jean Claude has taken your feedback on board and that he is moving forward positively and professionally from this incident. I take your word for it, yet I have to see that this is the case for myself as well. I was looking for something concrete from Jean-Claude himself instead of you. I was expecting some evidence, something in writing, either from your exchanges or better yet, a message to us from Jean-Claude to see that he really got the points I was trying to make.
And the second... As I said, he doesn't need to refund us necessarily, but he certainly needs to refund that money. Given his responsibility and unacceptable responses it should be more like all the money he earned but he should refund at least a 100 Euros. Or more appropriately 150 Euros. That's how we feel.
And we don't feel this is unfair the least bit, given that we are not asking him to give back much considering he got paid very handsomely for his services which involved two gross faults. There is no compensating for all the trouble we went through and all the time I wasted writing all these emails to you and the posts. As I said, it's not as if we are asking him to pay something he has not already received a lot of. Just to give back a small bit of it which he has not deserved. Only then, will he have showed that he has taken responsibility for his “shortfall” let's say.
This was Gavin's answer and my replies to him in paranthesis:
"Thank you for your thoughtful response; and certainly, yes, it is our hope that our guide partners will of course learn from the ToursByLocals' best practice which we try so hard to instil and maintain for every ToursByLocals tour.
I do believe that guides who join ToursByLocals benefit from the experience of delivering tours for our customers, and I would certainly hope that our business practices will have an ongoing positive influence on how our guide partners conduct their business with respect to both ToursByLocals and any other endeavour they pursue in their private life.
However, it is important for me to maintain this distinction and to be conscious of what requests it is appropriate for me to make of our guides; and as I said, in this case I do not agree it would be appropriate for me to pressure Jean Claude to take any certain action with regards to his private funds which are not associated with a ToursByLocals transaction. This is simply the dynamic of our partnership in which we respect our guides’ private commitments which they may have outside of ToursByLocals."
(I understand you Gavin. Nobody puts any pressure on anybody if they have a symbiotic relationship, if they have an interest involved. Nobody ever does. So my expecting you to put any pressure on Jean-Claude would be very unrealistic. I suppose you couldn't do any more than what you did without hurting your own interest. And why should you hurt your interest for something the person you work with did to someone who means nothing to you? I understand, it's no concern of yours. Not beyond the “stain”, a negative comment on your name on the internet.
Still, you didn't need to comfort Jean-Claude and take credit points for yourself by telling him you provided a promotional code for us. I understand, it is whatever gets you credit for anything you give away. That was just a good move to promote your business through a customer, plus strengthen Jean-Claude's bonds and loyalty to you. Two birds with one stone. I'm sorry I'm not the bird who falls for those stones. I understand perfectly well where your loyalties and your interest lies. This doesn't make you bad of course. It just makes you pragmatic and businesslike. And it makes me despair more. One more layer added to my unsuccessful tries with institutions. I understand asking for integrity at the cost of one's interest is asking for too much and it is only the rare few of those like me who do that. Perhaps I care about this so much because I grudge that I have given up so much for my integrity and principles. Or because the world is not a place for the likes of me. Or because I am left so alone...)
"Thank you again for your considerable efforts to provide feedback and enact positive change - your dedication to moral and ethical improvement is admirable. As per your request, I have cancelled the promo code previously provided to you and have instead arranged for the funds to be donated to the International Humanity Foundation."
(Thanks for arranging for the funds to be donated to the International Humanity Foundation. But again, I still have difficulty in understanding. Okay, I take your word for it but I'd never expect anybody to take my word for such a thing and I'd have provided a receipt to back up my word when I made such a claim to anybody. Why is it so difficult to do something properly without the need for prompting? And you probably are the best of the best possible. At least you care and respond. At least you tried to do something whatever your motivation may have been. Thanks for all your efforts.)
I left the most significant part of Gavin's response for last.
"I believe I have fully addressed the issues you have raised about Jean Claude, and as I said, I am confident that that this has been a learning experience for him. I believe everybody is capable of making mistakes and is entitled to a second chance. I do not believe it is necessary to pursue this matter any further with Jean Claude; I have accepted his contrition and I am happy for him to now move forward positively from this incident."
(Yes, I agree, everyone is entitled to a second chance. After they make up for their mistake. You are not the father paying for the window your son broke. Jean-Claude is an adult and he faces the consequences of his actions.
And what he did about the scam is NOT something light. Coming up with excuses, trying to shift the blame on us by saying ah we exchanged money through his friend is not acceptable either; let alone that, it's more outrageous. It's total bs trying to whitewash.
You may be “confident that that this has been a learning experience for him”, I am not. As I have not seen or heard anything from him.
You say “I have accepted his contrition and I am happy for him to now move forward positively from this incident.”
Sorry??? You have accepted his contrition??? You are NOT the person to accept his contrition! He did not violate your contract, your trust, he violated ours; he did no damage to you (I mean apart from getting your name involved indirectly), we suffered the damage he caused. Sorry but you have no right to accept his contrition in our name. Only we have that right. And we have not accepted anything as we have not seen any gesture or heard any word of redemption from him.)
This is so important, so so important that I cannot emphasize. Whenever someone does something wrong, they should make up for it, they should make amends. To the person who has been hurt. To the person who has been the object of the damage, the one subjected to the damage.
As far as I know, or as far as I don't know that is, Gavin might not have talked to Jean-Claude at all. How do I know he did? I mean of course I believe him. But I have no single proof, no single evidence that Jean-Claude got what I wanted him to get out of this incident. But Gavin writes:
“I am satisfied that Jean Claude has taken my feedback on board and that he is moving forward positively and professionally from this incident.”
