Once you experience it, it's awesome and people will talk about it.
Why is it so flatly awesome? My experience was: overpriced room (overpriced because the high airbnb fees get passed on to the person who stays), annoying extra "cleaning/deposit" fees that don't get refunded (and you're not notified that they didn't get refunded), and a quasi-too-personal system of booking where half the listings are by weirdos ("RENT A ROOM IN MAH CAMPER ON THE STREET!") you can't filter out or fake listings nobody responds to.
It's squarely not in my "things that make me happy" column.
I had the opposite experience. I was moving to New York City, had been staying with a friend, decided it was high time to move out, and found a single bedroom in a really nice penthouse in east Williamsburg for the short term for... barely more than I was paying to commute to and from my friend's place in White Plains on the train. More convenient, too.
(Granted, it was something like a fifth-floor walk-up, and the neighborhood was a little gritty, but in the edgy-up-and-coming cool-if-you're-into-that sort of way and not the help-get-me-out-of-here fear-for-your-life drug-dealers-on-the-doorstep kind of way.)
I can only expect that I'd be out another few hundred bucks if I used a traditional hotel.
Exactly! Saying "airbnb is good" by itself is meaningless. It's a product of the context of experiences sustained over multiple interactions. If you're renting $500/night rooms in Upscale Town, USA, you'll probably love it like you love your $800 shoes and your $3000 jeans. If you're renting $40/night rooms in NYC, you'll probably hate it.
Irrational exuberance of startups around here tends to get out of hand. I get it. Everybody is the friend of a rich person and you want to promote them because you know them. hi-5's and bropong all around. Great. But they're still delusional. Gotta speak truth to ego-elevating unrestricted happiness. Life is pain, not million dollar post-exit condos in SF.
Were there hidden fees that you didn't see? I filter by price and feedback, so I know the hosts are legit. The cleaning fees are shown on the listing. They show you response rate, so you know if the hosts are active or not. You won't always receive a response, but that's why I never message people who have no reviews or a low response rate. They may just be trying it out casually ("window shoppers"). My experiences have been very positive when I've used it--which isn't that often, but when I do, I no longer even consider hotels.
Well, the fees do get paid whether they're listed externally or not. If the fees are $250, then the lister is just jacking up the listed price by $250.
The cleaning fees had some wording like "if necessary" or "if damage is done," but it was never returned or communicated nothing would be returned.
(Sidenote: There's also no recourse or discount for "weirdness." The lady whose second bedroom I rented had her non-english-speaking mother stay for two weeks (unannounced, unasked--suddenly there was just someone new living there) whose hobbies included power sanding furniture starting about two hours before daylight and taking up the entire kitchen for five hours a day.)
The response rate things are okay, but there are still tons of people who cannot communicate effectively online (or even form coherent thoughts in person most days). It's a crapshoot. (Kinda like trying to sell things on craigslist -- you never realize how many weirdos are out there until you have something they want. "Yoooooo maaan... will you take some pot for tha xbox? we aint got no monay.")
I think you had a bad experience with that one listing -- and the proper recourse is to write an honest review, just as you would on Yelp for an experience that wasn't what you were expecting. This helps prevent it from happening in the future.