Post by High Priestess on Jun 12, 2016 21:03:00 GMT
I'm reminded of something I once heard said by the Reverend Alan Jones, Dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. I'm not Christian but I had gone to a workshop he was doing. He said, "There are two choices in life : fear , or love. Choose love. "
"How is the guest "taking advantage"? All she did was tweet a screenshot. She's not demanding compensation, merely contributing her own experience to a hot-button dialogue that was not so heavily discussed one year ago. Even if you feel the host was treated unfairly by Airbnb, that is no reason to make accusations against the guest.
Patricia considers herself a victim of discrimination, but I don't think she knows what the word means. If anything, she's the victim of her own overshare. Many hosts seem oblivious to the fact that they speak in a public capacity when they respond to an inquiry. In what business would it be appropriate to tell a customer you're refusing them service because your child might have uncomfortable thoughts about their genitals?
Airbnb is not removing listings when they receive a discrimination complaint; it's removing listings when they generate bad press. Patricia's message to Petosky qualifies as one; it was indefensible, even though she may well have been ignorant to its intrinsic cruelty. If a listing in South America or Morocco or Portugal has the same effect, I'd expect the same result. But this is a rare case in which the host openly stated that she was discriminating against the guest's gender identity. A vague excuse would not have gone viral on Twitter".
Andrew, I respect so much your opinion, but I am puzzled. "Oversharing"? I had to re-read this. Wasn't this the base of the USA Army "don't ask, don't tell?" Army would welcome you into their ranks if you did not "overshare." That was just wrong.
It is shame, but some of us Hosts will have to act more like business owners (yeah I know AirBnB is a business), instead of home owners. Darn it, some of us really enjoy welcoming people into our homes. I've just finished cleaning the bedroom of one of our long-term guests (yep, a no no for many Hosts), and I loved to see his surprise when he noticed I also changed the comforter and shams. I would hope before people make any assumptions of me, based on a mistake (even a terrible mistake), not to throw me away immediately; like AirBnB did to this Host.
I also think the penalty imposed by AirBnB (cancellation of listing) was heavy-handed. Also calling a Host a "douche bag" is heavy handed. You cannot make an assessment of a person for one statement (or call it mistep, flaw, infraction, etc.). This is not the way to educate people or get results. Yes, it is the way to gratification, the guest felt vindicated; but some Hosts became fearful of NOT disclosing ever ever again the reason why they decline a reservation. What good came out of this? Hosts that next time will immediately turn down a transgender (don't want trouble) with a false or no excuse. Education is more important than punishing ignorance. Fear just will take over. Punishing this Host probably saved AirBnB's face, good PR for them but it was disingenuous.
What good came out of this? Hosts that next time will immediately turn down a transgender (don't want trouble) with a false or no excuse. Education is more important than punishing ignorance. Fear just will take over. Punishing this Host probably saved AirBnB's face, good PR for them but it was disingenuous.
I do believe this is an important point ---- many who are sitting on the sidelines observing the "discrimination wars", are not thinking, "how do I support diversity, and how can I be more welcoming to everyone?" but rather, focusing on the sudden beheadings of hosts by Airbnb, are thinking to themselves "how do I stay out of trouble?." Of course I'm not speaking of those of us --likely a sizeable majority -- who are already relatively sophisticated and familiar with a wide variety/diversity of guests. But there are many hosts, less sophisticated, living in relatively culturally homogeneous regions, who would just rather avoid "trouble" and so will seek to turn down anyone who they worry might have "an agenda", be overly sensitive to something that could be perceived as offensive, (even a host's political view) and then turn out to have a hair-trigger readiness to call Airbnb and complain about one or another form of unfair treatment. Particularly hosts who are not certain/confident that they know just how to treat someone who is different from themselves in a certain way -- or hosts who are not familiar with or not accepting of the mainline "politically correct" or socially accepted terminologies/views/beliefs -- they may worry that they could fall into a trap. And be caught saying something that turns out to be a "crime". Rather than take this risk, they may perceive that it will simply be safer to decline the guest without explanation. Various "minorities" such as blacks, Muslims, LGBT folks, those with nonstandard gender identity, could see themselves declined more, rather than less, as a result of such fears and wishes to avoid "trouble."