Oh good, I am glad Gavin was satisfied! So it was about the satisfaction of ToursByLocals after all from the very beginning and not mine! Their satisfaction is enough! And Gavin's satisfaction with Jean-Claude understanding should be enough to satisfy me I suppose.
I'm sorry... It doesn't work that way. I know I am hard to satisfy. I know I am expecting too much. But I am not actually asking for much. I am not asking integrity over self-interest from people who are struggling to make a living. I do not expect a poor man to act with integrity at the cost of his and his family's well-being. But yes, I do expect integrity from people, companies and institutions who are well above the standard. I expect integrity from people, from companies who can afford it.
I do not blame the people who actually swindled us. Why? Because as much as it is not correct what they did, as wrong as it is that is, I believe they needed the money. Sure, there are other honest ways, but not always available to everyone. Sure, there are people under dire circumstances who do not resort to fraud, scams, thefts etc. However, I still have clemency for them. (Don't get me wrong, I'm not condoning them, I'm not condoning any cheating, BUT, yes, no, I do not blame them. At least not as much as I blame people with means, people pretending to be civil doing wrong things.)
For Jean-Claude, I don't have it. Giving back some of the money he has made a lot of was not much to do. As for ToursByLocals, I'm not sure if their involvement served anything. What did Jean-Claude get out of this incident? Of course I don't have any knowledge of the conversation between him and Gavin, but what I gather from Gavin's account is this:
“Oh, okay. Even if it's not a ToursByLocals customer, whatever I do may get back to me. But, ToursByLocals will cover my back.”
The exact opposite of what I wanted him to get:
"I should be careful with every single one of my customers, not just ToursByLocals; otherwise, I might be losing my bread."
I believe Gavin should have pressured Jean-Claude to pay us (or any ONG), made him write to us too. Or alternatively, he could have provided me their phone conversation recordings. Some kind of solid feedback to make me see Jean-Claude got what I was trying to say. The best would have been, of course, Gavin writing to Jean-Claude, and BCC me, so that we could discuss it openly. With Gavin doing the intermediary.
Was he obliged? Sure not. Would it have been nice? Sure yes. Should that be a standard? I sure do believe it would help for a better world if things were done like this in every area. Courts and the justice system is just so crap. Howard Zehr's “Changing Lenses” should be standard compulsory reading for everyone at school, our methods for solving conflict/clashes should be updated.
Would such a thing have damaged ToursByLocals relationship with Jean-Claude? Probably yes. Still, as I said, I think companies can afford that. They should be able to put their interest at risk for doing the right thing. They should impose right behavior on their employees. Anybody who has any power should impose right behavior. Actually, it works in the other direction as well. I believe people should be resigning from their jobs if they witness the company they are working for is doing unethical business. So anybody who interacts with someone acting wrong should cut contact with that person/company if they do not correct their ways.
Perhaps I am wrong. But I feel this strongly.
Whatever... I seriously do not wish to deal with such things any further. Life is too short to spend trying to correct all the wrong in the world. Yet I know I cannot just accept and shut up. I need to speak my truths. Only then can I have a quiet mind.
So now, with your permission, I go on with my life.
Moral of the Story: Nobody puts any pressure on anybody if they have a symbiotic relationship, if they have an interest involved. And we will never achieve civility, civility in its true sense that is, unless we can overcome this obstacle and put integrity above our interests.
There is a very nice answer from Paul Melhus, the founder of ToursByLocals about their response to a challenge with a guide in an interview on Leisure. They are a 5-star company, if there is any lower evaluation for a guide they take it seriously. What's more, they even go further. They see how many customers provide feedback. Because people generally do not bother to comment if the guide is not especially good or especially. ToursByLocals seriously seek perfection, at least in theory, that is what they aim for.
“We’re not into average. We’re into awesome.”
That is such a nice and strong statement. I really wish they had owned up to their aspiration and showed they were into awesome.
We had a very unpleasant experience with Jean-Claude, a local tour-guide in Madagascar. We had booked Jean-Claude privately through a personal suggestion and later found out he worked with ToursByLocals. For those who do not know, ToursByLocals is a peer-to-peer travel company connecting local guides with travellers.
During our trip, Jean-Claude said that ToursByLocals provides counsel when an issue arises with a customer; hearing this and going through their website I was impressed with their attention to quality and perfection. I wrote and told Jean-Claude to discuss the matters that caused our conflict with him and ask their opinion if he didn't believe or agree with my points. I had no doubt that ToursByLocals would be backing us up on both issues: how to do the fuel cost and protecting customers from being hassled.
But it was obvious he was not going to consult them. So I took it up on myself to inform ToursByLocals. The answer I got was this:
“All the guides on our websites are independent guides who are provided marketing through our websites. As a 5-star company, we provide assistance to assurance to all travellers who book tours through our website about the standard of service and experience they will receive.
While we take all claims against our guides seriously and we will monitor Jean Claude's behaviour in the future, we have no authority to provide any compensation for tours not booked through our website. I suggest that you take this up with the company that you booked your tour through, or if you did it directly you will have to take it up with Jean Claude yourselves.
It is a shame to hear of your disappointing experience and in future, if you book through ToursByLocals we will ensure that a 5-star experience is given.
I wish you luck in being able to sort your issue.”
I couldn't help the snigger. Wish me luck in being able to sort my issue?!! What a disingenuous, feigned wish is that! Nobody ever pays money back unless they are very honest and they wouldn't have done such a thing in the first place if they were honest. We live in an age where even the big companies making the big bucks resort to cheap tricks with the bills, TIM charged me 15 Euros for 10 KB of downloads even when my billing type was not supposed to be like that. Get it back from them if you can. You just let it go because it's not worth your time and energy. That's how most companies work today.
