Airbnb has been all over the news after a woman's home was ransacked and burglarized and the room rental service did nothing about it. It wasn't until after the woman's story went viral that the company decided it needed to take action to prevent this type of event from ever happening again.
Two weeks ago, before news of this woman's experience came out; IB Times took a look at the five biggest reasons to avoid using Airbnb. Not surprisingly, almost all of them came to play in the woman's horrific experience.
Click here to read our initial story on the service.
The company has placed a $50,000 guarantee to cover any damage caused by a renter, now has a 24-hour hot line, and has tried to update profiles.
IBTimes essentially suggested all of those things in its first review of the service, specifically harping in on the service's notoriously bad customer service and the overall safety concerns that come with allowing a stranger, who has not been verified by anyone, into your home.
While it appears the company has taken steps to fixing the safety concerns and unresponsive nature of the company concerns IBTimes initially expressed, here are three more concerns that still hold true.
1) Potential to be Shafted
Among the biggest issues surrounding the company's service is the potential for the customer to be shafted. Both the lessor and renter can cancel a reservation, often very easily, which could put the other person in a serious bind. Imagine you come into New York City during the summer months, a very popular destination for tourists, and book a room through this service only to have the lessor cancel the reservation on you.
You've already booked your flight and are set to leave the next day, what do you do? Hotels would likely be completely booked and if you are lucky enough to find one, the short notice room will likely be at a high premium price.
Be aware that your "room reservation" with this service isn't nearly as reliable as one with a legitimate hotel. It's possible it could work out perfectly, as it has for some of the company's satisfied customers, but there are clear risks here.There's also legal issues for certain cities, specifically New York, in which laws try to limit and/or completely prohibit short term leases like the ones that populate Airbnb.
2) Lots of Potential Awkwardness
For some people it might not be an issue, but the potential awkwardness in using this service is pretty high. Users might be able to get a general feel for what type of situation they will be walking into, but it's impossible to know just what type of people they will be leasing from.
Often you may be occupying an extra room or spare bed of a couple and/or family that is still living in that space. It's not a hotel where you'd at least have some base level of privacy. When you rent through people you don't know, there's no telling what type of weird things the original owners might do in their day-to-day living. If you aren't comfortable in handling potentially awkward situations, it's likely best to go the safe route and book a hotel room.
3) What You See Isn't Always What You Get
Perhaps the biggest issue with this service is that the company does nothing to vouch for the apartment's veracity. Anyone can put an apartment or room up for rent on the service and upload any pictures that he or she wants.
The company relies on its users to provide reviews of the place so that guests can be warned if the seller isn't actually offering what he or she is advertising. But often times this is could be too little, too late, especially if the place had yet to be reviewed. If you are planning a big trip, you don't want to have your room sullied by being swindled into an apartment that isn't what it was billed to be.
One user, smf, wrote on Fodors.com of a similar issue:
"The picture displayed a clean, well-kept location," she said of the apartment she and her husband booked in Chicago. "On the way down JoAnne called us to say we were staying at a different location on Sedgewick. We went to the location she directed us to find a terribly maintained condo with a bathroom with mold and ceiling tiles falling in, bugs on the floor and disgusting kitchen."
Some hotels have been known in the past for false advertising, but there is so much more regulation with hotels, especially with major chains. If you want some real stability in actually getting exactly what you are paying for, Airbnb is not the right option for you.