A mixed bag if experiences with AirBnB
I write this review as both an irritated and flummoxed (UK based) customer AND yet also a very satisfied customer due to some great stays among the dud bookings.
Firstly, the three properties I have stayed in have been really good experiences. All were in London. All three were of varying types (one was a cottage-type room in a Victorian old asylum), one was an inner city flat and another was a semi-detached in East London. While the inner-city flat did look foreboding from the outside, once inside, the room was good. Excellent value for money and the hosts were always helpful. So, I've lucked out on the actual staying experience, and I hope this will continue!
However...when it comes to actually booking a room and dealing with potential hosts, especially outside of London, it's been extremely frustrating every time.
Two notable times were when I tried to book accommodation in Manchester, and a few days ago for Brighton, the responses from the hosts have left a lot to be desired. Manchester's flaky hosts I just chalked-up to bad luck, but the recent Brighton experience has really irritated me and will probably mean I have to pay much more to spend on an actual hotel as a result.
Firstly, five of the Brighton rooms listed on the site for my specified date were not actually available. But yet were still being advertised. Secondly, those potential hosts also took a fair amount of time (up to three days) to respond to my request to book. In two of the cases, the booking actually went right through to the Paypal charging stage, before I was informed (via a one sentence message with no reasons given) that the room wasn't available.
For the first three times I had my time wasted like this (and by now a week had passed) I told the third host that this kind of behaviour and lack of online housekeeping/customer service needed some attention. I also explained this to the fourth host, and told her that because the hosts were advertising rooms that were not available, it meant that I had now wasted days trying to book a room, and so I would now have to pay extra for another room or a hotel due to it being later in the month. Her response to tell me that this was HER home, and I shouldn't expect her (or any other hosts) to provide any sort of commitment to the service, because these are not hotels.
Now, I completely understand that these are people's homes, are not hotels and that these people have lives/children/jobs/festivals etc, to work AirBnB around. I am not expecting a hotel experience or a slick business enterprise the hosts can dedicate their lives to. However, if a host does not even have the organisational skills or care to take down an advert for they know a room isn't available - that is unacceptable, its an elementary mistake on their part. That was literally the only complaint I raised with these hosts, and I was polite without sarcasm or writing in capitals, etc. But still, they did not see my point. And so....two days later....their rooms are still being advertised for the same date! I honestly can say I was not impolite to them, I genuinely don't like confrontation and giving criticism even over the comparatively faceless form of the internet. But still, their response was to give me a childish "well that was a lucky escape for me!" comment, unfairly implying I would have been the guest from ***. All simply because I had dared to politely draw attention to the fact they were offering a room that wasn't actually available, but still advertised.
AirBnB's strength is its greatest weakness. The fact that ordinary people can rent their rooms out like a guest house means cheaper prices and quirkier/homelier experiences, but yet it also means that these same hosts often can't be bothered or simply don't have time to provide the customer support needed to go through with a booking or update their details. And of course, if you're a potential guest trying to book a business trip on a budget, and someone takes almost a week to reply to you, to tell you that room isn't actually available anyway, you then have to scramble to find somewhere else.
As a potential host, though that is your home, you ARE still asking for money to provide a service if you are renting your rooms out on AirBnB. Clearly many of the homes have professional photos taken, and many hosts have multiple rooms in many properties. So obviously, this is an actual business for many of them, and therefore their customer service has to reflect this.
Ultimately, yes its their home and you are a guest, but you are also paying them actual cash to provide a service THEY have advertised on an official site for such accommodation.
The problem can come from the fact that people with spare rooms and couches usually have their own houses, which may mean they are quite financially secure. They provide a room(s) on AirBnB for some extra cash/beer money, etc. And so, ultimately, they may not really care whether they provide a good service or not, because its not their main source of income. Or perhaps, they are renting the rooms out because they need the money, and therefore hate they may hate fact that they have to do this. In any case, I've noticed a lack of professionalism and just courtesy when dealing with hosts. And of course, any polite criticism or suggestion made is greeted with a "well its my home!" and a stamp of their foot, like a petulant child who only wants to share their toys on their own terms....but still ask for you to pay for that privilege at the same time.
AirBnB needs to protect both the hosts and the guests better. There needs to be some tougher safeguards to ensure there are incentives for guests to behave better and for hosts to provide better customer service. Guests should have ratings and reviews made about them, and hosts should also be graded on their pre-stay customer service even if you don't end up staying with them. Hopefully these types of checks could help to reduce many of the problems on this site. AirBnB is a great service and I'd hate to see it disappear as it has really good potential, and I've had some fantastic stays. Just a shame that there are these niggling issues that keep cropping up with using AirBnB, to the point where I am now avoiding using AirBnb for any trip that's remotely important.
I see that AirBnb are trying to promote the service being used for business trips, so they are REALLY going to have to introduce better systems, because if someone has to attend an important meeting/seminar/appointment etc, and their room isn't available and the host is flaky, that's going to really cause more problems for the site's reputation.
Note: The fourth host's four rooms (in different properties, all of which were advertised but not available) seem to have been removed as of this morning while writing this. Included in this review is an image of the third Brighton host's advert for a room which wasn't and indeed isn't available, but yet is STILL being advertised at the time of writing.
I liked: Rooms exactly as advertised, Excellent prices, Friendly, Locations, Variety of accommodation.
I didn't like: Hosts not responding promptly, Hosts advertising unavailable rooms.
Review #904973 is a subjective opinion of a user.