Airbnb is a website designed to pair people searching for a vacation home with prospective vacation homes and owners, not unlike VRBO or even Craigslist. In case you’ve not heard by now (or do not track Bay Area drama, like 99.9% of the world), in June a woman named “EJ” rented her home via Airbnb to a psycho. While EJ was away and the psycho stayed at her place, they corresponded a few times; all was fine, the plants were being watered, the floors swept, etc. Nothing to worry about.
Turns out, the whole time, this psycho was destroying EJ’s home, smashing walls, tearing up couches, stealing things, you name it. Like I said, a psycho.
Like any Bay Area resident, EJ blogged about it and since then, the Internet-o-sphere has taken up her crusade. The psycho has since been arrested.
But what really caught fire on the wires was putting the screws to Airbnb: Not only had they responded slowly to EJ’s claims, but they should have been better about preventing the situation in the first place. Since then the CEO has written a letter to EJ and their entire customer base noting Airbnb dropped the ball, will be instituting far more protective measures and will now insure each rented house for up to $50,000 (which surely won’t be abused in the future).
Typically, I try to hedge my opinions; there are few absolute truths on this planet, but in this case, I’ll say it: That is bullshit. Airbnb is no more responsible than the phone company that supported EJ and this psycho’s communications, than the email servers that carried their messages, than the car company that made a car that transported this psycho to EJ’s home, than the grade school teachers that taught this psycho to “play nice.”
You know who is responsible for the destruction of EJ’s home? The psycho. And you know who is responsible for dealing with it? EJ. It’s that simple.
Sure, Airbnb should turn over all information to the police—which they did—and of course its nice to have a company on your side in these cases, but the notion that they are at fault is ridiculous. The argument of “Well, people should feel safe renting their home!” is bogus as well. Renting your home is not a right; it a luxury—like being able to camp or walk the city streets on a dark night. I don’t blame the National Park Service if a bear eats me; I don’t blame the cops if I get mugged. I put myself in that situation; it’s on the bear, the mugger and me.
There are bad people in this world. They’re going to slip past security now and then. And that’s just the way it works. If you choose to rent your home to someone, you’re taking a risk. Airbnb had measures in place that kept out 99 percent of the psychos, if you don’t like the potential danger of that remaining one percent, don’t rent your home. Airbnb makes claims to set you up with vacation homes. That is their stated job; they never purported to vouch for the integrity of everyone on their site. This is the Internet; is it a newsflash to anyone that there are bad people using it?
People are hot coffee. Most times delicious, but you do get burned occasionally.
Often at the hands of hyper-communication, I can’t help but notice that empathy becomes the enemy of responsibility. When we’re faced with strife, we call friends for advice—and if we’re honest, to hopefully hear, “It’s not your fault.” Sometimes this is correct and sometimes it isn’t. That the Internet took up torches and pitchforks (against a corporation!) in EJ’s case does not make her right. It simply indicates that there are plenty of people with torches and pitchforks that wouldn’t take responsibility in the same situation. These crowds reach such a critical mass that the idea that they’re wrong simply becomes impossible because so many people are in the crowd in the first place.
This is no different than the same idiots that can’t acknowledge we evolved from monkeys or that the globe is, regardless of reason, getting warmer. We gravitate towards beliefs which line up with our preconceived view of the world and make us feel safest. And no likes to believe that they’re at fault when the shit hits the fan.