We’re not guests; we’re a cash grab.

You know, my first experience with Airbnb was a delight. I was taken in by a young couple. Welcomed to their humble abode. As hosts, they made every effort to make my stay a pleasant one. My first time exposure to this new shared economy that’s been said describes Airbnb was starting off pretty good. It was my second Airbnb, however, showed me a side of greed I don’t care to see again. Certainly, there would be who would take advantage to this fledging industry. Taking on the BnB and hotel industry with an alternative for consumers by listing their home on an Airbnb website and playing host to a number of guests each and every night all in the sole purpose to make money. It’s just too bad I had to witness this on my second trip. I found this one couple who were to be my hosts, while they do play, it was not at being hosts. We as guests were an afterthought to them frankly. Once booked, they’ve had gotten our money. They didn’t even care if we now stay the night or not at that point. I arrived in mid-afternoon, and keyed in the combination on the door lock given to me via Airbnb. I came in to what appeared to be an empty house when a young woman came walking down the stairs. She introduced herself, and was told she had come from Europe with her daughter and both she and her young one was attending school here. She immediately played the role of host. She offered me refreshments and showed me around. Since no one else was home at the time, I got the whole tour of the house. I would discover that she, in fact, was a guest herself, and had made arrangements with the hosts to stay at the residence long term. It was a slow night, and I was the only new arrival that day. There were two others who had booked rooms, but they were out. They had their rooms upstairs. I had booked the couch in the basement. The house was a family of four. A man and women with two boys. It must be said, at the time of my stay, the mother was actually out sailing in the middle of the ocean somewhere, and so she wasn’t available to serve as host. Trouble is, I would discover there wasn’t really a host there at all. The father came home that evening around 7:00pm. By then, the other resident guests had returned from their outings and had quickly ventured off to their rooms. His was quick on introductions. He made the attempt at the conventional niceties inquiring as to the reason of my visit, and if I was taken care of. However, after announcing some instructions to the young mother standing off on the other side of the room, he promptly went up to his master bedroom and started making business calls loud enough for all to hear. I would take to my room later that evening which was really just a couch up against a wall in the basement. A basement I shared with the son whose room was in the back. There was an unfinished bathroom down there as well, and would eventually be used by all the guests as the one upstairs leaked when one showered. The basement was also filled with the toys and mementoes collected over the years by your typically two-parent, two-child family. In the morning, those family members marched around upstairs making the usual noises when gathering breakfast and starting the day. After all, and I could appreciate this fact, we were staying in a working family home. The children went to school, and the parents went to work. However, it was the callous way they went about it that got to me that very first day. That morning, all could hear the father again in his room apparently conducting an interview over the phone. You see, he had just ordered a Hydranet main sail for his boat. It was ordered in from Sarnia, and it was for a Friday afternoon boat race he was to attend in Chicago. It would seem he was recruiting for a crew. As the day went on, it became clear the young mother I first met was indeed assigned the hosting and janitorial duties. Frankly, I’m thinking some labour laws were being broken here because the woman had conveyed to me she wasn’t get paid for this and, in fact, was still paying for staying there for going on some ten months now. They had come up with some arrangement, but as my stay was a number of nights, I soon began to see that this young mother did not feel it was a fair deal. All the responsibility of hosting was delegated to this guest. Our hosts were smart to post snapshots of only the newly renovated part of the house. It gave an air of style and sophistication. One that did not carry on to the rest of the house however. The bed rooms offered upstairs were small and in need of a fresh coat of paint. Indeed, the rest of the house was in sharp contrast to the immaculate living room and kitchen presented in the Airbnb Ad. All by design no doubt. One evening I was up working on my laptop. I was sitting on the living room couch designed more for show than function, when I heard the door lock being typed on. A young woman came in through the foray with luggage in hand and quickly stared at me. The father had long since gone to bed, and she had obviously been given the name of the young mother turned housemaid, and asked me where she was. It was apparent in this woman’s mind, as it would, that if you’re hosting a BnB, you should maybe wait up and well…host. Not here. There was no one to direct her to her room, and she eventually ventured slowly upstairs by herself. It was about 40 minutes later, when she was back down and out the door. I was later told, guests had done the same in the past soon after looking at those small little rooms. The next day, I mentioned in passing to the father that they had lost a guest the night before. He shrugged it off stating, “we already have her money”, and then, as was his routine, quickly walked past other guests, collected