AirBnB – Home, Away From Home – REALLY??

If there is one place on earth where a person feels utmost comfort, then that’s his/her home. Even if you have had a terrifying day, you feel at peace after reaching your home. It’s like the 4 walls of your home soaks in all the pressure and relieves you of any tension. It is because of this feeling I always look for an AirBnB home instead of a hotel when I am traveling. Of course, it is good on the pocket as well, but, after a tiring day, while touring, it feels good to be home, away from home.

AirBnB – Home, Away From Home!

The idea of living in someone else’s home when you are on vacation would have been neglected like anything in yesteryears. Nuances like not making your own bed, refreshments just a phone call away etc. were considered luxury (still does) and people would not want to compromise on this aspect. But, then came AirBnB!

The idea of short-term home rentals have been tried by many, but AirBnB has undoubtedly captured the fair share of market in this domain and how. The aesthetics of their website (the home of their business model) are brilliant and matches the suavity of real homes rented on their site. The classic, What You See Is What You Get! Combined with the hospitality of your host makes it a memorable stay wherever you travel in the world. Well… most of the times!

As the moon is to earth, AirBnB is to me!

No, I am not talking about the distance. On the other hand, AirBnB is pretty accessible in nature. But, just like moon, it has few “black spots” instead of being the market leader. Most of my stays has been successful in my previous trips but the recent one, made me rethink my stance about the company. My trip to Barcelona will always be scarred because of the timid experience while staying in one of the AirBnB properties.

3 Days, 4 Nights in Barcelona

Yes, you read it right. I reached Barcelona on 2nd December 2016 around 9pm in the evening and was on my way back to Mumbai 6th December 2016 early morning. Excited I was, for my 3 days and 4 nights! After the wonderful stay in Madrid, Granada and Seville at AirBnB homes, it was Barcelona to end my trip. After admiring the architectural designs in northern parts of Spain, it was time to relax at the beach. A wonderful triplex with an open terrace offering the view of the sea. And I was confident of ending the trip on a high note. As it turned out, it wasn’t meant to be!

As soon as I entered the apartment, I knew that my imagination of “the” home is about to be shattered. The owners, though nicely, asked me to sign a contract. They were open about mentioning that it’s illegal to rent apartments on short-term basis in the neighborhood. The minimum stay has to be a month, so, “You have to sign this before you move in”, said the owners. To my surprise, when I wanted to read the document before signing, it was in Spanish. It was already 11pm and I had no option but to sign the document to survive that night.

I thought the worst was over, now let me get back to my vacation mode and relax in the triplex. After signing the document, they offered me the tour of the place. Showing me the kitchen and the living room before climbing the steps for the bedroom with walk-in closet. Although, when you think about it the apartment feels good, but, when I was actually getting the tour, my brain had two thoughts:

  1. Isn’t it a little shorter in area as compared to what was painted on the website?
  2. Where is the terrace garden?

When we started coming down, I was forced to ask him “Terrace Garden?”. “I will be taking you there”, was his reply. We came out of the apartment, took an elevator to third floor, he opened the door and said this your personal terrace. You have the keys, none of the other people come here. And that, was the terrace garden where I had imagined myself sipping coffee while enjoying the view of sea with my morning coffee.

Now then, I signed a document, apartment is a little shorter and doesn’t have a terrace. Worst is over, let’s sleep over it, wake up and enjoy Barcelona from tomorrow, I thought… Spain is cooler during the month of December! I got to find this the hard way when the heater was not working in the apartment mid-night and I was literally frozen. Battling cold for more than an hour, I slept (passed out) baffled. How can AirBnB home be this bad?!

I woke up next morning and complaint about heaters. “We have the Air Conditioners. Please turn the temperature to 30C (86F) and it should be fine”, was the reply I got later in the evening. I was stunned, they didn’t even have a heater in a place which gets killer cold during winters! First, you didn’t responded me the whole day. I had to come back to the same neighborhood in night and read that reply. For the next two days I tried keeping me warm with those Air Conditioner but with no luck. All in all one big “Black Spot” on what have been “The Moon” so far, My AirBnB Experience!

When I was on my flight back to Mumbai, I thought I had a wonderful trip. Yeah, there was a hiccup towards the end but that’s OK there are bad days in life. The worst is over! Let’s get back home and start the day to day life. Well… sometimes it just never ends!

AirBnB Action Required!

While I was at work one day trying to settle in after a 12 day vacation, I got an email from AirBnB with subject line “AirBnB Action Required”. When I read the email, I couldn’t believe my eyes. It left me perplexed! The email was in regards to the same apartment in Barcelona. The owners had compained against me for smoking cigarettes in the apartment and were asking for $200 to get the apartment clean.

I shared my experience (read plight) with the customer service team at AirBnB narrating the whole incident, detailing my experience at their property, and giving supporting points that I didn’t violate any rules:

  1. Profile of the homeowner: While listing your property at AirBnB or any such site (I have worked on developing one), the user is asked for lot of information about the home along with listing amenities and house rules. 99% people follow those as it lays the good foundation between the tenant and the homeowners. The owners of that Barcelona apartment also had mentioned the house rules. But, none of them read “Smoking not allowed”. I shared the information with the customer service team and asked them to verify their profile.
  2. Ashtray at apartment: Not that it means smoking is allowed, if you keep an ashtray at your place. But, it does give a hint. And when you don’t have any house rules, then why not. So again, I didn’t violate any rules.

In fact, other properties in Madrid, Granada and Seville had the rules pretty obvious and there were no complaints from their owners. Instead, one of them went ahead and gave me 5 stars as a tenant and left a comment for me on AirBnB’s portal.

Even after sharing the minute details with the team at AirBnB, I still receive the emails from them every month. I understand the intrinsic details of such company as I have worked in similar one in my school days, this behavior is unexpected! Especially, when you are at a strong position in the market. When people only expect the best from you. And, you have been delivering it constantly.

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