We've created a marketplace built on trust, transparency and authenticity within our community, and we hold the safety of our community members as our highest priority. We will continue to work with our users to stamp out those who would put that community at risk in any way. The vast majority of our community members genuinely respect and protect each other, but we urge users to be careful and discerning with each other and to hold others accountable through reviews, flagging and our customer service channel. Our hearts go out to our host and we will continue to work with her and with the authorities to make this right.
A credit card number doesn't help much when you're dealing with anti-social elements (they'll just use a stolen one).
At the very least, it should be an option for property owners to purchase.
Even if you do have homeowners / renters insurance, I wouldn't be surprised if most policies have exclusions for operating your home as a rental.
If the value of the service is so low, and the risk so high, that it's essentially uninsurable, then perhaps that's a sign that it's a bad business model.
If you read the Airbnb TOS you'll see that they are well aware of this and are just hoping that naive customers don't read the whole thing.
I expect the original poster's losses will not be covered by home owner's insurance.
Given how rare this type of thing is, AirBNB could have a great extra source of income by offering optional insurance for an extra fee (similar to car rentals).
Not if this quote from the linked article is true, you haven't...
airbnb.com tightly controls the communication between host and traveler, disallowing the exchange of personal contact information until the point in which a reservation is already confirmed and paid for.
It's a trade-off: This process enhances trust since you know your host doesn't get your money until you've checked in and found everything to be in order - and the host knows that the money is held and that he won't have to deal with late or no payment.
I don't get this focus on the personal contact issue. What exactly could the victim gain from having exchanged personal contact information prior to the booking, that he was unable to do after he got the contact information? He admits he didn't even catch that the guest misspelled his own name?
You mean a name. Who says it's their name? The reason that we trust AirBNB and choose to host travelers is because if we do come home to find all of our things missing, AirBNB at least has a credit card on file, and can at least prove to the police that someone was staying at your place?
Might be stolen especially in the light of this case.
If anything, I blame myself. In retrospect, and as I read through my initial email exchanges with Dj, I recognize now that something was “off” in his manner of communication, that I trusted too easily, and probably did not do my due diligence to properly protect myself and my home.
There is nothing in the article that indicates that the situation would have turned out any different if he had access to "Dj"s contact information earlier.
IF they can catch this guy based on the information AirBnB collected when he signed up, then they're fine. If not they need to have a more strict membership sign up process so that if and when this does happen, the guilty can be made accountable.
- what's your side of the story on being unreachable 14 hours after the event?
- did you offer AirBnB credit or compensation to the victim to stay elsewhere during this?
I don't know the company's "side of the story", and would be surprised if it was ever really discussed in any way aside from steps taken to remedy this situation... But as this suggests, they apparently need, above their "urgent" number, a "Bat-Phone" for severe cases.
But the guy calling with a police report on his entire place being completely trashed? The calls for the support staff to have a Bat-Phone to someone at a very high level, if not the top.
"They have offered to help me recover emotionally and financially, and are working with SFPD to track down these criminals."
So they sold a fad product (cereal) at the right time to make a little bit of money. Just tells me they have no moral integrity (which explains the craigslist email spamming).
So they struggled to make rent in SF a while. Who told them to stay in an expensive city with no savings? That's bad financial planning, and they could've bootstrapped their startup in Austin.
Oh, and they made a startup that is illegal in many parts of US, and manage to dupe investors to give them hundreds of millions. Now they won't even give financial help to a girl whose life they help tear to shreds.
Sounds like upstanding company/fellows to me.
Regardless of their legal responsibility, I would think that it was in their best interest to pay up in this type of situation. For example, a guarantee of say $10,000 for any damages (which AirBnB can then try and recoup from the perpetrator) would go a long way to making people feel more secure about renting out their apartment. That, along with a warning to store personal documents off-site, would reduce this type of event to being more of a nuisance than absolutely destroying someone. I would even think that that $10k limit could be waived in exceptional cases like this one.
What can you say on the 24/7 "urgent" line, which sounds like an important feature even for cases less dramatic than this one?
Same here. Great model, glad it works for some people, but the only price I'd take to rent out my house - with my personal items in it - is the price of replacing my house and personal items.
Exactly. No insurance will cover this type of transaction if the informally renting out your place is illegal in your locale. On top of that, you have to worry about your own safety. 99.999% of the time you'll be fine, but taking that risk is a very personal choice.
So here's a suggestion: acknowledge publicly that this incident exposed ways in which the service could be improved and offer to make this one host whole as compensation for that value. Solves everybody's problems in one fell swoop without accepting blame for something that isn't Airbnb's fault (and more importantly without resorting to blaming the victim - not the host's fault either). I'll bet it would cost far less than the usual media blitz companies commonly use to repair their images after incidents such is this. Consider it a good investment in the company's future.
Even if they didn't ransack my place completely, as happened to the unfortunate author - I would be concerned about unintentional damage to my property that I might not discover till too late. Renting out something as private as my primary place of residence just seems like a generally bad idea, especially when I am not around to constantly check in on it. Even if I got to meet them, and they seemed like nice people whats to stop them from leaving without paying if they accidentally broke my TV ?
As the service expands, and becomes more craigslist-y (in terms of audience) I can only see problems like this getting worse, and apart from implementing some kind of guest / host rating system (like ecommerce portals do with sellers) I see no clear solution to the problem.
