Airbnb host ‘illegal’ request to Australian travelers

There are many ways to try to get an Airbnb “super host” rating. It is not one of them.

In fact, it is quite the opposite; doing what an Airbnb host in the Victoria Goldfield area (allegedly) did is a bad decision for a number of reasons, and may even get you reported to the police.

Like Ross Mathieson of Kingsville, Victoria recently wrote to Traveler in a letter, an Airbnb host offered to break the lockdown in order to continue with his reservation.

Entitled: “airs et disgrâces”, the letter reads as follows:

“Following concerns expressed by Trish Lynam (Traveler Letters, August 14), we also lost money due to an Airbnb cancellation related to the COVID-19 lockdown. Our host kept 100% of our money, despite being notified of our lockout cancellation three days before our planned stay.

“The host informed us that the blockages are ‘ridiculous’ and offered to just get on a train, travel to the Victoria’s Goldfields area and stay as planned. In his opinion we would be unchallenged and not suffer any consequences and he claimed to have welcomed people from Melbourne during the lockdown. ”

Mathieson says he reported the matter to the police, but was told “it is unlikely that action can be taken against the host as he is ‘not a business’.

He added, “Airbnb asked him for a refund on our behalf, but he refused to cooperate. Airbnb was also unwilling to respond to his encouragement to challenge the lockdown restrictions. ”

In recent years, Airbnb has come under increasing scrutiny for the extent to which it takes responsibility for negligent (or criminal) behavior on the part of hosts or guests.

And there have been much more extreme cases than the example above.

The Guardian reported in June 2021 that an Australian woman who was allegedly raped with a knife point in an Airbnb apartment in New York in 2016 “received a secret $ 7 million settlement which included restrictions on what she could say about the incident, according to a media investigation into the vacation ad giant’s “guest safety” policies. ”

According to Bloomberg, the attack triggered a rapid response by a dedicated Airbnb crisis management team.

The working group, Bloomberg reports, “only clean up after disaster” and, in this case, “transferred the woman to a hotel, paid for her mother to arrive from Australia, brought them both home and offered to cover all health or counseling costs “.

“Duplicate keys were a particular problem for the company and a mystery to investigators. How did the man get them? Airbnb does not have a policy on how hosts exchange keys with guests, and its reputation for security, and possibly legal responsibility, depends on the response.

“Despite all its importance, the security team remains shrouded in secrecy. Insiders call it the ‘black box’ ”(Bloomberg).

According to Bloomberg, former members of the “black box” team say the work is nerve-racking and they must balance the often competing interests of guests, hosts and the company.

“I had situations where I had to hang up and go cry,” said a former agent Bloomberg. “That’s all you can do.”

Airbnb stays, like Bloomberg says it, “somewhere between a technology platform and a hotel operator – unable to disclaim responsibility for ensuring the safety of its users, as some tech companies might, or providing security guards and other staff members. staff on site, like a hotel “.

In this regard, Tara Bunch, Head of Global Operations at Airbnb said Bloomberg, Trust and security at Airbnb are more complicated than at Apple or Facebook because “you are dealing with real people in real people”.

Bunch also said Bloomberg: “People are naturally unpredictable, and as much as we try, sometimes very bad things happen.”

“We all know you can’t stop everything, but it all depends on how you react, and when that happens you have to do it right, and that’s what we try to do every time.”

In 2020, Airbnb was valued at US $ 75 billion (against 35 billion the previous year). The company spends tens of millions of dollars each year resolving incidents with potentially negative public relations consequences.

A document Bloomberg said he saw, “claims to show that Airbnb pays around $ 50 million a year to hosts and guests, which includes property damage and legal settlements.”

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