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Why Airbnb is dead to me (drupalgardens.com)
358 points by longwave on Sept 28, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 230 comments



I continue to use AirBnb but have been pretty disappointed in their customer service. I rent out a family cabin occasionally and someone who stayed there scratched the floor accidentally wearing winter boots with spikes on them. They admitted this, apologized and were generally totally awesome about it.

It took me months to get Airbnb to figure out how to deduct money from their damage deposit. They first said I had to call the police and get a police report, which I refused to do -- call the police on these nice tenants who already explained it was their mistake and were 100% willing to pay! Ridiculous.

Every few times we'd exchange support emails it seemed like some new person would take over and never read the past emails so I had to repeat the same stuff multiple time. Ultimately I ended up emailing the CEO after I found some blog post where he said he wanted to personally hear from everyone and anyone. He never replied but the problem magically got fixed soon thereafter.

I fear the day I end up with really terrible hosts like you did because I have no faith AirBnb will actually be there for me.

Looking forward to trying housetrip, there really need to be a solid alternative to AirBnb.


This seems like a theme with pretty much all internet companies, big and small - undercut the competition by cutting corners on things that "don't matter", until they matter.

Google for example has almost no way to reach customer service, even for their paid products. When it works it works great, when it doesn't God Help You.

Ditto Uber/Lyft/other cab companies, where there seems to be no end of people who were put in seriously unsafe situations and were unable to get any attention to their issues until they blogged about it. Who knows how many cases we haven't heard of because they weren't able to get their concerns to the top of Reddit/HN/wherever.

This sort of thing happens in any low-margin business. Not only is there not enough money to hire good customer service, but what little customer service exists is not empowered to make things right for the customer, because thin margins and $$$.

It turns out that keeping spare rooms on standby, generous rescheduling/rebooking policies, and all the niceties we associate with hotels are powered by the fatter margins they enjoy. The big innovation we've made in the last few years is making low-margin low-rent business models seem boutique and high-end.


The older I get the more cynical I get, and the further I drift leftward politically in favor of more government regulation, the underlying reason I think being that generally speaking, most cultures (and especially "high achievers" within) are fundamentally dishonest - like teenagers, they often cannot be trusted with serious responsibility. They have highly potent skills, but they don't have the corresponding maturity or morality to safely wield those skills.

And this goes not only for small startups, it is applicable across huge blue chip companies as well, the latest being VW (and now it appears other auto manufacturers).


A guy from post communist country here: how is more government regulation going to solve anything?


By restricting what companies can and cannot do and forcing them to prove certain risks are genuinely covered before coming in and "disrupting" (aka destroying) industries that have generally done a somewhat decent job of things for decades.

I'm just getting tired of people advocating free market principles and proclaiming that industries will police themselves, and then turning around and lying and cheating, with next to no consequences. I'm saying this as a pretty extreme economic right wing person - today's conservatives bear little resemblance to traditional ones.


> to prove certain risks are genuinely covered

Why? I'm well aware of the risks of using AirBnB (or being a contractor instead of an employee or whatever) and choose to take them on because I believe I come out ahead overall. Not everyone wants the nanny state watching out for them at every opportunity.


Not even reads Hacker News - feel free to link the location on AirBNB's website that informs regular people about the nature of things that can go wrong, and details on how they will handle that (or not, as the case may be).


*Typo: Not everyone reads Hacker News...


And not everyone wants neighbors who destroy their quality of life because of their perceptions of a "nanny state."


You can hit a sweet spot between 2015 USA and Cold-War China and USSR.

ps. Upholding claims of private property with a state-monopoly on violent means of coercion is "government regulation". So you just build upwards from there.


Well, unlike teenagers, the government is known for its honesty


Sarcasm, right?


A guy from a never communist country: privatization is not all that it seems to be when you've had to live under a "really existing socialism". Neither capitalism, for that matter.


Barcelona's hospitality industry is heavily regulated. Renting away private rooms via Airbnb is actually illegal there. Clearly, there needs to be a debate about the right kind of regulation, not just about more or less regulation.


>but they don't have the corresponding maturity or morality to safely wield those skills.

Or their morals differ from your own. They may lack your morality, but that does not mean they lack morals.


If actual outcome is different than that which is implied, it isn't a difference of morals, it is misrepresentation or fraud, or at least dishonesty, lack of full disclosure.


(Disclaimer: I'm in no way affiliated with Uber or Lyft)

It's nice to say that for me and my family, Uber and Lyft has been so professional. We moved from Latin America to Miami a year and 2 months ago and the whole time we've been using Uber / Lyft for our needs. We faced about 4 or 5 crazy moment where Uber / Lyft has solve our problems putting themselves in our side rather than in the driver's side. One instance a driver accepted our ride, reached our apartment and then start driving away. We did not understood at first until he called us and say "I'm going to be delayed to get you guys, so please hang tight". I told him it could be fine if he didn't started the ride already like we were already with him on his car. He said "it is the standard procedure". Bullshit. We cancelled the ride and contacted Uber support. They removed the driver from the service (allegedly, it has happened before) and they refunded us close to 12 USD. Similar situation happened with Lyft.


I've had GREAT responses from Uber customer support when I rate a driver lower than 3 stars and add a comment. I usually get a follow-up within an hour or so.


Weird, in my experience Uber customer service is very responsive. Never used Lyft CS but friends report the same for them.

Can you share some examples of the "no end of people" you refer to?


> Google for example has almost no way to reach customer service, even for their paid products. When it works it works great, when it doesn't God Help You.

That's not entirely true, I think it depends on the product.

I've had to contact them about two different Nexus devices and got someone on the phone in minutes. The support was unbelievable and the matters resolved in record time.

Google Apps also has 24/7 phone support for paying customers.


IME non-internet, big corporations, are no better than google. Try reaching someone at your health insurance provider, or almost any other 'customer support" / complaint line.


In my experience this isn't so. While most companies are reliably bad, I have never had a customer service experience as cartoonishly awful as the one I got from Google. And that was for a paid service.


"Ultimately I ended up emailing the CEO after I found some blog post where he said he wanted to personally hear from everyone and anyone. He never replied but the problem magically got fixed soon thereafter."

This is more damning than the parent article.


That's the problem with the on-demand companies' business model, you often have to put complete trust in complete strangers. This is generally dangerously. But this won't get the coverage it deserves until an "important" host is seriously injured or even killed by a guest.


I think this is more the eBay/PayPal problem: if you are soliciting both sellers and buyers on your service, you are going to have various moments of ethical crisis when it makes absolute business sense to screw over one or the other (the two not always being in balance or not providing you the same amount of revenue).

So what do you do?

AirBnB without listings is like eBay without listings. (Though I've generally heard that eBay tends to come down on the pro-buyer side)


Even without the ethical crisis, there are simply going to be situations where the true facts are simply unknowable to a customer service rep. So, do you screw over the person providing the property (who may in fact be a lying scumbag)? Or do you screw over the other person renting the property (who may be the lying scumbag)? (Or may simply have utterly unreasonable expectations.)

And, yes, my understanding is that eBay evolved to simply default to the buyer being right.


Generally dangerous seems disingenuous. I think it's generally practical to assume most people are decent human beings. It's worked very well for me over time (and clearly has worked for services like uber, lyft, ebay, craigslist, airbnb, etc), but it when bad actors appear (as they always do once you hit a certain number of persons involved), it's what happens then that counts the most.

I think E-bay has tended to handle things very well, I haven't heard many horror stories about them (if ever), and they've been around for quite some time (as software companies go) and quite successful. Uber and AirBnB on the other hand I've heard plenty of horror stories from. It may (or may not be) the reason I've not used Uber in months and months and have only ever booked a room once on AirBnB (which I cancelled last minute and still paid for).


That's true under so many circumstances. If you book a chain hotel, you are really just trusting that the chain has reasonably tight control over the quality of the branch. There are plenty of 'nightmare' hotels out there, and the main guard are reviews, which isn't too far off from airbnb (a hotel will have a higher volume of guests to leave reviews, and the social incentives are different, which is why I didn't call them the same).


"Looking forward to trying housetrip, there really need to be a solid alternative to AirBnb."

