Airbnb’s evolution from couch surfing to full-time income
Nothing says hospitality like counting toilet paper rolls. That’s exactly what my Airbnb hosts did before I took a midweek getaway to their property. A welcome email listed the number of toilet paper rolls allocated per bathroom (two) – as well as the number of paper towels (“1 for properties with 3 bedrooms or less, 2 for more than 3 bedrooms” ) and the promise of a single sponge.
You can understand why, upon arriving at a beautiful cabin perched on top of a mountain, I was furious to discover that there were no dishwasher pods. (Three had been assured, one for each day.) Under other circumstances, I would have rolled up my sleeves and done the dishes the old-fashioned way, but my hosts’ email had set a certain tone, and I matched it. .
Much of the rest of my alpine retreat was devoted to increasingly terse correspondence on the missing pod case. And, when the problem remained unresolved at the register, to do a lot of washing up.
The experience reminded that renting other people’s homes has created more choice for travelers, but it’s not always easy. The democratization of hosting has meant – like the openness of the media before it – a greater burden for customers who could once depend on the reputation of professionals but are now left to fend for themselves in the great darkness of the Internet. .
A tech-obsessed friend was the first person to tell me about Airbnb. It was in 2012, four years after the creation of the company. Over a cast-iron chicken in her third-floor Brooklyn apartment one night, she explained how a stranger was moving in, temporarily, the next day. A week of his Airbnb money would cover a month of his rent.
Over time, Airbnb has become less of a couch-surfing social network and more of a network of pseudo-hotels.
I looked around at the perfect arrangement of tchotchkes, the chic exposed brick wall and the immaculately appointed kitchen. Like my friend’s apartment, this arrangement seemed cozy, but also, I thought, a bit creepy.
Who was the unknown? Will he go through all his stuff? What if he stole her identity or left a coffee mug ring on her gorgeous pine coffee table? While there are real Airbnb horror stories out there, luckily none of that happened.
Over time, Airbnb has become less of a couch-surfing social network and more of a network of pseudo-hotels. Does anyone still think about the potential weirdness of sleeping in a stranger’s bed? Many Airbnbs these days aren’t private homes at all, but – like the place I recently stayed in the mountains – full-time incomes.