Why am I getting so many Airbnb rejections from hosts?
August 25, 2014 8:10 PM   Subscribe

My girlfriend and I have spent several hours picking out places to stay from AirBNB listings in Copenhagen. It SEEMS like there are so many wonderful, available places to stay. But my booking requests (5 so far) have all been declined by the hosts. What's going on here? How do I get a successful booking?

* It's a 2 week stay about 1 month away.
* I have one previous AirBNB stay in my history that went positively as far as I know. (Are there secret shared notes available to hosts that might say that I'm a poor guest?)
* I left a glowing review at my previous AirBNB visit.
* I've sent short, cheerful English messages along with my booking request. I went out of my way to not sound like an annoying hassle.
* Listings were filtered by English language. (If someone has difficulty speaking English, I don't want to hassle them.)
* Listings were filtered by calendar dates of our stay in Copenhagen.
* There were no issues with my credit card as a payment method.
* The 3 hosts that replied back to me after declined booking requests had these stated reasons: "We will be in town during that time." (calendar availability was not set to reflect that) "Sorry, I am so busy and disorganized." and a terse "The apartment is not available."

What is going on? Is AirBNB populated with a bunch of irresponsible flakes? Am I doing something wrong? How can I have more success here? I feel like I'm standing in the middle of the street, politely offering fistfuls of euros, and everybody has shuttered up their windows.
posted by ErikH2000 to Travel & Transportation around Copenhagen, Denmark (23 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have a profile with a photo and a paragraph about who you are and what you like? Anything to humanize you could make a big difference.

Also, sometimes people list places on more than one site, like Roomorama. Availability may vary because of this.
posted by jessca84 at 8:13 PM on August 25, 2014 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I typically email the host before submitting my booking. I get their permission to book first, since I think booking & submitting my credit card without permission is presumptuous.

I've booked all over Europe using this style and it has worked for me, although I've never booked in Copenhagen.

Also sometimes people get busy, or there's a convention in town, so don't take it too personally.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:14 PM on August 25, 2014 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: @jessca84, I did have something. It could be better. I will go and update it right now. Good idea!
posted by ErikH2000 at 8:15 PM on August 25, 2014

Best answer: It could just be bad luck-- I really don't know what might be causing you to get so many rejections in a row-- but have you "verified" your account by linking it with your Facebook and/or LinkedIn accounts? That could help. Having a well profile that has a good photo of you (and possibly your girlfriend) could help you be successful with booking a place as well.

And to answer your question, yes, I believe that there are "secret" shared notes available to hosts that may say you are a poor guest.
posted by gemutlichkeit at 8:17 PM on August 25, 2014 [5 favorites]

Are you black? (Or, given Copenhagen, Muslim?)
posted by animalrainbow at 8:19 PM on August 25, 2014 [6 favorites]

It's easier to book a room in an apartment rather than a whole apartment (assuming that the room is a spare and the apartment is a full-time home), because people do often forget to update their calendars to show when they'll be in town. I've found that to be common everywhere.
posted by three_red_balloons at 8:20 PM on August 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

I had some similar experiences using this service, recently. I think the most likely answer is indeed "flakes," although there could be something about how you are presenting that bothers people.

My first attempted reservation was declined (apparently) because the guy simply didn't feel like checking his inbox/getting back to me. The next was declined because the host no longer wanted to do two-night minimums. Their listing specifically stated that two-night stays were allowed, and they were politely apologetic when I pointed this out (not that they changed their mind).

After a few failed attempts, I got the hang of it:

1) Don't bother submitting until you've actually made contact and chatted with the host
2) Be clear and polite with any special requests, and double check to see if there will be any conflicts with the house rules (I'm an outside smoker, and a lot of people shut it down when that was brought up)
3) You've basically got to sell yourself, as you would with an online dating site; people want to get a sense that you're likeable and trustworthy (sounds like you've tried to do this, but maybe more is needed?)
posted by credible hulk at 8:23 PM on August 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: There are no secret notes, fyi

"We will be in town during that time."

I have a place that I list on AirBnB and I probably decline maybe 75% of my listings with this reason. I rent out my apartment when I am not there. I leave my calendar mostly open because I am not that serious about AirBnB (sorry airbnbers, it's not flakiness exactly) and I always just reply quickly to let people know the place isn't available. I figure if there is someone who wants to come when I can plan in advance then I'll make some money for the weekend, otherwise no big deal.

