There's No Such Thing as a "Perfect" Airbnb (But the Platform Is Still Pretty Great)
Have we drunk the Airbnb Kool-Aid or what?
Spend any time in online travel circles, and you’ll quickly come upon some variation of this article: “How to Pick the Perfect Airbnb Every Time.”
Does the advice in these articles ever deliver on the promise of always finding the perfect Airbnb unit?
Is there even such a thing as a “perfect” Airbnb?
In our last six years of travel, Brent and I have rented dozens of Airbnbs in dozens of different countries. We’ve also read all those “advice” articles, and even tried to compile our own renting strategy as a result of our own hard-won experience. We’ve also raised our budget in order to try to get better results.
How many times have we actually scored the “perfect” Airbnb?
And even this place wasn’t actually “perfect.” The temperature in the showers was temperamental, the toilets didn’t always flush right, the roof leaked during a rare rainstorm, and we were a bit too far from town.
But the good parts — specifically, the service, the massive space, and the incredible view, which often included humpback whales leaping out of the water — were so good that it basically felt perfect.
Is it even reasonable to expect an Airbnb to be “perfect”?
Whenever we buy goods or services, we all expect the best “thing” possible. It’s no fun to eat out and end up having a mediocre meal, especially if it’s pricey. I’m certainly annoyed when I buy a shirt that falls apart after being washed three times.
But I don’t really expect these things to be perfect.
But people seem to expect more from Airbnb.
I googled “How to choose an Airbnb,” and more than a third of the top results promised the secret of finding the “perfect” place.
But when I googled “How to choose a hotel,” it wasn’t until the 29th return that the word “perfect” appeared.
What accounts for such high expectations for Airbnb?
Partly, it’s Airbnb’s own fault. The platform started out trying to make themselves stand out from hotels by promising a better, more fulfilling lodging experience.
In fact, the original Airbnb tagline back in 2008 was: “Forget hotels.”
But Airbnb’s aspirations seemed to keep rising. In 2011 the slogan became: “Travel like a human.” And then, in 2014: “Belong anywhere.”
About that last tagline, Brian Cheksy, the CEO of Airbnb himself said, “For so long, people thought Airbnb was about renting houses. But really, we’re about home. You see, a house is just a space, but a home is where you belong. And what makes this global community so special is that for the very first time, you can belong anywhere.”
You are definitely not the only one rolling your eyes right now.
They even designed a logo that will make you continue rolling your eyes.
And check out some of the tags on the top of their website: “Amazing views,” “OMG!,” “Mansions,” “Iconic cities.” Naturally, they also feature photos of their most stunning Airbnb units.
So, yeah, Airbnb created some of their customer’s lofty expectations. Couple that with American entitlement and the “Instagramification” of travel — basically, the idea created by social media that everyone else is having the perfect vacation — and, well, here we are.
Of course, Airbnb is hardly the first travel business to make extravagant claims. Is Disneyland really the Happiest Place on Earth? And virtually every American airline promises a sublime flying experience — despite the average width of a seat shrinking from eighteen inches a few years ago to sixteen inches now.
Let’s face it: travel is, in large part, about romance. If you have a travel business, that’s part of what you’re selling.
But if you’re expecting me to now pile on Airbnb for its aspirational advertising campaigns, you’re in for a big surprise.