The risk/reward trade-offs don't seem to be understood by most AirBnB landlords (99.99% chance of earning $100, 0.01% chance of losing $50k+). Even though this is strongly positive expected value, for a family that can't afford to lose $50k this is a game of russian roulette.
My heart goes out to the author of this; I hope the person who did this to her is put in jail, and the system (AirBnB) that enabled that person prevents landlords who can't afford the financial & emotional risk from listing properties going forward.
This is one those places where laws make sense to me; the average person needs to be protected from unknowingly gambling with their family's future.
What kind of laws do you suggest?
Also interesting: limiting vacation rentals to accredited investors.
(edit: and requiring places like AirBnB to verify those requirements before you can list with them)
Protective laws have very high hidden costs. These costs are hard to quantify and routinely are neglected when discussing pros and cons of said laws.
I am speaking out against mandatory insurance of your own property. Yes, there will be cases where people are underinsured. But mandatory insurance would make some people overinsured.
There is a long argument to be made for balancing this tradeoff, but in short: Owners are in a better position to judge whether they should insure their property than lawmakers and thus it should be up to them (again: as long as their property doesn't have a high probability of damaging other people; in such cases mandatory insurance might be reasonable).
The basic problem is that a "people know what's best for themselves" policy screws over dumb people for the simple reason that they don't.
Car insurance is a very interesting thing to legislate, because although the expected value of buying insurance is slightly negative, when you factor in the economies of scale on dealing with someone else's car getting repaired (figuring out if a bill is over market, handling multiple bills, tracking any medical expenses, etc), purchasing car insurance is strongly positive EV.
I think landlord insurance is similar.
>> Car insurance is different, because it also covers damages you inflict on others and other people's property.
Landlord insurance of course also covers this (if your property catches fire while you're renting it out, you may very well be legally responsible, if a previous renter breaks in and steals the new renters belongings you are probably legally responsible, etc).
Regardless, it seems based on what you said that you might be in favor of requiring renters to buy insurance. Is this correct?
If yes, please explain why. If not, please tell me what's different here. I'm genuinely confused why you said what you said.
Probably not worth to be codified as a law, after all, some may choose to bypass it, but other than that there are plenty of companies selling it (vacation properties and rentals existed long before AirBnB), and AirBnB could benefit from linking to those vendors.
Overstating the risk by a factor of ten thousand is a very substantial exaggeration.
It's hard for human beings to understand very large and very small numbers, so to put that in context, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Road_traffic_safety says about ten people are killed per billion vehicle kilometers in most developed countries, so perhaps five people per billion passenger kilometers. So you have a one in ten million chance of getting killed by riding about twenty kilometers in a car.
Surely you would not advocate making laws to "protect" "the average person" "from unknowingly gambling with their family's future" by traveling tens of kilometers by car, thus possibly orphaning their children?
So the risk of this happening to you is not like the risk of dying by traveling 20 kilometers by car, but more like the risk of dying by traveling 700 kilometers by car.
(Of course that's assuming that past performance is some kind of a guide to future results. It could be that all kinds of tweakers are going to get on Airbnb now and trash things that one of their friends has had a taste, or it could be that future people thinking of doing this kind of thing will be deterred by the rapid arrest of the apparent culprit in this case.)
Perhaps, but the chance of losing >$100 one way or another (negligence, accidents, outright theft) is going to be a lot greater than 0.01% anyway.
This could happen (especially if people get scared off by one-in-a-million crimes like this one) but it isn't economically rational. The marginal cost of having someone stay in your spare bedroom is often very small, even negative. This is never the case for commercial hotels.
I would go as far as to say that commercial hotels only exist at all because of an information deficiency: on the traveler's side, about the available spare bedrooms, and on the host's side, about the trustworthiness of the traveler. (Except in exceptional cases, say, Gualeguaychú, which has enormous tourism, dwarfing the city's population for a few weeks a year, and nothing the rest of the time. But I still stayed in a spare room with some random family I met on the street when I went there for Carnaval, not in a hotel.)
It occurs to me that the people with the strongest incentives to trash someone's apartment like this would be hotel owners and managers. Many of them might not be willing or able to do it themselves, but they could certainly hire someone else.
They won't be replaced, just added to. Many travelers prefer the local flavor to some sterile hotel.
There's a reason hotels exist, and there's a reason why it's a bad idea to hitch-hike, or even worse, stay with people you don't know.
If I'm going traveling, I'm sure as hell in "untrusting" mode since I don't have a clue what the locals are like.
There's strangers as in "local resident I see each day but don't know", and there's strangers as in "I've just traveled to a completely different country and have no clue who this person is"
Wanting to trust everyone and believing majority of people are good is a nice hippy dream. There's some nasty horrible people out there.
Bullshit. Live in fear of strangers your whole life or trust the basic humanity of strangers. Either way you're still going to die of heart disease like the rest of us. Why don't you live in constant fear of that?
Stranger danger is a result of a fear-mongering media. Are you seriously worried about serial killers? Do you know how few of them there are and how freaking many people there are in the world?
People love to live in fear of things like strangers because it's immediate and controllable. They can just choose to stay away from them. It gives people a sense of control. Heart disease is long-term and amorphous. It's harder to gain immediate relief from fear of that.
By all means, don't leave a bunch of cash around while staying at a stranger's house. Take reasonable precautions. But fearing people by default is irrational.
