Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Violated: A traveler’s lost faith, a difficult lesson learned



I am crouched low on the carpeted steps of my apartment building's old staircase, bent over into something resembling the fetal position. There is a skylight overhead; the sun's hazy glare makes me want to close my eyes, and not have to see for a while. But instead, I take this opportunity - with head resting heavily on the step above me - to record this moment in writing.

I am just half a flight away from the top floor, where my home is located. But I don't have the mental energy to take those last few steps into my apartment. It's too creepy in there anyway.

Three difficult days ago, I returned home from an exhausting week of business travel to an apartment that I no longer recognized. To an apartment that had been ransacked.

With heart pounding and stomach churning, I slowly swung the door open as both a pungent odor and the full realization of what had occurred washed over me: this wasn't just a random break-in. My home had been burglarized, vandalized and thoroughly trashed by a "traveler" I connected with via the online rental agency, airbnb.com.
I would be remiss if I didn’t pause here to emphasize that the customer service team at airbnb.com has been wonderful, giving this crime their full attention. They have called often, expressing empathy, support, and genuine concern for my welfare. They have offered to help me recover emotionally and financially, and are working with SFPD to track down these criminals. I do believe the folks at airbnb.com when they tell me this has never happened before in their short history, that this is a one-off case. I do believe that maybe 97% of airbnb.com's users are good and honest people. Unfortunately I got the other 3%. Someone was bound to eventually, I suppose, and there will be others. For this reason, I felt compelled to get my story out as soon as possible – as a warning to travelers and renters everywhere – even though this case remains under investigation, and the final chapter of this story remains unwritten.


What I Know

There is little I know at this stage, but I am slowly putting the pieces together. Someone named Dj Pattrson (was it a guy? A girl? I still don't know – but I have noticed much too late that the person misspelled their own last name) came into my home earlier this month (apparently with several others, according to witnesses) and set out on what I believe to be the carefully-planned theft and destruction of my home and my identity.  With an entire week living in my apartment, Dj and friends had more than enough time to search through literally everything inside, to rifle through every document, every photo, every drawer, every storage container and every piece of clothing I own, essentially turning my world inside out, and leaving a disgusting mess behind.

They smashed a hole through a locked closet door, and found the passport, cash, credit card and grandmother's jewelry I had hidden inside. They took my camera, my iPod, an old laptop, and my external backup drive filled with photos, journals... my entire life. They found my birth certificate and social security card, which I believe they photocopied - using the printer/copier I kindly left out for my guests’ use. They rifled through all my drawers, wore my shoes and clothes, and left my clothing crumpled up in a pile of wet, mildewing towels on the closet floor. They found my coupons for Bed Bath & Beyond and used the discount, along with my Mastercard, to shop online.  Despite the heat wave, they used my fireplace and multiple Duraflame logs to reduce mounds of stuff (my stuff??) to ash – including, I believe, the missing set of guest sheets I left carefully folded for their comfort. Yet they were stupid and careless enough to leave the flue closed; dirty gray ash now covered every surface inside.

They did weird stuff too: moving things around in a spooky, psychotic kind of way - creepy little things that I am still discovering as I dig through the wreckage - like cutting the tags off my pillows, and hanging a painting of Paris on the wall that I had never hung before... probably while wearing my now-missing Ugg boots and Roots cap.

All the while, Dj Pattrson was sending me friendly emails, thanking me for being such a great host, for respecting his/her privacy…. telling me how much he/she was enjoying my beautiful apartment bathed in sunlight, how much he/she particularly loved the “little loft area” upstairs… with an “lol” closing one sentence, just for good measure. It makes me sick to my stomach to think now of these emails.

The kitchen was a disaster - the sink piled high with filthy dishes, pots and pans burnt out and ruined. Comet Cleanser was dumped everywhere; the kitchen counters, wood furniture, my gorgeous new bed frame, my desk, my printer… all were doused in powdered bleach. The death-like smell emanating from the bathroom was frightening (and still is) and the bathroom sink was caked with a crusty yellow substance. Various pairs of my gloves were strewn about – leather, dishwashing and otherwise – I imagine in a weak attempt to cover up fingerprints. Whoever these people were, they were living large and having one hell of a time for an entire week inside my home, unwatched, unchecked, free to do whatever destruction they wished. And damn, did they do a lot of it.


