Are the days of Airbnb over? Why I doubt I will use it again
It was past 9 p.m. It rained a lot. I was alone and my suitcase was heavy. But I had a nice Airbnb I can’t wait to stay there. It was going to be the best part of my day. I had booked the London flat a few weeks ago. It looked so inviting in the photos – five star rating, king size bed, great reviews.
What the pictures didn’t show was the black mold in the bathroom, someone’s hair on the pillow, the disgusting toilet and a mattress so stained it took me right back to my days of sleep. student in a squat.
Last week, a tweet about Airbnb went viral. “I decided to stay at a Holiday Inn instead of an Airbnb for an overnight trip and I feel strongly, an hour after check-in, that there has never been a more luxurious experience in all of human history,” writer Jeremy Gordon tweeted, prompting a flood of responses from others.
Being compared unfavorably to Holiday Inn, a chain known for affordability rather than luxury, is a big deal in the travel market. And it seems that many, myself among them, agree.
“Airbnb used to be cheaper than your average hotel stay and was a weird and cool way to vacation. Somewhere in the last five years, everyone has overpriced their rental and added crazy fees. I would choose a hotel over an Airbnb now, but that wasn’t always the case,” tweeted one of Gordon’s commenters.
“You know how many rule books you have to read when you check into an average hotel? Zero.” tweeted another.
“The fees! And the cancellation conditions! GAH!”
When Airbnb, the online home-sharing marketplace, was created in 2008 by a San Francisco tech company, it won a lot of accolades. It offered travelers a greater choice of places to stay – houses, apartments, houseboats, villas, caravans, even castles suddenly became available. The owners were able to earn some extra money. Travelers were freed from hotel prices and corporate culture. It sounded like such a good idea.
But now place on Airbnb cost as much, sometimes more, than hotels. There are high cleaning fees, although you are expected to clean yourself and many places insist on so many rules that Arwa Magdawi in The Guardian wrote this week: “Airbnb gives the feels like staying with a cheap uptight friend – and paying for it.”
The concept of quality is also subject to very different interpretations, as are reviews. The advantage of hotels is that they have stricter regulations and staff to clean and maintain the rooms. If there is a problem, they also have managers to help them.
That night in London, it took over an hour to call a phone and upload photos before Airbnb agreed to refund me. By then it was late, taxis were nowhere to be found, and all nearby hotels were fully booked.
When I finally found one, nothing particularly special, just clean and safe, it was like luxury, just like Jeremy Gordon.
Meanwhile, that London apartment, the one with the stained mattress and the disgusting toilet, was available less than 24 hours after my refund. Beware of suction cups!