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pg 998 days ago | link | parent

I've just learned more about this situation, and it turns out Airbnb has been offering to fix it, from the very beginning. From the beginning they offered to pay to get her a new place and new stuff, and do whatever else she wanted.

The story Arrington wrote yesterday about Airbnb not offering to help was bullshit. He asked a company spokesman what Airbnb was doing to help her. The spokesman, who'd been told by their lawyers that he couldn't go into detail about that because of the precedent said "I can't comment on that." So Arrington, in typical Arrington fashion said "Well, unless you tell me I'm going to write that you're not willing to do anything for her." And he did. Really not cool.

I've talked to the Airbnb guys and they are already doing everything they could be doing to help this woman.

Even if you don't believe they are nice guys (which they are, among the nicest of all the people we've funded), do you really think they are so dumb that they don't realize it's not worth the bad PR to save money and effort in this situation?



mapgrep 998 days ago | link

In this response from Paul Graham we have an example of how this crisis could taint ALL Y Combinator companies. I say this as a fan of Mr Graham, Hacker News (which he created), and his essays. But this is 100 percent the wrong reaction by Paul to the sickening -- sickening! -- disclosure that Airbnb tried to get this guest to hush up the utter sacking of her apartment in order to close a funding round.

Paul, you should be condemning Airbnb's pathetically slow response (which you do not dispute), attempted cover up (which you do not dispute), long silence when they thought this was going to fizzle out and disappear (which you do not dispute), and mammoth hole in their security procedures (which you do not dispute).

Instead you are complaining about some detail of how TechCrunch covered this big story, and parroting a single, one-sided conversation you had with the people who have the most to lose from the situation.

If you want the lack of ethics on display at Airbnb to cast a PR taint over legit YC companies, this is exactly the way to do so.

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tjic 998 days ago | link

> you should be condemning Airbnb's pathetically slow response (which you do not dispute)

Yes, he does dispute it. Read his post.

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mapgrep 998 days ago | link

He really doesn't, though I can see how you might get that impression. In the post you suggest I re-read, Paul is referring to financial assistance, which will reasonably take a period of days to offer. When Paul says "Airbnb has been offering to fix it, from the very beginning," that may well be true.

But that statement does not dispute or otherwise speak to the fact that it was hard and time consuming for the customer to get in contact with Airbnb in the first place, just to get basic information and to let them know what happened. EJ said in her original post that it took 14 hours to get a call back from the "urgent" phone line -- and even then only after she contacted a friend who freelances for them.

(Edited for clarity)

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YuriNiyazov 998 days ago | link

Just so you know, the phrase "shocked -- shocked! --" (which you seem to be referencing here with your invocation of "sickening -- sickening! --") is a reference to the movie Casablanca, where it is uttered cynically by a corrupt police chief who is not shocked at all as he's been participating in the illegal activity himself from the very beginning. So, if you are genuinely sickened, it's inappropriate.

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mapgrep 998 days ago | link

I was not referencing that movie line; the movie line is itself a reference to a common style of emphasis that predates the movie by... well, by quite some time.

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ErrantX 998 days ago | link

The thing is, Paul; I am fully willing to believe that TC are grabbing the sensational as best they can - and twisting the story. I more than believe the spokesman spoke in careful legal terms and inadvertently caused the fuckfest. I can totally get that we are getting tiny snippets of the story - even from EJ herself.

however

EJ has posted a blog in which she clearly feels upset, distraught, confused and worried.

Whether legitimately or not she doesn't feel happy.

This is the point where a big corporation goes into PR drive. But a startup and indie company such as Airbnb should, and could, be doing this:

* Fuck laywers, who cares about legal when a person is upset and distraught

* The Company is in SF - go and meet her tomorrow, forget the internet and the blog, make the person feel safe and cared for

* Pursue the culprits like the plague, hire a PI and pressure the police. Call in your big-guns contacts in SF and the Valley. Get millionaires calling the PD until they have a task force on the issue. After all; it is the reputation of the company at stake

* Take this girl on an apartment hunting spree, buy her something nice and replace the kit she lost.

And then tell the internet about it!

Ultimately there are two factors to consider here. Firstly her welfare, of course. After that it is OK to think of the company. If you can combine these two factors then no one is going to moan at them. Yes, the ideas I set out there are "above and beyond" - but we live in this shitty culture where everyone seems to have to consult lawyers when the shit hits the fan. Speaking for myself, if I heard about this issue (even if I heard about it after the first blog post went viral) my first response would not be to call the lawyers and see what I could say, it would be to call the damn girl, find out she was in the same city and turn up on the damn doorstep with a lawyer and a phonebook of people to ring and fix the issue. Perhaps this is just me.

This company just got over $100m of funding; there appears to be cash to spare to make this right.

Going back to pont #1; for whatever the reason Airbnb have a customer who is feeling terrible, upset and distraught. And no amount of "we are working to help this women" comments are going to help that. Fix the girl's situation, the rest will follow naturally. Companies can be Samaritans as well.

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frossie 998 days ago | link

buy her something nice

If this is all playing out in her head the way she is blogging it, I don't think she wants something nice. First, she probably wants what nobody can giver her (her peace of mind back). Secondly, she probably wants her dignity back - and that is the kind of thing where only a totally honest public apology for any wrong AirBnB have done to her, real or imaginary will achieve.

I mean, if she perceives that they have publicly denied things that she believes are true, I don't think they can buy her off at this stage, so one is down to "Grovel long, grovel hard and make it believable".

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zavulon 998 days ago | link

If that's the case, either EJ or AirBnB are lying.

Just one example:

> I've talked to the Airbnb guys and they are already doing everything they could be doing to help this woman.

From EJ's post:

> I arranged and paid for my own transportation while dislocated (with Airbnb's assurances that this expense would be compensated - which it has not been)

If EJ is lying, it should be easy to prove. But even if that's the case, AirBnB has dropped the ball in pissing her off so much that she has to continue to make an effort to paint AirBnB in a negative light.

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iamelgringo 998 days ago | link

it turns out Airbnb has been offering to fix it, from the very beginning

No one really cares what Arrington wrote. Everyone knows Arrington's rep.

What people are upset about is how the blog post that Chesky wrote sounded like. His post sounded like...

"Ummm...here are our security features..."

The correct public and private response is:

"This is a horrific. This is unacceptable. As CEO, I'm not going to rest until this is made right. I've assigned 3 people to this problem to do whatever is necessary to make this right.

We are extremely concerned about this, and we have a lot of work to do to make sure something like this will never happen again. Safety is job 1." Of course backing up those words with actions.

That way, even if the lady is lying. Even if it's a hoax... Even if it's complete crap... it doesn't matter, because people know that you take this seriously, and you're pulling out all the stops.