Strawman. I don't live in fear of strangers. They don't haunt my dreams or make me break out in cold sweat or make me stop going places. But I keep my eye out, because I am not stupidly naive about it.
It's not as irrational as you think, either. The majority of people are decent, or society wouldn't exist at all. However, the non-decent ones tend to seek out travelers and other people who can be victimized. This is why the best advice to give to your kids is that they can probably trust anyone they walk up to if they have a serious problem, but anyone who approaches them for anything out-of-the-ordinary should probably be treated with great skepticism. Statistically speaking there are many situations, such as traveling, where you are disproportionately likely to encounter the non-decent types. Ignore this fact at your own peril.
However I believe one should not indulge in it.
This faith is very precious and this is exactly why it is a sin to rely upon it in the wrong circumstances.
I live in Japan, that has a very low crime rate, but I found it very interesting when they told me "Don't leave anything valuable at the office. There is very little chance that something might happen, but can you imagine how you will feel and act towards your colleagues if something happens..."
What you value you must protect. Although it sounds controversial, this means that it is your obligation to protect your faith to the goodness of people from the ones that could destroy it.
I'll take my hotel room thankyou.
A woman hitchhiked through the middle east dressed as a bride to promote world peace and was murdered and raped.
Are either of these anecdotes indicative of people's experiences when travelling? No. Is there potential danger in relying heavily on stranger's good intentions? Perhaps.
Put me in mind of this story:
Guest rating system is even harder, as unless you're hardcore traveler, your use of AirBnB might be limited to once or twice a year. This would also penalize any new user to the service.
Please don't let them steal this too.
I'm really sorry for your bad experience, but remember:
- You can still live strong and free.
- People are still essentially good.
- You can still think optimistically.
- You can still trust others.
There are bad people out there and some of them will want to hurt you. You don't have to sacrifice who you really are because of them. You just have to live a little bit differently.
Don't let them take away you really are. Believe it or not, that would be much worse than what they've already done.
Lots of well wishes for your quick recovery.
Out of every 100 people, 98 are absolutely wonderful human beings, 1 is an asshole, and 1 is a lunatic. My experience out of doing retail for a few years.
Experiment indicates that the majority (65%) are not: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment
I am sorry to be a downer, and I agree that it is nice to pretend that people are essentially good. Ignoring the Milgram results, however, leads us to forget why we have to maintain societies with complex crime deterrent schemes, and why we should not trust anonymous individuals who cannot be located for punishment.
"[H]alf ... were female, and their rate of obedience was virtually identical to that of the male participants." "Where participants had to physically hold the "learner's" arm onto a shock plate, ... 30 percent of participants completed the experiment."
That experiment deals with ability to disobey authority, not with the basic goodness of the people performing the actions. Nearly 100% of the people performing the actions questioned what they were doing. That indicates they knew it was wrong, instinctively and didn't wish to do it. But we are well trained to listen to authority, and the authority figure was telling them to continue.
This actually backs up the idea that people are essentially good. But it also provides evidence for the idea that most people can be easily lead into violating their natural conscience.
Studies of innate "goodness" performed on children reveal that most people, from birth, have an innate moral conscience that we would consider 'good'. I'll see if I can find a link to back this up.
Here we go: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/01/science/01human.html?adxnn...
One of the important aspects I'm trying to maintain with my kids is a right to reply and express their opinion. My eldest's teacher goes against this, she demands "do it first time" whilst I demand a response - he can refuse but he can't ignore a request, if he can reason his way out/in to something then that's far better IMO than blind obedience.
It can be a useful simplification in the sense that one needs a child to obey commands like "don't touch the hot stove" and "don't run in to the road" ("stop" covers both).
For instance, while your son's teacher may assign him some silly work, while there is no reason to do this work other than the teacher said so, he should learn to work within the framework and do the work anyway because he is subject to the teacher in his current circumstances. If the teacher, however, assigns him to physically harm another student or participate in another morally objectionable act, he should refuse to comply. Things go much smoother this way than they do if people are constantly nagging and arguing over things that really have no incident; much energy could be saved by both your son and his teacher by compliance with non-useful but non-harmful requests rather than disrupting the flow of instruction and encouraging further disorder and disrespect to authority.
As far as I know, very few people teach their kids that it's OK to question authority (within reason - and yes, respect authority always. If you're in a teachers classroom, you follow their rules.)
// I'm not teaching my kids to be anarchists ;0) But equally well I'm not happy for them to be drones or to accept the word of others without reflection on the truth/moral good/right action.
>while there is no reason to do this work other than the teacher said so
// That's a pretty good reason and one that, within the school framework is hard to argue against. The only sorts of arguments that will work against such reasoning are those arguing for a greater moral good or similar.
>Things go much smoother this way than they do if people are constantly nagging and arguing over things that really have no incident;
Who decides what has no incident. Things that matter to one don't to another.
Let me give an example of the sorts of issues that he currently has to address, they're pretty low level: The school has a policy where the teachers lead a class out at a time from the building to be met by parents/carers. The teacher tells them to put their coats on, but it's often too hot to do so and my lad is there in summer in a jumper and coat (causing a minor harm to himself) because he's being obedient. Weather here is very changeable. His jumper and coat should rightly be in his bag. I say he should tell the teacher "it's too hot to wear my coat, can I put it in my bag please". The teacher is possibly menopausal and may be having difficulty assessing the temperature - should he just put his coat on, or should he make a [albeit small] stand with the possible outcome being the greater comfort of all the class [ie they wear appropriate levels of clothing]?
