We’ve been using Airbnb solidly for the last 4-plus years. For the most part, it’s been a really great service. It’s so much nicer having an apartment/house instead of a hotel room when you spend your life traveling.
During the last 8 months, for some reason, we’ve run into more and more subpar to downright disgusting situations. I’m not sure why that is, but after our latest round of experiences, including having a host cancel on us 1 week prior to our arrival, it has me contemplating taking a break from using them.
A lot of the issues are small things that just begin to get to you after your 20th time. If you aren’t using them often, then you may not identify with my level of frustration. However, hopefully if you’re an Airbnb host you’ll take note of how you can get even better reviews and referrals from your guests.
I am no clean freak by any means, but if I’m paying a $30 USD cleaning fee, I don’t expect to be greeted by these images like we were in Cancun.
Even without a cleaning fee, no guest should find your place looking like this. Come on!
We’ve only had 3 places that were this atrocious, but all of them have been within the last 8 months. Are Airbnb places going downhill or is it just crap luck? All of them had good reviews, too. I don’t get it.
We’ve also had food-stained blankets (in Riga and Paris), which is just gross. I don’t mean a stain that won’t come out in the wash either. I’m talking about dried-on food that I can pick off.
Lack of items and bad conditions
There are some basic things an Airbnb host can do to make a guest’s stay more enjoyable. Someone who is staying for a few days or a week in your place probably isn’t going to want to buy a big bottle of oil or a 5-kg bag of sugar. Why not spend a tiny bit extra and have some of the basics waiting for them?
Could you throw in some napkins, too, please? If you don’t want to launder cloth ones (which I completely understand), large bags of paper napkins are super cheap and go a long way.
Throw in a couple of extra glasses and dishes, too. If you have 3 guests, having only 3 glasses, 3 plates, etc., is a bit ridiculous. Most of us don’t enjoying doing the dishes at all much less having to do them after every single meal, drink, or snack.
If your home is “suitable for up to 7 people,” why do you only have 1 medium-sized pot and 1 smallish pan? And do you really think it’s a good idea to leave these (see below) for your guests? Do you not realize this is a potential health hazard?
How about also investing in at least 1 oven mitt and 1 kitchen towel, too? If your guests have an oven to use, there’s a chance they may use it; even if it’s just to heat up frozen pizza. As most people’s skin isn’t burn or heat resistant, how about you help them avoid injury.
And for an extra kindness could we have at least 1 knife that is suitable and sharp enough for cutting up veggies? After 4 years of long-term travel, I finally carry a chopping knife in my checked baggage because I’m so sick of it.
It’s really hard to cook or eat many things when all you have is a nonserrated table knife.
Do you use a spatula or large spoon when you cook at home? I’m pretty sure that will get a yes from everyone. Then why does your Airbnb not have them? Am I supposed to use my fingers if I want to flip over my eggs and bacon when cooking them?
I actually have a whole large packing cube devoted specifically to kitchen items because of this.
Sure, the average person on a 2-week holiday might not mind so much, but provide a little extra and it will show in your reviews.
If you have a washer, leave some soap for them, or charge a tiny fee to cover the expense. It can be really hard to find a box of detergent small enough for just 1-2 loads.
Might I also suggest that in addition to the 1 partial roll of toilet paper you have on the little bar or stand that you leave an extra just in case? It seriously won’t cut deeply into your profit margin. I promise you.
A lot of us don’t have a phone plan that provides for roaming, so please give your guests all the info they may need, such as the flat number and which intercom button to press. Simply relying on people being able to send you an SMS, WhatsApp, or ringing your phone when they arrive doesn’t always work.
Also don’t count on the airport or train station’s free WiFi working for them. We had this happen in Firenze, and it was a total bust. He knew the train station had free WiFi, but he didn’t realize that in order to use it you have to register with the service using an Italian phone number. We were stuck standing in the street at the apartment building because he wouldn’t give us even the floor number in advance. His name wasn’t next to any of the intercom buttons either. Luckily a kind passerby called them for us after we had been standing around for 20 minutes buzzing almost every flat.
A couple of places we’ve rented have had land lines, and one even included a cell phone for our use (can you say Superhost status?). Those are incredibly handy; however, please don’t give that number out to every business, utilities, etc. I really don’t enjoy having to pay to be your secretary and/or having the phone ringing several times a day.
These days, WiFi is increasingly considered a must-have amenity for travelers. Since it’s how I work and how my son educates himself and keeps in touch with his friends, it’s vital for us. If you’ve been thoughtful enough to provide WiFi, let me encourage you to pay a little extra to upgrade your package. Slow and/or unreliable service is only going to irritate your guests.
And please don’t list WiFi as an amenity if you’re just relying on the city’s free WiFi, or the restaurant downstairs, which quite often doesn’t work, especially during periods of high volume. For working travelers, this is a bit of a nightmare.
Obviously, if you live some place like Bali or Cuba where Internet just sucks, this isn’t your fault. But we’ve stayed in too many places where an extra $10 per month would provide much better speeds. It’s a worthwhile investment so you can attract business travelers, digital nomads, etc.
And if you have banging Internet, make sure you include that as part of your ad. That could drastically move up someone’s interest level in a very competitive field.
If your area has several restaurants that deliver, why not leave some menus for them to use? They’re free. (And if your flat has an intercom system, make sure your guests know how to work it so they can let the delivery person in.)
If the local markets charge extra for shopping bags, or if you just want to be more environmentally friendly, have a few reusable bags your guests can use when they do their shopping. This can be a big help.
Also consider having a couple of umbrellas for their use as well. Most travelers don’t bring them or rain gear along.
We’ve had several hosts that actually had a notebook for their guests filled with all kinds of useful info like nearby restaurants, grocery stores and their hours, the nearest public transportation stops along with their route numbers and which to take for the commonly visited sites, ATM locations, directions for how to use the washer, and so on.
I can tell you my satisfaction level goes way up when a host presents me with such a thing. It shows they’re a concerned host, and I can often overlook a few small irritants when I feel like my host really values my patronage.
And I make sure to note these kinds of things in the reviews I leave.
I’ve been very impressed and felt extremely welcomed when I’ve had a host who has left a small container of milk in the refrigerator to go along with my morning coffee. Often people are tired from traveling and don’t do a grocery shop their first night. Having a couple of small items available like milk, a couple pieces of fruit, etc., are super helpful and make you stand out as a host.
Our hosts in Novi Sad, Serbia, blew me away with all the little extra touches, and I recommended them for Superhost status (which they were awarded) and have recommended them specifically in a blog post as well. I’d say that’s a pretty good return on their investment of around $6.
[Updated 5/9/2016: Superhost status doesn’t always guarantee a great experience, unfortunately. We’re currently staying in a filthy apartment of someone with Superhost status.]
This can mean a lot, especially when a potential guest is reading reviews. When I see these types of things noted, it puts that property far ahead of the others for me. In fact, I’ve paid more to stay with a host who had these types of comments in the review section.
When you’re paying to stay somewhere, you want to be as comfortable as possible (keeping in mind the adage of “You get what you pay for.”).
These small investments often mean a great deal to an Airbnb guest. Happier customers means more business for you. It’s a win-win.
Do you have an Airbnb horror story or things you wish a host had done?