My First Experience Using Airbnb – Not A Very Good One

Since we were going during one of the busiest summer weekends – including President Obama’s arrival on the island the same day – finding hotel arrangements on Martha’s Vineyard proved nearly impossible if we didn’t want to pay $1,000 per night.  My friend and I decided that Airbnb would be our best option for finding affordable accommodations for the 2 nights we were on the island.

What’s Airbnb?

Airbnb is an online service that connects people looking to rent their homes with people who are looking for short-term accommodations. According to their website, Airbnb is a “trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world — online or from a mobile phone.”  People list their properties, including pictures, descriptions and prices for guests to browse and book. It’s very easy to use, as you’re able to refine your search by accommodation type, neighborhood, prices and amenities.  Each user has a profile with reviews from previous stays, so it’s really transparent for potential hosts and guests. Well, supposed to be…

First Impressions.

Available property on the island was scarce but about a month before our trip, we finally found a suitable room in our desired location. Perfect.  Booked!  Right away, my friend reached out to the host about bringing her little miniature dachshund, Arista, but the owner was not immediately responsive.  My friend contacted the host a total of 3 times – the last time a few days before our arrival – and the owner finally responded.  She informed us that not only had she double booked our room and we’d be staying in a room other than the one we chose, but that we’d be sharing a bathroom with 2 other guests. This should have been the first clue our stay was doomed.

The host also told my friend that there would be an extra charge of $30 for the dog’s stay and that she needed to bring Arista’s bed for her to sleep in during our stay.  Easy enough.  Once we arrive on Martha’s Vineyard and take a taxi to the house, my friend gets out of the car to see if it’s the right house.  She’s gone from the car for about 10 minutes before she comes back to say the owner wasn’t home but another Airbnb renter opened the door and told her that we were in the right place.  After a long day of travel, I was happy we had finally made it to our ‘home’ for the weekend.


Looks nice on the outside – not so nice inside :(

Looks nice on the outside – not so nice inside :(

Less than warm welcome.

We enter the house, go into what we think is our room, and were immediately underwhelmed.  The room looked less desirable than the pictures of the other room online.  “We’re only here for 2 nights,” I thought to myself.  I put my luggage down, took my shoes off, took one step and immediately felt the grime on the floor.  Gross.  I put my shoes back on, go into the bathroom, attempt to wash my hands but notice hair on the soap.  GROSS.  This was not how I expected to walk into an Airbnb host’s home who was expecting my arrival.  I prayed that this was not a sign of things to come.  Not pleased, I went back into my room, sat on the bed and began looking around.  I noticed that nothing had been wiped down in months.  There were cobwebs in the corners, spiders and ants crawling around and dust on the furniture.  The room was just simply not clean.  This was surprising considering we were charged an upfront fee of $30 so the room could be cleaned after our departure.

We heard the owner come in the house, but she never came in our room to meet or greet us.  At this moment, I knew that I would feel uneasy staying here.  Between the dirty room and less than warm welcome, I was already dreaming of my return to my own clean home. Since we were there for the MV Summer Music Festival & Conference and didn’t plan on spending much time in our room anyway, we tried making the best of it.  My friend and I change our clothes, leave Arista in the room with food and water, close the door and head out to explore The Vineyard.

I’ve had enough.

The next morning, we wake up to get an early start on our first full day on Martha’s Vineyard.  We get dressed, eat brunch, rent our moped (so much fun!) and go back to the house to pick up Arista to take her to the beach with us.  Hey, she needs some beach time too!  We immediately notice a note on my friend’s bed from the host saying,

“I’ve covered up your beds because I saw the dog was on them.  You said she would be with you most of the time.”

My friend was puzzled because she never told the host that the dog would be with us most of the time.  She touted her property as being pet-friendly, but seemed to have a problem with the dog remaining in our room while we were gone.  My friend leaves the owner a reply note, letting her know that we would be taking Arista with us to the beach, but that she would be in the room alone when we went out that night.  My friend, Arista and I leave and enjoy our time relaxing on the beach.  We return home, I go into the bathroom and notice that the host has left us yet another note.  This time the note says “Don’t forget $35 pet fee.”

My first problem with this was that we didn’t need a reminder!  We are responsible adults and fully intended on paying before we left. Secondly, she arbitrarily changed the fee from $30 to $35.  I’m not saying that $5 is a big deal, but those were not the terms of the host’s arrangements with my friend…and now she just seemed to be petty.  Needless to say that I was glad this was our last night at this house. The next morning, my friend left the host the agreed upon $30, we called a taxi and happily made our exit.  Good rittens!

Don’t let one apple ruin the bunch.

I’m not sharing this story with you to dissuade you from trying Airbnb for yourself.  My goal is the exact opposite actually.  The lesson learned for me is to pay attention to first impressions and temper my expectations. My friend and I had an eery feeling about the owner when she was not responsive to our initial correspondence.  But because this was the best location in our price range, we decided to keep our reservations.

Our dirty room and bathroom, and the rudeness of our host was just too much for one Airbnb experience, especially my first one. However, I do not believe my story is typical of other Airbnb renters. From the reviews I’ve read online, as well as through other friends who’ve used the service, they’ve loved their hosts and have totally raved about their stays.

There’s nothing wrong with having a preference.

Honestly, even if my stay had been great, Airbnb would probably never be my go-to choice for overnight stays because my preference is a hotel.  Sue me. However, I do believe that my first experience with Airbnb will shape how I use the service in the future.  I will be more careful about choosing a property and if I don’t get a good feeling about the host, I will try to find other accommodations if possible.

Do you have a similar experience?  Or have you loved every Airbnb rental?  Be sure to comment!