Murphy’s unfortunate stay in an AirBNB apartment

You know Murphy’s Law — “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”? Well, Eric Schwartzman had one of those experiences when he rented an apartment from AirBNB recently.

Before I get into his story, I should mention that Schwartzman is a fellow journalist who was referred to me by another colleague. I help a lot of journalists off the record, but it rarely gets to this level.

And what level is this? Schwartzman is unhappy with the way AirBNB handled a difficult stay in Paris with his family, and is disappointed by the reaction from the company’s management when he questioned its policies.

Schwartzman and his family had found a “too good to be true” rate of $178 for an apartment that included a kitchen, more space than a hotel room, and a great location. But, he says, he “paid dearly” in other ways.

When he arrived early in the morning, he tried to take a hot shower.

There was no water at all in the apartment. I searched around for a water main but couldn’t find it. I contacted the host, and he responded quickly, saying he’d arrange to have it switched on and did so within the hour.

Next came a problem with the Internet. He just couldn’t connect to the wireless network, which was necessary because he conducted most of his business online.

When [the owner] arrived, he tested the broadband with his PC — he was an antiMac guy — and it worked, so he blamed it on my Mac. He said he didn’t use Macs and said it must an incorrect proxy setting on my computer. He couldn’t resolve the issue. We had to go to Starbucks for the duration of our stay just to get online.

Finally, the lock on the apartment failed. It took six hours for the owner to help him get into the building.

If you get locked out of a hotel room, you go down to the front desk and get a new key. But when a lock to a private residence fails and you’re stuck.

Be prepared to spend the night in a dark hallway with no where to sit, no bathroom and no where to charge your phone while you wait for your host to show up so. And they might even berate you for breaking their lock and charge you for a locksmith to fix it.

All the while, emails requesting help from AirBNB went unanswered.

At one point near the end of the stay, their host asked the family to leave — a demand he quickly withdrew — and eventually, he credited Schwartzman one-night’s stay for all of the inconveniences.

But it’s not enough. He thinks there are bigger problems AirBNB needs to address.

By removing the cost of operating a hotel, AirBNB lowers costs and makes it possible for travelers to rent directly from owners.

But by eliminating those costs, you also forfeit any on-demand customer support you might need. A front-desk clerk, lobby with seating, stable wi-fi and a bathroom are easy to take for granted when you have them. But we found out first hand just how vital they are when you’re locked out.

Another area of concern are AirBNBs cancellation policies. If guests cancels a reservation, they’re out half the booking fee for all of their nights. But if the host asks the guest to leave without cause, the guest is only entitled to a refund for the lost nights, he says.

“Which means if you’re a guest, your vacation is predicated on your host’s goodwill,” he says.

Schwartzman contacted AirBNB, which refunded another $200 of his stay, which was more than enough for him. But it declined his invitation to have a “civil, constructive conversation about my experience” for his social media podcast.

I was disappointed that they weren’t confident enough in their own service to go on the record online about what they do to protect guests. Asking hosts to be transparent about their listing is great, but I’d like to se AirBNB stand by their own business practices as well.

In the end, I think my experience illustrates some serious flaws in AirBNB’s business model. The concept of a community marketplace for rentals seems like a good idea at first, but with no real protection for hosts or guests, and with both sides having such a low tolerance for pain, I’m not sure the business has long term viability.

These are interesting questions. Is AirBNB’s business model flawed? Did the company’s execs owe Schwartzman an answer on the record? And should I get involved, and ask AirBNB to comment on this case and to clarify its policies?

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • sirwired

    It is abundantly clear that Schartzmann wants to get airBnB on the phone in order to publicly politely berate them about their contract and policies.  I’m not saying that airBnB’s contract is a good one, or chock-full of protections for both parties, just that there is a 0% chance that they’ll agree to voluntarily get publicly scolded about it.

    As far as their business model goes: as long as both parties know what they are getting in to (and price accordingly) I don’t see any problem with it.  Will it work financially for airBnB?  Who knows?  But that’s hardly a consumer advocacy question.

  • Fly, Icarus, Fly

    Renting an apartment is always a gamble, as the OP highlights. Most of the services we take for granted at a hotel simply aren’t there. (I recently had Iberia lose a suitcase in Barcelona and had to wait for it myself because it was an unstaffed apartment…) Owners may have other properties to look after, or they may simply be geographically far away. At the very least, it would’ve been nice for the owner to be there to welcome the family and walk them through the apartment… Not sure what AirBNB could’ve done in this case, when it was up to the owner to resolve these apartment-specific issues. I think as travelers, we just have to pick the properties with flawless reviews and then hope for the best. It’s the nature of apartment rentals, unfortunately… People with low tolerance might want to look into long-stay suites instead of individually owned apartments…

  • Jen Hanuschak

    I’m sure there are other cases with problems you might be able to help get fixed. Trying to convince airBnB to do anything further would waste your time. The OP should be glad he got at least a partial refund.

  • Richard Perlman

    I think Schwartzman got more than he deserved.  Really, what can you expect for that price, IN PARIS!  Also, if you are going to travel with a Mac, you’d better not expect people to know how to make it work. If the owner connected, then Schwartzman could too, if he learned more about how to configure his computer.  BTW, I am a Mac user!  Also, the cause of the lock-out wasn’t noted. Was it balky French locks, a bad key, inept use of a key, or a lost key?  As to the water being off when he arrived. Oh good grief, stay in a hotel if you want a perfect reception. I am sure the Georges V would have had hot water on his arrival. 1 hour to fix the problem is not that bad, actually, for Paris, its pretty good.  And, BTW, try an early morning checkin at a hotel!

    OTOH, his request for an interview with AirBNB is fair, as long as that is really what he wants. But, after making a big deal out of his (small) laundry list of problems, I can see why they refused.

  • y_p_w

    Didn’t AirBNB have that problem where a renter literally trashed a San Francisco house and stole items from locked areas to the tune of about $50K?

  • finance_tony

    OK, wait. 

    He didn’t have water, and it was resolved within 60 minutes.  If that was a hotel issue and it was resolved, it wouldn’t even make it out of your inbox.

    He couldn’t get the broadband to work, but there was indeed. broadband.  The hotel/apartment is not tech support.  Not an issue.

    And finally, he “found himself locked out”.  He lost the key?  Is that what you mean?  Why not say that instead of making a passive statement like “he ‘found himself’ locked out”? Again, a problem of his own doing.  Sure, it stinks, but pretend you let someone stay in your house while you’re away, and they lose the key.  How would the resolution be any different?

    And no business would be dumb enough to waste its time having a “civil, constructive conversation” on some guy’s podcast.

    After all this, he got a free night AND a $200 refund AND he still has the nerve to contact you to bad-mouth the company online? 

    I’m actually disappointed that you published this.

  • absherlock

    I agree completely – Mr. Schwartzman sounds like a tool. You should have taken this opportunity to dress down a bad traveler in public.

  • andrelot

    I don’t think this stay was particularly troublesome.

    When you go for an “alternative”  something, you should know what the deal is. Stand-alone rental apartments (from AirBnB, VROM, or any other platform) are not hotel suites.

    It is fair for a guest to expect water to be running (though that was fixed in relatively short time), furniture/cutlery/bedding/equipment as advertised etc.