I'm just passing though this thread and have almost zero experience with airbnb, but I have used VRBO several times per year since 2005 and it's been wonderful.

I've used it in several countries, in many states of the US, for studio apartments up to 5BR houses. It's great.

It's like the craigslist of this category - sort of ugly and old fashioned looking, but it works.


Never heard of housetrip. Just tried it now for a holiday I have coming up looks like it's got some serious issues - was finding me houses miles away from where I wanted to go and indicating that they were far closer.


A bit off-topic but curious if you usee AirBnB only or if you tried HomeAway/VRBO as well?


It's a fair point. I've tried them, but the AirBnb product is just so superior. Easier to use with better options. Also I hate that I have to pre-pay on VRBO


Airbnb is much better than homeaway.


Have you tried HomeAway?


I had a nightmare experience on vacation in Mexico that was word for word the same response from Airbnb. Because I took my wife and I out of the potentially dangerous rental, without first contacting Airbnb, they couldn't refund us anything. I followed up with evidence that the rental was unfit and unsafe with pictures, but nothing came of it. Needless to say, I'm never using Airbnb again. Worst customer experience I've ever had. Airbnb is essentially enabling any joe idiot to run a shit hotel anywhere in the world with zero accountability. Oh also, over the time you email their customer experience reps, they assign you a NEW customer rep each time so you have no relationship with whoever you talk to next during a conversation. Some people are understanding, others are aholes. Such a terrible experience, overall. It's a wonder they're as big as they are.


>Airbnb is essentially enabling any joe idiot to run a shit hotel anywhere in the world with zero accountability.

You did not leave a rating or review of your unfit rental on airbnb?


So that's great but then you are doing part of the work that airbnb should be doing.


>airbnb should be doing

According to you.

Paying in to something with zero or negative ratings on a reputation-based market always carries risk; it should be priced accordingly.


Your opinion on who should be vetting what aside, there is very clearly material accountability built into the core of their system.


File a chargeback with your credit card company. That will get their attention.


This works fine if you live in north america. If you have a card in other countries, you won't be refunded until your dispute is settled. I my country it can take 1-6months for a very opaque investigation about which you usually can't know much about. And this is from fairly decent bank - top 3.

So companies acting like this on global scale is not good. I would not book a place to stay for a large sum and bear a risk from possibly sketchy situation like this.


"It's a wonder they're as big as they are."

Not really. Part of getting big is not sweating small details like this when you have a constant stream of customers coming in the door and using you (to make up for the unhappy ones who never come back).


>Airbnb is essentially enabling any joe idiot to run a shit hotel anywhere in the world with zero accountability.

You don't say? I don't know what do airbnb users expect, honestly.


I imagine they expect Airbnb to know who their customer is and who their supplier is. Judging by the stories here, they don't.


I think his point was that you should expect less than stellar service from a less than stellar company. AirBnB isn't exactly known for their product. They're just really good at marketing.


I think this is a common expectation, but consider this: what did Airbnb get from you when you signed up to rent a room? Not much right? They only get very slightly more than that from the people renting the rooms.

Over time they can weed out bad actors, but there is very little chance that they are going to eliminate them upfront.


>Airbnb do not care about guests and their safety at all.

I don't know. It seems like it would be a nightmare to sort through a he-said she-said after the fact when the offended party didn't even book a stay (instead the room was booked by some other person that is insisting "no, it's cool, I know them"), and furthermore didn't even report the apartment not being available when the issue occurred.

It's nice that they were "all cool" with the host and decided to play musical buildings instead of contacting Airbnb right there, but when they did that, they went off the books and severely limited Airbnb's ability to quickly and effectively sort through the issue. A customer that didn't even book a room though the service had an issue and went with a "handshake" from the host to resolve it instead.

Let's walk through the alternate scenario.

Customer desiring a room actually books a room through AirBnB.

Customer arrives and hosts tells them the apartment is no longer available. Customer contacts AirBnB and the issue is dealt with right then and there, and the host is sanctioned properly.

No driving around in a strange city to a place you've never set eyes on, and if you want to book another apartment with the host, you do it on the books.


Have you ever travelled to a foreign country where you don't speak the language?

You really need to put yourself in the tourist's shoes. If I booked a tour and the host drove me to a different place to stay, that's all I can do. You rely on their ability to communicate, and if they're being kind and doing their best to make your stay comfortable, then that's fantastic.

What you're suggesting is that you're going to start making international calls with some website's support staff while you have luggage on the street, no place to stay, in a foreign city and completely on your own. You're also going to blow off the only person (the host) who cares at all about your situation. Are you kidding me?


I've traveled quite a bit, including to Barcelona. If you speak English (and this person clearly does) then "don't speak the language" is not an issue there, or indeed almost anywhere.

If I book a place for a certain period, then I'm staying for that whole period. If the host suddenly changes their mind and tells me I have to move, no way. I'm contacting the booking agency and having them tell the host to get lost. If the booking agency doesn't help then I'm initiating a chargeback and finding a hotel. At no point is it reasonable to just pack up, hop into a complete stranger's car at their insistence, and be driven off to some place where they won't even tell you where you're going.

Traveling used to be pretty interesting when things went wrong. I got stranded in the Beijing airport once with only a rudimentary command of Mandarin because the airline canceled my flight and never told me, and I had to hunt down an airline employee, borrow a phone so I could contact people, etc. But now? Bring a smartphone and you're a few taps away from communicating with anybody you need. Host is being obstinate? Call AirBnB. Still doesn't work? Book a new place. You make a mistake taking a car with a stranger and he takes you to a place where you don't even know where it is? Open up a maps app and find out where you are. Can't talk to people? Google Translate to the rescue.

You better believe that if the host refuses to honor our agreement and starts trying to jerk me around, I'm going to blow them off and sit with my luggage in the street while I resolve the problem myself. Relying on strangers to fix your problems, when said strangers have already demonstrated that they don't really care about you, is setting yourself up to be a victim.


You place far too much faith in AirBnB's customer service line. I've called it before. I've sat outside the apartment I rented waiting on hold listening to the same 3 damn songs forever (hey did you know the music they've selected is produced by their employees?).

AirBnB wasn't reachable when I needed them the most. Sitting on the curb with my wife and 4yo at 10PM without a place to go. Trying desperately to find any hotel with a vacancy at the height of tourist season in a small tourist town.

That incident has soured my wife on me ever booking a sharing economy rental again.


> AirBnB wasn't reachable when I needed them the most. Sitting on the curb with my wife and 4yo at 10PM without a place to go.

There is literally no way I would trust some random schmo on a site that enables idiots to try to run hotels with the wellbeing of a child, much less a 4 year old. Book a real hotel, honestly. Even if it went well, the bad judgment on display here is slightly disturbing.


I'm not placing any faith in AirBnB. I laid out a chain of actions, one of which is contacting AirBnB, and the next link in the chain is what to do if that doesn't work.

No doubt you can get stuck in a crappy situation here. But you certainly have choices that don't involve doing nothing while your host carts you off to some undisclosed location.


I apologise. When I've retold the story other peoples' responses are simply "contact AirBnB" as if that wasn't the first thing we did. We eventually found a place for the night, resolved the issue with AirBnB (though weeks later), and promised to do a little more forethought into our next rental.


That's OK, and I'm glad you got your housing trouble figured out. AirBnB definitely should be prepared to handle problems like this right away, but I can't say I'm too surprised that they don't.


> "I've traveled quite a bit, including to Barcelona. If you speak English (and this person clearly does) then "don't speak the language" is not an issue there."

I don't know which part of Barcelona have you been but that's just limited (just to do not say untrue). My brother-in-law lives there, and even he (who is native spanish speaker and also speaks English and Catalan) recognize that most locals don't speak English.

> "or indeed almost anywhere"

I know so many places where that is untrue, I would be more cautious if I were you.

> "Open up a maps app and find out where you are. Can't talk to people? Google Translate to the rescue."

You are assuming too many things. Like you have a roaming data plan or even that your carrier have a way to provide you roaming in the place.

> Can't talk to people? Google Translate to the rescue.

Then you are trusting in the interlocutor. You won't be able to tell if they are lying or not.


