I live and die by AirBNB reviews. Hands down, no argument, no discussion: Without AirBNB, I could not live the nomad life. Full stop.
But it took ages to learn to read reviews carefully, to read between the lines. Even now I am sometimes a bit disappointed in places.
Today, fellow traveler and writer Gigi Griffis lamented getting a bad review from an AirBNB host. She asked for the place to be re-cleaned after finding rotting food and such in the apartment. SO RUDE, GIGI. Honestly, though: It pisses me off that having expectations of a clean apartment is considered poor behaviour. We pay money for what we get. Especially people like Gigi and me, since we’re fussy and not cheaping it out, just getting better deals by staying long-term. (Oh, and Gigi is good reading. She’s here.)
So let’s talk about two things.
One, for guests, why are reviews so important, and what are your responsibilities as a reviewing guest, and why?
Two, if you’re a host, why do I feel entitled to complain about your apartment, and why are my expectations justified?
One: Guests: AirBNB Reviews, and the Responsibility of Honesty
I spend $12,000+ yearly now on AirBNB and my money matters. When you, as a guest, avoid rocking the boat by only leaving nice shiny reviews on mediocre places, you compromise my quality of life because you weren’t honest.
Here’s the thing: Hosts don’t see your reviews until after you have BOTH reviewed each other. This is to keep you honest. So be honest. They can’t do anything to you after you have posted an honest review. They can’t change their review out of spite. They can’t blackmark you or out you. They can’t attack you.
And prospective hosts can’t see what listings you’ve reviewed, only how you’re reviewed as a guest by other hosts, so don’t worry about bad AirBNB reviews tainting future stays. Even if they COULD see your honest-but-bad AirBNB reviews, good hosts would read it and see “rotting food left in fridge” or “unclean toilet” and know that, yeah, that complaint is totally warranted.
This isn’t high school.
We’re not all supposed to try to be friends. It’s independent business people providing customers with a service. Period.
The ratings should be like this:
- Five stars = “Do I really have to leave?”
- Four stars = “Pretty good”
- Three stars = “Needs work”
- Two stars = “I’m too old for this shit”
- One star = “Omigod, I’m not staying here another night”
And be honest.
Stop being a nice guest and not saying what you really think. I promise, it won’t come back to bite you.
One “B”: What to Include In AirBNB Reviews
When reviewing an AirBNB experience, don’t just tell us how nice the host was and how close it was to the city.
Tell us how the arrival happened. Was it painless? Were you waiting in the dark of night outside in a seedy part of town because the host didn’t arrive for 20 minutes?
Focus on necessities others need to know about before booking:
- Is the bathroom clean, in good shape, and functioning?
- How’s the water in the shower?
- Does the WiFi work consistently, and is it fast?
- Does the kitchen have a decent supply of cookware?
- Is there a rooster next door or a mosque that bellows its call to prayer at 3am?
- Does the host answer inquiries quickly? Do they handle your needs well?
- Is there anything at all left to cook with, like spices or leftover things from past guests, or should one show up well-stocked?
- And the bed! Don’t just tell us it’s “comfy,” is it soft? Hard? Firm? Lumpy? Squeezed in between two walls so you have to climb out the bottom?
- Does the place smell? Is there dust or mold?
- What about the neighbourhood? Is there a lot of traffic? Stairs? Hills? How far to the nearest… anything?
AirBNB reviews are important, they’re a critical part of the booking experience. Beyond helping people like me, for whom this is our life, it helps people who’ve scrimped and saved for a vacation, and this means a lot to them. Why are they less important than the hosts’ feelings? They’ve got two weeks off in a year, and you inflating your AirBNB review might mean they book a mediocre apartment when better ones are out there.
Give other guests the vacations they’re longing to enjoy by being honest and helpful in writing a thorough AirBNB review.
Two: AirBNB Hosts: Why My Expectations Are Justified
There are hosts out there who think complaints about cleanliness and conditions are unjustified. They think you get what you pay for and you’re lucky that they even offer their place up for rent.
Look, hosts, you do me no favours. You provide a service. Anything above and beyond a clean and serviceable apartment is indeed a service and generosity, and I appreciate it. But a clean, functioning, liveable apartment is not negotiable. Broken chairs and malfunctioning appliance, blown bed springs, these are not “bare minimum standards.” These are you failing to provide a good experience.
If you put out a bare minimum experience, be honest about that. Say so. Don’t call it “cozy and rustic.” Say it’s a minimalist experience for a student looking for a budget stay. There is a MARKET for that and they appreciate honesty and are glad to just be able to stay in Edinburgh or Vancouver for a week, at that price. But don’t act like you’re all that when you’re barely better than a college dorm after a party weekend, okay?
This isn’t charity. You’re paid. Guests worked for that money.
If you say you have a great space and you provide a nice apartment, that’s terrific. Yay! Make sure it’s spotless. If you’re not a great housekeeper, pay someone who is. I will judge you hard on cleanliness.
If you think cutting corners is peachy because it’s “not a hotel” then get out of the AirBNB business. That’s not AirBNB’s slogan. It’s not “AirBNB: Not a hotel.” It’s “AirBNB: Live like a local” and “AirBNB: Belong Anywhere.”
And living like a local does indeed include all walks of life – casual spaces, dorm-like facilities, shared rooms, and more. But clean. CLEAN!
Cleanliness is non-negotiable at any level of AirBNB. End of statement. Cleanliness is non-negotiable.
This isn’t Couchsurfing, This is a Billion-Dollar Business
I’m not some schmuck crashing on your couch and appreciating any generosity. I work hard for my dollars and pay you my money because I’m under the delusion that you understand that this is a business. You earn my money by providing a clean, safe space that lives up to all the adjectives and nouns you’ve cobbled together in your advertisement.
If you want to be charitable, go to church. Don’t open an AirBNB.
This is a business. Meet the terms of the agreement or get out of the business.
If you’re a customer leaving an AirBNB review, remember that. This was a business transaction and these people are making potentially tens of thousands of dollars a year off folks like you, and they owe you a great experience. Review them accordingly.
Thank you and goodnight.
PS: I pay for every stay at AirBNB. I’m never sponsored. I’ve used it in 16 countries and have no reason to stop. If you’ve never joined AirBNB and you want to try it out, I have some pointers here, and you can join with this link and receive a $50 travel credit (pretty sure that’s Canadian dollars).