Airbnb Offers Unconditional Apology, And $50,000 Insurance Guarantee

It’s never too late to fix bad press with a straightforward, unconditional apology. That’s what the world got from Airbnb today. It was the first time that the company addressed the robbery/ransacking issue on its blog, and CEO Brian Chesky offered an unconditional apology. From the post:

Last month, the home of a San Francisco host named EJ was tragically vandalized by a guest. The damage was so bad that her life was turned upside down. When we learned of this our hearts sank. We felt paralyzed, and over the last four weeks, we have really screwed things up. Earlier this week, I wrote a blog post trying to explain the situation, but it didn’t reflect my true feelings. So here we go.
There have been a lot of questions swirling around, and I would like to apologize and set the record straight in my own words. In the last few days we have had a crash course in crisis management. I hope this can be a valuable lesson to other businesses about what not to do in a time of crisis, and why you should always uphold your values and trust your instincts.

With regards to EJ, we let her down, and for that we are very sorry. 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. Now we’re dealing with the consequences.

The company is also offering all users a blanked $50,000 guarantee against damages to hosts:

Airbnb Guarantee
Starting August 15th, when hosts book reservations through Airbnb their 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 (e.g. by country). This program will also apply retroactively to any hosts who may have reported such property damage prior to August 1, 2011.

This goes above and beyond what I would have considered necessary. Insuring against valuables is a bit of a slippery slope and can encourage fraud. I think insurance against property damage probably would have been enough, along with a warning for people to remove valuables and personal information from their homes before renting.

Regardless, it feels like Airbnb is now on top of this. And since the guarantee is retroactive, people like Troy Dayton who’ve had past issues are able to collect.

Nicely done, Airbnb. This is yet another example of how shining a light on something makes it a lot less of an issue than keeping it hidden away in the shadows.

The only odd thing from the post is Chesky’s statement ” Earlier this week, I wrote a blog post trying to explain the situation, but it didn’t reflect my true feelings.” He’s clearly referring to this post. I’d be interested in knowing which parts of it didn’t reflect his true feelings. It’s an odd statement.