I want to share an experience with you, which happened quite recently.
The AirBnB Experience
Last weekend, I was going to a wedding in Sydney, and needed somewhere to stay. I didn't want to put anybody out, and I thought I might save some money by trying AirBnB instead of going to a hotel.
I found a quaint room in what seemed like a nice house, with a lady as the host. I was hooked in by the mention of a beehive - I wanted to pick the lady's brains about keeping bees, and I told her that in my reservation. She said I could pick away! So, I told her that I looked forward to meeting her and paid the money. I also let her know that I might need her help zipping up my dress. I didn't get any reply that this would be a problem.
The day arrived. I got in the car and hooked up my seat belt, turned everything on, painted my nails and made the trip with Google Maps telling me where to go. I found the house easily, amongst the many apartment buildings in the street, and in front of a construction site. I put my misgivings about noise aside, as it was a Saturday.
I got my long dress in it's full-length cover out of the car with my overnight bag, and went to the front door. The entrance looked charming. I rang the bell, and called out; no answer. I knocked, and called out; no answer. Again, I tried the bell, knocking and calling out; absolute quiet.
So, I carried all my things through the side gate and past what looked like renovation rubbish, and climbed the back stairs (seeing clutter in the darkness inside). Yet again, I knocked to no answer.
Two little dogs began to bark, as I returned to the front door. I decided to check my messages to see if the lady had left me a key somewhere, and just as I reached the front door and went to knock again, a young man appeared, holding the two dogs in his arms.
I didn't get to read that message .... The young man said that his mother wouldn't be home; it would just be us. I mentioned that I might need his help with the zip on my dress; this would be entirely inappropriate, but I had no alternative.
I was relieved to see someone, but worried about asking him to do up my dress!!
He got the spare key and showed me to my room and the bathroom, and I managed to shower, dry, dress, do my hair and makeup in about two minutes. The trips from bedroom to bathroom and back again, were what took me the longest (because the bathroom was through the lounge, kitchen and laundry, at the back of the house; and my bedroom was near the front door). Imagine me, a middle-aged woman, racing through a strange house in my lingerie and a robe, with a young man I'd just met in the house ...
Thankfully, the air conditioning was on in my room, because it was a hot day, and I needed it to get that zip done up. I was so relieved not to need the young man's help!!
I got out the door, and made it to the beautiful ceremony and reception, and had a great time ... but the AirBnB story didn't end there!
When I made it back to the house, the key wouldn't open either of the two locks. The young man returned to let me in, and I went to bed. The pillows were awful, but I expected that. Light came through the louvres, but I anticipated that and tried an eye mask. What I couldn't fix, was the creaking bed; each time I moved, it made a noise. I didn't sleep the whole time! And I was itchy - did the dogs live in my room?
When I got up at 5.30 the following morning to go to the loo, I didn't see the dog until it jumped on me, or it's wee on the bathroom floor. I walked in the puddle of wee, and tracked it to the loo. There was dog poo near the bathtub too. This stay was not turning out as I'd hoped. It was worse than I feared though!
I packed my things and snuck out of the house to leave. At about 5.55am, I was in my car, ready to go. I opened the app to write a message to my missing hostess to explain, only just seeing her message from the previous morning to say she wouldn't be there. She sent it too late for me to change my plans, and I read it too late for it to make a difference to my stay. She really should have said that she wouldn't be there when I told her I was interested in bee-keeping.
I told her most of the things that went wrong, because I wanted to give her a chance to improve what she could. I could have just written a bad review and posted it on the site, but I didn't. At first, she offered to refund my money, which I appreciated. Then, she started questioning everything I said, and I could sense her change of mind.
So much of this exchange could have been avoided if she had read my original message about wanting to ask her about bee-keeping. She could have been honest and told me she wouldn't be there, so I could find somewhere else. Sometimes, we don't do what's right, because our egos get in the way.
Sometimes, writing messages and texts just isn't as good as having a phone call or a visit. If this lady and I had a phone call before I booked this accommodation, I would not have had all these little things go wrong - because I would not have booked this place. I suppose, that's the answer to all this - AirBnB is about punters making money out of empty rooms. It's not for those of us who are paying our money for the privilege.
Not all my AirBnB experiences have been awful (my first was in North Perth, and was terrific, but that hostess and I exchanged phone numbers, and she was both present and a great host).
But ... lesson learned ...!