An Airbnb host near Big Bear has been banned after an Asian American guest claimed her reservation was canceled at the last minute because of her race.
Airbnb spokesman Nick Papas said in an email that the host's behavior was "abhorrent and unacceptable." In recent years, the company has faced growing complaints of racial discrimination by its hosts.
According to local media reports, Dyne Suh, a law student in Riverside, said she and her fiance had been looking forward to a short vacation over Presidents Day weekend in Big Bear Lake, a popular ski getaway about a two-hour drive east of Los Angeles.
About a month before their trip, Suh booked a mountain cabin on Airbnb listed as a "Tree House Loft and Private Bathroom" in Running Springs, Calif. Suh said she later messaged the host to ask if she could add two friends to the reservation and was told it would not be a problem.
"We were looking forward to it, especially with law school and working and being really busy," Suh told NBC Los Angeles on Wednesday. "It was a welcome break."
On Feb. 17, the group of four set out up the mountain. An intense winter storm was then hitting the area, making road conditions hazardous and prompting flash-flood warnings, according to local reports.
When they were minutes away from the cabin, Suh sent a message to the host through the Airbnb app to let her know they were close and asked how they might pay for adding the two friends to the reservation, according to the news station.
That's when their trip took a turn.
"If you think 4 people and 2 dogs ate getting a room fir $50 a night on big bear mountain during the busiest weekend of the year.... You are insanely high," the host texted her, according to Suh's screenshots of the exchange. The host, identified as "Tami" in the images, also called Suh "a con artist" and canceled the reservation.
Suh said she was shocked, then protested, telling the host that she had screenshots of their earlier messages showing she had agreed to the reservation changes.
"Go ahead. I wouldn't rent to u if you were the last person on earth," the host wrote back to Suh. "One word says it all. Asian"
When Suh replied that she would report the host to Airbnb for being racist, the host told her to "Go ahead" and "It's why we have trump."
"And I will not allow this country to be told what to do by foreigners," the host added.
Suh took pictures of the exchange and posted them to her Facebook page. "Just had an airbnb cancel on me spewing racism," she wrote.
To compound the problem, the continued snow was making it increasingly dangerous to get down the mountain, according to Suh. A KTLA-TV Channel 5 news crew happened to be parked near them on the mountain while covering the winter storm. They interviewed Suh.
Still reeling from what had just happened, Suh sobbed as she recounted what she said were the host's messages in a widely shared video posted to YouTube this week.
Suh said in the video that she has been living in the United States since she was 3. She currently is enrolled in the Critical Race Studies Program at the UCLA School of Law.
"I'm an American citizen. This is my home," Suh said in the video. "It stings. It stings that after living in the U.S. for over 23 years, this is what happens."
Suh said Airbnb issued them a full refund immediately and offered to reimburse the group for a hotel.
Though the incident took place in February, Suh's story became publicly known this week after NBC-TV Channel 4 in Los Angeles and KTLA reported it on Wednesday and Thursday. It is unclear why KTLA did not air the story earlier. Airbnb also acknowledged this week that the host had since been banned.
"We have worked to provide the guest with our full support and in line with our nondiscrimination policy, this host has been permanently removed from the Airbnb platform," Papas said.
The host told NBC that she had "no comment."
Founded in 2008, Airbnb is now a $30-billion company that operates in 50,000 cities in 191 countries. In response to a rising number of allegations that hosts were refusing certain guests because of their race, the company launched a three-month review last year that "generally confirmed public reports that minorities struggle more than others to book a listing."
All users must commit to treating others "regardless of race, religion, national origin, disability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or age, with respect, and without judgment or bias."
The company also rolled out several measures to fight discrimination on its platform, including publishing a more detailed nondiscrimination policy, trying to increase the number of "Instant Book" listings and making user profile photos less prominent during the booking process.
Under a new "Open Doors" policy, Airbnb said it would guarantee alternate lodging for a guest who was unable to book an Airbnb listing because of discrimination. An Airbnb representative pointed to that new policy when asked about Suh's case on Friday.