I Was Walked From My Airbnb!

Airlines often oversell space on flights, then ask for volunteers to be “bumped” from the flight. Hotels will sometimes overbook as well, and use the industry term “walked” to describe the process of accommodating a guest at another nearby property.

I’ve never actually been walked from a hotel, and it’s definitely not something I was expecting to have happen at an Airbnb!

As a quick background, my husband and I are in Jordan, and planned a night in the protected area of Wadi Rum.

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If you’re spending the night in Wadi Rum, your only real option is to stay at some iteration of a Bedouin camp. There are a range of options, but the basic amenities are pretty much the same, with a handful of tents set up for guests, along with a main common area tent for meals and socializing, and two buffet-style meals included in the price. Most everyone uses the same goat hair tents, so the bathroom facilities are probably where there’s the most variation in quality (and thus pricing).

So in preparation for this trip I’d spent some time reading reviews of the various camps, mainly trying to find one that wasn’t as large or as likely to be hosting a large tour group at the same time. And then I found an incredible option on Airbnb.

From the listing:

I am a Bedouin who grew up in the desert, but I now live in Wadi Rum in order for my children to go to school. My mother is also no longer nomadic and lives in her tent about 8 kilometers away under the desert stars. Her tent has four separate spaces as well as a kitchen, toilet and animal pen. It is in walking distance from one of the most popular sites in Wadi Rum, Lawrence Spring under the shadow of the great Jabal Rum.

We invite you to spend a night with her, listening to her stories and drinking tea around the fire and watching the sunset. She enjoys hearing about other countries and learning different languages. You will share a hearty traditional meal with her before viewing the starry sky. The room in her tent can sleep a family of 6. With many clean mattresses, blankets and pillows you will be very comfortable and warm. Once you awake and enjoy breakfast you can go see the goats or perhaps she will teach you the old Bedouin game of Sije.

How absolutely fantastic does that sound?

So we were really excited to not only spend time in Wadi Rum, but to get to have some time with a Bedouin family. My husband, who adores all grandparents, was particularly enthused about the possibility of talking story, and maybe finding a traditional remedy for a lingering cough. We also made arrangements for the host’s nephew to guide us on a tour of the desert the following morning.

You obviously can’t just drive out to these camps on your own, so in most cases you park at the Visitors Center and are driven in. We had a 4×4 so had arranged to drive ourselves, but would still need to be guided along the way. Everyone in Wadi Rum seems to know each other, so when we arrived at the Visitor’s Center we were welcomed by some other Bedouins, and told that the host’s nephew Khaled would meet us in the main village.

Khaled was in fact waiting for us at the edge of the village, talked with my husband about the basics of driving in the desert while they let air out of the tires (a must, if you’ve never gone off-roading in sand before), then had us follow him into Wadi Rum.

Which, wow.

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We stopped to watch the sunset, then went deeper into the desert and up a ridge to where a row of tents were set up.

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Which, a row of tents wasn’t quite what I was expecting.

Another Bedouin welcomed us, then guided us to a tent, inviting us to get settled then join them in the big tent for tea.

At this point we were very confused. This was clearly not a family camp, but rather a tourist camp that was anticipating having a lot of guests that night (there ended up being about 40 other people there).

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We asked Khaled what was happening, and mentioned that we’d booked something very different, which he acknowledged, but then said it was a very busy night, and there were many tourists in the desert, and all the men were working in the camps, and it wasn’t terribly appropriate for women to be hosting guests without the men present. He didn’t really seem to have an explanation beyond that, and I got the sense he hadn’t been fully looped in as to the reasoning behind the change either. But he assured us that the camp was good, that we’d have a nice time, and that we’d go to the host’s home after we were done hiking the next day.

Which, y’all know me, and hanging out with 40 random tourists isn’t really my idea of a good time, but it’s dark, you’re in the middle of a desert, there’s no cell service, so what do you realistically do?

We chose to have tea and roll with it.

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The next day we toured the desert and went on a series of (below freezing) hikes, then headed back to Wadi Rum Village, where we finally met Eid, our host.

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He was incredibly welcoming and gracious, and apologized for the change in plans. He went on to explain that the family camp is generally hosted by his mother, and she is happy to stay out there with visitors even when he can’t join, but that she had fallen ill. The family obviously didn’t want her to be in the cold, so despite her protests they closed up the camp and even sent the animals to stay with relatives.

And really, you just can’t be upset about that.

