A man booked what promised to be a clean home with a private bathroom in Amsterdam, only to discover that the Airbnb was a shipping container parked illegally by the side of the road.
British tourist Ben Speller shared photos of his Airbnb in a public Facebook group, including the listing which indicated it was a “cottage.” However, the “cottage” that he paid almost $150 (£100) for turned out to be an off-gray shipping container parked on the sidewalk of a random road.
He captioned the post, “So I booked a last-minute Airbnb in Amsterdam. Advertised as a clean home with a private bathroom. This is what we found.”
“We had already driven past the container three times in the taxi trying to find the place. We thought, ‘This can’t be it,'” he told Dutch news site AT5. “But when we got out it turned out that it was true. We opened the door and looked inside, locked the door and left. Then we went to a hotel.”
The shipping container had three mattresses on the floor inside and a portable toilet, very far from the “clean home in Amsterdam with a private bathroom” that was listed on Airbnb.
When Speller asked the owner for a refund, someone going by the name of “Jacob,” he was denied. Airbnb ended up refunding the $150 (£100) as well as the nearly $300 (£230) hotel booking, according to the report.
According to AT5, the shipping container didn’t have a permit, and city contractors towed it away after finding it empty.
A spokesperson for Airbnb told AT5, “We have removed the host and listings from our platform,” adding that, “Misrepresented or fraudulent listings have no place on our platform, and our team works hard to constantly strengthen our defenses and stay ahead of bad actors.”
The host reportedly had another shipping container also listed on Airbnb. The city contractors also removed that one, even though it was still up on the Airbnb site after Speller’s story made news headlines.
Furthermore, police haven’t been able to track down the mysterious host.
“We wanted to find the owner to recover the towing costs from him, but that didn’t work,” district manager Jeroen van Berkel told AT5. “The Searchlight team (a team that the municipality uses to track down illegal holiday rentals) also visited a few times, but without results. Then we decided to remove the container.”
He added that despite the fact that the city won’t tow away illegal shipping containers right away, he’s not afraid that landlords will take advantage of it because “it will cost you your container and that doesn’t seem like the most obvious business model to me.”
Meanwhile, data analyst Nico van Gog, told AT5 he was quite surprised by the story.
“I have seen everything pass by, tents, caravans, gazebos, you name it. But two containers that you simply drop on the street and rent out as a private person through Airbnb, I could not have imagined that myself.”