When I retired I bought my dream house in a popular US vacation destination. It’s a relatively large house and I spent a fortune remodeling and putting it together. In 2008 I lost the remainder of my savings in the big crash, and now have to support myself and my house on half of what I intended to live on for the rest of my life. A friend recommended Airbnb, as I have a two-bedroom guest house on the property. It seemed like a great idea, as I enjoy having guests.
The first year was a rough learning curve, and like all hosts I have had a few horrible guests, but that was all in more than 60 guest parties. I’ve put every dime and every bit of my energy into optimizing my rental, and hiring someone to help me clean, which costs more than the cleaning fee. I bought luxury linens and lots of breakfast food and treats, for which I been rewarded with many sweet notes of thanks. I was feeling very proud of myself and was sure I would keep doing it. I was made a Superhost, and it may sound stupid, but it meant a lot to me – I had started my own business and was making a success of it. I always had more requests to book than I could possibly accept, no matter what the season.
My car died and I bought a new car, figuring that one guest party would make the monthly payment. I had a protocol and income I could count on. Or so I thought. Then, without any warning, everything changed. There were no requests to book for two months in the summer. I looked for my listing, but it wasn’t there. I called Airbnb customer service and they insisted it was there, but that hosts aren’t able to pull up their own listings.
I called friends who went to a lot of trouble to help me, and they looked through every Airbnb listing where I was listed and in surrounding areas, but still found no listing. Money got tight and I was getting scared as I didn’t have another way of supplementing my income. I couldn’t understand it; no one had ever complained about me to my knowledge. I had never made a claim or caused any trouble. I continued to call Airbnb customer service, who couldn’t explain it. They would speculate and make up ridiculous reasons why no one was asking to book. I asked if there had been any complaints, and was told that I wasn’t allowed to know that.
Forget being transferred to a supervisor: that never happens. One particularly horrid young woman, after I had said “thanks anyway” and was about to hang up must have thought I was off the line because I heard her say very clearly “what an idiot.” I never could get hold of a supervisor, so the customer service representatives seem to think they can say and do anything to anyone and get away with it. Now I understand: I wasn’t working for myself (although it’s damned hard work); I was working for a company that had no accountability to anyone, and was making so much money that one host seeking justice and consideration was someone who could be ignored and discarded like garbage. Even big corporations know better than to treat their workers like this.
Here’s the big joke: recently Airbnb sent me a package with the book about how this business started, and a letter telling me how much they value me as a Superhost. I don’t know how it is in other countries, but here in the US, good, honorable people have lost their lives fighting for workers’ rights to get treated decently. Not to be fired without notice or even given a reason why. Not to be arrested and jailed without knowing what we’ve done wrong. I’ve lost a third of my income, and now I’m signing up on other sites and will probably get guests through that. However, I’m so disappointed in and ashamed of Airbnb, who had a spectacular idea, got very wealthy, and then turned on the people who have worked so hard to made Airbnb what they are today. I hope the other companies now popping up all over the world to do the same thing learn what not to do by reading posts like these.