I’m a bit stuck, however, because Airbnb expects you to rate and review the listing, which I’m not sure how to do. I appreciate that they went to the effort of making sure we had somewhere to stay versus just canceling, though I still don’t see why it couldn’t have been communicated ahead of time.

We could have shuffled the order of our trip, or I could have been more selective as to which alternative camp we stayed at, etc., versus showing up and being very confused by the swap.

So if you guys have any suggestions as to how to handle this I’d certainly appreciate it. And if you ever have the opportunity to camp in Wadi Rum I definitely recommend it, as I think you’ll have an incredible experience no matter where you stay.

Have you ever been “walked” from an Airbnb? What would you have done in this case?

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About Tiffany

Tiffany Funk is a passionate traveler who splits her time between California and Italy (when she’s not traveling elsewhere!) Her posts offer a different perspective on earning miles, tricks for balancing multiple household accounts, and break down the basics of redeeming miles for aspirational travel -- whatever those aspirations may be!

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Comments

  1. I was “walked” but given a heads up and offered to cancel. Ended up staying at the host’s parents house and had a great time. Was weird leaving a review though…since I never actually stayed there.

    You could try to broach it with airbnb, but at least they did accommodate you and it sounds like it was out of their hands (illness).

  2. As a frequent Airbnber, and a Super Host, I’d just not leave a rating. You have 14 days. Just wait it out then you’ve neither helped nor hurt the hosts.

    -or-

    I’d rate the actual accommodations provided as if that’s what you’d booked, but leave a very detailed comment about what transpired. I use the star rating to find a place initially but pay WAY more attention to the comments left by other guests. Also, I’d look up the price – if you can find it – for where you DID stay, and if it’s significantly less than what you paid, I’d submit a claim to Airbnb or request a refund. Yes,they *did* provide you with accommodation, but that price was for a very specific stay, not the one you ultimately received.

  3. “Once you awake and enjoy breakfast you can go see the goats”

    Be still my beating heart. 🙂

    Desert scenery does look amazing though….

  4. While the reasons for being “walked” seem genuine you didnt finally get all of what you paid for and were promised. I would make sure the rating reflects that and also leave a detailed review explaining the situation and how the host dealt with it.

  5. agree with Edward and just let it go. Especially since the mother was protesting with her family about performing her host duties, she may have thought she was able to do it and the family didn’t realize she was indeed ill until it was too late. They may have even have lost money in order to get you a place for the first evening.

  6. You likely got scammed – in that, the listings on airbnb eventually get shuffled and slotted into the same group tour bookings.

    This is quite common in cases where in the end the final experience is the same for everyone with very little variation (e.g. Mekong Delta tours in Vietnam go through same itinerary, the ABC tours in Philipines, the island tours in Thailand) – in the end it doesn’t really matter where or how or which agent you use to book. Everything gets consolidated in the end based on how many people booked.

    I’ve seen it happen often, and anyone who books a specific agent or a specific accomodation when clearly its a set defined option provided for all tourists is just wasting extra money.

  7. This happened to me in Paris (private rental not Airbnb) and we had no choice but to accept the substitute which was not quite as centrally located as the apartment we booked. Alas there is not much you can do but what annoyed me the most was the failure to provide advance notice which inconvenienced us. I would give a 1 rating on the bait & switch despite the sob story (which may not even be true)

  8. As a 20+ international airbnb guest stayer in 2016 I would write a review of what transpired. Thus in the future if this continues the host will need to change the description of the accommodation. Plus as I potential guest of any airbnb stay I want to know what has transpired in the past and how that was handled by the host. Its important that the community of guests help each other in there accurate reviews – and also provide candid feedback to the host on how they could improve.

  9. How would anybody even know what the true story is. i would just leave comments at what was told to myself and experience I had. Def. check the pricing to see if scammed by paying more than it should of been for the digs. All you can do is tell the next person what occurred so they are ready if it happens to them. If AIRBNB sees a trend they need to act and compensate staying families.

  10. I do not believe their story… I’ve been through wadi rum, and I doubt there is any non-tourist camp taking in tourists – this is an airbnb set up to capture someone who thinks they’re getting something other than the standard tourist option.

    If the price was about the same as the normal tour options, you got what you paid for. If you paid a premium for this extra special expectation, you should leave an honest but low star review.

    Places like this – best to set up some kind of local connection. I now know a few jordinians as well as made friends with some folks in eilat who had good connections.

  11. Like AdamR, I am a frequent Airbnb guest, and also a Superhost. I agree with his comments.

    – Consider not leaving a review. We had water pressure issues with a guest one stay, and we went above-and-beyond to make things right. Nevertheless we were worried about the review the guest wrote after the stay, suggesting just not leaving a review, citing how he liked the way we handled the situation.