Two weeks is a long time for a lot of people, I think, possibly. Also I always feel a little strange when someone who has a sparse profile then wants to stay with a SO (or several people which seems to happen to me a lot) and none of them have profiles so it's a sort of wild card. One person staying alone with a known profile, facebook friends and a phone number? Not a bad deal. Two weeks with someone I didn't know much at all and bringing someone else? Maybe not.

I am not saying in any way that you are a bad risk, just that those might be things that people are reacting to. You sound like you're doing everything right.
posted by jessamyn at 8:26 PM on August 25, 2014 [12 favorites]

Secret note clarification: there are several kinds of secret notes but none that would affect your appeal to prospective hosts. Guests and hosts can leave each other secret notes that are not part of the official review and are hence not publicly available. I don't know if AirBnB can see those or not, but I assume they can. AirBnB also invites guests and hosts to submit secret notes about their experience to let the company know what's up, but these too are not shared among the community.
posted by carmicha at 8:37 PM on August 25, 2014

Try sending some messages as your girlfriend. (Of course this means you'll have to adopt womanlier syntax and prosody -- more !, more adverbs!) You are asking to enter someone's home, and women are seen as less threatening, at least in couchsurfing land.

And yeah, look white, look wealthy, look worldly.

God tur!
posted by batter_my_heart at 8:39 PM on August 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: @gemutlichkeit, I've just now gone and made myself "verified" as well as fixing up the profile a bit. Had not noticed this feature before, and the lack of that status might have botched my earlier booking requests. Thanks!

@animalrainbow, I'm white. Still, it was a good point to make, thank you.

@three_red_balloons, good suggestion, but in our case we want the whole apartment.

@credible hulk, I'm switching now to this "contact first, book second" policy.

@jessamyn, thanks for the perspective. I'll admit the calendar being out of sync bugs me. But that's your prerogative, and I'm now seeing I have to adjust to the reality of the system. I am more peeved at AirBNB for presenting everything as push-button simplicity like booking a hotel instead of giving advice like I see in this thread.

@carmicha, jessamyn - I'm glad there isn't some kind of hidden blacklist. For hosts or guests, it would be a bad thing, I think.

@batter_my_heart - The old girlfriend hitchhiker trick, eh? Sigh. It's practical advice, but if I get to that point, I'll just go get a hotel.
posted by ErikH2000 at 8:53 PM on August 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

Is there something else going on in the city over those timeframes? Last AirBnB I booked was in Seattle and there was a bunch of stuff going on and rather than give me the full week I wanted, people preferred to jack up the prices and rent out for the convention and other things going on at much-higher-than-normal rates.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:01 PM on August 25, 2014

Best answer: Might be a pain but have you considered breaking your stay into chunks? That way hosts can be more flexible about availability.

I would email, not book, 5-6 different hosts that look good. Explain your situation, let them know that you're willing to stay some or all of the stay there, ask them for suggestions. Maybe they're friends with another airbnber and can help you organize the time.

Either way, I would play the numbers game. Choose a max price and minimum amount of comfort and send the same generic message to all of them — I'm going to be here 2 weeks, would like to spend the whole time there but understand if that's a problem, please let me know if you have any chunks of availability during these dates and if so maybe we can work something out. Also if you know of friends who have accommodation available on the days your place isn't available that would help too…
posted by Deathalicious at 9:01 PM on August 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: WOOHOO! I just got booked! Sixth time is the charm. Possibly I would not have if I hadn't followed advice here and fixed up my profile. Who knows?

@Ghostride The Whip, I think there was not anything big going on in September because the hotel rates in the area were moderate.

@Deathalicious, that's what my girlfriend thought too (chunk it up). But I prefered a single stay. The numbers approach seems good.

Much thanks to everyone who contributed advice. I really do appreciate your responses.
posted by ErikH2000 at 9:25 PM on August 25, 2014 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Experienced Airbnb hoster here from Norway.

Short answer - profile profile profile and using Airbnb search to assess potential hosters.

The first part - We have over 90 reviews for our rental, all 5* positive. We also screen quite heavily. People without a completed profile or not verified with offline ID are rejected straight off the bat always with an explanation that bookings are not accepted without ID and fully completed profile.

