Right now it's about "you were stupid, why did you rent your space out to strangers?". Later on it'll be "why did you try to save $20 and go sleep some place where you're 110% vulnerable?". You don't control the locks, you don't know the neighborhood or even the layout of the house all that well (are there cameras in the room spying on you?).
If Holiday Inn or Marriott had tried to go 'downmarket' by trying to get in the "rent out your space with us - we'll handle the booking logistics", they'd have been eaten alive by the insurance costs of dealing with QA on thousands of rooms/spaces they don't control. They'd have too much name brand recognition and goodwill in their names to lose by leaving customer safety and security to chance. ABNB seems to be coming at this from the other way. What do they have to lose? Investor money? It's a big experiment for them, which they're hoping will pay off, but I think there's a reasons beyond "laziness" or "not getting it" to explain why larger companies well-versed in hospitality/property management have not gone down this road.
Will things still work out for ABNB? They might, but they're taking such a hit on this by not just making some of these situations right, then changing their procedures and policies. Apparently these incidents - as infrequent as they may be - have been occurring for a while. There's probably quite a few more that haven't come forward because they've felt it was their own fault, much like domestic abuse spouses blame themselves. Not really wanting to see ABNB fail, but can't help watching this play out, and I somewhat suspect it'll get worse before it gets better.
A different way to put this is that most rational people recognize that letting strangers into their home is completely within the realm of their personal responsibility. AirBnB will have to put some processes in place in order for the business to succeed in the mainstream, but that doesn't absolve the hosts of responsibility for their apartments. Comparing this to domestic abuse victims is ludicrous.
Doesn't seem to have stopped the classified business from working...
What's more, CL (and others) actively try to scare you with warnings about how not to get scammed and such. ABNB doesn't seem to take that approach, trying to wrap the whole thing up as a comfy/pleasing experience.
(I met him after his daughter's murder.) The Craigslist founder Craig himself was involved in responding directly to that incident and appeared in public at a memorial event for the murder victim.
These days, Craigslist has a lot of warnings about dangerous transactions, and for Airbnb to NOT have had similar warnings until last week suggests its lawyers weren't on the ball about what a reasonable standard of care is for being a third party arranging room rental transactions among strangers.
The young woman who was murdered in this part of the country was a kind, trusting, and perhaps hopelessly naive young woman who was surprised by a pervert with a deadly weapon. Airbnb regularly sets up situations, as in the recently reported incidents, in which the wrongdoer doesn't even have to confront the victim while stealing movable property, stealing identities, and destroying real property. Precisely because Craigslist incidents have been in the news for years now, it's crazy for Airbnb not to measure up to the industry standard of care.
It's still not similar.
How many people are going to really find that safety page? Compare this with Craigslist which has safety links on the search results and on the post.
And Craigslist doesn't take commission from transactions, so it's not really the same boat at all.
Website more pretty. They also have an intro video with a lady talking. Craiglist does not have a pretty site or video with a lady talking.
I agree 100%. However I ask say how in the world did you think about this?
That said, I wouldn't be surprised if there have already been cases of hosts faking complaints to AirBnB about "that guest stole X Y and Z"-- but because they're only after money in the first place, they're a lot easier to shut up.
A fair number of rape/murder/other cases involve an unwitting victim being lured into situations that they naively (or just incorrectly) think should be safe. It is far from a daily occurrence in any given area but such cases are in the national news often enough (and fictional realms also) to figure in the minds of the more paranoid!
1. think of using AirBnB, 2. perfectly healthy paranoia kicks in and starts listing worst-case scenarios, 3. book into a large well known chain hotel instead...
This has already happened with an actual hotel, so you had better stick with Holiday Inn (and make sure it is really a Holiday Inn).
People need to have some smarts about who they meet with. The service can do some things, like integrating the Facebook graph, but ultimately the two parties to the transaction must be responsible for checking each other out before they meet.
The fraction of people with enough sophistication and resources to be good, safe, hosts and guests is a tiny, tiny fraction of the people in the world. It is absurd to think that airbnb could ever scale to justify its investments if only those sophisticated users were customers.
