A response to a closed thread

"I can only imagine how terrifying it is to face severe financial losses, even loss of a home or bankruptcy, due to income loss under Airbnb’s policies. I can only imagine how unfair it feels, if you’ve been a excellent, well-rated host. It’s as if you are an employee who just got a string of super performance appraisals, then your boss walks by and says, oh, hey, you’re fired, nothin’ personal. (And that does happen.)

I can only imagine how angry a host might be with Brian Chesky, their guests, their financial advisor, their fellow hosts who don’t “get it,” or even their partner whom it now appears may have retired a bit too soon. Because when bad things happen, it’s human nature to look to place blame.

If you look at its beginnings, Airbnb is an American individualism success story. The guy and his partners were living in a crappy apartment and monetized it with a germ of a business idea and a lot of hustle (and maybe violating their lease, using their contacts from privileged backgrounds, and a bit of hacking and illegally redirecting Craigslist customers). But we generally admire such business stories. Great fit with the American mythos of up-by-your-bootstraps success.

Right now, Airbnb is probably totally focused on whether it is going to survive as a business, and has been advised by its lawyers that refunds are a legal, as well as business-saving, step. But legally defensible is not the same as ethical. Is Airbnb behaving ethically?

I think there are areas where they have not. For example, the company in my view encouraged hosts to to exploit, or even violate, regulatory structures that protect consumers and constrain traditional short term rental businesses, and it resists regulatory response to concerns about unmitigated competitive advantage, reduction in affordable housing supply, and “disneyfication” of world cultural sites.

Setting up an unwritten, implied social contract with its (non-corporate or non-mega) hosts that they are individually valued and cared for could also be viewed as unethical. It’s part of the “personal experience” marketing schtick that Airbnb is now struggling to reconcile with its need for volume and growth. Airbnb attempts to substitute its goals as host goals, in terms of ratings and occupancy numbers, in their communications and rewards systems. Of course Airbnb would like us to forget that we are businesses, too – and our goals should be, just like theirs, around maximizing net profit commensurate with a deliberate risk profile, not Superhost ribbons.

However, every business does this, attempting to personalize relationships and loyalty to ensure continued supply and demand in support of the business. And hosts are not a captive audience. No one is forced to list with Airbnb; there are alternatives.

I don’t think lawsuits are going to succeed, but I’m not against out-of-pocket hosts squawking loudly and angrily. There may be some payback in terms of Airbnb concessions post-crisis in recognition of hosts’ sacrifices, if the company survives. I would expect them to be minor, however, for example, extra travel vouchers and such."

This was going to be posted on a thread that was closed about a class action suit. I am posting with permission of the author. I am not the author.


That was a very articulate, informed and reasoned post. Thanks for reposting it.

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The member who wrote it was @dpfromva (attributed with permission). Every post of theirs is superb.

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Well, maybe except that time when I whinged about the guest who insisted on washing towels! Thanks (blush, blush) you are too kind.


What an amazing thought piece @dpfromva I would pitch it to one of your major newspapers.

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@KKC so reasonable, so well articulated. Cheers

Just to be clear, I didn’t write it. I wish I were that smart and articulate.