When Lawyers Send Letters
Anon No More
Guess AirBnB’s legal headaches aren’t over just quite yet. The New York Daily News says that the state’s attorney general, Eric Schneiderman (last seen busting up the fake Yelp review cartel), has subpoenaed user data
for the 225,000 New Yorkers on Airbnb for all local hosts (the precise number isn’t clear).
He’s reportedly investigating violates of a 2010 state law against short-term apartment rentals. The idea is to go after those renting out to drunk French kids every weekend, but it’s not really clear where the line between “bad actor” and “power user” sits.
Airbnb and Me
Got big plans to save money on your summertime Hamptons excusions by renting someone’s designer couch via Airbnb? Well, get ready to hand over your driver’s license.
AllThingsD reports that starting today, 25 percent of users will have to submit to the company’s new “Verified Identification” process, or you will not be booking any more futons. Hosts can now restrict their rentals to verified users, incentivizing signups.
Mi Casa Es Su Casa
Today at a press event in San Francisco, travel startup Airbnb announced Airbnb Neighborhoods, a guide to help travelers decide which neighborhood best matches their interests and vacation style. Deemed “the definitive guide to experiencing neighborhoods” by Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky, users can click on different tags relating to the cities to help better acquaint them with local neighborhoods; in London, for example, you can click on “museums” and it will pull up the neighborhoods and rentals closest to museums.
Meet the Public
At the Digitial Life Design conference in Munich today, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky gave a talk about the “sharing economy,” another way of describing the peer-to-peer ecosystem that Betabeat has been closely following. In the talk, Mr. Chesky placed Airbnb in the third-wave of the internet. After e-commerce and social connectivity, this new wave is about using online platforms to share online experiences. According to Mr. Chesky, this wave, which could include companies like Skillshare, TaskRabbit, and Zaarly, can also be unexpectedly lucrative.
Take New York City, for example, where Mr. Chesky said you can “literally” find an Airbnb on every single block in the city. (Currently there are 10,068 listings in New York.) As TechCrunch reports, on stage, Mr. Chesky said, “Airbnb hosts in NYC make $21,000 a year on average, and some even up to $100,000 a year, which I think everyone would agree is a decent chunk of cash for anyone.”
The traveler who blogged about the worst Airbnb renting experience possible responded to the recently-enriched company’s attempt to make amends after initially attempting to quiet her and then pass the buck. The blogger, who lives in San Francisco, and has given interviews to USA Today and the San Francisco Chronicle but otherwise spoke publicly only via her blog, emailed Betabeat on Monday to say she’d have a statement this week. Today she responded to Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky’s public apology and announcement of new security policies–“Our Commitment to Trust and Safety“–in a post of her own entitled, “How I feel today.”
Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky’s first statement on the highly-publicized matter of the user whose home was burglarized and ransacked by an Airbnb guest was measured, mildly sympathetic, and denied any wrongdoing. The statement he just posted on Airbnb’s blog–“Our Commitment to Trust and Safety”–is just about the opposite.
“Earlier this week, I wrote a blog post trying to explain the situation, but it didn’t reflect my true feelings,” he writes, and goes on to intimate that he either second-guessed himself when responding to the complaint or got some bad advice (perhaps from the usually-infallible Paul Graham, who insists Airbnb did nothing wrong?).
“In the last few days we have had a crash course in crisis management,” Mr. Chesky writes. “I hope this can be a valuable lesson to other businesses about what not to do in a time of crisis, and why you should always uphold your values and trust your instincts.”
The story of the Airbnb user whose apartment was burglarized and trashed by an Airbnb renter continues. A blog post written by the victim, “EJ,” took a month to hit the internets–but once it did, it hit big, prompting Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky to write a response on TechCrunch yesterday to say that he was in close contact with the victim and the police and that with Airbnb’s help, a suspect was in custody.
Bullshit, EJ wrote in an update on her blog yesterday, responding to Mr. Chesky line by line. Someone was apprehended a month ago, she writes, but he or she was “transferred to a neighboring jurisdiction for prosecution of previous crimes, and no charges or arrest warrant has been issued for my case within San Francisco County. If this has changed and Chesky’s statement is in fact true, I have not been made aware by city officials.”
The terrifying blog post that blew up on Hacker News yesterday–we saw it via Jason Kottke, which shows you it was making the rounds even though it was a month old–about what happens when Airbnb guests go bad, is by far Airbnb’s worst public relations crisis yet. Worse than the Craigslist spam; worse than the possibility that the service in some cases technically violates a New York City law.
While the victim may have been a bit overdramatic in her retelling of the story, and also appears to have been remiss during the due diligence phase, we expected Airbnb–the company that sold Obama-themed cereal while it was bootstrapping and whose CEO spent a year homeless so he could use the service all around San Francisco–we expected such a creative, marketing-minded start-up to bend over backwards to fix this woman’s life. $1 billion valuation? Get this woman a house!
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.
Airbnb just sent Betabeat a statement about the recently-implemented “illegal hotels” law that renders some of the activity on the site illegal in New York. The law is not targeted at Airbnb, a rep said, and a majority of its users are unaffected by it–but either way, the site isn’t legally responsible for the arrangements users make and the company is “working directly” with the city about how the law impacts its users.