(1) Turns out there was a bug in our system where a guest was actually allowed to double-book this host's listing, so this was our fault. The host did not cancel, we double-booked. We are fixing this bug now, and I haven't heard of any other guests being affected by this.
(2) I just want to note this is a statistically rare event (though by reading comments some of you have experienced this), which is why we probably haven't spent enough time trying to solve this, but we should.
(3) I agree with the author that our cancelation policy is not adequately balanced on both sides of the transaction. Our team has actually been developing a better system for some time, and we should have a more balance policy soon - unfortunate this happened though. Right now, when a host cancels a booking, there is an automated review left on their listing saying this happened, a penalization in their search rankings, and if they chronically cancel, they are removed from our platform; but I agree we could do more here. The changes we are making will hopefully lower the frequency of these instances occurring going forward. Open to feedback here, and if a host has canceled on you I would love to get your feedback on how we handled it.
(4) In the event that a host does cancel, I think we can do more to provide protection and peace of mind to the guest for their trip. We have a Guarantee for hosts, so we are looking at what an equivalent version would be for guests. If you have any ideas, please let me know.
Your cancellation policy, as well as others are not balanced on either side.
I'm a host -- and I've been a guest. Once.
As a host, I get to choose the verification level I will accept; as a guest, I'm basically forced to hand over my government issued identification to AirBnB (to "verify" myself)
Now, I'm sure that if this was pre-Snowden, there might be some justification for this; but given that AirBnB has already had over 10,000,000 million night booked with them, it seems fairly arbitrary to require guests to provide this information.
On the other side of things, as both a host and a guest I've had exemplary support from AirBnB; perhaps when you are dealing with Europeans, you are just nicer?
Accommodation is extremely hard to find and highly competitive at this time and the host should factor this in.
If it becomes an annual thing that hosts cancel and allow gazumping ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gazumping ) then it will seriously damage the AirBNB relationship with renters as AirBNB will become an untrusted place for accommodation during such events.
It is so hard to find replacement accommodation during such events that the inconvenience is greatly multiplied.
(And annual things go for conferences too, SXSW for example)
I would go so far as to suggest that during events the relationship be inverted and the renter be given more weight than the host. Once the host has priced fairly, they should be penalised harshly for causing great inconvenience to a renter. The extra money during such events already more than compensates the host side.
The way you worded this suggests it was the same guest, and not two separate guests (which is what the author's experience would suggest). Is this correct?