My Experience With Airbnb: Traveler Beware
Los Angeles Neighborhood
Why I Chose Airbnb
I needed a place to stay in Los Angeles for a month and a half over the summer while I was taking a class in-residence. After I had looked on Craig's list for possibilities, I ran across an advertisement for a place that I could rent through Airbnb. After reviewing the site, I felt that my money was safer in the hands of a business which made the guarantee of safety and promoted a community of trust. It seemed to be a much safer bet than renting directly through Craig's list and it was much less expensive than a hotel.
Choosing a Host
On Airbnb each host/guest can create a profile in which other members of the community can write reviews and share basic information. It gives accountability to the process of hosting because you have an online reputation to uphold. The host that I choose had a 100% recommendation rating. Even with hotels, it is very rare for guests to have a 100% satisfaction rate, so I should have begun to be suspicious at this point. The host can approve/disapprove of your request to stay. Mine was approved, which I thought was great at the time. You can talk to your host over the phone. My host seemed perfectly fine and normal.
How Would You Rate Your Airbnb Experience
If you have stayed at Airbnb, would you recommend to a friend?
After initially meeting my host she quickly dismissed me to continue surfing the internet. My introduction to her apartment (and Los Angeles) was very brief. After reading all the customer reviews on the Airbnb site about how friendly and accommodating the hosts were, I was taken aback by her rude and condescending attitude. It began to be obvious that she didn't want me there, and she was just using Airbnb to make ends meet.
Needless to say, I was very uncomfortable in her home. I had to go shopping several times in order to make up for several items that you would take for granted in a hotel. For example, she didn't have a coffee maker and I had to go out and buy one. Her apartment also had no A/C which I would have like to have known beforehand. I also did not have a private lock to my own room.
Shortly after my stay, the pin codes on one of my credit cards stopped working. Also, I had received a couple of security alerts on other cards and my bank. In addition to that, there were a couple notifications from my email accounts of unauthorized attempts to access my account. At this time, I do not have proof that it had anything to do with my host but the combination of her unfriendly attitude and the weird things going on with my finances/email I had to get out. I decided to cut my losses and cancel. After I did so, the host sent me a threatening email.
Pros and Cons
My personal experience with Airbnb was negative. The fact of the matter is, many people have used the service and had great experiences. Here are some pros:
- Staying in a home is often better than staying in a hotel.
- Some hosts enjoy telling you about the local area.
- Airbnb does not do background checks on hosts. My host had a criminal record that I didn't know about.
- You will more than likely not have a locked room.
- You will share an internet connection with your host which compromises the security of any information you send over the internet.
- Many people host through Airbnb because they can't afford the place they live in. This means they really do not want you there, contrary to what the site would have you think.
- You will get fined if you cancel, regardless of the fact that your host may be a criminal, hates you or rifles through your stuff when you are gone.
- Negative reviews are often deleted so the information upon which you base your decision to stay at the location is false.
If you still think you want to rent from Airbnb, I have some final thoughts. First, I would like to say that Airbnb has the same amount of risk as finding a place through Craig's list. The only thing that is different is that Airbnb collects a fee. Also, with Craig's list you go in with eyes wide open and with Airbnb you are making decisions based upon false information (overly positive reviews). I have also read reviews on travel sites indicating that other guests have had their negative reviews deleted.
Do not rent through someone that has a strict cancellation policy. Think about it, if they need to have one, there is probably a reason. Hosts that are confident in the lodging experience that they have to offer would not insist that you pay for 30 days after you leave in the event that you have to cancel.
Airbnb does not enforce their own policies. I was threatened by my host when I had to adjust my dates, even though the Airbnb manual states that a host agrees not to do this. I was the one that got penalized for my shortened stay.
Do a background check before you decide upon a host and understand that the 100% favorable reviews are inaccurate. Airbnb maintains the host reviews and have total control over what reviews stay up and which ones do not. This is clearly a conflict of interest.
Ensure that you have a cheap/affordable option in the event that a host cancels. This happens quite frequently and Airbnb does not assist you in finding alternative lodging.
Talk to your host beforehand and ensure that they have a positive attitude which conveys an enthusiasm for hosting. Be direct and inquire into why they enjoy hosting people and what they will do to make you feel comfortable. Also ask them if they have had any negative experiences. Ask if you will have a key to your own room. Do not leave valuables in the room and do not send secure information over the internet.
Good luck in your travels. While hotels are expensive, it is generally your best bet and there is much more privacy. Also, most hotels are reviewed on third party sites which gives you accurate feedback.