Tales of AirBnB

I have always been a skeptic of paid couch surfing. The reality is you never know the nature of the people or the quality of the location until you yourself are locked in. There really is no way to pre-determine the safety of one of these places. I don't want to sound paranoid but whose to say your two day rental isn't involved in human trafficking and whats holding a common renter from illegally allowing a sublet? In fact, no one can tell you what you are getting yourself into - not even these high end rental companies like AirBnB. There are smaller ones that claim to have physically viewed properties or guarantee "safety" but AirBnB doesn't have time for that. Fact checking doesn't always have to be up to date. You've seen it in the news, people either booking into places that didn't appear how they looked online or people taking advantage of renters. I guess its a two way street - they have to be choosy and so do you. You also have to remember Air BnB or whatever rental booking site you choose doesn't always take the blame.

We stayed at a decent AirBnB rental in Paris. It was in your typical French five story apartment building with an atrium garden, a small lift and winding stairs. We had hardwood floors, wireless internet and a decent bath and kitchen. The only issue we had with the place was cleanliness. The kitchen was outfitted with a few small appliances all of which had never really been cleaned in between guests. The upkeep to the place really was minimal but the hostess explained that she had a service and also cleaned up after them but you couldn't tell. She also prided herself in explaining this and saying how she laundered the sheets. However, she had clearly just washed everything in pure vinegar and line dried our towels. So we had crispy towels, smelly sheets and a mildewy kettle for three days. Then came the noise of people and children over five floors. We also had zero instructions on how to turn on the heat, a list of only organic shopping places and old tea with old clumpy organic brown sugar cubes. I hadn't booked this location so it was totally up to her to provide feedback. She claimed to have written her about the issues with an emphasis on the sheets. The problem is this is what you face when you choose to stay in someones house. There really are no rules and regulations - no level of consistency and courtesy. All you have are their own customs and traditions which can feel perfectly acceptable to them and them alone.

In Madrid, our AirBnB really was a great deal. The flat was spacious, clean and our host was extremely hospitable. He was also very informative about the neighborhood, explained heating and cooling in the flat as well as how to connect to the wi-fi. The only problem we had is that he himself placed a timer on the internet access. I personally thought he was joking but she asked why he chose to do this and his response was that people need to sleep. Now that is great in all when you don't have global travelers occupying the space who may need to contact someone via Skype at 4am. So just as he mentioned, the internet went missing around 1:30am. This happened for two nights straight and on the third night it was just gone. We seriously had no internet through the next day. We attempted to contact him which was dicey since neither one of us had a Spanish SIM card. We were pretty much stuck. The next day we found ourselves looking for wi-fi and that proved to be very difficult in Madrid. There was just none to be had at least not any signal that was reliable even at Starbucks. 

So in both scenarios we were inconvenienced but okay. I felt like both spaces were modern, acceptably safe and perfect for what we needed them for. The problem is I didn't book them, I personally never would have and now I had an even worse taste in my mouth. I was only thinking of extreme things happening but now I saw that subtleties can be just as annoying. She'd left deposits for these units and she kept mentioning how it was taking so long to get them back. We also had to buy things to utilize in these rentals that a hotel or hostel would have been able to provide. There are pros - the ability to have a traditional, full kitchen and come and go without the delay of a lobby. However, the biggest cons of a rental - hot water, noise and not knowing if things could go a rye. After both experiences, it was clear I preferred the comfort and security of a hotel. I also liked the consistency and convenience of a hotel. There are basic expectations in a hotel setting that the average rental cannot commit to. The absence of the front desk, enterprise internet and real accommodations is not worth a tad smaller price. The lack of a microwave, a business center or just a common area to escape your bitchy travel companion. Above all, I don't like not knowing whose place I'm really in. Theres just too much room for human error when it comes to booking, cleaning, preparation. I'm just no longer willing to take that risk. 

So in conclusion -  as much as there is to like about the simulated comfort of home sweet home with AirBnB; I am totally spoiled by the hotel experience. I clearly converted from the backpacker/hosteler to the 3 star hotel girl. Those few AirBnB bookings in between were just a detour allowing me to figure out that hotels are where its at. You can ask for a tea service in a hotel and they will always provide fresh tea & sugar - most of the time gratis. You can choose to have them do laundry at cost or find a nearby laundromat where a dryer isn't mythical. Also whats the point in being a house that is devoid of condiments or decent linens. I had to buy my own pepper and sleep in the same sheets for three days. I'm also never going to tolerate some one dictating when I stop using the internet and or go to bed. I know she spoke to him about the "issue" but I'm certain she never addressed his need to control peoples access. If it were my booking, I would have assertively asked him to take that "feature" off because we paid for access not a den mother.

Surely, the only way to make Air BnB or any business better is to provide feedback or reviews. Reviews are the only way a patron or consumer can ensure great customer service in many sectors. The problem is people avoid doing them. Even she told me she felt like reviews were "homework". I feel it only takes a few minutes out of your day to either fill out a form or check a few boxes. I also feel obligated to tell others what to expect on sites like TripAdvisor or Yelp!. These sites allow you to discuss your true experience, provide pictures etc. You will see many avid travelers or guests of a specific place will always provide feedback. You will also see reviews of people who chose to return and compared their original stay stating if things have changed for the better or gotten worse. 

More on reviews - how to make them and navigate existing ones to come.

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