"Oversharing"? I had to re-read this. Wasn't this the base of the USA Army "don't ask, don't tell?"
What I referred to there was the host's statement that she was refusing the guest because her 13-year-old son was going through puberty. Not only is it none of the guest's business what's going on in this child's pants; it's extraordinarily insulting to the guest to suggest that an immutable quality of her nature somehow makes her presence a threat to the child's well-being. Unfortunately, the notion that transgender women are actually perverted men who might prey on children is precisely the argument used to defend current laws such as North Carolina's bathroom bill. While this was less of a mainstream topic a year ago (at least for people who get all their information from TV), I'd still have much higher expectations for people selling hospitality to strangers. You need not have any experience with the trans community to recognize the cruelty of Patricia's remarks; you need only imagine how you'd feel receiving such a message yourself, as a fellow human being.
some Hosts became fearful of NOT disclosing ever ever again the reason why they decline a reservation. What good came out of this? Hosts that next time will immediately turn down a transgender (don't want trouble) with a false or no excuse.
Well it would be far preferable if hosts simply didn't decline guests solely for being transgender, or for any other reason based on irrational prejudice. But knowing that some are inevitably going to - yes, I do think communicating their bias is the worst thing to do, and it doesn't bother me one bit if hosts are more apprehensive about that. If we don't stand behind the host who explicitly cancelled a guest due to race , I see no reasonable defense for those who tell their guests they're refusing them due to gender identity or sexual orientation. From the guest perspective, being declined with a value-neutral excuse is merely annoying, but being declined the way Shadi was is actually hurtful.
some of us Hosts will have to act more like business owners (yeah I know AirBnB is a business), instead of home owners. Darn it, some of us really enjoy welcoming people into our homes.
Yes, I am very much OK with that. If we're charging money for our services, then we are in fact running a business. And while I think there's all manner of room for quirky and intimate hosting styles, paying guests have a right to expect a certain degree of professionalism in their experience. Like you, I really enjoy welcoming people into my home - and I also enjoy having my own business. Those things need not be mutually exclusive. It is an honor when someone chooses to spend their hard-earned money for the privilege of staying in my home, and even in the times when I feel the need to decline a Request (usually because it's a third-party booking) I feel obliged to reciprocate that honor with the same respect that I'd wish for as a guest. That's not a new development conditioned by fear; that's just the "Golden Rule" that we all grew up with.
If bigots are scared that it's getting harder to be bigots - fine, let them be. I agree, as does the guest (as quoted in the Tweet above) that Airbnb's solution feels heavy-handed and may have missed an opportunity for education and reconciliation. Given the timing (a year after the guest reported the discrimination privately but a day after the press picked up the story) it was quite transparently a pure PR move. But the consequences of leaving the listing intact would have been a lot harsher for both Airbnb (giving more weight to the argument that the platform supports discrimination) and for Patricia herself (becoming infamous on the internet can have an extreme impact on your personal and professional life - people have lost jobs and experienced traumatic amounts of harassment for far less insensitive remarks). Airbnb should have a better system for processing discrimination reports and offer greater clarity for how hosts should communicate with guests whom they decline.
Various "minorities" such as blacks, Muslims, LGBT folks, those with nonstandard gender identity, could see themselves declined more, rather than less, as a result of such fears and wishes to avoid "trouble."
This is an elegant way of saying that minorities are the "real" ones to blame for discrimination against us.
If we hold our tongues about it (and the vast majority of us do), the status quo stands and nothing changes. But then if we speak up, we're accused of promoting "political correctness" - and the "fear of getting in trouble" suddenly becomes regarded as the equivalent to being marginalized for your race, sexuality, etc. So what should we do?
