I need to preface this post by stating that I do not regard myself as someone who is overly fussy when it comes to accommodation. While traveling on the motorbike I spent many nights in a tent or in a Backpackers lodge. I have also Couchsurfed on a few occasions and have only had good experiences. While traveling through the USA Margaret and I would often use the budget Motel 6 Group when we needed accommodation.
I have used Airbnb on a number of occasions over the past two years with really mixed results. Our first experience was with Peggy in Studio 26A in Milford, Auckland in 2015. My daughter was getting married and we needed somewhere to stay for about a week. She had a small granny flat under the main house. The accommodation was fine except for the fact that I thought the bed was well past its use by date and should be replaced, which I mentioned in my rating of the accommodation. Airbnb sell themselves on the ratings that hosts and guests provide to each other. These ratings, much like the Couchsurfing ratings, are designed to allow hosts and guests a measure of comfort. Hosts and guests rate each other blind – neither knows the others rating until both ratings are in – this is done to stop one of the parties retaliating to a negative rating.
Peggy gave us a good rating but after seeing our rating sent us a really nasty message complaining that we had kept her up every night. I was unaware that either party could send a private message to the other after the rating and I only saw her nasty comment about a year later when I used Airbnb again. Had I seen the message I would have sent her one telling her that we were only doing what most couples in a good relationship do at night. If we offended your sensibilities Peggy, we apologise. Maybe you should stick to hosting singles only to avoid this again happening. And possibly warn your guests that you will be up all night with your ear glued to the floor to hear what they get up to.
Whilst Margaret was sorting out the storage unit in South Africa I flew out to New Zealand to visit my children and then to Australia to look for the yacht. I thought I would again use Airbnb. My first stop was with Jenny in Iluka while driving from Brisbane to Sydney. The accommodation was lovely as were Jenny and her husband, they really went out of their way to make me feel comfortable. It almost seemed like they moved out of the main house into a small adjoining granny flat when they had an Airbnb guest and then moved back into the house when the guest left. I really enjoyed my two nights with them.
The next stop was with Daryn in New Lambton. What a dump! I make a point of reading the reviews carefully to make sure I know what I am letting myself in for. The reviews for Daryn’s place were wonderful – a 4.5 star rating. I was gobsmacked as I went into the room above the garage. The entrance to the room was through a messy, untidy garage and up a small steep flight of stairs with no handrail. The carpets were filthy with large black stains all over them. The kettle didn’t work properly. Daryn was unfriendly, in fact I thought he was rude. Daryn left me a good rating but I cannot say I did the same. I told him I thought the accommodation was below average and expensive for what it was. I simply cannot believe that I am the only person who feels this way about this accommodation and yet, there are no negative ratings on his profile. No mention of the messy garage, the dangerous stairs with no handrail or the very dirty carpets.
My next stop was with James in Umina Beach. James was overseas when I made the booking but was quick to respond to my queries and the accommodation was good. There were two units back to back with the Airbnb accommodation being in the front unit. The back unit was occupied by an elderly gentleman with a really loud foul mouth but, as Margaret had been delayed in South Africa and I needed somewhere to stay, I put up with his foul mouth for two weeks. We both left good ratings.
While staying in Umina Beach I put an offer in on a Reinke yacht in Newport Beach and was pretty sure that the deal would go through. It was a fairly long way from Umina Beach to Newport via ferry and bus and I went back on the Airbnb site to see if I could find accommodation near Newport. I could not find a self-contained place near Newport but did find a room with Robert in Bilgola Plateau. The accommodation was about 10 minutes from where the Reinke was and it would allow me to get the boat ready for when Margaret arrived. I would have preferred a self-contained unit but as I couldn’t find one for a reasonable price, booked the room with Robert for a week. I had after all Couchsurfed and how different could it be, except that I was paying to stay in the room. Between making the booking and arriving at Robert’s place, the deal on the Reinke collapsed.
As I parked the car outside Robert’s house I had a real uneasy feeling. The garage door was open and it didn’t look good. The garage was designed for two cars but Robert’s car only just fitted in between all the rubbish in the garage. The walk to the front door was no better – the garden was overgrown and the swimming pool a very dark green. Robert showed me to my room at the back of the house and my heart sank. The house had a terrible smell and it was clear that Robert was a hoarder – every nook and cranny was filled with something – mostly worthless junk. Even the bottle-tops from the beer bottles were kept in a special container in the bar. The bathroom was filthy with cobwebs everywhere and the shower area in need of a really good clean. I went to check the reviews on his profile and sure enough, not a single negative review – not one! A 4.5 star rating. The house looked nothing like the pictures on Robert’s Airbnb profile. The pictures showed a manicured garden, a lovely blue pool and even the furniture in the pictures was different.
As the week progressed it just got worse, the bed had a wooden frame with wooden slats supporting the mattress. The bed had not been put together properly and the wooden slats kept falling out. Robert was kind enough to let me use his washing machine but I could not hang the wet washing on the outside washing line because I couldn’t get to it. The wet clothes had to be hung on the pool fence to dry. It was an awful week. I had experienced far better Couchsurfing hosts and they hadn’t wanted money.
I started to wonder why there was not a single negative review or rating for either Daryn or Robert. Even 5 star hotels have the occasional negative review. A quick search on the internet provided some clues. Airbnb have often been accused of removing negative reviews. They certainly have a vested interest in the reviews, the more positive reviews the more likely someone will book the accommodation and they will make some money from the transaction. It also appears that guests do not want to leave negative reviews in case future potential hosts see these and decline their accommodation requests. Hosts are reluctant to leave negative reviews in case they scare off potential guests. There are even instances where hosts have removed their properties and relisted them to remove the negative reviews. There are numerous articles dealing with the lack of negative reviews on Airbnb properties. There is clearly something very wrong with the review process on Airbnb. I certainly never had this problem with Couchsurfing.
I have decided that I will in future only use Airbnb as a last resort. I would prefer to book into a reasonable Motel rather than risk having another stay like the ones with Daryn or Robert. I have also decided not to rate my stay with Robert. I somehow think I will be wasting my time and Airbnb will simply decide to remove it. I very much doubt that any of the stories on the airbnbHELL website appear on the Airbnb profiles.