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Airbnb in the Himalayas (veridici.com)
103 points by bookofjoe 84 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 44 comments



All: if you're going to post in a thread like this, make sure your comment relates to the specifics of the article. If you just vent some generic feeling or opinion provoked by the shallowest aspect (e.g. a provocative name in the title), that is a poor use of HN which lowers the signal/noise ratio. The more generic a discussion gets, the more predictable it gets, and thus less interesting. That's what the site guidelines call a generic tangent:

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

(In case anyone's wondering, yes we say that about plenty of topics, not just this one [1]. Normally I'd hesitate to intervene in a thread about Airbnb [2], but this thread is particularly awful so far, with only one comment responding to the article.)

1. https://hn.algolia.com/?dateRange=all&page=0&prefix=false&qu...

2. https://hn.algolia.com/?dateRange=all&page=0&prefix=false&qu...


I'm glad you're highlighting this. I see this happening all the time, with threads filled with generic comments about X just because X is in the title.


Thanks for reminding all of us in such a gentle, kind manner.

I was just about to write such a comment, but then decided to refresh the page first... And recognized your HN username (I know you're one of the two main moderators), read your comment, and decided not to post mine!

It worked, at least for me :)


This was a neat article, the part about AirBnB's attempt at creating a trust economy was my favorite part.

On the one hand, the online reputation does work to a degree; we value lots of reviews and a high average score. On the other hand it fails to prevent many of the usual problems with dealing with people. He calls out the opportunists who have no impulse control, but there's plenty of other archetypes of people who will take advantage of a situation when they get a chance and think they might get away with it. Maybe it's the cynic in me, but this article resonates with my general trepidation when trusting anyone or anything too quickly, especially online. No amount of features so far has solved this.


Those are my favorite passages too. For short-term stay, a perfect rating with lots of review is almost a guarantee that you'll have a great experience.


I'm curious why you're downvoted. Do people disagree?


Experiences suggest otherwise?


Sorry I mean that I would like to hear more detail rather than just a downvote.


Can't speak for the parent comment, or the reason you were downvoted, but relying upon a high number of good ratings isn't necessarily reliable.

From my own experience, here's a few reasons:

A high number of ratings is more likely an indicator that the place has been on the market for a long time rather than being an especially great place to stay.

The nationality/culture of the guest can have a huge influence of how they rate a place. In Europe, for instance, a guest from Southern Italy/Spain may not be particularly bothered by noise from neighbours, barking dogs, etc. Conversely, those coming from Northern Europe are likely to be the exact opposite.

Some hosts are incredibly pro-active in garnering ratings (to the point of constant harassment). Others less so.

Some hosts will not accept groups of people, parties, short stays or stays from people with no reputation. As a consequence, they are going to get far less reviews than a less careful host.

Hope that helps?


Western online review systems and algorithmic pricing meets very isolated traditional society. The corporation's understanding of human psychology wins out over the villagers and the villagers are colonised, moving their norms to more closely match Western expectations. Software continues to eat the world.


Flights and travels for tourism or business makes me and the environment sad, Airbnb or not


airbnb lost me forever at, "Oh, that'll be another 10%" and then again at "Yeah, that $89/night place is actually $264/night after all the fees and ridiculousness."

Fraud all the way down...

I don't care where they are. I will never stay at one of my own free will.


Weird, my Airbnb experiences have almost all been awesome. So much better than hotels in my opinion


They are experimenting with fees paid totally by Hosts now, as in Booking.com.

At the end it's always the guest who puts the money on the table but it may be less painful as you don't see it.

Ultimately the problem is that the fees are too high considerig the service provided by the platforms.


Hidden fees like that are not legal in the EU, although enforcement differs per country.


They aren’t hidden. They show up right on the details page for a rental.

The frustrating part is that they aren’t incorporated into the nightly rate which is what the listings page shows.


Well, we could argue semantics, but that sounds like a hidden fee to me: advertise with one price, while there is a second "hidden" one later on. Can also call it "additional charges" or something.

Either way, it's not legal: https://europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/consumers/unfair-treat... and https://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-18-4453_en.htm

I dealt with this issue a few years ago at a job I worked at for a similar service to AirBnB, the original design was list an accommodation for, say, €500, and then add-on €25 booking costs and insurance later on in the checkout process. We had to change it to list the full price up front.

