Airbnb’s Very Bad Week in the Limelight

by brian on July 28, 2011

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I posted about my Airbnb review, which was a great experience. But like any story there are two sides, actually multiples sides. And this side is really horrific. This is from a person who rented out their apartment and came back to find it completely trashed, with the culprit(s) breaking through walls and doors to get to locked away valuables. Meanwhile Airbnb has allegedly been playing down the incident as opposed to addressing it directly. Now the story is finding negative media coverage, something Airbnb certainly does not want.

Plot thickens in Airbnb vacation rental horror story

There is always a risk when you invite someone into your home for both the owner and the guest. I’ve heard stories about women feeling uncomfortable about men who rent apartments because of the feeling they had ulterior motives. There is an implied trust factor with someone you’ve never met before. Maybe all you’ve got to go on are the reviews of previous people who have interacted with them. The question is: Can Airbnb do anything to screen both owners and renters before something like this happens?

This could not have come at a worst time for Airbnb. They’ve had positive press lately and got a recent round of funding worth over $100 million. They have been riding high with largely positive experiences from both owners and renters.

Quite honestly I’m surprised this hasn’t happened sooner. The vast majority of people on Airbnb just want to make a little cash or to stay in a comfortable, clean place. But there have to be the few unscrupulous folks who spoil the party for everyone.

Someone has been arrested for the case referenced above. But the question is will this damage the Airbnb brand going forward? What will they do for future renters and owners? How do you screen potentially millions of customers? Tough questions for the management at Airbnb and a question for those who would use the service.

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