this isn't true. there was a guy in the Techcrunch comments who said that the same thing happen to him. he also makes reference to two other incidents in another comment. the comment is here:
reproducing the top part of the comment:
Something very similar happened to me about 2 months ago.
In addition to valuables stolen, the thieves/addicts did thousands of dollars of bizarre damage to my rented home and left it littered with meth pipes. They were identity thieves, too and all my personal information was strewn about. Further investigation of my own led me to evidence that the people were not just thieves but were also dangerous. I too, feared for my own safety and would not stay at my house for some time.
I had a similar problem with haphazard communication from people at AirBnB. I gave them multiple opportunities to make me a happy customer to which they did but then retracted their offer after their was miscommunication among the team. Sometimes days went by without hearing from anyone, while I was fear-stricken, totally disoriented, and angry. It was almost the most absurd customer service crisis one could ever imagine. But I am one squeaky wheel, and we eventually found an agreeable solution that I was generally pleased with.
I have since both rented my place out and stayed in others' homes from airbnb
And the statements from Roomarama that they have encountered similar problems in the article linked from http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2823039
I'm guessing AirBnB meant "first time a story like this got press" when they said "the incident was the first of its kind"
Y-Combinator needs a PR firm. That much is clear from the AirBnB fall out over the last few days, and I'm not talking about a PR firm to cheer lead for YC, or a PR firm to respond to this or any particular incident.
Instead, they need a PR firm that will evaluate risks of the evolving start-ups, in particular focusing on ones with lots of funding and press exposure. The firm's role would be to anticipate and plan for potential fall out. In times of trouble, the firm would be poised to jump in and coach the team on the appropriate way to respond to crisis in the public eye. A good PR firm would know that saying the word "funding" to the victim was simply not a good idea, and would have advised the founders as such before any meetings with the victim.
I think public relations is like a dirty word in the valley, but PR need not be an unethical or otherwise bad practice, and in this case, the right support would have made a world of difference. The firm really could just be an observer, except in times of crisis. It may be beneficial for the firm to interact with the start-ups, but I think this would at least lead to resistance, given the culture of technical-centric organizations. Simply having an impartial observer with a nose for media problems would avert some crises.
Interestingly, perhaps, I see YC's connection to this story as more that it runs the site that broke the story: this one. I suspect pg getting involved is more because he personally likes the AirBnB founders rather than that he sees it as the responsibility of YC.
That is not the relevant number. YC will tend to care about the bad publicity in direct proportion to how much of the stock they own, and they probably own a lot more than 0.01% of AirBnB.
YC had to invest in a lot of startups that didn't get as far as AirBnB to end up owning ~6% of an AirBnB.
This is wrong in far more than 5 ways, but we will start with 5.
1. Your model of "money on the line" doesn't seem to account for diminishing marginal utility (if a billionaire has $1 million at risk, and a millionaire has $1k at risk, the risk is greater for the millionaire even though the percentage risk is equal).
2. Your model doesn't seem to account for relative portfolio size (if a billionaire risks $1 million, and a $10 millionaire also risks $1 million, the risk is greater for the $10 millionaire)
3. Your model doesn't seem to account for the opportunity cost of time (YC seems to like/have time for talking to the press about YC companies, something that many VC firms don't)
4. Your model doesn't seem to account for relative skill (YC seems better at talking to the press than most VC firms)
5. Your model doesn't seem to account for compensation options (if YC doesn't feel that time spent would be positive ROI, AirBnB or the other investors might be able to pay YC to do it)
In short, my coming on HN to read interesting business discussion, only to find thoughts like "Saying that YC should handle this would be like suggesting that Bill Gate's Harvard fraternity should clean up Microsoft's faux pas (That's a bit hyperbolic, but I think you see what I'm getting at.)" is like being invited by a friend to the symphony, and showing up to discover a five year old alternating between playing a xylophone and eating wood glue (That's a bit hyperbolic, but I think you see what I'm getting at).
I just think that articles like this one have put them in a bind with respect to this story.
I'm left with the impression that you think YC is in a bind here because you want them to be in a bind here. It sure is a lot more fun to talk about, isn't it?
If you're on record talking about someone's positive qualities, and they make a mistake, or even are accused of making a mistake, that puts others in a position of expecting you to have a position on it. But they can't really take a public position on it beyond what pg's already said on the matter, and we see what good that did. This is the bind I am talking about.
I don't want them to be in a bind. I have no feelings one way or the other about the matter, really, I am just attempting to offer my point of view on why people are clamoring for YC to be more vocal about this topic.