    – Your case seems much different. If the granfmaa’s illness was not last minute, it should have been communicated ahead of time. Also, the cost could have offered you a partial refund.

    – Given you had a good experience, I would leave a review of ‘4’ with perhaps ‘3’ in communication and accuracy. Anything less than a 4 is a bad evaluation in Airbnb’s community

  12. As an AirBnB host, I’ve once had to re-accommodate some guests. The previous guests had broken our water supply and left a disgusting mess. With no water, we couldn’t clean up for the new guests, and the plumbers were quoting five days for parts to re-instate the water.

    By the time we realised this, our new guests were already on the plane flying to join us for the July 4 weekend. We were left with no choice but to re-accommodate them, at our expense, in a local five star hotel, and give a partial refund. It was a very expensive weekend for us – we were about $1000 out of pocket, and facing a $4000 bill for repairs from the previous guests.

    So, what I want to say, is that stuff happens with AirBnBs and sometimes, despite all efforts, it cannot be put right. Whilst the case in the blog is probably a scam, people do need to be aware that a whole home rental is quite different from a hotel – there’s no back up when things go wrong.

  13. This is a fairly common bait-and-switch in the region, Ben. Call it a “change in plans” or a scam, whichever you prefer, the effect is the same. It wouldn’t have mattered what day you arrived, the same 40 person camp and colorful story would have been waiting for you. Here is the give-away: the “host” paid a native speaker to write the AirBNB listing in perfect English.

  14. Tiffany – My reaction was similar to the commenters above: you got scammed. HOWEVER, presumably other people had reviewed the accommodation before you chose it. What did those reviews say? If the “my mother is sick” bait and switch were their normal modus operandi, then you’d expect that to be reflected in the reviews. On the other hand, if the mom really were sick, you’d expect a bunch of glowing reviews about how she took care of her guests.

    Finally, if there were no reviews and you were the first to book – well, take that as a lesson learned. Don’t book AirBnBs without at least a few reviews. And be sure to describe exactly what happened in your review, so that the next customer can make an informed decision. That’s the whole point of the review system.

  15. You won’t expect a single family to be living on the desert. Likely to be a group of families and hence a group of tents. So your experience wasn’t far from it would have been.

    In any case I don’t buy his explanation. A bedouin with great English and an innteresting life story that he was eager to share. Right. Sounds like a production run from the US or UK. He came up with an excuse overnight. Real genuine people running a real airbnb don’t have a slick story to sell on their website.

    If Americans were less “romantic” they would see through fluff so much more easily.

    I would give them a bad review on the “was the property described properly”

  16. As a frequent AirBnB user I’d want to read your review. You can write it and explain as you did above, the host was nice, it seemed genuine, but be aware that this happened.

    You can also give 3 or 4 stars as opposed to the blanket 5’s that get thrown around.

    You can be honest and respectful at the same time!

  17. Hmmm, I don’t think I was scammed (though I realize no one really ever does, hence the success of scamming). There are 50+ other reviews, which talk about meeting mom and other members of the family, and the camp we were “walked” to would have been more expensive than what we paid if we’d booked directly.

    The host also spoke excellent English when we met in person, as did his oldest two children, so I don’t find that part terribly suspicious. And I’m not sure going to the effort of constructing a narrative, inviting people to my home for lunch and to meet my children, and then undercutting the posted prices of another camp makes sense to me as a bait-and-switch.

    But who knows.

  18. I’m puzzled that with all the speculative comments here, nobody seems to have taken the simple step of finding this listing on Air b’n’b and reading the previous reviews. Frankly, with 51 almost universally positive reviews from mostly long-term members, I would say the OP chose a host that seems to deserve the benefit of the doubt. Other Air b’n’b users deserve to hear this story, of course – that’s the point of host reviews. A given traveler may take the efforts taken in “walking” the OP as either positive or negative, based on their overall impression of the given host. One more note – the listed price seems very competitive for the destination.

  19. As someone who has lived in the Middle East for five years (and traveled pretty widely in it), I think it’s important to note that pretty well everything is very last minute and disorganised here. The fact that they didn’t cancel and arranged somewhere okay (admittedly not ideal) is a big plus. If the explanation sounded genuine, I’d be inclined to give them a bit of a pass. Overall you sound pretty lucky to me cos there’s way worse you can experience here (way, way worse).

