The sharing economy offers great promise to travelers everywhere: more interesting places to stay and at better rates than comparable hotels. To date, there have been few better poster children for the sharing economy than AirBnB. Ordinary folks rent their houses, apartments, yurts, and hipster cabins to intrepid travelers throughout the world. In concept, it can be a great service for all involved. However, the Sitejabber community has flagged some issues that should be on the radar of prospective travelers.

Fake listings

AirBnB has a slick user interface which works like more traditional travel booking sites such as Travelocity or Orbitz. However, a key difference is that many of the listings that appear available are in fact not available. So before you get your heart set on that special cottage on the beach, make sure you confirm that it is still in fact available with the owner, even if it appears available on the site.  Read the review.

Inaccurate amenities

Great amenities can make or break a vacation getaway. One reviewer they signed up for an AirBnB and was promised a flat screen TV in the listing (there was even a picture of the TV). Upon arrival, surprise, surprise, no TV and AirBnB did not offer any real alternative for recourse without paying a fee. Read the review.

Rude hosts

With a relatively high degree of confidence, we can be sure the woman working at the front desk of the Four Seasons is going to be friendly, helpful and professional. The random dude renting out his pad in NYC? Or the sketchy guy in Taipei who wants to meet you in a subway station? Not so much. Read the review.

Last minute cancellations (and ruined Christmas holidays)

You can’t make this stuff up: this unlucky reviewer put in his credit card info and was charged for the AirBnB room, only to find out that the room wasn’t available. He suspects his refund will not be issued for up to three weeks and in the meantime he doesn’t have the extra money to book another vacation for his family, who will now have to go without an Xmas vacation. Read the review.

Asymmetric cancellation policies

For certain choice rentals, if you cancel within a certain time period you apparently have to pay 50% of the rate, whereas if the host cancels (as a hotel would almost never do) all you get is a lousy $50 voucher usable only if you spend more than you did on your new booking. White glove service, it ain’t. Read the review.

Inaccurate addresses

Transparency of information is often touted as one of the key developments that has enabled the sharing economy. This may be true, and there may in fact be plenty of transparency on AirBnB (reviews of places, renters, etc.) but this report of a host renting her place at a phony address is a little disturbing. Read the review.

Dodgy overseas listings

Issues seem to be more common when traveling internationally. Expect adventure! Read this review or this review.

Long delays on refunds

It’s hard to imagine why it should take three weeks to get your money back. Read the review.

Poor AirBnB service through the website

In the rush to expand, it appears AirBnB may be under-investing in customer service. We have lots of examples of poor AirBnB customer service but this review provides a good example (although my favorite line is still “we’re just a platform!” from the woman who booked in Paris).

Hidden fees?

The headline quoted prices apparently don’t always include the 12% “service fee” and the hosts may or may not know this. Read the review.

Bed bugs (AND no refund!)

Our creepy crawly friends are unwelcome on any vacation but at the same time they are bound to be encountered at some point by the frequent traveler. But you would at least hope for a refund. Read the review.

What’s a consumer to make of all this?

While Sitejabber reviewers have certainly shared some AirBnB horror stories, we’re believers that AirBnB can and will iron out some of these issues over time. And in the meantime we think it’s absolutely possible to have a great AirBnB experience–just proceed with a touch of caution.

Please note: photos in this post are unrelated to the reviews. Photo credit 1 2 3