Last week, we reported on a disturbing story of a woman who returned to her San Francisco apartment to find it utterly burglarized, terrorized, and mutilated by someone who had rented it via Airbnb for a week. Read the shocking details of the burglary here.
After some initial hesitation to help this woman named “EJ,” Airbnb finally stepped in and promised to go “above and beyond” to make the situation right. For several days, Airbnb’s customer service team offered EJ sympathy and attention, and the company allegedly helped authorities apprehend the suspect and place them in custody. But then, after EJ blogged her story, Airbnb suddenly cut off communication. Instead, the company’s co-founders reportedly pressured her into removing and/or altering her blog posts, and without any money or an apartment to live in, EJ was “displaced, bouncing between friends’ homes,” and still fearing for her life and security.
After news came out of Airbnb trying to quiet its lone, tragic victim, the Internet erupted over Airbnb’s treatment of EJ. In response, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky updated his blog, expressing his embarrassment and sympathies, and his willingness to make it right.
“With regards to EJ, we let her down, and for that we are very sorry,” Chesky wrote. “We should have responded faster, communicated more sensitively, and taken more decisive action to make sure she felt safe and secure. But we weren’t prepared for the crisis and we dropped the ball.”
Then, Chesky says:
“We want to make it right. On August 15th, we will be implementing a $50,000 Airbnb Guarantee, protecting the property of hosts from damage by Airbnb guests who book reservations through our website.”
Airbnb has extended this guarantee to EJ, who responded in a blog post of her own yesterday.
“I am gratified nonetheless that the extent of public awareness my story generated has encouraged Airbnb to implement real change to its product, its service and its community of users,” she wrote.
In addition to the $50,000 property damage protection guarantee, Airbnb will also provide a 24-hour customer hotline—as was recommended by EJ in her first post following the incident—and will add a safety department to the company and double the size of its support staff.
Unfortunately, not all is right, as EJ is still without a home and deals with public harassment on a daily basis.
“I agree with Mr. Chesky’s statement that Airbnb should have responded much more quickly to my urgent pleas for help, that they should have communicated with more sensitivity, and that they should have taken decisive action to help me feel safe during what has been a desperate time,” she wrote. “Had they done so, and had these significant new policies been implemented from the very beginning, I could have been spared nearly six weeks now of disruption and displacement, and the hurt and exhaustion of having to face disparaging remarks, slander and harassment, my integrity being called into question, my character publicly trashed.”
Indeed, Airbnb’s compensation doesn’t seem make up for six weeks of absolute agony, and while public backlash against Airbnb may continue, EJ still insists that “Mr. Chesky’s public apology to me is clearly a heartfelt one and certainly appreciated.”
Airbnb recently confirmed a $112 million funding round, giving the company a billion-dollar valuation.
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