The sharing economy has changed everything from the way we order our takeout to the way we travel. For over a decade now, Airbnb has expanded its San Francisco clientele to a digital one, with more and more customers opting for a different kind of experience compared to what they’ll find at a standard hotel. People who are looking to save some money, have access to family who live in the suburbs, use a kitchen while they travel, or stay somewhere completely different are drawn to Airbnb.
With a revenue of 2.6 billion dollars and a staff of over 3,000, there’s no question that Airbnb is a wildly successful company, which is expanding globally to reach new customers in new cities all the time.
As reported by CNBC, every night nearly one million people stay in an Airbnb. With that kind of volume, there are bound to be some problems. For hundreds, upon hundreds of customers who are happy with their alternative accommodation arrangements, there are others who have found themselves in uncomfortable, awkward, strange, and sometimes even dangerous situations at the hands of their Airbnb hosts.
These are 25 of the most eyebrow-raising stories, as told by Airbnb customers.
As a good host, most Airbnb postings let clients know whether they’ll be staying in a pet-friendly home, after all, there are people who have allergies, or even fears of dogs and cats.
One unhappy Airbnb customer who booked a shared room in a home was surprised to find out that her host was pet-sitting her daughter’s highly aggressive Pitbull during the stay. The customer said,
“(The) Dog was very aggressive towards me and my friend. It growled and looked like it was about to attack us anytime we left our room to go into kitchen, living room or bathroom. The host had to restrain it with a leash, to keep it from attacking us. The host said that the dog had only bitten a person once... but she was confident the dog would be fine and not hurt us.”
Sometimes staying somewhere a little unusual can be a part of the draw towards booking an Airbnb accommodation.
One traveller said of her trip to Spain with her husband and young daughters,
“It was a very cute room with a sleeping loft and a tiny kitchen, which was separated from our landlady's tattoo parlor by just a thin wall. Throughout the day, we would hear these tough-sounding male customers coming in to get inked, only to end up screaming and cussing through their teeth. We were giggling the whole time — and left learning more Spanish cuss words than we ever needed."
Sometimes Airbnb guests get stuck in the middle of disputes that have nothing to do with them. This was the case for two British tourists who were travelling in Istanbul when they were evicted from their Airbnb by the police. Not only did the police raid the property at dawn, but they also confiscated passports, and insisted that the guests endure an hour interrogation, sign a declaration they didn’t understand (since it was in Turkish), and then were given only ten minutes to clear out.
Despite complaining to Airbnb, they received no refund or apology, and the host was even still allowed to list their accommodation on the site after this incident.
A Brooklyn resident named Patrick Horton decided he had a cool idea to help tourists visiting NY City stay somewhere unusual and economical. So, after a winter storm, he built an igloo and then posted it on Airbnb. He built the ice structure behind his Greenpoint, Brooklyn home, insisting it was big enough for two people to sleep in, for just $200 a night. The hopeful host posted on Airbnb,
“Dripping with ingenuity and alt-lifestyle aura lays this Snowpocalypse’s most desirable getaway.” Airbnb was unimpressed and made him take the listing down.
An author of a Thrillist article on strange and questionable Airbnb experiences, shared one of his own, while staying in Chicago. He says,
“At 3 am my girlfriend and I woke up to a pounding on our door, with no less than two dozen firemen standing in the door frame. Apparently, gas leaks are horrifyingly unsafe, and the barbershop beneath us was spewing more hot gas than your FB friends on Election Day.”
The couple had to leave and find a hotel room in the middle of the night, but a small price to pay since their lives had been saved.
Many people with big dreams to make it in New York City begin their journey staying in an Airbnb. Matt Lynley found that much of his cash was tied up in a pending charge for an Airbnb room, only the owner wouldn’t verify the booking, so he was left in limbo.
The wannabe New Yorker ended up spending the night in a spare room of an apartment in a fancy building, but soon found out that building management didn’t want Airbnb tenants in the building, and after a doorman had called them, he soon found an eviction notice (just for the spare room) tacked onto the apartment’s front door.
When a Business Insider employee booked a luxurious Airbnb in Hampton Bay, he was looking forward to spending some romantic time with his girlfriend, enjoying the breathtaking beach views. Instead, he received a text from the host in the middle of the night suggesting that the couple try something new in their relationship, with the host.
The host sent an awkward text that read: "Do you want to try?" He then showed up at the rental and asked the boyfriend, "The girlfriend, she's cool, right?" and "We do the best we can here."
It didn’t take long to hit the news when a South African filmmaker was spotted in a video where she was pushed down a flight of stairs by an angry Airbnb host in Amsterdam.
Sibhale Knumbi said she incurred a concussion and wants justice for her host who supposedly pushed her down her stairs because she and her friends were late checking out of their rental.