The logic that involves YC in the Airbnb drama is juvenile. Sorry to be so blunt about it; I know nobody likes being called names.
I don't think it's right, and maybe I have just been in DC too long, but this is how this sort of thing works in the media. I never said they owe an explanation to anyone or anything like that, but people are _clearly_ expecting one. Something set that expectation.
Maybe this makes me juvenile, that's fine.
I count at least three YCombinator startups that have stumbled severely with PR not once but multiple times: Wakemate, Dropbox and AirBnB.
I think she's looking for more than just replacement, but a sizable settlement. I won't be surprised if we see legal papers in the next week.
Her main complaint seems to be lack of genuine concern, not lack of financial help. Nothing about her attitude, her living situation, or blog (documenting extensive past globetrotting adventures) suggests she's hurting for money.
She's just hurting from having her home, sense of security, and sentimental possessions ransacked.
I'm not saying that she invited what happened, but that the risks were very clear, and only she could decide how to weight those risks. If she's the private person she's painting herself as being, I really don't understand why she used AirBnB in the first place.
I don't think she's a liar, and what happened to her was terrible, but I can't help but feel that this has gone over some threshold of "I want to get this sorted out between two amicable parties who are seeking a resolution" to using the positive press for her to see how much can be extracted from AirBnB.
I wonder if the vandal had any feedback on airbnb.
I've used airbnb once as a guest and, being a private person myself, I went out of my way to find a host with some reputation and good feedback. I even forewent some better deals because they were by new hosts that had no feedback to show.
Now, I'm not saying that this is right or wrong--after all we all have to start somewhere and, as a first-time airbnb guest, I didn't have any reputation points myself--but I reckon people who have so much at stake should screen their guests very carefully.
I find it hard to believe Airbnb wouldn't have expressed genuine concern. However their request for her to take down her blog or alter it due to their funding round was probably in bad taste.
I think the missteps by Airbnb are overblown mostly by an emotionally distressed woman.
Telling sign: people are forming factions and polarizing the issue. Either "EJ" is legitimately frustrated by a clumsy response by Airbnb, or she's acting out because of emotional distress; one set of fact patterns belongs to the "pro-Airbnb" side, and the other to the "pro-EJ" side.
Also telling: let's all make sure we get photos of the damage! Because how will we know how to judge what happened unless we can see it for ourselves? Because better forming opinions about other people's misfortunes is our right as Internet message board citizens.
If you have some free time, go read the book "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus", which talks about the difference. It isn't always gender - the book is simply giving you familiar examples. But there does exist a sizable number of people who tend to think from feelings first, instead of fact and logic first. Always attributing this kind of writing or speech as malice would produce tons of misunderstandings between you and a lot of people.
As for the made-up PR person, I think it's ridiculous to do what-ifs like that when you have no evidence.
Finally, it's clear to me from her comments that she is suffering from PTSD. She's communicating her experience with that. I see no reason to assume guile.
This is a story. People are talking about it.
I'm on record with my desire to see counsel retained on her behalf before passing judgement on what exactly she's angling for and I think the specialization of that particular legal counsel will spell it out for us.
I'm wondering if Airbnb sensed this from their interactions with her just prior to the first blog post. It's possible the situation cannot be fixed, even with a blank check. Does she have a legal case? I don't know how she'd be able to sue Airbnb if that's what she decides to do because they have no legal obligation to compensate her. The person she needs to go after is Faith Clinton.
In my understanding of it, in outline this was handled the way conventional PR firms have handled corporate problems - fix it in private and ignore it/deny it in public. Especially, offering aid contingent on silence (which MJ's kind of indicates was done).
It seems like "The Ole' PR stonewall" just isn't a good model for startups. Instead, a better model is do the right thing, from the start, publicly and privately (obviously, you need to articulate clearly what you're doing so you still corporate communications). Google, at its best, has benefited from this approach.
Before even fully knowing what was going on the company apologized, issued a nationwide recall, and replaced product ads with announcements warning people not to consume their product.
When an internal investigation revealed it was someone tampering with products after they were on shelves and resealing them, the company announced it would relaunch the product with an innovative tamper-evident cap and offered a reward for information leading to the culprit.
The transparent response is "we don't know what happened and we are investigating".
Although, as we saw, it can take a while. A month in this case.
The Internet is enabling conversations among human beings that were simply not possible in the era of mass media.
Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy....
As a result, markets are getting smarter, more informed, more organized. Participation in a networked market changes people fundamentally.