If there's a follow up blog post that details more horror stories... And, you have indeed made those phone calls.. then you say, "I'm really sorry that our response has been less than what you have needed or less than what you expected. That's on me, (as CEO). I will personally make this right. Call this number, they will put you directly in contact with my cell phone. and, I will make this right." And, of course, backing up those words with actions.

That way, no one can accuse you of having a less than stellar response to this. You are above reproach...

Because you've done the right thing for the person. The right thing to do is to do the right thing for the person.

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frossie 998 days ago | link

Exactly. First, it doesn't matter if the AirBnB guys are nice or not - it wouldn't be the first time in the history of mankind that a nice guy did the wrong thing faced with a woman in distress.

The problem is that this woman sounds like everybody's friend/sister/cousin. She sounds totally believable, and her story taps into a fear that a reasonable person would have a priori with the AirBnB model ("what if I rent to a wacko?").

So there is zero point in nickel-and-diming her with whether it was 8 hours or 24 before she heard from them, whether the dude is in custody for this crime or another crime - the point is that this story is now apocryphal. There is no point arguing the facts - AirBnB must focus on the concerns that every single person out there who read that story now has.

For the record: I live in a popular holiday destination, and yet dismissed listing on AirBnB when I first became aware of them because I have a child in the house, and did indeed think "what if I rent to some wacko, risking my own safety is one thing, risking my child's is another". If AirBnB want to move beyond the so-young-they-feel-immortal single set, they have to plausibly deal with these fears.

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DanHulton 998 days ago | link

Arrington aside, EJ's own blog post here seems to contradict what you're saying.

The story she paints is one of AirBnB doing as much as they can in terms of damage control, but precious little in terms of repair.

If they've offered to "fix it", and are doing "everything they could be doing", why is she talking about feeling neglected? I quote:

"But the staff at Airbnb has not made a positive contribution to me personally or my situation in any way, particularly since June 30."

Is she lying? Is that what you're telling us? Or is there some grand miscommunication, where even EJ doesn't understand what AirBnB has offered?

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pg 998 days ago | link

I don't know her so I couldn't say.

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Terretta 998 days ago | link

Excuse me for strongly disagreeing, but one doesn't need to know her to answer whether she's lying.

The facts of what AirBnB is, or is not, doing to date are known and demonstrable.

So far, and after far too much time has passed, only words and assurances have surfaced. No one from AirBnB, nor you yourself, has mentioned any concrete assistance already provided directly to this AirBnB customer. In this very thread, the founder says, more or less, "We're here for you." What has that meant so far? What does it mean now?

Without knowing her, by seeing proof from AirBnB you would know if she is lying. If you don't know, that would imply you haven't seen proof of concrete support to date.

I recently listed a property on AirBnB. AirBnB could make $8,500 a year from me in fees -- it's a nice property. I'd hate to see it damaged.

You can see I have a high degree of interest in seeing how AirBnB handles customer service, to decide whether I should instead be using an old school Realtor™ or VRBO w/ manual listing and screening. I'm sure there are others thinking this same thing, and we early adopters talk. A lot.

Will AirBnB be like Nordstrom and Apple, or will it be like Chase Bank? So far, I'm seeing inaction followed by hand-waving once word got out. Let's see AirBnB's no-spin action approach if there is one.

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SemanticFog 998 days ago | link

@pg I think you should consider that your portfolio company is possibly not telling you the whole truth after they screwed up in a major way. I have no idea what happened -- just asking you to consider the possibility, which you seem to reject out of hand.

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newman314 998 days ago | link

Given that there are (at least) 2 sides to a story, don't you think you should have spoken to her instead of just taking what you have been told by Airbnb at face value?

Something obviously is off here (disregarding whatever Arrington had to say) and my impression is that Airbnb is still coming off as not being on top of PR given most of the comments in this thread and others.

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estel 998 days ago | link

How does this fit with the linked article, where the lady in question claims her personal liason at the company hadn't even contacted her in a month? How does that possibly match up with "doing everything they could be doing to help this woman" when she herself clearly feels ignored?

Edit: I'm not accusing the AirBNB guys of being bad guys: I don't know them. But this doesn't seem to address, and seems somewhat contradicted by, the concerns raised by the linked blog.

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pg 998 days ago | link

Brian told me that someone from Airbnb called her just a few hours before she published this most recent post.

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dlss 998 days ago | link

With respect, I don't see how this answers estel's question.

Is she crazy? Did she stop checking email, SMS, and phone? (or maybe change number post break in?) Did you misinterpret what the AirBnB guys told you?

How can these two drastically different accounts make sense together?

(edit: if you only read the TC coverage, the link you are replying to is EJ's account)

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ellyagg 998 days ago | link

While I greatly sympathized with her plight originally, I do note that she is somewhat disingenuous in her post today.

For example, she quotes AirBnB as saying someone is in custody and then says local officials have not contacted her saying that's the case, implying that this somehow invalidates their claim. But then she goes on to show detailed knowledge of someone being in custody, even though they haven't been charged yet.

Next, she quotes AirBnB as saying that they've been in close contact with her, and says that this is false. However, she goes on to write that she has been in regular contact with an AirBnB founder, and talked to another founder, and details some of their conversations.

While I still sympathize with her, that doesn't mean she can characterize events any way she pleases and have it be true. I would not be shocked in the least to find that she left out details that would paint AirBnB in a nicer light.

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dlss 998 days ago | link

Interesting. I read her post as responses to AirBnB's word twisting in the TC press release -- most of what you call being "disingenuous" is her refuting impressions people might have gotten from the press release and telling her side (instead of just telling her side).

Breakdown/example follows:

re: suspect in custody.

AirBnB was quoted saying "a suspect is now in custody, and our information will now become important evidence"

She starts by refuting an impression you might have gotten (the bad guy will go to jail for what he did to her): "no charges or arrest warrant has been issued for my case" (which means AirBnB's information can't be evidence for anything she knows about - she also notes that they might have information that she doesn't)

She then describes her case to the best of her knowledge for those interested.

re: contact with AirBnB.

AirBnB was quoted saying "We have been in close contact with her ever since [5 weeks ago]"

She starts by refuting an impression you might have gotten (she has been in contact with AirBnB team members [other than the founder], or had any AirBnB labor tasked full time with helping her) "Since June 30, this co-founder has been the only person at Airbnb from whom I have received occasional contact regarding my situation, his messages directed primarily at my blog post and its activity on Twitter."

She then describes her contact with AirBnB in rich, concrete detail for those interested.

tl;dr - EJ wasn't being disingenuous/equivocating, she was doing two things with one post (responding to press release and sharing concrete details)

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ajju 998 days ago | link

My sympathies are for the victim but I think it would help to post the full context of her statement. She said

"One month ago an individual was apprehended, however as far as I know, this person was transferred to a neighboring jurisdiction for prosecution of previous crimes, and no charges or arrest warrant has been issued for my case within San Francisco County." (emphasis mine)

I don't think Brian Chesky or AirBNB can have much influence on what crimes the DA prosecutes these perps for. For all we know they committed a more serious crime in the neighboring jurisdiction and so were transferred there. AirBNB could have submitted the evidence they have and the DA might have decided to use it later, or not use it in favor of another case that is stronger.

