I manage Airbnb properties in Edinburgh but have never stayed in an Airbnb property myself until I went to the States recently and stayed in a trailer in Monument Valley, which just happens to be on the Navajo reservation. In fact, the trailer was owned and run by a Navajo indian and his wife, who was a white American. Now a bit about myself: I have travelled extensively all over the world and love experiencing different cultures, and don’t for one minute consider myself superior to cultures that are not westernised, but obviously this host thought differently.
The trailer we were staying in had no water; we were told that on the listing, so it wasn’t a problem. We also knew the toilet facilities were not in the trailer. Again, no problem; we were were expecting relatively basic conditions. The problems began with the directions. They were more than useless, a fact a few of the guests had noted before. We got lost then lost again. Eventually, the host’s wife came out to meet us as it got dark.
The trailer itself was very basic, with no lock on the door, rusty cutlery and thin torn plastic acting as windows which would flap violently in the wind. There were one pan, broken cupboard doors, and bare electric wire hanging down from the lamps. The water was kept in a large plastic water container which was fine for us. There was a shower a few metres away but we were told that it may be difficult to get going and to go to the husband’s relatives in the trailer next door and ask if we could use their shower if we couldn’t get this one to work. Needless to say I had no intention of doing that.
It was not what we were expecting and we were very disappointed. We sat late into the night humming and arguing whether we should go or stay. The next morning we left but not before I tried the shower – which of course wouldn’t work – so I washed my hair outside the trailer as my friend poured water over my head. I then used one of two hand towels to dry my hair. We left and sent a text voicing our disappointment and suggesting ways of improving a guest’s experience… well, what I got back was nothing short of insulting. The host’s wife said that not only was I a habitual complainer (I met her for ten minutes and never stayed in an Airbnb property before), I was culturally insensitive and what’s more I had lied about having a shower.
To cut a long story short, I was determined that my review was factually both positive and negative (there were positive points, such as location), but the review written by the host that appeared on the site was appalling: it was nothing but a rant insulting me (bearing in mind I had never spoken to nor seen the host). He basically wrote what she had put in the texts to me but doubled the insulting bits and telling other hosts never to have me stay. At no point did I ask for a refund. In fact, initially, the host’s wife suggested she would give me a refund, but it wasn’t about money. Not only did he call me a liar, saying the towel was wet therefore I had taken a shower, but to personally attack me was appalling. I asked for the review either to be edited or taken down as it wasn’t a review but a personal attack on someone he had never met, and some of it totally irrelevant to the actual review.
Airbnb of course did nothing and basically said just forget about it and move on. Dare I say this, but they don’t want to upset their indigenous host by taking it down and be accused of favouring the white person. In the meantime, it is there for all my clients both old and new to see, which doesn’t do my business any favours. I am now debating to take it further and put in a complaint to the top guy. Maybe if we all did that something would change.
What gets me are the reviews; on the whole they are all five star although sometimes there is a thread of discontent. But what is it with people? Were they so glad to be staying in Monument valley for cheap it didn’t matter where they lived? Correct me if I am wrong, but doesn’t an Airbnb property have to meet certain criteria: a lockable door, clean (which it wasn’t), safe. Bare wires aren’t safe and suitable for accommodation. We weren’t expecting the Hilton but we did expect a clean safe place with serviceable cutlery and more than one pan and a door to lock that would protect our belongings.
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