The Joys of Travel

or “How to Receive an Airbnb Refund after the Host Rejected Your Initial Request.” [Edited from the version sent to the Airbnb host.]

Hello [Name redacted] — 

I find your accommodations dissatisfying and inaccurate to their initial online description. Your description of the room states “We guarantee the best independent space at a very affordable price, optimized for solo travel and business travel.”

Specifically, here is a list of ways that the room is not accurately described: 

  1. The hallway immediately outside the room smells like smoke, as does the bathroom (I was literally coughing in the shower from it 10 minutes ago). Smoke gives me a headache and I never stay in smoking establishments. I was promised a non-smoking room, and you messaged me upon booking saying that smoking was prohibited here. This is an inaccurate representation of the space. 
  2. There are loud parties immediately outside the window til 2am on weekday nights. This room was described as “optimized for business travel”. That is clearly not true. 
  3. The temperature vacillates widely — from unbearably cold on night one to unbearably hot on night two. I would be reticent to find any business traveler who would find this fitting. 
  4. There are bugs, both in the shower and in the room. I snapped a picture of one in my room. I am happy to share it with you if you would like. This is just disgusting. 
  5. The pictures do not demonstrate that the toilet and shower are a single space. I am familiar with this setup from traveling through Asia, and would have been fine with it had I expected it but the pictures implied differently. (And at the last, similarly priced and structured space I stayed in, they were separate, which suggests it was reasonable for me to believe they would be separate.) Also, you should be aware that one of the showers seems to flood under the door to the hallway. This is not strictly related to my points here; I’m just letting you know because tenants’ normal use will likely damage the floor over time if you do not fix it. 
  6. While you claim this room is optimized for business travel, other tenants will bang on my door at 1pm if I am having a videocall at normal volume. I cannot imagine how someone could conduct business here if I’m not able to have a normal phonecall. 
  7. The room is a 4th floor walkup — entirely stairs with no elevator. That’s something you should disclose in the description before someone books. I do not believe it is true anywhere in the world that “optimized for business travel” means “you must carry your heavy bags up 3 flights of stairs”. 
  8. The mattress is painfully hard, making it difficult to sleep. (This one I could concede as potentially a matter of taste. But it really is like lying on plywood.) 

If one were to compare this space to another “independent space at a very affordable price” — i.e. the other sharehouse that I stayed in in Seoul immediately before arriving here, the prices are approximately the same and the rooms are similar in size but this one is unquestionably not better (see above points, including about bugs — ew.). As you guarantee this will be the best independent space, I would like to make use of that guarantee. 

Should you and I not be able to come to an agreement that refunds me 6 nights (from 5 May to 11 May), I will be requesting that Airbnb refund me the total amount of the room from 2 May to 11 May, as you specifically guarantee the room and it has not been as described. I’m happy to be reasonable here, but if you are unwilling to be reasonable I will escalate to their judgment and seek the full refund, which seems fair and fitting for the above reasons. 

As I have additional business I need to complete, I would appreciate your response within the hour — if I don’t hear from you, I will simply escalate to Airbnb to enable me to complete my work. 



P.s. Your response to “What should I do in response to a loud party at 1:30am?” is that I should talk to the restaurant? Like literally get out of bed and walk the 3 flights downstairs to talk to the restaurant? That’s just ridiculous. 

Outcome: Yes, she did accept my alteration request and issue me a refund. And yes, I did have fun writing and fighting this.

An In-Depth Review

Airbnb reviews only permit 1000 characters. So here’s my full review of a place I stayed in Cairns, Australia 🤪:

“I’ve been a poor university student for the last four years, but staying here is the first time I’ve felt like it.” —a fellow guest at Anita’s Airbnb

Internal tension is not, generally speaking, what one seeks in an Airbnb. Yet during my 6 days at Anita’s place in Cairns, I found myself not only experiencing a profound sense of dissatisfaction, but somehow enjoying that dissatisfaction and feeling grateful for its lessons.  

Anita’s place somehow provides slightly-above-spartan accommodations at slightly-above-discount prices, but in a hodgepodge of uncanny ways. I’ll give an example: The room boasts plenty of wall outlets — at my count 6 — which is very desirable in an Airbnb room. However, the majority of these outlets are placed above the head on one’s bed, and at no point has any person said “I’d like to plug in my devices right here, above my pillow, with no location to place the device while it’s charging.” The shower, too, isn’t quite wrong but seems like it was designed by someone who had heard what people like in a shower but never used one themselves, as it boasts beautiful tiling, ample hot water, and bountiful nozzle settings, but also dampens your towel because the only place to hang it is on the inside of the shower door. The outdoor dining table is a lovely place to chat with a fellow traveler on a warm summer evening, yet this delight is diminished by the requirement that you wave at the automatic light sensor every 30 seconds to turn it back on. 

If there’s a word to describe my stay at Anita’s in Cairns, that word would be it: “uncanny”. It’s uncanny that I would find the mattress perfectly comfortable, yet also awaken with a hip pain of a sort that I’ve never before experienced. It’s uncanny that I would have a long conversation with the host about making the internet work in my room, which it definitely didn’t beforehand and after which it somehow magically does. It’s uncanny that the Airbnb listing includes twenty-three (23) rules which one must follow during tenancy, and then posters and text messages upon arrival add an additional three (3), and yet existing in this space gives you the sense that breaking the majority of them would simply be ignored. As I was leaving, I snuck a glance inside Anita’s room, and was shocked to see it resembled a security office. If she has three screens of cameras, all presumably monitoring and recording, then why are the drying rack and kitchen trash can always overflowing? I suspect the only rule that Anita enforces strictly is the “absolutely no guests” policy, but somehow also get the niggling suspicion that her uncanniness would give me the thumbs-up on updating my Airbnb reservation from 1 guest to 2 as I’m walking home with a sweetheart in real time.

Anita’s Airbnb gives the impression of an earnest person really truly trying their best but tripping in random ways. Sure, she spams you with a bunch of tour and travel options immediately after you make your reservation, but after that initial volley it’s not like she’s pushy – or even brings them up again. Yes, she’ll make a bit of huff when you’re on your phone at 8:58pm and quiet hours start at 9pm, but it’s the sort of gentle and direct huff that makes you wonder whether you actually were being too loud for even pre-quiet hours. And then, when you’re quieter, it’s somehow totally fine that you talk until 10. The place is spartan yet functional, and isn’t functional what matters? If travel is about exploring a new place, and therefore yourself, isn’t it appropriate that you finally feel like a poor university student if that’s what you are? Still, it’s not particularly pleasant to feel like a poor university student, so I give Anita’s place three stars.