>disrespect to authority
I don't consider it disrespectful to question someone’s reason or motive in giving an instruction. Indeed if you can't explain why one should carry out your instructions then you need to question them.
I could be wrong but I think the child questioning the reason to put on a coat in hot weather today, if they learn to reason an argument, is better equipped to question those who have authority in more vital questions tomorrow.
If something has no incident then why demand it's fulfilment?
If you promised someone "I'll do whatever it takes for you to have a good time while you're visiting", you probably aren't imagining that it will involve a triple homicide and a liquor store robbery. If it starts there, you'll likely refuse. But if you slowly build up to that, the pressure to keep complying with your agreement builds....
I think it's fair to say that the vast majority of people, in normal circumstances, are essentially good.
The Milgram experiment was not intended to be "extreme". They expected less than 3% of participants to actually torture their (fake) victim to death. The U.S. group was to act as a control, such that they could proceed to compare results in Germany, for instance, where the Holocaust had so recently occurred. Following the unexpected American results, Milgram simply did not bother to perform the actual intended experiment in Germany.
In real life, under ordinary conditions, most people simply act decent and it does not seem to be fear of punishment.
People might not be essentially 'good' - but most people are rational and lucid enough to stay within the bounds of what's socially acceptable .. even if they're unable to empathise.
This was a random nutter / group of nutters .. stuff like this, unfortunately, happens all the time - although, thankfully, on a minimal scale.
The issue for me, is related to some fundamental flaws in AirBnB's business model .. flaws which are seem largely absent from the alternative of CouchSurfing.
I think you will see 60% of people will do horrendous things for a little bit of money.
I think if you just look at your day to day interactions, most people are decent. I doubt many people are trying to rob you, hit you or actively steal from you. Sure there are outliers, but the majority don't do this.
Lastly, as a reformed paranoid "everyone is out to get me", I would make the observation that the energy you put out there has maybe 70% to do with the types of reactions you get back.
A friendly, open-faced "Hello" gets a hell of a different response from a shrouded, closed off, nervous "Hello".
Try and be more free for 3 days and see if the experience you have with others is better.
I've been betrayed by a lot of people I trusted, and I've had to do some things (not for my own good) that I'm not proud of myself. I'm in the process of blogging it (http://shenglong.posterous.com/a-prelude-to-eternity), but unfortunately, it's very long and I've only had time to finish the prelude. In the end, I've seen what people are capable of when they think they can't be held accountable, and that's the primary driver of my cynicism.
Regardless, I still treat every person I meet with respect. It's just, in the back of my head, I'm cautious about what could happen.
Edit: I don't know if I can post links like this. If not, let me know and I'll edit it out. It's for reference, not for publicity.
It truly saddens me to know people don't believe in the innate goodness of fellow human beings.
Having said that, I have an overdeveloped sense of vengeance, and I do not trust the law to protect me suitably. I wish I were better at the approach taken by Gandhi, but I have not internalized his wisdom yet, though I recognize it (so that gives me hope).
"Should I steal this?" is always weighed more heavily against "Will I get caught?" and/or "Will this cause me guilt or affect my self-worth?" rather than "Is it wrong?"
The fear thing made me think something else entirely: does it count as being good if a person acts good out of fear? (Of being caught/punished.) Everyone's answer to that question may also colour their views on peoples' goodness.
Is she worse than a mother that loves her child? Is she better because she can 'do the right thing' even though her feelings might opposed?
Let's just say that, I've been betrayed, and I'm very aware of the circumstances needed to be betrayed by people I care about -- some of them are impossibly extreme (and some aren't so much), but they do exist, and you do have to navigate that. Whether the person would be apologetic or not after the fact really doesn't enter into it.
If one lives, I think you automatically develop protections against other people. I think that you've set up a protection zone around yourself just like everyone else. But it's a good one -- instead of withdrawing, you simply force the surface interaction to be a positive one (as much as you can). Sometimes this translates, sometimes it can backfire. For what it's worth, I think this is the right way to go. You can be wary, but still positive about your interactions.
But there's a necessary bit of detachment -- I can wave to people on the street, but I'm not going to let just anyone into my apartment.
You might object that what you say applies only to strangers and not to those you trust, but then you would be forgetting that everyone you trust was once a stranger.
Simply walking down the street is a testament to one's notion that in general humans are good and that that goodness is worthwhile enough to risk the occasional social or even physical injustice.
First, I'd like to be clear that I'm not advocating for or against AirBnB (and my sole experience as a buyer of accommodation via AirBnB was positive).
It should be transparent that different actions have different levels of risk and reward. Often by accepting higher risk (e.g. accepting the risk of letting strangers into your apartment) you can get higher reward (e.g. some money, a sense of community and connection, etc). But risk is risk, and so you can also get anti-rewards, sometimes huge ones (home ransacked and burglarized and vandalized, identity stolen, sense of life violated, etc).
If you want to draw conclusions from events like this, they should be about modulating your risk tolerance, not about setting your risk tolerance to zero (which is incoherent anyway). You might decide that although things like this happen, it's a risk you're willing to take. Or maybe not. You might decide that if you're going to rent your apartment out to sight-unseen strangers, you're going to put all your identity documents in a safety deposit box first, to slightly limit the maximum damage. Or you might decide that that would offset the benefit too much, and thereby just go back to the no-renting-to-strangers option. Or you might decided to take martial arts lessons, and not let strangers in. Or you might decided to install security cameras, with real-time transmission to offsite backup, so that if something bad happens you'll always be able to strike back and regain a sense of control. Whatever. All of those options are coherent alternatives, and all are a far cry from 'never leave your own home, never let anyone in'.