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dlss 998 days ago | link

Right. She explained that in her blog post because she wanted us to actually understand what is going on.

To you it might not matter as long as a suspect is in jail, but I'm sure that having an investigation paused while you wait on neighboring jurisdictions feels very different than the way you'd expect reading what AirBnB said: "a suspect is now in custody, and our information will now become important evidence"

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ajju 998 days ago | link

It seems very likely to me that in the information they gave us, AirBnB was just relaying the information the police gave them. It's very likely the police told AirBNB to give them all the evidence they had so they could use it to prosecute the suspect they had in custody.

If I were the victim, I would not be satisfied until the perp got prosecuted for my crime either, but this pause in investigating this crime to pursue other crimes first, does not falsify AirBnB's statement that the perp is in custody, and that their information will become important evidence.

Anyway, AirBnB should have done a much better job of helping the customer and communicating both with her and the rest of the world.

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dlss 998 days ago | link

On its own it could have been innocent, but there are too many of these too close together in the press release to believe that

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jonnathanson 998 days ago | link

Someone's not telling us the whole story, and it's unclear whether that someone is the company or EJ. (Or maybe even the police).

Whatever the case, Airbnb increases its PR risk the more people it puts in contact with EJ. It should have assigned one person to talk to her, so as to keep the story straight and maintain a consistent line of communication with EJ. And that person should have been a founder / C-level exec from the get go.

You could argue that a co-founder's time, especially in the middle of a giant financing round, makes the opportunity cost too high. Nonsense. The opportunity cost of the PR hit, versus the potentially massive positive PR of a crisis turnaround, is nigh incalculable. Possibly even worth tens of millions in intangible value and impact on future growth.

Take a page from the old 1980s-1990s Disney playbook on crisis management. Whenever a big PR fiasco popped up at the theme parks -- which was often -- Michael Eisner was the face of the crisis management effort. Now, obviously Michael Eisner himself wasn't personally up all night working exclusively on the crisis in question. No doubt he had a team on the case, feeding him his talking points. But he was the single public face of the company in all communications related to the crisis. Not some PR flack, or some customer service rep. Not some vice president. The CEO himself. It counted for quite a lot, even at times when it was bullshit.

(Note, of course, that I would never advocate the use of bullshit, especially in the EJ case).

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chc 998 days ago | link

Of course "someone is in custody." There are many thousands of people in custody in the US. The question is, how many of them have demonstrated ties to EJ's case? AirBnB's comment implies (but does not state) that the number is 1. Unless AirBnB know something different that they are not sharing with EJ, it would appear the real number is 0. That's what she was correcting.

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pbreit 998 days ago | link

But the correct answer is "1 or more".

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indiefan 998 days ago | link

I had a similar reaction to this post. Surprised that she depicted the issue being escalated all the way up to the cofounder as somehow a reduction in customer service. Not that they've seemed to have handled this well by any stretch, but they certainly seem to be taking this seriously.

Is it me, or does it take a significant amount of melodrama to negatively construe being asked to grab coffee with the cofounder of the company with whom you have some dispute as bad customer service (he didn't ask if she was alright? really?).

What happened to her sucks, and AirBnB certainly doesn't sound like a service i would use personally, but to be honest, I wasn't shocked to hear people calling into question whether or not this was a real person. She seems to be going out of her way to characterize events (as the parent mentions) in as negative a light as possible.

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brazzy 998 days ago | link

Is it me, or does it take a significant amount of melodrama to negatively construe being asked to grab coffee with the cofounder of the company with whom you have some dispute as bad customer service (he didn't ask if she was alright? really?).

It is you. She objected to what he said, which she perceived as superficial and focussed on reducing their PR damage rather than helping her. Who it was does not matter one bit when it's not helpful.

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mlapeter 998 days ago | link

Agreed. I don't want to sound totally callous, but while this is a dramatic and terrible incident in it's own right, her writing style does seem to be magnifying the drama for maximum effect/ attention, in which case it's a truly difficult problem for AirBnb to solve. Even handing her a big sack of cash/ new apartment (just an example, not recommending that course) would probably just lead to an expose blog post about how they tried to buy her silence. How do you satisfy someone if a large part of what they want is attention? Create a new security policy and name it after her?

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lurker14 997 days ago | link

"EJ's Law". Perfect.

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tungwaiyip 998 days ago | link

I have some idea on the discrepancy. Neither party are being deliberately disingenuous. It is more of a point of view issue. This mess take a long time to fix even in the best circumstance. So it is natural for EJ to still feel violated and frightened. She say "Since June 30, this co-founder has been the only person at Airbnb from whom I have received occasional contact regarding my situation". I think she is too shaken to appreciate the direct involvement of the 2 founders. I'll be lot more piss off if the customer service is the only one to talk to me.

Airbnb does sound like they are doing their part. Although if they really do pressure EJ to take down her post it will be the dumbest thing to do. It is lot more useful to publicize they own effort to help and perhaps compensate the victim.

Arrington present only the worst point of view. The sky is falling if you only read his post.

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tungwaiyip 998 days ago | link

And a lot of this is probably a rehash of those WTF moments the founders have with their girlfriend. Look at this statement:

<i>(the second co-founder) suggesting we meet for coffee as he “would enjoy meeting” me. He made no inquiry into my current emotional state, my safety or my well being.</i>

So Airbnb do all they can to escalate the case, to compensate her, to assist the police, etc, or as least it is the best for a tech company to do. All these seem secondary to the victim. What she really want is for someone to ask her if she is ok.

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crag 998 days ago | link

Who at Airbnb called her?

That's like saying to me when I walk into the office; "Someone called you about something." It means nothing.

Names. Times. That's the way to handle this. You know, you guys REALLY need good PR people.

Number 1 rule of damage control: Make sure everyone involved (on your side) is on the same sheet of music. Number 2 rule: Never lie. Number 3 rule: Give the victim what they want.

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Tichy 998 days ago | link

Doesn't seem to add up with their other claim that they offered to pay for everything from the beginning.

Except if they offered it and EJ declined, then she could be paying herself and not be lying.

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TillE 998 days ago | link

That'd be a bizarre scenario though, and you'd think at least one of the parties involved would've mentioned it publicly.

Instead, we have Chesky saying they've offered nebulous "help", commenting personally on TC. Not mentioning a single step they've taken to actively provide help, no specific offer. What he says in no way conflicts with anything EJ wrote, and the only contradictory information we've had from Airbnb is coming secondhand via pg, posted only on HN. Which is pretty damn weird when you have this kind of situation blowing up on the internet.

