Last month we booked an apartment in London through Booking.com. The photos showed a spacious, bright, modern apartment. When we arrived we were taken to a dirty, cramped and unsafe attic. The person who opened the door left immediately before we could look around. We later found that the fire alarms had been ripped from the ceiling, none of the windows could be secured and were at a height that meant our two year old could open them. The front door would not lock, the chain had been removed and the door code we were given to enter the block did not work.
We contacted the host who claimed he didn’t know why the photos showed a different location and completely ignored our concerns. Booking.com said it could not help with alternative accommodation or a refund and was only discussing the issues with the host. We ended up finding another apartment ourselves and I provided photos of the property to Booking.com but received no response.
The host then reported us as a ‘no show’ which meant he could keep the rent we had paid and we were not allowed to leave a review. Once again I contacted Booking.com to raise this and once again I heard nothing from them. It is ridiculous that they are supposed to be the number one website for booking accommodation but offer no protection if something goes wrong.
Booking.com is a handy service when hosts of accommodations follow the rules. But if an owner pulls a quick one, you can be left out of pocket. Unlike AirBnb, Booking.com does not have a formal booking protection policy. It merely suggests that dissatisfied guests contact the help center who can negotiate with the owners on their behalf and who, in your case, have helpfully advised you that they cannot help.
The platform’s terms and conditions emphasize that a guest’s contract is with the host and that the host cannot be held responsible for any deficiencies in listings. However, it can and should be blamed for poor customer service.
Although it received your detailed complaint, it accepted the host’s claim that you never showed up and closed your case. Booking.com claims it offered to help find alternative rooms, but by then you had already found something somewhere. It states: “We take every complaint seriously and apologize that the property erroneously flagged the customer as a ‘no show’, which we are discussing with the property owner. Our health and safety team is also investigating to make sure everything is ok and we will fully reimburse the customer for any inconvenience caused.”
The email notifying you of the refund accused you of abandoning a non-refundable property and thereby making “negotiations” with the owner more difficult. In fact, if you hadn’t gone to the media, your complaint would probably fester on a back office hard drive. Whether or not a health and safety team was sent to the home, it now appears to have been withdrawn from the site.
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