It's certainly true that simply walking down the street requires trust, and it's certainly true that transforming strangers into friends is a process that requires risking trust, but both of those _can_ be done with very small trusts. Or they can be done with large trust, which has greater risk, greater possible reward, and greater possible injury.
Most people act 'good' most of the time. That's why this whole society thing stays cohesive. But, everyone has a probability to act badly. Just consider someone who may have had a stroke that considerably changes their personality.
A small portion of people act 'evil' under more common situations.
It's odd that airbnb doesn't seem to risk mitigate these sorts of black swan events. They wouldn't lose much having a 100% loss redemption clause. It would seem that the property owner would be much less likely to game the system than the visitor.
Our house was broken in to by youths looking for drug money. It took me a couple of years to get over the sense of not wanting to trust people.
The sense of betrayal was considerably enhanced by two factors - I was on a neighbourhood committee with the mother of one of the youths that broke in; an amount of cash was taken that belonged to a group that we volunteered with to help children on the estate from whence the youths came.
IMO the greatest harm was stealing [for a time] my trust in others.
People kept empathising with me as to how violated we must feel, how awful having people in our home. None of that mattered to us really though.
The keyword is enough. Certainly if everyone was too empathetic that would neither be good. But I do think the world would be a better place if more people did not set the line of when to stop caring and empathizing so close to Now and Me. If they picked a slightly less steep atttenuation function then we would not have so many perfectly good people that were bigoted Xist bastards when it came to topic X. or peopele who were just following orders. or just having a bit of fun. or well at least it is not me. or on and on. for example.
Some people are very badly affected by trauma. But most do get over it and the almost same person is actually a wiser slightly more careful person. A bit less idealist, yep, but that's growing up.
I've been a happy AirBnb guest on a few occasions; the one time I had someone's whole usual studio apartment I found it a bit strange how much of their life was left on display for me – like the host's prescriptions still in the fridge! – but of course respected their privacy.
Each time I've been a guest, we've seen photos of each other on the site, and the keys were handed off in person. While I didn't expect anyone to stop by and check on me during my stays, I always had the impression the host or host's friends were nearby.
A guest with criminal intent would try to pick a place for a longer stay, in a more anonymous building, with a host known to be out-of-town. But then again, that's also what someone seeking to burglarize any vacation-emptied residence would do. More or less this same sort of crime could happen without AirBnb, or perhaps be enabled by nothing more than tracking public tweets/'check-ins' to predict unit vacancy.
(Another development I eventually expect in this progression of tech-mediated sharing: a bad-faith host who surveils their guests.)
It's a hell of a drug -- my roommate was once a normal young professional, but methamphetamine use turned him into a monster with bizarre, destructive habits around the house, and dark, evil plotting against friends and us roommates.
He would be sober and make normal plans to go to work, fix up the house, have friends over, then he would get really high and skip work, destroy the concrete floor by "power washing" it, and throw a tweaker party with loud music at 3AM, and threaten everyone that asked him to turn it down.
There was violence, abuse, and damage to the property. I removed myself from the apartment for my own safety, and ended up forfeiting thousands of dollars in security deposit for what he did when left completely on his own.
I obviously don't know the situation here, but all of a sudden my thoughts of again hosting CouchSurfers or AirBnB guests is shaken. There are some bad people out there, made even more unstable with drug use, and these sites offer a vector in which they can enter your life.
Could be drug addicts. But my hunch says it could be some known persons to the unfortunate host, playing some dreadful prank. Reasons:
1) From the blog:
'All the while, Dj Pattrson was sending me friendly emails, thanking me for being such a great host, for respecting his/her privacy…. telling me how much he/she was enjoying my beautiful apartment bathed in sunlight, how much he/she particularly loved the “little loft area” upstairs… with an “lol” closing one sentence'
This suggests motivation to cause a greater hurt. Thieves will just steal. Drug addicts may not punctually mail all the while.
2) Also I suspect the name DJ Pattrson, may have been carefully chosen. Note the author calls herself 'EJ' (and 'DJ' sort of rhymes). I tried jumbling Pattrson for some meaningful word, but could not get any.
Operating a property remotely via AirBnB implies all sorts of risks, which makes me think that it might be an unsustainable model, because a black swan event might ruin the property to such extent that it offsets the income made in all the other cases.
AirBnB handles property promotion and property booking on the Internet -- that's fine -- but when it advertised itself it included in the message ways to do property administration (as in rent-your-home-while-away). While this is not connected intricately with their core business, it is the model that some owners assumed by default, without realizing the risks involved or the fact that you are still exposed to one-in-one-hundred unpleasant events.
If they manage to warn about this upfront similar to the way Craiglist does, without losing their brand and their community support, then owners will become aware of those issues and take the necessary protection (by i.e. requesting guarantees/deposits/passports or by using their social network to validate the guests). If they don't, I'm afraid a couple of bad PR articles will be enough to destroy their reputation.