I like to think that Airbnb wants to do the right thing, but they've made an utterly disastrous mess of communication and PR.

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tobtoh 998 days ago | link

> do you really think they are so dumb that they don't realize it's not worth the bad PR to save money

Well it was AirBnB that admitted that they (or contractor scapegoats) farmed Craigslist to grow its business without thought how that appears to the general public and what that does to their integrity and PR. So yes - it's quite conceivable that they could be 'dumb' enough.

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run4yourlives 998 days ago | link

Nobody cares about Arrington. That's not AirBnB's problem. AirBnB's problem is "EJ".

I've talked to the Airbnb guys and they are already doing everything they could be doing to help this woman.

If they've been offering to fix it from the start, why haven't they said that? Certainly the victim doesn't believe they've offered much, if anything at all... either that or you've just called her a liar. (I obviously have to allow this as a possibility - that this whole story is fake.)

They clearly need to talk to her more than they are though. Somebody in charge needs to pick up a phone. They need to convince her that it is no longer in her best interests to spout the gory details on her blog. That hasn't been done yet, clearly, so it's hard to say that they are doing everything they can.

I don't think people - at least from what I've read here - are questioning their integrity. People are questioning the optics of what seems to be a decision to defer to lawyers worried about an unknown future possibility rather than to do the right thing in this very real situation. That's what is causing the bad PR, not exaggerating reporters. Cut out the middle men and get one of those founders to pick up a phone already.

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TheCondor 998 days ago | link

It's tacky and even grandstanding to say "hey, we offered to buy this lady a new pad..."

From the start, there are ways to deal with this stuff, you do some analysis, figure out what this person wants or needs, you offer them a bit more than that in exchange for their silence. It's just how it is done. Once she started blogging about it, how do you fix that? If she takes the blog down for any reason then she looks pressured.

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run4yourlives 998 days ago | link

You talk to her. Yes this takes some skill.

You don't need to tell everyone the specifics, but you need to tell her... provide her with more than any rational person would consider reasonable and say publicly that you are doing what it takes to make the situation right.

Most rational thinkers won't continually bad mouth you if you genuinely show remorse, offer compensation (thereby providing something, in theory, she could lose) and approach the situation honestly. As any person that has ever done any customer service knows, the quickest way to placate an angry customer is to admit when you are wrong and look to find solutions that would make said customer happy. It's amazing how powerful a "Crap, I screwed up, I'm sorry, let me fix this" is.

She shouldn't be asked to do anything... she should be given enough reason to produce a positive blog post on her own. It's not as good as it would have been prior to her posts, but lesson learned.

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sriramk 998 days ago | link

PG - I can't believe I'm defending Arrington but it is hard to say that he's the one at fault here.

- Most of the damaging content is from EJ's blog. The original TC article only has a couple of bad parts where it says "Airbnb’s response so far has been tepid at best. It turns out that when something like this happens, Airbnb isn’t financially responsible." but that's arguably very fair editiorial opinion given EJ's reaction and the company spokesperson not revealing anything.

- TC has been good about airing the AirBnB side of the story - from Brian Chesky's guest post to updating their initial posts with comments from him.

- All the follow-up brouhaha has been caused by EJ's second post. Now, you seem to be implying that she might be lying with your comments - that's a separate issue. But TC and Arrington have mostly stayed on the sidelines.

There is a lot of he-said, she-said here but all of it is between EJ and Airbnb (or AirBNB through PG's comments here). Arrington, for once, has played it fairly straight and it really isn't fair to blame him for this particular situation.

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edw519 998 days ago | link

Even if you don't believe they are nice guys...do you really think they are so dumb...

Of course not. I'm not even sure what I said to imply either of those.

The story Arrington wrote yesterday about Airbnb not offering to help was bullshit.

I never read the Arrington story. I was just responding to EJ's blog.

From the beginning they offered to pay to get her a new place and new stuff, and do whatever else she wanted.

Great! Sounds like Airbnb is several steps ahead of most of us here on hn. We just never realized it.

What I meant in grandparent: Difficult situations like this one are also often great opportunities to make things better and learn. This one is a doozy. Looking forward to learning from its resolution.

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llambda 998 days ago | link

I've just learned more about this situation, and it turns out Airbnb has been offering to fix it, from the very beginning. From the beginning they offered to pay to get her a new place and new stuff, and do whatever else she wanted.

I think this goes a long way towards confirming suspicions some people have held since the beginning of the debacle, namely that the victim here is blowing things out of proportion in an attempt to mar Airbnb's reputation as much as possible.

Granted her situation is very distressing, but weigh that against the fact that even if she had not been participating with Airbnb her home still could have been broken into and ransacked. The upside here is that Airbnb was involved and it seems is trying to do whatever they can to help her, up to and including paying for a new place. Now that it's been revealed she is misrepresenting Airbnb's reaction and handling of her case in her latest post[1] it becomes hard to deny this "victim" is utilizing their situation, i.e. manipulating it. So it seems she has a particular ax to grind, apparently with Airbnb...

[1] http://ejroundtheworld.blogspot.com/2011/07/airbnb-nightmare... "Airbnb has not assisted me in securing my safety, if that is the implication being made in Chesky's article" and "But the staff at Airbnb has not made a positive contribution to me personally or my situation in any way, particularly since June 30." While maybe true in fact, clearly misleading her audience.

Edit: I can see the angry mob is already hard at work down voting me. At least provide some counterpoint if you feel you disagree; yes, my point of view is unpopular on this subject, but have I made incorrect observations here?

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chc 998 days ago | link

You're using pg's (apparently) second-hand information to discredit EJ's account of her experience. What proof do you have that EJ is misrepresenting anything? At best, this is a case of he-said-she-said. But given pg and EJ's positions relative to the situation here, it seems more likely to me that pg has been misinformed than that EJ is egregiously lying.

(I admit the latter is possible, but you seem to be taking the less plausible explanation as a given and using that assumption to attack the victim here. Hence the downvotes.)

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llambda 998 days ago | link

Paul Graham would have a lot to lose by making such a broad, unfounded statement...unless of course that's what he's been told and has good reason to believe it's correct. If so, why should we disbelieve the pg and Airbnb account? Simply because EJ's is loaded with emotional appeal? I don't see how a random blogger is more plausible than pg and Airbnb?

I believe that most of her story is true (in the first blog post she even states that Airbnb has been incredibly helpful[1]; in fact this seems to corroborate pg's statement, they offered her financial support), that it was very traumatic for her, but what I don't believe is that pg and Airbnb are lying, that Airbnb has effectively made no attempt to help her; because they could have tried and she might have refused and now she's realized that the whole Internet is up in arms and on her side...so she can frame it however she likes, right or wrong. But I'm still inclined to believe pg would not spread disinformation; why should he? I think the man is much smarter than you're giving him credit for...

