Guest User

Never AirBnb

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Sep 17th, 2013
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  1. I used to love AirBnb and was the preferred way of traveling for myself and my wife.
  3. It's a company I have been following from the very beginning, such a great entrepreneurial story. I have been using it in many countries - UK, USA, Italy, Switzerland, Spain and was looking forward to using it in Australia in December for a month on our tour. They have revolutionised the industry - peer to peer hosting, through revolution, world wide, possible IPO, valuations, investments...but wait a second. Aren't those guest houses, listed on the web? The same guest houses that have existed since as far one can remember? I will come back to this later.
  5. After last weeks' experience in Chicago, I can firmly say - never again. Across countries and cultures, statistically something was due to happen.
  7. We never give things that much of a thought until we feel "our balls in the crack", when we are left vulnerable, open for abuse by others. This is chilling feeling, eye-opening and sudden rush of situational awareness flows through your mind. You get to see realistically that what you are being sold and what is real are not consistent. I wonder why is it so hard to see things as clear, to project before making the mistake.
  9. We all remember the case of Ankit Aggarwal and his "thrashed" apartment that made AirBnb rethink their policies. Since then AirBnb has been doing everything possible to reassure hosts that they are safe with them, there is a Host Guarantee "worth" $1.000.000 and all accompanying advertising program, filled with words Safe, We're here to help, Guarantee, Insurance, Reviews...
  11. But...As every equation has two sides, so does a marketplace have more kinds of customers. One of them are hosts for AirBnb. Others are the guests.
  13. How well are we protected? What is our $1.000.000 guarantee?
  15. Here are the risks one takes when going into a strangers house:
  17. 0) feeling of being a guest for your own money
  18. ----------------------------------------------
  19. Walking on toes, one must behave as he really is a guest and one is doing him a favour. This is quite irrational behaviour, and I am guilty of it. You have just paid for rent and yet you must behave as if visiting a family friend.
  22. 1) being robbed/raped/hurt/killed by the host(s)
  23. -------------------------------------------------
  24. Scary, but...Impossible? Improbable? Percentage of sickness in people is sooner or later statistically bound to occur. You do sleep in a house with a stranger, and you are inside of his house. The room door is not an external but an internal one. Remember this:
  28. AirBnb is not much different than craigslist - it is an ad you are applying to. However, here you willingly going to the persons' house. In a hotel, you are at least dealing with a business with many people going through and staying at the same time with you - so call it a "shared" risk. Most of the time, more than one person works at a hotel, so conspiring against you is a for a multitude more improbable than with a single person.
  30. Further, in a hotel you do have a key to your "privacy". In AirBnb that is rarely the case. The front door of your hotel room is the external door to the living space, and not an internal door between rooms.
  32. You are very vulnerable when using AirBnb, as you must trust a stranger. It goes both ways, for the host and for the guest. AirBnb has taken their stance in protecting the host - only after, when they had to - after the publicity of the thrashed house. Their first response was of course very corporate - the risk is on the host and he should choose carefully who he accepts.
  35. The issue obviously is that no extreme case has emerged about guests being severely damaged by the hosts. I wonder if it has already happened, but is not heard? (a chilling thought). I am certain if such case did emerge only then would AirBnb think of updating their guest protection policy. Great entrepreneurial story? Give me a break.
  37. So you rented a room in an apartment, lets say Chicago as I did last week. The host(s) is in one room, the guest(s) in the other. You share the living area. Do you ever think of this when going to a place you have never been to?
  42. I have a certain desire to stay out of statistics, just as any other person.
  44. 2) financial abuse - being misrepresented in any potential issue with the host, and victim of a business bias
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  48. You have made a prepayment, someone has got your money already and your credit card. Happens in a hotel too of course, if booking a special discount/offer. But unlike with a hotel, in case you find the place horrible, you must deal with a third party - AirBnb, to get your money back, and that is not a fast and easy process, especially if you are not an English speaking person. With a hotel, you get down to the reception and make your claim and resolve it immediately.
  50. In addition, on AirBnb you have paid a deposit, which is ultimately in the hands of the host to decide. No hotel that I have been to ever has charged a deposit. No hotel that I have been to has ever charged a cleaning fee after my stay (assuming you are normal, none will).
  52. If any issues do arise, see it from the AirBnb perspective: it is much more expensive to lose a host than to lose a guest. Why? Because the host has much higher lifetime value than the guest. You could say that the guests are a result of hosts, so naturally hosts are more valuable. A guest may travel once in a while, while hosts can be very busy - which is in turn many bookings which is in the end many fees for AirBnb. Therefore, if AirBnb needs to choose, it will always choose to keep the valuable customer. They are showing that openly, offering a referral fee for guest is $25 and for a host is $75. This tells me the ratio - the host is three times more valuable than a guest. (the number could just as well imply the number of bookings per customer and the average booking, but another story)
  54. This issue was the one that affected me. I am fortunate though, as my life (above) and my health (below) are much more valuable!
