Last week, something important happened. Nicholas Carlson of Business Insider rented his first apartment via Airbnb. Today, Carlson released a report detailing his experience. The piece, which by 9am EST had racked up more than 20,000 views, was published on Business Insider as a photo essay, spanning 50 slides.
Carlson’s review is a searing work of literature, but the many pages make reading it a time-consuming process. To preserve the piece’s editorial integrity, and to highlight the power of its words, I decided to strip out all the photos and present the story in prose form, lending the text the platform it deserves.
Below are the fruits of that effort, with minor edits to correct typos and slight truncation for literary effect. All words are Carlson’s.
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I went to San Francisco last week for a conference and to meet with sources. Usually when I go to SF, I stay at the Courtyard downtown. The location is great, plus the rooms are nice. A good breakfast is included. There’s a gym. There’s even a pool. So I was about to book a room, but then I saw the price. It was over $500 per night! Ack!
I decided to try my luck with Airbnb, a site where you can rent whole apartments. I found one “near downtown” for just $150 per night.
In the Airbnb app, it looked great. It looked big. It had a kitchen. It looked well-designed and colorful. It had a workspace and wifi. The app even said there would be free wine. Finally, the listing said this photo showed off the apartment view.
So I check out the apartment’s owner. I looked at prior renters’ reviews of him. All good. So I booked my first Airbnb stay!
Through the app, I arranged the details of my visit with the apartment owner, Carlos.
Finally, I arrived in San Francisco. Would I regret forgoing the comfortable Courtyard for some stranger’s apartment? I texted the owner’s assistant to let her know I was on the train in from the airport.
When Google Maps told me to get off the train, I wondered what my apartment’s neighborhood would look like. This was my first glimpse.
But wait, I wasn’t at the apartment yet. In fact, I had a 15-minute walk ahead. As I went down 9th Street, the neighborhood changed. I arrived at my building. It was OK looking.
How about the neighborhood?
I looked down the street. I looked up the street. I looked across the street. There were a lot of mattress stores. I didn’t feel in danger, but I didn’t feel “near downtown” either.
This is the hallway I walked into. It looks darker in this photo than it was. It looked like a standard walk-up hallway. There was even some nice, generic art on the wall.
My apartment was on the third floor. Fortunately, I don’t mind stairs, and I didn’t miss the Courtyard’s elevator.
I arrived at my door. This was a big moment. How would the place look? Would I want to run? I opened the door… And whoa! The place looked great. Just like the photos online. The kitchen was huge. There were even clean towels, just like a hotel.
The bed was nice looking. The bathroom was small, but who cares. The light was great.
The first bummer: there was no climate control in the room. Good thing SF is cool in September.
The next bummer: remember that sparkling city view from the online photo? Hah.
The biggest bummer: The place had a funny smell. Like wet cat. Eventually I got used to it. But there were some pleasant surprises, too… like shampoo and soap in the shower. I didn’t, but I could have hosted a friend at this apartment.
There were some chocolates in the fridge. And the last guest left some booze behind! Lots of free booze! The owner said I could help myself. (Didn’t have time.) I didn’t cook, but I could have with all the equipment in the kitchen.
I stayed for three nights.