I underlined the important sentence in their answer. Yes, it is a shame to hear of my disappointing experience. It is a much much bigger shame that ToursByLocals tells me so openly they will ensure a 5-star experience if I book through them and do not care if their guides cheat people not booking through them! I am in awe, with disgust.*
May I say I was not much surprised but disappointed by this response. I wrote back:
“From your message, I get it that you are saying 'We do not care if our guides cheat their customers while working privately, as long as they do not cheat our customers and we make sure they cannot and do not cheat our customers anyway.' Is that right?
I'm supposing it's not. And I'm sorry if I couldn't explain myself very well again. We are not looking for compensation, we already took it up with Jean-Claude even though we were sure he wouldn't compensate us at all. He got the money, why should he be giving it back? Nobody really ever does apart from very quality companies. Not even the big name ones. As long as there is no threat to his earnings and no sanction from a higher authority, no reason for Jean-Claude to do it.
I did NOT write to you to sanction him, but to advise him on the matter of calculating gas money, as I am sure it is general knowledge how it is done with renting a car and you'd confirm what I have told him.
Also, I wrote thinking you might advise him that it is his duty to take care of and watch over his customers. This is no light matter. Being scammed while with a tour guide, especially after we have asked if it was a scam. You can be sure, if we were alone, that never would have happened. It was Jean-Claude's duty to keep unsolicited hordes of people away from us and we trusted him.
We wrote to you because we believe you would not want bad publicity for one of your tour-guides on travel groups and on the internet, we believe it's not good for one's reputation to be associated with such people.
We wrote because from your values, we thought you'd want to work with people with integrity.
Thank you for your concern anyway.”
I did not hear back from them again. Not that I expected to.
Moral of the Story:
Jean-Claude doesn't resort to cheap tricks when working with ToursByLocals, he knows he will get a negative return on it, he knows he will have to pay the price of his cheap trick. He cannot risk his means of livelihood. He will never act the way he did with us when working with customers of ToursByLocals.
So where does this leave us?
a) We either always have to go through sites that guard our back in case of a problem, paying them 20-30 % extra. Which may be fine. You may think of it as an insurance of some sort. After all, they are adding value to your experience by finding trustworthy guides and making them behave.
b) We take our own risk and pay for any mishaps.
I'll be honest with you, as I always am... As I said, I heard about ToursByLocals through Jean-Claude, it was not vice-versa. So it wasn't that I stole their guides going around them. Had I known ToursByLocals before booking Jean-Claude, I still wouldn't have booked it through them. Even taking into account the amount of money we paid extra for fuel and got swindled, we are still in the plus.
So was it wrong of me to write to ToursByLocals and expect them to help me out in this situation?
I wouldn't say so... I am a strong believer in integrity and for the right things to be done. I had some hope that a company like ToursByLocals would have integrity and sort out the issue by advising Jean-Claude. I was wrong. No big deal. I tried. All life is an experiment and experience; you test people and companies. I sure won't recommend ToursByLocals to anybody even though they might provide value.
It's not fine for a big company to say “It's fine with us if the people we work with act 'wrong' or immorally, as long as they do not act that way towards OUR customers.”
Perhaps I am asking for too much. Companies, after all, are institutions set up to make profit. They are not supposed to be moral. Perhaps it's my high standards that do not align with the realities of the world. Oh well... It almost never does. I got used to it by now, and came to accept it. Still... I cannot help but wish for a radical change of mentality in people and institutions.
Please at least say “Amen”.
Even if it is hoping for the impossible...
* Upon re-reading this piece some time later on, I realized I was too harsh. Perhaps it is too much to expect so much care and attention from that level of Customer Care. And the management level is generally not interested, doesn't get involved. Perhaps that's the doom of companies or the unluck of us customers. Nobody hears us who has authority.
Please read the update on ToursByLocals and Jean-Claude, Self-Interest versus Integrity to see how this ordeal progressed and ended.
PS: Please also read Scandal at Booking. The giant company who keeps on working with a business doing illegal transactions. They just shush the rare customers who realize the disguised sneaky swindle by giving them a refund. Then, It's business as usual.
So what? Booking.com is hosting fraudulent, or perhaps even worse, -or is it better? It depends on how you look at it I suppose- illegal businesses on its website. Who cares? People will be using Booking.com no matter what as it is convenient. They are used to such things in our world, they keep on using the services of sites which have become habitual. As long as it does not affect them much, they are nonchalant. They do not even notice petty thefts as they do not check their credit card statements, they live in ignorant bliss. (Oh how I wish I could do that too!) If fishy things are brought up to their awareness, they just shrug their shoulders and move on. Welcome to the real world, the world we live in.
I've been using Booking for years for my travels. Perhaps because I'm good at choosing, reading the comments and between the lines, or because most places care about their reputation on Booking, the places I booked generally turned out to be good; so I've been quite happy with the service. However, my last trip to Algeria has turned all my opinions about this giant company around. It's been yet another Customer Service trouble and even though they've compensated me partially, it's just another unethical business, only after profit. Whatever customer service they provide is only to keep you as their customer so you can make money for them, i.e. so that they can keep on milking you. But let me tell you what happened, so you decide for yourself:
I booked a place that was non-refundable. I have no problem with that. After choosing I do not bother to go back and try to change anyway.
