A month ago, a woman blogging under the name “EJ” wrote about her horrifying experience renting out her San Francisco apartment through the online Airbnb service. Over the course of a week in June, her apartment was systematically robbed, ransacked, and vandalized by EJ’s renter, leaving her with a broken home and a profound sense of violation. Her story was picked up by Hacker News earlier this week and by the San Francisco Chronicle, which helped bring this chilling story to light.
Airbnb, an online service that matches shot-term renters with apartment and home owners, has posted their own response to the story. The post by company CEO Brian Chesky expresses the company’s shock at the events, a desire to “make things right” with EJ, and a call for caution amongst users. But EJ, who initially described Airbnb’s customer service staff as helpful and understanding, has since soured towards the company. In a new blog post, she says that one of Airbnb’s cofounders pressured her to shut down the blog or at least give the story a good-news ending.
While the story has stirred up controversy around the web, the fact remains that a normal and trusting person has experienced a brutal loss. The San Francisco police have issued a statement saying that an arrest has been made in connection with the crime, but whether this is the end of the road in terms of a criminal investigation remains unclear. Whether or not EJ will receive any restitution from Airbnb, which raised over $100 million in its last round of funding, also remains unclear. In a telling statement concluding her most recent blog post, EJ advises anyone wishing to help her through donations to “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.”