P.S.: I haven't heard of hotels managed remotely; there are some hotels where you check in automatically and you get the keys via some sort of robot system but in the morning there is someone handling the checkout, the cleaning etc. In addition they have your credit card on file, your passport, probably your cam photo when you picked up the keys and the most you can destroy is a hotel room (still a great deal of value but somehow limited and the hotel probably has insurance for it). But automation didn't pick up at scale in the hotel industry. In the current state, it thrives partially because the reception provides the safety-checks and balances needed to prevent and offset these black swan events. I'm not sure the remote administration model is scalable or even manage-able due to this.
It sounds like the person who trashed the OP's apartment /enjoyed/ trashing it -- it didn't sound like someone inconsiderate, or in a hurry; it sounded like someone who deliberately and knowingly ruined the place. The security measures you suggest won't stop that sort of attacker.
that is the point why they take down your credit card data before giving you the keys. Your vandalizing after that is just an entertainment your card will be charged for.
>The security measures you suggest won't stop that sort of attacker.
so you think the attacker has perfect credit history and there is absolutely no sense in checking it?
The interesting thing will be the gmail account's IP history. I suspect SFPD will get the IP history and I hope this DJ Pattrson logged in from an identifiable location (or that the phone number, presumably a prepaid, is linkable to location and identity somehow).
SFPD is one of the better police forces to have to work with on this; I'd sure rather be dealing with them than Oakland or various other East Bay police forces. You might also want to involve REACT (http://www.reacttf.org/), the Silicon Valley (incl SF) high tech crime task force. They'll be good at tracking someone down through online identity, compared to local police.
I wonder if AirBnB has offered the host/victim some AirBnB credit to stay elsewhere while her place is being de-trashed.
I check into lots of hotels and about 50% of the time they require an actual government-issued photo ID; I assume for room-trashing situations and the probably more-common situation where somebody racks up a huge bill and then steals away in the middle of the night leaving nothing but a stolen CC number.
It's a lot more difficult, and the legal penalties are much steeper, for forging a government-issued identity document than for using a prepaid credit card with a false name on it.
I agree identity validation, and being there to hear loud noises/odd behavior makes it harder / less fun for an attacker -- but this is not what allows hotels to operate effectively. Some percentage of hotel registrations surely occur with stolen passports, etc. Hotels rather build this cost into their business model in a manner similar to an insurance company.
Because hotels rent so many rooms at a time, they can treat these costs in the same way that your car insurance company treats accident risk -- something that is always happening that can be offset in real time by honest people using the hotel as per the contract.
Letting people into your home does not have that risk-sharing property -- it's insuring a single driver instead of tens of thousands -- you open yourself up to a very real risk of losing a lot of money.
(Not to mention that hotels are not personally attached to the rental rooms).
The attacker in the story must have somehow gotten stolen credit card information...
A black swan event is something that is very difficult to predict,often because it lies outside normal parameters and expectations.
Renting your place out to strangers who then trash it might be surprising, but hardly beyond the realms of imagination or expectation.
"... emphasize that the customer service team at airbnb.com has been wonderful..."
reconcilable with this:
"...My next call was to airbnb.com - I tried their "urgent" line, their email address, their general customer support line. I heard nothing - no response whatsoever - until the following day, 14 sleepless hours later, and only after a desperate call to an airbnb.com freelancer I happen to know helped my case get some attention..."
Does that mean you'd have to know someone who works at AirBnB before you can get customer service? I've heard similar stories about Google, too.
One of their suggestions was that airbnb add immediately a 24/7 customer service line, which would have fixed the initial delay.
I think it's best compared to hitchhiking:
Is it cheap? Hell yes.
Is it consistant/reliable? no.
Is it as safe as a bus/plane? usually yes, sometimes no in a big way.
I travelled in my youth (5 years ago :p) around several states via thumb. It was a calculated risk I was taking, and both I and other hitchhikers I knew were aware of this risk and took steps to mitigate it (carrying mace, turning down rides– one friend would take a photo of the plates and text them to a friend each ride, informing the driver that he/she was not anonymous).
AirBnB is like this: you save/make some money, but rather than a Hotel (or bus company) being on the hook for a bad outcome, YOU are on the hook. If you're not prepared for that, don't do it. It's not "easy money."
I travel full time. I'm a nomad. I would rent thru AirBnB for 365 nights a year if they provided the service that they originally set out to provide. I think they changed their focus, and rather than building an organic community of people renting their places to each other, they are pursuing the expensive travel market. This makes sense given the profits are higher and it is easier to get vacation rentals in the system than individuals. But they're not the ebay of travel anymore, they've become a HomeAway clone.
They also really need to change their policies on communication- they inhibit our ability to talk to the owners before renting, and this is worsened given that many owners may not speak english. Letting us call them or email them is not going to want us to cut AirBnB out of the deal, because the primary value AirBnB provides is the fraud protection of letting us pay by credit card.
There's no reason for any company of this size not to have a 24/hour hotline. It may be midnight in california, but it is 5pm somewhere. You have listings around the world.
AirBnB's priorities seem to have shifted away from building an organic "ebay of travel" with regular people to maximum growth in revenue, by going after the high end travel market, with a distinct lack of customer service. This may not be intentional, but I'm part of the market-- a heavy use part of the market- and that's how it is looking to me.
So, 24 hour hotline, policies for dealing with things that go wrong, to help customers, and letting the people use the site communicate are the changes I'd make. I bet you'll find that more communications means more confidence and more nights rented.
I initially thought that their comparison http://www.launchfeed.com/launches/view/1308830151 is weird. But, that makes sense now.
