Airbnb feels like staying with a cheap, uptight friend – then paying for the privilege | Arwa Mahdawi – Lifotravel

Some people call it “wasting time on Twitter”. I call it “qualitative research”. Having engaged in a lot of qualitative research recently, I’ve discovered the following: everyone is sick of Airbnb. In its early years, Airbnb was a more economical and adventurous alternative to a hotel. Nowadays, it costs a small fortune to rent a shack on Airbnb and, when you get there, you are forced to abide by a long list of rules and buy your own toilet paper. It’s become a bit like staying with your cheapest, most uptight friend – and paying them for the privilege.

I’m not the only person to have made this observation. Every few weeks a tweet dunking on Airbnb seems to go viral. The latest example comes courtesy of a writer called Jeremy Gordon, who got more than 100,000 likes for tweeting the following: “Decided to stay in a Holiday Inn instead of an Airbnb for an overnight trip and strongly feel, one hour after check-in, that there has never been a more luxurious experience in all of human history.”

Let me be clear that I’m not being sponsored by big hotel when I say this (if big hotel would like to sponsor me then please get in contact!), but I’m not sure I’ll ever stay in an Airbnb again. To be fair, this is partly because Airbnbs are now obscenely priced and I can’t afford to. Sometimes I look at Airbnbs for fun and then, when I find one that seems reasonable, I realise it’s actually a tent. Someone has put a bed in a tent in a field and is renting it out for more than $100 a night.

The last time I stayed at an Airbnb was in 2021, before childcare ate all my disposable income. We had a new baby and wanted a relaxing few weeks away from the city, so we booked a riverside cottage in the Catskill mountains. As it turns out, “relaxing” and “three-month-old baby” don’t really mix. Being greeted with a long list of rules when we arrived didn’t help matters. Some of these rules were reasonable, some were not. Do not put drinks on the coffee table! I’m sorry, what? It’s a coffee table. The clue is in the name. You put coffee on it. If you have furniture that you don’t want people to put drinks on, then don’t rent out your place on Airbnb for a ridiculous amount of money.

There were a few other hiccups with this Airbnb. The hair that had been left in the sink, for example. (The host gave us a refund on the $300 cleaning fee.) The broken dishwasher. (The host grumbled, then sent a plumber.) And the snake. The first time I went to the basement to use the washing machine, I almost stepped on a snake. “Just thought you might want to know a snake lives in your basement!” I messaged the host, who was thoroughly sick of us by now. The curt response: “Well, it’s the countryside.” That put me in my place, didn’t it? I didn’t realise that everyone in the countryside has a snake in their basement. While it may have been no big deal to the owners, it made doing the laundry eventful. First I’d pop my head into the staircase and yell: “Hello snake!” to make sure it knew I was coming. Then I had to locate the bloody thing. One day it would be hanging out on the staircase, then it would be by the dryer, then it would be hiding behind a box. I’m not snakephobic, I want to be clear, I just don’t want to pay a small fortune to stay somewhere and then have to worry about limbless reptiles slithering over me in the night.

I’m not saying Airbnb is irredeemably awful, by the way. I know that being able to let out a room on Airbnb helps some people pay their rent. It helped a couple of my friends in New York pay their rent, actually. And then one day a woman arrived and started giving birth on their kitchen floor. Sometimes it pays your rent and gives you great dinner party stories! Other times it makes long-term housing completely unaffordable for normal people because get-rich-quick types have snapped up all the inventory and are charging tourists a small fortune for short-term stays with snakes. Hard to know if it’s good or bad, really.

Arwa Mahdawi is a Guardian columnist

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