Monday, November 9, 2015

I know how to be a good
guest.
Over the years, my travels have landed me on many a friend's couch
(sometimes if I'm lucky, a guest bed), and respectful cohabiting is an art I
like to think I've mastered.
However, a recent weeklong Airbnb stay (my
first ever), occupying a room inside a couple's 2-bedroom flat in Rome,
revealed a startling truth about paying to live in a stranger's house: no
one really knows what they're doing.
Sure, the Airbnb system is user-friendly, and for the most part, my stay
went smoothly.
But considering that the concept of a sharing economy didn't
even exist 10 years ago, I was surprised at how little Airbnb does to prep
guests for the experience.
For example, is it considered rude to head straight to your room upon
arrival, or do you hang out and schmooze with your host? How clean should you
keep your room? What's the deal with having someone sleep over? Airbnb's
website, loaded with lush photography and big, easy-to-use booking maps,
offers little guidance other than "avoid canceling" and "respond to
inquiries within 24 hours." The protocol for guest-host relations is hazy.
One NYC-based friend, Dan, has been a regular Airbnb host for years.
His
north Brooklyn loft is admittedly unconventional—one bedroom requires
clambering up a slide, and the shower is communal—but that hasn't gotten
in the way of hundreds of positive reviews.
Using Airbnb to embracing his own
unique lifestyle, he views social interaction as key to the whole experience.
"Staying with me is very different from staying in a hotel," he
reveals.
"I love it when I come home and guests are interacting with each
other.
I spend a lot of time curating a social environment and seeing it in
action pleases me greatly." But that's not the case for all
hosts.
Eric, a 28-year-old educator in Oakland, CA, who rents out 2 rooms in
his home, says: "Sometimes my favorite people are the ones I call 'ghost
guests,' meaning guests I never meet.
You can't see them, hear them, or
smell them.
Frankly, that's the ideal most of the time." So, which is
it? Should you show up ready to exchange life stories, or just keep to
yourself? According to Dan, it all depends on the timing.
"Remember, I'm
working and my guests are vacationing.
We are often on completely different
schedules...the weekends are really the only time where, assuming we find each
other interesting, we have time to bond." Eric echoes that thought:
"There's no expectation [with Airbnb] to be social.
Often, it turns out
that the most awkward people are the ones hanging around the most." (Though,
he's quick to add, if it weren't for her love of meeting new people, he
probably wouldn't have started hosting guests in the first place.) The
one topic, however, that both hosts are unequivocal about is
cleanliness.
"Be respectful and wash your dishes" is the single rule in
Dan's house.
As for Eric, who works from home, and therefore witnesses all guests'
comings and goings, common courtesy goes a long way.
"This is our house,"
he explains, "and I expect people to treat it as if they were staying at a
friend's house.
Often people make the bed before they leave.
Sometimes they
even take out the trash." You could argue these things go unspoken.
In a
regular hosting situation, that would be true.
But as the line between hotel
and private home becomes blurred, it's even more important to establish
basic codes of conduct to avoid misunderstandings.
Of course, there will always be nightmare guests (and, for that matter,
hosts)—Eric recalls a "couple [who arrived] with two cats and all of their
belongings.
The cats ripped up our dryer vent and it took two full days to get
the smell out of that room.
Also they fought so much they ended up breaking up
during their stay." Interestingly, when asked about guest pet peeves,
each host offered a different response.
"Human odor is my number one biggest
issue," laments Eric.
"Cigarettes, weed, body odor...right now I'm
dealing with some smelly feet.
And then they cover it all up with cologne,
it's terrible." Fragrant guests, take note: scent-free is the way to go.
For Dan, good planning is next to godliness: "Guests who book at the last
minute are usually awful.
The first day they are happy that they found a
place, the second day they start finding things to complain about."
Perhaps, similar to a hotel, the secret to a successful Airbnb stay lies in
effective communication.
Exchange plenty of messages ahead of time, feel out
your host and let them feel you out as well.
You may uncover some truths about
them (or their home) that send up a red flag, and in doing so, avoid nasty
surprises when you're on vacation.
"I am humorously honest with guests
about the shortcomings of my listing," confides Dan.
"The more you charge,
the more a guest will expect from you.
I have better results with lowered
expectations and freedom." Everything you need to know
about staying in an Airbnb.

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