You don't need most locals to speak English, just a few will do. For tourism-oriented sectors like hotels, English proficiency is not typically hard to find.

I'm not assuming you have a data plan so much as I am saying that you should have one, so that you can handle eventualities such as this. Failing to plan is planning to fail, as they say. Never assume all of your arrangements will work out exactly as they're supposed to. Always have a backup plan, even if it's nothing more specific than "use my smartphone to figure it out."

If you show up in a foreign country with no way to communicate with anybody and no way to make contingency plans then you're making it likely you'll have a bad experience. Don't do that.


If I'm staying in a stranger's house and they tell me to clear out, I would leave immediately. No way I would stay and hope Airbnb tells the host to get it straight. The host can make your life miserable, take your stuff, or worse.


This isn't so much of a "customer desiring a room" as it is a "company desiring a room for its employees."


> Have you ever travelled to a foreign country where you don't speak the language?

Yep. I've dealt with all sorts in random countries where I didn't speak the language. A common tactic of someone trying to rip you off is to say they don't know English and then try to scam more money in the confusion.

> What you're suggesting is that you're going to start making international calls with some website's support staff while you have luggage on the street, no place to stay, in a foreign city and completely on your own.

Um, yeah. Either get a WIFI signal and email AirBnB or call them. At this point I would assume the host is shit and move on letting them know a horrible review is incoming and I will ask for my money back from AirBnB.

Does the situation suck? Absolutely, but don't let it completely derail you. Plans break down all the time, deal with it and move on.

For the record, I have used AirBnb/VRBOs throughout much of Europe without any issue. In places like Hungary and Croatia my trip was enhanced because the hosts were so awesome.


If I booked a tour and the host drove me to a different place to stay, that's all I can do.

Unless you're staying in some remote place, absolutely not! You can and should find some other place to stay unless the whole situation is very well explained. In any major city in the world, there are hotels and motels which speak English and other languages. There are also local guides if you need help making yourself understood.

Just being helpless and allowing the host to take you wherever they want is not safe!


Well, using AirBnb instead of a hotel or similar has this inherent risks... Now, these are the kind of problems those companies have already sorted out.


>You're also going to blow off the only person (the host) who cares at all about your situation.

Are we reading the same article? The host in this situation advertised a room for let, waited until his guests were on site in the city and contacting him to get the key, then yanked the listing. You're accusing the customer of blowing off the host in this hypothetical?

Any given hotel on any given street cares more than that host.

>What you're suggesting is that you're going to start making international calls with some website's support staff while you have luggage on the street, no place to stay, in a foreign city and completely on your own.

Sorry. Imo you're completely dramatizing how hard it is to inform Airbnb of an issue. If you've got either a cell signal or a data connection, the computer in your pocket can take care of this in the time it takes for the host to get to you. You can actually do this with your luggage beside you, and I'd argue that it's a better use of time than driving to an off-the-books apartment that you've never laid eyes on in a completely foreign city. Also, Aribnb provides a local 24/7 phone number in the original confirmation email so you don't have to just rely on the web form.

>Have you ever travelled to a foreign country where you don't speak the language?

Yes I have.


> It seems like it would be a nightmare to sort through a he-said she-said after the fact when the offended party didn't even book a stay (instead the room was booked by some other person that is insisting "no, it's cool, I know them"), and furthermore didn't even report the apartment not being available when the issue occurred.

It's AirBnB's job to do this, sort out these kinds of situations. It's not that hard to come up with a 'nuclear option' to exercise in these situations, where the customer can get a resolution and the host gets a sharp enough slap on the wrist to where it's unprofitable to build a business out of bilking people on AirBnB's platform.

Seems to me that there might be a bit of a leadership vacuum at the company, running AirBnB in as many countries as they're running it in, I imagine not all of the outfits are going to be fully competent. If not even Twitter escalation is solving the problem though, maybe its the executives sleeping at the wheel.


AirBnB can't slap wrists of hosts without very clear proof of their wrongdoing - which wasn't the case here.

In a p2p system like this, it's the bad ratings that need to make this kind of dealings unprofitable.


Oh, that's not true at all. Ebay showed - and the writer of this article realizes - that you can fuck sellers around all day long. AirBNB could implement a "if any customer complains, for any reason, the landlord doesn't get paid" 100% guarantee policy, and the landlords would have to take it.

They not only don't need "very clear proof", they don't need any proof at all.


That does require however, for better or worse, a deliberate decision to operate in that manner. Certainly many eBay sellers, many of whom were doubtless perfectly respectable, became very disillusioned with eBay once they tilted in that direction.


Being that AirBnB is in the customer service field, not really a true marketplace, a customer-centric dispute policy makes total sense. Hosts that can't grasp the concept of "make your customers happy" are only going to hurt the overall AirBnB brand and should be sussed out and expelled quickly.


Oh, I have no disagreement that the default should be to err on the side of keeping customers (renters) happy or at least mitigating unhappiness. At the same time, that doesn't mean that the customer, however unreasonable, is always right. Even hotel chains with great reputations for customer service aren't going to give out refunds like popcorn to every guest who asks for their money back for random trivial reasons. So there's always going to be some judgment involved at the margins especially when the facts are unclear.


The main difference between being in the customer service field rather than a true marketplace is that people are far more likely to complain - reasonably or otherwise - about service than goods they've received. Especially when the customer is used to experiencing (and paying more for) a much higher level of service.

Having very limited accommodation is also damaging to AirBNB's brand.


Well, a really good question is whether or not ABnB is recording all of these claims. If several people file similar complaints even without "proof" a pattern starts to emerge. If they are not recording these complaints, but ignoring them because they can't "prove" anything, then they are being reckless.


I don't really blame the renters here although, in retrospect, they'd obviously have been better doing things differently.

At the same time, in the grand scheme of bad customer service from big Internet companies, Airbnb doesn't look like a huge offender here. Photos from balconies notwithstanding, there is apparently a lot of he-said, she-said to sort through here and it's really hard for an Airbnb (or an eBay etc.) to sort through that. What usually evolves over time (to the dissatisfaction of one side of transactions or another) is policies that strongly default to favor the buyer or the seller.


> Customer contacts AirBnB and the issue is dealt with right then and there, and the host is sanctioned properly.

And customer has nowhere to sleep. During a big conference. In a foreign country.


> Customer contacts AirBnB

According to the article this didn't work. They had to resort to Twitter. Frankly, if their resolution center doesn't provide a phone number that can be used 24/7, than any demand to contact AirBnB with issues is bullshit.

I had similar issues with Uber and their inadequate customer service. If I can't reach someone directly for services like this, they clearly have issues with pleasing their customers.


It does, I spent almost three hours listening to their waiting tunes this summer. Average time in line was about an hour, and if they ask you to call back, you need to wait in queue again.


They already had their money back. At this point, give a bad review and move on with your life. If this is standard operating procedure for this host, he won't last on Airbnb.


> Frankly, if their resolution center doesn't provide a phone number that can be used 24/7, than any demand to contact AirBnB with issues is bullshit.

They're available by phone 24/7, and they provide a local contact number for you in your reservation confirmation email.


Providing a phone number is the easy part. Providing effective service through that number is the expensive part.


Yeah, it's a difficult problem. It's also part of _their core business model_. Like it or not, this post is saying they're incompetent.


This is why hotel regulations popped up in the first place. If you don't want the government to crack down, you really need to protect your customers. If this happened to the son or daughter of a US Senator (I know it happened in Spain, but kids do take trips) then I would expect a whole world of problems.


Welcome to the lemons problem. Information problems are very real in the hotel industry. Most of the customers have limited information. Akerlof (husband of Fed chair Janet Yellen) got the Nobel Prize for starting the literature.

No, I do not have plans to use Airbnb. It sounded like a really bad idea from the start.


You're well-compensated for the risk you take on Airbnb, it's not like it costs the same as the Four Seasons.


And the risk is overrated - if the host seems dishonest or the place isn't as described/shown, you can still check-in to an hotel.

I find it depressing how this will probably go away, and people like me who can't afford to pay for a stay at an hotel will just lose the option of taking the risk. Hurray for the infantilization of society! /s


> if the host seems dishonest or the place isn't as described/shown, you can still check-in to an hotel.

