Airbnb has withdrawn my negative review. Why?

My family visited Hudson, New York for a few days in March for the same reason everyone goes there. It’s a cool little town surrounded by the Hudson Valley and filled with food, crafts, shops, and wonderful people. We used to rent accommodation for our stay.

The rental was the only bad part of our visit. Garbage was piled up in front of the driveway when we arrived. The patio which looked quaint and cozy in row was messy and surrounded by construction equipment. Hot water was not working. A load of clothes was in the washing machine. The freestanding bathroom sink only needed a slight nudge to tip over. The ladder to the mezzanine bedroom was too steep for the children. Etc.

We decided to hang in there and not ask for a refund. The host was a nice guy, and when I told him about the hot water he called me and walked me through a reboot of his system. But my online review of his venue – which cited its good location, gracious and outgoing host, and disappointments – was poor. This was the first bad rating I gave an Airbnb host, and I felt vaguely guilty about it. My wife and I rationalized this by agreeing that an honest review would help future travelers make better decisions. Additionally, most of the reviews for the Hudson property were positive. What difference could ours make?

I forgot about the review until a few days ago, when an Airbnb “Resolution Support Ambassador” sent me an out-of-the-box email to let me know that my review of the Hudson rental was in violation of its “valuation policy” and was withdrawn. I looked at the review policy, and nothing I wrote seemed to be a violation. I said I didn’t understand the decision and asked a supervisor to review it. My supporting ambassador said no.

While Airbnb Inc. has resisted criticism of price hikes, bait-and-switch scams, and the stock price which has soared and then fallen since its IPO in December, its bookings have skyrocketed over the past decade. ‘last year. As the COVID-19 pandemic swept the traditional hospitality industry, Airbnb’s portfolio of non-urban accommodation and long-term rentals was boosted by remote working, a rebound in domestic leisure travel and preferences for more intimate roommates.

With business soaring, why bother selectively sounding negative, yet specific, advice? Airbnb is largely meant to be self-regulating, and frank reviews, in theory, help keep everyone honest.

After researching information on how often Airbnb removes negative reviews, I came across an interesting article on Quartz from 2018. It revealed that some negative Airbnb user reviews “were either edited or discreetly removed from the site without their knowledge or authorization “. Airbnb assured Quartz that its content policy is aimed at ensuring integrity and that authentic reviews are “essential to building trust.”

Some users have speculated that Airbnb selectively removes negative reviews to protect its top sellers. While the surprisingly pervasive online debate over the integrity of Airbnb reviews often notes that hosts lack the power to have bad reviews removed, this is not true. Airbnb has a process that allows hosts to appeal to negative reviews. I have also discovered a robust cottage industry that helps hosts deal with bad reviews. Advisors in this profession offer tutorials such as “Deleting Airbnb Reviews – A Superhost’s Secret Weapon” and “Bad Airbnb Reviews: How To Turn Them Into Your Weapon.”

Structuring a rock-solid public review system is tricky, and Airbnb has become an ongoing laboratory experiment for academics interested in analyzing its data to uncover management insights or sociological insights (this recent study is just a interesting example). Yet the reasons Airbnb gave me for deleting my review had nothing to do with complexity. Among other things, they said it was not “relevant”. This seems to be a common reason Airbnb gives when it removes bad reviews.

After Airbnb refused to escalate my request for my deleted review, I told them that I would contact the company directly the next morning. Hours later, a “senior case manager” at Airbnb’s “escalation office” messaged me promising to take a closer look. The next day, another “supporting ambassador” also intervened. Nothing has changed. After contacting Airbnb’s media relations department and saying I was interested in chronicling my experience, a spokesperson, Aaron Swor, quickly intervened.

Airbnb eventually reposted my review and Swor said the company made a mistake in deleting it. Swor said it got deleted after my host in Hudson asked Airbnb to do it. I asked Swor how often Airbnb removes negative reviews, and he said “this happens very rarely”.

“We believe that a healthy review system is one that respects and protects the genuine comments of our community,” he added. “For this reason, we take the removal of all notices very seriously. “

That may be true, but Airbnb didn’t seem to take deleting my review seriously until they found out I was a reporter. I also asked Swor about suspicions that Airbnb favors its hosts over its users because the site’s financial interests are aligned with those of the best sellers. “That’s not true,” he replied, reiterating that reviews are only removed if they violate the site’s content policy.

I think Airbnb is a great service, but trust is fragile and fleeting. Memorial Day weekend is approaching, and if Airbnb has helped you find a place to stay, read these reviews carefully and ask yourself if anything may have been missed. Or deleted.

Comments are closed.