For what’s supposed to be an ultra-hyped, sexy startup, Airbnb seems like a dressed up version of Craigslist, and not in a good way.I spent my first three weeks in New York City using Airbnb and had pretty high expectations. The whole experience was more panic-inducing and stressful, and actually cost nearly as much as a half-decent hotel would have cost me.
Airbnb is a website where people can either rent or rent out apartment rooms each night making a few extra bucks. It’s supposed to have an advantage over typical hotels with either cheap or unique rooms.
But Airbnb still has a long way to go to streamline the process and make it worth saving the extra $20-30 each night for a hotel instead of an apartment.
When I arrived in New York, my plan was to work on day one, then check into the apartment I picked up on Airbnb. I messaged the owner of the place the day before I arrived to confirm it was available and booked it, and everything seemed good to go.
It didn’t work out that way, though. My Airbnb reservation expired in the middle of the day. Reservations expire if the owners don’t reply or verify them. For some reason the owner had a change of heart, and wasn’t talking to me.
I had already forked over $534 for the week’s reservation, which left me with just $700 to last for a while. And, I had no place to stay. I had to scramble to find a new place, and then I had to try and get my money back.
I found a place, thankfully, but getting my money took 2 days of frustrating phone calls and emails to my bank. Airbnb was of little help. It refunded me, but I couldn’t use the money for five days because it was a pending charge. My parents called me in a panic when they heard I was running low on cash and I tried to spend as little as possible.
It really wasn’t the best way to get started in a new city.
I was surprised at just how cheap the rooms would be. It takes a little bit of deeper searching, though, because sometimes the users are lying about the neighborhoods.
For example, I searched for Williamsburg-based apartments -- because after all I'm a 24-year-old hipster wannabe that wants a good first experience in New York -- but Airbnb returned a bunch of results in Bushwick.
For those of you keeping score, Bushwick is like a sketchy version of Williamsburg. Not interested.
Frustration level: 1 out of 10 (chilled)
The price was right, the location was good. I got in touch with the owner and he got back to me right away.
Frustration level: -2 out of 10 (excited)
I booked it for a week or so to try it out, and planned to extend it if I liked it. I had pretty high expectations -- though the description should have been a red flag:
'Should be comfortable with sharing the apartment with 3 young artist, fashion and film types who are 420 friendly each with bedrooms located away from the master.'
I was concerned, but I still needed a place to stay.
Frustration level: 2 out of 10 (curious)
I hadn't heard from the owner in more than 24 hours, even though it seemed like the deal would have gone through just fine. The reservation expired and I panicked, with no place to stay that night.
Looks like I was out a good chunk of cash for a while -- that I, unfortunately, needed to rent a place.
Frustration level: 5 out of 10 (peeved)
But they couldn't really do much in this situation. It was up to Airbnb and PayPal to return the transaction.
It was a waiting game, and it was even more stressful. I was counting my expenditures down to the cent to make sure I could sneak through to the end of the month.
Frustration level: 6 out of 10 (angry)
After a minor hiccup, I was able to check out a place for three days. That was about all I had the money for, until those charges from the original purchase fell off my account.
It was kind of a relief, but I was still extremely sceptical after my first experience.
Frustration level: 4 out of 10 (concerned)
The next owner confirmed the reservation. Phew!
I had a place to stay the next night after having to shell out for a hotel my first night in New York. This was my tamest experience throughout the whole process. It was about to go downhill.
Frustration level: 3 out of 10 (relieved)
It was only a few notches above renting an apartment through Craigslist. I was basically given a few things to tell the doorman and told not to ask any questions.
This was already much more trouble than it was worth.
Some might feel like they're acting out a spy movie. I was just creeped out by the whole ordeal.
Frustration level: 6.5 out of 10 (sketched out)
It was really useful to have a washing machine in the unit, and the price wasn't too bad. It was a good location, too.
One guest couldn't figure out why there was a pole in the middle of the room. It didn't really seem to make any structural sense to us.
It was still a relief, actually getting to the apartment.
Frustration level: 5.5 out of 10 (questioning)
After I finally secured a place to stay, it ended up being a pretty decent experience. We had access to the roof and were able to see the entire Manhattan skyline.
We brought a few people over and enjoyed a bottle of wine on the roof for a few nights during my stay at the apartment.
Things were looking up and I was starting to have a lot of fun.
Frustration level: 4.5 out of 10 (coping)
I got a whole spiel from the owner about how the management in the building were a bunch of bozos.
Needless to say, I really didn't need the additional stress, and spent the next several days wondering if I would be kicked out.
Frustration level: ?? out of 10 (WTF)
I've decided to take up some offers from friends to couch surf for the remainder of November. If I end up homeless again, I'll probably just shell out the extra $20 to $30 to pay for a hotel.
Airbnb is certainly a disruptive service. But it has some ways to go before it can drop the hammer on the hotel industry.
I felt much happier to be over with the whole ordeal.
Frustration level: 0 out of 10 (checked out)