The trip was some time ahead. Fine. Then I got my credit card statement. I check my card statements. There was a strange transaction that I had not done. I asked my husband if he bought anything online that I did not know of; he negated. So thinking about what it could be, I figured out the only possibility was this Algerian Hotel, Hotel Samir. Actually, the transaction did not come from neither Hotel Samir nor from Algeria, the merchant name that processed the 78 Euros was El Comparador from Spain. Still, Hotel Samir was the only suspect for me. As it was non-refundable, they had the right to charge my card; plus, the amount was more or less the same. Booking.com quotes you the price in your currency and it was said to be 75 Euros. Yet, this is for reference only. It is clearly stated out on the site:
“Currency & Exchange Rate Info
You'll pay Hotel Samir in DZD according to the exchange rate on the day of payment.
The amount displayed in EUR is just an estimate based on today's exchange rate for DZD.”
So first, I wrote to the hotel. No answer. I wrote to them a second time. Still no answer. Upon which I decided to get Booking.com involved. So I wrote to them too.
They replied saying:
“Hotel Samir takes care of all payments, so if there has been a charge you weren’t expecting, contact them to find out what’s happening.”
I said I contacted the hotel but didn't get an answer.
They confirmed my statement. After all, they can see the messaging between us. “It looks like Hotel Samir wasn't able to reply to your message in time.”
Duh, I told you.
“Would you like to call them instead?”
No, I don't. I call and what do I do? I'm not sure they speak any English. What is Booking.com for if not to help customers in such situations? They are the mediators. That's why we book through them. If the hotel doesn't answer a customer on an important subject, Booking makes them answer.
Instead of pressing the hotel, Booking asked me the details of the suspected charge. It's understandable, I could be just making a problem out of nothing. But that was what I wanted confirmed. To check if Hotel Samir charged me 78 Euros. Anyway... I sent Booking a screenshot of the suspected charge, the date and the merchant name.
They weren't satisfied, they wanted to see my bank statement with the logo and all. Of course, that is work. They say it will be used strictly for that and “we respect your privacy” but I sure am not giving unknown people access to my address and expenditures. So I needed to block out all the rest.
Booking wrote back saying they'd be contacting the hotel and letting me know. This was more than a week before my trip. I did not get any answer in three days. So I wrote Booking a second time too, asking them to let me know before my trip. Still no answer from them either. I was getting stressed with this issue, I didn't want to go to a hotel with a shady business. My plane was landing in Algeria late at night and I did not want to deal with finding another place after I got there. I wanted this sorted out in advance so that I knew what I was going to do. Anyway... In the end, I gave it up; it's really hard to nag someone to answer you by email or even the phone, if they don't want to they'll just ignore you or brush you off, give you the runaround. It's so exhausting. Thinking the hotel must be fine, I said “I'll sort it out when I get there. In person.”
So I got there. And I found out that it was in fact them, they had charged me the 78 Euros. I told them they had no right to charge me that amount, I had only authorized 10,200 DZD. I asked them to refund the Euros so that I'd pay them the DZD amount I agreed to pay, in cash. They said “No no no.” They claimed they had a right, that they did this with all other customers. As they did not have the means to process credit cards they worked with a Spanish agency who did it on their behalf and then wired the money to Algeria. Of course there was a cost for this. The hotel said that I paid the agency, I paid the money transfer, I paid Booking and that was the price.
Well yeah (!) ?? Really? And where did I agree to all these costs?? I mean it's the basics of commerce: The merchant quotes a price, if it's in person the customer may bargain, they strike a deal, agree on the price and the merchant charges the customer. Online, there is no bargaining process. The merchants put their prices out there, the customer searches and compares, chooses the one s/he approves and checks it out. What am I missing here?
You do not quote a price in one currency and charge your customer a higher amount in another currency, adding on all kinds of extras s/he did not approve. If you do that, it is generally called cheating. Or it is at least resorting to cheap tricks and it's bad business.
While writing to Booking.com informing them of the situation I came across a comment on their website on Hotel Samir:
"They charge you more then they should and they think it is their right. Their logic is, if you do not pay before you come there, you don't pay the reservation price, but the hotel price, which is higher. They can speak only few words in english. I had to call booking.com and they send me my money back after my stay. Do not expect the receptionists will want to help you..." Ondrej from Czech Republic in April 2018.
So there had been another customer who had been in the same situation and apparently Booking.com had refunded him. I pointed this out to them along with Hotel Samir's explanation about my charge. The answer from Booking:
“We have spoken with the hotel however they did not accept your claim as valid. We have checked your bank statement again and we can see that the merchant name that charged you does not match the one of the hotel (the merchant name is written in Spanish language) and furthermore your bank statement does not specify the currency of the account or of the charge. For these reasons we want to kindly ask if you can please provide a different proof of charge? We look forward to your reply.”
At that point I was really pissed off at Booking! Enough! What kind of an answer is this?? I have provided them the proof of charge and There is only one proof of charge! What other proof of charge can I provide? Besides, I've told them that the hotel accepts that they charged me 78 Euros. The thing they don't accept is that they have no right to charge me that amount and Booking should be able to judge that I am in the right.
“Instead of trying to understand the matter and asking the hotel for proof you ask me another proof. The hotel doesn't accept my claim, you accept their word. I file a claim, you ask proof from me, proof with bank logo, double proof, but you don't ask the hotel for any proof!”
I was really upset. I had written to them, I knew they don't accept my claim but they accept I've been charged 78 Euros and they say I've paid an agency. Apparently that agency is Spanish. I have no other charges in DZD in my bank statement. There is no other proof. That's the proof!
“We have spoken with the hotel however they did not accept your claim as valid.”
Ah! What a surprise! As if I did not know that already! How many wrongdoers admit their wrongdoing without a higher authority?
“We have checked your bank statement again and we can see that the merchant name that charged you does not match the one of the hotel (the merchant name is written in Spanish language)”
Duh! I already stated that to you. And that is the main problem.
I re-emphasized Ondrej's comment and asked them to solve the issue right away so that I could pay the hotel in local currency.
Oh, there is another point to note here: There is a black-market in Algiers and there is a huge discrepancy between the official exchange rate and the street rate. So if I had paid the hotel when I got there, I wouldn't have paid more as the hotel claims. Sure, the walk-in hotel price is higher; but as I'd have paid cash which I exchanged at a much better rate I'd have paid 40 % less.
When I talked to the hotel, they confirmed it was a Spanish agency. They even confirmed that the Euro exchange rate is 210 DZD. That would make my charge 48.57 Euros. (10200/210=48.57) So they have actually charged me 60 % more (78/48.57= 1.60) 60 percent more, 60 %!
Even so, that is not the point. My bank would have converted the DZD charge to Euros for me to pay and that would have been more or less a similar amount, 70 something Euros. The point is... They cannot charge me an amount I have not agreed to in a currency I did not agree to. Simple as that.
Ok, I know this is Africa. I mean it is patronizing and belittling to even say this, but I am very well aware how things work in the world. Their work ethics might be different here in Algiers but I'm sure the Spanish agency Comparador knows, or should know that you don't do this, you never charge a customer secret amounts. I tried to explain this to the hotel. I said “You are doing wrong, I will get this money back. So, you give me the Euros back and I pay you the Dinar.” They did not care, insisted they were in the right; the man even showed me all the customers who paid using Booking.com. Ok, as they wish; I tried my best. Obviously, I couldn't explain them, Booking would. The man said “No no, Booking is very good with me, we do good business together.” Okay then, what more can I do?
What makes the situation worse is the fact that Hotel Samir has been working like this with Booking for a long time and apparently only one person before me has filed a complaint. I assume that people either
a) don't notice,
b) don't care, or
c) don't bother to file complaints and go through the process.
Which I agree is a very time consuming process and is certainly not worth the amount of money involved. However, if people, when people go on with this mentality, frauds take over and they make huge amounts of money with the little extra they get from a large number.
I asked Booking to refund me the money and also asked what action they'd be taking with El Comparador. I wrote: “To be honest, I have not read your terms and conditions but I use Booking with full faith and trust that you protect your customers from any kind of fraud or wrong charge. We wish to keep on using your services in the same full trust as a family.
Thank you for your time and care.”
The automatic reply said: "I just sent that to Customer Service, someone there will get back to you within 24 hours."
More than 72 hours passed and I didn't hear a reply.
Wrote again: “I'd appreciate a response please.”
When they finally answered, they gave me the classic bs (sorry for the expression but it really is, the language these big companies use.)
“I am sorry to hear about your experience at Hotel Samir. I appreciate you taking the time to tell us about this situation.”
Then they put a drop of honey in your mouth:
“As a token of our dedication to customer satisfaction, I'd like to offer you compensation by refunding you 30 EUR. Please confirm your acceptance of this offer by replying to this email, and we'll arrange the refund as soon as possible.”
Ending it with the standard bs:
“Again, we’re very sorry your stay at Hotel Samir didn't meet your expectations and apologize for any inconvenience. We value the feedback you provided because it will help both us and Hotel Samir improve the quality of the services we offer.
We look forward to hearing from you.”
This is their sandwich technique to lure you in and trap you. Honey sandwich. Obviously you are angry. Who knows, you might be walking away. We need to keep you here!
In the meanwhile, I checked Booking.com. Hotel Samir was still advertised on the site, which implies that they are doing this just to get rid of a nuisance and not out of any business ethics. I was pissed off at their insolence. I answered:
“I really believe you should be issuing a complete refund because this shouldn't have happened at all in the first place, especially after Ondrej drew your attention to the issue. Once you were referred to this issue, you should not have allowed it to go on. It shouldn't have happened to me. Ondrej has written you back in April, seven months ago. It shouldn't be happening to anybody else again. As Booking, I believe it's your responsibility to keep your site as an honest place. Is it not?
Apart from customer satisfaction, I'd have hoped that Booking would have done this out of a 'good business' rule. I understand it's business for Booking, it's business for the Spanish agency El Comparador, it's business for Hotel Samir. And most customers do not seem to notice or mind anyway. But this cannot be a reason for you to accommodate this kind of “murky” business.
Paying and forgetting would have been much easier and less costly for my time (even with a full refund you won't be compensating the time I spent on this issue); however, that would be rewarding wrong behavior and I do not like to do that. Thank you for publishing my comment without censorship, I appreciate it. However, I really believe you should be sanctioning Hotel Samir and/or putting them on hold until they fix their payment method or put it written clearly. I really would like to know your stand on this issue as Booking.”
I was very disillusioned with Booking Customer Service. I noticed this charge long before my trip, I contacted them. Nothing. I went to Algiers. Wrote to them with more information. Still nothing. I wrote to them so many times, each time detailing it more and guiding them to investigate the matter. I got no reply.
“We will not be able to process a full refund as you indeed stayed at the property. However we are willing to refund you 30.00 € for being charged in the wrong currency.”
Anyway, they refunded me the 30 Euros. But I realized I was still not fine with this issue. Because it wasn't about the money in the first place.
“Please tell me why it is acceptable to you that Hotel Samir charges your customers a higher amount in a different currency than is advertised on your site and why this is fine with you, why you allow them to do this using your website?”
On the phone, an agent had told me “Someone who knows the local customs will be talking to Hotel Samir, if there are more customer complaints the property will certainly be taken off the site, that not all properties stay on Booking.” However, this was NOT enough.
