[credit provider=”By giarose on Flickr” url=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/giarose/2353524782/”]
It was only a matter of time before something terrible happened on Airbnb. After all, the startup encourages users to let strangers into their homes.
Last month, a San Francisco resident named EJ says she had a traumatic experience with the apartment rental site:
“Three difficult days ago, I returned home from an exhausting week of business travel to an apartment that I no longer recognised. To an apartment that had been ransacked.
With heart pounding and stomach churning, I slowly swung the door open as both a pungent odor and the full realisation of what had occurred washed over me: this wasn’t just a random break-in. My home had been burglarized, vandalised and thoroughly trashed by a ‘traveller’ I connected with via the online rental agency, Airbnb.com.”
The apartment was in disarray. Paintings were hung in the apartment that had never been hung before. The renter even sent emails to EJ’s friends during his/her stay. Ash from the fire place that had been used with the flue closed, covered the apartment. Furniture was moved, and the kitchen was piled high with dirty dishes, used gloves, and Comet to clean fingerprints.
The Airbnb renter smashed a hole through her locked closet and stole a passport, jewelry, cash and electronics. EJ believes they made copies of a birth certificate and social security card.
But the worst part, EJ says, isn’t anything that was physically stolen or destroyed.
“Maybe saddest, part of this is the recognition that whoever disappeared with my grandmother’s bracelets, my hard-earned dollars and pieces of my identity stole something else, something that cannot be replaced: they stole my spirit…I’ve had to miss several days of work and essentially put my life on hold. I haven’t slept or eaten properly in days, and I’m exhausted. My strength is gone.”
Despite the traumatic experience, EJ still thinks Airbnb is a good business idea. If anything, EJ blames herself.
EJ says Airbnb has been supportive. It has offered assistance, is paying for damages, and checks in frequently. Airbnb tells us:
“We were shocked to hear about this unsettling event. We continue to work closely with the authorities to bring justice to the victim. We want to reassure our community that, through our security infrastructure, we were able to assist the police in their investigation, and we understand from authorities that a suspect is now in custody.
“We’ve created a marketplace built on trust, transparency and authenticity within our community, and we hold the safety of our community members as our highest priority. The vast majority of our community members genuinely respect and protect each other, but we urge our users to be careful and discerning with each other and to hold others accountable through reviews, flagging, and our customer service channel. Our hearts go out to our host and we will continue to work with her and with the authorities to make this right. “