As I write this, I’m taking a break from cleaning up after my first guests from AirBnB, the service that acts as an intermediary between parties in short-term lodging rentals of all sorts.
AirBnB recently made the news in the wake of a horrible incident one of its San Francisco based lessors rented out her entire apartment to a person whom she’d never met nor did a background check on. The person was part of a group of people that did extensive damage and stole valuable, even irreplaceable items from her home. The customer support at AirBnB dropped the ball initially, as they were not prepared to handle such incidents … this has left a bad taste in some peoples’ mouths, people who say they’d prefer the liability-free Craigslist over AirBnB’s service.
As a first time user of AirBnB, my overall impression of the service is very satisfactory. Maybe I ‘got lucky’ with my guests, maybe renting out only one room while I remain in the home helps to insure no loss or damage will occur. One thing can be sure, however: AirBnB is safe to use … if you know what you’re doing. I’m ready to take the heat for this statement, because I believe that while this third-party service is a responsible entity in an arrangement made on its site, in the end the user’s common sense must come into play.
My First Time
When my guest made his reservation, I didn’t immediately accept. Instead, I messaged him back, asking him questions about who would be staying, for how long, what the intent of the visit to my area was and why he chose my place over others. Additionally, his AirBnB profile wasn’t fully set-up, but had his full name visible, which I did a very simple Google background search on. It ended up being a retired couple from an area I’m familiar with that held good jobs and had no lawsuit or criminal records to be found.
They stayed for a total of four days. I gave up my beautiful master bedroom with the most comfortable bed I’ve had in this country (yeah, I’m an expat). It truthfully felt like having grandparents or an elderly aunt and uncle come for a visit. They treated my apartment and me with respect (which was mutual, of course). I gave them suggestions on what to do in the area, what to see, a quick run-down of the culture and assured them that this is a million times safer than where we all originate from. In the end, they made clear that they’d like to come back towards the end of their two week trip and I offered to go across the country to show them around the place I know best in the world.
While this couple was my first time actually having guests from AirBnB, I signed up for the service about a month beforehand and have received multiple requests for reservations/inquiries about the place. For some, the timing just didn’t work out. For others, they wanted a cheaper price that would not make it worth my while. For one in particular, the circumstances around her reservation were a bit shady.
A young woman actually made a reservation request for the weekend, which would be a decent sum of money based upon the rates I set. There were, however, a few red flags that gave me pause. She had her Facebook profile connected, but the picture was not her own. It would be her first time in this country (not abnormal), but she has no family nor any cultural/religious/political interest here. While she could’ve been fine, I chose not to accept her reservation (which was also last minute … another red flag).
The natural blonde in me pulled that card and put in the wrong Paypal email address to get paid. So, AirBnB paid that account even though it’s essentially invalid. I went on to their 24/7 online support chat. Jared B, the support agent, was friendly, helpful, honest … qualities of good customer service. He did what he could from his end to help my user error and forwarded the information to the correct department without any hassle. While I would’ve liked this issue to be solved immediately, I guess some people actually disconnect and sleep on occasion, so the timing is still relatively satisfactory.
Overall, I would recommend using AirBnB from my personal experience. I’m hoping to get more good reservations, especially once the free photographer they’re sending over comes for the photo shoot of my apartment. If you’re going to use the service, you should know that they have $50,000 USD insurance for their users in case of theft, damage, etc. But, in the end, you need to be a responsible adult with common sense and caution. Those things in place, this is a great website that is much more efficient and even safer than the alternatives. Plus, a little extra cash to help out with rent never hurts.