    However, one cannot and shouldn’t expect that they are paying 1/3 of the price and getting an owner staying next room waiting to provide you room service on spot as you need it.

    Locking yourself out (as in leaving your key inside the property and letting the door lock) is something that creates hassles for any house dweller and so for guests.

    As for the wi-fi: there was Wi-Fi, and hotels/renters are not IT support. Dubbing them an “anti-Mac” guy was unwarranted for. Macs, like it or not, are a niche most ordinary people don’t know about. They should have checked in advance.

    Now, on a broader sense: if you have time-critical appointments and need to work from your office as soon as you arrive, better check yourself in a full-service hotel. Otherwise, it is like someone renting a car (instead of taking a taxi), than complaining the rental company didn’t explain how to find a park near the office the passenger was going, and didn’t provide an accompaning  representative to give directions. 

  • $16635417

    “Disastrous” Stay?? Seriously? Less than an hour to get water fixed? Mac not connecting to wi-fi that apparently IS working? Mysteriously locked out?

    He received a monetary resolution that by his own admission was “more than enough” and now wants fodder for his podcast?I guess the industry is doing well if this is the only problem we have for today.

  • Raven_Altosk

    I voted no. He rented an apartment, not a hotel room. If he wanted a 24/7 front desk to address all of his needs, then he should’ve ponied up the extra cash.

    He’s received enough compensation and at this point it just seems like he wants to try and write a column making AirBNB look a like a fool instead of himself.

    Really, pal…YOU locked yourself out.

  • TonyA_says

    I agree. He should do Elliott [and his family] a favor and stay at a hotel next time.

  • TonyA_says

    There is no reason for Elliott to help Eric Schwartzman since Eric has his own website and PR shop doing the work for him already.

    Go here and take a look …

    Added: Sorry I repeated the link to Eric’s almost 40 minute rant that Chris mentioned in the article.

  • Life Lessons Military Wife

    Uhhhh…did he read the feedback for this listing?  Has no one learned anything about reading feedback?  It is usually (but not 100%) indicative of what’s to come.  Didn’t we learn anything with ebay?

  • finance_tony

    Absolutely.  This guy is the worst type of customer.  I’m more and more upset that Christopher would perpetuate this guy’s battle over minor annoyances of his own making.

  • john4868

    Let me understand this…
    He has an issue because
    1.      It took an hour to get a water issue fixed. That seems pretty good to me…
    2.      His computer wouldn’t connect to WIFI that was in place and functioning. That seems to be an issue with his computer not the WIFI.
    3.      He locks himself out and the owner doesn’t come running to let him back in. Ok partially a legit gripe but he’s renting an apartment this isn’t a hotel. What did he expect at the rate he got it at… 5 star service?
    4.      There wasn’t any stand by service like a hotel… did he even bother to read that when he wrote it. You rented an apartment not a hotel room. You chose a service model with less service and then complain that you got less service?
    For these complaints, he got a free night and $200. That seems really fair to me.
    So what’s his issue… Oh AirBNB won’t give into his demands for an on-air interview. Don’t they know who he is? I’m mean he has a podcast that no one has ever heard of.
    Sorry Mr. Entitled, no business is going on to your show, where you get to make the edits, to be berated over your poor choices. There’s no way the business comes out ahead. I wouldn’t expect a business to do that for Chris much less a nobody who thinks he’s a somebody because he has a website.
    Please do us all a favor and limit your stays to the Ritz.

  • Bill

    I find most (if not all) of 
    Schwartzman complaints petty and ridiculous. Why is he comparing an apartment rental to a hotel in the first place? If you get locked out of the room in a rented apartment, you should expect to be inconvenienced, just as you would if you got locked out of your own house. 

    I am not saying that one should have lowered expectations when renting an apartment but to expect the level of service you get from a hotel (fix everything at once, respond to my “demands”, etc”) is both unfair and unreasonable. I have, as a matter of fact, rented apartments pretty much all over Europe and my experience has always been satisfactory. 

    Schwartzman seems like the kind of whiny American that every foreign host dreads. He should stick to going to a cushy hotel next time he travels. 

    In my opinion, the host’s offer to refund one night plus the $200 dollar credit from AirBnB more than make up for his “one hour wait for water”, “no internet” and “waiting after being locked out” (which is actually his own fault!). 

    Finally, Chris, I am a huge follower of your columns, but to call this stay “Disastrous” is quite incendiary of you. 

  • Christopher Elliott

    You’re right, I shouldn’t have called it “disastrous” and have changed the headline. 

    Regarding the lockout, he explained what happened in a phone conversation, and he was prevented from getting into the apartment through no fault of his own. He didn’t lock himself out, in other words.

  • TonyA_says

    People should really listen to his ~40 minute podcast to get more details. I did.

    Someone tried to break in to the apartment and ruined the door lock. At least, that’s the way I understood it.

    [Correction: the lock broke. I misunderstood the podcast to think it broke due to a break in. Sorry.]

    He had other complaints like loud thumping techno-music from upstairs. He had to “confront” his [heavily tattooed] neighbor about it.

    In the end this is all about Eric’s questioning the AirBnB model.

  • AutoSlash

    Tend to agree on this front.  If the guy wanted a 4-star hotel with lots of amenities he should have booked one.  I’m sure there are plenty of people who have great experiences with AirBNB and plenty of people with terrible ones.  As with everything in life it’s buyer beware.  I think this guy should pony up for a real hotel next time since it appears that is what he really needs.

  • Bill

    I see, I spoke too soon… those details give the story a different light. Initially I thought he was just complaining about the hour-long wait on the water, no internet and locking himself out of the apartment all of which, although inconvenient, did not seem to be such a big deal. 

    @TonyA_says Where can I hear the podcast? I’d like to get the full story.

  • Kathleen Proud Keyte

    hmmm, when I have bad service I don’t ask the provider to have a 45 minute constructive chit-chat about it….why is he entiteled to one just because he says he’s a journalist?

  • abelenky

    By your own article, the water issue was resolved in an hour.

    The Internet and getting locked out are clearly Schwartzman’s own responsibility.   As was relayed in the article, its clear that the WiFi internet worked, and S. just didn’t know enough about his own computer.   Even most 3-star hotels (and some 5-star hotels) can’t help you with that!

    Getting locked out is your own darn fault.  And while the consequences are less severe at a full-service hotel, it is completely foreseeable and predictable that it would be a serious hassle at an apartment rental.

    In short, I don’t see that anything (other than the water problem which was quickly resolved) inappropriate or wrong happened here.

  • TonyA_says

    BTW, he mentioned that the lock broke and the owner had to call a locksmith to fix it. [It was me who misunderstood how it broke. I thought is was a break in. Sorry.]

    Actually if we can see beyond the apartment issues, Eric has some good points about the business model of AirBnB.

    Added: Direct Youtube link:!

  • jgb123

    I voted no.  As a journalist I’d think he’d be fairly intellegent, but then he goes someplace with his family where the rate is “too good to be true” and is then upset because it was.  If AirBNB knows he’s a journalist then they are playing it smart by not responding, knowing anything they say can and will be used against them in print.