[1] http://ejroundtheworld.blogspot.com/2011_06_01_archive.html "I would be remiss if I didn’t pause here to emphasize that the customer service team at airbnb.com has been wonderful, giving this crime their full attention. They have called often, expressing empathy, support, and genuine concern for my welfare. They have offered to help me recover emotionally and financially, and are working with SFPD to track down these criminals."

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HSO 998 days ago | link

> I don't see how a random blogger is more plausible than pg and Airbnb?

Yeah, that's status thinking and antithetical to rational discourse. You evaluate a story or its plausibility on _its_ merits, not on the status of who tells it (unless you have _real_ information about the author's credibility, which in this case neither of us, correct me if I'm wrong, have.)

> this seems to corroborate pg's statement, they offered her financial support

No, it doesn't. There's a difference between "offering" support and giving it. What EJ said in her follow-up post is that although she was initially offered full support, none of it has actually materialized in the weeks after.

> But I'm still inclined to believe pg would not spread disinformation; why should he? I think the man is much smarter than you're giving him credit for...

Maybe you should get your nose out of pg's behind and realize that pg too puts his shoes on one at a time and shits like you and me. Having psychological, reputational, and financial stakes in one party of a dispute can induce biases. What I mean is, even good and smart people can fuck up, even with the best intentions. AFAIC, his story gets weighed on the same scale as everyone else's.

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YuriNiyazov 998 days ago | link

> Yeah, that's status thinking and antithetical to rational discourse. You evaluate a story or its plausibility on _its_ merits, not on the status of who tells it (unless you have _real_ information about the author's credibility, which in this case neither of us, correct me if I'm wrong, have.)

What about in the other direction? I have no information about the author's credibility whatsoever, but from personal interaction I have ample information about PG's credibility.

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danso 998 days ago | link

That's still argument from authority, like saying "Colin Powell is known to be a highly educated man and honored soldier, how could he be possibly fooled by faked documents?"

there is the possibility that the anonymous blogger has just as much integrity and honesty as pg. We don't know whether or not she does. We do know what both parties have said in public. therefore, we need to limit our evaluations to that until further information is known.

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chc 998 days ago | link

I really don't mean to imply pg is being dumb or anything like that — my experience is that even intelligent people tend to trust what their friends tell them. His comments seem to indicate that he hasn't been involved with the situation (which makes sense) and he's just repeating what he's heard from the AirBnB guys.

I don't know, she could be lying. But she has little incentive to do so. It's possible that somebody might give up a free house and become a transient just so they could trash-talk AirBnB, but it would be deeply weird. But a business owner spinning the facts to the benefit of his business? That would be deeply normal. Some might even argue it's his job. And a smart guy not extensively checking up on his friends when they tell him something? Again, that's normal.

Anyway, I'm not trying to say that we have to assume AirBnB is lying. We don't have a lot of evidence, so it makes sense to be tentative. But it seems unfair to very non-tentatively accuse EJ of lying when the facts seem to be on her side at best and on nobody's side at worst. You asked why people were downvoting, and I thought it was a fair question, so those are my thoughts.

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llambda 998 days ago | link

We don't have a lot of evidence, so it makes sense to be tentative.

But both sides are saying the same thing: she was offered, in her own words, "emotional and financial" support.

Yes, Airbnb needs to make changes, but focusing only on how they handle her individual case for the moment: how is this not an adequate response?

Clearly she isn't lying. I don't believe Airbnb is lying either. But there is a possibility she is framing her situation differently now that there is a near-religious fervor throughout the Internet. Now she's saying they aren't helping her, that they haven't been helpful. While in fact it's evidently true they haven't put her in a new apartment and furnished it as promised, do we know this is because they failed to make good on their promise or because she turned them down or never followed up with them on that offer? We can't know.

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Freeman77 996 days ago | link

"While in fact it's evidently true they haven't put her in a new apartment and furnished it as promised, do we know this is because they failed to make good on their promise or because she turned them down or never followed up with them on that offer? We can't know."

We can't know. Exactly. So how is it you were comfortable stating "'But the staff at Airbnb has not made a positive contribution to me personally or my situation in any way, particularly since June 30.' While maybe true in fact, clearly misleading her audience." as if you do know?

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ulisesroche 998 days ago | link

Taking pg's wonky comment (second-hand information, shifting blame on Arrington) as confirming the conspiracy theory is a "Because the bible tells me so". He's not your deus-ex-machina.

And the conspiracy theory camp keeps calling the woman the most terrible names, accusing her of over-dramatizing, how dare she! She's not one of us!

...and so on. I really didn't like that. I didn't down-vote you, but I would have if I could.

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llambda 998 days ago | link

Perhaps you didn't read her first post, pg's comment is corroborated by EJ: she herself claims they offered her "emotional and financial"[1] support. There is no conspiracy. I believe she's telling the truth. But I don't believe Airbnb is some evil company blindly exploiting her.

[1] http://ejroundtheworld.blogspot.com/2011_06_01_archive.html "I would be remiss if I didn’t pause here to emphasize that the customer service team at airbnb.com has been wonderful, giving this crime their full attention. They have called often, expressing empathy, support, and genuine concern for my welfare. They have offered to help me recover emotionally and financially, and are working with SFPD to track down these criminals."

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ulisesroche 998 days ago | link

Don't ignore the second post: She claims she hasn't been contacted by anyone since June 30th, until well, now, almost August, when the post went viral and this whole mess was brought to light.

reply-edit: It's follow-through that matters. Is this not one of our principles? Yet, she's still homeless, hurt, and scared, but who cares, right?

"For all we know!" is an excuse. Airbnb's, "we're on it, folks!, let us get past this round of funding first" is another excuse. "It's all Arrington's fault" is another excuse, and a stupid one at that ( Yes, I said it ), especially when this thread is about EJ's blog-post, not Arrington's.

It bugs me that this turned into a fight between camps, and getting uglier, sillier, and dumber as time goes on.

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llambda 996 days ago | link

She chose to be homeless.

Any rational person would have changed the locks and moved on by now. The only difference here seems to be that Airbnb, i.e. an intermediary, is involved.

You do the math.

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tripzilch 996 days ago | link

> She chose to be homeless.

>Any rational person would have changed the locks and moved on by now.

Wow. You're an idiot.

Another person that has apparently never have their house broken into and ransacked.

Add to that her home is in no state to live in.

Add to that the restorations can't start until first the police were done, and second AirBnb has stated how much they will reimburse.

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llambda 998 days ago | link

I don't understand: can't she pick up the phone and say, "Hey what happened? You promised to helped me. Now where's the help?"

Anyway for all we know they offered and she said, "Thanks. But no thanks." (What I'm saying is we don't know what the exchange was between them precisely, we only know that both sides of the story are saying the same thing: she was at least offered help from the outset.)

