When I bought my townhouse last year, I intentionally bought a place with two bedrooms plus an office so I could have my dedicated workspace but also a guest room. I wanted the guest room for family and friends, and I figured that when it wasn’t getting used, I could put it on AirBnB. Why not? AirBnB is supposed to be this cool peer-to-peer vacation rental opportunity for chill people, right? It claims to create a “global travel community” with the idea that people can “belong anywhere.” In reality, we know that it’s been taken over by professional landlords, rather than local hosts, and it’s ruined communities and driven up housing prices. Maybe I shouldn’t criticize since as I guest, I still use the service all the time and almost always prefer it to a hotel. But as a host, it’s been a crummy experience and I’m all done.
Although I think I’m a good AirBnB guest (and my reviews back me up on this), what experience has taught me over the last nine months is that the people who use AirBnB mostly don’t care about rules, are clueless about social norms, are flaky, and enjoy wasting people’s time with their special requests, thinking they should be the exception to every rule.
My listing clearly stated the following:
- Accommodates 1 person
- No pets
- Requires 2 days advance notice for reservations
Of the 28 booking requests I’ve had since my listing went live on November 22, 2019 (though I deactivated it for three months during the height of quarantine), the following statistics have tarnished my experience:
- 4 same day requests, two of those wanting to check in during the next 10 minutes
- 4 next day requests, and sometimes those requests came in after 10pm
- 7 requests for more than 1 person, one of whom harassed me when I told him my listing was for one person by responding to my message with “Oh, and why is that?” as if I have to justify my decision for what I’m comfortable with in my own home. I did not respond.
- 9 requests from people with 0-1 reviews. While I get that everyone is a newbie to AirBnB at some point and needs someone to take a chance on them, as a single female living alone offering a room in her condo, it ain’t gonna be me.
- 1 person who tried to talk me down in price
- 1 person who asked to bring her cats
- 2 people I approved but then they didn’t actually book
- 1 person who asked to book my whole place, not just the room I had listed
- 2 people who booked and then cancelled
- 1 person who tried to book for someone else who wasn’t the AirBnB account holder
I’ve also learned that people severely lack social skills. Again, I am a single female who lives alone and is offering a room in a shared space. The potential discomfort or even risk level should be obvious to anyone with half a brain, right? Apparently not. I was amazed by how many men (yes, they were always men) didn’t bother to write me any introductory message that would help make me comfortable hosting them. These are some of the single line messages I got from dudes (and yes, from dudes with 0-1 reviews and therefore no pre-existing reason to trust them) with no further information about who they are or the purpose or their travel or even a nice “hello!”
- “Am I able to have my kids over once or twice a couple of hours through the week”
- “Can I check in at 8 AM”
- “I’m a CU graduate”
Yeah, I’ll pass, thanks. And as a female offering a shared space, I’m allowed to say no to any male for any reason.
According to our Nondiscrimination Policy, you may make a listing available to only guests of your gender when you share living spaces with them (for example, bathroom, kitchen, or common areas).
And so I’ve wasted my time over and over and over declining requests from the hoards of people who don’t know how to read listings and don’t understand the basics of how this platform is supposed to work. But not only that…then I receive a message from AirBnB stating that they are going to deactivate my listing because:
You declined the last 10 requests. Your listings could be suspended if you don’t start accepting more guests.
Even though in the same email, they claimed that:
You always have control over how often and who you host. To avoid having to decline guests, focus on updating your settings and availability.
So why are they allowing people to make same and next day requests when my settings say that I need two days advance notice? And when I decline a reservation and have to provide AirBnB with a reason, why is there no option to select that says “Guest has made a request that violates my settings.”? Nope, AirBnB simply decided that I’m a problem host.
Yeah, no worries, I’m all done here. I made enough money with the two reservations I did have to pay for my rental license with the city of Boulder and for the self-entry keypad I bought, so I’m done. No more.
By the way, the two bookings I did have were excellent and exactly what AirBnB purports to be. Solo females travelling through in need of inexpensive, friendly accommodation. The second girl who stayed with me – in a different life, we would be good friends. We both ended up having cancelled plans the Saturday night she was in town, so we hung out together in my living room drinking wine and talking for almost five hours. We had so much to talk about and so much in common despite leading wildly different lives. I enjoyed her company a lot. If I had more requests like those from these two ladies, I’d accept a lot more people. I’m not the problem. The AirBnB software and process are.
To close off, I’ll go back to my point in the opening paragraph about whether I will continue to use AirBnB as a guest. Yes, this service has done a lot of harm. But it also does a lot of good for people, allowing hardworking people to make some extra cash and providing a special experience for travelers.
My goal from now on is to try as hard as possible to make sure I’m only renting from individual owners, not AirBnB professional landlords. It’s not always easy to tell from the listing, although seeing how many other properties the host has listed is helpful. It is always easy to tell after you get there. A place owned by an individual or family almost always has thoughtful touches: games, books, a well-stocked kitchen, mini toiletries in the bathroom, fun guidance in the house handbook. It is, on average, a better experience all around. Professional AirBnB units are generally devoid of anything personal or unique or sometimes even of anything useful! They have a hotel feel and the hosts aren’t terribly responsive.
So I’m going to try my best to use AirBnB responsibly. I previously posted about really great stays I’ve had. Here are a few I’ve stayed at in 2020 where it’s obvious the owners really lived there and the money I spent went to a family, not to a corporate owner.