The model relies, therefore, on large numbers of hosts and guests taking foolish risks. Airbnb's light and airy "how it works" video is a fine illustration of just how glib they are in encouraging people to make bad mistakes. The advice on their "safety" page is risible.
Because most people are decent, most foolish risks from using airbnb go "unpunished" but certainly not all - as we've seen. A significant percentage of those risks lead to great loss.
I fear that Airbnb is going to help kill, kidnap, rape or otherwise grievously harm someone's person, directly, at this pace. That's because to make its numbers the company must, needs be, incite dangerously foolish behavior from many customers.
That the investors controlling so many dollars signed off on this investment speaks poorly of the VC system that produced airbnb. It speaks poorly of their common sense and/or dedication to basic social responsibility.
The vast majority of people who use AirBnb benefit from it.
More importantly, though, the scope of the risk of airbnb is enormous and past performance is not a reliable indicator of future success. As these two examples of bad experiences have shown, the system can be gamed. As a larger and larger number of bad guys learn that this system can be gamed (and how) -- exploits as a percentage of use and percentage of value received (insofar as you can quantify that) will, it seems to me, almost certainly grow.
The only people who benefit are the guests, as any host who isn't using AirBnB to fill a rental property they already owned is taking on an incredible amount of personal liability for a relatively trivial sum of money (compared to the uninsured costs if something goes wrong).
They were also fatally flawed products.
Either USAToday misinterpreted/misreported a quote, Airbnb lied to a reporter on the record, or Troy is making up his story. I can't see any other way to reconcile the evidence put forth.
With a single booking, one person’s malicious actions victimized our host and undermined what had been – for 2 million nights – a case study demonstrating that people are fundamentally good.
Note it implies this is the only incident that has occurred, but they could have had three million incidents and this statement would still technically be true as long as they had two million nights without incidents.
Somehow, I doubt USA Today will be thrilled about being manipulated that way...
Somehow, I doubt USA Today will even notice. They get served up far more egregious statements on a daily basis.
And, by the way, the statement is literally true, regardless of the number of prior incidents (within reasonable bounds). They aren't claiming a perfect 2million night streak in the quote-- rather, "a case study demonstrating that people are fundamentally good." If they had had 2000 prior bad incidents, they could easily argue that a 99% problem-free rate demonstrates that "people are fundamentally good."
Kudos to Dayton for keeping a balanced perspective on the situation, and not equating customer service clumsiness with indifference.
I like AirBnb. I will continue to use AirBnb as a guest. (Hypothetically if I were to be a host, I would only rent a hardened/rental-only property with careful assessment of the potential guests.) I am also still bullish on the general theme that the transparency and efficiency of the net makes peer-to-peer transactions between strangers more safe and easy than ever before.
But they're going to have to innovate on 'trust and safety' to avoid any impression they're AirBnBnMethDen.
That's what I thought as well (both are SF Bay Area), though it's only a guess. The combination of meth-heads and identity theft seems weird to be repeated. I would even tentatively guess at the meth-heads trashing apts being a cover for someone else who got the idea of using AirBnB to acquire documents for an identity-theft ring, but who knows, it's possible there are actually meth-heads who are also into identity theft, or who at least know someone to sell the documents to.
(Identity theft is also the perfect precursor to evading what payment- and identity- checks do exist in an AirBnb-like system.)
Imagine how the whole deal sounds from the angle of a drug addicted person who is comfortable committing petty/medium property crimes to fund their lifestyle. Unsuspecting urban/suburban dwellers will let you in their houses, unmonitored, for days or weeks, leaving them full of valuables and personal information, in exchange for a small fee that will never even be paid? Sounds like a criminal paradise to me.
Maybe EJ didn't have much in the way of credit to her name so they just trashed the place. It's what jerks do anyways when they either empowered or unsupervised.
Although I don't think that an identity theft ring would be able to generate enough cash using Airbnb's hosts, a small scale noobish operation could certainly gain some traction and maybe the people who've actually had their identity stolen don't know about it because nobody bothered to trash their apartment. So maybe the jerk who kicked EJ's toilet to death actually did everyone a favor and brought this out into the open.
