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Airbnb is a website that helps connect short-term renters with those with rooms to rent, generally private parties. That said, while it might be a good want to find a room when you are traveling, based on this horror story, it might not be a good way to provide that sort of accommodation.
“EJ” blogged last month that renters she found through Airbnb trashed and burgled her home. Airbnb has acknowledged the incident, so there’s no doubt about those facts in the matter. That’s just where things get started though; after the incident hit mainstream media and the blogosphere, “EJ” felt it necessary to speak up again via her blog, to correct some misstatements by Airbnb.
First and foremost, Airbnb apparently tried to silence her. They wanted her to take down her initial blog post. The reason is obvious: people will now think twice, if not thrice, about renting their home out via Airbnb (or any other such service).
Could that be the reason that all conversation with Airbnb via their customer service personnel has stopped? It could be. Airbnb co-founder Brian Chesky told TechCrunch the following: “We have been in close contact with her ever since, and have worked with the authorities to help find a resolution.”
“EJ” disputed that, saying, “If the ‘her’ he is referring to is me, then the first part of this statement is false (the second I cannot attest to). During the first week of my nightmare, the customer service team at Airbnb was – as I stated in my June 29 blog post – helpful, caring and supportive. In particular, one customer service manager – and the company’s freelance photographer – were wonderfully kind to me, and both should know how grateful I am.
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.”
Is that just a coincidence? It’s hard to say, but it’s now been nearly a month since their last communication with her, and that seems to fail the smell test. Notably, she has not spoken or communicated in any way with Chesky. She did speak to another co-founder, and references it here:
“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.'”
Some comments at EJ’s blog are going so far as to blame her, sort of like some might blame a rape victim. That smacks of Calvinism. After all, she said she had placed her valuables in a locked closet, and the renters broke through that door. It sounds like she took the precautions that a normal person would call necessary.
That said, cynical as we are, we would never rent our place to complete strangers.
On Tuesday, it was reported that Airbnb is worth roughly $1.3 billion after another round of fundraising that secured $112 million more in venture capital. A good response from the company should be expected, considering that, and it doesn’t sound like it’s happened.
One note, however, is that Chesky did “reach out” to “EJ” by placing a comment in her latest blog post. It’s better than nothing.