This was my home

I am reeling. How could this happen? Why did this happen? Despite it not being in New York... I LOVED my apartment nonetheless. It was my own private retreat, my sunny, bright, cozy loft that I would melt into on those rare occasions when I wasn't traveling. The space was simply decorated, minimalist enough to reflect a home life that was all mine, a place that was peaceful, and safe.

It was several months after moving in that I finally felt ready to try renting it out while I traveled. (I had rented out my apartment several times while living in New York, through Craigslist no less, and always with exceptional results). Now, I convinced myself that anyone would love and respect this lovely space as much as I did. It seemed silly to let a perfectly good apartment sit empty while I traveled, when there were so many visitors to San Francisco in need of a place to stay, who wanted to experience a city as I preferred to: in a local’s home, outside the tourist bubble of a hotel. Anyway I liked the idea of someone being there, looking after my thirsty houseplant, and of course the opportunity to earn some extra cash was more than appealing. I live in an expensive city on an inconsistent freelancer's salary. It isn't so easy to get by every month, and when someone is willing to pay what amounts to half the monthly rent for a one-week stay, well... who could resist?

Then along came airbnb.com, with its accolades in the media and great reviews, and it seemed like the perfect solution! Certainly it's a brilliant idea, offering a controlled and seemingly low-risk environment in which travelers and hosts can connect and exchange - the Facebook of couch-surfing, so to speak – that appears to eliminate all the insecurity and randomness of using Craigslist. In exchange for using the site, the service fee of only 3% is a small price to pay for access to such a large inventory of great apartments worldwide. I first gave it a try as a “traveler”; the exceptionally positive experience renting an airbnb.com property in Sydney last month was all I needed to sell me on the concept, and I soon thereafter listed my own place for a week of upcoming travel.

Yet now I ask myself this: for what, exactly, did I pay a service fee to airbnb.com? What did I get in exchange for my 20-something dollars? What was the advantage of using this service over Craigslist, which is free? Ironically airbnb.com’s site states “the promise of our site is that it is entirely transparent” when in reality, it is not. And therein lies the fundamental, though not immediately apparent, difference: on Craigslist, I am warned loudly and repeatedly that use of the site is at my own risk. I am encouraged to take certain precautions, and I have the ability to do so by gaining quick access to the email addresses, phone numbers, and other identifying information of the person(s) I am communicating with, all of which can be researched and at least somewhat verified by means of basic internet searches. Alternatively, 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. Thus by the time this reservation was confirmed and I was given Dj’s email address and phone number, I was on a plane heading East, and he/she was armed with my welcoming instructions on where to pick up the keys to my apartment.


Blame and violation

My first call was to 911. I stood by, horrified and hysterical, as 2 officers from SFPD checked every corner, every closet with guns wielded. My next call was to airbnb.com - I tried their "urgent" line, their email address, their general customer support line. I heard nothing - no response whatsoever - until the following day, 14 sleepless hours later, and only after a desperate call to an airbnb.com freelancer I happen to know helped my case get some attention. (This has been my most urgent request of the agency: that they immediately institute a 24-hour/day customer support line. A 24-hour/day business absolutely needs this in place.)

As I later watched CSI dust for prints, I knew that my time in this apartment was over. Although I had the locks changed (the creeps still have my apartment keys) I feel exposed. I stand on my balcony watching people walk by, wondering if "that person there" could be one of them.

I can't stay here much longer. The feeling of having been violated is overwhelming. The apartment’s energy - once light and airy - now feels thick and disquieting. I've had the place scrubbed and sterilized, every inch of it. I've burned candles and white sage, repotted my (near death - they didn't water it) houseplant, and bought myself some bright flowers. I've tried, but I can't settle back in. I can't use a water glass without thinking it was used by them. I can't put on a pair of underwear without picturing their filthy hands rifling around in my dresser drawers. I can’t ever be comfortable here again.