It had been ten days since Booking.com had the knowledge for certain that Hotel Samir was overcharging the guests, what's more, illegally! I knew they couldn't charge me in a different currency than DZD but had not thought of it being illegal until the agent pronounced it out loud. So Booking.com was, and still is, literally aiding and abetting an illegal transaction on their website! Knowingly! It seriously is UNACCEPTABLE!
I wrote this to them and told them what they should be doing as, obviously, they did not know:
“What you should be doing RIGHT NOW; WITHOUT LOSING EVEN A SECOND, is calling the hotel, asking for PROOF of charge from them. As they cannot give you any proof of charge in DZD, you should suspend their account on your site IMMEDIATELY!
And this should have happened before I wrote to you. Tell me, please, I beg you, tell me in writing, what is it that takes you so long? Why are you not taking an action against this illegal transaction??”
I got no answer. You know, no answers make me even more furious and I have a need to go on more:
“Hotel Samir has been welcoming Booking.com guests since Feb 24, 2018. There are 41 guest reviews. I know there have been many more customers as they showed me the file with bookings from Booking at the hotel. It says on your site 'In High Demand' for the hotel. All these people are being robbed! And you are letting the hotel go along with this cheating.
And I'm still expecting you to inform me of Ondrej's case. What has happened and what action have you taken? Because, apparently, you have just paid him back too, like you did with me and done nothing further to prevent this from happening again. I accepted your offer, but that is not hush money. Yes, you have a reputation to lose. And this is a scandal if you ask me. Ondrej wrote to you 7 months ago. 7 months! Nothing has been done!
Ah, you say “if there are more customer complaints...” There won't be more customer complaints. Not too many at least. Because most people are sheeple. Tell me how many people have booked Hotel Samir through your site and I'll tell you the percentage of your sheeple customers! 100x divided by x+2 %. That's how many. You do not act right because customers complain, at least a good company does not, a prestigious company like Booking does not. Yes, your reputation has gone under the carpet for me. I am still in waiting for an update from you on the issue to restore it back.
Look... I'm not claiming Hotel Samir is a cheat, but this has nothing to do with local customs either. They certainly do not know, yet I am sure the Spanish agency El Comparador doing this transaction for them should know the internationally acceptable credit card charge rules. If not, they shouldn't do international business; simple. I will be asking a chargeback from my card. This should have an effect on their business. And I certainly believe you have a responsibility towards your customers to provide honest and transparent service. I am looking forward to see you live up to your big name.”
I am so bothered with having to do the customer service of these big companies for things that I shouldn't have had to spend my time on. I told them too:
“In the meanwhile, please consider paying in an advisor fee for me.
As I battle with these big companies, I battle with myself too. I say to myself: “I really must have been someone very unfair, done something very bad in a previous life. It seriously is not possible that I keep banging on this same type of issues constantly.”
Then I reason: “Or of course it's because I pay attention to detail and there are a lot of people out there who are trying to steal money from your pocket furtively. And I notice. Carlo does not notice, so he is fine.”
No answer from Booking.com, here goes another mail from me:
“I am still waiting to hear about your stand on the issue of Hotel Samir charging their customers and what you have done, if anything, on this issue. I do not wish to take this to social media to smear your name as I've been using Booking with confidence all these years. But I want others to be spared the trouble I had to go through and I do not wish illegal, non-transparent transactions to be rewarded; so if you do not take any action, I just wish to spread the word. A prestigious site like Booking allowing such illegal business is unacceptable. I seriously do not understand how you allow it even after my insistent mails. Please, I would like a written explanation.”
Two days later, I again receive the standard bs:
“Thank you for choosing Booking.com.
We are writing to you regarding your reservation 1278724230 at Hotel Samir, check-in date 2018-11-24, and check-out date 2018-11-26.
This issue has been reported already and is being investigated.
Thank you for accepting the refund covering the error made by the property and commercial gesture from Booking.com for the inconvenience. The refund should be on your account as soon as possible. No further compensation will be added and we consider your claim settled.
Once again please accpet our sincere apologise.
Please feel free to contact us with any additional questions.
Every time these companies deny their part and try to brush-off the issue I get more fuelled:
“In case you do not get it, and which obviously you did not, I am NOT making a further claim; that was a tongue-in-cheek remark to state that as I feel you are not doing your job and I have to spend time to make you do it, you should actually be compensating me for it. Not that I don't believe you should pay me as an advisor, but I am not stupid enough to think you actually would!
Let me be clear on this: The refund does NOT cover the error made by the property. The property is NOT making an error, they are systematically and consistently overcharging their/YOUR customers and performing an illegal transaction with every single customer booking through your site. The damages this has caused me is far beyond what you can cover with 30 Euros. And it is not a “commercial gesture from Booking.com for the inconvenience”, it is a convenient commercial gesture from Booking on behalf of Booking. As you have made and plan to make profit out of us as a customer, it pays you to give back a bit to satisfy customers. It is solely a smart business move, not got anything to do with customer satisfaction or your caring about business ethics.
The refund is already in my account, but I do NOT consider my claim settled until I see Hotel Samir REMOVED from your site or until you provide me proof that they have updated their working process and are doing the charging in DZD now. I would have loved to state that I hold the right to sue you demanding further compensation for the damages caused by your company's negligence on an illegal transaction; however, being an ordinary individual, that would only make me laughable. And I hate this feeling of powerlessness as an individual over such companies like you. I wish I had the social media following to take this out to, who knows, maybe some person will pick it up when I post it.
I know this case has been reported! “It's under investigation” is NOT good enough. When I check and see that you are still hosting Hotel Samir on your site it upsets me so much. So much! Please answer my questions:
1) What has been done after Ondrej alerted you to the issue back in April? Sorry, I actually know the answer to that question. You just paid him and brushed it away. So the actual question is, why did you not investigate the issue and take precautions that this doesn't happen to your other customers?
