A woman claimed on TikTok that, after attempting to redeem an Airbnb gift card, she was told it was already redeemed and that no effort would be made to remedy the problem.
In a video with over 352,000 views, TikTok user @trash_unreal recounted her experience of unsuccessfully attempting to redeem a $175 Airbnb gift card.
“Do you want to know what the worst company to exist is? It’s this one,” she said, holding up a gift card with the Airbnb logo.
According to @trash_unreal, she was given the gift card as a gift from two of her friends and their mom this past summer. Recently, @trash_unreal said she decided to use it to find accommodation for her upcoming college graduation, opting to redeem it onto her Airbnb account. However, she said when she entered the information, she was told the card had already been redeemed.
“I was like, ‘Well, that’s funny, because this particular gift card has this little scratch-off mechanism on the back, and I had to scratch it off one minute prior to trying to use it, so it’s been hidden this whole time,’” @trash_unreal stated. “How could someone have redeemed it?”
From here, @trash_unreal said she contacted Airbnb, which allegedly redirected her to a company that they said provided their gift cards. That company, Launch Gift Cards, informed her that it only provides digital gift cards, thus redirecting her back to Airbnb, she said.
The TikToker said she told Airbnb it was wrong to send her to Launch Gift Cards and asked, “Can someone help me understand how someone out there was able to redeem these numbers when they have been in my possession this entire time?”
She said Airbnb told her it would look into the matter. @trash_unreal said that when she asked if the company could identify who fraudulently redeemed the gift card, Airbnb allegedly responded by calling @trash_unreal “Christina” (which she noted is not her name) and directing her to her own Airbnb profile’s payments, indicating a complete misunderstanding of the situation at hand.
“Christina—that’s not my name. That’s no. 1. That’s the bare minimum level of respect that you can give someone. … In a text chat interaction, my name is right there!” @trash_unreal said. “No. 2, that’s not what I asked.”
After a bit more discussion, Airbnb allegedly informed @trash_unreal the gift card was redeemed on July 30, 2022, and that the company could not tell her who redeemed the gift card. This concluded the interaction between @trash_unreal and Airbnb.
“They don’t want to hear anything else from me. They won’t do an investigation. They won’t look into it, and now my friends and myself are out $175,” @trash_unreal said. “So, fuck you, Airbnb.”
This particular type of gift card fraud is unfortunately common.
“Kathy Stokes, AARP’s Director of Fraud Prevention Programs, said there have been situations where people will walk to the rack of gift cards in a store and quietly grab a stack. They will then record all the card’s information. If any PIN number or code on the card needs to be scratched off, a hacker will scratch it off, copy the number, then put another silver scratch off sticker over the number. Those stickers are sold online, and it makes the gift card look as good as new,” explained ABC affiliate WKBW. “Stokes said the hackers [then] have technology to track when the card is activated. Once alerted that it’s activated, the thieves will drain it clean.”
It is possible that @trash_unreal was a victim of such fraud, as she speculated in a follow-up video.
“Gift cards hanging on racks out-in-the-open may be vulnerable to tampering, so you should buy gift cards online whenever possible,” author Jackie Callaway advised.
For her part, @trash_unreal advised uploading any received gift cards right away to lessen the possibility of someone having a chance to redeem it.
Still, many users said that Airbnb could have done more in this situation.
“Airbnb is so good at what they do that they’ve made me a hotel girlie for life,” a user shared.
“I was about to book with @Airbnb but changed my mind,” another added. “I’m glad I went with a hotel instead.”
“I would never ever use Airbnb after one experience I had and hearing from so many others on Tic Tok,” a third stated.
However, there are still options for people in @trash_unreal’s position.
“If it was paid for with a credit card, most companies will likely treat that as theft and refund the original purchaser,” a commenter claimed. @trash_unreal said that the purchaser was getting in touch with their credit card company about this issue.
“Please file a complaint with your state attorney general! With the foil seal present, it’s less likely that the number was compromised locally,” a second noted.
The Daily Dot reached out to Airbnb via email and @trash_unreal via TikTok comment.