When I am traveling - for business or pleasure - the last thing I want to do is scramble to figure out where I will sleep that night. I value my time too much, especially for a pleasure trip, to go through that kind of ordeal.

Also, you can save money if you pay in advance for your hotel. You won't have time to even comparison shop if you're rushing at the very very last minute.

So, I wouldn't say the risk is overrated, but instead that people can stomach different amount of risk.

I like to be well prepared and have firm plans on my trips, but I know other friends will just book the first things they find and figure out what they're doing when they get there.


So, I wouldn't say the risk is overrated, but instead that people can stomach different amount of risk.

I'd say both are true. In this very thread, a user was saying that one is essentially at the mercy of the host, when that's not true, or at least not usually. Sure, it's still more risky than an hotel reservation, but I'd still say the risk is overrated - it's not that riskier.


Prices for last minute bookings can also be discounted. Check out the mobile app Hotel Tonight.


Aside from using HT when they gave out free credits, their rates have been consistently more expensive than a comparable hotel on Priceline Express and Hotwire.


This isn't always the case. I was heading to Milwaukee for a wedding a few months back and booked an AirBnB a while in advance. My host bailed three days before we arrived and the PGA Championships were in town. There wasn't a single vacancy and AirBnB customer services was completely unresponsive. I had to send multiple emails before they bothered to respond and then they offered a $40 credit toward another booking. That policy is probably fine in NY or another city with adequate inventory but Milwaukee had no downtown options left at any price. I can understand that AirBnB has no control of a host but their complete lack of customer service response was pathetic. I have no plans to ever use them again.


> you can still check-in to an hotel.

That's assuming that you can find a hotel with vacancy easily (not always the case, especially when special events are occurring), then find transportation to get there. That's not always going to be easy if you don't speak the language, arrived to the location late at night, are traveling with kids, etc.


Fine - you can usually just check in to an hotel. And you can usually tell beforehand if that option is valid.


Except prices gradually moved up from "hey look at this bargain" to being at hotel parity. I live in a trendy Chicago neighborhood and have people visit now and again. My spare room is in the basement, which is fairly unappealing, so people try airbnb. The rates they get are comparable to some hotels downtown if you do a little legwork on Expedia.

In places that aren't the middle of nowhere, there aren't a lot of savings, if any. Its a lot of people hoping the hotels get booked for some meeting or trade event and now tourists get fucked and have to use their shitty service, at the same price but no housekeeping, security, etc. In Chicago this happens every so often due to all the events we host here.


I can confirm.

Granted, Manhattan, where I tried to book an apartment, is a bit of a special location, but the pricing was not that much lower from the hotels.


You can get a shoe closet with a mattress on the floor for $18/night in the middle of Tokyo on AirBnB [1]. For comparison, the capsule hotels are $35 a night. Even a bunk(!) in a hostel is more than $18 a night.

[1] https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/6843251

There are definitely still bargains to be found.


Actually, a lot of airbnbs are even more expensive than good hotels


Just tonight, my mother checked into an Airbnb in Vienna, Austria. She sent me photos of the bed which did not have new sheets, the towels which were not fresh, a band aid on the floor and some rubbish bins full of cigarettes and ash. The apartment was overall pretty dirty. The host's contact phone number goes straight to message bank (I also tried many times) and the host is not answering emails.

In this situation, what do you do?

She's travelling alone and in her 50s and as you can imagine, she's pretty upset. I decided to get her a hotel and called her an Uber. I then called Airbnb and they said they will attempt to contact the host and they will get back to us.

She wouldn't know what to do without me and if I weren't available, she'd probably end up wandering the streets at night looking for a hotel because she'd be too upset to return to the Airbnb place.

I think for now, I will stop recommending Airbnb.


> Just tonight, my mother checked into an Airbnb in Vienna, Austria. She sent me photos of the bed which did not have new sheets, the towels which were not fresh, a band aid on the floor and some rubbish bins full of cigarettes and ash. The apartment was overall pretty dirty. The host's contact phone number goes straight to message bank (I also tried many times) and the host is not answering emails.

AirBnB is getting an abysmal reputation in Vienna because what seems to be happening is that lots of people who are not even from Vienna put their rentals on AirBnB. We had someone in our house who did exactly that with all the nice side effects you get from that (strangers in your corridors etc.).

I'm pretty sure AirBnB will have to do something actively there because regulation of that space could instantly kill AirBnB in Austria.


Back in May I went to Barcelona with a friend. We booked the apartment with Airbnb. Among other issues (the address Airbnb gave us was wrong, and had to wonder the streets for a couple of hours with no response from the host, then the host turns out to be a real estate broker of some sort)... once we found the place at 10pm, it turns out that the beds had no sheets, and the broker asked us for €15 for "fresh" sheets. I found this to be a real abuse... and the real problem with Airbnb: lack of quality control of product and service.


The reviews were all very positive, so I think this may have been because the host has been caught up somewhere or has been busy with something. But it's still very irresponsible.

I managed to find the host's Facebook and I would say he is around 24 years' old and studying at a university in Vienna. Had I known this, I probably would have told my mother to look elsewhere.


Yeah, the problem is that people review based on their expectations. A beautiful vacation home and a ratty student flat can both get 5 stars, depending on who's visiting.


Many of the reviews were from middle-aged people so I thought this was a good sign.


You don't think the price would make a difference between the two places?

I recently used airbnb for the first time and I specifically looked for reviews that said the place matched the pictures, google street view, did a google search on the condo name, vrbo, emailed the host and even got direct phone numbers in return


So none of the reviews mentioned the 15 euro sheets charge? Did you leave a review stating that it was a dumb charge and rate accordingly?

After booking did you contact the host through AirBnB ahead of time and ask them to verify the address and give you the quickest directions to the apt?

It would be nice if all of this would be automatic, but you are dealing with individuals that may or may not understand how to be a host yet.


Here's a recipe for having AirBnB experiences that don't suck:

1. Don't make saving money a prerequisite.

Nobody is renting out their place in order to save you money. You get what you pay for.

2. Book early.

The good hosts in prime cities book up months out. You don't want to be in a situation where you have limited choices and have to lower your standards.

3. Only book with hosts who have many positive reviews.

See above, and never break this rule.

4. Try to stay at least a week.

It's business. When you represent a grand or more to your hosts, they treat you accordingly. But when the hassle inherent to renting to you is barely worth the $200 or so you're paying, service will suffer.

Any time I've broken any of these tenets I've wished I'd just booked a hotel.


> 1. Don't make saving money a prerequisite.

> 2. Book early.

> 3. Only book with hosts who have many positive reviews.

> 4. Try to stay at least a week.

I have had two separate hosts cancel > $2,000, month-long reservations. We booked months in advance and only with hosts that had several positive reviews. We were not choosing places primarily by price as we gave up our expensive SF apartment to live full-time on the road.

I agree that these suggestions are good guidelines, but even following them I have had a miserable experience with AirBnB. These days, I prefer to just stay in hotels - especially for work-related travel.


I'm doing the same thing, living out of AirBnB rentals. The best places are actual homes where the owner lives some part of the year. Bookshelves are filled with the books they love and art they appreciate hangs on the walls. Sitting on the couch is relaxing, working at the desk is productive and the kitchen is properly equipped. The owner has a regular housekeeper. Worry-free regular cleaning is easily arranged at a reasonable price.

The bad places are trying to compete with low end hotels. The owner - if they even actually own the place - has put the in bare minimum. Second hand furniture, none comfortable. Lightbulbs are out, wear and tear all over the place. There's hardly any plates, glasses, or cutlery. What is provided is mismatched and worn down.

It can be very difficult to tell the difference because of how places are staged for photos. Asking a lot of detailed questions before booking is very helpful, but even then it's impossible to win every time.


That's a good litmus test.

What has frustrated me most is the lack of repercussions to hosts who behave badly. For instance, as a guest, if I were to cancel my $2k trip 48 hours before arrival, I would still have to pay for it. I had a host do exactly that - cancel a $2k trip that had been booked for months, 48 hours before I got off the plane with a backpack and no place to go. The host saw minimal fallout - basically they were not allowed to rent those dates out to someone else.