2) What has been done for the investigation in the two weeks that I have made the case beyond any doubt? Did you ask for PROOF of charge in DZD from the hotel? As they obviously cannot provide it, why are you still hosting them?? Why are you still hosting a business that does illegal transactions through your website? What are you waiting for to take precaution that this does not happen to any other customer? As you obviously are not taking any precaution, this just shows you are an unethical business not really caring about your customers or any business principle. Please explain me how I am wrong.
3) When someone is doing an illegal business, stealing, yes sorry but it is stealing as they are overcharging their, that is YOUR customers, you immediately put a stop to the business so as to prevent them from stealing more. Then, ONLY THEN, do you investigate further, you make sure they abide by the rules FIRST and then let them back into the business. Am I wrong? What am I missing here?”
At this point, I changed my mind. Until recently, even a couple of days ago, I was thinking I must have done something very wrong in a previous life, that's why I keep coming across such people. But no. Seriously NO. That is not the explanation. I've got a better one. The default of people and institutions is “Fuck others as long as you can,” “Grab what you can while you can.” And I have an issue with that. First of all, I see these things. I notice. And I don't like it. It's not me coming across these people all the time. 80-90 % of people and institutions are like this; naturally, I see the same rate of crooked people in my interactions. And as I do not like it and care about justice and the “right thing” it bugs me.
Institutions and people do not do the right thing but go after their own interests if there is no threat from a higher power or a threat to their reputation and financial interest due to public outcry.
Eight more days passed. Booking.com did not answer. I wrote again. I know... I am irredeemable. But one day I'll be changing. I've had enough of this suffering and it is getting unbearable.
“I see Hotel Samir is still being hosted by your website. I still haven't got an answer to why you are allowing your customers to be ripped off or why you are allowing illegal transactions to be done through your website. I haven't got PROOF of Hotel Samir having updated their transaction method in DZD either.
Also please, I'd like to know how many people have booked Hotel Samir each month since it has been hosted by Booking.
Waiting for your reply”
The bs answer came the next day:
“Dear Zeynep Gulin De Vincentiis,
Thank you for choosing Booking.com.
We are writing to you regarding your reservation 1278724230 at Hotel Samir, check-in date 2018-11-24, and check-out date 2018-11-26.
Thank you for your feedback and concerns. We are not able to provide answers to any of those questions, as this is sensitive company information.
Aaah, what an opportunity for me to shoot back!
“Can you please be specific and tell me which questions can you not answer as it is sensitive company information?
You referring to how many guests have booked Hotel Samir after my stay or since Ondrej notified you their overcharge or the total guest number? There's something called transparency. I don't know if you've ever heard of it.
Or are you referring to providing an answer to what actions you have taken with Hotel Samir after my notification? That would be called accountability. Have you heard of that?
Or are you referring to why you are still allowing Hotel Samir, a business that is executing illegal transactions to be hosted on your site? There is something called business ethics and principles. Ring any bells?? You must have heard those somewhere; no?
I believe you OWE me an explanation why I have had to deal with this trouble when Ondrej had notified you of the overcharging of Hotel Samir seven months before my stay? Why did you not take action against this illegal ripping off of your customers? And why are you still not taking any action against it?
Don't thank me for choosing Booking again. I thank you for your services that I have used until now, but I definitely will not be choosing Booking from now on if you do not compensate for your ineptitude at dealing with a serious customer and business issue. I am waiting for you to show some proactive leadership and make a respectable business move.
Hosting a business doing illegal transactions is not something light, this is not staying here. I do not know who to go up to but I will definitely be posting this ordeal on social media and searching for somebody to take up legal charges against all parties involved.
Please pass this on to a responsible manager who can deal with the issue professionally. In addition to answers to the questions above, I am waiting for your message informing me 'We have done ..... (fill in the blanks here) for the investigation of Hotel Samir and .... (fill in the outcome.)'
The moment I sent the above email, I regretted one part. So I had to write a second note:
“Sorry, I take back the 'Thank you' at the end of my last email. (I do not thank you for your non-answers to me. I do not thank you; on the contrary, I loathe that you make me waste more of my time.) That 'Thank you' was in the hope of getting a proper answer and a respectable move from you, but I shouldn't have given it in advance, I'll be thanking you when you have taken the right action.”
You bet I didn't hear from them again, so I do NOT thank Booking.com. I just checked: Hotel Samir now has 79 reviews. So it's going strong.
I believe nothing has changed, Hotel Samir is still charging customers through El Comparador. There is a review in February 2019 by Bryan from the US saying “Dishonest staff, lied, ZERO customer service, I WOULD RECOMMEND NO ONE TO STAY AT THIS HOTEL.”
As Bryan did not give any details I cannot know for sure but I highly suppose that he had the same experience as me and Ondrej; the “prestigious” giant Booking.com has done nothing about it. Same story goes...
Who will protest Booking.com with me? Who will pass this on?
Important Notice: Even if you do not care about illegal businesses being allowed by Booking.com, please... if you use Booking.com, I strongly advise you to read the reviews from the Review section and not depend on what they show on the main page of the hotels because Booking.com displays only the positive comments there. And unfortunately, most people are so easily fooled into thinking they have the whole picture reading those positive comments, not noticing these tiny trade tricks. Read the negative comments!
I've had problems with the Customer Care of many companies. Who hasn't? But Turkish Airlines is a phenomenon by itself. In fact, so much that they should appropriately be called Turkish Airlines Customer UNCARE!