People in networked markets have figured out that they get far better information and support from one another than from vendors. So much for corporate rhetoric about adding value to commoditized products.
There are no secrets. The networked market knows more than companies do about their own products. And whether the news is good or bad, they tell everyone....
Companies that don't realize their markets are now networked person-to-person, getting smarter as a result and deeply joined in conversation are missing their best opportunity.
Companies can now communicate with their markets directly. If they blow it, it could be their last chance....
Public Relations does not relate to the public. Companies are deeply afraid of their markets....
Don't worry, you can still make money. That is, as long as it's not the only thing on your mind....
We are waking up and linking to each other. We are watching. But we are not waiting.
When the authors of the Cluetrain Manifesto wrote the above theses in 1999, they sounded radical, utopian, even unrealistic. Now they are, or should be, common sense. Airbnb exists in large part because of the truth of these theses. So why are they reverting to 1950s-style corporate blackmail when faced with this crisis?
The good firms realize that the most effective way to combat crisis like these is to over-deliver on your obligations to anyone hurt, and to lead the charge in providing information to the public.
I've never worked PR for tobacco or big oil companies, but I imagine that's where the stereotype comes from. It's pretty easy to do good, ethical PR for a bunch of nerds programming computers.
If, instead, they'd put out a bullet point list of what they've done to mitigate the disaster, public would have been tamed and considered the incident over.
Internet hate machine started working against airbnb, they should better begin doing something meaningful before they might very well become a non-company.
Too much thought and words spent on intermediate situations.
It's almost certain that not all details are known and of the ones that are known, some will probably turn out to be incorrect. And now every time a little tidbit of information turns up, everyone starts interpreting the new situation (with the added tidbit of information). New conjecture, new advice, new commentary. Then when the next bit of information comes in, it invalidates half the predictions that have been made, and the whole process starts again. Over and over. Round and round.
A couple of weeks from now when all the details are out and established, all this intermediate commentary will just be noise. A tree falling in the forest with no one around to hear. That's not to say that you shouldn't do it... hell, if you feel like it... But you might ask yourself if there isn't something else you'd rather be doing. Something useful. Something fun. I don't know.
Anyway, I'll write myself a reminder to check up on how the whole thing turned out in a month or so and ignore these threads from now on.
But when the technology to provide instant news updates was developed, it was hailed as an opportunity not to be behind the curve on a breaking story. And blogging was hailed (especially by Dave Winer, since way back in the year 2000 or earlier) as something that would give a voice to the forgotten common people and shake up journalism. Good ideas have unintended consequences.
I understand from their site that you can read reviews from prior hosts who rented to a given guest, but beyond that it is up to you to investigate the guest and decide if you trust them, and to purchase insurance if you want to be protected against misjudgment.
If so, I do not understand the fuss here. A bad guest ripped someone off. Presumably that guest will get a scathing review and no one else will rent to them. Why isn't that the end of the matter?
Surely no one is surprised that if you give strangers unsupervised full access to your home, without doing a very thorough background check on them, occasionally you are going to get a bad guest.
Now one might argue that Airbnb is in a better position than the average host to gather data to make a good estimate of the prevalence and impact of bad guests, and so it would be more efficient for them to buy insurance to protect hosts rather than leave it to the hosts, but until that happens hosts need to insure.
Also, as far as getting your own insurance goes.. good luck with that. Even if you have renter's or home owner's insurance it probably specifically denies any sort of coverage once you bring subletting into the mix.
*Unless they've spent the money to get a fake ID in a person's name that they've stolen a CC from - which seems highly unlikely.
What I care about is that there are repercussions (jail, lawsuit, etc) if they do vandalize my dwelling - so the probability becomes near-zero that something bad will happen.
That guest probably used a fake name and a fake credit card.
But yeah, I agree. We use AirBNB, both when hosting and traveling. We give our guests keys and tell them they're free to come and go as they please - but we wouldn't just mail someone a copy of our keys and go on vacation. That's something you do with a rental property - not your home.
What is the point of submitting the same story over and over again, albeit from different news sources? The fact that it has 98 points at the moment is proof that the angry mob PG was talking about¹ is a reality. It's sad to see this kind of behavior on HN.
It's human nature. People vent their anger by upvoting and commenting on this stuff. Give 'em a break, it's just two or three additional entries in the Top 30.
"I was great at customer support though. Imagine talking to a customer support person who not only knew everything about the product, but would apologize abjectly if there was a bug, and then fix it immediately, while you were on the phone with them. Customers loved us. And we loved them, because when you're growing slow by word of mouth, your first batch of users are the ones who were smart enough to find you by themselves. There is nothing more valuable, in the early stages of a startup, than smart users. If you listen to them, they'll tell you exactly how to make a winning product. And not only will they give you this advice for free, they'll pay you."