CouchSurfing relies upon (and in turn reinforces) a culture of good-will.
Because AirBnB converts the CouchSurfing model into a simple cash transaction - I think a lot of the positive norms that are inherent to CouchSurfing are lost.
Of course none of this makes what happened to the poor person in this case OK or even remotely acceptable. Nonetheless, I think understanding why things happen is a good step towards coming up with a solution.
Maybe if AirBnB can get some of the personality of the Couchsurfing community, it can get some of these positive norms that go with it as well. The trick would be how to do that without losing the low social barrier to entry they have now.
Maybe the effect of this will be to make people want personal connections (via fb graph or whatever) to their AirBnB guests, or at least requiring minimum numbers of positive reviews from known sources (to prevent the sockpuppet/shill issue).
I wonder if your renter's or homeowners insurance might cover this kind of thing. If it doesn't generally, it'd be awesome if AirBnB could work with a third party insurer (per jurisdiction) to offer optional insurance to hosts (and guests) against this kind of thing.
And then, of course, there are going to be rare catastrophes like this one -- or worse. Eventually, if the system gets large enough, there will be a sexual assault case. I wonder if Airbnb has pre-baked disaster scenario plans. Eventually they'll have to deal with the emotional, PR, legal and political fallout.
It's still one of the things that keeps me queasy about listing my extra bedroom. I'd guesstimate the replacement value of the contents of my apartment is circa $50k and I'm loathe to gamble with such.
I'd be more worried about a guest setting the house on fire, by accident or not. Fire-damage can easily clock in north of $500k. Good luck explaining the AirBnB concept to your insurance company after a stranger turns out to be "not available anymore" (stolen CC, etc.).
I think you have to be incredibly naive to rent out your personal apartment on AirBnB. The downside risk is virtually unbounded (and lest you think I'm exaggerating: what happens if a tweaker AirBnB renter burns down your building, and your neighbors die in the fire? Hello, civil judgment.)
That sounds like an excellent matter to leave in the hands of the users who vote for/against stories.
It's just too tempting to not reflexively upvote a juicy title.
Sure, it's easy to think "look, YC changed the title because it gave a bad light to a YC company!" and that might be part of it.
But the truth is that this story only got the spotlight here because it had AirBnB in the submission title, but the events it describes are not really specific to AirBnB. It could have happened through many other rental services.
Also it's typically frowned upon changing the title of a post for the submission.
That doesn't make the original title in any way inaccurate. Is this like saying, oh my Google apps account was compromised and all my business data was leaked - but really its unfair to post a story "My Google account was hacked", it could have happened to any online service.
A poor excuse for deflecting what is obviously a problem with their service. Is YC simply going to moderate posts about their own startups at will? Especially when everything is, fact for fact, true?
I had a HN account for a few months, my posts were getting generally positive responses. Then I made a comment containing criticism of the YC startup the article was about. I think it was fair criticism, I just gave my reasons I couldn't trust their service enough to use it. It was my highest-rated comment ever, and sparked a fair bit of discussion so I think the community tended to at least agree that I had a point. The next day HN got a lot slower and every new comment I made stayed at 1 point permanently and were never replied to. It seemed funny, I was used to getting at least a few points on my quickest made comments. When I logged out everything was fast again and my new comments were nowhere to be seen. I had been shaddowbanned and slowbanned.
So your question should not be "Is YC simply going to...". They already do that.
I do have to disagree on the likelihood that this particular scenario would've happened to the host through other rental agencies. For her explanation as to why, see paragraph 14 overall - or paragraph 4 under the heading "This was my home" - in her post. She addresses Craigslist; to add to that, I know that VRBO and HomeAway (the two major entire-unit vacation rental sites) accept payment for the host's listing only but absolutely everything else is left between the two parties, including verifications, contracts (if any), and payment method. The key relevant difference between those sites and Airbnb is that Airbnb blocks both host and guest from exchanging outside contact and identity information until a reservation is completed through their system. The reason for that is obvious, as Airbnb is a different business model, and needs to ensure that they receive their percentage for leads they provide. But one result of that policy is that taking independent security measures are impossible until both host and guest are already obligated and on the hook (hosts are penalized by appearing lower in the listings if they cancel a confirmed reservation from their end). The victim admits her naivete in thinking that because Airbnb demands to handle several aspects of the booking, that there are other levels of safety and verification implicit that in fact do not exist.
So yes, hosts can get ripped off using other listing services as well. But it is also made readily apparent that one should protect themselves on those sites, and users aren't actively blocked from gathering information to do so.
Even if you are present in an apartment yourself, it is still too risky to allow a complete stranger to sleep in the room next to you. How much verification can be done by you or airbnb? The Norwegian shooter had no criminal history that could have been caught by any verification. So how can you be comfortable with allowing a stranger into your home with no verification done at all from your side?
I think there should be a service which will allow you to rent the room only to your friends or to friends of friends but no further than that. This friend list can be from facebook, linkedin or Google+. This will reduce the chances of getting a rental but give peace of mind that you are not letting some hardened criminal into your home.
The internet is not "almost run over [with] scam artists, spammers, pedos etc." They are visible and use anonymity to do what they do on the internet, certainly, but it is far from overrun.
Secondly, is it really too risky to be asleep without a locked door between you and the world? That is a scary, closed world to live in. You are also wrong to blame the victim; they say themselves they made a mistake not to do more verification, but the blame can only be on the perpetrator †.
