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Airbnb fatigue: The REAL problem with the service everyone used to love

Over Airbnb and Uber? The problem isn't the apps, it's what fuels them.

OPINION

On a quick trip overseas recently, I stayed in a two-bedroom apartment rather than a hotel. I like the space that a holiday rental provides compared to a pokey hotel room, and, as an added bonus, it's more likely to have a kitchen that isn't installed in your bedroom. Now, at this point you might assume that I booked on Airbnb, but as a sometime travel writer who often self-funds her trips – and has dealt with more terrible Airbnbs than anyone should ever have to in a lifetime – my finger rarely hovers over the cursed app these days.

Hand holding phone with Airbnb app on screen
Airbnb guests have become frustrated with certain aspects of the service. Source: Getty

From randomly cancelled bookings a week before a big event (when, suspiciously, the booking could be re-listed at a much higher rate and there are no other options left in town), to a non-optional house cat that repeatedly tried to break down the bedroom door all night, and places that barely resembled their promising pictures, I've seen it all – and I've had enough.

A recent Reddit thread about quitting Airbnb fired up hundreds of former guests, detailing some of these same issues – with the author of the post declaring that he will never book an Airbnb again. He asked if he was being a "Karen", but let's be honest: is it really Karen-ing to complain about paying a $150 cleaning fee when you have to take the bins out and wash the sheets? Or is it justifiably questioning the past decade's biggest pet peeve?

The gig economy is to blame

But before we all jump on the anti-Airbnb bandwagon, let us remember one important thing: the problem isn't Airbnb, it's the gig economy – and it's making us fall out of love with every app that promised us a solution to all of our problems.

Airbnb guests arrive with suitcases
What you see on the Airbnb app doesn't always turn out to be what you get. Source: Getty

I, too, once thought Airtasker was the magical cure-all to all my home handyman needs. And I, too, had to deal with multiple plumbing and electrical issues when my Airtaskers miffed their simple jobs, leaving the professionals who swooped in to fix the issues scratching their heads.

I, too, was addicted to Uber – until I was left for 40 minutes in the rain with Uber drivers repeatedly cancelling on me as they awaited surge pricing to kick in. And Uber Eats? Don't even get me started on a recent two-hour debacle that involved a cold chicken, a delivery driver who only spoke Spanish, and a missing box of urgently needed nappies.

What can we expect?

The issue here is that these are people without bosses who could provide training before throwing them into a complicated delivery process that involves several businesses and a knowledge of the local roads. There's no hospitality school for Airbnb hosts, where they can learn how to expedite check-in, deliver a certain level of support post check-in, or manage complaints in a professional manner. Instead, these are people like you and me, who thought "Hey, how hard can it be to install a bit of drywall?" (Turns out, according to our final Airtasker, a bit harder than it looks).

Woman on city street booking Uber
Ordering an Uber is no longer as satisfying as it once was. Source: Getty

But in this economy, can we blame them? We've got the head of the RBA raising interest rates at a breathtakingly rapid rate – and telling us to "work extra hours" to cover it. It's no wonder people are moonlighting in previously unattempted jobs to help cover their rent or mortgage repayments.

The gig economy may be helping us find an easy side hustle, but it's ruining our lives – and our plumbing – at the same time. I'd hate to invoke an age-old saying, but I'm starting to realise that in today's tech boom, you get what you pay for. Except in the case of an Airbnb cleaning fee, that is.

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