  56. 3) health issues - or... maybe we do not clean our houses just as well
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  59. Most of those hotel maids had education for that job. Even though that is not valid anymore for some hotels that just hire cheap labour to do this job, think how many rooms a day the maids clean and how many details they think of - simply mechanically. Then think of the tools and supplies they use. Industrial washing machines are much different than the domestic ones. So are the sheets, covers and towels and everything else in that hotel we just take for granted, until we try running one on our own. You think that cup has been sterilised? Toilet seat? The shower? The bathroom carpet? The blanket? How about the curtains? The mattress? The remote control of that TV? The door knob?
  61. The devil is in the details.
  64. After my issue with AirBnb emerged, I have been reviewing their FAQs and help documentation and there is virtually nothing on how protected you are as a guests. Let's put it as it is stated in their cyclical documentation. You are not. In any way. You, and your money are in hands of others.
  66. When and why did my reality strike me? I have been bitten by AirBnb and their host. I have been cheated out of my deposit by the host, and AirBnb sided with them without any proof material given by the host. I am mad as hell, but I decided to treat the deposit as a sunk cost, and never to return to AirBnb again. I am not writing this to demand bitterness damage to AirBnb or the host, I doubt that will bring back my deposit. What I can do is bring up the issues and give voice to the topic not many write about.
  68. The host (in Chicago) has had many people come and go through her room, and kept a quite busy calender. Having only good experiences so far, I simply eliminated the risks and handed out cash to AirBnb. $200 for two nights, and $200 as a security deposit. I arrived from Italy via Amsterdam to Chicago, and heavily jet-lagged (was coding the night before the flight) I was looking forward to a good night's sleep. My wife was already there, coming few days before to the US and meeting me in Chicago. So we went to our our AirBnb host. The host (couple) had their own room and the other room they rent out to us.
  70. That night, we noticed the bed was pulling us to the center, but was still firm and we just kept on sleeping. It was not "that" unusual, we just commented on it and stated it was uncomfortable. You are after all in another person's house, so it is what it is. Bearable for two nights, a rational persons says. With a backache, we left after the second day, only to receive a claim from the host that we have broken her bed. Now, experiencing that pain and being charged for a damage gets you really mad. When a bed breaks, you do hear and feel it. And we did not. We have a combined weight of 130kg, which for a queen size bed in the US should be feather light. The host does not use the bed, so it could have been like that for a while, but only now she had noticed - she claimed. We simply left the bed as we found it, and had absolutely no clues the bed was broken. The host claimed that something internally was not right giving vague details.
  72. Then it struck me, the room had hundreds of books, things, electronics. She could have claimed anything, and I would have had no means of defending myself. Apparently, my wife and I had to do an inventory of the room and apartment before sleeping there, lift the mattress and check the bed structure, screws etc. We might just as well go to a hotel. For $400 we paid for two nights, we easily could have.
  74. The host claimed to have a picture of the internal structure of the bed being broken, never shown to us or AirBnb, and a receipt of purchase of bed for total of $350! That buys you a whole bed? Really? That was the dirt cheapest bed in IKEA, but you as a guest really do not look at details, because you have been educated by hotels.
  76. If a furniture breaks down by normal wear, it should not be part of the guests responsabilty. It is not a furniture suitable to renting then. If we broke down the bed by sleeping on it, what were we supposed to do - look at the bed and sleep on the floor? No jumping or mishandling of the bed ever happend, just a regular jet lagged sleep. The rent we pay of that bed **should be** used to maintain the bed. Apparently AirBnb does not think so.
  78. All in all, I am left without means to defend myself. They have my money.
  81. AirBnb naturally decided to side with the host and has taken our deposit. They have charged us for the whole bed, while the damage they have stated was a minor and only internal one (based on description). The host rented the room already two days after. AirBnb was uninterested in the case and simply took the deposit. The claimed they have seen photos and receipt, while the host never uploaded them in the case - they based their decision on the sole mentioning of it! I have repeatedly ask to see these.
  83. The customer service was just addressing me in a patronising way and not giving me any possibility of defence, claiming their decision is final. Based on what? Which documentation? Which rules? Which guidelines? Give your money to a stranger and then be judged whether you should keep your money without a right of defence?
  85. I am mad as hell. Injustice makes me so. I am the one *directly* paying the bills of AirBnb, yet I get treated as a criminal.
  87. So, are we irrational? AirBnb carries much higher risk than a hotel, and as well higher (potential & now probable) cost. Why do we always make the decisions on the best case and not on the average risk?
  89. Never again AirBnb. Shame on you AirBnb. Such a disappointment.
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