Saturday, December 16, 2017

Privacy or pleasantries? A personal Airbnb predicament

Having narrowly missed out on hotel accommodation in a small town for a big wedding, I turned to my only other option – the sharing economy.

Industry professionals have all kinds of gripes with sharing economy companies such as Airbnb, with a lack of governing rules no doubt near the top of the list. Approaching the experience purely as a guest, my biggest concern was for privacy – and yet upon leaving at the end of a lovely weekend, I couldn’t help but feel that privacy was exactly what was wrong with my experience – though not in the way you might expect.

My experience was so preposterously private that I’m not sure if anyone even knew that I’d been and gone.

Here are three of the services hotels should (and often do) get right, and that sharing economy companies simply cannot guarantee:

Check in. When I arrived at the property after a long drive, no one was waiting for me. A rusty old gate was left unlocked and I drove through it to see a property that vaguely resembled the blurred image I’d seen online. While I was greeted by a friendly horse and the pleasant sounds of the countryside, my host was nowhere to be seen.

The lesson: One of the most basic, yet undervalued services a hotel can offer is a friendly and simple check in. Don’t underestimate the power of human interaction!

Communication. Having booked a few weeks in advance, I received an email from Airbnb the day before my stay. While the email helpfully recited the property’s address and the names of my hosts, it provided no information about how I should obtain a key or access the property. The responsibility of providing this information falls with the host, making clear communication key to the success of a stay. In my case, there was no communication whatsoever. The hosts didn’t pick up their phones, they didn’t reply to my messages, and the closer I got to the property, the less phone signal I had.

Ramler Connect Chair Mid Article
The lesson: Being available to answer your guests’ questions is an invaluable service. Whether it’s providing helpful directions to your property, handy information on local attractions, or simply advising them of where they can park their car, it’s important to know your stuff and be forthcoming with relevant information.

Security. Upon arriving at the unlocked gate and approaching the property, I looked around for a key box. I looked under a few plant pots, under the door mat, and eventually tried to open the door without any key at all. To my surprise, I was able to walk straight in. The key was nowhere to be found inside the house, and I figured the hosts would eventually turn up, introduce themselves and hand over the key – but that didn’t happen either. In fact, I never received a key at all, meaning that a) I had to sleep in an unlocked house, and b) I had to leave my personal belongings in the unlocked house throughout the day.

The lesson: Visitors value security. One huge benefit of an establishment such as a hotel is its inbuilt security. Make sure guests are aware of any requirement for room access (such as cleaning services), and ensure that a safe can be accessed for any valuable personal belongings the guest would like to hand over or store for safe keeping. If a guest feels unsafe for any reason, they’re unlikely to return.

While I generally value privacy over pleasantries, I would have given anything for a conversation with a property owner or manager. While no sharing economy experience is a guarantee, my key concerns could have very easily been addressed by spending the night in a hotel.

At least then I could have been guaranteed a key.

About Lauren Butler

Lauren Butler is a junior journalist here at accomnews. You can reach her at any time with news, opinions and submissions.

7 comments

  1. Hi Lauren, Im sorry your airbnb experience was so unpleasant. I find if you stay with an airbnb Superhost you can avoid this kind of experience. If there are no Superhosts available, check the reviews carefully. You can weed out the negatives this way. Airbnb cannot fully control what hosts do, or dont do. Not all hosts are Superhosts, but those that are have earned the designation by being just that! Dont let one bad experience keep you from using Airbnb. Take Care, Karen

  2. > I never received a key at all, meaning that a) I had to sleep in an unlocked house, and

    This article does not ring true. Why would you need a key to lock the door from the inside?
    Unless that is, it was fitted with a key both sides deadlock.
    Which given the description of the property is highly improbable.

    > b) I had to leave my personal belongings in the unlocked house throughout the day.

    No you did not, you could have put them back in your car.

    • Hi Andrew, thanks for your feedback!

      I agree with you on both points you made (though unfortunately the door could not be locked from inside). My main frustration was paying a rate comparable to that of a nice hotel without any of the hotel perks. I could haul my belongings around in a car because I wasn’t given a key – but as a paying guest, should I have to?

      As Karen commented above, each experience is unique and incomparable – and I have had other more positive experiences with Airbnb. My main take away from this experience was that the ‘guessing game’ is perhaps more at play within the sharing economy than the hotel and resort accommodation sector. The property I stayed in had great reviews, yet I found it somewhat disappointing despite not having set out with high expectations – though I now realise that they may have been higher than I realised!

      I’d love to hear your thoughts.

      • > The property I stayed in had great reviews,

        Interesting.
        Your experience tells you something profound about the whole “review” concept. It is deeply flawed and open to manipulation.
        Doesn’t matter whether it is Tripwhinger, Gogle, AirBNc (names for legal reasons) the whole thing is mob rule and open to the worst in human traits. But mostly it is a rort.

        Oh for the days of impartial AAA star ratings.

      • Lauren.

        Further to the above. My own experience being those who travel using the afore named organisation seemed to wear blinkers. They expect to get a genuine BNB – but full run of the property – mutually exclusive in reality, nobody is going to let them into their private areas. They often instead end up choosing regular accommodation, but want it to magically morph into a BNB.

        They haven’t done even the most rudimentary internet surfing which would have revealed to them that the greater majority of the properties are actually existing accommodation providers rather than Aunt Nellie letting out her spare bedroom or Farmer Fudd his shearer’s quarters.

        They expect to pay roughly 1/2 the going rate for accommodation, but demand top notch service and facilities.

        I fail to understand why you expected someone to be standing around waiting for you to arrive. An actual BNB operator (spare room etc) typically has one perhaps 2 groups staying, has a regular job etc and can not realistically spend
        their day hanging around waiting for a guest to arrive. That is why hotels have front desks, 100 rooms and the gross income to afford to have a staff member
        hanging around to greet customers.
        On a farm, there are cows to milk, animal husbandry, fences to mend, pumps to maintain, the list is never ending, supply runs into town etc, so no surprise nobody was hanging around.
        Don’t blame the farmer for the crappy telephone coverage, that is after all the fault of the city slickers telephone companies who won’t adequately service the bush.
        Horses for courses. But you did say the horse greeted you, so there you go.

  3. I’m not particularly a fan of airbnb but this article does not ring true in my view.

  4. In my experience of airbnb, this does not sound quite right. I have always been greeted or been told how to check in to a property by the host or manager. Some are not as efficient as others, but then that is what you expect…not all the same, they are unique individual owner/operators and deliver a different experience, to a hotle, that’s why you choose an airbnb. However it would appear you have chosen an airbnb because nothing else to your liking was available – the wrong attitude I’m affraid.

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