  20. @ RaimDE — Thanks, that was my thought too. That price is for one person though, with each additional person being $40, which brings it in-line with many of the other options.

  21. While the circumstances are somewhat suspicious and suggestive of a possible scam, ultimately that is speculation and you have no way of going behind the explanations that you were given – so I would be extremely hesitant to write a review complaining you were scammed (particularly given the existing air bnb reviews suggest it was a one-off).

    Ultimately, the question of what you write on air bnb I think has already been decided. You have already written a detailed explanation of what transpired on a popular travel-related blog. Surely you just replicate that explanation in your air bnb review. Potential customers deserve to know what transpired and the associated risk with a booking, and the hosts I suspect don’t deserve an allegation of a scam (which I sense you don’t want to make any way).

    I was once “walked” from a hotel in Paris. It was Valentine’s weekend and it was in the early days of my career and indeed the relationship with my now wife – so in spite of the special occasion I didn’t spend a lot, booking a modest but decent looking 3 star hotel somewhere between the Gare du Nord and the river. When we arrived, we were given the usual stock explanation in these sort of situations (i.e. there was a water leak etc) and were “walked” (via a taxi paid for by the hotel) to a much nicer hotel, practically on the riverbank and steps away from Notre Dame etc. It was great. I can’t say how causative that chance event was in leading to the situation now nearly 13 years later with a wife and child but I suppose it didn’t hurt.

  22. When we went to Jordan everyone was very honest…except at Wadi Rum. It was the only place that anyone tried to scam us, we were going to rent a jeep and driver to take us through the dessert for several hours, and the guy at the visitors center quoted us the price and said “per person”. I had read ahead of time that the price was per vehicle so I had a puzzled look on my face, and then realized that a few feet away was the official price list and it specifically said “prices are per vehicle and not per person.” As soon as I pointed that out the price changed to the correct price.

    I would do what others suggest and leave a review about your experience. If it was an honest illness then one review won’t hurt them. If they do this often and it’s a pattern then your honest review may encourage others to honestly review as well and the pattern will emerge.

  23. In my years of travel in Europe “walked” would be considered a generous term. The appropriate characterization would be a “walk down,” because the replacement accommodation is always a lesser property and a disappointment. In reviewing, I would be honest and disclose what happened. Let the readers decide.

  24. It’s up to you – if you think he was really being sorry for you, then I’d let it go. At the same time you wrote “though I still don’t see why it couldn’t have been communicated ahead of time”. You seem to have some doubt so that’ll better be portrayed. Reviews can’t be black or white – you can mention both the aspects and I’d give it 3 Star at best. Writing the review would help the host himself, so that he will understand you weren’t happy with the alternative and if he is already getting perfect reviews from other guests he will not repeat the same again to other guests by taking your review seriously.

  25. The host absolutely should have communicated there was a problem with your stay as soon as the problem came up. Anything less smacks of underhandedness. I had a somewhat similar experience, but with a much more sour outcome, after booking a Scottish B&B with phenomenal Tripadvisor reviews. The second I stepped through the door, the host tried to convince me that the booking system had somewhow gotten “confused” and put me in a view less room when I had specifically reserved a room with a view. It was an obvious move to give the much nicer room I reserved to other guests for whatever reason the host had in mind. I ended up staying in a room overlooking a garage complete with barking dog belonging to the other guests locked inside their car. Simply put, stellar ratings often mean nothing. I’m not saying the host in your case was being deceitful, but not saying anything up front and as soon as possible leaves the reasons wide open for why the host bailed at the last minute.

  26. To be really honest, I DONT BUY that story by a single bit.
    I have read enough on other language sites that

    1) these Boudins are not all trust-worthy.
    2) there were others being lured into a camp with its pictures on Booking.com touting the only camp in Wadi Rum that allows you to see the starry sky from your bed – and it turned out totally not true.
    3) this is Airbnb related – while you may have always had good experiences with Airbnb – there are enough horror stories about bad hosts and Airbnb does not give a damn when problems arose – either before arrival or after arrival. So bad in some situations that totally make me not try this “new” economy platform at all.
    Also glad we have removed our originally planned visit to Jordan and definitely deleted Wadi Rum from our upcoming trip to Middle East in January after reading more and more reviews – seriously I dont see why anyone live in US with ready access to the Utah Indian reservations like the Monument Valley would want to see Wadi Rum – other than because it is in Jordan, the legend of Lawrence of Arabia, and may be the film “The Martian”. I have talked to some people who have visited – 50% of them said it was a waste of time unless you have never been in Monument Valley and the NPs in the Southwest of US.
    January definitely too cold for your adventure in Jordan, just saying. Not surprising you have below freezing temperature in Wadi Rum. Hope you at least have enough blankets to stay warm at night.