  • sanibelsyl

    a “too good to be true” rate ….. well it was. voted no with the majority. a vacation rental can be the best deal anyone could ever get, or it get be the worst. if the rate sounds “too good” pick up your ears and probably move on….

  • SoBeSparky

    Has this complainer ever rented a privately owned vacation apartment before?

    You rent an vacation apartment anywhere and you give up the omnipresent hotel security and cameras.  Your internet service is subject to the vagaries of local customs.  Many places I have spent an hour or two straightening out the internet connection, by wire and wifi.  Most times, the settings on my computer are at fault.
    Utility problems?  Happens everywhere, and no real problem if corrected promptly.  Neighbors?  See security above.  At a hotel you can complain.  In an apartment building, I would not even knock on the door, not knowing what is on the other side.  

    Perhaps this journalist should re-examine his concept of vacation housing.  Private apartments are for those who do not require many comforts and the security of a hotel.  They have individualized decorating and amenities.  Hotel rooms are for those who need instant answers and solutions, via the customer service or front desk phone button.  

    All private apartments have their quirks, ones you would never put up with in a hotel room.

    Same old, same old.  If it seems too good to be true, it is.

  • KarlaKatz

     OP made many references to what he missed about staying in an hotel… duh.  Perhaps Mr. Schwartzman should book hotels from now on.

  • l2y2

    I was thinking these exact same things as I was reading this….

  • TouchyFeely

    I’ll give you the water issue, but the rest is the OPs fault, or not the owner’s.  if the owner can connect to the web it has to be the OPs config, and locking yourself out?  What do you expect, the owner to sit outside during your whole stay in case you do something stupid?!?!?

    This is ridiculous.  Is this guy related to you Chris?  i can’t believe you’re even bothering on this one.

  • TouchyFeely

    Their policies are not secret.  Caveat emptor.

  • TouchyFeely

    “Tool” is too kind.

  • DonnaW

    I said yes not because I sympathesize with Schartzmann (sounds like he was a real pain and the owner finally got fed up…for example, internet connections are often iffy even at high end hotels…), but because I think it ia always helpful for all guests to have a clear idea of what they are getting into and can expect from a site…

  • Raven_Altosk

    It would’ve been good to include the information about the circumstances of the lockout in the original article.
    I just assumed he had locked himself out.



    “Which means if you’re a guest, you’re vacation is predicated on your host’s goodwill,” he says.

    “YOU’RE vacation”? Which one of you journalists wrote this?

  • Christopher Elliott

    Good catch. Not sure who did that, but I’ll fix it.

  • Joe Farrell

    This is more oh poor me whining.   If the guy could connect to the wifi with computer- then its the guys fault – ifyou don’t know what you are doing with technology then its your fault for dealing with it –

    He might have had a total number of computers [ip addresses] limited in his router and his MAC address works because its saved in the routers memory for authorized computers – but when he exceeded the number of assigned IP addresses – no more can connect.  If he rents the place – gee – maybe that was the problem. 

    The water issue was his problem and he fixed it – great.

    Locking yourself out was YOUR problem.  Guess what, it is NOT a hotel. 

    Next time, book a hotel.  Problem solved.  Your own incompetence is cured by others whose job it is to look out for your incompetence. 

    Guess what Mr. Schwartzman, you also pay for that. 

    Chris – you are going to get a reputation of helping people who are whiners instead of having legitimate problems . . . .

  • elemenoh

    Sad to see such a complainer get coverage here. There are far worse things that happen on vacations that what he described. I have rented apartments via Craigslist in cities thousands of miles from home and never had a problem worth whining about. Odd things happen, like showing up and finding the wifi doesn’t work (I think this is pretty common) or having the owner’s friend pop by unexpectedly (when the friend has a key to the apartment!) or opening a fridge to find it infested with fruit flies. AirBNB is just a broker, they have no control over the properties they help you rent, and you really need to have an adventurous spirit to use a service like that. When I’m in picky traveler mode, I stay at a Four Seasons. When I want to have fun and stay in a residential neighborhood, I find a rental online. The quirks are part of the experience.

  • S E Tammela

    The owner proved the internet was working. You really expected technical support for connecting your computer? Please. It’s also not beyond the realm of possibility that customers might turn on their own hot water system (although instructions would have been nice). And as for the lock… if it was indeed broken, these things happen!

    This article is frustrating on so many levels. Customers should not have the all-pervading attitude that their backsides are gilt or that they are always entitled to a refund no-questions-asked. Remember, when a customer cancels on an apartment, the owner has usually lost the entire booking, while the worst that happens for the customer is moving to another room. Why exactly should the owner suffer that without penalty just because a guest decides to cancel? Most of the world works like this: You cancel, you pay a cancellation fee. Normal.

    So they locked themselves out of the apartment and are annoyed at having to wait for the owner to come out to them three times? This is a self-catering, BUDGET Parisian apartment, not a five-star hotel as the guest seems to treat it. You get what you pay for and he can’t have expected luxury – he booked it on AirBnB, known for its BUDGET accommodation, PRIMARILY spare mattresses on living room floors! So why is this customer behaving as if he booked the Hilton?

    AirBnB is brilliant and it is well-loved by the people who use it the way it’s supposed to be used. It doesn’t deserve this.

  • jebaker

    What a whiner.  He got the water turned on reasonably fast and had some problems with the internet????  At that price in Paris, he was lucky to even get the room.  As far as locking himself out, duh!  If you want all the conveniences of a hotel, pay for a hotel.  Which, btw would be 2-3x what the apartment was.

  • Michael__K

    Why do commenters practically ALWAYS jump to firm conclusions that are not supported by Chris’ articles and then use those (very uncertain) conclusions to get on a high horse to denigrate the OP’s?

    Will we never learn from these kinds of mistakes?  They happen in the comments on almost every single article.

    I give credit to @twitter-95010224:disqus and @Raven_Altosk:disqus for at least quickly following up and walking back their specific criticisms about the OP “locking himself out.”

    Locking yourself out was YOUR problem.  Guess what, it is NOT a hotel.  
     locking yourself out?  What do you expect, the owner to sit outside during your whole stay in case you do something stupid?!?!?
    getting locked out are clearly Schwartzman’s own responsibility. 
    3.      He locks himself out and the owner doesn’t come running to let him back in.  
    “waiting after being locked out” (which is actually his own fault!).
    Really, pal…YOU locked yourself out. 
    He lost the key?  Is that what you mean?  Why not say that instead of making a passive statement like “he ‘found himself’ locked out”? Again, a problem of his own doing. 
    Locking yourself out (as in leaving your key inside the property and letting the door lock) is something that creates hassles for any house dweller and so for guests

  • bc

    Okay, so…the hot water didn’t work, and it was fixed within an hour. That doesn’t sound too horrible. 

    second, how is a problem with Mr. Schwartzman’s computer something property owner should be responsible for? If I couldn’t connect to a WiFi at a hotel, I wouldn’t expect a front desk clerk to solve my IT problems, why would you expect that of a property owner?As for an issue with locking yourself out, how is that the property owner’s problem?? How are they supposed to anticipate stupid? If the lock broke, how are they supposed to anticipate unforeseen problems?