The second part is understanding how Airbnb search works. In order for you to stay away from the flaky hosters, it is important to remember a few key things.
1. When you search, your top results are based on hosters ratings - response time, rating and length of rental. There are more criteria, but generally those listings on the top tend to be extremely reliable hosters - which makes sense. Also, when you find a listing you like, check the response rate and rating - the response rate will be your biggest clue as to whetehr the hoster is reliable or not.
2. I would skip filtering on English - every Scandinavian under the age of 60 speaks English and it might be pulling down the effectiveness of your search.
3. Two weeks is a bit of an extended stay. Some hosters are not comfortable having someone in their apartment for that length of time. In my experience as part of the Scandinavian hosting group - it is about 50/50. Some hate long stays, some prefer them. In the end its a numbers game. The more people you contact the more luck you will have.
4. Check the hosters reviews to gain some insight on the hoster. You will find that the flaky ones, either have lackluster positive reviews or a similiar theme of things not OK.
5. We have a lot of American guests and one common complaint is that the Scandinavians aren't so customer service orientated. That is true. People are polite or to the point, but don't expect them to bend over backwards to send you a message etc of why being denied. Obviously this runs counter to the entire concept, but you have to make some exceptions for local markets :)

Your sending a short note prior to the actual booking request is the best method. You will find the "Contact Host" button near to the bottom of the listing. Again, it is a numbers game. I would make sure you include your purpose and a bit of what you will be doing. It makes a difference. Some hosters wouldn't want a guest in their house for two weeks where they will be home all the time.

Good luck and without a doubt you should be able to find something decent. There are a lot of great hosters in Copenhagen with wonderful flats and houses.
posted by Funmonkey1 at 9:31 PM on August 25, 2014 [26 favorites]

haha, Congratulations on getting a booking :) My advice was 5 minutes too late.....Enjoy Copenhagen, it is an awesome city!
posted by Funmonkey1 at 9:34 PM on August 25, 2014

Response by poster: @Funmonkey, very interesting! Secret tricks from the AirBNB pro!
posted by ErikH2000 at 9:54 PM on August 25, 2014

Thanks for this thread, I had a string of three rejections in a row trying to book a night in Boulder, CO a month or so back and was completely confused as to why.
posted by Oktober at 7:56 AM on August 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Thanks for this thread, I am planning to put my second home on AirBnB and I am learning a lot here.

Are you black? (Or, given Copenhagen, Muslim?)

I find this quite offensive, and also not true. There is racism in Denmark, and maybe even some in Copenhagen, but the overlap of AirBnB hosts and racists in Copenhagen must be tiny. Most of my neighbors let out their homes or just rooms during summer, and I've seen guests of all colors and religions here. (It's quite fascinating actually, a whole new way of integrating tourists in the urban life)
posted by mumimor at 8:11 AM on August 26, 2014

I do not ever have this issue using VRBO. Those places may be a smidge higher, though, since I think the bulk of the properties available are fairly dedicated vacation rentals rather than "use our house while we're not home."
posted by Lyn Never at 9:09 AM on August 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Mumimor, it's worth noting the Harvard study that was done on discrimination by AirBNB renters. It's not unreasonable that many renters - particularly those from less diverse areas - may be more inclined to stay with hosts of the same race (likely white) first.
posted by waylaid at 1:43 PM on August 26, 2014

Lyn, we use VRBO as well. the problem with it is that while a clone of Airbnb, most of the major cities across the world only have a couple of listings that would fit in with a "city center" location. It is great for get away destinations, but IRL downtown places not so much.
posted by Funmonkey1 at 2:53 PM on August 26, 2014

waylaid: "It's not unreasonable that many renters - particularly those from less diverse areas - may be more inclined to stay with hosts of the same race (likely white) first."
Copenhagen is the most racially diverse place in Denmark by far. Not to say a single guy from Pakistan or Turkey would have an easy time finding a place, but unlikely to be a problem for Americans, and especially one with an obviously Scandi name such as the OP.
ErikH2000: "I feel like I'm standing in the middle of the street, politely offering fistfuls of euros, and everybody has shuttered up their windows."
There's your problem right there. Denmark doesn't use the Euro :)
posted by brokkr at 1:09 AM on August 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

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