Not just possible, it's actually quite common, and has been for awhile. For example, see this article from 2004:
Here's the AirBnb page about safety: http://www.airbnb.com/home/safety
CouchSurfing is similar in that it's about strangers staying at people's places. The biggest difference is that people let others stay at their houses for free. Usually both parties do it for the experience. Many people think it's fun to meet travelers. I knew someone who traveled to Asia and couch-surfed.
a.) It reduces the risk that something happens (e.g. burglary)
b.) It increases the impact if something happens (e.g. armed robbery, murder, rape)
Airbnb has the safety page linked from the footer.
Guess which one is going to get more clicks.
I'm not an AirBnB user, so maybe I'm missing something.
Credit information should be need-to-know, and you should be respectful of others' privacy (and perhaps more cautious of your own). You're nuts if you think I am giving you 7 years of address history, all my credit accounts, my spouse's accounts, and how much is on my mortgages, just so I can rent your guest house for a weekend vacation.
You can verify that you're able to put a reasonable deposit on my credit card, and that I'm not a criminal, and that's all you need.
I've actually been a landlord for about 3 years, and I don't even do credit checks on a 12 month lease. I've never had to keep a dollar of anyone's damage deposit.
If they don't vet people on either end, are they really just a craigslist with payment processing?
Edit: Except for to Airbnb.
Exactly this. The first blogger to go public with a report of a place being trashed by an Airbnb guest pointed out that with Craigslist, it is EASIER to contact the guest individually beforehand. Airbnb subtracts value from the typical transaction that would be arranged on Craigslist. That's because Craigslist makes its money from help-wanted ads and a few other ad categories, and doesn't need to monetize transactions for short-term stays in people's homes to keep right on making money.
Airbnb claims to be a force for disintermediating the short-term rental industry, but it desires to be market-leading intermediary. It isn't offering a market-leading level of customer service after a problem happens. Nor is Airbnb doing as much to prevent problems as other startup companies in the same space--several of those companies take much greater care to verify guest identities before setting up the transaction. What Airbnb appears to want, compared to other market participants, is to be paid as an intermediary without providing any particular value as an intermediary. That's nice work if you can get it, but that's a business model that is ripe for disruption and not a business model that I would invest in.
After edit: I hope everyone is reading the newly submitted article here for the details of what the Airbnb autoresponder message replying to the "urgent" help email address at Airbnb looked like not long ago. As the host thought after his place was trashed, "This freaked me out when I was frazzled. Hundreds of millions in venture financing, millions of dollars in fees, and no 24-hour help desk for emergencies? What am I paying them the exorbitant fees for?"
And, the components of a potential solution – costly one-time background checks, longer reputation histories, insurance pooling, deep experience with all abuse variants – all benefit from scale. Participant fear enhances the winner-take-all nature of the market... if the leader can best assuage that fear.
Background checks are a one-time cost per new participant.
It may be costly (in money or time) to set up your initial account, and acquire a positive reputation via a long history of mutual reviews... but then you're part of a large pre-vetted community.
Do you then want to go through that procedure many times with every new upstart? Or just once with the largest market?
But yeah, they are essentially just middlemen. They benefit from keeping the buyer and seller apart until the deal is done and they get their cut.
This would allow users to contact and vet each other before agreeing on a sale while still having some profit streams.
Basically AirBnb would become a specialized Craigslist on steroids, but it can only be done if the founders want to build a long term business netting them a few million each year rather than a VC darling to be flipped for a couple of billion dollars.
That's mostly what it is, which isn't a bad idea. It also has a strong couch surfer element that CL doesn't.
And what is the problem with that? Some comments seem to be suggestion that - because that evil money thing is involved - they should be required to be in other businesses simultaneously. Perhaps there are things they can do better, but existing system was already quite clear to me (renter; would have to think seriously before hosting).
