In what is probably Airbnb’s worst PR crisis since the site launched, a blog post by a user who became the victim of extreme theft and vandalism due to renting his apartment for a week is circulating the web this morning. “They smashed a hole through a locked closet door, and found the passport, cash, credit card and grandmother’s jewelry I had hidden inside,” the blogger writes. “They took my camera, my iPod, an old laptop, and my external backup drive filled with photos, journals… my entire life.” The perpetrators also ransacked his drawers and leaving the fireplace flue open so that ash covered the apartment which was also filled with a pungent odor.
Yet the victim–and most commenters–are still positive on Airbnb:
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. 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 do believe that maybe 97% of airbnb.com’s users are good and honest people. Unfortunately I got the other 3%. Someone was bound to eventually, I suppose, and there will be others. For this reason, I felt compelled to get my story out as soon as possible – as a warning to travelers and renters everywhere – even though this case remains under investigation, and the final chapter of this story remains unwritten.
The post elicited more stories of experience with Airbnb, most of them positive–but one host had also had bad eggs. “We rent out out place on Airbnb and have had amazing renters, except for one who decided to throw a fourth of July party in our New York City apartment. It wasn’t too bad, a broken potted plant and money to cover the damages was left, but never once did we think to blame Airbnb for it.”
The worst damage probably comes from Airbnb’s response to the emergency–the victim tried their “urgent” line, email and general customer support line and heard nothing back for 14 hours. The case is still open–although with the perp’s name, email address and phone number circulation the webs, we wouldn’t be surprised to see some kind of modern justice.
CEO Brian Chesky is doing damage control on Hacker News this morning.