We were literally unable to find another place in this small-ish town to stay so we had to change flights to a different city last minute. Not cheap. If hosts had similar financial commitments to guests, I suspect that would eliminate a whole swath of terrible hosts, mostly in your second (cheap hotel) category.


That sucks. I've been lucky not to have any last minute cancellations by host so far. A lot of hosts list on multiple sites, so in your case there might have simply taken a better offer via another site.


So, if you're not saving money, why would you go with AirBnB at all?


Better experience? I'm not saying that's actually something you get with AirBnB, but thinking something different than the typical hotel-style experience might be better is certainly one of the reasons that has driven users to alternative rental systems in roughly the same space, like VRBO.


Better experience than a hotel or serviced apartment? Good luck with that! Hotels and serviced apartments are literally designed from the ground up for a great customer experience. Some random person's house or apartment is just not going to be able to compete on customer experience.


Sometimes it is just a better experience staying a real apartment or home instead of a hotel. For example, you can pick up local ingredients and cook your own food. You can get a private space with multiple separate bedrooms.

You say "serviced apartment"--is that a European thing? I've never heard of it. If I was traveling I would look to AirBnB or VRBO to find places that are not hotels.


In Australia you get serviced apartments everywhere. They are basically apartments that get serviced (cleaned, new linen etc) regularly like hotel rooms. You get separate bedrooms, kitchen, etc. just like a normal residential apartment.

Example: http://www.questapartments.com.au/


For many of the same reasons you'd stay at a regular Bed & Breakfast: location, amenities, personal touches, etc.


UPDATE:

This is part of a response from Airbnb customer service, which has no apologies for the situation and sounds like they're leaning towards defending the host.

"We got the news from [host] that the place is clean and ready to welcome you.

In order to claim a refund we will need to receive documentation regarding the cleanliness issues. At this point there is no confirmed hosting standards violation therefore we will not be able to penalise our host and refund you."


Not defending the host's actions or AirBnB in any way here, but if you're not capable of getting a hotel on your own, then you probably shouldn't be traveling to foreign countries alone.

Edit: well, that was unpopular. Am I wrong, or just saying it inartfully?


I'm 34, capable as the next guy and would probably have difficulty re-booking a room, in a foreign country while also being "homeless". In fact, during summer months I'd have difficulty booking a room 5 min from my house last minute.


I agree. It was 5pm and I had my laptop in front of me so I could quickly call hotels in the area to see if they were available. By around the 8th ok-looking hotel, I had found one that had a room available. This would be very difficult for my mother on her slow iPhone 3GS.


Interesting point. I think I'll be sure to carry a paper travel guide (Lonely Planet, etc.) when travelling internationally just for the hotel reviews and phone numbers in case of problems.

10 years ago, when travelling internationally, my first step when arriving in a city was to park myself at a payphone in the train station and start calling places.


You're right, but it's still something they should account for. Some people just fall apart under stress and have no interest in resolving that before doing things they have no business doing. At the end of the day, right or wrong, those people are going to speak badly of your service.


Yes, totally agreed there. A service like AirBnB should be able to handle all sorts of people, even those who aren't prepared to seek new lodging at a moment's notice in a strange city.


You're right on the money. So are the other things you said elsewhere in this conversation. Picked up some downvotes, did you? Not surprising, the concept of personal responsibility is most definitely unpopular.

AirBnB is not a hotel, and anyone who treats it that way is going to have a bad time. A hotel is an institution with enough resources and redundancy that multiple members of it staff could literally die and customers wouldn't even notice.

AirBnB != the host AirBnB has introduced you to. The host is just some guy. AirBnB support is not in any way, shape, or form the same concept as taking up your problem with the manager at a hotel.

And yet, so many people expect AirBnB to resolve problems just like that.


You're being inartful :-) but, yes, when I read that comment my reaction was that, at the very least, a conventional business hotel would have been a far more sensible choice.


I tried to mitigate that with the leading phrase, but this would be far from the first time I was an insensitive jerk.


I've gone to foreign countries without any kind of booking at all. Just walked door to door until I found a suitable hostel. No big deal.

If you want a guaranteed excellent hassle-free experience, pay $300 a night to stay at a nice hotel. AirBnB is not for you.


This is hilarious! You were bitten by one unregulated system and then, to fix the issue, you called another unregulated system! Your poor mother.


Wait, you had a problem with AirBnB so you called Uber? Why not you know, an actual taxi to take her to an actual hotel??


Uber allows me to see where she's being taken and I've always had good Uber experiences in Vienna.


Uber has far more control and safety with their supply than Airbnb does, even more so compared to Taxis in foreign countries.


There are plenty of countries where taxis work well and are perfectly fine. Uber was specifically founded to adress a broken taxi market in certain US cities. It's almost completely useless in a lot of countries where the same problem with taxis simply didn't exist. In those countries, Uber is an unregulated, not cheaper alternative that isn't as tried and true.


Its equally bad as a host. I have a place that rents very well in the summer (its near the Ocean) and a group of people showed up, didn't like it for whatever reason, and AirBNB canceled the reservation with no penalty despite there being a super clear cancelation policy in place.

No recourse (customer service blew me off: "sorry, renter didn't like the bed."), no way to rent it for a week on that short of notice, I lose $1000. Really shitty experience - I prioritize Holiday Lettings now.


But what should Airbnb (or any company managing rentals) do under that circumstance? The renter is doing the equivalent of a return for "item not as described." I'm perfectly willing to believe that this renter had some expectation or requirement that to your mind or mine was totally unreasonable. Or maybe they found a better deal nearby at the last moment. But there's no real way an Airbnb can start investigating the firmness of beds or other property details. The only alternative is to tilt the other way and basically make it impossible for renters to get a refund barring all but the most obviously mis-advertised rentals.


Day of arrival refunds don't work for any industry that relies on reservations, appointments, or rigid scheduling. It doesn't need to be "impossible" to get a refund, but being able to show up and say "no thanks" (for seemingly any reason) when the result is the business losing substantial revenue - is a bad situation for all.


Well, it often does with hotels up to 6pm or so if guaranteed with a credit card.

My point is that there is a very wide variance in properties. While some walkaways will be for trivial or non-existent reasons in the minds of an average person, others will be for much more substantial reasons. Property ratings aside, it's really hard for the broker (Airbnb) to distinguish those except in the most extreme cases. As a result, you probably need a sensible default but that default is going to inherently favor either those renting or those renting out the property in the case of a dispute.


"hotels up to 6pm" maybe big city, high volume hotels which have no problem re-booking. For smaller accommodation businesses with a limited stock, 24-48 hours is standard.


They should stick to the contract first off.

Secondly, they should look at the microsite for the listing and see that there was an exact picture of the bed.


Caveat emptor.


This is a fundamental problem with online markets of any kind. There was a period in the early 2000's when "eBay SUCKS" type websites would surface regularly from angry users.

But then, as now, you see both kinds of story. Ones like this one, where the seller / renter was anywhere from an outright fraud to unscrupulous, but also the other way - stories of buyers who "returned" goods and got refunds, only for the returned item turning out to be fake / faulty / nonexistent. I'm sure AirBnB have equally large problems with people who have an uneventful stay, leave and immediately lodge a complaint against the host.

It sounds like AirBnB could probably be nicer about this, but equally the author of this post did violate their terms of service (which aren't unreasonable - letting people book for other people opens the door to agents and unscrupulous 3rd parties who charge a fee without adding value).

It would be interesting to see the perspective of AirBnB support. I wonder how many possibly fraudulent refund claims they deal with on a daily basis?


Wow, what a nightmare. I'd like to think that they'd have my back in this kind of situation, but I guess not.

Personally, though, I've stayed in almost 40 different European Airbnb rentals over the past year and didn't have any problems. It's not risk-free, but it's certainly better than trawling through the local equivalent of Craigslist. (Granted, I mostly stayed with people renting out a spare room, so there was probably less of a chance of them being terrible or crazy.)

As with all booking services, I always engaged my sketchiness radar before booking. Does the host sound conversational in their listing? Do the photos have the Airbnb official photographer seal? (Or do they have lots of grainy photos interspersed with unrelated photos of attractions in the city?) Do they have a fleshed out profile with photos? Reviews? References? What do they sound like when I message them? Even on a supposedly safe booking service like Airbnb, it's important to assume that each listing is sketchy until proven otherwise. You can usually tell if a host has good intentions by taking these things into consideration.