We’re assuming this host is no longer allowed to post his Airbnb accommodations, especially since the video evidence may lead to a charge.
Travel can make you tired, but so can carbon monoxide. This previously poisoned guest says,
“As soon as I walked into the apartment, I laid down and fell asleep. This wasn’t your average cat nap after a day of travel—I felt funny…tired… but it wasn’t funny. My travel partner promptly fell asleep, too. She reported the very same sensations.”
The couple connected with the host who was very responsive, however, Airbnb did nothing about the couple’s complaints, ignoring them, even though the danger present could lead to a critical situation.
Every year millions of people sleep in tents when they travel. It can be an inexpensive and beautiful way to experience nature and save some money while you get your fix of wanderlust. When there is a big event, it’s not uncommon for people to offer up tent camping spots for rent, but unfortunately for these Airbnb tenants, their plot of land was not smooth sailing.
There was no lush grass, or even a flat rock or mound of dirt to rest their tired heads. Instead, they were faced with the choice of sleeping on bumpy, uncomfortable gravel. No thank you!
Some hosts are friendlier than others. Two female Airbnb guests were put off when their host greeted them confused, tired and half-clothed. The guests complained,
“He showed us the room. It looked as expected. The rest of the place, however, did not... The kitchen, which we had access to, looked unclean and untidy. We didn’t make it to the bathroom so can’t say anything about it. Next thing, we asked about a key to the bedroom we were supposed to occupy. There was none.”
After feeling uncomfortable about no lock on their room, the two women decided to find somewhere else to stay.
One exhausted Airbnb guest was so tired, they went to sleep quickly, only to wake up to a complete nightmare. They recount,
“the house was dirty in the rooms that were open to us, there were stains on the furniture, stains on the plastic water pitcher, broken wood with exposed nails on the picnic table, a grill that was never cleaned and a pool with a green tint of algae.”
One of the guests woke up covered in bug bites, meanwhile, his girlfriend tripped on a loose step, fracturing her foot. She says,
“Airbnb replied to me, they were horrified by the photos and we left to check into a five-star hotel to recover. The host left [rude] remarks on my profile and accused us of scamming her. It was a nightmare start to our holiday since I could barely walk. I had to reschedule the rest of my planned trip while trying to let my foot heal. “
During recent Olympics, several Vancouver residents found that people were posting homes that didn’t belong to them on sites like Airbnb to make some quick cash. One traveller from California found a similar experience while staying at an Airbnb in Berlin. He was disturbed by a loud knock on the door from a man who said he was the real owner of the rental and he wanted to know what was going on. The Airbnb customer says,
"This guy with a thick Russian accent knocks on my door, demanding what I'm doing in his house. For a moment I thought I was in a bad 80s movie,"
When travelling to Austin Texas for an event, a California woman was thrilled to find a great price and immediately put down her 50 percent deposit to ensure she wouldn’t miss it. Close to the time of the trip the host emailed her to explain they’d forgotten it was a busy ‘peak’ weekend and insisted that the rental rate was three times more than what was agreed upon.
The California woman managed to negotiate herself out of the booking, and was forced to find other, more pricey arrangements at the last minute.
You’d think people would check to make sure their key works before giving it to guests.
Annoyed Airbnb customer Mr. Altis says that the key he was given left him and his friend stranded outside of the place until their host returned home from work, at 10PM that night. On the same visit, the guests complained they weren’t given a towel until they’d been there for three days, and that the kitchen was littered with dirty dishes and greasy pots, and the advertised ‘internet hotspot’ was the ability to use the landlord’s phone.
Some hosts are friendlier than others. Two young women staying in Osaka, Japan found that their host, although friendly, had an unusual request that he relayed, asking every single person who stayed at his home if he could take their picture.
"We said okay, and he proceeded to pull out a Polaroid camera and an album FULL of Polaroids of female guests. We were a bit creeped out by it, but he didn't do anything other than ask us to do the V (peace) sign."
Although this was a strange request, this host went the extra mile for his guests and drove the same guests to the airport when he realized he’d accidentally given them the wrong train schedule.
Sometimes hosts take their responsibilities seriously. Two friends booked a converted bedroom in a shared family home while they were staying in Tokyo. As newbies to the whole Airbnb experience, they didn’t know what to expect, but the mom of the host family wanted to make sure her guests felt at home. The guest says,
"We were previously in Okinawa, so we had already accumulated a sizable bag of dirty laundry by then. Dryers are not common in Japan, so we hung up our damp clothes on the rooftop and went sightseeing, thinking that we would collect our dry clothes later that night. When we got back to the house, all our clean laundry... was back in our suitcases, folded into neat little cubes that would make Marie Kondo proud. We were very, very grateful the hostess went the extra mile to make us feel at home, but we were also mortified a stranger went through our underwear!"