A quote from http://www.airbnb.com/rooms/new - "Airbnb lets you make money renting out your place. Your apartment will pay for itself!"
That is the antithesis of a 'unused low marginal cost asset'.
i love the community aspect of couch surfing---the fact that it's about spending time with cool people in new places, rather than finding "a cheap hotel", is huge to me.
i get that there is a market for people who want cheap hotels rather than a community. however, there was a sense that you were getting more from paying more...like more security or something.
yet everyone in couch surfing knows the importance of community references, and to meet folks at a cafe before deciding whether to bring them over.
letting someone you've never met use your home while you're not there.....interesting culture screw up. i think adding a little money to the mix drastically changed what became emphasized.
If the culprits in this case aren't related to the ones in the EJ case, I'd be curious if there's an identifiable profile here. The stereotype of the meth addict I operate by is a down-market tweaker who'd have no idea Airbnb existed much less the patience or resources to take advantage of it. But I suppose there's a more upscale demographic that might make up a hellish niche market for Airbnb.
Not only is all of this press bad in terms of basic PR, but now the word is out (to those so inclined who weren't tech savvy enough to previously realize it even existed) that Airbnb is a good place to rent a temporary meth lab as long as you're capable of some basic identity theft.
The story here is that people are doing things that in most jurisdictions are illegal. AirBnB is profiting off this. Do something illegal and you can't insure against any negative consequences.
The whole EJ situation is a potential inflection point. Without knowing the full facts (which no one seems to), it seems like AirBnB was trying to rectify things with EJ and I suspect they were trying to keep her quiet in the process. I have no proof of this. I also suspect that they probably misrepresented their actions to PG. Again I have no proof of this. It is merely my suspicion.
But there's something "off" about EJ's position here.
Why exactly is a vandalized apartment leaving her homeless? Is it too damaged to occupy? Does she simply not feel safe there?
If she has received offers for help, why hasn't she taken it? It's possible she's traumatized by what happens. It's possible she feels so wronged by AirBnB that she's not acting rationally. Or maybe she just wants to get her story out to warn people. I really don't know.
Yet something seems... off. The comments of EJ, PG and AirBnB just don't add up. I'd bet money on there being more to come on this story. And while some want to give EJ a free pass here, I don't want to vilify her but she has to take some responsibility for giving strangers the keys to her apartment.
I think AirBnB can count their lucky stars this was just a robbery and not a rape or murder. Or someone could have set up a drug lab, causing the Feds to confiscate the property as the proceeds of crime possibly taking months to sort out and prove the person renting out the property didn't know about the drug lab.
The hotel industry has fundamental protections for this kind of issue. Not only security but there's the fact that the hotel owner isn't storing their prized valuables where guests can steal them. Nor are hotels putting their staff in a position to be attacked or robbed by a guest sleeping under the same roof (incidents can occur in a hotel but at least there are locked doors separating you from the guests). LIkewise hotels take ID (usually).
The legal precedent they set by paying off EJ is a cause for concern though some argue it isn't. This isn't like Apple choosing to replace broken hardware they aren't responsible for (this happens). While doing something illegal (and profiting from it) that can't be insured against, liability is something that could easily destroy the company.
Ultimately, AirBnB is making a bet they can effect change on the laws relating to subletting. If the person renting out a room is leasing the property they're in, there's a good chance they can't sublet it (even though many do). This may help them on the liability front as well.
Part of the problem here is anonymity on the Internet. This I believe is changing and it will help (IMHO). But it only takes keylogger malware or someone sniffing packets at the Internet cafe to steal someone's online identity and then do what they want.
Put yourself in the position of a person who has just had their apartment burglarized (remember: they stole her personal documents and valuables) and their keys stolen by probable drug addicts. Also, remember that the police have arrested one of the vandals, but probably not all of them.
Ignoring, for the moment, that the place would be unlivable for a while, wouldn't you also be wary of middle-of-the-night retribution (or just a repeat performance) from a bunch of psychotic drug users? I would, and I'm not exactly a fearful guy.
There are many sketchy details about this story, but EJ's fear of retribution isn't one of them.