Renting a spare room is a key differentiator. All these bad experiences in the thread here have one thing in common: they're all for a whole suite. That's basically renting from all these real estate tycoon wannabes.


@Fandroid, I don't know about that analysis. My experiences have been good and bad. I rented a spare room and was kept up all night by the people in the next room if you know what I mean ..:)


Several months ago, members of my team at work booked various Airbnbs for a large conference in San Francisco.

We booked early to get a better deal, and I'm pretty sure a lot of Airbnb hosts didn't know the conference was coming up (or was that big).

As we got closer to the conference time, pretty much all of us had our stays canceled on us by the hosts. We were then forced to rebook at significantly higher rates. In some instances, even THESE got canceled by the hosts.

We're 99% sure that the hosts were given better offers and made the deals privately.

Having used Airbnb a few times now, I'm definitely seeing the benefits of hotels for peace of mind.


If you cancel on a guest as a host, Airbnb heavily penalizes your listings. They will be outranked by pretty much every other listing for at least a couple of months. (It happened to me and many other hosts I know.)


That really sucks...


Sounds like they may have gotten into the tough space where choices were few and you take a Hobson's choice and get burned.

I've learned with Airbnb to be disciplined about ignoring any unreviewed listings and really only looking at listings that have at least 15 reviews over at least a year. It is clear that there are outright scammers using the site, as well as perhaps the well meaning but incompetent or those who play a little fast and loose, to be generous.

I almost booked a place in London for a Christmas stay 4 months out before I discovered through my own sleuthing that 100% of the listing photos were from a real estate listing for the flat and it was for sale.


Regarding the comments below the blog post, what is the point of countering him with anecdotes of good Airbnb experiences? Good experiences don't reveal anything about Airbnb itself, because the dispute mechanism isn't invoked; they are simply the result of a good host transacting with good guests (incidentally, by way of Airbnb).

That's like saying, "I've had only good experiences with ABC Insurance; their premiums are low, the coverage is great and their friendly staff answered all my questions." (Wonderful; but did you ever try to collect on a claim?)

Only reports of experiences of invoking the critical use-case are meaningful and relevant. A black spot in that area obliterates a thousand glowing reports about anything else.


I will never use Airbnb again, either. Booked a flat in London that looked clean in the pictures, but was disgusting when we got there. Also wound up paying walk-in rates at a Holiday Inn (which were astronomical, but at least the room was immaculate and modern). Fortunately, I always book travel with my American Express card—and they sure know how to handle disputed charges.


You have completely the wrong expectation of how Airbnb works. The hosts are randoms and Airbnb has no way to deliver a consistent quality experience like a hotel. Airbnb is like eBay, not Amazon.

You need to realize that when you get the last apartment in a city at conference-time (almost certainly not a superhost with good reviews), you're obviously taking a big gamble that it doesn't work out in order to save a few bucks.

> so we had to shell out 9 nights of walk-in rate hotel fees

So in this worst-case scenario you wound up in the same place as you would have if Airbnb didn't exist? Cry me a river.


No, if AirBNB didn't exist, they would have booked at a hotel in advance and saved money and hassle.


Then why didn't they airbnb in advance?

I just did airbnb for the first time - it's been great so far, but hotels were always plan B. I just wanted something different.

I liked that I got to see reviews and logs of options for whole condos. Six people in a 3Bd/3ba condo in Cancun and I'm paying less than for a vanilla hilton hotel room with a queen bed.


> So in this worst-case scenario you wound up in the same place as you would have if Airbnb didn't exist? Cry me a river.

Worst case scenario for this story is that the driver takes them out of town, shoots them, and dumps their bodies into a river.


This is Spain we're talking about. It has a homicide rate about one sixth of the USA. It's a safe western European country.


Or they get abducted by aliens, if we're talking about things that didn't happen.


Grow up.


Seems like a common theme in "sharing economy" companies - start off with a great concept and great execution, but once they become popular, some part of them just falls apart.

For uber, it's the way they treat their drivers. The churn is incredible. But as long as they continue to offer cheap rides and can lure new drivers in with empty promises, they'll continue to exist.


A sharing economy works when you have a lot of like minded people in the same social circle. Once you invite the masses and investors, you lose what made it work...


How can a driver be in the same social circle as a well off professional? At the end of the day, very few industries are peers between worker and client.


Yah right... they can't.

Though the first drivers in Chicago were Hipster Musicans, which were fun.. similar culture to yuppie coders. But over time, it has moved to more and more recent immigrants who do not speak English as a first language.


Oddly enough, both Uber drivers I used last weekend raved about how awesome Uber was and how it let them make good side money every weekend.


What does Uber promise to drivers?


Taxi-level income without medallion costs (renting / buying)


My ongoing first time experience forced me to create this basic question set. The realization is airbnb is no different from craigslist. There are no minimum standards/rules. There are awesome deals out there. Only people with a good question set end up choosing a better deal and the rest get stuck with bad deals.

Room 1. Room size (width x length in ft) 2. What lighting do you have?. Or you have only one table lamp? 3. Is there a table? 4. Do you provide a towel? 5. Send me a picture of bed size and also the measurements. (width x length in ft) Please don't just say queen or king. I need the width and length. I have seen hosts mention the sizes incorrectly. 6. Do your personal belongins stay in the room?. Any don't touch belongings? 7. Does the room have a knob(inside) for privacy? 8. Is there a fan? 9. Total house built up area in square footage? (excluding garage)

Sharing 1. How many airbnb guests stay there? 2. How many guests I share the rest room with? 3. Is there space in the fridge for me?. How much (approx)? 4. What is the typical temperature maintained in the house?. Are there guests with a requirement to keep the room warm despite me sweating?

Cleaning 1. What is the cleaning schedule for house?. 1. What is the cleaning schedule for rest rooms?. 2. Who do we call if the shared rest room is soiled?.

Location 1. Are there any loud sounds/noises from surroundings/roads at night?


I quickly learned while traveling over the winter that my #1 question was: do you have heating?! Apparently some people get by in 0 degree weather without it somehow!


I'm not trying to blame the victim here, but rule of thumb...never use AirBnB outside your own country and that goes double for Spain[1].

1) - Go to google, type in "AirBnB Spain", then look at the auto complete.


I'm an American, and I used AirBNB a number of times in Italy this past spring. I only booked rooms with 4.5/5.0 ratings, and only from hosts who have hundreds -- or at least dozens -- of positive reviews. My experience could not have been better.


All my Italian hosts were lovely!


Customer service is a joke. I posted this on HN about a year ago.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9005200

They turned me from being an advocate for their service to never wanting to use their service again. I travel frequently with kids, we use alternatives now.


This July, I went on a weekend trip to Victoria with my parents who I see two or three times a year. About an hour before we should have arrived at the accommodation, our hosts calls me and tells us his son needs the place so he needs me to log on airbnb and cancel our reservation. He was _very_ persistent and kept calling me and leaving messages, despite me telling him he needs to tell airbnb himself. I guess he wanted us to take the heat for cancellation instead.

I ended up spending most of my day communicating with airbnb, hotels and motels. Around 8pm I managed to score the last two hotel rooms in the city, and could finally join the rest of the family.

Airbnb did pay the difference between the hotel and our original reservation, but I still lost an entire day with my family.

Nowadays I only make airbnb reservations in big cities where coming up with on-the-spot backup is easy.


When I travel I don't have time for dealing with this crap. Hence, I overpay for hotels. Not foolproof by any means, but the big chains will generally be pretty legit and have the room you ask when you get there.


I guess this is what I learned last week! :-(


I must say, anecdotally, I have friends who have had similar, very scary, air bnb experiences, even in California. I stayed in an Air BNB in Baltimore with a dog that genuinely tried to bite me. I'm great with dogs, this one was crazy. And my girlfriend and I had a similar very uncomfortable experience in Rome, being moved from place to place and having our rooms double-booked ... I can't remember whether that particular reservation was booked through Air BNB or not, but the feeling is very unsettling not to mention a time and money drain.