Enforcement varies per country; in the Netherlands it's quite strong and you run a real risk of fines, but in UK it's very weak and it's common for there to be additional or hidden charges. It's interesting how the "sell an item" pages for ebay.co.uk and ebay.nl differ: on the .nl site it's very clear up-front what you will pay exactly, on the UK site it's not even clear you have to pay anything unless you follow 3 links.


You’re not following. It’s not that they change the total between screens, it’s that they advertise the nightly rate.

This is not illegal since this is how it works in Europe as well.


The full price (that is, the price that will get charged to your CC) should always be the price that is displayed/advertised.

So if you advertise with nightly rate in the listing and then add on cleaning costs, booking costs, or anything else in the details page for an accommodation, then that's not allowed.

It's not just me internet-lawyering that, I sourced it from the European commission press release (linked in previous comment), which seems pretty clear on it:

"Airbnb should: modify the way it presents information on pricing from the initial search on their website, in order to ensure that, whenever properties are offered, the consumer is provided with the total price inclusive of all the applicable mandatory charges and fees, such as service and cleaning charges, or, when it is not possible to calculate the final price in advance, clearly inform the consumer that additional fees might apply"


Have you been on the Airbnb site? It’s possible to browse properties without specific dates so it’s not possible to display the full price. The number of nights that one-time fees (or long stay discounts) will be amortized over is not known on the listings page.

So your “it’s not allowed” is just internet lawyering. Even the quote you have indicates that they are exempt if the calculation can’t be made for the listings page.

This isn’t some special case of Airbnb trying to screw people. It’s common across any industry where there are one time costs amortized over quantities.


I was just looking at Airbnb a few days ago, and at least in Canada, the search results displayed average price per night, which included all of the fees.

I’m guessing maybe you need to enter the dates before they can calculate that. And maybe without the dates Airbnb shows the price without fees.


I use a chrome extension which does include the fees on the listing page, it's a much better experience.


Booking does this as well. I almost paid an exorbitant cleaning fee in Portugal once. I noticed the tiny block of text informing me of "cleaning fee" that was two times the rate only after reading reviews


That'll be a $300 cleaning fee for 2 nights, oh and here's a snippy message about how you left hair in the drain and used an extra towel. Be a dear and don't use the toilet next time too, that's extra.


They lost me there as well. €200 per night, cleaning fee on top and yet they had the audacity to leave a handwritten note instructing to leave around €3,- per guest, per night, as pillow money. They tried justifying it as tourist tax, which was odd. Long story short, I did not end up paying and now I cannot book at any property this particular company lets out on airbnb. Next time I stayed in a hotel for €60,- per night and ended up getting exactly what I paid for - a room with a bed and shower, Mr. Coffee in the morning and no extra fees on top. Didn't get charged extra for the mess I made when I hurried out in the morning, leaving towels on the bathroom floor and everything.

edit: spelling and formatting


Oh you've gotten that too?

The last time I stayed in an Airbnb house I got a laundry list of accusations. I challenged them as well. (They even went as far as saying that I used too many rolls of toilet paper that weekend) It's a good thing I'm not easily embarrassed.


The cleaning fee isn't supposed to be higher than 10%. You can ask for a refund through Airbnb.


If you charge a high cleaning fee it's utter bullshit to expect guests to leave the place spotless. I am paying you to clean it. The hair in the drain thing actually happened. Any human in your house will leave hair, that is part of normal cleaning in an occupied place along with washing sheets and towels. This is why I've switched to hotels and hostels. The hospitality contract is far more explicit, I don't need to deal with asshole hosts on vacation.


In the roughly 10 times I've stayed in an Airbnb I've never had an issue with the condition I've left the place. Often times my family (and dog) have made a mess, but always do some clean-up before leaving. Cleaning fees are typically $20-60 for the stay which seems reasonable for cleaning an entire home. Normally the airbnb service fees are larger than the cleaning fee. There are certainly some hosts who are charging high cleaning fees to lower their nightly amount, however.


There's a rule it shouldn't be higher than 10%. In India, nobody I know charges a cleaning fee.


Where do you get that?

And 10% of what? If someone books a day, yes, the cleaning fee is more than 10% of that. Don’t like it? Go get a hotel where it’s baked into every night.