So yes. Let's all agree: it's not crazy to acknowledge that "EJ" is trapped in a set of circumstances keeping her out of her house.
However. That does not mean the only interpretation of events here is that "EJ" is fundamentally unable to return to her home. Another possible interpretation is, she lawyered up (good for her), and has been advised that the longer this remains an issue for her, the better her negotiating position is.
I think presenting that theory once is more than enough - you don't have to reply to everybody with your theory.
It's the first time I read it.
> you don't have to reply to everybody with your theory.
And you didn't have to post this reply. But you did. It's almost like we can comment on things, and reply to them.
If you think he's spamming, flag it. Otherwise, enjoy that his comments are at least contributing to the overall discussion, and not worthless comments bitching about constructive comments.
Oh, the irony.
Even if she didn't "lawyer up", she wouldn't return to her home for feeling unsafe until everything is cleaned up and restored. Especially since she got friends and family to stay with. Especially since she's probably waiting to see how much AirBnB will reimburse her. And especially cause she's probably going to find a new place to live after all this and I wouldn't blame her. They defiled and shat on her home.
Now if she did "lawyer up", and her lawyer advised her to do pretty much the same thing, then it's all the same, right?
So what's your point? That she's exaggerating the condition she found her home in? Really?
Look, I'm not saying they [Airbnb] are doing everything right. But at the same time, the renters have got to take on some responsibility for handing out their keys to strangers; yes that's what you're doing, is that a surprise?
This isn't all on EJ or all on Airbnb. Clearly the responsibility goes both ways, but while neither side is absolved of responsibility, EJ must back off on laying the blame on Airbnb so intensely and without remorse. Previously she stated they offered "emotionally and financially" support and were extremely helpful, only now there's veritable lynch mob has she backtracked on those statements.
Still I think Airbnb has a lot to answer for: their statements have been inconsistent.
It's a good point but if AirBnb can't take measures to mitigate these horror scenarios and all the onus is on renters, then they can kiss their stratospheric valuation goodbye. Who's going to want to participate in this service with even a 0.01% chance that they will sustain $1000s in damages? The risk wouldn't be worth it.
Much like Ebay took measures against cheaters, AirBnb should create measures in case of nightmare renters (valid ID, credit card, etc).
This happens everyday. Homes are cased, the victims watched, their habits noted. Ultimately they're broken into. In some instances criminals look for homes where the victims appear to be on vacation and set up labs.
What do rational individuals do? They call the police, they change the locks, and they carry on with their lives.
The difference here of course is that Airbnb is involved and thus may be obligated (legally or ethically) to provide restitution.
That said, what they cannot do, is fix the victim. They can't repair the damage done to EJ. If that's what she's insisting on, then it's an impossible, irrational goal. That just isn't Airbnb's responsibility.
Where it has all gone wrong - is that AirBnB started stating that they were going above and beyond to help her after that first post. But, in the background, according to EJ, AirBnB cut off support and allegedly asked her to take her blog post down because it would affect their funding.
That is what people have been slamming AirBnB for - that ham fisted way of dealing with a victim. It's nothing about whether AirBnB is responsible for the crime (obviously not), nor is it about EJ trying to leverage a payout (not that either). The'outrage' is purely around either AirBnB's inexperience in dealing with a crisis (at best) or a desire to try and hide a flaw in their business model and protect their funding (at worst).
People commenting that EJ is lawyering up to maximise her benefits, or EJ is just lashing out to hurt people, or that break ins happen all the time ('just get over it') are really misguided arguments IMHO made by people who have not really read and digested EJ's posts.
1) EJ specifically points out that there was no way to perform due diligence on the other person. You are inviting someone to use your home, and you normally expect some entity to perform some sort of check on the renter. Craigslist clearly warns people about this, and gives them a good way to contact (via email, even if its obfuscated). AirBNB, for better or worse, hinders people's ability to do this. There's an implication (and I fully agree, having gone through the site myself) that the site is safe, that renters are safe, and that hosts are safe. In that circumstance, EJ is justified in feeling misleaded by ABNB.
