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In response to a growing chorus of complaints, Airbnb plans to start prioritizing the total price of stays rather than the nightly rate and clamp down on “unreasonable” checkout tasks like vacuuming or doing the laundry, the company announced Monday. As part of the effort, the company will, starting in December, give customers the option to view the total price of a stay before taxes “up front” when they search for homes, rather than only the nightly rate, which had excluded fees for things like cleaning. The total price will also be prioritized in the company’s search algorithm moving forward.
Additionally, the company will make sure guests can review all proposed checkout tasks before they book their stay, so they aren’t surprised at the end of their trip. To reduce the prevalence of unreasonable requests, the company additionally plans to update guidelines for hosts on what is a suitable checkout request. The company said certain tasks, like turning off the lights and locking the doors are “reasonable,” but “doing laundry, and vacuuming” are not. The topic of so-called “junk” fees has been a growing concern, including to the Biden administration, which last month said “hidden” or “surprise” fees are “not just an irritant” but also “make it hard to comparison shop and can burden” financially vulnerable households. Airbnb in particular had faced a growing amount of criticism for what many customers saw as increasingly “ridiculous” cleaning fees and checkout tasks, including requests like washing bedding and dusting all surfaces. In response, Airbnb announced in May 2021 that the company would undertake a “comprehensive review” of its fees.
The company admitted that the lack of price transparency and growing prevalence of odd checkout tasks had led to “frustration” and stress among many of the company’s customers. Announcing the changes Sunday, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky said that he hopes the changes will address the concerns and increase trust in the platform. “I’ve heard you loud and clear—you feel like prices aren’t transparent and checkout tasks are a pain,” Chesky wrote Sunday morning on Twitter.
The company had tested what happened when it automatically switched customers over to total price instead of nightly rate, rather than only making it an option, but Chesky said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that the higher prices took people aback. “The prices do look more expensive. They don’t know why they’re more expensive, and certainly that’s not helpful to business,” he said.