Beware Coin-Operating Air Conditioning At Your Next Airbnb

An Airbnb guest at a home in Spain took to TikTok to share what he found when he arrived: an air conditioning unit that was coin operated. The device advertises:

Consumption limiters for saving and controlling the cost of electricity in hotels, hostels, rural houses and all types of accommodation. They work by time, by coins or tokens.

@papiwhiterice #airbnb #travel #viral #trending #tiktok ♬ Originalton – POV’s

As a side note I think I hear The Who’s Baba O’Reilly in the background of this TikTok. Appropriate, since so much of Airbnb seems to be a teenage wasteland.

On my last Airbnb stay, the home’s manager had set the thermostat to 74. And to make sure you couldn’t lower it, the thermostat was locked. But we weren’t being charged extra for air conditioning on top of the room rate. This wasn’t disclosed in the listing, though, and we managed to get it unlocked for our stay. 71 degrees was a more comfortable temperature, and we turned it up or off when outside the unit.

If we’re going to call out hotels that try to scam guests with extra fees for electricity then Airbnb ‘hosts’ who are unbundling and charge a la carte for air conditioning should be called out too.

Hotel chains have brand standards, and so far electricity surcharges haven’t been allowed to stand. Most brands also require air conditioning as one of their standards. And it has to be included in the price. Shouldn’t there be minimum expectations of an Airbnb, too?

(HT: H.G.)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. […] Beware Coin-Operating Air Conditioning At Your Next Airbnb. – I have yet to stay in an Airbnb property because of shenanigans like this. I know that I’m missing out on some fantastic and truly unique experiences, but most of the time I’m happy with the consistency that brand hotels have to offer. My buddy Brett has stayed in Airbnbs and has had good experiences, so I need to try it a few times this year. Here are a few tips that he wrote about finding a good Airbnb. […]


  1. I’ve learned now to ask no chain hotels who advertise AC, will it be turned on (as they may have it off at the end of September, even tho it’s still hot outside.
    Also, I ask “is there AC in the room?”
    Sometimes they seem surprised at the question, but I was “burned” in NYC when I learned they DID have AC, but only in the lobby!
    Now I have to contend with AirBnb tricks?

  2. Very common in chain hotels. Not a coin box per se but an extra charge for the remote. Encountered at Hyatts and Marriotts in India and Greece. I m sure there are more

  3. Personally, I think it’s a great idea for AirBnB hosts to meter out heat and air-conditioning, AS LONG AS 1) it’s noted in the listing info, and 2) the accommodation rate is lower than an all-inclusive rate. This gives guests the opportunity to save money and reduce environmental impact.

    Not sure if it is still the same, but years ago in the UK, heat was metered, and the way to control the heat was with coins. This ensured the heat was only used as much and only in the room(s) needed at the moment.

    Re: thermostats, during a recent trip to Wash DC, I stayed in a room (a former lobby office, I believe) in a building that had been converted into residential condos. There was no thermostat nor any way to control room temperature. It was freezing! Fortunately I came across a pair of thick velvet draperies! in a closet, and I used them to add additional covers to the bed. Had the AirBnB host advised me in advance that there was no climate control, I would never have chosen that particular property.

  4. Motel 6 used to have TVs that worked on Quarters. Leaving an accurate review of AirBnB properties seems like the best route for cheapskate hosts.

  5. Ann:
    What? I’ve never seen a charge for a remote control. I’ve been to Greece just twice, but to India around 10 or more times.
    That’s crazy!!! Especially for a chain hotel!

  6. @Felicia–the majority of a/c units in the world are not centrally controlled by a thermostat, but are individual wall unit “mini-splits” that are controlled with remotes.

    I’ve stayed at numerous AirBnB properties in Latin America that offer a choice:

    1) no remote–therefore, no use of a/c, OR
    2) a remote to run the mini-split in the room, for which there is an additional $10- or $15- nightly charge for the use of the remote–meaning, the presumed use of the a/c unit and the additional electricity charge.

  7. If I ran across a home with the thermostat locked away like that, *and it was not advertised as locked,* then I’m giving the host an hour to come unlock the thing for the duration of my stay, after which point I’m taking a hammer to the case. I’ll deal with the damage deposit issue later.

  8. I would be outraged by any of these tricks if not clearly disclosed.

    I also have some sympathy for the owners. I have a short term rental and have friends who do as well, and the number of guests who run the AC and fireplaces with windows open is shocking. My approach is to just charge a price so high that I don’t care and the last 2 years it has worked, but post-pandemic I may need a new plan.