    Sounds like you had a property owner that was tired of you calling and complaining about every little thing and I can imagine, from the tone of your emails, you were probably getting pretty demanding and insisting he come over every 5 minutes for some little problem. 

    It doesn’t sound like you’re a good candidate for a home stay or apartment rental, you are a little to “needy” for a situation where you don’t have hand holding an nursemaiding from an over attentive staff.

  • ericschwartzman

    Not looking to berate anyone. And not looking to get anything either.  Just looking for the same transparency AirBNB demands of hosts and renters.  I would like the opportunity to discuss this matter On the Record…Online, for personal and professional reasons.

  • Cyndi Russell

    If AirBnB believes in their business model and policies, they should be willing to talk to a journalist. Some of the issues mentioned in this article are the type I’ve dealt with in hotels (water issues, internet access), but being locked out of a room for six hours. Not that one.

  • ericschwartzman

    Nope. But they’re pretty thin. For example, if you book an apartment and cancel, you’re liable for 50% of the booking fee. But an owner needs no cause to throw you out at a moment’s notice, and all you get back are the nights you didn’t stay. Is that fair?

  • TonyA_says


    Whining about no water, lousy internet, noisy neighbors, and a broken door lock is OKAY! I guess you learned your lesson and you shared it very well with those who cared to listen to your podcast.

    Actually, I played it back twice since it was a good e-commerce lesson.

    My take on your podcast – don’t rely on peer-to-peer, collaborative consumption sites to buy service if having a relationship or response time is important to you.

    Valuable advise, indeed. Thanks.

  • ericschwartzman

    Why not have some sort of standards and qualify apartment owners accordingly?  Like make sure there is someone around to resolve lock outs and other basic issues that can happen by no fault of anyone. But when you remove the intermediary and there are mishaps, they still need to be resolved. 

    The lock on the door was hard to close and I notified the owner. Two days later, me and another guy huffed and puffed but just couldn’t open it. Then the lock got stuck in the door. Uggh.

    The reason the water and wi-fi issues are significant is because of what I’d call the 3 strike rule of AirBNB. When I asked the owner to turn on the water, that was strike 1 against me. When I asked for help with the wi-fi, that was strike two. The sticky lock was strike 3. I was labeled a complainer, and there was no response. Next thing we knew, we were locked out on a rainy night for 6 hours.

  • ericschwartzman

    I thought it was very nice of AirBNB to offer the refund that they did.  But as a podcaster who has been following social media since its dawn, I am interested to know if applying the collaborative consumption business model that made Ebay king to the travel industry is realistic, given the importance of response times and relationships. More on that if you’re interested:

  • ericschwartzman

    Price wise, I’d agree. But I’d rather have spent a few more bucks and not have to deal with the aggravation. Next time I will.  In terms of the Mac, it worked at Starbucks across the street, and at Le Web, and I use it all over the world, so not sure what they problem was. But I couldn’t, for the life of me, sustain a connection and I’ve been blogging sine 2004 and podcasting since 2005 and teach social media marketing all over the world so I’m no newbie. In terms of the lock, it broke. We couldn’t open it with all our might. But the biggest bummer was when I asked the owner to get a locksmith, he told us he wanted out of the apartment that night. Yikes!  And we did nothing wrong. Luckily, when we returned to the apartment, he apologized and said we could stay.  And then he refunded our security deposit in full so we must have dome something right. It wasn’t until I left my review that he trashed my profile. I called AirBNB to offer proof of inaccurate info in his review on my profile, but Air BNB was unwilling to consider the facts.

  • ericschwartzman

    It’s nobody’s fault, in my view. But it is a shortcoming of applying the tenets of collaborative consumption to the service industry, IMHO. Here’s why:

  • ericschwartzman

    Patience thresholds are shorter than ever in today’s status update world. The problem with AirBNB, as I see it, is that if something goes wrong by no fault of anyone and you need help, each time you ask for something it counts as a strike against you. And you know how it works in baseball…  So as long as you can help yourself, you’re okay.  But if you need to reach out, you get two chances. Then you’re branded a complainer and you’re on your own.

  • ericschwartzman

    Read it again, I took my family and combined my business trip with a tour of Paris. And regardless of the all the ballyho, we had a great time. I love Paris!

  • ericschwartzman

    The lock failed. I told the owner is was sticking, but after the water and wi-fi incidents, he (as you did) labeled me a compaliner and did not respond. The next day, it just wouldn’t open, and I even got a guy off the street to try and help mne. But no luck. It was jammed shut. 

  • ericschwartzman

    We’ve rented apartments all over the world too and this was the first time we had problems.  But I think there’s a lot a service like AirBNB could do about it. Why not qualify listings that have taken steps to support renters and add a special star to their profiles so people can know which ones they can be confident in?  Right now, their are almost no protections for renters.

  • ericschwartzman

    I never asked for a refund. Both the owner and AirBNB offer them to me on their own accord.  Would they have done that if I had been in the wrong?  Chris did a good job simplifying what really happened, but if you want to whole story, here it is:

  • ericschwartzman

    The lock failed. Jammed shut. It wouldn’t open.  We didn’t lock ourselves out.  It took 6 hours to get back in and the owner threatened to throw us out for breaking the lock.  I don’t need to save money that bad.

  • ericschwartzman

    The lock failed. It took 6 hours to get back in and the owner threatened to throw us out for breaking the lock.  He later apologized and let us stay, refunded us one night minus the cost of locksmith and refunded our security deposit in full.  No we didn’t lose the key. Yes it was cheap. But frankly, I don’t need to save money that bad.

  • ericschwartzman

    If the wi-fi at the hotel fails, there’s usually a number to call and someone who speaks your language to help you troubleshoot. I don’t expect an owner to do that. It’s nice that he even tried. But I do think it’s something someone should consider before the rent an apartment directly from an owner.  But my computer worked fine at Starbucks, fine at Le Web and fine everywhere else I’ve taken it so far. My iPad didn’t work either.  

    In terms of the owner tiring, I think that much IS true. But you’re assuming that I called and complained, rather than ask politely, and on that account, I think the later is a more accurate description.

    My wife and son and I have rented apartments all over the world but this is the first time we had issues. Mind you, I don’t blame anyone for what happened. I don’t think anyone’s at fault. Mishaps are part of life. 

    But I do think the experience highlights the shortcomings of applying the tenets of collaborative consumption to the service industry.

  • ericschwartzman

    On the Record…Online is entirely unedited. That’s the hallmark of the show. I endeavor to put unedited conversations On the Record…Online and let the chips fall where they may.

  • ericschwartzman

    Agreed. Disastrous is an overstatement. Bummer is more accurate.

  • ericschwartzman

    I’m sorry this has turned into a slug fest. Not my intention. I was hoping to spark a constructive debate about collaborative consumption in the service industry.

  • $16635417

    I had guests (cousin and her husband) at my home last summer. He could not log onto my wifi from his Apple laptop. (We have several PC’s and Apple devices that all work fine.)

    He was obviously getting frustrated, as was I at the prospect of calling my ISP’s tech support line. His wife told him to try HER Apple laptop and, yep…it worked fine. 

    He went on and on about how he has never had this problem anywhere and we have not had the same problem with other guests prior to their visit or since.

