Monthly Archives: September 2017

I Got a Refund from Airbnb for a Cancellation in Austin Due to Hurricane Harvey

About a month ago I made reservations on Airbnb to stay in a cute little apartment in Austin, Texas, over the weekend of Gay Pride, which was scheduled for August 26th and 27th. I was planning to drive down from Dallas on Friday the 25th after work and drive home on Sunday. As that Friday approached the ominous forecast about Hurricane Harvey looked like it might put a damper on things.

When I woke up on Friday morning, it was to news stories about the imminent threat of the hurricane as it approached the coast. People were evacuating Houston, and Austin was under alert for heavy rains, flooding, and loss of electricity, especially if the storm continued on toward Austin. There had been a run on supplies at supermarkets in Austin and the surrounding areas, leaving shelves empty. I decided to cancel my reservation. A few hours later the organizers of the Gay Pride fest announced that it was canceled as well (it has been rescheduled–more on that below).

After going through the process of canceling, I wrote a note to the landlord to say that I hoped he would offer a full refund due to the extenuating circumstances. He replied with a standard line: sorry, but we have a cancellation policy for a reason, and we will not be offering a refund.

The Airbnb policy in this situation appears to be that you have to wait 72 hours before you can open a dispute. I did so. When I went to the contact me page on the Airbnb website, I wrote a simple note explaining the situation and asking that they offer a full refund. There were notes on the site asking customers who were submitting requests that were directly related to Hurricane Harvey to save these things, in case the company wanted them as proof that the cancellation was related to the hurricane:

  • News coverage describing how the area around the listing was affected
  • Emails from local authorities advising you to evacuate, or warning you to stay away from the area

I did have some of those things, such as the news report I linked to above, but there was no way to provide them, and it turned out that I didn’t need to. Within 12 hours, I had received a response apologizing to me for the trouble, and offering a full refund, no questions asked. If you were planning to visit Austin for Gay Pride, and you canceled your plans, write to Airbnb and request a refund, even if your host (like mine) refused to provide one!

Regarding Austin Gay Pride, the parade has been rescheduled for Saturday, September 30th, and the festival will take place on Saturday, October 21st. It looks like I will miss the festival, but I do plan to make the parade!


Do I Need to Buy a Pass to Enjoy Southern Decadence?

Put simply: NO

The first thing I would tell you is that you DO NOT NEED TO BUY ONE OF THE PASSES—especially as a first-time visitor. The first time I was planning to attend, I worried about this and wondered if I should spring for one of the VIP packages at the Bourbon Pub, but please rest assured: you do not need a pass. Each venue has its own calendar of events for that weekend, and they each try to make it seem like you need a pass (guaranteed admission! No waiting in line!), but you can have a great time without ever attending any of those events. There are several websites claiming to be the “OFFICIAL” website, but that is just marketing. The official events take place in the streets and are free to everyone. You can simply pick and choose among the other events that take place over the weekend.

Corner Pocket New Orleans Southern Decadence VIP Pass

That said, some venues offer a pass that can save you some time waiting in line, as well as some money. Most of the venues charge a cover charge over SD weekend. Even the ones that are usually free or cheap begin to charge due to the overwhelming crowds. For example, Corner Pocket, a stripper bar with guys dancing on the bar, usually charges a $5 cover on the weekends. On the weekend of Southern Decadence, they might begin with $5 during the day (totally rough estimate there…they will adjust according to the crowds), but they might go up to $10 by 9:00, and they might be charging a $20 plus cover by 10:00 PM. And you may wait in a long line. As an alternative, they offer a weeklong pass ($40 in 2016, $50 in 2017) that guarantees that you get admitted without waiting in line. If you know that you are going to want to visit a specific venue every night, it could be worth your time to invest in a pass.