Blog Post

Can Airbnb’s safety program rebuild user trust?

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky

It has been a tough week for peer-to-peer home rental service Airbnb. The media picked up on the account of an Airbnb user whose home was ransacked and burglarized in late June, and the company has come under fire for what many say was a sluggish and inconsistent response to the situation.

In a contrite blog post published Monday, Airbnb’s chief executive Brian Chesky apologized for his company’s handling of the matter, writing:

“We felt paralyzed, and over the last four weeks, we have really screwed things up… We should have responded faster, communicated more sensitively, and taken more decisive action to make sure [the victim] felt safe and secure. But we weren’t prepared for the crisis and we dropped the ball.”

As part of an effort to make things right, Airbnb has debuted a new safety section of its website and a series of new policies aimed at security, customer service and insurance. The major initiatives the company has unveiled are:

  • A $50,000 Airbnb guarantee. Starting August 15, any host whose property is booked on Airbnb will be covered for loss or damage due to vandalism or theft cause by an Airbnb for up to $50,000. The program also applies retroactively to any hosts who reported such damage prior to August 1.
  • 24-hour customer support hotline: Starting next week, Airbnb will have operators and staff working at all times to provide support. In addition, since last month the company has doubled its customer support team to a staff of 88 people.
  • Verified profiles: Airbnb has updated its user profiles to chronicle people’s public history on Airbnb. It will now be visible if a user’s profile has a verified phone number, is connected to a Facebook account, and whether the majority of their reviews are positive or negative.

Airbnb plans to unveil more product updates in the coming days, Chesky wrote, and the company is open to suggestions on more safety products it should implement.

Whether these changes can really repair Airbnb’s now-sullied reputation remains to be seen. But clearly Airbnb, which recently closed on $112 million in new venture capital, is willing to invest its money — and energy — to get back in the public’s good graces.

4 Responses to “Can Airbnb’s safety program rebuild user trust?”

  1. Bruce Braun

    Airbnb’s safety program is a sham.

    Let’s see how this $50K bond works: “personal property will be covered for loss or damage due to vandalism or theft caused by an Airbnb guest up to $50,000 with our Airbnb Guarantee. Terms will apply to the program and may vary…”

    Oh yeah? So let’s take $50K out of those investor funds to pay people for damages they claim! Wow! I’ll bet those VC types never figured they would become an insurance company.

    Terms of Service? Airbnb does not assume any liability, in fact their sated position is the exact opposite along with imdemnifying them legally. I C&P’d some of the Terms of Service on their site and truncated them below:

    As a result, we have no control over the conduct of our users or the truth or accuracy of the information that users post on the Site. We make no attempt to confirm, and do not confirm, any user’s purported identity. You are responsible for determining the identity and suitability of others who you may contact by means of this Site. We will not be responsible for any damage or harm resulting from your interactions with other users of our Services. You agree not to attempt to impose liability on, or seek any legal remedy from Airbnb. You release Airbnb from any and all claims, demands, damages (actual, consequential, nominal, punitive, or otherwise), equitable relief, and any other legal, equitable, and administrative remedy, of every kind and nature, whether known or unknown, suspected or unsuspected, disclosed or undisclosed, past, present, or future, arising out of or in any way connected with your communication or interaction with other users on the Site or your experience as a guest or host in connection with the Site. You are solely responsible for your interactions with other Airbnb users. We reserve the right, but have no obligation, to monitor disputes between you and other users. You shall indemnify and hold us (and each of our officers, directors, and employees) harmless from any third-party claim, demand, action, damage, loss, cost or expense, including without limitation reasonable attorneys’ fees, arising out or relating to your use of our Services or alleging facts or circumstances that, if true, could constitute your breach of any of these Terms.

    If you get hammered as a Host and have to make a claim, you can bet Airbnb will make you jump through hoops to prove your place was trashed or items stolen. And why wouldn’t they. The same assholes who would vandalize or steal could set up a bogus scheme to make false loss claims to collect that $50K.

    Chesky and his crew are CLUELESS! His solution is NO SOLUTION! The $50K deal is nothing more than deflection to shift attention to a cash pay-off from what is a totally lame business model.

    The reality here is that Airbnb wants to be a virtual hotel chain with your home as a hotel room. No costs for cleaning the rooms, damage to the property, taxes or illegal acts. You do all the dirty work associated with renting your home and they collect a commission on every deal.

    Trouble is, Chesky and his senior guys have never come close to actually running a hotel, so how would they know to run this sort of business? They don’t and the recent event prove that fact.

  2. This just goes to show how much time was wasted by the tech media jaw boning and giving time and attention to Airbnb investors like Paul Graham’s Y-Combinator and Fred Wilson’s blog (because Graham and Wilson think they are know-it-all investors who rule the world).

    • Bubba, your assertions (and they might be true), it also is important to keep in mind that there was an actual person who was harmed and that is why huge media attention. We are writing this because it is a positive development for all of us who might use AirBnB.