I stayed for ten days in a spare room at a house in Heemstede, which is close to Haarlem in Noord Holland. I had nothing to complain about; the house and facilities were very nice and my host and her family were personable enough. I fully intended to return. I was too busy to post a review until about ten days after I left.
My review was entirely positive and I made no remarks about personalities or individual differences. I don’t consider it valid material for a review unless they’re very extreme. At that point I read the review the host had left. It was positive and even included the wish that I would return one day.
They used one word to describe me which I thought was much too personal and was wide open to interpretation by English speakers, a negative which could actually be seen by a total stranger as a layman’s remark about my mental health. The very brief review did read like a peculiar mixed message. It rather spoiled the experience for me.
I was concerned about this remark and I contacted the host thirteen days after my departure to express my concern about it. If the host had merely said that they understood my concern, that would have been the end of the matter. Instead I was accused of exaggerating. I was given the positive Dutch definition of the word (which I do happen to know) as proof.
There then followed recriminations about a lost bike key, which I had placed with the front door key, on a key ring, on a hook behind my bedroom door. The host could have phoned, sent an SMS, or emailed me in the intervening thirteen days if I had caused a problem. I had mentioned in my email to the host that it would have been rather more helpful if they had mentioned some practical things such as the fact that I had done the bed laundry before I left.
This was countered by a blunt statement that this was expected by the host, although they had said nothing to about this during my stay and there was nothing about this in the written house rules. The host said that I had ruined an expensive bed cover by washing it with all the other bed clothes. This was not true as I had cold-washed it separately because it appeared to be made of wool. I offered financial compensation and this was refused with significant bad grace.
The host also took the opportunity to make a pseudo-diagnosis of me by saying that I needed more ‘space and more attention’ than the other guests and also said that she had used the word she had used in the review to warn future hosts. I was then told it was time to end the conversation and she ended it by wishing me well before ending communication.
She had denied everything I said, made counter-accusations, and expressed herself in a very arrogant way, when all that was required was a brief and normal conversation. The experience for me was exactly like being spoken to, not to mention lied to, like an employee. It is an unfortunate Dutch stereotype, though only true of a small minority of people in The Netherlands, that if you are merely polite and personable with them, then they will presume you to be lacking in basic intelligence.
This particular host has, in the words of other Airbnb users, left feedback as a guest which is ‘borderline rude’ and ‘very arrogant.’ If you stay with this host then probably nothing bad will actually happen, but my experience was that things got quite unpleasant when I was no longer present, when I complained about something and when the exchange was not visible to other people.
The feedback you see on Airbnb does not always give an accurate representation of the stay and what the host says in private may be completely different. I think that this host might be very resentful of having to host strangers in her nice house and that the veneer of tolerance and courtesy is quite thin.
Airbnb urgently needs to address the level of assistance it gives hosts and guests. The last time I had to complain was when I was stranded by a host who did not meet me as arranged. That was in 2015 and the online support was very fast and good. They seem to have replaced that with operatives which are hard to distinguish from an artificial intelligence application. Nothing is resolved and they often shut down the ticket before you can make a reply. Airbnb used to respond by email if you wrote in by letter, but not anymore.
————- Editor note added 2/26/2020————-