2) There's a simple way to fix the situation: provide restitution, recognize fault, and help find (and possibly pay for) a new flat for EJ. They can't repair the emotional damage, but they can at least show that they care about the situation.
3) This robbery is far different from most robberies. In some simple break-in, robbers grab the most expensive items they can find and move on. Rarely do robbers go to the extent of systematically stealing everything in the house.
I think this entire situation would have blown over if Airbnb just apologized at the onset. A simple "we are sorry" or hotline with a person that could talk EJ down immediately would have sufficed. EJ would have felt that there were people in ABNB.
Have you ever had to make an insurance claim or credit card fraud claim? American Express is great about CC fraud, suspending all fraudulent purchases immediately. And with home insurance, one day a tree fell on the house. Called insurance company and I was speaking to an agent within a few seconds, who calmed me down and walked me through the entire process (from getting a hotel to calling police). In both cases, great customer service people make sure that customers are calmed down first. And it was only because they promptly responded that I didnt feel any sort of misanthropic dispair.
I once was robbed at gunpoint and it took me weeks to get back to nomal. I am still very careful when I have my notebook in my backpack.
I have been robbed at gunpoint in Emeryville too, that was a worse experience.
I don't get it either, there was this fairytale about the big bad wolf, but I guess they must all think "hey at least it's better than straw", or something.
It's a really strange experience. You don't notice until you see the first solid stone house after two weeks of flimsy wooden cottages, it's a feeling, solid. "Stands like a house" is a saying in Dutch, meaning "solid as a rock", except in the USA it wouldn't make much sense :)
For a single story house, wood (if I understand) is a safer choice than other heavy materials which would crush you. In SF, there are different building codes as the buildings tend to be more vertical.
Wearing is, as well, but it's waiting on another SCOTUS decision for affirmation.
As for carrying in SF, only people named Feinstein are permitted to do that.
There are a handful of cases which ought to end the question on carry in the next year, as well. Either Williams or Masciandaro may do so this year providing SCOTUS grants cert.
I'm not saying that it's sketchy, just that it makes her seem like a very irrational actor. Which could be completely believable - maybe she's gotten a bit paranoid, or is having issues trusting people, both of which would be perfectly understandable - but when combined with the conflicting stories and lack of definite information (and all the conflicting information out there), it seems odd.
That doesn't make her sketchy or dishonest. That makes her rational, following the advice of her lawyer or whoever else is advising her.
I don't have a strong opinion about this story, except that the "red team / blue team" mentality commenters have about this issue is driving me fucking nuts. You don't have to think anything negative about "EJ" to think that we're not getting the whole story from her. All you have to think is, she (very sanely) got a tenacious lawyer.
I don't know what "all that matters" means. There are whole huge threads on HN about this that clearly aren't premised on the idea that "all that matters" is that her house got trashed.
Please don't assume that I'm on "team blue" just because I say something that doesn't fit "team red"'s interpretation of events.
This is the kind of thing you learn from your parents. It's not some corporation's job to do that. If I'm renting a room in my house, I'm not leaving this stranger alone in my home. If it's an apartment over the garage with only outside access, I'm less concerned, but I'll still keep my valuables in a safe.
There is a certain amount of common sense one must have to function in this world. Putting "stranger danger" education under the responsibility of AirBnB is unacceptable.
That's an important point. But Airbnb hasn't won me over to writing my elected representatives to ask for legal reform related to subletting by its recent behavior. Indeed, as I reflected on what Airbnb's business model means to me as a renter, I recalled that basically every police call into my neighborhood in the past several years has been the result of the behavior of visitors who were NOT on the lease agreements for homes in this townhouse neighborhood. I like that my landlord checks the background of tenants before renting space to people who live in my neighborhood. I'd hate to see the safety and security of my neighborhood undermined by a business encouraging my neighbors to breach their contract with our landlord.
Wimdu thinks it can beat Airbnb by providing better customer service.
Based on Airbnb's performance with its pile of capital so far, I have think that that might be possible for Wimdu.
