Why would anyone pay extra to stay in a stranger’s house, feed their cat, water their plants and leave the place spotless while they watch you on hidden cameras?
There are some scenarios in which choosing an Airbnb over a hotel makes sense. If you’re a large group — a bachelor party, for example — splitting the cost of a house that can accommodate you can be the right way to go. Maybe you need a kitchen or a laundry machine, too. In those cases, Airbnb offers more selection than the few hotels with kitchenettes or laundry services. Whatever your reasoning, if staying at an Airbnb suits you, then go right ahead and do it. I’m not going to stop you.
But for the rest of us, let’s admit the obvious: Hotels are so much better than Airbnbs.
Periodically, someone on Twitter has this revelation and it goes viral. Most recently, it was comedian Caleb Hearonwho sparked the debate last week by tweeting, “I’m done with Airbnb lmao these motherfuckers have curfews, quiet hours and chore lists now. I will be at a HOTEL.”
Caleb, welcome to the hotel hive.
There are a plethora of reasons to choose a hotel over an Airbnb, many of which are highlighted by those who agree with Caleb. Some cite horror stories of discovering cameras or sound monitors all over their rented apartment, being asked to do obscure chores like bring a pet cat inside gold water plants on a specific schedule. And the list of twisted tales of Airbnb hosts canceling people’s non-refundable booking for seemingly incomprehensible reasons grows longer every day.
Among my personal favorite reasons to pick hotels instead are the fact that they don’t expect you to launder your own linens or take out the trash. They also often have pools, bars, gyms or room service, and above all, they don’t feel like you’re literally staying in a stranger’s house. You check in at a front desk where you speak with an employee who’s paid to be nice to you, then you’re free to lock yourself in an air-conditioned room or use the amenities alongside dozens of other guests who are doing the same thing in total anonymity. Hotels don’t treat you like they’re doing you a favor by letting you use their facilities, but rather like you’re a guest paying for a service it’s their job to provide.
On top of this, Airbnbs are expensive. Not only are most of them priced around the same as a hotel now, they also often charge exorbitant “cleaning fees” and other add-ons that sometimes double the initial cost of the room. Take this first listing that popped up during a quick search for a stay in Wildwood, New Jersey on a random Thursday next month. At first glance, it goes for $157 a night for a small, ugly two-bedroom apartment. Not a bad deal! Except that there’s an additional $165 cleaning fee tacked onto that, as well as a $45 service fee. This more than doubles the cost before the additional $42 in taxes. All together, that $157 a night stay comes out to $409.
Notably, their amenities state that no towels or shampoo are included.
In terms of price comparison, I could book two separate rooms at a hotel in the area with a pool, where towels and mini shampoos are surely provided. If I had to guess, they also aren’t expecting me to leave the place spotless while still charging me an extra $165 for cleaning. Whatever “cleaning fee” a hotel charges is already built into the nightly rate.
Let’s be clear — I’m not a heathen. At hotels, I dispose of my trash, make a pile of the towels I’ve used and leave a tip for the housekeeper, regardless of whether or not I have to. It’s usually understood, though, that I am, in fact, going to live in that room during my stay, and that part of what I’m paying for is the cost of having another person prepare the room for the next guest.
“But $165 is what it costs to have a cleaner come and get the place ready for the next guest!” I imagine these Airbnb hosts saying. “If we want to make any money at all, this is what we have to charge!”
I could have some sympathy for that if Airbnbs weren’t ruining the housing market and turning a human necessity into a side hustle for a privileged few. New York City, for example, has more Airbnb listings than apartments for rent at a time when prices are rising at record-breaking levels. If it’s unaffordable for these hosts to maintain their shitty properties, then good — rent them out as homes to actual residents. Hotels, meanwhile, can serve as places for tourists to stay without displacing the people who want to live here.
Above all, I just don’t want to feel like I’m staying in someone’s shoddy apartment for the cost of a nice, clean, solitary hotel room, and I certainly don’t want to contribute to an already-fucked housing market by doing so. Fortunately, the choice is there — I can stay at a hotel instead, and enjoy feeling like I have my own actual space for an allotted time, no cleaning fees, IKEA furniture or passive-aggressive hosts required.