Post by High Priestess on Jun 13, 2016 17:04:02 GMT
I have to get off to work now so not much time to continue the dialogue -- will return later in the day -- but my point was that, unfortunately, I do believe many folks hold this view of feeling reluctant to dip their feet into places where they are worried about getting punished -- and yet your point is certainly equally valid, that "minorities" of various kinds ( I use the quote marks on "minorities" since just who is a minority is relative -- eg, in a Muslim country, a Muslim person isn't in a "minority") are in an unfair catch-22 situation. Darned if we do speak up, and also darned if we dont' speak up.
For me, as a starting point to facilitate movement in a "stuck" place, is to de-emphasize punitive responses to "wrongs" against those in minority groups, and to emphasize instead, educational and mediational approaches. Eg, in this case, what if both Shadi and the host Patricia were invited to engage in a mediated dialogue, and Shadi could educate Patricia about how she wanted to be treated, and Patricia could listen and respond, and Airbnb could do something to facilitate this whole process. Patricia wouldn't have to be "banned", but could offer to have Shadi come stay with her or have another transgender guest come and stay with her, and Airbnb could publicize that this had happened and that someone had learned and made amends -- that would be spectacular PR in my view. Much better than chopping off heads. Encouraging people to speak with each other and learn from each other seems so valuable to me. A great example also for how these issues could be handled in other venues and in the nation. THis all bears some resemblance to what is called "Restorative Justice" in the US ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Restorative_justice ) -- where criminals are not simply punished but a dialogue is fostered between the criminal and the person wronged. THis model is quite humane and carries so much more potential for meaningful justice than our highly punitive 'Justice system", a punitive system which Airbnb need not emulate.
Deborah, that's a nice idea but I can't see how it would be applied to Airbnb. I'm sure many guests would not be willing to sign up for educating a racist/homophobic/prejudiced etc. host when all they want to do is book a room for their holiday. Also it is basically saying that the onus is on the person being discriminated against to "help" the ignorant fool understand how to overcome their prejudice. Why should they have to do that when, like I said, all they want to do is go on holiday!
As for Shadi Petovsky being asked to explain to the host "how she would like to be treated".. whaatt?? How about just treating her, like everyone else, with some respect? If the host doesn't understand that and needs it explained, I can't see much hope for her, frankly.
Deborah I think that would be an intriguing and potentially helpful approach for high-PR cases, although perhaps a burdensome one to apply every time a guest complains. I think Shadi would approve (and I only wish she were part of this conversation - some of the responses posted on her own Twitter feed are genuinely nasty and mean-spirited in comparison).
Considering that literal beheadings are actually a real thing happening to real people now, I'd rather we not use them as a metaphor for the comparatively benign act of removing an Airbnb profile. To us, as relatively well-known, high-volume hosts with years of standing with Airbnb and a reputation comprised of hundreds of reviews, the idea of losing our memberships probably seems a lot harsher than it would to the majority of hosts, whose investment in the site does not run nearly so deep. Being fined or sued (to speak nothing of the Death Penalty) would constitute tangible punishment - and I don't think either would be warranted. Being de-listed would be merely an inconvenience, forcing the member to conduct her business on another platform. And as I've said above, when your profile is tainted in such a very public way as to be quoted in dozens of newspapers, this would be the natural progression of things anyway.
There may be folks out there who feel that they have to decline certain kinds of guests out of fear of offending them. But I don't recall ever hearing from one in all the time we've been involved with the host community. I've read plenty of posts from hosts like Dee who don't want to host Muslims because they don't trust them, or like Cynthia who didn't want to host gay couples because she felt disturbed by what we might do in the bedroom. I've read about hosts like Todd and Patricia, who made their prejudices clear in their declines. And we've heard from lots of hosts who claimed that after a bad experience they'll never host someone from ___(insert country)___ again. But so far I haven't seen or heard anything from someone who was only unwilling to host guests of a certain demographic out of fear that they'll cause inadvertent offense. There have been hosts seeking advice about how to approach certain cultural differences (like the one who asked about special considerations for Chinese guests), but I can't recall a single one that thought their knowledge gap on that matter was a good reason to decline. Do you have any examples of this in your archive that I could have a look at?
