Don’t Blame the Medium : The AirBnB Episode

A recent news episode caught my attention. More so because of the new book project that I’m working on.

A lady rented out her apartment to another person using the site AirBnB, a site that helps home owners rent out an extra room or the entire house to a guest who is willing to pay. So, look at this as a commercial version of Couchsurfing.com.

Problem erupted when the house owner returned to find her house completely ransacked. She blogged about it and this started an avalanche of bad press for AirBnB, a company that has raised $120 million in funding at over a billion dollar valuation.

A quick look at the news about the news reveals that almost every news item points its accusing finger at AirBnB.

Here’s my take on this. AirBnB is a platform that connects hosts with guests. Its as much a responsibility of the host to do background check on the guest before letting out her home.

I feel that AirBnB is getting a raw deal here because they are a funded company. And there is money involved in the entire process. I know a few incidents that have happened at CouchSurfing.com and The Hospitality Network. I don’t see such a huge outcry against these sites because these sites are free and they work on trust. Hence, people have much lower expectations.But when you pay money to stay at somebody’s house like in AirBnB, you go in with certain expectations and anything that falls below will tick off people.

I mean, if a marriage happens via Shaadi.com or BharathMatrimony.com and the marriage sours up, would you blame the site? If you bought an item after watching a TV commercial and you are unhappy with the product, would you blame the TV channel? These are just mediums. You need to do your round of research, ask for recommendations, do background checks before you take the decision. Blaming the platform is stupid. You know whats even more stupider? Its creating a huge mountain from a molehill of a story.



  1. Hi Kiruba,

    What you say is right. They are the medium and I am not against the concept. But there are certain mistakes from Airbnb and we cant blame the host completely. What Airbnb does is it doesnt reveals the contact details of the person who is going to stay at your place till they finish the booking. The problem is not just its a funded company but its not a transparent and customer friendly company. You pay for their service and when u need help, no one is there to help you out or atleast help you decide the next steps.

    few lines from her blog “… airbnb.com tightly controls the communication between host and traveler, disallowing the exchange of personal contact information until the point in which a reservation is already confirmed and paid for. By hindering my ability to research the person who will rent my home, there is an implication that airbnb.com has already done the research for me, and has eliminated the investigative work that Craigslist requires. In effect, the friendly, community-based site with its Golden Rules creates a reasonable expectation that some basic screening of its users has occurred, and speaks little to the risks involved, primarily within the very small print of the lengthy Terms of Service”

    Secondly, there is always a possibility of errors and problems and the good companies try to sort it out nice.( like your cleartrip incident) Airbnb doesn’t have proper customer service department or a number to reach( now many people are started sharing their experiences). Here they are not helping her in any possible way or the catch the culprit.

    Its more than the identity loss for her. The trauma which she is undergoing is vividly described in her blog and there is following post from her about the how Airbnb has reacted to her till Aug 1st. http://ejroundtheworld.blogspot.com/2011/07/airbnb-nightmare-no-end-in-sight.html

  2. Yeah! You are 100% correct. I think that you got the correct point. Airbnb is a vacation rental website that moreover acts as a medium for customer to customer business relationship. The business methodology used here is C2C. If this is a case, people should not complain and doubt the security features of Airbnb.

    Home renters who pay money for their accommodation should have their own rental insurance so that there is no need to blame the medium.

    It is pretty much useful that you have shared this information to internet audiences. Thanks…