a bit of breakfast and was out the door. It was apparent to me what this was to him. It was a cash cow. One where they can make a nice bit of money with little effort on their part. They even hired an “Air Manager” to keep their ad in high standings on Airbnb. An offshoot of Airbnb, this “Air Managing” has become a separate industry in of itself. They hired the owner of the local coffee shop and laundry mat to review the guests, put in reviews and adjust the price from day to day. The price would change depending on upcoming events, depending on the season or even depending on the days of the week. Their ad would be listed $42 per night on a Sunday, and then $60 the following Friday. Apparently, this person not only handled this Airbnb but a number of Airbnb’s in the area. They’ve got the house, all you got to do is show up! And even that! They cancelling policy, of course, was strict. The 17 year old son still living in the house was consciously oblivious to the guests. He wanted nothing to do them. I was told the family use to host international students for years and years before enrolling in Airbnb and so this could possibly explain their cavalier behaviour towards their guests. The next night, two new guests far from home are waiting in the kitchen to be attended to by some young mother so they were told. Unknowingly to them, of course, this young mother was a fellow guest, and by this time, had taken to hiding from new arrivals. Man! What a racket! The father again comes home and gets on his phone upstairs and talks just loud enough for the house to hear. This guy’s making from $40 to $60 on each guest each night. He’s clearing about $300 per night, and he revels in ordering the young mother around like she were staff. If it weren’t for the blatant arrogance, I would have let this go, but these people aren’t even trying to hide it. They take separate vacations with the mother out in the mid-Atlantic somewhere. They’ve got a house keeper coming in two times a week, and I overheard the son one day telling a visiting classmate that the last time he had orange juice was in Greece. That same son attends the Rosedale Heights School of the Arts while the other son, god bless, is special needs and now lives away at a home. Of course, I’ll let that last point go, but I looked up this Rosedale Heights School of the Arts. It claims to provide an enriched environment both stimulating and supportive for students interested in the arts, no audition or portfolio required, and a tuition fee of $20,000! The indulgence! And, of course, the father drives around in a black BMW. We are not their guests, we’re a cash grab, and they make little effort to conceal that fact. Shame! Months from now, I imagine one will still be able to get into door with the lock combination they provided me on Airbnb. They wouldn’t think to change it. You know, for the safety of their guests! I would have wonderful experiences at other Airbnb’s since then, but that one had left a bad taste in my mouth. However, this social aspect of Airbnb where they try to convince you we’re all part of this community, we’re all peers sharing in this experience, doesn’t make it easily conducive to regulation and fair play. You many have had a wonderful time and left what you felt was a reasonable if not glowing review to the host. But heaven help you if the host doesn’t like your review. Right now, the host can get back to you. They can confront you with your comments and now make it a hassle. Look! We’re not your fellow ‘Beaner’, we’re not part of this wonderful community. We’re guests; we’re customers. Customers don’t get hassled! Period. Not when there’s money changing hands! I’ve met people who are living way beyond their means on other people’s backs. To hell with that! It’s a business, and as it such needs a watchdog, it needs regulation. Some would say, well you get what you paid for, and that’s a valid point. I will then make one little suggestion. I’m thinking Airbnb could make one subtle change to how things work in their little community of theirs. Once a guest has checked out, the host can’t get back to them. Ever. If that guest becomes a host one day (as Airbnb is constantly encouraging they do) past hosts can then themselves contact them as guests. They then may have their chance for well…retribution. There will be times where the experience is just great! The host and guest may even become fast friends. That’s all good. They’re free to exchange their personal emails in that case. However, once checked out, the host cannot again communicate with the guest via Airbnb. If the host has issue with the guest, there’s already procedures in place to pursue that with Airbnb as mediator. With this one little change, now you’ll get your honest and free reviews! However, since we’re all apparently part of this wonderful community, there’s good old fashion peer pressure in place right now to encourage otherwise. Social norms can be a powerful means of control, and Airbnb no doubt knows it. Doing this one change doesn’t stop the guest from booking again with that host good or bad. The host could always decline (though, of course, Airbnb could punish them for that) or accept them. Look at that! Repeated business! That host was an outrage! I would like to see somebody going to jail. But, of course, that’s just me saying that right now with my dander up. At the very least, they should be reported. But this Airbnb phenomena is new ground. Who do you report to? The police? The Better Business Bureau? Immigration Services? Who? There isn’t the regulation in place for this new industry, and there should be. A third body not affiliated with Airbnb or its thousands of ever growing number of hosts.

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