It does strike me that assuming an entire ethnicity is too "easily offended" to stay in your home does not speak well of one's potential as a host, and is no less prejudiced than the more obvious expressions of racism. It may happen that a guest will be offended by something you say or do even if you treat them with all due respect, but that potential exists just as much with people of your own race/religion/sexuality/etc as those with those of a different one, so the fear you describe is irrational at best. I also have yet to hear about a host being "punished" by for saying something in person to a guest who they actually accommodated, that they took offense to - the examples described here are ones in which the offensive remarks were made on the Airbnb messenger (thereby leaving an indisputable paper trail), and in the context of declining guests.
One consequence of this controversy could be that hosts are more fearful of declining guests they're genuinely uncomfortable with - even when they have legitimate reasons. But that's one that has been around for a long time - one of the top 10 topics on the NHF was the question of whether hosts were penalized in Search for declining guests. You've seen many scenarios in which I've advised hosts to decline inappropriate requests, but I do think it's something many hosts should take more seriously.
I also tend to agree with Becks on the above - as a writer and public figure, Shadi is uniquely qualified to "educate" a host on her experience. But few people would appreciate the burden of having to round-table with someone who's treated them poorly when they were just trying to book a room. And demanding that a transphobic host accept a different trans guest that may never materialize, under threat of penalty, is actually more heavy-handed than removing their listing.
Of course, you're right Becks and Andrew that it wouldn't be feasible to have Airbnb intervene and mediate in every case of alleged "discrimination" -- but to do so once in a while, particularly with a case that draws a lot of publicity -- would be useful I think.
Andrew-- "we" have not been using the term "beheading" -- I have been using it -- and I use it intentionally as I believe this metaphor conveys, better than "removed from the platform" , the potential emotional impact and also business impact of the sudden termination of the account a host who may have a significant investment in their Airbnb business (maybe not, but who's to know). Terminating someone's account without providing them any explanation, and forcing them to only find out about it by reading about themselves in the news, is by no means a "relatively benign" act and so I will have to disagree with you on that. It's something that could be emotionally traumatic. Potentially equally so or even more so than experiencing being declined in the unfortunate way that Shadi was. Also, as we have seen on the forums, there have been so many "unexplained" terminations of hosts accounts -- for various (presumptive) reasons -- Airbnb generally refuses to give a legitimate explanation to those so effected. I consider this poor treatment from a company which stands for hospitality and belonging. THis pattern of unexplained terminations is also something that has struck a chord of fear in hosts --- and I think referencing this fear by some use of metaphorical language, is valuable.
Of course I want to know if I have inadvertently said something that offends someone, but I am not asking others to use the language I use, (or even agree with or approve of it in every instance) and likewise I dont' want others telling/suggesting to me what words or phrases I should or shouldn't use. Choosing my own words and language is enormously important to me as a writer.
Yes, it would be nice if Shadi could participate in this conversation -- and when you said that I thought, "Oh, let's invite her!" But then, I realized, I would be concerned about the increased attention that that could bring to this forum. Some of the folks posting mean comments you see on her Twitter, could come over here. I wouldn't want trolls or spammers coming here.
I don't know that I would call Patricia "Transphobic". She may be, she may not be -- her son may be, or she may be while her son isn't. Hard to tell. Also, I never thought "homophobic" was the most accurate word -- and I preferred "heterosexist" -- because people can be contemptuous or intolerant of gay people without actually being "afraid" of us as the term "phobic" suggests. So for the same reason, I would like to find another term than "transphobic"....not sure what it would be though.
Re -- declining guests out of fear of offending them -- well I haven't seen any posts about that, that I can recall. I would guess that this issue, of declining guests out of fear of offending them, was less likely in the past, before the Airbnb discrimination issue rose in prominence in the news. I would guess that it might occur more often now.
