Here’s my issue with airbnb…
First of all: I don’t like hotels, either
I’ve disliked hotels for as long as I can remember, and it only got worse when I started working as a consultant and had to travel Mon-Thu every week, but I dislike them for leisure travel as well (which doesn’t bode well for “reward program” incentives.)
And, no — okay — it’s not all hotels.
There was a hotel in Mexico City that was cool AF. And that quaint little place my mom picked in Paris. And I’ve liked pretty much every hotel I’ve rolled into when I’m exhausted (which is more contextual but whatever.) And I like literally all Kimptons.
But for the most part, I don’t really like hotels.
REASON #1: hotels are aesthetically “sterile” but it’s all lies
They’re meant to seem like clean, fresh, virginal rooms — an aggressive representation of “brand new” where we’re asked to suspend disbelief and go along with the whole play-pretend charade that a million people haven’t already slept here even though we all know they have, and the whole thing just freaks me out.
REASON #2: the hotel “fancy” factor is a lie too
Every time hotel front desks come at me like, “hello, Mizz Gage, a very very fine day we’re both having, and thank you for the honor of acknowledging it out loud to you in words!! Welcome to The Fanciest Front Desk Feel You Could Fathom, we hope to make your stay sufficiently dick-suckery for your ego.”
And I’m standing there staring, like “omg… I’m sorry, but.. Pat, is it? Well, Pat, cut the crap.”
But Pat won’t cut the crap. Pat will never cut the crap; couldn’t cut the crap even if you were to tip Pat explicitly to cut the crap, because Pat operates on all terror mode, all the time, and that mode is pre-programed for shit like this.
It’s like fine dining.
I want to clang all the spoons and forks agains the glassware, just to show everyone how dumb their setup is, how precocious and fragile, how close it is to coming unhinged with no effort at all.
I want to wipe the $40 sauce that is mostly butter (but, like “good butter” so it’s okay) off my face with that white table cloth that is the same material as the napkins. I want to break the China and then bolt from the table to go wolf kebabs in some back alley with the cooks.
Stop starching my shirt while I’m wearing it, weirdos. Stop refilling my water as I’m literally trying to drink it. Stop leaving me the cork like some kind of party favor wrapped up in pretentious pizzazz!
Stop talking like we ain’t both human beings.
And that’s about how I feel about “hospitality.”
REASON #3: hotel rewards programs
Hotels everywhere are the physical embodiment of people who are desperate to be validated in their obliterating sameness.
You get a rewards program, and you get a rewards program — everyone gets a rewards program! Extra points to you, good sir! Have a cookie. Take a status!
I don’t want your silly status. We’re not friends.
But sometimes airbnb is even worse…
Because you know what’s wore than sterile boxes of lies? Worse than choreographed dances of hospitality? Worse than weird rewards programs?
Being messed with.
And there ain’t no kind of racket quite like the airbnb racket.
I was the POSTER CHILD for an airbnb customer
(If I may say so myself.)
I loved airbnb before there even was airbnb, and I’ve wanted the whole “home rental” concept since people first dreamed it up.
I rolled the dice with early entrants VRBO and HomeAway (both still around) before they were cool, when staying in someone else’s home meant combing through potato-quality photos like your grandma would proudly snap of her gazebo through her damn window. I would reach out to homeowners who only answered email once every two weeks (and in some cases, had been using it about as long.) And I loved it — it was worth it.
I was, that is to say, a true “early adopter” of this concept, and I say this as someone who never early adopts anything. (If I could have the same phone for the rest of my life — or even no phone at all — I would be perfectly happy.)
But I loved this. And once airbnb hit, I loved airbnb. I even tried to finagle my way into running airbnb through instead of hotels for business travel — this was way before airbnb rolled out a formal program and companies were reluctantly forced to realize that it was no longer 1997.
And everything was great, early on. But then everything fell apart.
My issue isn’t with character; character is GREAT!
I’ve stayed in plenty of Awesome Airbnbs — and many of my best trips have been in them…
Like a white washed converted barn outside of Portland (we did the fall; it was perfection), a tower in Door County Wisconsin, a totally charming number in Massachusetts (where I took my mom and nailed it so hard I legit thought she was gonna try to move in, strong-arming at the door frame like a dog who doesn’t wanna leave the lake.) An endearing writers house in far-off Maine. An architect’s wet dream in Costa Rica…
There have been some lovely ones!
But “character” and “charm” shouldn’t mean “inconvenient” and “crazy”
People like to romanticize airbnb. (I mean, hell, I still do.) We helicopter around them like “that one bad lover” we just can’t get over because, like, there’s just so much passion though! We cling to all the good times and will ourselves to overlook the bad.
But airbnb is never gonna be the lover we need.
Airbnb is never gonna be the dude who whisks you away for a carefree, everything-handled romance.
Airbnb is the dude who promises to be “different” but usually ends up letting you down and making it your problem to handle.
Airbnb is the dude who asks you out and says “I’ll text you my address when you’re close” only to send you unintelligible clues, leaving you to find your way alone there in the dark. When you arrive, airbnb usually looks half as awesome as he did in photos, smells kinda weird, has an uncomfortable bed, sometimes no bathroom and/or no bedroom door, and as you leave the next morning has the audacity to say, “hey — you should tell your friends.”