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PotatoEngineer 998 days ago | link

I haven't downvoted, but I suspect the "she could have been broken into without AirBnB's influence anyway" is the anger-inducing part of your comment. I certainly don't like it.

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llambda 998 days ago | link

But home invasions happen every day! This is a fact. And the likelihood only increases when you travel and leave your home... I'm not saying it would have happened if she had never been involved with Airbnb, I'm saying though that it's actually to her benefit it happened through Airbnb because now there's a intermediary offering to help her... Isn't that generally a good thing, someone saying, "Hey we'll get you through this"? If it had been a case of normal home invasion while she was away I doubt it'd be as high profile as this case is and as a result I doubt anyone would be offering to pick up the pieces for her.

It's awful it happened to her. But it's also awful to lay the blame on Airbnb and say they've done effectively nothing to help her. That begins to look an awful lot like someone is trying to make them look bad... I'm not sure that's how I feel, but I understand the detractors of her story more now that details are emerging.

Like all things: clearly there are multiple sides to this story, it isn't as cut and dry as Airbnb heartlessly ignoring one of their customer's awful cases in the name of profit.

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PotatoEngineer 998 days ago | link

Of course home invasions happen every day. That's not the point. The point is that AirBnB directly put the criminal in her home, though of course they didn't realize that.

I'll leave out the "is EJ lying or is AirBnB" question for now, but AirBnB made it much more likely that her home would be ransacked.

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natural219 998 days ago | link

This is the first time I've read a gray comment on Hacker News that obviously does not deserve to be so.

Hacker News is NOT a place for mob mentality and hasty judgments. Nothing in this comment is inflammatory, or rude, or stupid. It's another point of view that deserves to be considered; it certainly does not deserve to be muted.

The fact that you can scan this and the other five Hacker News posts about this subject and can find only one unified interpretation of the event (Airbnb is wrong and evil!) can only signify that the community has sharply steered away from its roots.

Please; take some time to re-read the Hacker News community guidelines:

http://ycombinator.com/newswelcome.html

"The most important principle on HN, though, is to make thoughtful comments. Thoughtful in both senses: both civil and substantial."

It is absolutely shameful that the Hacker News community has degraded this much. If you want to think and act like an average, shallow internet user, then go to Reddit. This is a place for thoughtful, intelligent discussion.

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seri 997 days ago | link

I'm with you. The discussions around Airbnb are a living example of how HN has turned into Reddit. When I read about this event elsewhere, I do expect to see mob mentality and cheap sentiment, just so I can confirm what the majority is reacting. Not on HN.

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rdouble 997 days ago | link

It's worse than Reddit. Reddit has funny photos and games.

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sprovoost 997 days ago | link

Technically this part of Paul's comment does not contradict the victim's statement; AirBnB has offered to fix it from the beginning (give or take a day), but perhaps just forgot to communicate after that. Any calls from her could have ended up accidentally ignored by customer support or some other gate keeper.

However, that leaves two big issues in my view:

1 - This should have been handled by the CEO from day one. He can delegate the work down later, but the victim should have his phone number in case his minions screw up. The fact that he still believes a blog post is sufficient and that he throws in PR gimmicks such as doubling customer support (in a company that's growing exponentially), is not helping. But that is not at all evidence for...

2 - There needs to be some clarity really soon about whether AirBnB has attempted to cover this up, with Paul being miss-informed (I'm not ready to doubt his integrity), or if it's the other way around. I understand it is hard for AirBnB to disclose evidence in their favor, because they would risk defamation issues, privacy issues, precedent issues and even risk screwing up the police investigation. It's also difficult for the victim and journalists to present any definite evidence.

Perhaps both parties can agree to let an independent journalist with a solid reputation look into the situation? It may be hard to find anyone who considers this important enough though; sadly this sort of stuff tends to fade out in a matter of days.

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mikeleeorg 998 days ago | link

Having seen & read a lot about Brian Chesky, I really do believe that he is a genuinely nice guy.

But out of curiosity, do you know if EJ's note of Brian calling her, telling her how her blog post story will negatively impact AirBnB, requesting her blog post to be removed/limited/hidden, then asking for a "twist" of good news to "complete[s] the story" is true?

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johnx123-up 998 days ago | link

Remember nice guys can

  1. tell lies
  2. lobby for PR
  3. spam Craiglist
  4. fake listing counts
  5. hide robbery for 5-weeks
  etc
Don't poke your nose, drag journalists and damage YC brand. Just tell that you don't know.

[Edit: formatted]

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switch 998 days ago | link

From a strategy perspective - it's better to solve the problem first and only then attack someone who is, supposedly, making too much out of a problem.

From, a 'being a good person' perspective - there are lots of problems here. Isn't there someone at this company that can throw away legal concerns and just go talk to her and ask her what in her mind would fix the problem. It seems the company still can't get out of 'its own needs and wants' and understand that there's a human being affected by this who had her home trashed.

Perhaps the thing the lady wants most is just someone who CARES!

Not about the company's reputation or legal concerns but CARES about her as a person.

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YuriNiyazov 998 days ago | link

Now that this has happened, how (if at all) would you revise this comment about Arrington: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2719086

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pg 998 days ago | link

This is the worst thing I personally have seen him do. So he is not looking quite so good to me now.

On the other hand, I still don't believe he's deeply evil. His big weakness is the length he'll go to to get information out of people. I think he crossed the line in this case. But I still don't think he's a bad person.

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abrimo 998 days ago | link

Is this the worst thing you've seen him do because it personally affects you?

All the times that you said he was just being harsh, I'm sure the people who were impacted thought he crossed the line as well.

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Freeman77 996 days ago | link

I have read EJ's two posts, two posts here - yours and one by Brian Chesky - and three related posts at TechCrunch including Arrington's response to this post (have you even read it?). I'm not a regular reader of any of these publications or their authors. As an observer without a horse in this race, I don't see where Arrington has done anything wrong. Your second-hand accusation of trying to strong-arm your spokesman for details seems one-sided and self-interested, while his response seems plausible and verifiable.

Whatever the truth of this PERSONAL conflict, which by the way is peripheral and inconsequential (except for negative consequences) to the issue of the crisis at Airbnb, you're not doing your professional self or the company any favors by continuing along this line of commentary. Emotions are influencing your behavior in areas where rationality would better suit your situation. Better to quit taking things personally and focus on taking care of the business at hand.

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graymagiker 997 days ago | link

According to his most recent update http://goo.gl/TBLbf Michael e-mailed the company first, and then called. Further he claims to have read the comment back to Christopher Lukezic before hanging up. This to me seems to be a perfectly reasonable length to go to for information.

Is your contention that this is not what happened? If this is what happened, then I think you owe Michael an apology. He has done an excellent job of updating his article with more information from airbnb's side of things as he got it, and I think that if you misspoke or were misinformed you need to say as much.

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donpark 998 days ago | link

> Airbnb has been offering to fix it, from the very beginning. From the beginning they offered to pay to get her a new place and new stuff, and do whatever else she wanted.

Paul, could you clarify how you know this? Were you told this or have you confirmed this with the victim or some other way?

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tryitnow 997 days ago | link

First, let me say I am a huge fan of PG and YC, but...

I have to second (third, fourth, etc) the several opinions already expressed here. This is about the customer's response: http://ejroundtheworld.blogspot.com/2011/07/airbnb-nightmare...

If she's a liar, let us know. Thanks.

Trying to silence a customer? - this is getting me to doubt how trustworthy HN is - who else is being silenced??? If PG supports guys like the AirBNB execs then what does that say about him?

Again, if the customer is the liar,just please let us know. OK? Thanks.

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rexreed 998 days ago | link

If AirBnB was smart, they would have made the offer in PUBLIC, so that we don't have this he-said / she-said thing going on. To be honest, it's hard to believe anyone in this story. Lesson learned: be quick, be open, be transparent, be thoughtful, be understanding. Basically, be human.

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campnic 998 days ago | link

I'm assuming YC still holds an interest in Airbnb? Seems like I would be distancing myself from this instead of getting into the 'he said, she said' stuff. Neither side will provide proof, so why risk getting involved when you can't be certain of the facts. I realize these people are friends, but this seems like a weird strategic move.

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ccrystle 997 days ago | link

Blame the victim? That's the plan?

The company needs to do this to come out ok:

1) Go overboard helping her reset her life 2) mea culpa: apologize for the handling of it 3) announce steps that will reduce the risk of it happening again 4) stop calling her credibility into account, or blaming Arrington. it's an international story now. 5) Control the message. PG--you shouldn't be posting at all. Your intentions might be good, your points might (or not) be valid, but you're creating more controversy.

The story goes away when 1) people hear a true apology for the handling and 2) EJ has been properly taken care of, regardless of AirBnB's culpability.

“On June 29 I posted my story, and June 30 thus marks the last day I heard from the customer service team regarding my situation. In fact, my appointed ‘liaison’ from Airbnb stopped contacting me altogether just three days after I reported the crime, on June 25, for reasons that are unknown to me. I have heard nothing from her since.”

“And since June 30? On this same day, I received a personal call from one of the co-founders of Airbnb. We had a lengthy conversation, in which he indicated having knowledge of the (previously mentioned) person who had been apprehended by the police, but that he could not discuss the details or these previous cases with me, as the investigation was ongoing. He then addressed his concerns about my blog post, and the potentially negative impact it could have on his company’s growth and current round of funding. During this call and in messages thereafter, he requested that I shut down the blog altogether or limit its access, and a few weeks later, suggested that I update the blog with a ‘twist’ of good news so as to ‘complete[s] the story.’”

“I am not clear here if Chesky is trying to convey the message that Airbnb was involved in securing my safety, but the company was not. My safety was secured by my own efforts.”

“The positive contribution mentioned in this statement might very well refer to the criminal investigation and communication with police; I can’t know for sure. But the staff at Airbnb has not made a positive contribution to me personally or my situation in any way, particularly since June 30.”

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eavc 998 days ago | link

>The story Arrington wrote yesterday about Airbnb not offering to help was bullshit. He asked a company spokesman what Airbnb was doing to help her. The spokesman, who'd been told by their lawyers that he couldn't go into detail about that because of the precedent said "I can't comment on that." So Arrington, in typical Arrington fashion said "Well, unless you tell me I'm going to write that you're not willing to do anything for her." And he did. Really not cool.

Sounds like legitimate grounds for pursuing a case of libel.

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foxit 998 days ago | link

Okay, look. As comments on TechCrunch have stated, MAJOR crisis coaching/high-level PR needs to be hired and step in, stat. This is just getting worse and worse.

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GregCox 997 days ago | link

I haven't been following this closely, but this morning I spent a couple of hours reading everything. FWIW...

1. There is nothing inconsistent in either of EJ's posts. They are sometimes complicated (e.g. who contacted who when) and I can imagine HN readers imagining inconsistencies as they scan the posts, but there are none.

2. Either EJ is telling lies, or Brian Chesky's post on TC misrepresents/distorts the truth in several places. Indeed, setting the record straight seems to have at least in part motivated EJ's second post.

3. It is just weird for the "niceness" of the founders to be relevant to this situation, except as part of a cynical effort to turn this into an "nasty EJ versus the nice founders" narrative.

4. Attacking Arrington (who, like EJ, appears to be offering more solid information than PG or Airbnb) comes off as another attempt to turn the Airbnb founders into the victims of this story.

Unless EJ is a liar, focusing any attention at all on the "plight" of the founders (e.g PG's message here) demonstrates a detachment from reality. They are warm and cozy in their homes, while she is homeless and shattered.

They got some bad coverage on TC, their exit payday might be compromised and rich people will lose money because of it. But unless she is a bald faced liar, her home was violated, she lost all the precious items (photos!) she spent a lifetime accumulating and she will spend a long time recovering from this episode.

Seems like as good a time as any to focus on the end user. She's not a PR incident, she's a #$%@ human being.

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aivijay 997 days ago | link

Its completely contradictory what Airbnb says and EJ says. Both being in SF should not be a big deal for Airbnb guys to meet her in person and sort out this thing. Why is this thing being pulled for more than a month? Airbnb should have taken the proper initiatives to deal with this in person than blogging or whatever or even on phone telling EJ to take down her blog etc. Meet in person and sort this out guys than pointing fingers.

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sprovoost 997 days ago | link

> offering to fix it, from the very beginning

That does not contradict the victim's statement, but it ignores her statement that communications stopped after she went public with it and that she claims that she hasn't received any of this compensation yet.

There's a big difference between being nice and being on top of something before the media forces you to.

I think most people are much more interested in knowing if AirBnB tried to cover this up (with the victim and/or the journalist), than about details of miscommunication. As I commented elsewhere, it's very difficult for either party to provide evidence for or against this.

The elephant in the room needs to be adressed in non ambiguous language, to prevent Clinton-Lewinsky syndrom.

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Freeman77 997 days ago | link

You guys really need to quit pointing fingers and focus on doing something positive. You're getting the "bullshit" you complain of all over you. As you should well know, one of the first rules of business is never to take it personally. Here's a re-post of a suggestion I just made to Brian Chesky:

"Although there have been negative PR effects for Airbnb due to this incident, it appears that they have benefited as well, by wisely using the lesson learned to improve their business by adding essential insurance and pre-deal inter-member communications services, among other things. The future value of that benefit to a start-up company most likely far exceeds the damages suffered by this host, assuming the PR issue can be positively resolved. There was no similar benefit for the host, unless you count the lesson learned that they should avoid the sort of activity your business is built around.