I've gotten to know a few Syrian refugees in Berlin who can tell you exactly what the emotional trauma of a loved one being brutally, publicly executed - by decapitation or otherwise - is like. Their stories, as well of the recent experience of watching actual bodies with heads blown off being ferried out of the streets of Paris, have led me to take the term extremely seriously in ways that would have seemed otherwise quite remote from anything in my own experience (and possibly yours). Losing one's Airbnb account, I'm sorry, it's not a comparable trauma, and in this case the hyperbole has the effect of distracting me from the point and putting in mind some of the most gruesome images I may ever have to process. I don't want to tell you what words to use on your own website, but I'd be amiss not to mention the unintended effects they might have. I understand that losing one's account causes distress, which is surely compounded by the lack of warning or explanation, and like you I find it lazy and insensitive on Airbnb's part not to deal with it better.
Not long ago my account was abruptly deleted by a longtime supplier for my other business after I demanded reimbursement for an order that didn't arrive. It was an inconvenience to have the business relationship severed like that, but there are other fish in the sea and life carried on. Had they removed my head along with the account, I couldn't quite say the same. At any rate, every business relationship is bilateral and subject to the whims of shifting self-interest. At any time we can choose to abruptly sever our relationship with Airbnb - and indeed, even if we have many outstanding reservations, they have limited means to penalize us if we remove our accounts, as there are no future payouts from which to deduct the fees. As much as I'd hate to suddenly lose my Airbnb account, this is not a matter that would necessitate treatment for PTSD; I'd pick up and move my business to one of the increasing number of competitors, and hope that their website had fewer bugs.
"Transphobic" is too nice of a word for the thousands of people who have assaulted, raped, and murdered transgender people, and who pervert the legal system in order to deny them basic human rights and dignities. But in Patricia's case, it appears to fit the text of her actual quote - she probably doesn't have a violent aversion to transfolk, but she excluded one specifically out of fear of "discomfort." The equivalent term to "heterosexist" would be "cissexist," but it's hard to say out loud and might sound esoteric outside of the gender-studies bubble.
Other words come to mind too, but they're more profane than specific.
Andrew, yes the term I used is hyperbolic. I feel like we might be veering a bit off course from the subject. Your stories of your Syrian friends and images from Paris sound quite disturbing, as does the assault, rape and murder of Transgender people, but we don't have murders and violence going on in hosting, or on this forum, so perhaps we can keep in mind that we are talking about the hosting business and issues of discrimination -- I am concerned about burdening hosts or writers with responsibility to shield readers from re-experiencing anything that might have been painful in their lives. I wonder what a book would look like if the writer felt obligated to protect all her readers from encountering their past experiences? I suspect either all the pages would be blank, or it would have to be a children's story.
I can consider your feedback -- and then reflect that if I used the term "disappeared" in reference to terminated accounts, (hosts who suddenly went from being "Patricia" to being "the Ice Cream Girl" telling us that there is no one there anymore) someone from Central America might declare me insensitive to their experience. "Axed" might disturb someone who witnessed firsthand the casualties of the woodcutting trade. "Lopped off" might have some reaching down to feel if all their parts were still there. "Terminated" might seem less risky, calling to mind only Arnold Schwarzenegger, but using emotionally cold terms like that renders less visible the potential shock or trauma involved,as well as concealing the violence done to "Belong Anywhere!"
I do want all participants here to feel they can speak freely, and if someone is sincerely disturbed by something someone says, to feel able to say that, and certainly we can work to bring awareness to any unintended effects of word and language. At the same time, I'm concerned that if we start comparing levels of trauma, or dismissing one person's assumed distress as much less than someone else's, we may see the potential for discussions to turn into "The Oppression Olympics", wherein painful experiences may be inadvertently used as leverage to gain moral authority. Many of us on here, including yourself quite notably, are incredibly thoughtful and highly intelligent people with so much hosting experience and wisdom from participation in the host community. I think we can use these assets to develop ideas, gain insights and express differing views on a variety of subjects, including complex issues like this one.
