Airbnb, a website for renting your apartment to to tourist meth heads, has announced plans for a big expansion. Which is funny, because less than a month ago Airbnb was profusely apologizing for failing to protect customers, return phone calls or even blog properly. It must be time to lean in to the failure.
Airbnb has announced plans to expand its offering of long term rentals, in which you turn your apartment over to someone for a month or more. Until now, the company was tightly focused on rentals of just a few days or weeks, and in many cases offered just a room or piece of furniture within the apartment. Now Airbnb will start quoting monthly prices in search results and beef up its sublet offerings, says All Things D.
The expansion puts Airbnb into tighter competition with Craigslist, which is funny because it took a sleazy reckless company like Airbnb to make Craigslist look like a haven of sanity and safety. On Airbnb, unlike Craigslist, you don't actually find out the identity of the person you are renting your home to until the deal has already closed; the company's business model is predicated on anonymity. This led to incidents in which Airbnb customers had their homes destroyed and looted by shady renters who escaped with valuables and enough personal information to commit identity theft.
An Airbnb cofounder, still with the company, tried to cover up one such incident to protect a funding round. Once the incidents attracted publicity, Airbnb published a defensive post on TechCrunch, retracted the post, said it was "very sorry" for its handling of the case, and admitted to responding too slowly, communicating poorly and acting indecisevely. "I hope this can be a valuable lesson to other businesses about what not to do in a time of crisis," wrote CEO Brian Chesky. He said he doubled his customer support staff and pledged to cover $50,000 in theft and vandalism damage on future rentals.
Having seen firsthand the customer harm that come from dashing heedlessly into a new market, Chesky waited a whole four weeks to... dash heedlessly into a new market. He couldn't competently rent vacation couches in three years, and now he's purportedly mastered the apartment business in a month. Sure. Of course, if there were people willing to give Chesky and his greaseball team $112 million, there are probably people dumb enough to entrust him with their apartments, too.
[Image via Airbnb]