There is other good advice for startups in this essay.
She said was "growing a very thick skin" because of accusations that she was part of a plot by the hotel industry to discredit Airbnb
Has Airbnb been looking into this possibility?
EJ blogged, And I was - but no longer am - scared of Airbnb’s reaction, the pressure and the veiled threat I have received from them since I initially blogged this story (http://ejroundtheworld.blogspot.com/2011/07/airbnb-nightmare...).
But that doesn't fit with PG's description or the profile of the founders (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2822721).
Nor does it fit with EJ's original account: 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 (http://ejroundtheworld.blogspot.com/2011/06/violated-travele...).
And there are these green "jcunningham" types that keep popping up on HN (http://www.hnsearch.com/search#request/all&q=jcunningham) trying to demonize Airbnb.
Can we move the discussion forward please?
or like market analysts would say : tin hat market shows signs of improvement
> Has Airbnb been looking into this possibility?
ie. whether they seriously looked into the idea of blaming their own screwdup on a "plot by <> industry" ? do you seriously think that bad about them?
and to think that i'm laboring here for free :)
She wrote her original account at the end of June. She wrote her update at the end of July. The customer service she refers to happened in the days prior to her first post, so it is not inconsistent with her dissatisfaction in her second post.
What EJ is saying now does not match what PG is saying.
When they say they will be "creating a "Trust and Safety" department, they again don't mention actual numbers.
What are the figures?
This is one of my pet peeves about journalism--quantitative statements that aren't anchored to any numbers. The most outrageous example most of the time is talk of government budget "cuts" that are nearly always "growth in spending at a slower than originally planned rate" rather than actual reductions in spending.
Renting out short term is a good business IF someone is around the entire time to watch over guests. There should really be a host present the entire time for the guests. Otherwise there is an increased risk of bad things to happen.
Potential hosts needs to be aware of all the risks (even if small chance) and be prepared to accept it if they're not vigilant.
It's much easier than running a business, but it could really bite you on the ass if you don't run it as a real business.
Buy the woman a new home, what ever she wants, furnish it as she wants and pay her a largish sum of money to compensate for those things that cannot be replaced.
Get insurance to cover the renters in future cases of theft or damage, and there will be future events.
Get a company that conducts background checks on applicants that wish to rent through their service. Anonymize the result and get the renter's approval before the transaction can proceed.
It's called hotel industry.
And if you think the way EJ feels is not similar to what a rape victim feels, you probably haven't talked to one before.
It would also show the world that Airbnb is taking the blame for this. It isn't their fault. They are just as much a victim as this women. Victims shouldn't be paying for other victims.
"Get insurance to cover the renters in future cases of theft or damage, and there will be future events."
This will most likely increase the service fees substantially..maybe beyond what people are willing to pay.
"Get a company that conducts background checks on applicants that wish to rent through their service. Anonymize the result and get the renter's approval before the transaction can proceed."
This is probably the best suggestion.
A month or two ago, someone was visiting SoCal (San Diego) and needed some help - I was about to offer him a place to stay at my house, for free. But I had to think about things a little. It's unfortunate. I wanted to be kind, and help someone out. The problem: I have a large family - comprise d of boys and girls - teenagers at that. Would my charitable acts backfire on me? Not sure. Maybe, maybe not. Ultimately, I didn't make the offer. It wasn't a SAFE decision for me or my family. It would have been irresponsible, even though it would have been a nice gesture.
I would NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER offer up my primary residence to a complete stranger - NEVER! I didn't do it when I would be "present" and I definitely wouldn't do it when I was an absentee. No way. It's IRRESPONSIBLE. A secondary residence? Maybe! Of course! Maybe they vomit on my couch, or piss on the carpet. No problem - that's, sadly, somewhat expected of "renters" --- but to provide a complete stranger to your primary residence, with all your private material, documents, property and what not in place, is just NAIVE! I'm sickened by what I have read, and I think AirBnb has no "social" or "business" obligation in this matter. In fact, I'm wondering where my mental wiring has gone wrong to have such a strong feeling. WHY on EARTH is everyone siding with this person? Because of her gender? Because she's a good writer? No? No... they've handled the whole thing, publicly, wrong. This is a great lesson for them - but they are NOT AT FAULT - not in my opinion! But, that's just my opinion, and clearly not that of the masses.