    I am not trying to turn this into a tech support forum, my wifi works fine for my use…just relaying a similar problem.

  • ericschwartzman

    Hmmmm. My iPad couldn’t sustain a connection either.

  • finance_tony

    I agree, Christopher didn’t do a great job of explaining that one.  It would have been just as easy to say “the lock failed” rather than the mealy-mouthed “He found himself locked out.”

    It doesn’t change my opinion one bit, though.  Let’s say you were staying at someone’s house while they were away and you put their key in the hole and the lock broke.  It’s going to take a while for them to ascertain that to be the case, and call a locksmith, and for the locksmith to come out and fix it.  Last time I needed a locksmith at my house it was almost 7 hours before he got there. Bad luck, bummer, whatever.  But you’re at an apartment and not a hotel with a front desk and instantly reprogrammable locks.  It comes with the territory.

    And as far as the property owner ‘unfairly’ labeling the OP a complainer..I’d have to say that I would have too! 

    What gets me is not only does he put this on his “show,” but he gets Christopher involved as well, recounting his personal story each time and not, as he contends, to simply discuss ways to help renters avoid problems.  This, after he got a night free and $200 refunded.  And then to point out that this company didn’t want to come on his “show” to talk about it.  Would any company voluntarily appear on some unknown dude’s podcast when the dude himself feels he was wronged?  Seems like almost a conflict of interest.   I sure wouldn’t waste my time. 

  • lorcha

    With all due respect, did you really expect AirBNB to allow itself to be “interviewed” by a hostile interviewer who has editorial control over the final publication? Is there any conceivable way that agreeing to do this would be in AirBNB’s interests?

    AirBNB’s PR department, if they have such a department, would be correct in saying, “No way, Jose.”

  • ericschwartzman

    Who said I was hostile? That’s your characterization, not mine. If anyone was hostile, it was the owner of the apartment, who threatened to throw a family of 3 with a 7-year old kid out on the street for “breaking” his lock. Please. Why would anyone break a lock? That doesn’t strike you as ridiculous? 

    By the way, I don’t believe anyone as at fault for what happened to us. I don’t blame AirBNB.  They are experimenting with a new business model in an industry that has traditionally relied on strong customer service to win customer loyalty. 

    But let me ask you a question…What would you do if you rented in an apartment and the owner locked you out or threw your stuff on the street?  That did *NOT” happen to us, but the thought crossed my mind when the owner threatened to throw us out. Wouldn’t you want to know what your rights were?

    Why wait until something like this happens to find out what AirBNB does to support renters if something like this were to happen? Aren’t you at least interested in their policy?

    That’s all this about. Why squash healthy civil discourse before it even happens. After all, sunlight is the best disinfectant.

  • Raven_Altosk

    The owner probably had a “hidden password” set on his router. That’s not the technical term, of course, but a lot of folks set a password, set their machines to auto-select and remember, and don’t realize that anyone else who wants to connect to their network will need that information.

    As a Mac-head, I can sympathize with the OP hearing “it’s a Mac, that’s what the problem is” as an excuse. Which, in fact, is never true. Especially when I can easily pull up a Windows partition via Paralells.

  • bodega3

    Ebay is king to the travel industry?  Really?  According to whom?

    You were looking for cheap and you got it.   

  • jscheid

    It goes without saying that if you rent an apartment the owner is tacitly agreeing to provide you with the basic necessities, i.e. hot and cold running water, a lock that works, as well as WiFi, if that was part of the agreement. If the owner wants to simply collect the rent check and not hear any complaints whatsoever, he should employ a management company to act as intermediary between himself and the customer. When you’re dealing with the public you have to actually deal with PEOPLE.

  • TonyA_says

    Eric, how or what do you propose to keep this peer-to-peer apartment (finder) rental service on the up and up? I agree that AirBnB is not as “reliable” as one is expecting it to be. Are you saying that the model does not work, period? Or, can it work with modifications? Is that the reason why you wanted seek some dialogue with their CEO?

  • ericschwartzman

    Ebay is the king of collaborative consumption, which is the basic business premise behind companies that create community marketplaces to connect buyers with sellers:

    AirBNB is applying the same model to short-term apartment rentals.  Got it, faceless anonymous user?

  • ericschwartzman

    What about some sort of standards to qualify renters?  If they met certain resolution criteria, verified by AirBNB, why not let them earn special credentials on their listings? And if a host slams a renter’s profile with in accurate info, why not at least try and verify the accuracy of such statements? AirBNB pretty much ignored my attempt to set the record straight.  Refunds are great, but that doesn’t solve the problem for the next person. I’ve invested a ton of time documenting, exposing and debating this issue. Others may not be so persistent. I’ll bet there’s a bunch of renters like me who had similar experiences but didn’t take the time to flag the issues. My efforts are as much for them as for me at this point, since I have nothing to gain for participating in this discussion. By the likes of the faceless users flaming away on this grist, I’d say I have much more to lose than gain here.

  • ericschwartzman

    Thanks for your level-headedness. For a minute there, I almost lost faith in mankind. wink

  • TonyA_says

    Is it too much to expect running water, working internet and a working door lock for $178 a day? He attended LeWeb in Paris during the first week of December. That’s not exactly peak travel season in Paris and where he stayed on the 2nd Arrondissement is not known for extravagance either. He said he made multiple calls to AirBnb by Skype from a Starbucks cafe and got cut off after waiting more than 15 minutes each time. Looks to me Eric is a pretty patient fellow just wanting to get what he paid for.

  • MartinEdic

    Frankly the whole thing sounds like one big long hipster whine. Did the keys actually not work suddenly out of the blue? Would you not have paid 10euros per day for crappy wifi in a hotel? And no place in hallway to plug in your phone- horrors! And on top of it, a $200 refund…this is a total load of spoiled whining especially considering you were paying less than half what any comparable hotel would cost.
    And this ‘article’ doesn’t even say where in Paris this apartment was.

  • ericschwartzman

    BTW, what’s an OP?

  • ericschwartzman

    What DO you do?

  • ericschwartzman

    Yes, we’ve rented in many other countries before, but always through an agency. This was the first time we rented directly from an owner. And I think that’s the big take away. If you rent from an agency and something goes wrong, there’s someone prepared to help. If you rent from an owner, they’ve probably got a day job, limited availability and an even shorter patience threshold if mishaps occur.

  • ericschwartzman

    Excellent idea, Karla. That’s my plan. Though I would consider renting from an agency rather than an owner. We rented through an agency in Rome and they made sure everything worked in the apartment.

  • TonyA_says

    Based on what we know now, you should not be cast as an Airbnb pariah. At a minimum, Chris Elliott should be able to work that out and strip your record clean.

    As far as vetting rentors and renters, I’m not sure how Airbnb can do that. They essentially have a similar problem as TripAdvisor or Oyster (even with their pictures). They all rely on the “honesty” of people, and some or most have an ax to grind or a financial incentive.

    After travelling for decades now, here is what I have noticed:
    (1) we spend some time during the trip looking for the hotel we wish to use the next time
    (2) we go back to the same place again and again if we like it
    (3) we trust referrals from fellow travelers more than the internet or travel agents.

