She wanted a refund for her Vrbo rental. The owner blocked it

DEAR TRAVEL CAREER: I booked a Vrbo rental in Philadelphia for a birthday with my friends. The code to enter the rental was incorrect. I contacted the property manager multiple times on three different platforms and received no response. I ended up staying elsewhere.

Christopher Elliott, the travel convenience store

I would like a full refund and have this property manager off of Vrbo and Airbnb. They had miscommunication and blocked me when I asked for a refund. Can you help me get my $588 back?

—Charysma Adams, Philadelphia

ANSWER: It’s a strange case that took me a while to unravel. But the bottom line is that you should have had access to your rental when you showed up.

Let’s start with your rental, which bills itself as the perfect place for groups and small events such as game nights, birthday parties and sleepovers. So it’s not like you show up with your friends and the landlord decides not to hire you. Instead, it looks like you tried to contact the owner multiple times the night you arrived for a one night stay. The owner didn’t respond until the next morning.

To further complicate your issue, for some reason the owner processed your payment outside of the Vrbo system. Even though Vrbo refunded his fee quickly, the owner didn’t – and then blocked you.

Vrbo offers a “book with confidence guarantee” that protects you against fraud or if the landlord wrongfully withholds your deposit. If you couldn’t get into your property, Vrbo should have helped you book a new reservation for your birthday party.

I have reviewed the correspondence between you, the owner and Vrbo. It appears that you followed all the correct procedures and tried to resolve this issue with both parties as soon as you discovered the problem. I’m disturbed that the owner tried to block you when you asked for a refund. But the real problem was that the owner was processing your payment outside the Vrbo system. As I read Vrbo’s terms, it means you are not protected by its book with trust guarantee.

You may have tried to contact one of Vrbo’s executives. I list their names, numbers and email addresses on my consumer advocacy site at www.elliott.org/company-contacts/vrbo-customer-service-contacts/. I contacted Vrbo on your behalf. A representative agreed with me that yours was a “complex” case. The company offered a full refund as a goodwill gesture.


Christopher Elliott is the Advocacy Director of Elliott Advocacy, a non-profit organization that helps consumers solve their problems. Elliott’s latest book is “How to Be the World’s Smartest Traveler” (National Geographic). Contact him at elliott.org/help or [email protected]

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