It sounds like a great idea where everybody wins. Rent out your spare room or whole home as a mini-hotel of sorts on the free-to-list Airbnb website or browse the Airbnb site to find reasonably priced places to stay when visiting cities all over the world. In a Craigslist sort of way, renters and owners leave comments, check each other’s profiles and communicate via email in what has become a billion dollar startup with over 60,000 members. But what if something goes wrong?
A San Francisco woman who recently rented out her apartment through Airbnb found out the hard way. The “guests” trashed her apartment, stole stuff and left a big mess for her to clean up, all the while emailing her about how wonderful the place was.
User “EJ” describes the scene in their blog, Around The World And Back Again:
“They smashed a hole through a locked closet door, and found the passport, cash, credit card and grandmother’s jewelry I had hidden inside. They took my camera, my iPod, an old laptop, and my external backup drive filled with photos, journals… my entire life.”
This animation gives us an idea of how it all went down:
Seeking some sort of relief, compensation or information on what to do, EJ contacts Airbnb who while not legally liable, have tried to assist her.
“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.”
Airbnb feels bad about the whole thing too, CEO Brian Chesky wrote yesterday:
“Hey everyone – we were shocked when we heard about this unsettling event. We have been working closely with the authorities, and we want to reassure our community that, with the help of our security infrastructure, we were able to assist the police in their investigation, and we understand from authorities that a suspect is now in custody.”
Still, EJ has a huge mess to clean up and is feeling anything but happy about the whole deal.
“I’ve had to miss several days of work and essentially put my life on hold. I haven’t slept or eaten properly in days, and I’m exhausted. My strength is gone, and as I pick through the wreckage, clean up this mess and try to piece my life back together, I realize the only thing that sounds appealing now is to go spend a few months near a beach, somewhere calm and sunny. Somewhere like Mexico, or Bali.”
That’s a whole lot different than the picture painted on Airbnb’s website.
Flickr photo by alancleaver_2000