  27. PS
    On those who suggest not to leave a rating, especially from those who claim they are Super hosts – this is totally unacceptable.
    So bad thing happened and some of you suggested Tiffany did not say it as it was, so the same scam could go on and on and on for those who were so naive (stupid) to think there were families live alone in a desert?

    Seriously it does not take much to realize such “family camp” would not exist in Wadi Rum.

    You should leave comment and voice your concern if you are still “convinced” by the sob story. Or you may want to accept the ugly fact that you have been scammed. Do others a service to tell the truth so there might be less suckers fallen into this.

  28. I just looked up the Airbnb listing. I highly doubt there’s a scam. It would be virtually impossible to fake 51 positive reviews, and the host has Superhost status.

    Given the cheap price, I amend my previous comment, and I think you should just skip leaving the review. This is probably the main source of livelihood for the host and his family, and it looks like he’s doing a great job, in general.

    In the end, the family took good care of you, and you had a nice time. Better to be more lenient in this case.

    By the way, the listing makes me want to go back to Jordan even more, and have this be one of my stops.

  29. It smells like a scam…been there last summer….used bookings.com for the only Luxury Camp there ( which we liked)….camp was fine but the Wadi Rum area is full of bedouin scammers, especially around the gates, was told that I have to pay entrance fee by some bedouins who were hanging around the tourist center entrance! lol……of course I was aware of this before I got there so I just ignored them…..hope you didn’t pay that “entrance fee”…

  30. You don’t get to be the cops , judge, jury, executioner. Write a review WITH THE FACTS and let the airbnb readers decide. You shouldn’t decide what happened was a scam or not and hence should write a review or not.

  31. You should review the experience you actually had vs what you expected. Was the place as described? Clearly not. Those types of reviews are super valuable! Think of the next traveler considering the place; they want to know that there’s a reasonable chance they’ll actually end up at a large camp.

  32. Obvious bait and switch.
    You need to put the facts in a review. If it happens again (highly likely), the next guest needs to do the same. And so on, until the scam is clear to all.

  33. Agree with Jason as per my earlier post from a 20+ airbnb international guest in 2016. Its all about the community of guests to write accurate and factual reviews for all future guests with the facts including the good and bad resolution. Things do and will go wrong – but 4 and 5 star hosts correct them. If guest do not point out areas of host improvements (or if hosts are not managing their business, or if a host starts to scam) its important for each guest to point out the true facts or the stay/experience. Hosts can respond to guests reviews. Guests can also give non public info to hosts – although this will not start an alert to any scam that may have been prevented with a factual public review.

    As a guest I respect reviews when things go wrong and guests correct them. I like to see when things go wrong that a host corrected them to the satisfaction of the guest.

    -Jeff

  34. If this was a switch that you weren’t notified about, doesn’t airbnb have some responsibility to deal with the host or get you a partial refund. This was not accommodations and experience you were expecting and paid for. I don’t understand why they are completely off the hook.

  35. The best scam is one that u dun even feel u were scammed.

    I have no idea whether this is a scam, but writing a review with facts of what happened, and with more of such reviews, we can see a pattern – whether the mum falls sick often n/or switching occurs frequently.

  36. Isn’t it at least remotely possible the 51 positive reviews are from those who got the same treatment and felt sorry for the man, the woman’s illness, the whole story, etc? Hard to tell without having read the reviews and I haven’t.

  37. This comment stream has been far and away awesome, usual bunch of trolls lost interest and went away, leaving people who actually know or have a legitimate interest. Yay!

  38. Wow, I actually got to stay at Eid’s mothers tent when I was there last summer. It was an experience I will never forget. It was super authentic, though the bathroom situation was primitive at best. I learned that their Airbnb listings are ran by foreigners who are doing work aways (they work in exchange for free accommodation and food). So often, they don’t know what’s going on, or how to handle these situations. I gather that handling the hospitality situation is going to be bumpy in the middle of the Jordanian desert! These things will happen in a place like that, try not to hold it against them. It’s a shame you missed. If I ever go back, I’d stay with them again.

  39. Ben, I’m sorry you didn’t get to see the goats or play the old Bedouin game of Sije with Eid’s mom. I admire Eid for his hustle though. It certainly worked for him. In life there are those who ask and those who take. Glad you and your husband didn’t feel that you were scammed.

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