AirBnB kills Group Payments – Failed Experiment

In November 2017, AirBnB introduced a controversial feature called Group Payments / Split Payments or however else you want to dress it up. The concept enabled guests to book properties on AirBnB and split the costs with their friends. How this worked is that a host would receive a booking request and be able to accept it. If they did so they would then be told that the guest was using split payments and their calendar is blocked for the next 72 hours.

There was a lot of anger and frustration with the way that group payments was rolled out and it is surprising to see that AirBnB have now canceled it’s operation after less than a year of being live. Split payments will be retired in Mid September 2018 as is explained in this post. It wasn’t difficult to see from a host perspective that the whole thing was completely unworkable with the way most people run their short term rental businesses. Let’s take more of a deep dive into some of the most frustrating things and point out how AirBnB could have made these things better.

Forced onto Everyone

The group payment feature was forced onto everyone. There was no choice to opt in or opt out and that made it super unpopular with the host communities. It seems that AirBnB were making a decision to benefit guests and didn’t take a care for their core community, the guys who make them all the money, the hosts. When I experience a group payment for Roomfilla. I send guests this request;

Tried to accept this but saw you are using the split payment feature. Please confirm the payment ASAP to confirm the booking.

It was unacceptable for AirBnB to force this feature onto hosts without telling them that the guest was using it. After hitting accept, you then get sent back to the reservations page not being told that the booking was confirmed or not. This leads to having to go back to finding the conversation and checking if it was a split payment and then sending them a message to pay if it was. This just increases work for hosts with zero benefit.

How Would I Fix This?

  • Let hosts choose if they want to use it.
  • Provide a notification on booking requests. ‘Rachel is using the split payment feature’.
  • Let hosts modify the amount of time to collect payment. 72 hours is a long time!

Blocking the Calendar

It is simply ridiculous that AirBnB thought it was fine to block a host calendar for up to 72 hours. They must have had an air of arrogance or a lack of understanding of the short term rental market to believe that this would be ok and that hosts do not list their properties on other platforms. Blocking the calendar for a booking which simply is not confirmed is unjustifiable and caused a lot of angst. It causes more issues over peak periods as you know you will be booked but are left waiting for a group payment to be complete.

Why block the calendar?

If someone chooses to use the feature, it should just send an email or notify the host to say that someone has started the process of using group payments, do you want to block the calendar or not? AirBnB should have used urgency in their dealings with guests to make them complete the payment quicker. This should all have been on the guest but instead they chose to make all the pain for the host.

Adults need to act like adults..

Maybe a little controversial but we need to stop treating everyone like kids. People need to take responsibility for their own dealings and corporations need to stop treating everyone like toddlers. If a group of friends cannot organize a payment for their trip’s accommodation then we have deeper things to worry about as a society. There was zero need for split payments / group payments being created and rolled out in the way it was. It was doomed to failure with alienation of a key demographic of the AirBnB community and ultimately I am glad to see the back of it.

AirBnB obviously have their own reasons for killing the feature. I would argue that the 98% completion rate of the people holding host’s calendars hostage and completing payment which they claim was nowhere close to that figure. With their inability to make it reliable, they just created more and more discontent.

One would hope that AirBnB learns lessons from this and consults / understands the needs of their audience before rolling out experimental features in the future.