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An article about AirBnB reviews

Discussion in 'News' started by SI MON, May 25, 2015.

  1. SI MON

    SI MON New Member


    Why You Really Can’t Trust Airbnb Reviews At All
    Erica Ho // May. 14, 2015 // 10 Comments

    Ever met a perfectly pleasant stranger and then you were asked to critique their communication, habits and home? That’s essentially what leaving an Airbnb review is like.

    Though there’s a lot of wonderful hype about Airbnb, there are tons of pitfalls to using the service, including its lack of privacy, poor consistency and the fact that there are some pretty terrible people out there — guests and hosts included. And unfortunately, this all gets swept under the rug because it’s really hard to put down someone after you’ve met them face to face. More than anything else, it all boils down to the fact that people just hate giving bad feedback directly to people, and that’s why its often best to take Airbnb reviews with a grain of salt. A big grain of salt.

    Fundamentally, at its core, Airbnb is the marriage of two preexisting concepts, a lovechild spawned between CouchSurfing and traditional vacation rentals, born into life by Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia, Nathan Blecharczyk back in 2008. Like Uber and Lyft, the company fundamentally acts a third-party broker between its community. There’s a new reciprocal relationship in town where hosts can affect guests and vice versa, in equal footing that wasn’t there before. And it’s an interesting relationship in which I’ve certainly played my part in, as both host and guest since 2011.

    That’s because in the new “sharing” economy (let’s be real, it’s still transactional), two-, three-, or four-star reviews are essentially dead. Reviews are either “awesome!” or horrible. Got something lukewarm to say? Don’t be surprised if that’s perceived as completely negative. Courtesy now dictates behavior and guests/hosts will often refrain from leaving a critiqued review unless it was just truly, truly an awful experience. Minor issues get glossed over. And that’s unfortunate, because, like in many review systems, it’s the three- and four- star reviews that are often the most objective.

    For better or for worse, social niceties are getting in the way. Rarebit CEO Hampton Catlin illustrates this best when he posted on a blog about his own Airbnb experience:

    In fact, we’re currently struggling with this feeling with the AirBnB we’re currently in. It’s slightly dirty, has a loud workshop next door that wakes us up with banging on the wall, has a bathroom that is very hard to get to from the bedroom, and, above all, was pricey! But we met the owner. He seems nice. The place is pretty large. The internet is fast. Plus, he keeps asking if everything is okay and we don’t want to seem like complainers. He’s been really apologetic about the issues in the place but hasn’t really done anything…

    The issue is that for most people, it’s against our nature to say bad things about people we just met. It stresses us out and makes us unhappy. So we find it far easier to say “everything’s fine” than “your house isn’t very nice.”

    In a world where bad reviews can influence future earnings or the ability to save some money, both hosts/guests will err on keeping the peace in cause of the greater good. Quora and Airbnb user Gillis Danielsen further chimes in on the subject, pointing out his own observations:

    This essentially skews the numbers, creating a weird five-star halo effect. If everyone essentially chooses to abstain from reviewing mediocre places, then the system is not accurate. If there are eight five-star reviews but 20 people can’t be bothered to leave three-star reviews, than the real average for a property would be 3.5 stars. But that’s not what you would see, at all.

    Airbnb even subtly acknowledges this, requiring Airbnb SuperHosts to receive a review from a guest at least 50% of the time.


    It also doesn’t help that when Airbnb first initially launched, reviews between hosts and guests were published instantly, thus setting the tone. Since Airbnb participation relies on strong reviews, it was detrimental to leave a negative review—no matter how honest they were—for fear of retribution and getting embroiled in a “he said, she said” conflict. And let’s be honest, no matter who is right in that particular argument, a winner rarely emerges from the fray. The old adage thus prevailed: “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say it.”

    It wasn’t until last year—a full six years after the company’s inception—that Airbnb took serious steps to rectify the issue, during its branding relaunch. The site finally changed the way the review system operated: reviews could only be seen once the other party had also completed their review. Both parties have a 14-day window to complete their assessment; if the other party fails to leave a review, then the other review is published at the end of this window. But even with the change, it can still be hard for a peacock to change colors, especially if you’ve grown up under the old system. And in a growing startup, six years is a virtual lifetime.

    Unfortunately, even with these changes it’s not enough. The company furthered altered their review policy to let hosts and guests leave both public and private feedback simultaneously. While it lets hosts/guests see what can be improved upon during the experience, it significantly minimizes the amount of public negative feedback. Both hosts and guests feel freer to comment honestly, but the thing is that it all happens behind closed doors with no accountability that the issue will be fixed in the future. There is no transparency for future host/guests, who are forking over their cash or their home.

  2. SI MON

    SI MON New Member

    Even though Airbnb has a valid interest in trying to police their community so that there are no bad eggs, Airbnb has a financially vested interest to at least ensure satisfaction levels appear to be high. Unlike most review sites, it should not be forgotten that Airbnb takes a decent chunk of fees (a healthy 6-12% depending on the cost of the total reservation) out for every transaction made. These fees make up a huge portion of their estimated annual $250 million profit in 2013.

