As those of you who are hosts will have realized by now, Airbnb and other short term rental guests can have a lot of fears and anxieties that unfortunately it can become our duty to try to mitigate.
Some are afraid of public transit or cabs, and so are asking us to drive them around instead of getting an Uber ride.
Some are afraid of pets, and though we dont’ have any, they want us to ask the neighbor to put away her dog or cat.
Some are afraid of other kinds of people, and if they come to our neighborhood and see those, they might next be seen running to the phone calling Airbnb, asking to cancel and get a full refund, alleging that we failed to disclose that we live in a dangerous neighborhood.
But perhaps the most difficult type of guest fear or anxiety, is the one that has to do with the Planet Earth. Namely, the guest who is afraid of Nature itself: of plants, animals, insects, falling leaves, the sound of rain, all manner of things that unfortunately do exist on Planet Earth.
Now some of you may think I’m being a smartass here, and that no one could really be afraid of the Earth itself, or Nature. Well, if you think that, perhaps you have not been an Airbnb host for sufficiently long.
Here are some of the situations I have had with guests:
(1) A guest who insisted that I come to her aid because there was “something” on the bed in her room. From the sound of it she thought it was a dangerous bug. I went in, discovered that there was a dry leaf on her bed, which had fallen from the houseplant on the wall nearby.
(2) A guest who insisted that I help her, because there were “spiders” in her room. I went in, cleaned the entire room a second time, finding no spiders. Then, she complained there was “dust.”
(3) A guest who complained to Airbnb that the room was not clean, sending them a photo of a tiny spot on the baseboard in the corner, and a photo of a spiderweb located outside the house, in the yard.
(4) Several guests who complained that there was wildlife in the yard of my house, animals which normally exist in nature.
(5) A guest who complained that, when it rained, she could hear the “pitter pat” sound of rain falling.
(6) A guest who complained about a bush in my yard, that it had not been adequately pruned.
(7) A woman who complained that, in fruit season, there was fruit on my fruit trees, some of which fell off these trees.
(8) A guest who complained that, in fruit season, there was wildlife in the yard, wildlife of the kind that is normally drawn to fruit trees in fruit season.
(9) A guest who, seeing flies in the yard, complained that “a bunch of flies will land on my food” and bought poisonous insect spray and began spraying it around in my yard without my permission, a yard where I grow organic produce.
(10) A woman who complained that part of a bush touched her body when she walked down the walkway.
(11) A guest who, when she checked out, explained about the books she had left all over the floor — books from my bookcase in the room — saying “there was a large spider in the room, that’s why the books are on the floor.”
(12) Two guests who lied and claimed that local wildlife, which I’ve only ever seen outside my house in the yard, were inside the house, in their rooms, no less.
Some of you may find some of these incidents hard to believe, but I assure you this is some of what hosts are dealing with, with some Airbnb guests. One can very well understand a fear of things that really are dangerous or which can be signs of infestations, such as poisonous animals, bedbugs, roaches. But none of the situations in my house or with my guests involved such things. It was rather their encounters with one or two harmless insects inside the house, or with wildlife outside the house, that caused them so much consternation. The situations in my house, involved creatures which were naturally present in their natural environment. .
And more, I live in a mild urban area, where the amount and type of wildlife is pretty mild in every sense, not in one of those areas of the world that really have critters, like Alaska or Australia.
We are put in the very awkward position, that we are expected to to some extent, make nature not exist, for those who are afraid of it. Even if a host were able to “guarantee” that “you will not encounter any insects, animals or wildlife” at my house, do you really want to try to do that? Do you really want to be forced to go to war with Nature, to kill off natural creatures, use poisons, have no fruit trees, or even, have no yard, just because you have a guest who has an irrational fear of the Earth? And more, if you dont’ want to try to provide a “natureless experience” for those who are afraid of the earth, do you want to risk losing your income, if the guest lies to Airbnb and claims that there were “dangerous” animals or you had a “dirty” house because there was nature in the yard, such that she argues, she should be entitled to extenuating circumstances and get a full refund?
This has happened to many hosts — an ant in a corner, even a tiny speck in a photo that you can’t quite tell what it is, a smudge or an ant — guest sends this photo to Airbnb claiming some great danger — bedbug, black mold — and gets a full refund, apparently no questions asked about their lies.
The situation is potentially worse for those hosts who have rural homes, ranches or farms, as guests who are uncomfortable with or unfamiliar with how to deal with nature, will have an even harder time in those surroundings. And though you might think that people would use common sense and not book in a place where they will not be comfortable, that is not the way things work in the Airbnb world. Instead, too often people book based on a fantasy that may be prompted by one of the photos, and ignore the reality in the listing description. And so, Airbnb guests have been kicked and clawed by large domestic fowl, have booked at working farms and stolen produce, complained about farm animals when on a farm stay.
How can hosts protect themselves against this? One way that might help, is to be very clear in your listing description that NATURE is present at your home, and that you do not want guests at your home for whom this is a problem. And then provide some details about NATURE and list the kind of nature they might encounter.
Perhaps all Airbnb guests who possess an unnatural, paranoid fear of the earth, should have a special badge that appears on their Airbnb profile, warning hosts away from allowing them to book a stay with a yard:
Better yet, these guests could be required to bring their protective gear with them, everywhere they stay: