Airbnb is worse than a casino addiction. It’s a sucker’s bet. It’s rigged. The house almost always wins. Everybody knows this. And yet, we all still tempt fate, itching for that once-in-a-lifetime, deal-of-the-century, jackpot experience that we’ll never forget.
Friend: the odds are not in your favor.
If you’re lucky, your host might think of the little things. Like a welcome greeting card.
Or a new dish sponge. That’d be nice, wouldn’t it? Who wants to wash their dishes with a used dirty sponge covered in mystery food bits from a traveling hippie digital nomad that’s scrubbing a cast iron skillet, blowing through the unspoken no-wash rule like a teenage driver misreading a stoplight? I’d like a goddamn new sponge, please, thank you. What kind of poker game is this?
With Airbnb, you start to place wild bets. Have your accommodations been appropriately cleaned prior to visiting? Who knows. I’m going for it. In what world do you show up to a hotel room worried that the sheets haven’t been changed or that you’ll find a hairball from the cat that the previous guest snuck in under the no-pets policy? It doesn’t happen. There’s no accountability, no embarrassment, no music to face when you’re hiding behind a digital avatar, represented only by those willing to leave a review. As if the reviews mean anything at all anyway.
I’ve stayed in places with five stars across the board, only to arrive and have to deal with a shower door that literally rolls off the hinges, like a rookie craps shooter overthrowing the table. Or walked into the kitchen to scented remnants of the most recently cooked fish. Or places where I’ve had to step over trash on the front porch, rolling around like a Sonoran tumbleweed, just to get into the main entrance. Five stars!
You mean to tell me you’ve never stayed anywhere greater on earth? This oak kitchen from 1996 is the pinnacle of your wildest travel excursions? The absurdity! Imagine we gave out Golden Globes as cheaply as five star reviews, or Medals of Honor, or James Beard awards. Right after this blackjack hand, I’m looking forward to eating at the critically acclaimed mod-mex fusion Taco Bell down the street.
Don’t even get me started on when the listing shows stock photos of the city in which the Airbnb listing is located. Red. Flag. You mean to tell me your spot is so bad that you’re already trying to distract me with things to do during the day that don't include relaxing under your roof? You can brand your slot machines with cute woodland creatures to distract me, but it doesn’t change the fact that I’m throwing away my daughter’s future tuition money.
Yes, admittedly, sometimes, the fault is yours. You should have left the roulette table many hours ago. The allure of the free fishing rod giveaway that brought you in did not end up being worth this experience. You decided to choose the cozy cabin in the mountains in the middle of summer, without air conditioning.
Now, you did not choose for there to be a freak heatwave the same weekend you would be staying there, but in your desperation to stay cool, you did choose to open all the windows, only to let hundreds of mosquitos into the cabin to feast on your wife and 6 month old child. And then you did choose to close the windows and use a $15 stroller fan purchased on Amazon to cool down your family, but after an hour it starts to smell like its burning and the base of it feels hot to the touch and you worry it might actually set the cabin on fire so instead you just strip down to the least amount of clothing possible and lay on a college futon covered in flannel sheets and pray to the gods above that you remember to never again willingly choose to spend $200 to sit in this hellhole when you could have and should have slept outside in a tent for free.
And the fault is yours, again, when you choose the listing where the first photo is of a headstone, and on a romantic weekend getaway with your wife the smell of septic gas is so overwhelming that you elect to go to Red Lobster to escape it. You said “I’ll stay” when you were only holding a 6-2. You did this to yourself, friend.
But what about the times the fault is not yours? Like when the host posts pictures of a neat and ordered townhouse, and you when you show up, one of the “beds” in one of the bedrooms is actually a child’s playbed, and the room is so entirely filled with clothes, like trash bags and trash bags filled with clothes, that you can’t even open the door more than halfway? Or in that same house there is a nanny camera placed brazenly in the middle of the living room, clearly meant to watch our every move? That’s when you’ve played the game, and you’ve lost. Well, mostly lost. Your dog feels as though you’ve won, hit the jackpot and cashed out ahead because in the tiny fenced in yard, the host who is clearly a hoarder on some level, has left hundreds of tennis balls, filling the entire space with golden opportunities for your pooch to blissfully chase balls over and over again.
The trouble is when you actually win.
You book a place with no review. With 6 photos. One of them has a rooftop view of the city below. You have to take an elevator up to your bedroom. You walk out onto the wrap-around deck through a floor-to-ceiling window. You take a moonlit swim in the private rooftop infinity pool. You look around at a place you could never possibly afford in your entire lifetime. But for this one night, this one single night, this one shot-in-the-dark, lighting-in-a-bottle, needle-in-the-haystack moment–this Airbnb is yours.
You’ve won. You beat the house. You’re riding high. And you can’t wait to place your bets on your next trip.