To AirBNB or not to AirBNB

The Wall Street Journal had an interesting article this week on AirBNB, and some of the rather extravagant fees some owners (“hosts”) are charging. Apparently, some have learned from hotels that you can charge for random things and if you hide it (say, not disclose it until after the reservation is made), you have an extra revenue stream. The comments are even more illuminating than the article.

Hotels are not allowed to charge random fees without disclosing them first, which is why you know ahead of time that your inner-city lower-rung hotel has a “resort fee.”

We booked an AirBNB once, because it was right down the street from our kids and we were going to visit for the first time in a couple of years. We usually stayed in the one hotel in town, but it was fully booked, so we decided to be adventurous.

We were not charged any additional fees. This is because a couple of weeks before our stay, I received a note from our host that said her kids were moving back to town and she needed the space, so she was very sorry, but she was canceling our reservation.

We found a Hampton Inn one town over to replace it. I have never had a Hampton Inn manager tell me he needed my room for his kids. (I almost said “loser kids”, but for all I know, her son may have just finished his residency at the Mayo Clinic and was starting a practice in rural Ohio.)

To me, our cancelation summed up the issues with AirBNB. It’s not a company, it’s a booking platform. They have some standards, but the reality is that the hosts run their own business, and they can do what they want, until enough people complain. Some hosts are better at business than others.

I’m all for “family first”, but if you’re running a business, canceling on a first-time guest to accommodate family is not a good business practice.

A selling point for hotel chains is “consistency.” The exception is Best Western, which is not a chain, it’s a marketing organization of independent hotels. AirBNB is not even a marketing organization – it’s a bunch of homeowners who decided to rent their extra rooms and meet the bare minimums that AirBNB requires.

So, some are great, some suck, most are in-between somewhere. Some have the host living next door, some have the host with a number of units in one town and he lives three States over.

Some cancel because they need the space.

At my age, I need consistency. So, I think that was one and done for AirBNB.

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