I am neither a host nor guest although I have used Airbnb as a guest and had great experiences. I applied for a casual job as a cleaner for an Airbnb house. In applying I dealt with the owner. After weeks of delays and masses of emails the house was finally on the market.
It was only then that I realised it was managed by a hosting company and they were in another country, as was the owner. The house was just that; it was certainly not a home and to begin with only had the absolute minimum of fittings (cheap bedding, one towel per guest, no saucepans, cooking utensils, oven and dishwasher not working, no toaster, no microwave etc). Basically it was a two bedroom house with a queen bed in one room and a horrible single bunk in the second room. While it was advertised as suitable for five people, one would have to sleep on a thin foam mattress in the master bedroom and the other guest on the lounge in the living area near the TV.
This lounge was not a sofa bed, and was not long enough for an adult to stretch out his legs. There were no glasses (just plastic cups), one mug, plate, bowl per person and the same with cutlery. There were no pictures on the walls (just the hooks where pictures had been) no books, magazines, music, or DVDs. There was a large TV that has the minimum number of stations available, i.e. no cable or Netflix or something similar. There is internet and it is actually rather good.
People are being charged nearly $170 a night for this. I spent a lot of my own time cleaning the house before the first guests as it just had that dirt that tends to accumulate when someone lives there, especially when you remove most of the furniture. For some bizarre reason, it was heavily booked for the first few months. All short-term guests seemed happy enough. By this time I had convinced the owner to purchase a few necessities such as drinking glasses, extra bedding (winter was on the way), and saucepans. Some things I bought myself as I realised they were needed.
Once some longer term people stayed, they mentioned in their reviews things such as the fact there was no oven or dishwasher. The ‘host’, who pretends to be the owner, told big fat lies and said the previous guests had damaged the dishwasher; that’s why it didn’t work. A previous time they said a guest had broken the oven, when it has never worked. When other guests mentioned the lack of cooking facilities, the ‘host’ basically accused them of being too fussy. None of this “customer is always right” stuff.
When you look at the reviews the hosting companies give for each guest, it’s exactly the same wording for every one, so completely useless as a guide to other hosts. I used to give them a review of each group of guests as they left but now I don’t bother. There’s no point. This host (who uses a pseudonym to pretend he isn’t the owner) has never been to the house, just seen some very selective images sent by the owner. I am the one who deals with the guests. They have mostly been wonderful and grateful for the effort I have made to make sure the property is clean and as comfortable as possible.
When I consider that I originally thought Airbnb was a platform to have a local experience: have access to a home so that you could live, cook, maybe even have someone over for dinner and experience someone’s home. The host that runs this house has hundreds of properties yet still pretends guests are dealing directly with the owner. I need the work so I am still cleaning (and of course have become the contact person when things go wrong). I think places run by hosting companies should be marked as such. Some people might actually prefer it that way.
The problem is of course, once business takes over where communities once reigned, it all goes horribly wrong. eBay is the perfect example of that. Owners who share their homes with guests are mostly going to be proud of their place and treat the guests with respect. That has been my experience using Airbnb. Hosting companies just want to make money and do very little other than take bookings and money, and then take a really long time to pay.