CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As cases of coronavirus in the U.S. multiply, millions of Americans are being forced to cancel travel plans.
Popular vacation rental apps like Vrbo and Airbnb are dealing with an influx of unhappy customers who, in many cases, are having a hard time getting refunded for trips made impossible by the pandemic.
“I feel like we’re kind of in between a rock and a hard place,” Taylor Grant said.
Grant’s bachelorette party was supposed to start Friday in Savannah, Georgia at a house they rented through Vrbo. However, because of travel restrictions, Grant and her friends made the decision to cancel and asked for a refund.
"He’s telling us, ‘sorry you’re out of luck’,” Grant said.
Social media is flooded with similar accounts. Customers are frustrated Vrbo isn’t taking more responsibility.
Vrbo says it’s the homeowners and property managers who are responsible for refund and cancellation policies. Vrbo is telling its partners to set a 50% minimum in order to avoid a penalty in their marketplace.
“I believe Vrbo’s 50% refund is more of a guidance,” Grant said.
Meanwhile, Vrbo competitor Airbnb is providing full refunds for reservations made on or before March 14, and scheduled within a specific window.
“What’s the right thing to do?” Better Business Bureau’s Tom Bartholomy said. "If the homeowner isn’t stepping up in this way, then Vrbo needs to hold that homeowner more accountable.”
Bartholomy said companies like Vrbo can hide behind the terms of conditions customers agree to, but that doesn’t make it right.
“At the end of the day, we’re just looking for somebody to do the right thing,” Grant said.
Vrbo’s COVID-19 Emergency Policy states that homeowners/property managers have to either reschedule the traveler or refund at least 50%.
Vrbo says they will enforce this by rewarding homeowners/property managers that abide by the policy. Those who do not "will be disadvantaged." Any property managers that intimidate travelers by suggesting traveling is safer for them than staying home will be permanently removed from Vrbo.
If you booked a rental through Vrbo and want to learn more about their cancellation/refund policies you can visit here.
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