Finally, let's not forget that most sexual assaults and rapes  are carried out by friends and acquaintances, so limiting your contact to friends of friends is unlikely to make you significantly safer.
Overall, I think your conclusions are the worst to draw from this attack. Take care, but don't go crazy keeping out the "other".
† It might be useful to make a distinction between casual responsibility and moral responsibility. The victim may have done something that helped cause the attack, but they are not at fault.
 According to (admitted a random googling) the American Centre for Victims of Crime, 77% of rapes are committed by non-strangers. http://www.ncvc.org/ncvc/main.aspx?dbName=DocumentViewer&...
I'd imagine that's because those people tend to get let into one's home more than a stranger, which means the stat doesn't help your point much.
That is shocking.
They never showed up.
So you're saying AirBnB should advocate against rentals while you're away?
Or are you saying, if you want to rent while you're gone for a week, that you should get a week's worth of self-storage (which I've never heard of, but might exist in a city), move all your important belongings to the self-storage unit, and move them back after the guest is gone? That seems quite onerous.
I think people should use AirBnB however they see fit, but understand the risks in doing so and take whatever precautions are realistic to lessen them.
This situation would still suck, but not be nearly as bad/scary/expensive if the victim hadn't left cash, credit cards, expensive electronics, legal documents etc. in the apartment. I'm just recommending easy steps to lower the potential downside and increase the overall EV of being an AirBnB provider given that this sort of nightmare is a slight but real possibility.
The idea of renting out my place with no recourse to insurance if it is destroyed is far too insane to contemplate for me.
Screw your bizmodel.
Run a credit and criminal background check - and charge 4%.
AirBnB should be the one matching photos to real, living individuals since not everyone renting out their home is likely to be as through as a company with a well-established procedure.
I think if you are going to do it, you really have to be careful.
1. You should probably be someone that works from home / is home often. At least then you can monitor your place more often. You wont be seeing inside the room, but you could at least hear if anything insane is going on in it.
2. You should not have much by way of valuables around your place, nothing easy to steal. The first place I rented on AirBnB was like this. There was no TV/dvd player/ps3, the host had a laptop which he took with him. It consisted mostly of cheap Ikea-ish furniture. This works in my mind because it mitigates what can/can't be stolen.
This wont stop me from using AirBNB as a guest, but I was never comfortable with renting my own home anyway.
edit - if AirBNB kept a drivers license scan on file to confirm the credit card was the users, that would be helpful. I know that is difficult with privacy laws, etc, but when I check into a hotel I always have to show my ID to make sure it has my name on it....
Don't credit card companies prohibit this?
edit: or she..
- You cannot take everything with you, you have to leave stuff at your _home_ (all the documents mentioned for example).
- I won't try to claim that I can speak for the author, but I'd guess that the valuables lost are less a problem. The violation/emotional troubles seem to be worse.
- Giving the nature of the destruction (it seems so much on purpose, so carefully done) I don't even know if 'did not meet them in person first' would've helped. At least the author would recognize these guys again on the street, but I don't believe that it is proven that you would've sensed something that wrong.. It kind of reads like someone enjoyed a dark fetish by destroying random stuff.
In light of this article, if I ever rented my apartment out for a week, I would box up any sensitive documents, or particularly valuable items, and leave them at a friend's house.
I don't even know if 'did not meet them in person first' would've helped.
Getting a scan of a photo ID, matching it to the person, and possibly getting a current photo of them, along with a license plate number all would be reasonable measures that you could take in a five minute meeting. Not only would they give you more leverage in police investigations, they would probably deter people from trashing/taking your stuff.
The violation/emotional troubles seem to be worse.
Some of the violation comes from the feeling that she can't really do very much about it, and that she was totally unprepared for it. AirBnB offering a few tips, of the "here are some things people to do protect themselves, you might consider them" variety, seems totally reasonable.
2. Locked closet
I don't know the blogger in any way at all, but have to admit that my first thought was to wonder if this might've been arranged by a competing industry or service at all. Sounds a bit over the top to be a pre-conceived plan though. Doubt various hotel associations would be desperately unhappy to see this story though, you have to admit.
Between Google and AirBnB, I'm sure the police could have IP addresses of the perpetrator(s) and track them down unless they were particularly smart (and if they are particularly smart, they'd be picking bigger targets...).
All of a sudden AirBnB seems like a tough brand to keep clean -- at any time a host or guest (or frankly anyone) can either do something crazy or fabricate a story about doing something crazy.
I have very few tools at my disposal to verify these claims as a passive observer, so the net result is to trust the AirBnB system less.
If you want motive, here's one that you might be surprised to learn motivates a lot of crime: the guest needed money for drugs/debt/food/just wanted money, and thought he might get away with it.
Houses get broken into. People get mugged. There doesn't need to be a conspiracy for these things to happen.
I'd also be curious (but not enough to look into it further!) to know whether the lister made it clear in their profile that they would not be meeting the renter in person.
Could be a mixture of theft and then opportunistic/drug-fueled mischief. Backtracking, I wonder if someone put a group up to it, or suggested that AirBnB listers could be soft targets - opportunity for the thieves and also for someone putting them up to it.
Short of having the blog post taken down, even if a follow-up is added to the top of the post, this will be very damaging for AirBnB. I've used the site a few times successfully (though ended up thinking it was often more trouble than just using a cheap hotel) so hate to see this happen.