I would guess the vandalization of her flat leads her to not feeling "safe" there anymore, and thus not being able to live there.
Maximizing the amount of compensation she is getting for her damages doesn't make her a crook. It's entirely reasonable for her to want the most graceful restoration of her home possible.
Which brings up one of my favorite subjects: tweaker behavior. Now that we have a second story we can start to abstract patterns out of what is going on, which to me appears to be either random tweakers needing a place to party discover that Airbnb is easier, cheaper and more anonymous than a hotel room or that a tweaker gang that enjoys identity theft is going about their business in the Bay Area piggybacking off of Airbnb's business model.
If they're just kids looking for the thrilling byproduct of smoking cleaning supplies, Chesky will eventually get off his ass and implement features and controls that curb this activity and squeeze some bucks out of the business model, unfortunately, but Airbnb will continue as a going concern. The second scenario is really a stretch but I'm always surprised with what meth addicts come up with and quite frankly, I'm looking forward to the rest of the story. We are now four days into this shitstorm and nobody over at the Airbnb webmaster office has even attempted to adress any of these concerns by posting, oh you know, like a psa on the homepage.
She did. I don't see why you need to speculate on that point; in her first blog post that brought this whole mess to our attention, she said "Although I had the locks changed" ...
Does that settle your obsession with the keys? The tweakers kept them.
Now AirBnB should have known better, should have had a plan in place and should have offered her a very lucrative deal to keep her mouth shut before she thought to open it. They can't put it back in the bottle now. That they didn't, they just look like shmucks. Not just that, now how do you think the negotiation is supposed to go? Shit, I feel sorry for EJ, she's laid this out there and now they're going to try and quantify how she feels and what it's worth, how's that conversation go? Does she open? Maybe a VC partner will talk to her, what if she asks for too much? This is just ugly ugly ugly.
That this happened with another person.. Seems to me like AirBnB needs to get their shit in order in a very serious way. I know they're the darling but turning people's homes in to meth houses? How many others have their been? Did the VCs know this and re-up? Or was this secret?
Agreed; I believe the problems posed to AirBnB's model are more severe that most commenters seem to recognize. Further, the countermeasures many are suggesting are problematic in their own right. e.g. Troy in Techcrunch post said:
"Also, go with your gut. My gut said something wasn’t right about the people that rented my place, but I didn’t know how to handle that gut feeling..."
IANAL, but I'm pretty sure that depending on specifics, both the Fair Housing Act and the ADA can apply to hotel rentals. If you create a situation where people are empowered to decline a rental because they "got a bad gut feeling" about the renter, you open up yet another legal can of worms.
I have nothing against the AirBnB guys - I'm actually rooting for them. However I think it's time for them to step up their game and start tackling these issues head on instead of hiding from them, which seems to have been their strategy to date.
That might depend on the strings attached to said offers.
It's easy to imagine she wouldn't accept more of a product she no longer trusts when what she's looking for is security.
In the end, the only guideline we have for what they may have offered her is what they offered this person in a similar case.
But nobody knows exactly what's transpired here except for "EJ" and Airbnb.
There is a reason why subletting is forbidden in leases and a reason why insurance companies won't pay damage claims if they think you are operating a hotel out of your house.
Yes and yes. I'm assuming you've never had your appartment broken into and ransacked.
And reading EJ's story, it's somewhat worse than your average break-in-plus-digging-for-valuables. Same for the guy in this article, seems about just as bad. My initial thought was "sounds like the same people", but more likely the common denominator is "meth-crazed junkie binge".
If there's one thing you can blame EJ is that her stories are a bit of the rambling-longwinded-trying-to-be-a-writer-please-get-to-the-point sort. But that's neither here nor there.
What I don't quite understand is, I read that in order to prevent under-the-table deals (where AirBnB wont get commission), AirBnB won't let you communicate with the guest until just before they go there? Anyone got some details on that? Cause if that's so, they DO have some responsibility to make sure these people are trustworthy, preventing the subletter from finding out themselves. Maybe not legally, but definitely practically, ethically and not-being-a-bunch-of-dicks-ically.