If this is true, then how do people get charged more than 10%? That's simple webform input validation on the listing process.


That's not true. For some of my properties, they charge about 25% more including taxes and service charge. For some properties, it's 31%. SYou won't end up paying three times as much, obviously.


I tried Airbnb many times, but exchanging keys, meeting with strangers and that force interaction I don't want in my vacation, rooms that look different in picture...no thanks already had 2 very bad experiences: 1 in Brazil and 1 in Oaxaca. Now just use regular hotel


I've stayed in my fair share of Airbnbs, and the forced interaction can be annoying at times.

Another thing I hate. I was in about 5 Airbnbs this month, and almost every time I'm told not to let property management know I'm from Airbnb. I'm paying a few hundred dollars a night, and I'm given strict instructions to tell the concierge I work for their company and I'm staying in their apartment for business. Or, they need to meet me on the street, so they can escort me into the building and introduce me to management as their good friend from out of town that is visiting for the week.

Airbnb needs to get more strict on hosts. I'm paying money for a service. I shouldn't arrive at my accommodation and be given a script filled with lies to follow, otherwise risk being evicted.


I've seen threatening posters in Bangkok condos a few times. You are going up in the elevator and see a paper before you eyes saying that "staying at airbnbs here is a crime punishable by jail/fines". Of course, this is bluffing but kills the mood a little bit


This happens way too often and ruins my trip by making me feel anxiety over something I have little control over. Unfortunately doing anything about this isn't in Airbnb's interest until it starts costing them customers.


Which it sadly won't. It'll just cost the cities and the actual inhabitants of the places.


Yes. Lying on the host's behalf should not be part of the deal unless it is specifically called out in the ad. Most people do not want to lie or be involved in illegal activity just to have a place to stay on a trip.


This is exactly why on both of my properties on Airbnb I offer self checkin/out as default - if people want my housekeeper to greet them, she will - but out of 135 guests over the last year, not one has wanted this.

When I travel, and I arrive somewhere, I want to kick off my shoes, take a leak, have a drink, and then think about what to do - not have a 30 minute lecture on the city.

As to the whole “don’t tell the super” thing, it blows my mind that so many people try to do it under the radar. I told my neighbours and the council what I was doing, ensured neighbours had my details in the case of any problems. The council, in both cases (different councils) happily switched me over to a business premises and gave me a 100% rate exemption. I have to pay for private waste collection but it’s £20 a month so whatever - beats council tax. As for the neighbours, I’ve had one call since starting, and it wasn’t to complain, rather to let me know a guest had left but forgotten to shut the front door, and they’d done it for me.

Being upfront and straightforward in all matters is the surest path to success. My neighbours are my allies, rather than a distrusted potential problem. The councils are fully aware of what I’m doing, and support it.

My guests appreciate the no-bullshit approach - and then we do little things that cost us little but really help a guest have a good stay - fresh pint of milk in the fridge, tea, coffee, cookies, chocolates, bottle of champagne. We don’t advertise that we do any of that - the idea being to exceed expectations by setting them at a high but readily attainable level, and then go beyond.

I’ve had people stay for two nights, and come back later for a month.

On the two occasions stuff has gone wrong (sudden boiler leak in midwinter last, and this summer sewers backed up) I gave both guests a full refund and alternate accommodation. It’s more than they could reasonably expect in the circumstances, and even those guests happily left 5* reviews. I see it as a cost of doing good business.

I’ve had one bum review from a guest who it seemed was determined to have a bad time, but you can’t win them all.

I learned all this by operating a SaaS business and web agency for a decade. It’s totally transferable - and this is much easier!


The last experiences I had at an Airbnb was less than ideal. The place I reserved was a co-habit (like a hostel, but in an apartment), but failed accidentally/intentionally to mention this anywhere. There was no photo of the bunk bed I found out I had to sleep in when I arrived.

It's back to hotels for the foreseeable future.


It's very easy to avoid such experiences. Just pick any property which has more than 50 reviews, and a rating of above 4.95, but higher than better.


In my experience, this indicates a place that accepts a lot of short-term stays. It's no guarantee you won't have problems, just that they may not be immediately apparent.

Ironically, the only place I've ever returned to happened to be a new listing with no reviews.


Yep I love Airbnb as a much better alternative to hotels




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