I think the blog post is spot on, in that the customer and most vulnerable person in many of these instances should be thought of as the renter. Of course property damage to the host is a concern, but it can be seriously scary to be stuck somewhere strange feeling unsafe and with nowhere to go.

Compare to Uber. With Uber, if a driver gets many negative ratings, they are booted. Yet there are still many many drivers available here in NYC. I've talked with drivers, and they expressed a lot of concern about their ratings and how they are perceived.

Air BNB is failing to create a culture of accountability, and failing to step in quickly to make things better for people who use their marketplace. If at all possible, I think they should at least do more to address the edge cases. Unhappy, scared, customers are not going to use the service.

I love Air BNB, they are not dead to me, but if they don't address this well I am afraid competition or regulation might.


in that the customer and most vulnerable person in many of these instances should be thought of as the renter.

I tend to think of the people that have to live next to this modern day flophouse. They didn't buy a space in a hotel, they didn't expect random people to come in at all times of the day.


I had a bad stay with airbnb. I can't be bothered to repost the whole situation but their customer service was fucking shit.


Same here. They still owe me $500 (which they claimed in emails) and have since completely stopped responding to any emails.


Shame there are no negative reviews on his apartment to cement this all together.

I think I'm right in thinking that both parties must review one another before it is published. Therefore why would he ever review your negative experience.


If you both review, then the reviews show up immediately. If only one of you reviews, then the review shows up after a waiting period (I think it's ~2 weeks). So presumably the negative review will show up soon.


No, the review gets published regardless after 14 days.


As a host themselves, they afforded the other host too much of a courtesy before reporting a bait and switch to AirBnB and letting them get involved. Getting the AirBnB team involved is more about leverage as the host doesn't want to get booted from the platform so they are more likely to not push you around taking you from apartment to apartment.

Also, what was the reputation and reviews on the host used?


Unless you are 21 and looking for an adventure use Hyatt, Hilton, ... when dealing with foreign countries especially if you don't speak the local language.


Eh. I'm no particular Airbnb enthusiast--indeed, I've never used it. However, I have stayed at any of a number of non-chain places around the world from the large to the tiny and I've rarely had a terrible experience. (And some of my worst hotel experience were at large chains.)

Especially for business travel, I do like a degree of predictability but that doesn't mean I feel a desire to restrict my travel to where I can stay in business hotels.


I think it's more about "governed by local hotel regulations."


That's not what the parent wrote though. He named a couple of large international chains. (Of course "local hotel regulations" may also not amount to much in some places I've stayed but that goes with traveling.)


I just booked at AirBnB for the third time for an upcoming conference. The two previous times were a very good experience for me. All three times I'm getting prices way below alternative lodgings. I do take care to research the places and make sure to only use well reviewed hosts. I think that rather than make a dodgy AirBnB booking I'd pay more. I've booked hotel rooms that turned out to be rather shitty. This is a horror story to be sure. I think AirBnB dropped the ball but I can see their options narrow since the customer didn't complain immediately. They should kick the host regardless.


The root of these bad host stories seem to be that the guests arrive and don't immediately contact Airbnb about issues with the rental. Because of this, Airbnb just denies any liability and puts the blame on the renters instead of the host.

This seems trivial to solve -- Airbnb should make check-ins a mandatory part of all stays, and any issues with the accommodations would obviously be included in this initial check-in. There would be no chance for a host to move you across Barcelona before realizing you've been totally screwed or before Airbnb starts denying any and all responsibility for the problem.


I've had an issue with Airbnb this summer. I contacted them within the first 24 hours (as it's the rule to get a refund) and contacted the host exclusively through Airbnb so there would be a trace.

They told me that I should have left more chance to the host to fix the issue (I left the place after 20 hours and tried to get ahold of the host multiple times). They never fully refunded me even after countless mails and calls where I quoted their own terms and conditions to prove that they needed to refund me. In the end, the customer service told me that "refund" does not mean "a total refund" but whatever they're willing to give.

The customer service lady was very nice but it seemed like her hands were tied and she was not allowed to just fully refund me. I'll never use them in the future.


Excellent idea (I would even add GPS confirmation), but no way Airbnb would do it.

From their perspective, you are creating a new channel to lodge a complaint for every single transaction. Often, those complaints would be resolved privately between the renter and owner (or wouldn't be raised at all).


Just because this thread is filled with negativity...

My wife and I have stayed in a bunch of airbnb's (Aptos CA, Oregon House CA, Portland OR, Palo Alto, CA, San Diego CA, Princeville & Kapa'a HI, Seville & Barcelona (Las Ramblas) Spain, Venice & Florence & Rome Italy, and maybe another one or two that I'm forgetting) and the experience has been well above average every single time and every one of them were cheaper than the hotel alternatives.

No idea what we're doing differently, but we meticulously look through reviews and make sure we exchange a few messages with each host before we book.


This happens with registered hotels and Expedia too. I had to be in Paris for a few days a couple of years ago so I chose a nice hotel on Expedia, and not very expensive as well. However, when I showed up, the hotel had no trace of the reservation. The manager didn't want to call Expedia because it would not change anything (no space left, he claimed). Instead, he very nicely called another hotel to find space for me. I even thanked him... However, the other hotel was the shittiest hotel I have ever stayed at and would probably not have survived a listing on the Internet. The manager there was crazy and the hotel was so bad they couldn't even manage to track which rooms were occupied by guests. And since it was a walk-in, I paid super high rates. While staying at that hotel, I heard multiple guests with the same story as me so it was not an isolated technical problem on the part of the local hotels (seems more than one hotel was in on it). When I complained to Expedia, it turned out the first hotel had cancelled the reservation right before I showed up so no foul for them (despite my never being told about it before showing up at the hotel). Expedia gave me a voucher in the end but the listing for that hotel stayed on the site.


Yup, Expedia are also terrible. I blacklisted them some years ago when they had a hotel listed as 100m from the centre of Santiago De Compostela (also in Spain) when it was actually 10km from the centre! Bit of a difference. I don't mind a mistake, but Expedia basically tried to deny all responsibility and blame the hotel. Had a real scrap to get a refund.


AirBnB's customer service is undergoing growing pains.

We rented a place via AirBnB that seemed to have good reviews. Upon checking in, as soon as the lights were turned off, cockroaches came out and were crawling over us! So at 3AM I called AirBnB and wanted to get out. They helped me find another place, but I could not leave a review of the previous place! No wonder they had such good reviews! It defeats the purpose of a review if you can't leave really bad ones.


It looks like Airbnb is focused on keeping their costs low instead of keeping their quality up. That's a good short-term strategy........


This is the Groupon/Kickstarter/Ebay problem. Everything is awesome until something goes wrong. Then the user leaves forever, and tells their friends. Trust is broken.

Eventually the loses mount and the company crumbles from bad press.

Amazon fixes this with 10/10 customer service. The only known solution.


I once had a terrible experience with their kindles. They shipped me one that was a dud, and when the screen went haywire in the first few days I called and they admitted that this batch had issues. Unfortunately, they told me, I would have to shell out 100$ for a new one, even though it was their fault.

Even Amazon screws up royally, too. I bought a Nook and never looked back, and haven't bought a book from Amazon since.


I've had some horrible experience with Airbnb in LA. One place has close to perfect reviews (the lowest scored category is 8/10 in cleanliness), but the place is dirtier than a gas station's bathroom (smelly sheets, moldy showers, dirty old floor and squeaky bed). I've never met the host in person and he ran this thing like a refugee camp; there are about 50 people living in that (fairly large) complex and no one seemed happy. I went back to hotels/hostels after that experience.


I think there are a handful of hosts that do not care about their guest' experience and instead are mostly focused on the financial gain of renting out their place. That being said, I'm an airbnb host who has rented out my 2nd bedroom in nyc to some of the most amazing individuals I've ever met, and many of them are some of my best friends now.

It really depends on the host. And I think that 90% are fantastic.


A sample size of n=1 is an anecdote not data. Totally horrible experience but seemed to hinge on a particularly bad actor with knowledge of how best to exploit customers and airbnb. It is pretty shitty, I hope they make it right because it sounds like you acted in good faith, but this seems like a really complicated edge case.