If the landlord found out why her place was vandalized, he may have grounds to boot her out of the apartment.
If a renter steals a host's identity without trashing their place, there's no way to know that something went wrong until it's too late.
And if the host subsequently rents her place to other guests, there's no way to know who the identify thief is.
"I do believe the folks at airbnb.com when they tell me this has never happened before in their short history, that this is a one-off case."
I don't see how either of these cases can be viewed as "minor", personally.
Right now they are just hooking people up and handling payments. They could go from that to learning how to put in place the best verification/insurance/customer service/emergency handling mechanisms in order to beat competitors in service quality.
It's analagous to how paypal won payments by learning to be the best at handling fraud.
Good point. I'd imagine hotels are required by law in most jurisdictions to take out public liability insurance.
Then there is the issue of who is responsible for ensuring that properties are actually safe for rental on Airbnb (i.e., no exposed electrical wires, slippery steps, etc.)
AirBNB hasn't been upfront about the level of risk their customers undertake when they use their service. And the downside, however rare a occurrence (even if it's one in a million or one in a thousand) is just too bad to even consider consider using them.
I will do that for friends and if I'm around myself, for friends of friends too, but even then the scheme needs to originate from some plausible circumstances where I can evaluate my potential guest in other context before we discuss accommodation. So, receiving an email from someone I don't know ("hey, I know your friend, can I stay at your place?") doesn't fly.
It's my home and I don't want to think about whether tonight's guest is that one from a thousand or ten thousand who will wreck my place.
I'm pretty sure this is getting large enough to garner the attention of politicians. That may be a positive thing, since AirBnB and their clients are apparently not taking care of safety and procedures adequately on their own.
Regardless of these incidents, ad-hoc home rental is a potentially dangerous situation for both sides of the deal. It's positive that this controversy has prompted AirBnB to go beyond making jokes about piano thievery, and realize that safety of everyone involved is a critical issue.
No better words can express my sentiments. Airbnb customers are participating in a business experiment, they're not hoteliers.
What I do find worrisome is that Airbnb being in the customer service business, doesn't appear to be focusing on the user experience at all. What did they do with the money?
HN observers often assume we don't have a sense of humor around here. Actually, I've seen a number of funny comments upvoted, and have done so many times myself. It's closer to the truth to say that most people aren't nearly as funny as they think they are.
See also the South Park critique of Family Guy.
Saying they were doubling down buying shares in Hilton and Motel 6 would at least have been marginally on topic. But still a bit obvious, right?
Edit: c'mon, you guys can do better than four downvotes.
If these people rented through posting flyers at bus stations or via craigslist the story would be lucky to be printed in the police blotter.
EJ especially sounds like a woman-child who wanted all the benefits but is unwilling to accept responsibility for the risks she stupidly undertook.
(That said, it seems they could start with a relatively high estimate and adjust it up- or downwards when they start insuring, depending on how often and how much they have to pay. It seems like this would be something insurances excel it, seeing as it’s how they make their money. I’m sure at least AirBnB could work something out with insurances.)
(Can't think of anything else to add, sorry.)
I'm shocked that AirBnb apparently hasn't availed themselves of it.
There are a number of ways in which this reduces to an insurance problem.
First, Airbnb could purchase liability insurance to indemnify themselves against claims made by people like EJ. This would enable them, under certain circumstances, to make generous payouts on occasion while maintaining fixed expenses.
Second, Airbnb could easily offer optional insurance to their customers (in this case, the hosts) whereby a small fee is paid for each night's stay, and damages are paid up to a set amount, with proper documentation. (Naturally, Airbnb would then, in this case, attempt to recover the money from the renter who committed the damages.)
I see no legal obstacles to such solutions, nor any reason to think it would be too expensive. Believe me, you can get insurance for pretty much anything, and the rate setting follows predictable patterns.
Insurance may very well be the whole answer here, and I imagine we are discussing it because a) Airbnb isn't adequately insured, and b) they screwed up the customer relations/PR side of this one enormously.