A Valentine’s trip to Italy was less than romantic when the Airbnb host completely forgot he was going to have company and wasn’t even at home until an hour and a half after the agreed upon meeting time, after insisting he was ‘almost there’. The romantic alcove was nothing like described, with the customer complaining,
“(it) was actually his grandma’s house. The old lady had died, and he’d left all her stuff there, to rent the place without showing any sign of respect. The “usable kitchen” advertised on Airbnb was unusable. The only clean surface was a table, everything else was so dirty and smelly that I felt like throwing up. Our bedroom’s door was broken so we couldn’t lock it and it didn’t close properly. But hey, according to the owner, we were lucky as no one else had booked the other room, so we were going to be alone! No need to worry for the lack of doors!”
While this couple had a wonderful time at their Airbnb in Spain, thanks to their host Antonio, things got a little dicey when his heartbroken friend arrived. The heartbroken friend had offered to drive the couple to the airport. The uncomfortable passenger said,
“As soon as we got our seat belts on, the saddest music came out of the stereo at full volume. Kiko made a mixtape of sad love songs, and he was bawling his eyes out the whole time while he was driving us. We had to keep consoling him while trying to keep an eye on the road!"
There were issues with a lovely two-bedroom rental thanks to a washing machine in the bathroom that had fallen over, making the bathroom unusable. The tenants contacted their host who sent a repairman who didn’t speak any English, so after extensive back and forth, and hours of broken telephone the landlord came over to help translate. The guest says,
“We heard a huge thump in the bathroom. Turns out he had crawled through the tiniest window to get into the bathroom and saved the day!"
When traveling to New York City for a family emergency, a couple had booked a reasonable Airbnb in Flushing. The first thing that was amiss was that the host’s father was bringing them the key, instead of the host himself, and he only spoke Mandarin. Thankfully the family that booked also spoke Mandarin. Next, the father passed them off to a stranger to take them to their apartment. The guest disclosed,
“When we arrived on the fourth floor, he led us into the room, which was not as pictured or described in the listing. More concerning was the wet floor. When we asked why, he said it was just mopped--when there was clearly a leak in the roof and major water damage in the ceiling.”
Next, the man asked them for a $20 fee for the key, insisting it was a deposit that he’d return when they left the key. At that point, the couple decided to cut their losses and looked for somewhere else to stay.
With a hotel, particularly a chain, you can come to expect a certain level of cleanliness, or at the very least be able to call for a cleaner when things aren’t up to expectations. Cleanliness can be a sure-fire way for a host to tank their rating on the site. One guest complained,
“It was obviously the woman's primary home, so I'm not even sure where she goes when she rents the place out, but the bathroom counter was littered with bottles (and hair, and gunk) and the kitchen had dirty dishes in it. I guess I can understand living like that if she wants, but if you're going to open your home up to people, a little Windex goes a long way."
An LA couple had a 10-day stay in a Chelsea Apartment go very wrong. The couple spent $170 a night, plus a $45 cleaning fee, and $160 Airbnb service charge for their booking.
Thanks to a bill signed in NYC the same day they booked, it became illegal for anyone to post short-term rentals, and only 30 days or more rentals were permitted. When the couple arrived, another resident informed the couple,
“What you’re doing is illegal. If you don’t leave immediately, I’m calling the police, I’ll knock on your door all night long and let other tenants know you are here illegally if you don’t leave now.”
The couple enjoyed one night of sleep before getting a note from the host asking them to leave immediately and chastising them for not being more discreet. Airbnb said they’d compensate for the issue, including an additional $150 a night to pay for new accommodations. Guest Van Duren said at the time of an interview they still hadn’t received the promised money from Airbnb and adds, “Our dealings with Airbnb were awful. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone in the world.”
Hosts have lives too, but you’d think they’d block off nights they had major social events held at their home, but some don’t. One host planned a party while he had tenants in his home. Guest, Mr. Altis said of his host, “He threw a party one night and there were strangers trampling down the stairs. Having 15 mates over…it was pretty un-ideal.”
After complaining to Airbnb, he found they would not refund the booking, but offered up a $150 ‘good will’ voucher for his trouble. The rattled guest says, “I’m so cautious now and if a place doesn’t have a ‘million’ good reviews, I’m not staying there.”
One writer says the strangest Airbnb they ever stayed at was a Zen Buddhist temple where there were a lot of rules that coincided with the booking. The host was not a monk, but worked at the temple, guests were expected to practice daily meditation at 5:30AM, work around the temple folding laundry in a laundry room, and fast from 6PM until lunch the following day.
The guest shared that a part of the experience was, “at night we sat around with the monk and our host drinking good whiskey and massive cans of beer.”