Post by Inanna (Shaun) on Jun 14, 2016 11:35:35 GMT
I agree with Deborah that it is on Airbnb to more clearly state their policies. In the US, there isn't just one culture. I don't know where this host was, but the issue of discrimination regarding gender identity is far more developed and discussed, much further along in its progress, in the larger cities and on the coasts. We're she is small town Idaho, for example, she might not have had much exposure or education about this issue. I think Airbnb is missing an opportunity to actually do some good through educating hosts on this issue. They have a real opportunity to further the awareness needed.
Consistency seems to be lacking in their response to problems. In the last four months, I have had two guests do illegal things. One extorted me, and I lost almost 500 dollars as well as feeling very frightened, and Airbnb simply said they would reach out to the guest and educate him. The other, they refused to do much, because it was a "legal issue". Both of these instances were issues that were potentially more serious in consequences for myself and my other guests and perhaps even for Airbnb if it got out than a tone deaf host. (Please don't think I am dismissing the effects of discrimination- I'm queer myself.)
Post by Inanna (Shaun) on Jun 14, 2016 11:50:51 GMT
What a wonderful idea!
One of my first Airbnb experiences was as a guest, staying with my partner in the home of a couple who turned out to be very conservative Chridtian missionaries. They did not realize that we were not a married heteronormative couple when they accepted the reservation, apparently. Upon arrival, the lady was very gracious. What was awkward was when her husband came home and she tried to explain to him "what" we were. He looked confused and she kept trying to phrase it different ways so he would get it, without offending us as we were standing right there. I could see them stretching themselves to accommodate what was beyond their experience.
It was initially awkward, but we did spend a lot of time talking, and on the night of their son's high school graduation, we stayed home and made dinner, deep cleaning their kitchen after cooking, not in any invasive way, not getting into their things, just really wiping off the grease and crumbs, because they were busy with their son.
We are still in contact! They may retain their religious idea of what is sinful, but maybe now they are a little less afraid.
Post by Inanna (Shaun) on Jun 14, 2016 11:58:45 GMT
I have declined guests based on fear of offending them. It rose out of having my only horrible reviews consistently being from a certain demographic. Now, I don't always decline this demographic (that would be discrimination) but if I have the sense that the person has a false idea of what they are getting and that that will cause problems, a feeling based on long experience that they will not like me or my house and neighborhood and might give me a low star rating, then I decline, without saying why.
People often fear the unknown and the more so, if there is an attraction. Maybe the host feared a transgender lifestyle is infectious and her son could catch it. Maybe there was an event before, that makes her suspect it. I remember the uproar my sister provoked in her ultra catholic family in law, when she bought a doll for her toddler son ;-) They all feared, the toy would turn him gay. (Not yet, but the toolkit is transforming my niece into an engineer)
I too get lower ratings from people very opposite to my way of life, independent of sexual orientation. For me it's the machos my age and the very timid women suffering from a breaking relationship or lost job. If the stars had a real influence besides nagging airbnb mails, I would have to decline those too.
Airbnb is sometimes victim of their own company philosophy. All this cosy feeling etc. It's a nice marketing idea, it works very well, but they should not believe it themselves. It's a business and as such should treat business partners seriously. If they want to terminate a relationship, they should inform the other party and not react like a conservative family "we don't talk about /to the black sheep". If the infraction is not intentional and may be amended, they should have a prior discussion, give the partner a chance to amend the performance. I don't really believe in education in such cases. But an information that this is a reason for cancellation of the account and wait, what the other side has to say. If it is as bad a justification as it was a bad offense, fire the host. If there is an excuse or a proposition to repair the damage, keep her. But this would ask for very skilled people deciding the cases and that's not on the cost saving program.
Last Edit: Jun 14, 2016 12:50:21 GMT by helgaparis
Great points all around, helgaparis , and especially the last one. I don't know what the case-load for an arbitrator in these matters would be like, but I'd want them to be skillful, compassionate, and able to take the time to look carefully into the specifics of the situation and communicate effectively with the people involved. The fact that Airbnb operates in many languages adds another complication there; perhaps they could be prepared to mediate in a complaint in English, but if the guest and host are communicating in Magyar or Thai, do they have an equivalent capability?
shaun, thanks for sharing your story. Have you found that the controversy around discrimination has made you more likely to decline guests of this specific demographic?
