Airbnb: Cultural connection or comedy of errors?

I used Airbnb while visiting Denmark and I had a great experience!  Airbnb allows people to rent out their homes or rooms in their homes to travelers.  Hosts are allowed to decline travelers so, unlike a hotel, there is a sense of control about who comes into your home, and it can be a good way to make extra money from your property.  Travelers can choose from among many hosts and choose the situation that best suits their needs.

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As a traveler, it’s nice to come “home” after a long day of touring.  Hotels are fine and generally comfortable, but there is a feeling of anonymity or uniformity.  It was also fun to see how Danes live.  They are surprisingly minimalist – though perhaps that’s an Airbnb characteristic – I didn’t see clutter or unnecessary stuff around.  Shoes off at the door and beds are surprisingly warm and smooshy (there’s an extra 5-inch sleeping pad on the bed).  I felt as though I experienced the real Denmark, not just the façade shown to tourists, and I liked that a lot.

As much as I like the idea of Airbnb, I don’t think I’ll become a host.

When I went to Brazil I loaned my apartment to friends (who I didn’t know) of a friend.  While there I got an email from my cousin that said “Something funny happened with your apartment.”  Since I had only recently moved in and I was on the other side of the planet, I couldn’t imagine a single thing that could happen in my apartment that could be considered remotely “funny.”  My cousin told me the short version of the story:  the guests had some comical misunderstanding and then the situation was sorted.  Ha! Ha!  All’s well that ends well!

When I got home, I found a lovely note and a gift from the couple and it seemed that all was indeed well.

Then I heard the whole story from my friend who had asked for the favor in the first place.  My cousin had given the couple the keys and explained how to get to my apartment.  They went in, left their suitcases, and continued their touring day.  They came home late in the evening to find another couple in the apartment and the police.  It seemed to them an absurd, double-booking situation.  How could I have double-booked them?  Who are these people in the apartment anyway?  Why are the police there?  The travelers were distraught and upset because it was the evening of a holiday and they knew they couldn’t find another place, not to mention that they didn’t speak Hebrew and couldn’t understand what was happening.

Turns out it wasn’t my apartment.

The actual apartment owners had come home late in the evening and found strange suitcases in their living room.  They debated for a bit as to what to do since it didn’t seem to be a dangerous situation, but still they decided to call the police.  These were after all “suspicious objects” in the middle of their apartment and they had no idea how they got there or to whom they belonged.

The travelers had no one to call but our mutual friend in England.  There were all kinds of shouting and wondering how a double-booking could have happened and weren’t arrangements made?  Somehow, it was not clear to the travelers that the couple in the apartment owned it, nor that it was not my apartment at all!  Our mutual friend in England didn’t know exactly where my apartment was, and couldn’t understand how the travelers could be anywhere but my apartment.  And there was the fact that the keys worked in the lock.  Finally, someone figured out that they should call my cousin. By then it was 1:00am.   Luckily she answered and explained to the couple whose apartment was invaded where my apartment was and exactly how to get there.

There was nothing more for the police to do – no crime was committed and it was obviously a series of misunderstandings – so they left.  The travelers were installed in the correct apartment and the apartment owners could go back to their own home that was finally cleared of unexpected guests.

I heard later that the apartment owners became friendly with the travelers and even invited them for coffee.  I didn’t know the apartment owners because I was new to the complex and even though I tried to find them, I couldn’t figure out where the travelers had gone wrong in the instructions and where the other apartment was.  I don’t know where it is to this day.

Home invasion, suspicious objects, the police, and any number of misunderstandings, comical or otherwise, seem like too much trouble.  I think I’ll pass up being an Airbnb host.

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