My Month and a Bit “Doing Airbnb”.

Think of the Experience!

The Good — Free Money and Quick Resolutions!

Before we start, I just want to point out that Airbnb aren’t the bad guys in this story, I’m not railing against the platform (further down I mention the review system), it’s the guests and whether it was worth ‘doing Airbnb’.

So let’s get the good stuff out of the way. First, an issue with two bookings where without asking, but having had the issues raised with Airbnb, Airbnb gave me half the value of the bookings from guests who thankfully, didn’t stay with me.

Second, a guest booked a room which was supposed to be unavailable, (I didn’t delist it in time) it meant I would incur a $50USD cancellation fee on a booking that was three months away. It’s a harsh fee, but both guest and host are penalised if either cancel a booking. For the platform it’s beneficial as it can make both parties less flippant towards using the service as fewer bookings cancelled on a whim (and it was attempted on me) means more stability for hosts and guests alikt to commit to the rental.

Instead of getting stung with a $50 fee, I rang customer service and explained the situation. Airbnb did some checking with the possible guest, everything was given the okay and neither of us incurred a penalty, we both were in fact given a $25USD coupon!

The Bad — Being Delisted Two times.

Airbnb works on a star rating for reviews, ratings are given by guests and hosts alike, stars are added and write-ups are exchanged, none can see each other’s review until both have been written for the other. Or after 14 days, whoever has written a review, gets theirs published. Which on the face of it can seem fair, but as I discovered, it’s easily gamed. See here, here and here for more.

Airbnb only seem to care about stars in a review and even then, only host’s stars are publically visable. Guests can write pure fantasy and hosts (as mentioned in the Airbnb FAQ) can’t contest an unfair review.

One personal story I want to share is when a guest of mine complained in his review about not receiving the door code to the apartment block. I was surprised by this because he seemed to have had free access to the building, there was no issue at check-in. Turns out, he entered the building with residents on arrival, he didn’t check his booking for the door code, so when he arrived again at 12 midnight, he had to force his way into the building with a broomstick. Somehow.

Same guest didn’t use the shower incase he woke anybody up.

These were noted as my fault. Unfair, but why would Airbnb get involved in that review or many other hundreds like it across their site everyday?

That’s the way it stays. A lot of reviews are because it’s the host’s fault if the guest didn’t understand the directions, don’t like being told the bathroom rules, didn’t read their booking info or even if like one guest did; complain about a mosquito that flew in through the open window (that was a black mark against me for cleanliness by the way).

How many negative points would I have scored if somebody kicked a football through the same window I wonder?

You can put all the information you want in the listing to help (and I tried so much), listing quiet times, the check-in/out times, bathroom rules, the door code etc etc, but if a guest doesn’t read the booking and comes unprepared, it’s the host’s fault.

I even created a complimentary message that shares information as well as a generalised Q&A. Still doesn’t help. All these catch nets and the fish still swim through. The most common question I received was “Where is your house”?

This is super, fisting-pounding-on-the-wall-annoying or worth screaming into a pillow for, because of four reasons.

  1. The Airbnb app at the top of the booking page displays a button that says ‘Directions’.
  2. The Airbnb app, has a map showing where someone lives, furthermore, tapping on the map provides a way finder.
  3. I created a third way via a photo guide for those who pressed the ‘Begin Check-In’ button. Fun Fact, I can find the ‘Begin Check-In’ button in Chinese before the Chinese guests do on THEIR phone!

Guests generally can’t find either of these three options! The fourth option is general common sense that I thought was, well common sense.

Let’s take a minute and talk about how amazing I am. When I used the Airbnb service as a guest, when I travelled recently to Germany, Russia, Mongolia and then China, I made sure to find the locations of all the train stations I would be using for arrivals and departures, I then looked for airbnb apartments in the vicinity of those stations to make my travelling around the cities easier. I plotted my routes.

Why would I need to ask the host where the airbnb is?

It’s shocking the number of times a guest couldn’t navigate a ten minute walk successfully on their own. People are dummies and I personally feel more and more clever with each guest texting me the obvious question.

“What’s the Address’?

I’ve learnt people want to do as little thinking as possible, all effort for them needs to be delivered in text message sized chunks smaller than 140 characters (Twitter over invested by the way) and hosts need to duplicate their efforts with every guest, nothing can be left to the guest to figure out on their own. No wonder these people don’t want to pay for a hotel, hotels don’t don’t do this for guests.

When guests finally arrive. You have to resort to explaining everything anyway that’s in the booking as you can’t take a chance against ignorance. If you remind the guest of certain living conditions because you’ve expected them to read the information in their booking, they can take it as a slight and list it as a complaint in their review.

One other drawback is that google is blocked in China, the airbnb app uses google map services. This goes partially to explaining why I get so many ‘Where do you live questions?’. Interestingly, they never say, ‘My map isn’t working, I need some help’.

