The SUPERHOSTAGE versus the NEWBIES

Ah, the Superhost.

Airbnb calls its Superhosts “extraordinary” and “outstanding.” Travel websites refer to Superhost status as a badge of honor, as the crown jewel of Airbnb. Yet, as many hosts know, the Superhost badge doesn’t actually mean much. That’s partly because it’s just too easy for new hosts to get.

Why should I worry so much about keeping my Superhost status when so many new hosts can get that badge in their sleep?

I call myself an Airbnb Superhostage. I’ve hosted successfully since June of 2013, and I’ve held Superhost status since the company re-instated the program beginning in September of 2014. As a Superhostage, I’ve been proud, indignant, confused, desperate, silly, and boastful. Whenever my next “evaluation” approaches, I check my Airbnb Inbox every five minutes, I pore over my Superhost statistics, and I overreact. For example, I was puzzled by the recent “Overall” ratings for my studio:

Great work! Your last 2 ratings were each 5 stars! 

Only the last 2 ratings?? Strange. Great work?? I think not…I have 144 reviews for that listing. Some recent guest has given me just 4 stars for “Overall Experience.” Who were these guests, and what had I done wrong with them? However, that kind of thinking wastes my energy.  I’ve never polled my guests, but I’ve heard other hosts say that their guests don’t even realize the Superhost program exists.

Yet, the Superhost advantages remain. We come up higher in search results. Guests can filter their searches to show only Superhost listings (I suspect that filter isn’t used much, but it’s there.) AND, the greatest advantage, in my view, is that, as a Superhost, you can call Airbnb Customer Service and be connected almost immediately with a staffer. This is huge. I remember painfully long wait times, before the program was re-introduced. Yes, Airbnb Customer Service has flaws, but I can usually get help with basic questions on specific reservations. 

To gain Superhost status, a host needs to maintain at least an 80% average on overall ratings and a 90% or better response rate. You must have no cancellations. AND – you must have hosted ten “completed trips” in the past year.  ONLY TENI see a problem with that. After ten sets of guests, you’re still a newbie, and you don’t have a proven track record.

I don’t want to diminish the efforts of those great new hosts who have put in the time, research, and money to develop a beautiful space and a well-written listing. Yet there are SO MANY “Superhosts” who have only a handful of reviews, or have only been on Airbnb for a few months. With such limited experience, how competent can a host be? Have these hosts gotten lucky with easy-to-please guests?  Perhaps. But, for most, I think their Superhost status will disappear at the next evaluation.

The majority of newbie Superhosts need to pay their dues. It’s evident in their listings.

I examined 30 Superhost listings with twenty or fewer reviews, mostly in my home town of Los Angeles, but also from other major American markets. 24 of the 30 listings – that’s 80% — had serious problems in their descriptions, photos, and House Rules. Surely some prospective guests would worry: Is this host flaky? Will s/he clarify these unclear statements? The reviews look good, but can I trust them? And, does that Superhost badge really mean that I’m staying at a decent, clean, well-appointed place?

These new Superhosts themselves will likely face problems down the line, if their information is unclear or the House Rules inadequate.

So what’s wrong with the listings I’ve looked at? First, so many are poorly written! These days, we shouldn’t be surprised at the lack of good English writing. In the listings, I found so many grammar errors that I lost count. I saw complete lack of punctuation, weirdly placed capital letters, and clumsy, confusing phrases. Some excerpts:

Under “About This Listing,” one Superhost only wrote:

      “its 2 min walking from Hollywood blvd bunk bed 1      level”

That’s it. A prospective guest might wonder what else is unclear at this place, such as the WiFi password or parking instructions. 

Generally, this Superhost has good reviews, but there is one which reads:

     “did not like at all”

Okay then!

Another Superhost repeated an entire paragraph fully three times, at different points in her listing:

“Beautiful large private bedroom/private bathroom in a 2bd/2        bath apartment… [Etc.]”

“Beautiful large private bedroom/private bathroom in a 2bd/2  bath apartment… [Etc.]”

“Beautiful large private bedroom/private bathroom in a 2bd/2  bath apartment… [Etc.]”

Wouldn’t a guest question that host’s attention to detail?

Here’s what another Newbie Superhost wrote, in describing his neighborhood:

” “Culture” (URL HIDDEN), (URL HIDDEN), “Nightlife” (URL    HIDDEN), “Guide to Bars”   (URL HIDDEN), “Shop” (URL    HIDDEN)….”

Note to Newbies: Airbnb blocks out links. READ YOUR LISTING AFTER YOU POST IT.

What about “House Rules?” Here’s an entry:

      “Be kind to the house.”

That’s ALL.

Most people will understand that they’re expected to take care of the property, but what about the guest who takes it to mean “Paint rainbows on the walls!?” I hope this Superhost rewrites his House Rules before some guest destroys the place.

Another host has “House Rules” almost as brief:

        “I don’t like rules…just be respectful.

         smoking outside only…”

That host really sets himself up for problems.

Here’s a House Rule from a Superhost whose landlord just might not be in the loop:

 “Do not talk to neighbors”

What happens if a guest does break that house rule? How would the host know?

Some of my Newbie Superhosts have pretty good photos, but others have shots that are blurry or even sideways. It’s hard for a guest to know what they’re in for. And, among these Superhost photos, I saw some really dirty floors and cluttered rooms. Outstanding??  Jewels in the crown?? I think not.

Shouldn’t the Superhost title mean something?

No. For all that Airbnb gushes with pride about Superhosts, the company does not endorse them. Airbnb claims to personalize encounters for travelers, but Superhost status is automated. A host meets certain measurable, mathematically calculated criteria, and the Superhost badge automatically appears on his or her profile photo. Or, a host meets the criteria, and the Superhost badge shows up three weeks later. Either way, no one from Airbnb is looking at actual reviews, listings, or photos. No Airbnb staffer will see that Superhost with the four-word review: “didn’t like at all.” Nor will any Airbnb employee notice the Superhost with three listings, active only since August of 2015, who has only three stars for cleanliness on one of those listings.

I find it ridiculous that Airbnb hands out Superhost status but doesn’t endorse the Superhosts. I mean, THEY PLACE A BADGE ON YOUR PHOTO. How is that NOT an endorsement?

If Airbnb doesn’t have the manpower to confirm whether these Newbie Superhosts really deserve that badge, the company needs to alter the criteria. At minimum, hosts should have to go through twenty sets of guests, not just ten, to qualify for Superhost status.

Think of the hard-working veteran hosts who have hundreds of positive reviews but may fall just short of that Superhost mark. Not only have they earned lots of money for Airbnb, they have also stuck with the company through its years of sudden growth, bad press, and failed ad campaigns.

Those veterans get to stay on hold for forty minutes while Airbnb Customer Service helps Newbie Superhosts.

Lots of improvements could help the Airbnb Superhost program. Certainly Airbnb should increase its minimum completed trips criterion. Airbnb will better serve its guests AND show more respect to its talented veteran hosts.

Should I call Airbnb Customer Service with my idea? Maybe. It probably won’t do any good, but at least I’ll get through right away.

 

c. 2016 by author

 

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