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From the perspective of a guest, as opposed to a host, how safe is it staying at an Airbnb place?

I understand that hosts are encouraged to provide verification and that you can communicate with hosts before your visit. And I'm sure in the majority of cases the visit is fine, just like most ferry trips don't end in fatalities.

Some of the things I've read are:

  • People who arrived at their place and then cancel their booking due to unacceptable quality are unable to leave reviews.
  • Airbnb has been unhelpful when a serious crime is reported to be taking place.
  • That it is a largely passive platform when it comes to safety, but is proactive in making sure the properties are photographed nicely. Basically, it's just another sharing economy company that is all profit and little responsibility (and that much of that responsibility is towards hosts, not guests).

On the other hand, there's an article saying Airbnb took down a host from its site for unacceptable behaviour.

  • 1
    What sort of "safety"? theft? murder? – Nean Der Thal Jul 9 '16 at 9:34
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    @HeidelBerGensis theft and assault are my main concerns. Malfunctioning swings, not so much. – Andrew Grimm Jul 9 '16 at 10:00
  • That depends more on the area, rather than the host. – Burhan Khalid Jul 12 '16 at 1:34
  • The word sharing economy is a lie. – gerrit Jul 18 '16 at 11:32
  • AirBnB is not a hotel. Unless the host is complicit in the crime, I don't see what it really has to do with them or what you would expect AirBnB to do to help you. – Calchas Sep 5 '16 at 9:45
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To answer your questions:

People who arrived their place and cancel their booking due to unacceptable quality are unable to leave reviews.

This doesn't really affect safety, as finding out the apartment is actually a moldy hole in the wall isn't dangerous per se. That being said, Airbnb is reliable in refunding misleading bookings. In many cases they also try to find a suitable replacement from their own listings, but that's not guaranteed.

I've also seen several reviews which were clearly posted after a refund, so I'm not sure if it's consistently impossible to leave one in case of trouble.

AirBNB has been unhelpful when a serious crime is reported to be taking place.

Not to sound like I'm blaming the victim here, but I'd call the police first rather than trying to reach Airbnb. Likewise I'd call the ambulance if I got food poisoning from something in the fridge, rather than reaching the host or customer support. Airbnb is not a replacement for emergency services.

Since Airbnb deals with millions of bookings each month, it's impossible to guarantee a single host won't go crazy somewhere. But you can't guarantee that in hotels either, as similar cases have happened there as well.

That it is a largely passive platform when it comes to safety, but is proactive in making sure the properties are photographed nicely.

Airbnb provides numerous ways of making sure you're not dealing with a criminal: verified IDs, links to social networks, reviews, cashless payment and verified photographers taking the pictures. This is by far better than any holiday listings, which often don't provide anything more than an email and a phone number.

Basically, it's just another sharing economy company that is all profit and little responsibility (and that much of that responsibility is towards hosts, not guests)

Whether or not they're "just another startup" is irrelevant to the questions of safety.


To summarize: is Airbnb 100% foolproof when it comes to safety? No. Is Airbnb's level of safety comparable to hotels? Yes.

-6

[Edited to include actual answer:]

Safety is relative. Think about which person is more likely to commit a crime:

  • an Airbnb host, whose name, address, and photograph are inextricably linked with with the victim
  • one of the hundreds of hotel employees, who are wholly anonymous to the victim, who may not even be in the country legally or working under their own name, and who can disappear at any moment

Is Airbnb totally completely safe? No. Is Airbnb safer than a hotel or hostel? Almost certainly and by a large margin.

[Original rant follows:]

It really amazes me how people latch on to anything.

Yes, if you don't actually stay at a property, you can't leave a review. I suppose in the bizarre case that a place is so gross, you refuse to even use it, you personally cannot complain, but there must be other reviewers who, lacking anywhere else to go, brave a single night and then tell the world.

Yes, Airbnb will not disclose a guest's name and location to random callers, even if that caller produces a wildly improbable story (that still hasn't been verified).

Five years ago, a chambermaid named Nafissatou Diallo claimed that French politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn raped her at the Sofitel New York Hotel. The DA did not move forward with the prosecution because of credibility problems with the witness.

It was world-wide news, but absolutely no one has said anything like:

  • "Oh, the Sofitel is dangerous, that's where employees get raped."
  • "Oh, the Sofitel is dangerous, that's where employees make false rape allegations."
  • "Oh, hotels in general are dangerous, because employees get raped or make false rape allegations."

In fact, many thousands of people a year get raped in hotels, even the Sofitel. I don't know how many false rape accusations are made, but I'm sure that happens too. Rooms are burglarized, fires break out, sometimes whole hotels burn to the ground, with their guests inside.

Nonetheless, no one blames it on hotels in general. Because it is obviously not their fault.

Why is Airbnb any different?

[Plus some more ranting for good measure:]

Here are the most common (by far) causes of death of Americans overseas:

  • suicide
  • drug/alcohol use
  • traffic accident

What do those three things have in common? Well, two things.

First, they are all your own fucking fault. Don't want to die? Don't drink, don't shoot yourself, and look both ways before you cross the goddamn street.

More pertinently, nobody ever asks about them. I'm on all sorts of travel sites and people ask questions like "Is Airbnb safe?" or "Is [some perfectly safe place] safe for a woman traveling alone?"

Worry about real problems.

  • 5
    This post is more of a comment than an answer. – Andrew Grimm Jul 9 '16 at 3:52
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    How is this even an answer to the question? – Belle-Sophie Jul 9 '16 at 8:30
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    @J.Constantine -- it was the politest way I could phrase "stuff a sock in it". – Malvolio Jul 10 '16 at 4:55
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    @Malvolio I do not think you can compare a hotel employee getting raped by a guest and an Airbnb host assaulting/raping their guests. Of course no one is going to blame the actions of a host on Airbnb itself, thanks for pointing that out. Now, how likely is a thing like this to happen? – Belle-Sophie Jul 10 '16 at 8:41
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    @Malvolio "it was the politest way I could phrase "stuff a sock in it"." - that's a pretty good sign it's a comment, not an answer. – Andrew Grimm Jul 11 '16 at 9:22

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