    DISCLOSURE: I sell travel but I don’t let it get in the way of my traveling.

  • Joe Farrell

    Then I stand corrected on the lock – the rest of it – no. 

    But once again – you did not rent a hotel room – you cannot expect a landlord to be at your beck and call for every little thing.  Even with not being able to get in because of a jammed or jimmied lock – what if your landlord was out of the country?  He is not a hotel and I do not expect that level of service when I rent an apt. 

  • ericschwartzman

    So what’s the procedure if a lock does jam? What do you do?  Because I’m not so sure I would have had the legal right to hire a locksmith to open the door.  And AirBNB has no staff in Paris to help.  Do You just sacrifice your stuff and go to a hotel?  If you rent from an agency, they handle you on behalf of the owner. But in my view, it’s unacceptable to rent an apartment to someone and not have some plan for how to handle them if something goes wrong.  If you deal with the public, you have to actually deal with them. You can’t expect to just sit back and collect a check if you can’t deliver what you promised. Since AirBNB is collecting a commission, they’re serving as the agency. My point is a toll free number without local representatives just doesn’t do.

  • TonyA_says

    31 Rue Poissonniere, 75002 Paris.
    2° arrondissement

  • bodega3

    That is quite different. 

  • bodega3

    You are right, but then you don’t have to use them again.  You went for cheap in a foreign country.  You should expect some quirks.    

  • Raven_Altosk

    Original Poster. It’s kind of misused on this board since the original poster is someone who writes to Chris. In this case, you…since the story is about you.

  • Jeremy Pepper

    This isn’t the first and it won’t be the last customer problem that AirBNB runs into – and their lack of customer service savvy and problem solving is imminently clear.

    But they’re social and Web 2.0 so the customers love them … just don’t expect them to really address customer issues, because, well, that’s not what Web 2.0 companies do, that’s just old stodgy companies that (ironically) seem to embrace Web 2.0 mentality more than the companies. 
    Is Eric 100% right here? Of course not. Did AirBNB handle it well? Of course not. Is this the end of the story for AirBNB? Not yet, but I can’t believe that the forces won’t align to smack them down if they get too big.

  • ericschwartzman

    I did and I won’t, but what about others? Why should everyone have to learn this lesson firsthand, the hard way?  Isn’t that the promise of social media. That you can inform yourself using the wisdom of the crowd?

  • ericschwartzman


  • ericschwartzman

    What, if anything, do you think this incident says about the wisdom of collaborative consumption service businesses? It’s easier to connect buyers and sellers over trinkets on Ebay and Craigslist, but services are a much different story, because relationship management and response times are so much more important to the outcome of the customer experience. 

    The VCs are smitten with the concept of collaborative consumption, but I wonder it if really hold up in the case of global services.  

    AirBNB is just one of a flock of start-ups putting the collaborative consumption business model to the services test. Others are Uber and TaskRabbit.  

    Will the economics of operating these businesses with a level of support that customers may ultimately demand wind up being their downfall?  The jury’s still out, but if I was an investor, It’s be something I’d be thinking very seriously about. 

    Everyone can handle getting burned and blown off once. But I’m not convinced travelers have the tolerance for pain to put up with this kind of thing a second time. And in order for these businesses to prosper, you have to trust them.  But how can you trust a company that isn’t willing to talk about their policies on the record?

  • Deb McAlister

    I have always found Eric to be more than fair and honest in his dealings with vendors of all kinds, and have no reason to doubt his version of the story.  My experience has been that people who won’t go “on the record” have good reasons for preferring to stay off the record.  I’m glad this was posted — I was looking for a rental in Europe, but now I know to look elsewhere. 

  • Chasmosaur

    I’m a usability consultant by trade, and I’ve always been a little mystified by the collaborative consumption model.  But my views are definitively flavored by growing up under street-savvy NYC denizens (though I admit to growing up suburban).  The concept of renting an apartment without being able to research the person behind it I find counterintuitive.  I haven’t had bad experiences on Craigslist and eBay, but combined, I have bought things from both sites under 10 times.

    As for vacation housing – the few times we rented vacation houses when I was a kid, they were properties specifically recommended to my parents by trusted friends who had used them before.  The Internet community?  I don’t fully trust them, even for restaurant recommendations, since so much depends upon the type of community member that is willing to comment.  (Where I live, any restaurant that charges more than $10/head for a meal is automatically given 1 star because it’s too “fancy” or “pricey” – this does not help me one bit when looking at user reviews.)

    There’s also the issue that many of these sites will force you to rate the seller/item.  Unless you had a horrid time, the psychology of that kind of interaction usually results in a cursory response of some sort that isn’t necessarily helpful.

    I think these sites will survive – not necessarily thrive, but survive – because someone is always looking to spend as little as possible.  But that doesn’t mean that it’s going to be a bargain or a good investment of your vacation funds.

  • finance_tony

    Oh please. Those who don’t waste their time appearing on a nearly-unknown person’s podcast when that very person felt he was wronged somehow have something to hide?   How much time would be wasted on such ridiculous endeavors if businesses were to attempt to prove themselves at every entitled customer’s whim.

    The more I read of this sniveling guy, the more disappointed I am in Chris for taking this one…after the sniveler gets refunds, gripes about it on his “show” then has the gall to complain to a more well-known author!

  • Fly, Icarus, Fly

    1) Let the record show that I didn’t assume the lockout was your fault!
    2) I kind of like how you’re responding to individual comments. You’re taking a beating here and you’ve obviously brought on your own supporters.
    3) The nature of this type of rental (same with house swapping, rental from classifieds, etc.) is that it CAN’T be regulated. You can choose good agents who do their homework and vet their clients, but when you start dealing directly with the owner, there is the possibility that either the client or the owner (or both) are jerks.
    4) It sucks that you got a lemon of an apartment, however…

    Lessons for you:
    1) When you first arrive, make a check of everything so you can “complain” just once (!)
    2) If you’ve successfully resolved a problem yourself, next time, think twice about trying to gain publicity out of it. People here obviously don’t like attention hos…
    3) You might consider googling terms you don’t know (like “OP”) because otherwise, it makes you look like an inept journalist.
    4) Namecalling on a public forum is never a good idea – makes you look small.

    All in all, I do feel for you in some ways. However, it might be a good idea to think long and hard whether 1) you want to EVER rent an apartment again and 2) whether this is the right forum for you…

  • bodega3

    I don’t trust social media, so I am not the person to pose this question to.  What you don’t like, someone else will.  Everyone has an opinion and have a bias based on their experience.  I also wouldn’t have booked with an unknown company, paying a too good to be true rate and then tick the owner off with many complaints.  You are not at home, so the one thing you may have forgotten to pack was your sense of humor.  It may not warm up the water, but it might help take the edge off the anger.  Parisians are known to not like Americans.  You probably came across as an ugly American to the landlord with the complaints.  If you are going to travel, maybe you should get some help with your arrangement from a TA who you can then call to take care of you.  There are thousands of places to book travel, but a good TA uses those that will take care of you.

  • ericschwartzman

    FYI, I’m not angry. Just curious and inquisitive. The escapade has already made for a hilarious story at many a dinner party.  And It’s a story I enjoy telling. If you’d like a good laugh, listen to the podcast. What’s a TA?

