Airbnb is a great idea: instead of renting a poorly appointed holiday house, you’re hosted in someone’s actual home. Sometimes they’re there too and you use a spare room; sometimes they graciously vacate the premises and leave you to it. It’s a ‘share economy’ concept: you share in resources that are already available.
The clue that Airbnb is supposed to be different from soulless hotel rooms or generic holiday houses is the use of the word host: “a person who receives or entertains guests” (according to the Oxford Dictionary). These are real homes and so everything home-y is there: towels, linen, pantry basics, a kitchen with proper utensils (as opposed to the blunt knives and warped frypans you’ll find in a rented holiday home).
In the early days of Airbnb, the host would even stock the fridge for you. It all started out with
the best of intentions, but the honeymoon is definitely over. Recently, I stayed in an Airbnb in
South East Queensland. This holiday town seems to have embraced the Airbnb concept enthusiastically – and then marched it straight back to the past, where you rent out meanly
furnished holiday shacks that don’t have cheese graters.
The clue? There’s weirdness going on that wouldn’t go on if someone actually lived there.
For example: a loft bedroom with a doorless ensuite, and a shower recess that’s only big enough for
a small child.
Not enough towels. Empty pantry (nary a sachet of sugar), a barren fridge and unfilled ice trays
(MYO, suckers). But the real clue was our host, Sue*. In all the correspondence prior to our check-in, she had cheerily implored us (complete with exclamation point) to contact her via mobile: “Please don’t hesitate to contact me!” Contact her we did – straight through to voicemail. 48 hours later,
we called her again, whereupon she told us she hadn’t answered it the first time because she “didn’t
recognise the number”.
She had a lot of properties on the go, she explained, so it took a while for her to get a handle on which house we were actually in. She couldn’t give us extra towels (sorry!) but advised us to use the
beach towels that were in the laundry. Face washers and hand towels?
She couldn’t get those to us either, sorry! Extra blankets? Now we were just being demanding.
But the final kicker was the instructions we received upon leaving. We were to empty all rubbish bins, strip all the beds and wash the extra beach towels we had used – on a short cycle.
So we sent her an invoice for all the cleaning we did on exit, which was about the same as the cleaning fee she was going to charge back to us. We called it square and implored her to contact us if she had any questions, any questions at all. We also put the beach towels on a cotton plus pre-wash cycle, one hour and 55 minutes. Thanks Sue, two stars!