I've been wondering the same thing. I read through her initial blog post. She talks about renting out her place through Craigslist on multiple occasions (without any problems). This is extremely risky and I wonder if her place was vandalized through craigslist, would people be calling for them to pay for her house?
When the "Craiglist killer" was in the news, I would be curious to see if the responses here on HN were similar (that Craigslist is to blame for the murders).
If I hired a developer from HN and they ended up stealing my source code/IP, should I blame Paul Graham?
Emotions play a lot into it. Her entire post plays into our emotions and gets people to feel sorry for her. Politicians and marketers use this same technique, and I don't like it.
At the very end, she does admit that it is her fault. But not without a few passive-aggressive jabs about the assumption that because she had paid a service fee that somehow Airbnb had pre-screened the applicant. I'm not sure why anyone would make this assumption.
I think because the criminals are not here, and people need someone to blame, airbnb is the next best thing (having the deepest pockets in the situation helps too).
Everyone just needs to take a step back, look at the situation, and take out emotions for a second...they often cloud judgement.
(From what I'm reading, there is absolutely nothing new going on here.)
AirBnB should definitely add supplemental insurance; which should be low due to such a great record.
Its as if they forgot about the 5m incentive & industrial strength NDAs. Nothing good can come of this for Airbnb, so fix it...quietly & speedily.
She is justifiably distressed and clearly willing to post what is essentially a PR _disaster_ online, so why isn't Airbnb on top of this, doing everything in their power to make her feel better? At the very least they could set her up in a hotel & meet her face to face. Clearly they are doing something very very wrong here:
>Airbnb’s reaction, the pressure and the veiled threat
Edit: Reply was to jcunningham.
Homeaway.com, VRBO.com, and roomarama.com all offer similar products, and they built their businesses without dishonesty or spam.
I don't think a recap of the story as related to us by USA Today, not exactly an investigative outfit, sheds any new light nor does it provide proof of anything. Nor does the one posted in the Chronicle. This hide and go seek game that EJ is playing is allowing her to avoid any scrutiny while she hides behind her blog. Personally, I think Balloon Boy's father has something to do with this.
Also, last time I checked, Brian Chesky was not in the employ of the SFPD as a jailer nor does he have any legal connection, responsibility or obligation to the accused.
I quickly rented a place of my own and began to settle in – unpacking dusty boxes, unloading suitcases and scouring the internet for furniture. Something along the lines of a home began to take shape, and with it came that invaluable feeling of being at peace.
This problem is trivial to avoid, by the simple expedient of requiring a police report. The police don't take kindly to being used as patsies for insurance fraud.
Genuine question: what does this article add that top HN posts haven't covered yet? Is it the simple fact that USAToday-Travel talked about it?
But she does know. She implicitly states that Airbnb should have reimbursed her for her financial losses, and since they didn't nudge, she will now crucify them because of her "principles". By all means i was sympathetic towards her, but this is getting tiring. Spiteful even.
For EJ, it's about violation and no amount of money will fix it. So the same way that in her 2nd blog post, she brushes off the idea of donations from readers, she may have been noncommittal about any initial AirBnb offers of financial help. In fact, if AirBnb concentrated too much on what they could buy for her, and not enough on whether she was emotionally well, that could have worsened her mood.
I do think some of her recounting has been colored by the psychological need to find someone to blame for the initial crime. She initially felt betrayed by AirBnb because she felt there hadn't been enough warning to be wary of guests. (She thought there was more checking than there was. EJ was so confident that the key got handed off in some manner such that she didn't even know the gender of the guest!)
For a bit, EJ then felt reassured by sympathy from AirBnb support staff. But after she blog posted – an effort to warn others, and also an appeal for more sympathy and emotional support – AirBnb went into all-business mode. I'd guess they said something to the effect of, "is there anything we can do for you that would let you take down or balance your first post, because it's just the incomplete first part of a still-evolving story we want to have a happier resolution for you."
If your real needs are financial, you're OK hearing that. If your real needs are emotional, that question may sound sinister, pressuring, as if any help was conditional on removing the post – even if that wasn't the AirBnb intent.
I think they should be judged on that framework, when it is finally in place, instead of this single incident.
Then again, it may only be one bad incident, and every small company has those.
What troubles me most is the claim they attempted to cover it up, so I'm not sure how many times an incident like this has happened.
But clearly the issue is beyond reconciliation as the woman is requesting something Airbnb can't fix (and technically didn't cause). Perhaps exposing the situation to the world might help her find the "problem" and thus the solution.