It would have been one thing if they simply denied your request and left it like that. No, to add insult to injury, they parrot the same answer until you give up or until they lead you to curse them. You ask them a simple question, you don't get an answer, you get the same parrot template. They're trying very hard, doing their best to annoy you more; and they succeed at that. What's worse, it certainly looks as if they're doing this on purpose. It's as if their task is to test your patience; their job to drive you mad instead of serving you!
Last December, I was denied boarding due to an unforeseen abrupt visa regime change. My ticket was non-refundable and they refuse to reissue it repeating the same mantra “Visas are the responsibility of the passenger.”
Sure, it is! As someone who has been to more than 140 countries nobody needs to tell me that! Not even once, let alone repeatedly. I have abided by my responsibility; contacted the competent Embassies and Consulates. I got direct official information from both the honorary consul of Djibouti here in Italy and the French Embassy which issues the visa. They both told me I didn't need to get a visa in advance, that I could get it at the airport in Djibouti.
What have I done? Did I try to fly without a visa to a country which normally required a visa? Or did I try to fly with a visa that had expired? Or did I go to the airport without bothering to check the visa practice at all? Or did I apply for the visa and was denied a visa because I did not meet the requirements? I refuse to accept any accusation of irresponsibility on my part.
Djibouti has had VOA (Visa on Arrival) for more than 25 years. What's more, there wasn't anything on the world agenda like the Qatar crisis or the US-Turkey crisis that could have made me suspect that there might be a visa regime change. What's more, making things worse for me to accept, this visa regime change lasted only three (3) days! I know of someone who got into Djibouti with a VOA on November 30th. My flight was December 1st. And Djibouti has gone back to VOA on December 4th. So it was only a matter of a very unfortunate, a very extraordinary situation.
Turkish Airlines affirms that under extraordinary situations, ticket changes are reconsidered even if they are non-refundable. However, they deny, without expressing it explicitly, that this was an extraordinary situation. When I ask them to explain me how this abrupt visa change is not extraordinary, -because it obviously IS!-, they do not (or rather cannot) answer; so they turn on the parrot mode: repeating the same thing about responsibility over and over again ignoring the fact that I have contacted the embassies and got information.
1) There is a reason and logic behind rules. The rule about the visa and paperwork being the responsibility of the passenger is straight-forward. As airlines cannot get the paperwork done on behalf of their passengers, it obviously is the passenger's responsibility; and the rule is put in place to avoid the disruption of air services due to passenger's irresponsibility. On the other hand, that rule is definitely not put there to give the airlines the right or the opportunity to pocket money without giving their customers the service they promise to provide. If it is, it should be written explicitly, not implied. Write it out in your contract of carriage: "In case of a visa regime change, passengers pay the price." Spell it out! So that we passengers know what we are getting into.
2) Any change in a visa regime that has been going on for more than 25 years is obviously extraordinary. Let alone going back to the old visa regime after three days!
3) A company is not run by double standards. At least a respectable one is not. If other customers are reissued, and even reimbursed non-refundable tickets in an extraordinary situation, there should be no difference with another customer flying to another destination who is adversely affected by a last-minute visa regime change. The fact that the Turkey-US crisis was on the spotlight and more passengers were involved should not, cannot be the reason to make an exception to ticket-rules. You don't discriminate against your customers. Even if it's a single passenger being affected in Djibouti, the same reasoning and line of action should be used.
I did not even ask for a refund. I asked them just to reissue the same Rome-Djibouti flight for a later date. So basically, Turkish Airlines wants to pocket the money without providing the service they have promised to give their customer, using this visa regime change as an excuse. They want to make me pay for this capricious visa regime change that lasted only for three days. This goes beyond responsibility, it means fining us for things not within our control and not our fault. Let alone being awful customer care, this is against the universally accepted fundamental principle of justice.
In our days when even a small online company just replaces an item no questions asked, the uncare and the pettiness of such a big company like Turkish Airlines is deplorable. Something which could and should have been solved easily has dragged on for four and a half months and has turned into such a big mess and a headache now because of the unprofessional attitude and resistance against reason of the THY Customer Service. Making them a Customer Disservice.
Anyone who has flown with Turkish Airlines without any problems might not understand what I'm talking about because when things go smoothly, everything is just fine and they are a premium airline. Given the destinations they fly and their very competitive prices, their services are optimum. However, as Seneca has said
You can judge of a pilot in a storm, of a soldier in a battle.”
Likewise, you judge the value of a company when things go wrong; with their ability to solve problems efficiently and proficiently, professionally. Unfortunately, Turkish Airlines has failed miserably at that.
This letter is not about my ticket, this is about your beyond awful customer care. If somebody repeated the same thing over and over again regardless of what you are saying, without answering your questions you'd walk away saying “He's crazy.” This is Turkish Airlines! Who is supposed to have a prestige. As a flag-carrier, such responses by your “Un-Help desk” or “Customer Un-Care service” smears the name it is supposed to carry proudly. So, I ask you to act in accordance with your reputation and stand tall instead of abusing and exploiting your customers.
This is a call to all the THY customer service agents to stop being pawns in such an imbecilic system, there are much better and meaningful ways to earn your bread than copy-pasting template answers. It's a waste and an insult to your intelligence. More importantly, this is a call to the CEO Bilal Ekşi: Unfortunately, this is not a stand-alone incident, I've heard and read similar responses to other customers. Such uncaring behavior towards the customer tarnishes your reputation. I humbly ask you to fire the head of department for the customer service, whoever that is behind all this uncaring, annoying, and most of all, imbecilic parrot answering system.
Gülin De Vincentiis
I'll try to avoid flying Turkish Airlines on my #Mission2EveryCountry as much as I can.