Banned From Airbnb Then Became Partners With Them
Banned For Life
I’ll never forget the time I got banned from Airbnb. It was a harmless act that I was doing but I can see why they were upset with me.
It all started two years ago when I was 18 years old. With two weeks left in high school, I was excited about my travels coming up.
I decided I wanted to take a gap year in order to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Spending the money I saved up working full-time through high school, I bought a one-way ticket over to Europe.
I was already into photography and wanted to turn this into a photography trip. Most of my 55L backpack was filled with my camera gear, from my tripod, two lenses, a full-frame Nikon D810, laptop to a whole bunch of batteries and chargers.
Airbnb was on my radar but it as a little too expensive if I wanted to be traveling for three months.
Most nights I’d sleep in my hammock or stay at a cheap hostel.
I decided to reach out to some Airbnb hosts and offer my photography services in return for a place to stay. I had everything with me to produce high-quality images from my camera to a tripod to my computer.
I sent the first message when I was staying in Budapest.
Mistake One! (on the road to getting banned!)
My first mistake was putting my phone number in the message. I guess Airbnb has its software automatically block phone numbers from being exchanged.
Most likely this is to keep business on the platform and prevent Airbnb from losing money.
Mistake Two (warning!)
I then decided to put my email instead of a phone number.
I then found out their software also detects emails…
‘Shoot!’ I thought to myself, trying to figure out another way.
It was like trying to solve a hard puzzle.
I then received a message from Airbnb. It said something along the lines of, “We noticed you made attempts to send your personal info to an Airbnb Host. This is in violation of…”
I was caught red-handed and was forced to apologize, but I wasn’t giving up just yet.
Mistake Three (you better stop now!)
So I couldn’t send my contact info directly. My next move was to disguise it within the message in a way that the hosts knew but the software couldn’t recognize.
I decided to send my phone number one number at a time!
Again they caught me!
What the heck Airbnb can a young entrepreneur not hustle a little?!
Then I received another message from Airbnb basically repeating the first message except for this time they threatened to take further actions.
They weren’t messing around. I was forced to think outside of the box and come up with a plan that would go completely undetected.
It was a little fun figuring this stuff out, but I was nervous that Airbnb was going to take serious actions towards me.
I managed to get a few Airbnb hosts to say yes to me but the trick was being able to send my personal info.
Here is when things went south. I tried telling them the software wouldn’t allow personal info to be exchanged. I then sent three messages describing what I would be doing and how I would deliver the photos. At the bottom of the messages, I put a few numbers to my phone number. They got the hint and sent me a message!
I managed to stay at four nice Airbnb flats completely free!
I felt so accomplished.
In the process of sending another message to a host, I received another Airbnb email. This time they informed me that I was banned for life.
I couldn’t help but chuckle a little while sitting at a coffee shop in Germany.
The Tables Have Turned!
Six months later, I saw that Airbnb was opening up a new section called “Experiences”.
Locals were able to create cool activities where tourists could pay to be entertained for a few hours. The point was for these to be unique and not found anywhere else.
An idea sparked in my head.
‘What if I did candid portrait walking tours through San Francisco?’
Yes! Brilliant idea!
I created a new account under a different name, in order to go under the radar. Spending time mapping out a good tour, I published my first experience.
One day passed. No one.
Two days. No one.
Nearly a week later, one person booked the tour.
I was super excited, not for the money, but for having accomplished a goal!
The next day, two more people booked the experience. Before I knew it, I was booked each week!
It was so amazing and I met tons of cool people. With my experience still in another name, I received an email from Airbnb.
Having flashbacks, my heart dropped.
What did I do this time?
The message said something along the lines of, “Dear Allenii, we are so grateful for your business and are excited to invite you to the Airbnb headquarters to talk more about what we have to offer local business owners…”
Confused, I emailed back confirming a date and time to meet with them.
I was nervous. Super nervous.
What if they found out that I was actually banned, pretending to be someone else?
The day finally arrived and I was walking up to the massive Airbnb headquarters located in San Francisco. Being 19 years old at the time, I did not look like I belonged there.
I went to hop on the elevator when security stopped me.
Telling them my name they said, “Oh right this way sir…”
What the heck is happening right now?!
He escorted me up a few floors and brought me into a room with a large conference table.
I had no clue if I was caught or what was happening. Sitting there quietly, I was approached by four people. They were in marketing and project development.
“We are super excited to have you here!” One exclaimed.
“We invited you here because you’re the top host for the experiences in San Francisco,” another said to me with a smile.
I was nervous, to say the least.
A 19-year-old with the most successful Airbnb experience?
To sum up, the meeting they were excited that I was so successful and wanted to hear what I was doing. They also wanted me to build more experiences around the city to add more variety.
It was so amazing and I never expected that to happen. They asked if we could work together so they could learn more about me and why I was so successful.
I ended up confessing that I had to create a new profile and they were surprisingly understanding. They unblocked me, allowing my profile to contain my real name.
Airbnb experience is a great way to add a little money to your monthly income. I was able to charge $80/ person for photography walking tours that lasted an hour and a half. It was so much fun to meet new people from all around the world.
If you want a nice side hustle then consider creating an experience!
Hope you enjoyed this article!