Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Review: AirBnB

We used AirBnB twice this time on our recent trip in Europe. The first stay was a 4 day stay at the beginning of our visit to France, and the second stay was a one night stay.

I'm a big fan of AirBnB the company, so I wanted to write a positive review of my stay, but both stays left a bad taste in my mouth, for different reasons. The first place was fine. The price wasn't exactly cheap, and it wasn't in a great location in Paris, but it was quiet, and the place while not super-duper clean, was acceptable.

However, after we moved out, the owner contacted us and asked for a cleaning fee. When we asked to see why, she sent us a picture of a stove surface that would have taken us 3 minutes to clean up (at worse), and a few pieces of tissue scattered on the living room table. The cleaning fee wasn't stupendous (35EUR), but we certainly felt as though she deliberately didn't meet us when we left just so that she could make a little bit of extra money off us. [Update: AirBnB has since refunded us the "cleaning fee" --- what a great company!]

The second stay was much worse. The pictures and the text described the place as suitable for 5 people. But when we showed up, it was clear that the pictures were deceptive: two of the "rooms" were really a single space, separated by a single stair case. The third room was a child's bedroom with a roll out mattress. The place was very small, and there was practically no space for Bowen to play freely. For one night it was OK, but we would have been mad if we'd tried to stay there for a few days. Worse than that, the person who ran the apartment lied on the AirBnB site about her address, which meant that my instructions for the airporter pick up address was wrong. This wasn't a big deal, since I could call and change the pickup location, but it lended the entire affair a bit of a sleazy feel.

Contrast this with my experience in europe with Booking.com. We used them for 4 locations in France and Austria, and each time the bookings along with the reviews have been exactly what we wanted. The prices were also comparable to AirBnB.

In short, traveling with a family is probably the wrong model for AirBnB. I suspect that if we had been a couple traveling on our own, AirBnb would have served up much better offerings than comparable hotels. As it is, I think I would have been better off booking a hotel and paying a bit more for our stays. While this experience isn't necessarily enough to put me off AirBnB in the future, I think I will avoid them when booking trips for my family.
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