  9. So when I went to Oxford some 20 years back, I was shocked to realize I had to pay one pound for an extra 10 minutes of heat. Word was passed someone in chemistry created an ice cube tray measuring the exact width, height and thickness and we’d freeze water and dropped it into the coin machine. It worked like a charm until I graduated. I wouldn’t be surprised if it still works cause it’s… England lol

  10. Spirit fare + added charges – live WWF entertainment leads to the question: why fly Spirit?

    This nickel and dime stuff + the reports of personal safety + the perverted host with cameras leads to the question: why stay at an Airbnb?

  11. For the maximum guest inconvenience, especially when staying at Marriott or Courtyard by Marriott properties, hotels have restricted user-controlled Air Conditioning and heating thermostat functions. Since I consider all Gary Leff’s View From the Wing blog readers as Very Important Persons (VIPs), I encourage hotel guests to access the thermostat VIP mode in their hotel rooms. There are many youtube videos with valuable instructions on how to enter the thermostat programming mode. To help my fellow road warriors plan their next adventure and chill out during their next trip, for your viewing enjoyment, listed below are video links to help you take control and set a comfortable temperature in your hotel room. Feel free to share. The more you know.

  12. @Reno Joe ..and the murky liability insurance issue. How many airbnb hosts skate by with no or insufficient levels of insurance?

  13. It’s quite common for larger Air BnBs in Europe — especially (maybe primarily) Italy — to have metered costs for heating or cooling, as well as for heating the swimming pool, if any, based on the season. Sometimes the estimate (disclosed in the listing) is something like 25% of the room rate. You can understand why the owner would want to unbundle the price (to make the property more desirable in the non-heating/cooling season and for people who don’t need air conditioning) and also why they’d want the guests to be more conscientious about resource usage.

    Someone above mentioned people running the air conditioning with the windows open. I’ve traveled in the tropics with people who ignored imprecations from the guesthouse owner to not run the air conditioning when you were out, and then get upset that someone came into the room to turn it off.

    I’m totally fine with this practice as long as it’s disclosed before booking, or the place is advertised without air conditioning.

  14. What really makes me mad is when big chain hotels in places like China, India, Greece. They indicate they have AC. As if the AC is physically there in the property, not that its currently working. They shut down the central systems to the hotels during the cross over months. Think older Sheratons that have not been renovated. Stayed in an Aloft hotel in Dalian and it was 47 degrees C in the room. And everyone seemed to think that was perfectly okay. Then I change hotels to one down the street that was around 20$ compared to the 130$ at the aloft. Just pure trash and greed. Dont advertise AC if its not working.

  15. Reason #974 why I refuse to stay at a BnB related business EVEN if it’s disclosed in advanced.

  16. So I had a group of guests stay at my rental. Apparently they left all three air conditioners running 24/7. My electric bill was over 750 dollars. How is this reasonable?

  17. I have a certain sympathy with whoever had such a meter. Electricity is expensive in Spain – and the price varies according to the time of day. We had a group of people staying in our rental who clearly had it running day and night flat out at 16C (61F) – as it would never have achieved that temperature at any time in the heat of August we were caught. I wish that I had known that such a meter existed. What we ended up doing was reading the meter at the start and end of the rental but that was complicated if guests left early for whatever reason. I think that metered A/c is an excellent idea as then you pay for what you consume. However, it should be made clear from the start.

  18. Many years ago, I rented an apartment in Florence, Italy that was listed as all inclusive. The hot water was heated by an electric unit, and since I liked to shower in the morning, I had to turn on the “heater” at night for the water to be hot enough in the morning. When I left, the landlady hit me with a billl that was as much as the rent had been. I told her that it was all inclusive, but she wouldn’t budge. A few months later, a prominent magazine did an article about renting abroad, and recommended the agency I had used which also refused to refund my money. I wrote the agency a letter stating that I would write to the magazine that the agency had cheated me. Two weeks later, a check arrived!

  19. @Juan
    The same happened to me a long time ago.
    Now, I make sure all my places have a ring doorbell cam, so I can monitor who/when people come in/out (guests, cleaning crew, maintenance staff).
    I also have a connected thermostat that I can monitor and override on my phone.
    Those 2 are essential for any short-term rental owner.

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