Photo: Craig Sunter
AIRBNB HAS BEEN HAILED AS the future of traveling. A crowdsourced lodging service that relies on user-reviews to ensure quality can’t possibly be a bad thing, right? Well, usually, yeah. I’ve stayed at Airbnb’s a bunch of times and I’ve never had a bad experience. But some people who have used the service have had experiences that are basically waking nightmares. Here are some of the worst.
1. The New Year’s orgy
A woman in London got a nasty surprise when she rented out her apartment to a woman over New Year’s Eve. The guest had said she wanted the place just to sleep in for the night, so the host left her alone in the one-bedroom apartment. Her neighbors called her later that night complaining of the smell of pot coming from the place, so she returned home to find around 100 people partying in her place, music blasting, and the apartment totally trashed.
When she tried to stop the party, someone suckerpunched her in the stomach, and when her boyfriend went into the bedroom to kill the power, he found a couple having sex on the bed while a bunch of other people stood around and watched.
Airbnb offered to pay for the repairs.
2. The robbery
Another woman rented out her place for a week and returned home to find that it had been, over the course of the week, carefully ransacked and then trashed. The guest had smashed holes into the walls, had broken into closets, had found and photocopied her birth certificate and social security card, and stole her grandma’s jewelry, her laptop, her phone, her camera, and even her external hard drive with all of her back-ups on it. The guest then completely trashed the shit out of her place, burning out her pots and pans, and dumping bleach on her printer and all of her wooden surfaces.
All during the week, the guest was sending e-mails to the host saying how much he enjoyed her apartment. The e-mails, given what she now knows, made her feel sick to her stomach.
Airbnb gave the guests information to the police, and offered money to the host to help find a new place.
3. The crowd-sourced brothel
A New Yorker rented her apartment out to a man who said he was a soldier who needed a place to crash between deployments. The man, however, turned out to be a woman who was using the apartment as a place to work out of. Apparently some prostitutes have discovered that Airbnb is cheaper and more discreet than a hotel room. The host found out about the lie when one of the johns attacked and stabbed the prostitute over a price dispute.
Airbnb paid for the host to spend two nights in a hotel while they changed her locks and bought new bedsheets.
4. The “renting out places you don’t actually own” trick
An iPhone developer was using an Airbnb in Berlin when there was a knock on the door. The man knocking was the actual owner of the apartment, and was wondering what the hell the guest was doing there.
5. The drugging
A couple of years ago, Lisa Jose wrote for Matador about a terrifying Airbnb stay in Budapest where her host — who turned out to be a man even though his profile picture was of a woman — pressured her and her sister to go out clubbing with him, and then, when they didn’t, slipped a drug into her sister’s tomato juice, knocking her out for nearly a day and a half. Fortunately, Lisa remained conscious, kept the creep away, and got her and her sister out of there.
Airbnb removed the host from their site, but Lisa’s still uneasy about using their service. She wishes, she says, that she’d followed her gut: “I keep thinking we should have left the minute he opened the door.”