My reviews however will be published mercilessly within 14 days after their stay regardless, maybe my guests don’t know this and think they can walk away unscathed during their trip. I found myself enjoying tearing them apart for others to read and for them to hopefully be shamed into acting differently for the next host. For the extremely terrible guests who have some sense of self-awareness for themselves only, they can just skip the review process accumulating only positive reviews (if on a short trip).

Personally I think it would be best if airbnb denied a person’s ability to host or book a place if after three bookings if they didn’t write any reviews in order to make it even fairer and everyone was pro-active.

In the beginning I wrote reviews because I thought they made a difference, and helped future hosts, towards the end I stopped writing them a few times because I wanted to keep my current ‘score’ long enough so as to be able to not get delisted a third time so that I could keep hosting in the short term (reviews are averaged out, fall below a certain number and you’re taken out of the search). In that manner, I also ended up gaming the system.

The Ugly — People are Gross and Self-serving

This depresses me the most. Having exposed myself to 52 bookings overall (some were group bookings so I had more than 52 people enter my home), I got a feel for generally how other people live while on holiday, maybe a feel for how they actually live at home.

I type this after coming home and the toilet lid is up with a shit stain looking like a thick ant line running down the inside of the rim. I was actually present when the daughter translated the bathroom rules to her parents! What. The. Actual. Fuck. How does one allow themselves to leave a bathroom in that state?

Remember, this is my house, not a hotel and my place was treated like a hotel many times.

Oh, remember that guy who complained about the mosquito in his room? He killed it by squashing it against the wall and then he left it there. I found it dried up the day after his stay, after writing him a positive review. This is probably the pinnacle of having no awareness or respect for others in what is someone else’s house while treating the space as a hotel/boarding house. Guests aren’t responsible for their actions, I am.

Or take for example this exchange; I offered to allow an early check-in of 6:30am to just drop off bags (I was already awake so why not right?). When the guest arrived, they wanted to not only drop off their bags, but organise their bags and use the room with the parents, chat and to get ready for their day. I thought it was a quick in and then out.

When I discussed that this is what they originally asked before arriving at the door (with the mother tutting ferociously in the background) in the early hours of that morning, the guest couldn’t admit to the differences in what they had requested. She was absolute and accepted no responsibility. The lady in question commented, “If I realised I couldn’t do more than check my bags, I would have stayed at the other place”. Then why fucking didn’t you, you delusional sack of crap?

In her review it was my fault for keeping their mother outside in the hallway and ‘arguing for 40 minutes’. Trust me I don’t have patience to argue that long so that didn’t happen, especially with the mother tutting in a foreign language. For the guest they simply couldn’t see the situation beyond their needs, oddly the guest mentioned they were drunk in the review. Go figure.

Internet throttling takes on a new meaning when its someone’s neck you want to do it to after having read that review from my side of the computer screen.

In Conclusion — What it worth it?

  1. Even though I had made $1200 in profit after covering my living expenses?

  2. Even though I had made $1200 in profit after covering my living expenses?
  3. Even though I had made $1200 in profit after covering my living expenses?

I want to categorically say ‘yes, it has been worth paying the rent’, because I needed the money and I got more than double what I needed which helps me in other ways. However, a supremely bitter taste has been left in my mouth from doing Airbnb.

The manners and respect on display were something that has made me consider the whole enterprise differently if there is a next time. If I want money in a short space of time, of course it’s going to happen. I’ll cringe all the way doing it, but be more savvy about it*.

Especially as people need coaching on how to live properly. I had to make sacrifices towards doing the things I wanted to do, (which as a host, you make sacrifices I know) I just didn’t envision I’d need to babysit people who can’t read a map, realise that a quoted time is in fact bullshit or have to wait for 90 minutes in a train station to pass house keys to others who said they wanted a 10 am check-in, but went shopping right after meeting me only to arrive later in the evening.

I had been given for my $1200 profit in troubles, a perspective on other people I would never have seen otherwise (and I use to work in a hotel!). The exposure has been food for thought when it comes to learning about other’s living standards. To know people such as airbnb guests are absolved of any consequences to their actions while living somewhere they are personally detached from.

I just extrapolate upwards and think about the environment outside. I really begin to think about how we use energy and resources without really a care in the world or for where these comforts come from. I’m not optimistic about our chances to pull away from what is ‘climate breakdown’, not climate change.

People’s reaction to the world around them, doesn’t concern them, after all, it’s not their street, not their neighbourhood, not their country. Why should they care?

I know it’s a dour note to end this story on but, it’s their Airbnb experience after all, not mine.

— — —

*In theory I could have it all my way if I didn’t live with the guests and just rented out all three spaces, hired a cleaner and just be present when checking people in and out. Detaching myself from the process entirely. I know I would feel less grossed out about having these people in my house.

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