Airbnb feels like staying with a cheap and uptight friend – then paying for the privilege | Arwa Mahdawi

SSome people call it “wasting time on Twitter”. This is what I call “qualitative research”. After doing a lot of qualitative research recently, I found the following: Everyone is tired of Airbnb. In its early days, Airbnb was a more economical and adventurous alternative to a hotel. These days, it costs a small fortune to rent a cabin on Airbnb, and once there, you’re forced to follow a long list of rules and buy your own toilet paper. It’s a bit like staying with your cheapest and most uptight friend – and paying him for the privilege.

I am not the only one to have made this observation. Every few weeks, an Airbnb tweet dunk seems go viral. The latest example comes courtesy of a writer called Jeremy Gordon, who got over 100,000 likes for Tweeter the following: “I decided to stay at a Holiday Inn instead of an Airbnb for an overnight trip and I feel strongly, an hour after checking in, that there was never any most luxurious experience in all of human history.

Let me clarify that I’m not sponsored by a big hotel when I say this (if a big hotel wants to sponsor me, contact me!), but I’m not sure I’ll be able to stay at an Airbnb again. To be fair, it’s partly because Airbnbs now have obscene prices and I can’t afford it. Sometimes I look at Airbnbs for fun and then when I find one that seems reasonable I realize it’s actually a tent. Someone put a bed in a tent in a field and rent it for over $100 a night.

The last time I stayed at an Airbnb was in 2021, before childcare ate up all my disposable income. We had a new baby and wanted to spend a few relaxing weeks away from the city so we booked a cabin by the river in the Catskill Mountains. It turns out that “relaxation” and “three-month-old baby” don’t really mix. Being greeted with a long list of rules upon arrival didn’t help matters. Some of these rules were reasonable, some were not. Don’t put drinks on the coffee table! I’m sorry, what? It’s a coffee table. The clue is in the name. You put coffee on it. If you have furniture that you don’t want people putting drinks on, then don’t rent your place on Airbnb for a ridiculous amount of money.

There were a few other issues with this Airbnb. Hair that had been left in the sink, for example. (The host reimbursed us for the $300 cleaning fee.) The broken dishwasher. The host grumbled, then sent a plumber. “And the snake. The first time I went to the basement to use the washing machine, I almost stepped on a snake. “I just thought you might want to know that a snake lives in your basement!” I messaged the host, who was fed up with us now. The dry answer: “Well, that’s the countryside.” It put me in my place, didn’t it? I didn’t know everyone in the country had a snake in their basement. While this may not have been a big deal for the owners, it did make laundry hectic. First, I stuck my head up the stairs and shouted, “Hello snake!” to make sure he knew I was coming. Then I had to locate the bloody thing. One day he would hang out on the stairs, then he would be by the clothes dryer, then he would hide behind a box. I’m not a phobic of snakes, I want to be clear, I just don’t want to pay a small fortune to stay somewhere and then have to worry about limbless reptiles creeping up on me at night.

I’m not saying Airbnb is irredeemably awful, by the way. I know being able to rent a room on Airbnb helps some people pay their rent. In fact, it has helped a few of my friends in New York pay their rent. And then one day a woman came in and started giving birth on their kitchen floor. Sometimes it pays your rent and gives you great dinner stories! Other times it completely makes the accommodation long term unaffordable for normal people because the get-rich-quick guys have taken all the inventory and are charging tourists a small fortune for short stays with snakes. Hard to know if it’s good or bad, really.

Arwa Mahdawi is a Guardian columnist

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