Two faces of Airbnb

Original author: Steven Hill
  • Transfer

I hosted Airbnb tenants in San Francisco for about nine months. Last January, I watched an interview that Katie Couric had taken from Brian Chesky, the 34-year-old CEO of Airbnb, a multi-billion dollar fortune. And it was then that I realized that something is not converging here.

Curik asked Brian about how the company checks the owners' homes for safety and fire safety. To this he replied: “We want to maintain high standards,” and assured that a hundred of his employees are exclusively engaged in security and that “the owners confirm their identity by opening access to their profiles on social networks, as well as providing scans of identification documents or confirming certain personal details. "

In order to test this Airbnb system, I registered as a host. I took some pictures of my house, inside and out, and uploaded them to the Airbnb website. And after 15 minutes, my account came to life, and the apartment was available for rent. No verification of personal data, identification card or questions. There was not even any contact with a living person from their team specializing in trust and security. Nothing.

I could easily use photos of my neighbor’s house or even pictures taken from the Better Homes and Gardens website. An hour later I received the first request from a guest. Over the course of a couple of months, I collected a dozen reservation requests that would bring me at least $ 4,000 in short-term rental income. And these are the prerequisites for a truly profitable business.

Yes, the remark of Coldwell Banker Commercial (a large real estate company) was very true, in which it was noted that the property owner can increase his net annual income by more than two times by renting accommodation to Airbnb tourists, and not local residents.

I was impressed and shocked by the fact how simple it is with Airbnb.

When Kurik asked Cesky about fire safety, instead of outlining the inspection procedures his company conducted, he replied that Airbnb, a giant valued at $ 25 billion, was offering homeowners free smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. When Kurik tried to develop this topic further, he began to chat about their system of “independent management”.

“We want to make sure that the codes and instructions are modernized,” he said. “Many of the current laws are the laws of the 20th century, and sometimes even the 19th century, and we are in the 21st century.”

I decided to catch Chesky on his word and take advantage of his “gold standard” offer, that is, get a free smoke and carbon monoxide detector for my Airbnb home. I requested it through the Airbnb website, and the email response to my request was very brief: I was sent to a special Airbnb website. But on that page, instead of offering a free sensor, I was offered a free "Security Card", saying that I can use it to "make a list of emergency numbers, routes and other resources" for my guests.

Apparently, the offer to provide free smoke detectors expired in a twinkle. But Airbnb representatives did not mention this - as did Cesky himself in his interview.

Probably the biggest tragedy of what is happening is that, in essence, the Airbnb idea is great. The company wisely used modern technology in order to open a global market that allows tourists to find homeowners who are short of money and are not averse to earning money on short-term rental housing. After talking with some “ordinary people” who have offers on Airbnb, I’m sure that the service has helped many to make ends meet.

But pursuing such a policy of non-interference and a liberal attitude towards professional landlords and greedy property owners and agents with many apartments, Airbnb has become its worst enemy. As the number of casualties builds up, the company undermines its own ideal of trust, because Airbnb can easily help cities solve problems arising from its operations as follows:

  • If desired, Airbnb could, with one click of the mouse, track down the intruders and “evict” them from the site - simply remove the offers of professional landlords or real estate managers who have several houses or apartments that arrange unique hotels for tourists. The company has all the data, and Airbnb knows who these people are.
  • Establishing cooperation with cities such as San Francisco, Santa Monica and Portland, which require hosts to register with local agencies and unregistered service lessors to be removed from the site.
  • Introduce the payment of the same taxes that hotels pay in all 34 thousand cities in which the service offers its services.
  • Stop refusing to provide the data that cities need for regulation and taxation (including the number of nights and fees set by each host).

Yes, Airbnb’s idea turned the global tourism industry upside down, but in the company's hometown of San Francisco, residents took to the warpath with a hospitable giant.

Despite the wonderful service story that began in Brian Cesky’s living room, Airbnb is no longer just a platform for “ordinary people” offering their homes for short-term rental. Instead, it has turned into a huge loophole for professionals, which allows them to circumvent those old city laws that used to protect local housing from short-term rental for tourists. A fast-growing company and its politically influential investors are not interested in killing chicken that lays their golden eggs.

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