  • TonyA_says

    Travel Agent

  • TonyA_says

    Eric, try and their forum

    Lots of folks there use apartments all the time and they are happy.There is an excellent source for France/Paris there. Look for the posts of Americana in Parigi.

  • Jeremy Pepper

    It works if all sides are open and honest, which we are not seeing here. There are going to be the reviews – which, well, aren’t that trustworthy either – which should help. 

    Uber, Taskrabbit and Zaarly are all interesting models. Taskrabbit and Zaarly are more straight-forward services which will probably run into some tax issues.  Uber, well, Uber has its own whole list of problems ranging from the well organized Taxi organizations to the pricing model (see the brouhaha during NYE and the whine – and refunds to friends of Uber – that came about because of the costs for a few miles). 

    Travelers are a special group of people. The whole purpose of a trip – be it vacation or work – is to be stress free and not have to worry about any issues. When I rented an apartment in Buenos Aires, it was stress free and easy … and run by a rental firm that had people on the ground. I had WiFi issues too, and they fixed it immediately as there were both IT people and rental agents around to fix the problems. 

    There are going to be more issues and more bad experiences. How AirBNB handles them is the key.

  • finance_tony

     This insipid little sniveler won’t be happy until he tells his little tale to everyone he can corner.  What a bag of hot air.

  • bc

    Eric, though I’m not what you would call a road warrior I’ve stayed at plenty of hotels and WiFi problems can happen any time. On a recent trip one of the hotels we used constantly had problems with their routers which pretty much made the only usable router the one in the lobby. Sure this was inconvenient but does that mean should demand a refund from the front desk? 

    In a previous trip to South America I rented an apartment in Buenos Aires and had a very similar issue. The lock on the apartment door broke at about 4 in the afternoon when I was returning from a long day of sightseeing. It took several hours of me and through the help of a kind next door neighbor I was able to call the property owner and get a locksmith out there. Sure it was inconvenient but I could hardly blame the owner for the unforeseen problem. 

    There are a lot of advantages and disadvantages of renting an apartment vs a traditional hotel. No on site help is inherent disadvantage in this on most properties. 

    You’re saying you don’t blame anyone for what happened, but isn’t that essentially what you’re doing when you ask for a refund or a credit for the time stayed? You’re saying, hey you’re responsible for all this you should compensate me. I think people are way to eager to demand refunds and expect compensation when unforeseen and unpredictable problems happen. 

  • finance_tony

    Really?  So anytime you have an issue with a company and demand 45 minutes of their time to go “on the record” and they refuse – the company must have something to hide?  Are you joking?  How are you related to the OP?

  • Brittney Stonewall

    I’d like to go on the record and say “that without verifying protection for both parties, especially when you’re a guest or host, how can everyone be sure that what they’re getting involved in is safe?” I don’t think there’s any certainty in this! I’m appalled at their mistakes. I also believe that Eric Schwartzman should be entitled to an interview for his social media podcast; if Airbnb is denying him this right, could it also mean that they have something to hide? I think so. Another thing is, this company may not have the longevity with which they’ve envisioned commence forth. Let’s ponder this notion for a minute: Having a host leave a customer locked out of their hotel, and break the locks only to come inside to a place with no running water, no wifi, and no bathroom, does not appear to be a lovely picture. It’s also something that wouldn’t attract me as a future customer. In fact, I’d rather not even climb that mile hike. As far as Airbnb is concerned, I have no doubts in my noggin that the company is disguising the truth of the matter. If
    you follow the laws and wish to accommodate your customers with superb customer
    service, then what is wrong with an interview? If you had asked me, an interview speaks for itself! What are you hiding from?

    If a customer is displeased with their level of services, there are business models (firms) that will use their own house counsel, and would be able to relocate the customer, given their circumstances. There’s one brokerage firm that I trust,, that are doing their due diligence and could be trusted to relocate the customer, if they’re not happy with their stay and are on unsatisfactory terms.

  • Debbie Lott

    It would have for me very easy to provide an answer that is at the level of the review from Eric. However, neither my education or my culture does not allow me to do so. I will just be factual: Never/ever rent your apartment to Eric and his family. He treats and he is convinced that you should be is servant [actually funny enough he is even putting down that to his review], addresses in a arrogant manner and the word politeness is missing from his dictionary. to summarize, Eric rent a 1,000,000$ 2-BDR apartment, that has not a single complaint, with more than 50 reservations, excellent reviews, cleaned and maintained from a professional manager…he paid 804eu for 6 nights, he broke the lock that cost 850eu, I spent 2 nights out of 6 at the apartment, but the worst thing out of all is that he treated me like nothing, with extreme arrogance, expected to be 24 hours servant the front-desk of his hotel reservation. 1. water…we checked with the city of Paris and the building and there was no apparent reason for having no water at the apartment. eventually Eric sent an email that the water was back and running at 12:30 (normal check-in is 2PM)…of course Eric forgot to mentioned that he checked early at 9:30…like the internet problem (see bellow), not a single complain about the water before. 2. internet…well it happens to have triple play offer, with a provider that has approximately 6million subscribers in France. We have this service at our apartment for the past 6 yeas without a single problem, I went to the apartment, the wifi was visible, Eric couldn’t connect his mac laptop…TV was running, telephone was running, Wireless was sending signal and I was able to connect with my DELL + Samsung mobile. However, you have to be at the service of Eric, a system administrator, that can take over his computer and solve his problems!!! that was my first night I spent at the apartment [6 to 9 PM]…eventually no one complained for the internet before… 3. lock: other thank lying since I was at 5:00PM at the apartment and I have his mails on it, well the lock broke while Eric was there, I called the 24 services immediately once I got the mail that his son [who BTW while I was there the first night kept running and jumping on the couch, I guessed he thought that I am a handyman given the attitude of his father] and his wife are locked outside [it happens that my son has the same age as his son]. I left my office immediately and was dealing with the locksmith from 5:00 to 9:30pm. the repair cost 850eu and normally he should have paid for it. 4. refund: when people treat you the way that Eric does, you have absolutely no reason to host them in your property. if they had no a son on my son’s age, I would have kicked them out, they do not deserve to be your guests at a property that you own and you worked hard to buy and maintain. anyhow, I ask airbnb to refund him one night because again I consider the situation if my wife and my son was in his place [eventually it wouldn’t have been hard for any airbnb guest to behave better and be respectful to people]. from his review it seems that it didn’t happen, however I have absolutely nothing to do with that and is something between him and airbnb. eventually, I will return him the compliment, there is nothing wrong with him, he is a very descent guy…who also tries to save some money by renting a 700ft apartment at the cost of **/***hotel 150ft ROOM, while expecting a 24-hours front desk service where the word respect is not part of his dictionary.

  • Debbie Lott

    FYI… this is the reponse to Mr. Schwartzman’s review on AirBNB website.  It looks like a lovely place. 

  • Dick Jordan

    The facts of Mr. Schartzmann’s experience with AirBNB are of little interest since they are not part of a comprehensive report on that company or the vacation rental industry, particularly that segment that facilitates rental by small property (e.g., apartment or condo owners).  I think that his most meaningful contribution to the “dialogue” between the readers of Chris’ blog was his statement via a “Comment” that “I’m sorry this has turned into a slug fest. Not my intention. I was hoping to spark a constructive debate about collaborative consumption in the service industry.”

