ORLANDO, Fla. - Deontae Henry said all he wanted to do was enjoy a nice weekend in Orlando with a couple of his friends. He found a place on Airbnb and booked it a week before the trip.
But after paying, confirming and making the drive from Miramar to Orlando, his reservation was canceled.
"I'm texting the guy, 'Hey, I'm 30 minutes out. I'm an hour out.' No response," Henry said.
That's when he contacted Airbnb customer support, which found and booked him a last minute reservation.
"They sent me a confirmation saying that everything is booked and you're good to go," Henry said.
The reservation was for two nights at the "amazing villa near Convention Center and Disney," hosted by "Kenny."
Henry paid again and rerouted toward the "amazing villa." He also called his "amazing" new host.
"From the beginning, I knew something was wrong," Henry said after calling the host.
Kenny said he'd call Henry right back.
"I'm assuming he's confirming with Airbnb, and that's when he sends me this message," Henry said.
The message read: "I'm sorry. I'm not able to host you today. Place is not available. We now live in the property and we do not allow drug parties. Next booking, we will call police to wait for you and your friends upon check-in. Thanks!"
Henry, who is black, said he feels as though he was racially profiled.
"You've never seen me. You've never met me before. I've never had a negative review with Airbnb," Henry said.
Henry's response to the message: "(You're) a racist! Thanks."
"Do I look like a drug addict? Do I look like a person that has drug parties? That's not me at all," he said
Henry and his three friends ended up booking a hotel room.
Henry said he also changed his profile picture thinking it may have prompted the message. In the photo, he's not smiling and is wearing a white suit and holding a cane. He said it was taken at a costume party, which was a work event. In his current photo, he's smiling and wearing a shirt promoting the nonprofit with which he works.
He blocked Kenny and reported the incident to Airbnb.
"I definitely feel like Airbnb should hold this gentleman accountable," Henry said, adding that he wants the host removed from the platform.
Airbnb sent Henry the following message, which also included a link to the platform's nondiscrimination policy: "We take these reports seriously because they help make Airbnb better and more inclusive for everyone. Airbnb exists to create a world where everyone can belong. You can read more about our nondiscrimination policy here: www.airbnb.com/help/nondiscrimination. Our team will investigate this matter and follow up. This could mean warning the host, or suspending or removing their account. For privacy reasons, we can't share what will happen after the review but we want you to know that we are committed to fighting discrimination and ensuring that the Airbnb community is open and accessible to everyone."
According to Airbnb's nondiscrimination policy, its hosts are not allowed to decline a guest or impose different terms or conditions on a guest based on race, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status.
In October, the platform also changed how it displays profile pictures in an effort to address concerns about photos being misused in ways that violate the company's nondiscrimination policy.
"Rather than displaying a potential guest's profile photo before the booking is accepted, hosts will receive a guest's photo in the booking process only after they've accepted the booking request," the company posted on its website. "Airbnb does not require all guests to provide a photo. Instead, we'll be giving hosts the option to ask their guests to provide a profile photo, which will only be presented to hosts after they accept the booking."
Hosts do have the option to request a photo so that they know who to expect upon check-in.
The Leave it to Layron team also contacted Airbnb. A spokesperson sent us the following statement: "We share Mr. Henry's frustration and concern regarding his negative experience. Bias and discrimination run counter to Airbnb's mission of belonging and have no place within our community. We have a strict nondiscrimination policy which we are enforcing here to suspend the host from using our platform as we continue to investigate."
The LITL Team also contacted Kenny.
He claimed he had no idea what we were referring to and then hung up the phone.
"It definitely left a foul taste in my mouth," Henry said.
Henry said he's considering never using the platform again.
At the time we spoke with Henry, he was still waiting on his refunds for both of his canceled bookings. He has since received those refunds.
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