Here’s a short list of airbnb experiences:
- “Private, entire homes” where the bathroom (and all plumbing) is in another building
- “Private rooms” that, for legal reasons, don’t have doors because they don’t have windows
- Two rentals pictured in one listing, with nothing clarifying that they’re separate— until you arrive.
- Places run by agencies, whose contact info changes after booking and matches no real person you’d ever reach
- Places where the front door is not the address on the listing and they don’t tell you this until you’re emailing them from your phone at 2% battery, with your bags sitting in what is probably dog vomit or people poop in the Art District of LA
- Directions peppered with personal anecdotes (“so, turn right at the cafe — oh by the way, if you’re here on Sunday, you should go to the cafe; there’s great jam and we just love the owner, Marge; she and I went to Sunday School together and — ” OMG stop. It’s not that we don’t care about Marge and her honeyjam — because we definitely do, and we will 100% throw down on it — but there’s a time and place for this info, and right now what we want from you is directions. We have to read these over and over along the way — do you think we want to have to weed through Marge’s sweet jam and little dog Dollie every time? We do NOT.)
- Directions that aren’t chronological (Like, “oh! I forgot to mention that when you pull off — ” OMG, YOU TYPED THIS! CUT AND PASTE BEFORE YOU HIT SEND!)
- Directions that start with “if you’re come from __” but then don’t cite a.) a major city or b.) a major landmark (i.e., an airport.) Nobody is going to be coming from your local grocery store, or “west.” That means nothing.
- Similarly: directions that start from some random place, like “okay, once you turn at the blue barn” — oh, great. Now we get to make this 2-hour drive in constant, scanning fear of missing some STUPID BLUE BARN.
- Directions that come piecemeal over text.
- Any other unintelligible directions that we definitely don’t want to be reading one-handed in the car* on pitch black backroads at 10 pm. (*You know people aren’t going to keep pulling over to re-read this garbage every 1/2 mile.)
- People who ghost for hours exactly 30 seconds after emailing, “just text me when you’re here!”
- Homes without marked addresses.
- Directions that ask you to enter using the “alley entrance,” which has no further distinguishing factors (including an address — because it’s an alley.)
What’s the standing policy with me cleaning?
Like, I’m cool with gathering up the towels I used— that’s just polite — but stripping the bed, starting the wash, taking out the trash and doing the dishes? Not to be a dick, but I kinda assumed part of that might be covered by that $80 “cleaning” charge we pay? Pls advise.
I know what you might be thinking…
“I don’t like your profanity”
Fine by me. You’re the one who read this far.
“Actually, I don’t like YOU”
You don’t even know me. But: I AM FINE WITH THIS.
“Maybe you just shouldn’t stay in airbnbs!”
Uh. Yeah. Maybe I shouldn’t. Duh.
That’s exactly what this post is about. Thanks for following along! You sound like someone who could leave some real great airbnb reviews.
- Intelligent, in-order directions, devoid of nonsense like “Sunday jam”
- Clean towels and linens (actually, I’ve never NOT had these, so shout-out to all the airbnb hosts out there doing at least the bare minimum basics)
- Coffee. It doesn’t need to be good coffee. It doesn’t even need to be fresh coffee. But hot damn, provide coffee. (How much coffee? Just… MORE. Like, enough coffee to caffeinate a small office bc DO NOT JUDGE US! When in doubt, double it. If it’s cutting into your margins, charge us.) There are almost no limits to the irritation for not having enough coffee, esp when we’re out in the middle of nowhere and going back Out There means having to re-read bad and/or stupid directions all over again
- A clearly-marked and otherwise fully-accessible front door.
- Places that match descriptions
- Seriously, clear directions. We’re not here for your scavenger hunt.
Because, look, despite what people have told you in the school hallways after class, I’m really not hard to please. (Like, come on — I’m okay with humidity and bugs and traffic for fucks sake.)
Here’s a bunch of shit I don’t care about:
- Spaces slightly smaller than pictured
- Spaces slightly louder than imagined
- Spaces slightly hotter (or slightly colder) than expected
- Mattresses that are slightly too hard or too soft
- Slightly too few pillows
- A slight smell
- The host’s annoying dog that is not cute at all
- The host (usually)
What’s NOT okay:
- Having to go outside to pee if not made clear ahead of time — even if we “just have to go outside for a sec because the bathroom is inside — just in another building” unless we explicitly signed up for some kind of “yurt” experience (and usually, we DID NOT)
- Photos of any spaces that we will not be actually STAYING IN. We’re not interested in your pretty pinterest board.
- unresponsive hosts, especially just before arrival
- a single K-Cup pod of coffee
Borderline not okay but I will begrudgingly deal with:
- French presses. More of just a “me” thing really.
Welcomed but not expected:
- Local recommendations. (Fine.)
“Yay” I guess? I mean, I can Google and Yelp, but sure. Thanks, Sandra.
Not expected but very much appreciated
- Being left the hell alone.
“Yay” times literally a million.
We know it’s your place and all, but we’re here for accommodations, not to make friends, and that’s the agreement. You want someone to hang out with, join Tinder or book club or something. We’ll do the same.
The way to an airbnb-heart:
- Clear directions
- A clearly-marked address
- Accurate photos
- Leave us alone
- Late (also early?) check-ins
- Late check-outs
- Sufficient coffee for at least one (1) person and maybe even 2
- Okay… and I’ll hit up Marge and get some honeyjam. It does sound delicious.