Airbnb Pillage Victim Says Company Tried to Keep Her Quiet

The Airbnb customer whose home was destroyed by a stranger who'd used the service to rent her apartment says a co-founder of the company tried to convince her to delete her blog post about her nightmare because of the "negative impact it could have on his company's growth and current round of funding." So considerate.

EJ, the Airbnb pillage victim, wrote another lengthy post about her predicament yesterday. She claims that Airbnb was much more concerned about its bottom line and reputation than her safety after the renter she'd arranged through the site trashed her apartment, stole her most precious personal belongings, and vanished.

One reason she had been quiet since her first blog post went viral was that she was "scared of Airbnb's reaction, the pressure and the veiled threat I have received from them since I initially blogged this story."

In the post, EJ eviscerates the rosy picture Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky painted of the situation in a blog post/press release on TechCrunch. Chesky made it seem like Airbnb had spent the last month tracking down a suspect and constructing a protective barrier of sandbags and razor wire around EJ so no harm would ever come to her again, stopping only to weep for her misfortune. "Once host's safety was secured," he wrote, "our attention moved to further strengthening our system."

Chesky neglected to mention that Airbnb's helpful attitude changed suddenly once EJ blogged about her nightmare late last month. In fact, EJ says Airbnb exerted not-so-subtle pressure on her to take down her post:

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. In fact, my appointed "liaison" from Airbnb stopped contacting me altogether just three days after I reported the crime, on June 25, for reasons that are unknown to me. I have heard nothing from her since.

I blogged my story, and all these kind and supportive people just ... disappeared.

And since June 30? On this same day, I received a personal call from one of the co-founders of Airbnb. 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".

And what did Airbnb do to "secure" EJ's safety, after responding to her call to their "urgent" phone line 14 hours late? Nothing, according to EJ:

I am not clear here if Chesky is trying to convey the message that Airbnb was involved in securing my safety (Editor's note: This is exactly what he was trying to convey) but the company was not. My safety was secured by my own efforts. I arranged alternate accommodations, in the safety of a friend's home. I arranged and paid for my own transportation while dislocated (with Airbnb's assurances that this expense would be compensated - which it has not been). I contacted the police, and insisted on a visit from CSI to dust for prints. I called a locksmith and had my locks changed.

Bottom line: if something terrible happens to you using Airbnb, the most you can expect is some kind words and them turning over information to the police they'd probably be required by law to do anyway. (Chesky says Airbnb instituting a number of changes to better ensure customers' safety.) This is slightly better than renting out your place on Craigslist, we suppose. But at least Craig Newmark won't call you up and try to get you to take down a blog post while you're still a scared, shaking mess.

[Image via Airbnb]