Thanks Andrew. Well, the controversies have been about race and gender, so they don't really affect me so much and I have never had any issues around either one or had bad guests from either group.
The demographic that I am very cautious around is closely aligned with the dominant culture, so theoretically, discrimination might not be the right term. It is more of a reading between the lines of what they are expecting. It is people who would see photos of this historical house decorated in a way that respect the history of it, and expect a more formal traditional even conservative bed and breakfast. They weren't realizing they we are solidly in an extremely diverse gentrifying but working class Latino neighborhood, that people from all over the world would be living here too. The idea of a communal house seems positively dangerous or sleazy to them. They wanted a parking garage and to drive downtown every day rather than take the train. They would never share a bathroom. They wouldn't even say hello to anyone else. I rewrote my listing to make it ultra clear to them, and the problem lessened. Not everyone reads though,
Post by Inanna (Shaun) on Jun 14, 2016 15:17:24 GMT
The world is more and more openly supportive of sexual orientation, so maybe there will be fewer problems with discrimination by hosts over time as they get used to the idea. In reading the news about Orlando, I saw this and was happy to see that places like Dallas, TX have the whole skyline lit up in the rainbow flag.
Post by High Priestess on Jun 14, 2016 15:43:27 GMT
THanks for sharing that Shaun -- that actually makes tears well up in my eyes to see the Eiffel Tower in rainbow colors, and so many other sites around the world as well!! In my area there have been several candlelight vigils. On the Tony Awards, the producer/writer of "Hamilton", Lin Manuel Miranda, gave a very brief and quite moving message, about the power of love over fear and hatred, which culminated by saying the word "love" about 6 or 7 times.
I know what you mean Shaun about the "demographic" that you refer to... also being someone who likes to offer something different, I can be concerned that some folks don't quite get what I am offering...and so are they a good fit? Fortunately, I have found that the vast majority of my guests do seem to come with suitable expectations, and appreciate what I'm offering.
I've actually found that the demographic that I have had the most difficulty with, in terms of scathing reviews/ratings, is also not a "minority" group or a group that sees discrimimation -- it's what I term the "glam gals" - young female professionals who have a glamorous or "fashionable" appearance. I have found these women more high maintenance and they seem to have the most difficulty understanding the kind of atmosphere I have created. They are more suited for one of those listings that emphasizes its impeccable cleanliness, sparkling white floor tiles, gleaming mirrors and stovetops, in about a dozen different ways. Shiny ladies seem to like sparkling surroundings.
The glam gals are a funny bunch. I get a lot of them - not the Paris Hiltons of the world but more the younger media/arts professionals with more style than money. They gravitate toward trendy neighborhoods and find it more fun or safe to stay with queer guys, and sometimes they're a blast to take out on the town. They also used to be among my less enthusiastic reviewers, until a couple of them pointed out the details that would've made them more comfortable. Ever since I added a full-length mirror and hair dryer, their feedback has been some of the best. They have tended to be messy - within minutes of arriving there's all kinds of clothes and paraphernalia all over the guestroom and piles of product in the bathroom - so shimmering cleanliness hasn't been a huge priority. But the first photo on my listing shows off the raw, damaged concrete walls and furnishings made of bike parts, so I assume it scares away those who need sparkle.
I still get people who book without realizing the guestroom is in a shared apartment, even though now my listing bashes people over the head with that fact. One of the main reasons I don't use Instant Book is that I prefer to add a bit of friction to the booking process sometimes and ask people to "review the ___ part of the listing and let me know if you think it's a good fit for your needs." At that point, I feel like I have shifted the responsibility for accurate expectations onto them, so if they still show up expecting something more conservative, I can wash my hands of it. So far I haven't needed to decline anyone on this basis; usually those who expected something different (like the whole apartment) tend to cancel their own requests voluntarily.