  • Sadie_Cee

    Could the OP’s poor holiday experience have stemmed from a lack of communication between himself and his host?  Did the OP communicate all of his key requirements and receive assurances from the host before completing the booking?  A reminder regarding the water supply and the proper WiFi connection required could certainly have been handled in this way.  I visited the AIRBnB site and found that an opportunity is provided and the two parties are encouraged to communicate needs beforehand.   Did the OP make use of this facility?  
    In AIRBnB’s information video, the presenter mentioned that she was staying in an apartment that was owned by people who were away for the weekend.  This is something that people wishing to participate in this model need to take into consideration.  The OP’s experience with the malfunctioning lock could have been even worse had his host been out of town.
    This business model would be attractive to the experienced, independent traveler, who wants “adventure” and takes pride in remaining flexible.  Are there enough of them still around to ensure viability in the long-term?  People who are less daring and want certainty and the luxury and convenience of hotels will not be enchanted.  For me, too much is left to faith, trust and good intentions and moreover, there is no on-the-spot support to take care of problems that can occur.
    If the OP wants to have discussions with advocates of this model, may I suggest that he not single out AIRBnB but try to have a sort of joint panel discussion with several other proponents of the model.  In this way, no one need feel threatened and the OP would not appear to have a personal axe to grind.

  • bodega3

    I don’t know if Eric will be looking over here, or Chris for that matter, but an FYI, Airbnb is not registered to do business in the State of California with the State Attorney Generel’s Seller of Travel Law.  That is a HUGE red flag and says the company doesn’t wish to follow the laws of the states it does business in.

  • finance_tony

    The sniveler is the guy who can’t use his own supposed fame to handle his own problems, and who has an inflated sense of self-worth.  Why else would he demand an “on air” (rolls eyes) interview to waste a company’s time.

    And I suggest you spend a little more time in the forum (any social media, actually, if you don’t understand some of the concepts like “OP”) before making accusations of me being employed by this company.  I’ve been posting here a very, very long time and my comments are not in anyway limited to customers or businesses.  I’m just not afraid to call a spade a spade.

  • Kip Hartwell

    The comments here are almost as interesting as the original post.
    I must say that it is only lack of customer service from airBNB that might cause me any worry after reading ALL of this thread but that may be asking too much of them, more than we would ask of any other company.

    There will always be issues when doing business and it sounds like most were resolved or checked quickly.  I will be looking to AirBNB for my next trip.  It is an odd coincidence that I just installed it 2 days ago :)

  • backprop

    I would tend to agree here, and seemingly most readers do too. 

    In my experience, the readership of Chris’s column consists primarily of those sympathetic to traveler concerns.  I tend to fall on the side of the business or other antagonist about half the time, but I’m outnumbered more often than not. 

    And then this guy supposedly isn’t asking for remuneration — a point he’s made a few times, although it’s a bizarre point because he not only received a free night but $200 on top of it. 

    But the point is, if you’re not asking for a full refund or other compensation and you make Chris’s column…and you STILL can’t muster a 50% rating from readers, perhaps it’s time to step back and reconsider the legitimacy of your demands.

  • Wei Leen

    This is an interesting read. Why isn’t any comparison made between Airbnb’s conduct in this matter and what their competitors do?
    @ericschwartzman:disqus I do think that collaborative consumption is the future. We have finite resources at our disposal after all.

    full disclosure: i work for european airbnb competitor 9flats.

  • flutiefan

  • Vacation Rental Guru

    The issue here is to do with price. If you want a cheap model, and I notice one of the first things you cover is the price, then you ought to expect cheap support. Its as simple as that. I fear AirBnB attract the wrong sort of owner client because there model is essentially flawed. You either rent an apartment or villa and intend on providing support or you don’t. If you don’t do support you don’t rent it out so for me it’s the owner who ought to take responsibility here, not AirBnB. Eventually, with low price comes problems AirBnB will reap the rewards of that with bad publicity. 

  • Vince

    Off the mark, but something about which I’ve been wondering lately.  Can a person seeking to rent a place through airbnb use the facebook message system to offer the rentor, in an attempt to increase the chances that his/her application is accpted, more than the asking price?

  • wallce

    the guest sound like an idiot

  • properthwacking

    oh for Pete’s sake. You blame one bad host on airbnb’s flawed rental model? There is such a thing as due diligence as well, and it applies to any hotels as well as surfing couches to try to save $100 a night. Did you take the cheapest place? Did you book among slim pickens and expect it to work out like everybody else who planned a match better?

  • properthwacking


  • properthwacking

    Take the $200 and go home.

  • properthwacking

    hosts take risks, too. if you don’t appreciate this business model, go to motel6 or pay up for turndown service like the rest

  • properthwacking

    You’re a bum.

  • properthwacking

    Cheap and simple… That’s the hallmark of AirBNB. That they gave you $200 demonstrates that they’re willing to go over and beyond for difficult people just to make them feel like they were taken care of, since they thrive on word of mouth only and can’t really afford bad PR. So, why don’t you create a competing site since you’re so in tune with what it should take!

  • properthwacking

    Get her refund? Then go home. There is no Round 2 or taking them to task for something they had no control over.

  • properthwacking

    And the airbnb “agency” gave you $200 which you admit was above sufficient. I still don’t understand your gripes!

  • ericschwartzman

    Dear Anonymous Troll who either works for AirBNB or wants to get in on the IPO, you seem pretty angry. Terrible way to go through life.

  • properthwacking

    The things you said about airbnb exude anger and you made some statements that were petty & baseless, such as your accusation that I work for airbnb. It’s not my anonymity that makes me wrong, you see, just like you putting your blog name on something didn’t give it any credibility, with only 5% of the commenters here showing any empathy for your position.

    I would have been satisfied with the $200 if I was in your situation. Or, if I was anal like you, I wouldn’t stay in a place that didn’t have a lobby with coffee, I just might have stayed home. Airbnb is 3 for 3 with me so far this year, which is a lot higher rate of satisfaction than I’ve had with some hotels that cost more. If there was an event where I wasn’t completely satisfied, it was only because the hosts did not update their availability calendar, but this problem was really on me for not doing due diligence on them sooner. I went and stayed in a hotel instead, but I had no loss for trying airbnb and I certainly wouldn’t hold this against them next time, understanding that their business model thrives on the independence and sheer variety of its users. It’s happened to me in hotels as well, being shopped to another location twice due to unforseeable issues at the time of my booking. In those cases, I was taken care of but it is not always as pleasant as you make it sound. It’s not always satisfying to have things go wrong when you’re traveling, whether the host is 4 stars or unreviewed, there are still examples of flaws that may take place in the booking process. (Haven’t you heard about the people that got kicked out of their hotels because of overbooking?) Still, I got $200 from a hotel once, and figure that is enough reason to be satisfied. I didn’t go and write an expose on how important it was that this hotel change their business practices to suit me better.

  • Matt

    Indeed AirBnB can offer very very bad surprise. You definitely someone in the location to take a look at the place before booking it.