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Ask HN: Airbnb algorithms change hurts hosts?
33 points by colletteRed on Feb 14, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 27 comments
After four years on Air bnb, though I am a super host, my home/room is now collapsed into the searches for Detroit.I am in Dearborn Mi, this would be like collapsing Brooklyn into Manhattan. My rentals, income are down 80%. In my many calls to Air BnB call center, the operators say there is a a change to the search algorithm. Does anyone have any idea what is going on? I got to say I am more than disenchanted with Air. We little rooms built them and now seem the victims of the gig economy. Any thoughts?Please help...this is really hurting the "little guy."

The funny part is that Detroit just passed a law that basically bans AirB&B which caused a purge of the AirBnBs entries there

I bet what OP is seeing is in response to that. Detroit is likely a much more common search, so to keep that populated, they just collapsed all of Dearborn into it.

This seems like the most reasonable answer. It otherwise doesn't make sense that AirBnB would want to lump these listings into a city nearby for searches specifically asking about a particular location.

But wouldn't you expect it to work the other way around? Say, if I search for "Detroit, MI" it would expand the search query to the surrounding area. But this takes "Dearborn, MI" expands the search query and gives preference to places that are outside of the city.

I'm not saying that's not the root cause, just that it seems like a backwards implementation if so.

Maybe that's a way to give Detroit hosts an incentive to stay on Airbnb. After all, the more money they make the more likely they are to still use Airbnb despite the new city rules. So pushing more demand towards Detroit will reduce the number of hosts who decide to leave the platform (and possibly attract new hosts).

I think it can make sense from a business standpoint. It is unfortunate it hurts other hosts who have nothing to do with it. But I would guess this is just temporary.

Maybe, but seems poorly done. You'd want to make it so it shows Dearborn when searching for Detroit. But you shouldn't make it show all of Detroit and surroundings when you search for Dearborn.

That was the way it was done previously.

New York City passed this law as well, and yet I've stayed in multiple AirBnBs in NYC.

All the law accomplished was sending the sellers underground. Now every time you get a place on AirBnB in NYC you need to interact with a brand new seller account with only a few reviews, and a vague description of where the place is located.

As an example, if you search for Dearborn, MI on AirBnB it takes you to Detroit instead https://www.airbnb.com/s/Dearborn--MI--United-States/homes?p...

That's an interesting choice. I wonder if this is even intentional or a bug?

I find that lodging searches by place name can sometimes be sort of tricky. For example, I probably don't want to search all of Manhattan and certainly not all of New York City. On the other hand, while I personally am pretty familiar with neighborhoods, to the uninitiated the long list of neighborhood filters offered up by Expedia is probably pretty intimidating and useless. At that point, you probably just do a map-based search but it's hard to say what the ideal approach that can be handled algorithmically is.

Map based searches are good, but one step further would be to allow the user to geofence the locations they are looking for. When I search for locations on Google, I get a map view that spans from Brooklyn across Manhattan and into New Jersey and the results tend to be scattered across those areas when all I want is Manhattan, including areas somewhat outside of the current view.

What you really want is to say/type "Hey Google. I have a conference at the Javits and I want to stay somewhere within a 20 minute walk near some good restaurants. And I don't want to pay more than $300 per night." You pull back to what you really want to do and you realize just how horrible and limited the current systems are.

Agreed. Is that a problem that can be solved and what keeps companies from doing this?

I assume the usual answer. $$. To do a really good job, you need to program in local knowledge that probably isn't easily encoded in algorithms.

Manhattan is actually pretty easy. In many parts of Manhattan it really is mostly about just drawing a reasonable bounding box.

But for a random location, getting to a result that you'd get conversing with an intelligent assistant familiar with the area is going to be tough. You have to apply a lot of your own judgement and, even then, I definitely mess up now and then with cities I'm unfamiliar with.

And most people pay for low prices. Not incrementally more sophisticated recommendation engines.

For sure!

Yeah I'd say that hurts the people who want to stay there too. If I search for a specific town I want places near the town not places near the biggest hub.

Dearborn appears(?) pretty close to Detroit, and probably has a much wider range of housing options.

monopolies are not good for the little guy. In Europe there's a sufficiently good market for listing on other websites, booking.com, holidayvillas and own websites, so you'd see a drop but not as significant. Is there a way to reach out to all your past tenants and advertise that you're renting out on offer (say -30%), not via Airbnb?

I so appreciate everyones thoughts and comments. What has been most infuriating about the change to how Air B%B search engine works is that I cannot get a response from higher level (decision makers) Air B&B as to the why or what of this change. My emails to the Help line have been ignored. They just seem impenetrable. What they don't seem to understand is that an unhappy host makes for an unhappy guest, meaning I will be making alternate plans for my travels.

I hate the stupid maxim but you’ve just learned that you’re not AirBnB’s customer. You’re an annoyance they have to put up with and the best way to do that is just to ignore you.

The higher ups at AirBnB are giving you an answer loud and clear. You’re just not listening: Deal with it or go somewhere else.

well said, and spot on.

First, don't ever rely completely upon one website or service to generate income. I can't tell you how dangerous this is.

Second, don't ever assume that the decision makers in a website care about you. They don't. Instead, they care about profit and will do what data says will likely lead to more profit.

Third, AirBNB does not (and never will) owe you a thing. The way you say this is infuriating honestly stinks of entitlement. Just remember my first point. Don't rely upon one service to generate your income. Gig economy services do not owe their workers a thing.

my home/room is now collapsed into the searches for Detroit. I am in Dearborn Mi, this would be like collapsing Brooklyn into Manhattan.

I have no idea whether or not this is true in a sociological sense. In terms of geography, going from Park Slope in Brooklyn to the World Trade Center in Manhattan crosses a body of water and involves a tunnel. It only takes 16 minutes, however. The Google Maps trip from Dearborn to Detroit shows a time of about 20 minutes, and doesn't cross any geographical boundary.

I have no idea if people who are going to an event in Detroit might decide to stay in Dearborn.

> I have no idea if people who are going to an event in Detroit might decide to stay in Dearborn.

They would if they've never been to Detroit and when searching for listings, AirBnB has lumped all nearby listings into the Detroit category. It makes sense as mentioned elsewhere when combined with the information that Detroit recently (effectively?) banned AirBnB.

This suggest to me that Air Bnb has not done it's due diligence. They seem not to have a sense of what would attract one to one destination over another, or the demographic of the travelers. My guests in Dearborn have tended to be older, and they travel specifically to go to Henry Ford/greenfield village for things such as Maker Faire and car shows.

AirBNB should probably let hosts have some input into how their room/space appears in searches. The kind of knowledge you just posted would have been accounted for in the old days by business people who decided to when and where to build hotels. Such information probably doesn't exist in maps, though some hotel chains might have such info.

Great idea!

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