Tony Charlton had just climbed into bed when there was a knock at the door of his guesthouse room.
It was the police: they had come to evict the 77-year-old Scrabble player.
They just burst in, they kicked the door down, Charlton said.
It was Queens Birthday weekend, and the Nelson man had taken the train to Hamilton for a Scrabble tournament. Weeks earlier, hed booked a cheap Airbnb, paying two-thirds upfront to secure the room.
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What Charlton didnt know, however, was that Airbnb had cancelled the reservation days before his arrival. After hed made the booking, Charlton had entered new credit card details onto the site. However, despite Airbnb confirming via email that the new payment details had been received, the payment didnt go through.
While Airbnb had emailed Charlton to let him know about the cancellation, the emails had gone to Charltons wife, who had opened the Airbnb account. She hadn’t noticed them, so the first Charlton knew of a problem was on arrival at the guesthouse.
If it wasn’t for the Scrabble community, Tony Charlton would have been left homeless in Hamilton, he said.
[The owner] asked if my name was Ben. When I said no, and I was Tony, she said my booking had been cancelled, and I would have to leave, Charlton said.
I told her, no, Im not going. Ive paid for this room.
The owner left, telling him she was calling the police.
Charlton closed the door behind her. The room was cold, with no heating, he said. To warm himself up, he got into bed.
It was so cold … I got into the bed and put the electric blanket on.
Then, the police turned up. They knocked before kicking the door in with an almighty crash, Charlton said.
They just burst in. They were really nasty about it, saying, why didnt I open the door? If I knew it was the police, I wouldve opened it.
The police told Charlton he had to leave: they had contacted Airbnb, who had told them the booking had been cancelled, he said.
It was 9.30pm and Charlton had no transport, and nowhere to go. The police dropped him at a cafe, and he began to phone hostels and hotels.
It was pretty nasty of them to turf a 77-year-old guy with no transport and a suitcase and backpack into the street with no hope of finding anything else, he said.
Tony Charlton said an Airbnb error left him out in the cold after a mix up at a Hamilton guest house.
A police spokeswoman confirmed the police were called to the guesthouse.
We did receive a report of a dispute incident where a person refused to leave an address. We assisted the individual and gave them a ride into town. We also followed up with the individual to check they had been able to secure appropriate accommodation. No further action was required by police staff.
Charlton was lucky: the Scrabble community came through, with a competitor from Queenstown offering up an airbed on the kitchen floor.
Airbnb had sent Charlton a $350 voucher. But it was too little, too late: when hed needed help, they hadn’t come through, he said.
There wasnt a lot of help at all. They were very difficult to contact, at first they wouldnt respond to my emails, it was only after I got home I started getting lots of emails from them.
Id paid for two nights, and yet they still chose to cancel it. Their policies need to be looked at.
Airbnbs head of public policy for New Zealand and Australia Derek Nolan said his team had worked to support Charlton.
… including by providing personalised assistance and information to help them avoid this issue going forward, and we hope theyre able to enjoy positive travel experiences in the future.
Nolan did not respond to a question about the payment error.