    (Compare that to Yelp and TripAdvisor, who don’t necessarily have financial interests in every single property featured on their site. TripAdvisor does review FlipKey, another vacation rental site they own, but the problems with TripAdvisor are well-documented).

    One anonymous Quora user has pointed out that Airbnb does not, in fact, leave its reviews alone. In fact, he notices that the site has had a tendency to hide its reviews to further its own goals:

    Frankly, that’s disturbing. Especially when travelers are paying hundreds of dollars for a decent roof under their head that may make or break their trip experience. To clarify Airbnb’s position, I emailed them regarding the removal of negative reviews, asking in particular, why that Quora user may have had the experience that they did.

    Their spokeswoman redirected me back to their official review guidelines:

    Airbnb’s default position is not to censor, edit or delete reviews. However, there are rare cases in which we may take the extraordinary step of disallowing or removing reviews or review responses. We reserve the right to remove reviews that violate review guidelines.

    Not totally reassuring.

    At least there seems to be a better system set up for honesty on other sites, where users can post their own pictures, where business owners can offer their responses, and there are no adverse effects to users posting honest opinions. In truth, those systems punish property owners more than it punishes travelers.

    That system creates a pro-consumer culture where property owners have to maintain a level of consistency. And Airbnb’s main flaw is that hosts have varying degrees of professionalism and understanding that it’s a business transaction. The experience is completely variable. Unfortunately, this particularl system also doesn’t account for someone who might come in and wreck your home, too. While it might not be the particularly best system for Airbnb, there is also more honesty on one side of the coin.

    Perhaps the best thing for Airbnb to do is to keep the policy as is but without notifying either host or guest that a review has happened on either side. Most hosts and guests can generally sense whether a lukewarm review is imminent, so it’s possible to game the 14-day window by waiting till the very end or waiting for other positive reviews to deflect a negative or lukewarm review. Another option? Hide the names of users/hosts for their written and starred reviews to keep it less personal. That would simplify things.


    So how do you tell someone who you’ve seen in their jammies that their place might be a bit a dump after coming into their home? After they went out of the way to make coffee? Or how to ask your guest not to eat your food while they’re dumping milk into their bowl without being an asshole? I’m still trying to figure that one out.
    Sister Moon and Castle Woman like this.
  3. SI MON

    SI MON New Member

    This article makes some good points. I tend to do as the writer does and not say anything if my feedback is bad. Or I will be very neutral in the review.
  4. Matt S

    Matt S Active Member

    Reviews and stars system will need to have be theoretically revamped in the coming future. They are becoming very heavily relied upon and they have a lot of flaws. I think there is a better concept out there for a review system, but I'm not personally sure what it is. Technology will continue to make us more and more accountable for our actions.
  5. Estuarto

    Estuarto Active Member

    I have only had maybe 1 bad review out of nearly 100. That was back in the day where you could wait for someone to review you before you would return the favor. So I definitely let them have it on theirs. Since then I haven't had a problem. Maybe two suggestions on how to improve my place for guests. This article mentions guests having negative reviews removed. "given fewer than 5 negative reviews. In all those cases, Airbnb hid the reviews. So, yes, Airbnb hides negative reviews. " I'm going to say this is not likely, at least not anymore. I think the point in the article, that guests are less likely to leave poor reviews having met a person and stayed in their house, is very true. Like @Matt S said, maybe the stars system are more of an accurate reflection of reviews. Instead of saying this or that was dirty, guests can not mention it and leave you a 3 or 4 star on the cleanliness.
  6. Castle Woman

    Castle Woman Active Member

    Good article from someone who has been a host, a guest, and is a good writer! @Matt S is right with the sentiment that these review systems all have their faults. Yelp / Google / Uber / AirBnB, they all have a similar approach with a text option and a star system. I think the star system for AirBnB is overboard. There are something like 7 categories for guests to assess stars to after a stay. I have had really good feedback on all my stays. While I honestly believe all of my guests have been happy, it is a little interesting that I have 4 stars in communication and 4.5 stars in accuracy. The guests have small issues it seems, but they aren't willing to take the time to express them, or like the article states, they don't want to offend me??
  7. Rosatti

    Rosatti Member

    I googled "worst airbnb review" and found this woman who has 239 reviews and not one page down she has all these horrible reviews. The concept that reviews will detur people from staying is pretty flawed. As others have pointed out, often times if you get a bad review but are busy there are several guests who have already booked and will soon bury the review in a long list.


