Airbnb is finally addressing those pesky cleaning fees and chores that are tacked on for users while staying at properties listed on the platform.
This decision comes after an overwhelming amount of feedback from users on their experience during their stays.
These hidden fees and requests are deceiving and are dampening the overall user experience resulting in a decrease in bookings for the company.
Let’s dive into what’s changing and what led to these changes from a UX designers perspective.
The Problem
Deception of Users
Countless users, including myself, have been victimized by Airbnb’s hidden fees.
But first lets discuss what led to this betrayal for users.
What is deceptive UX?
“Deceptive UX designs propel users into purchasing or doing something that, otherwise, they wouldn’t even have considered doing.” -codemotion, 2023
Now of course discussing deceptive UX is like walking on a tight-rope.
As designers we are focused on creating the best experience for the user while also prioritizing business needs such as growth and performance.
However, there is a way to execute deceptive UX patterns in a way that is effective and instead of upsetting the user, it positively influences the user.
The goal for this is to create a positive experience for the user that is also beneficial for the business.
After reviewing user feedback, Airbnb has realized that their deceptive UX methods have done the opposite.
Users log on to the platform, find the perfect place for their stay, are presented with a price, and once they proceed to checkout the amount due is ~$100-$500 more than what was advertised.
Why is this?
Hidden fees for things such as, processing, cleaning, and additional guests and expected fees such as taxes.
Alright cool, the host is asking me to cover the charge for the cleaning service they hire after I leave or for the work they have to put in to freshen up the place.
I respect that. It’s annoying that I was made aware of it so late into my booking process, but I respect it.
However, things get questionable when sudden requests appear at the end of my stay…
Unreasonable Requests
When my boyfriend and I rented an Airbnb during our trip to New Orleans and were met with cleaning requests at the end of our stay we were both caught off guard.
Why am I being charged a $100 cleaning fee if I’m being asked to do laundry and clean the kitchen?
Numerous Airbnb users have complained of similar experiences.
One user stated during an interview with Yahoo Finance that he was charged a hefty $150 cleaning fee, which he didn’t see prior to booking, and was presented with chores that needed to be completed prior to check out.
“This included things like stripping the beds and taking out the trash,” said Smith. “It felt like the host was double dipping, since we not only had to pay the cleaning fee, but we were still required to do a significant portion of the cleaning ourselves.”
“It definitely left us feeling frustrated and, quite frankly, duped.”
The Impact
Loss of Trust
The impact of the allowance of hidden fees and wild requests leads users to feel like they’re unable to trust the platform.
Regardless of the fact that these actions are those of the hosts, it is still a direct reflection of the business itself.
A Decline in Users = A Decline in Revenue
The most obvious issue with the user feedback presented other than the users being extremely dissatisfied, is that eventually (if it hasn’t happened already) this will begin to significantly affect the companies growth and revenue.
The usability decision to allow hosts to tack on additional fees and requests through the platform without proper filtration by the company has a negative impact on the business.
As designers, and anyone else on the product team, we are actively trying to avoid a negative user experience along with a negative impact on the business.
So why has this been allowed for so long?
The Solution
Is Airbnb still worth it over hotels?
After crunching the numbers, Airbnb is still cheaper than hotels considering the amount of money you save on dining out but is it worth the additional headache?
Hotels, in comparison, would never ask you to complete chores prior to checkout. In addition to that, there are perks such as room service and amenities available as well.
It comes down to personal preference at the end of the day, but we are seeing many users transition back over to hotel usage to save themselves time, energy, and stress.
What are your thoughts? How do you feel about the deceptive UX in Airbnb’s business model and its impact on the users?

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