"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."

It appears that Airbnb has made moves in this direction. You say, and EJ confirms, that some financial compensation has been offered, but apparently EJ remains unconvinced that meaningful compensation will be forthcoming. Given the mixed responses EJ has reported from Airbnb staff and mixed messages we see from Airbnb in the media (claims of compensation offers and links to TOS policies denying compensation), I can't say I blame her. This needs to be remedied immediately, and all it would take is a press release and personal communication between Brian Chesky and EJ. Her remarks which were far less flattering toward Airbnb in her second post could have been avoided had she been contacted by someone in authority at Airbnb expressing concern for her problem rather than concern for theirs. You should have realized that her problem IS your problem.

The difference between "oh, they're the company that made immediate efforts to improve security and insurance options after being completely blindsided along with the host when somebody ransacked an apartment and went the extra mile to compensate the victim even though they weren't legally obligated to" and "oh, they're the company that was so concerned about the effects on their funding efforts that they tried to suppress the story and blame everyone else when one of their customers ransacked the apartment of another customer" when someone thinks of "Airbnb" depends wholly upon how the crisis is responded to. So far, Airbnb has done at least as much to reinforce the latter image as the former. You need message discipline and a positive message, and you need it now.

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jpstanley 996 days ago | link

Responding publicly in this fashion was a pretty bad/unwise move on Paul's part. It's a cheap shot to fling blame in the direction of the easiest possible target: a tech blogger who is known for being opinionated and mercurial (I realize I'm putting it mildly). It's a desperate move and I think anyone can see that.

Arrington is nobody's problem here. The problems are: (1) a customer of Airbnb was victimized, (2) Airbnb did not respond in a satisfactory manner (whether that means not swiftly enough or with results that left said customer feeling unhappy/unsafe), and (3) Airbnb allegedly attempted to quell the story in a distasteful way, implying that their company's well-being was more important than the customer's.

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ry0ohki 998 days ago | link

I find it hard to believe they offered to buy her a new place and stuff before this story blew up, that just seems like bad business.

It seems like it would easily fix the PR nightmare if they sent all of their evidence of these offers to the media outlets which would quickly discredit EJ and put an end to this.

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leftcoaster 998 days ago | link

"So Arrington, in typical Arrington fashion said ..."

I don't think the ad hominem helps your case, at all.

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Johngibb 997 days ago | link

Why is this getting downvoted? This ad hominem attack adds nothing to the discussion, and is specifically called out in the hacker news guidelines. It feels a little hypocritical.

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amblore 997 days ago | link

What if somebody gets raped?

Seriously. I am not trying to be stupid.

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jb_london 997 days ago | link

It's happened, on couchsurfing rather than airbnb, but it's happened:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1205794/Rape-horror-...

Doesn't seem to have stopped the growth of couchsurfing.

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jen_mcfadden 998 days ago | link

This is another example of Arrington's increasingly low-grade "journalistic" standards. I wonder whether there are slander laws for sins of omission. Regardless, this, along with other recent infractions (like the @catarina bs), makes me want to check TC completely off my daily reading list. It is like the TMZ of the tech world.

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larrys 997 days ago | link

"...do you really think they are so dumb that they don't realize it's not worth the bad PR to save money and effort in this situation?"

I think it's about not positioning themselves as some kind of guarantor of a situation which will open up an entire can of worms going forward with their business model.

They can't say "we vet people" (to the degree necessary) or they open themselves up to lawsuits from people who say "you didn't do your job here".

This happens with hotel, right? Person raped they sue the hotel "you didn't provide security" etc.

As another example, I saw a sign in an office parking lot. It said "security camera not always monitored" or something like that. In this litigious society the mere appearance of a camera gives the obligation to monitor the camera or a level of safety that the office lot is not willing to undertake.

Insurers don't have a model for an airbnb type operation. They will have a hard time wrapping their heads around insuring something that appears to be more of the business model that people would like airbnb to be. Insurers won't insure for reasonable prices what they can't calculate risk on.

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yaongi 997 days ago | link

Heheh just read this - it 'turns out'. Love it. See, it turns out use of the phrase is still going strong after all these years.

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chailatte 998 days ago | link

I think it's horrible that pg, a minor minor stakeholder in Airbnb, is handling the PR. Should be founders job. Where is Brian's apology for putting this poor woman's life on hold for 5 weeks?

Any goodwill that AirBnb gained from the namesake of YC has been lost from people I've spoken to.

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pg 998 days ago | link

My whole point is that as far as I can tell he hasn't, and therefore has nothing to apologize for.

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TWAndrews 998 days ago | link

Is it possible that the founders haven't been totally straight with you? There are wildly divergent accounts of what AirBnB has offered to EJ.

From her perspective, essentially nothing. Based on what they've told you, they've offered to make her whole. Unless there's been a seemingly unlikely misunderstanding, either she's lying, or they are.

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dporan 998 days ago | link

But PR isn't about logic -- it's about storytelling. And if Airbnb isn't careful, the arc of the narrative here could seriously harm their business.

I agree with edw519: Airbnb needs to do something dramatic -- whatever it takes to transform EJ from a neglected victim of an unfeeling corporation to a hardy survivor who has moved on, thanks to Airbnb's caring and magnanimous support.

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chailatte 998 days ago | link

AirBnb is yc's baby, sure. But think logically. Either

- The woman is traumatized. The very first week, AirBnb does everything right to help. After a few weeks, the woman still feels mistreated and flips out. Writes an angry blog post. When AirBnb denies this, the woman doesn't feel like she's wrong. Keeps pressing her case. But also is touched by many people's help, and turns down free money.

- The woman is traumatized. After 5 weeks of run-around from founder and support (to buy time for funding), the woman is furious. Writes an angry blog. When AirBnb denies this, the woman is persistent in her case for justice. But also is touched by many people's help, and turns down free money.

which is more likely? Keep in mind, this woman, who feels that people are good and just, rents out her place with her stuff intact.

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younata 998 days ago | link

This woman has also had her entire faith in humanity destroyed.

I think option one is more likely.

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chailatte 998 days ago | link

I don't believe so. She seems to really appreciate all the help offers from strangers, and even turns down money and recommends others to enjoy their time by staying in a hotel room. That doesn't scream 'hating humanity' at all.

Also, when first AirBnb heard about this, they could've

a.) choose to protect her and other users from future incidents

b.) hide and hope it goes away

If they choose a, 5 weeks ago, they would've already either changed the business process, or blogged about it to their community to warn them of danger (heck, the perp hasn't been caught/IDed yet).

But because nothing was done, the fact that they kept outputting PR responses, and offered no tangible amount/receipt/proof that they helped her, tells me AirBnb is the one that is shady.

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