I had a similar experience this week with Dashlane (a password mgnt app) where i installed it and it corrupted >70 passwords locking me out of vital accounts. This is why my HN UN is green for instance. Customer support was totally shit for a while but I tweeted them and they responded and actually read my responses. I ended up losing all the data but they[0] eventually provided some time to look into the issue deeper as well as a free 12 month account. Should they have helped me better up front, when the data may still have been recoverable? I think NO, but want to say yes. I had a free account and didnt had non-traditional settings. So while i would gladly trade the free account for my credentials back I bear some responsibility. I AM NOT INDICATING YOU(or the writer) ARE RESPONSIBLE. My point is that some situations are really shitty and are not indicative of the experience/views of an organization. If this occurs only very rarely, conpanies can still have a great business and unfortunately some people will be casualties to circumstance

[0]xavier, if you are reading this. Thanks for the account credit and making things right, Cheers!


Right, but an organisation is only as good as its response when something goes wrong, no? And Airbnb's response was... well...


Serves you right for owning a Drupal IT Consultancy.


My opinion is that when you're using something like AirBnB, you can't expect hotel level service when things go wrong... instead of making last minute decisions, research the place a bit - look through the comments, start up a thread of conversation with the host to make sure they can communicate in your language...


First, sorry to hear about your experience.

I wonder if you would have any luck escalating this to Chesky, Gebbia, et al. The Airbnb founding team really seems to take pg's advice on start-ups seriously. I'm sure that they're huge proponents of delighting their users, which your experience obviously isn't an example of.


Doesn't sound like it, otherwise they'd prioritize customer service, and we wouldn't be heading as many of these stories.


Had a very bad experience with airbb support too.. Appartment was digusting and not as advertised. airbnb refused to help. 1500 euro gone, as we moved to something else.

I've had a bit too many bad experiences with the offerings of hosts and service of airbnb.

I hope this unicorn will die, and will be replaced by something proper


Sounds like a horrific experience but unfortunately, it's hard to assign much credibility to the OP. Sounds very difficult to deal with. Like, no, a random photo from a balcony in no way proves that you weren't staying somewhere else.


That fact that they were even asked to provide "proof" is insane on so many levels.


Yeah, it's comically insane that a company like that would not bend over backwards to appease its customers. First, make sure travelers have a place to stay. Second, treat all parties as innocent (unless it's chronic). Third, try to sort out what happened in an empathetic manner.


We had good luck with Airbnb in the past, but only because of good (great) hosts. I have a feeling therein lies the rub - Airbnb's business model assumes a good host and a good guest, and when that falls short everything falls apart.


One word: chargeback

Let AirBnB explain their idiotic policies to Amex/Visa/MC


Not sure a bad Yelp review is really HN worthy...


On a related note, Drupal is dead to me.


This, my friends, is why regulation does make sense. Unregulated markets end up fucking people over.


No too much! just enough.


Airbnb has the worst customer service, no one to respond emails etc.


What a story. A bit scary especially in a foreign country.


This is an attempt to get a refund from AirBnB, right?

Has HN become a back channel customer service platform for YC companies?

Unfortunately since it seems to work so well. I expect we will see more of this.


Nope, it isn't. I didn't post it on HN. I didn't even have a HN account until I decided to reply to a few comments (including this one). This is simply someone so annoyed and frustrated with Airbnb's apparent indifference to bad hosts they decided to blog it and tweet the blog post. Everything else was beyond my control. And actually, the money is a side point. It was company account, meh, who cares? The REAL point is there's someone gaming Airbnb, they know this, but they're not removing this person from their listings. That's what really pees me off.


He instant booked without reading the reviews? Reviews are so important on transactions like these. Basic interneting rules.


Nope. "He" (me) read the reviews. They were OK. I can only assume the user has only recently started using (gaming?) the Instant Book feature, because we're the apparently the first to report a "bait and switch", but I doubt we'll be the last.


Hotel regulations are awful!


Hmmm. I won't repeat my qualms with AirBnB. I'm afraid that this comment will get downvoted/banned in a bit, and like any negative post/discussion about AirBnB, the discussion will mysteriously disappear from the front page…


Do you have any links to those previous discussions?


I don't want to tick anyone off here, I enjoy HN, and have for a long time (over 6 years). Perhaps I don't understand the ranking, but more than once active discussions just went away, with low-vote/low-interaction topics replacing them.

I only see articles in my comment history from over a year ago. Search here isn't great, e.g. I can't find the article where PG himself commented on something I said.

Here's a few where I participated https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7923849 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7939414 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8222687

In this one I reacted to someone else with the same impression https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9332889 I asked for clarification on the policy, instead I got a downvote.

Since that time, I'm keeping quiet.


I assume you mean https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7437357?

I appreciate that you don't want to "tick anyone off here", and you haven't, but you have said some things that aren't true. I think I've answered most of them at [1], but there's at least one other. It isn't true that we single anti-Airbnb stories out. We don't treat them any other way than comparable stories about something else.

I think there's a general phenomenon affecting this. Once startups become hyper-successful, there's a noticeable HN backlash against them. Perhaps this is because they're no longer the underdog. Airbnb and Uber (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9933165) are clearly in this category, and we've noticed others.

The trouble with such backlashes is that the discussions they lead to are super repetitive. Even more than the indignation, it's the repetitiveness that makes them unsuitable for HN.

1. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10292239


I wasn't ticked off, just interested in searching for those threads on http://hnrankings.info/ . While you're right that the first thread had a fairly hard drop off from the front page, the other two just linearly dropped down.


I wondered why the story was dropping so fast.

Currently, the story above it has 57 points, 1 comment, and was posted 4 hours ago. This one has 125 points, 45 comments, and was posted 1 hour ago.


(Sorry to spring a wall of text on you, but this comes up rather often, so I assume people are interested to know this stuff.)

The way we treat threads like this has been consistent for years. Here's how it works.

We penalize indignation threads unless there is something unusually interesting about them. Indignation does not gratify intellectual curiosity, which is the mandate of this site. It does, though, attract large numbers of upvotes—strikingly consistently. That's a weakness of the voting system and a countervailing mechanism is needed. If we didn't have one, indignation would dominate HN, and that would be fatal.

Second, we don't censor posts for being anti-YC. That's literally the #1 rule of HN moderation—it's the first thing pg explained to me. We get accused of doing so anyway, of course, but it's important to be able to answer in good conscience. So when an indignation thread is YC-related, we may still penalize it, but always less than we otherwise would.

(Why do we penalize them less instead of just staying completely hands-off? Because that wouldn't be good for HN. There are a bunch of concerns we have to balance, and giving anti-YC threads carte blanche would neglect those other concerns, e.g. the quality of the front page. It would also be a truck-sized loophole that people would soon exploit.)

Third, there is software to detect flamewars and downweight such threads. Since indignation breeds indignation, that often kicks in on such posts.

Finally, anything beyond the above is the effect of user flags. This sort of thread always gets a lot of flags as well as upvotes. If you see a post whose score is growing and yet whose rank is falling, that's usually because it's attracting flags as well.


Thanks for the explanation.


For me it's the same as hotels, but with less service. I've relocated to SFBA a year ago, and it was cheaper to rent Extended Stay America rather than AirBnB with weird rules. We had a kid, and one guy was mentioning "no dogs or kids" in his AD. That's ridiculous! DOGS OR KIDS! O-k-a-y. Will never never never use AirBnB again.


"No dogs or kids" in the ad is going to sound pretty fair to a lot of people on HN.


Any number of bed & breakfasts and other small properties that aren't Airbnb are "no kids." And, of course, the majority of hotels are no dogs.


I think he's complaining about the manner of writing. It's very reminiscent of "No dogs, blacks or mexicans".


TL;DR: friends had a bad experience once with Airbnb, will not use again.

This is not about Airbnb as a business strategy or work place or UX etc.

Speaking of UX, I do find that Airbnb does a pretty good job at managing expectations and making sure people find their fit (I don't have any figure though).


It is entirely about AirBnB's UX. Going to the rental is the largest part of their UX. If that's a bad experience, why would anyone want to try it again.




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