Yesterday we wrote about “EJ,” a woman who had her San Francisco apartment burglarized and vandalized by someone who rented her home for a week via Airbnb.
There was some confusion about how Airbnb was and is dealing with the situation. See the updates to that post above, and CEO Brian Chesky’s post here on TechCrunch later yesterday talking about the situation.
The event happened, which is a terrible blow to the company’s reputation. The confusion seems to be around whether or not Airbnb will compensate her for her losses. The company at first said no, then said yes, and clarified that they made the offer last month when it happened, not in response to the PR storm yesterday.
And EJ seemed to confirm that in her initial post on June 29, three days after she returned home, saying:
I would be remiss if I didn’t pause here to emphasize that the customer service team at airbnb.com has been wonderful, giving this crime their full attention. They have called often, expressing empathy, support, and genuine concern for my welfare. They have offered to help me recover emotionally and financially, and are working with SFPD to track down these criminals.
But in a new post late yesterday, EJ says that after June 30 the company was significantly less friendly towards her. More recent communications, she says, were aimed at getting her to remove the post, or write something new with a more positive tone.
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”.
Since June 30, this co-founder has been the only person at Airbnb from whom I have received occasional contact regarding my situation, his messages directed primarily at my blog post and its activity on Twitter. (Note: a second co-founder did email me for the first time around 2am yesterday, suggesting we meet for coffee as he “would enjoy meeting” me. He made no inquiry into my current emotional state, my safety or my well being.)
EJ also says it’s not clear to her that the police have anyone responsible in custody. And worst of all, she talks about how her life continues to be disrupted and she fears for her personal safety since the criminals know just about everything about her after living in her home for a week.
In the meantime, I am still displaced, bouncing between friends’ homes, clutching my pillow and what’s left of my normalcy. I spend my mornings recalling nightmares and breathing through panic attacks, and my afternoons scouring the city’s pawn shops in the vain hope that I might recover some of my stolen treasures. I do not feel anything close to safe. I do not feel anything close to whole. Today I remain broken, but with the firm belief that in time, and with the support of friends, family, and a generally supportive public, this too shall pass and I will be made whole again.
And then there’s the end of her post. Which really says it all.
And for those who have so generously suggested a donation fund be set up to help me recover, I thank you from the bottom of my heart, and suggest that instead, you keep the money and use it to book yourself into a nice, safe hotel room the next time you travel. You’ll be glad you did.
I’ll say this. EJ knows how to write. And it’s hard not to feel for her. As for Airbnb, they need to hire a crisis management expert and hope to God that somehow this all goes away before the mainstream press turns this into a fear parade. Remember paedophiles on Myspace? They love this stuff.
Update from Airbnb: One of our co-founders has contacted EJ multiple times, as recently as yesterday, and we have again offered to help her in any way that she needs. While these incidents are very rare, we take them extremely seriously and do whatever we can to assist those involved. From a business perspective, we have rented over 2m nights over the past three years and our strict policies and safeguarding practices have ensured that incidents of criminal damage are highly unusual. In fact, because of our safeguards, we were able to assist the police in their investigation and we now understand there is suspect in custody. We encourage EJ to reach out to us at anytime as we are here to assist and help her.