Founded in 2008, the San Francisco-based home rental giant and “Sharing Economy” pioneer, Airbnb, claims to have listed more than 15 million apartments spread over 34,000 cities in 191 countries. In August of this year, Airbnb announced it had fundraised US$1.5 billion to expand its services in the Chinese market. At present, the Airbnb network covers 17 Chinese cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
Chinese customers today are embracing the “Sharing Economy” business model pioneered by Airbnb’s service. On China’s largest twitter-like social media website, Sina Weibo, some have left positive comments. “Everybody dreams of a perfect house and Airbnb offers you a chance at achieving it. This is the magic of Airbnb,” one said. “All the houses that feature on Airbnb’s Weibo are so wonderful. They makes you look forward to your next trip in an Airbnb house,” another added.
As a newcomer to the Chinese market, Airbnb faces challenges providing efficient service to local customers. AllChinaTech.com has curated a collection of comments from Weibo users’, regarding Airbnb’s service in China. Their concerns mostly focus on payment barriers, lack of consumer protections, the paucity of service available inside mainland China, and difficulties using the Chinese version of Airbnb’s app.
- Airbnb only recently introduced the Alipay payment option (summer 2015) for people who visit its homepage from a Chinese IP address. Airbnb should keep pace with Chinese consumer habits and payment tools, Alipay is universal in China.
@aspringponyo: It’s hard to imagine Airbnb not accepting Alipay. China is such a big market! The other hot sharing-economy company, Uber, has already adopted the Alipay system.
@okok超ok: I have paid the money online but it does not show a confirmation of my booking. Where did my money go? My Alipay record shows that the money went to Airbnb.
- Airbnb previously had no customer service hotline in China and its customer service is lacking in general. Their nearest hotline service was, till very recently, based in Hong Kong. Airbnb has only just established a Beijing hotline. In the absence of direct communication channels, Weibo has become the main platform for users to complain and blow off steam. Many people leave comments on Airbnb’s Weibo page detailing their booking problems.
@HyperGinger: I have booked a room through your app and the money has been deducted from my account. The host said however that he has not received my booking! The app suggested I need to verify my account! I sent an email as per instructions, but I still haven’t received confirmation!! How do I fix this? Please reply as soon as you can!!
@Mengjia Rachel: The landlord raised the booking price after our reservation. I filed a complaint, waited three days and have sent several messages. You told me the person in charge was on holidays and that I would have to wait. How terribly inefficient this is! Is Airbnb really an Internet company? This is so far, the slowest response time and the most arrogant excuse I have ever experienced!
@MaYieJ: My account has been banned for no reason. This has seriously affected my trip. I phoned customer service staff but they don’t make sense! Bad service!!!!
- The website and app for Airbnb are full of bugs. Many new users seem to be having problems. Public opinion is very important for product promotion, the company has everything to gain by controlling public opinion. Airbnb should fix the bugs and adapt the Chinese version of the app to conform to Chinese usage habits.
@DR Duran：On your website, if I pick Chinese for the language, all the districts are translated to Chinese and it’s hard to know the corresponding English names for the same areas. I suggest providing on the Chinese website, the names of the neighborhoods in both English and Chinese. At the moment, you know what? Your app doesn’t even have a search category for ”districts”!
@Song Yidong：Airbnb’s booking rules lack the necessary provisions to protect guests. Guests should also get a grace period. Even where deals haven’t been successful, Airbnb makes money from those deals. This is unfair to us. We can only contact landlords via email. If they don’t reply, we’re stuck. Airbnb does not have an intervention system to help customers. It’s kind of irresponsible.