    This by far was my worst AirBnb experience. It almost put me off hosting anyone else. She was extremely high maintenance and nothing could satisfy her. There was a problem with the internet and cable when she arrived. I had both my hosts over trying to help and they figured out there was no problem with the internet, just the wireless.They got the wireless working, but she overwhelmed them and insisted on free breakfast, having them take the trash out. and run them some errands. She harassed my hosts in person and also calling/texting throughout all hours. Mainly because she couldn't figure out how to use the cable, which I explained to her, and so did both of my hosts. She refused to listen insisting that I was missing a cable. Turns out I wasn't missing anything. After her departure my hosts were finally able to calmly check the system and everything had been working the entire time. Still she complained to AirBnb and got her bill cut in half. DO NOT HOST THIS GIRL unless you want to serve a Princess that will never be satisfied.

    Response from Magalie:
    I have left Chelsea a proper review based on facts of my stay which you can find while searching this apartment. Chelsea was not around to host her home while away which caused a lot of problems. So, for those thinking of staying here, just make sure Chelsea is not on an International trip because if things go wrong, she will turn around and say that you are demanding. I was not demanding but was upfront that I needed wireless internet and cable and both were not working for more than half of my stay. And Chelsea was not only unresponsive but her friends were unresponsive until well into my stay.

    From New York, NY · October 2012

    this is my worst airbnb experience so far! from day one i knew that jacqueline see herself as a princess, didn't want to hosting her but she insisted the first night she invited a friend to sleep in the double room they were 3 people but they paid for 2 ... when she left the room was trashed, she talked bad to people like you're working for her, her friend was a nice girl but she's a bad personn make yourself a favour don't host this girl


    Jaqueline is a very nice and funny girl thats speak so fast that's impossible to follow. I ll be happy to help her with some problems she had. I advice as guest.


    Jacqueline is a very self - confident and energatic young woman. On the other hand she is the kind of guest who really needs a support by the host and asks a lot of question.


    Jacqueline asked for extra services and offers. I arranged two bikes for her and gave her a special discount of ´pay one stay two´. I gave her all important details before arrival including contact numbers, address and direction to my place. I also told her in advance before accepting her booking request that I won´t be around and will have limited internet access as I was travelling in Laos and Myanmar. My friend will be there to meet and greet her. If she agrees, I will accept her booking. She agreed. She also accepted to check in before 12 as my friend has to work afterwards. In total 32 emails were exchanged to clarify all details with Jacqueline, before I left the country. However, Jacqueline didn´t come on time, but expected my friend to see her at the tube station instead. In addition, Jacqueline received a welcome card with the description of the bikes and how to use the Internet. The Internet is fast, no guests ever complainted about it. As my friend informed me, Jacqueline didn´t understand how to log in with her laptop. I´ve written down and prepared every detail for her before leaving. What I´ve received is a huge complaint, because her room was not ready on time. The room was not ready, because my friend has to pick her up at the station and go to work first. But after work my friend took great care and cleaned immediately. Everything should be fine by then. Jacqueline was the last person who left my appartment. Unfortunately, the water in the bathroom was still running when I came home.
  8. Estuarto

    Estuarto Active Member

    Here is an older article on reviews by Forbes. This piece was written at the time when AirBnB changed the system so that both reviews had to be completed before either party could view what the other had written. It points out that before this reviews were most likely more inflated, as it was less likely for reviews to be left as negative knowing that the other party could see it before leaving one of their own. All together I'd say this is still a bit of a honeymoon phase for the AirBnB reviews system. I think it will become more mainstream in the coming future and with that will come more extremes to the spectrum of guests.

  9. Shirey

    Shirey Member

    When they changed it so that you had to leave a review to see a review I thought that was a good move. Before that though I did always wait for the guests to review my place before I would leave theirs.
    Estuarto likes this.
  10. Estuarto

    Estuarto Active Member

    We need a thread about the worst AirBnB reviews for guests and hots :)
    Matt S likes this.
  11. Matt S

    Matt S Active Member

    This site called steepster has a little different take on ratings. I like how they use the slider so there isn't only 4 options. I hate that about 5 star systems, that 5 stars is perfect and 4 stars is essentially an 80%. But 1 star is the worst so it's 20%? In some ways that makes 4 stars 75% if 1 star is to be 0%. I digress.

    I also like how steepster assigns the emojis to the slider so that you can see what's considered happy and what's not. The AirBnB ratings system has been bothering me even more now that they offer this strange insight into it where they sometimes will tell you if you got 5 stars in your last 2 stays. It just becomes a story problem! I already caught myself once thinking to message my past two guests and ask - "did you not leave me 5 stars for communication? Because in your written review you seemed so happy with my hosting you?"

    The saving grace of all ratings systems is that if everyone is subjected to them on the service being provided then we are all on an equal playing field. And speaking of that - where is the use for the guests stars feedback?!

    Sandy, SI MON and Estuarto like this.
  12. Estuarto

    Estuarto Active Member

    @Matt S is fired up. Might want to ask the admin to create a forum dedicated to ratings :D We await your revolution of the ratings system sir!
  13. SI MON

    SI MON New Member

    I think a slider would be better!

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