Despite this very fresh trauma, I can still recognize airbnb.com to be a brilliant concept that fills a much-needed hole in the traveler market, and based on their amazingly kind, caring response and support throughout the past few days, they have proven to me that they are an honest company with pure, good intentions. But I do think theirs was a concept that was executed much too quickly, and that some basic screening and security measures must be instituted as soon as possible, that some basic efforts be made to help prevent this from happening to another unsuspecting host.

I certainly cannot and do not blame the agency for what has occurred. If anything, I blame myself. In retrospect, and as I read through my initial email exchanges with Dj, I recognize now that something was “off” in his manner of communication, that I trusted too easily, and probably did not do my due diligence to properly protect myself and my home. And so I am frustrated with myself, and dealing with feelings of guilt and self-doubt, wondering how I could have let my guard down. But if we are going to go down that path, if we are going to turn the blame on me, then a woman who gets raped may as well blame herself for wearing a short skirt and heels. Victims don’t ask to be victims, and pointing fingers back at them is less than helpful. I am struggling now to not do this to myself.

And perhaps similar to the feelings of a victim of rape, the hardest, and maybe saddest, part of this is the recognition that whoever disappeared with my grandmother's bracelets, my hard-earned dollars and pieces of my identity stole something else, something that cannot be replaced: they stole my spirit. I get angry when I realize I will never again be who I've always been before, someone who lived strong and free by the creed that people are essentially good, that if you think optimistically, trust others, and have faith in the world around you, it will take care of you in return. Those who know me have witnessed the way in which I have always lived: with a belief that if I live my life in the best and most way honest way possible, everything will be ok. Yet in the breath of a moment, that just... disappeared. I have no faith anymore. I don't trust anymore. I don't know if I ever will again.

I don't know how this will all turn out. I am trying now just to maintain momentum, to keep up my energy and work closely with the incredible investigative team at SFPD. I've picked through gallons of garbage, searching for bits of evidence and clues. I've spent hours on the phone with banks, credit card companies, the credit lending bureaus. I'm taking all steps necessary to prevent the likelihood of identity theft, a crime that will linger and affect my life for years to come.

I've had to miss several days of work and essentially put my life on hold. I haven't slept or eaten properly in days, and I'm exhausted. My strength is gone, and as I pick through the wreckage, clean up this mess and try to piece my life back together, I realize the only thing that sounds appealing now is to go spend a few months near a beach, somewhere calm and sunny. Somewhere like Mexico, or Bali.

But ideas like this, adventurous and enticing travel ideas that I've had so many times before, are now plagued with a question I've never before had to worry too much about:

How would I find a place to stay?

****

SCAMMER ALERT - TRAVELERS BEWARE!

This is the contact information provided to me at the time the reservation was confirmed:

Dj Pattrson
971-217-7917


439 comments:

  1. You don't deserve this....no-one does. Please let me know when this DJ Pattrson is caught. I would like to inflict my own version of permanent scaring. Your new UGG's are on the way.

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  2. Nobody deserves this, and I'm very sad to hear that it happened. I've been robbed and it's such a horrible feeling. But you rented your home out to a total stranger? There's a website devoted to helping you do this?? I also have to say, I'm not surprised this happened. I don't see how anyone would consider this a good idea. I would think this scheme is a perfect target for thieves. Hopefully this experience gives you some better judgement for the future.

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  3. What an awful experience. I hosted a few people throughou Couchsurfing back when I had an apartment in Virginia in 2007, and both experiences were wonderful. I've stayed as a guest at a dozen places around the world, and all my hosts were wonderful too. I've never heard of a robbery related to Couchsurfing, and always valued the community as a result of how safe it felt.

    But I guess I've always known there is a risk, and have been willing to take it, as have the people I've stayed with.

    I know in some small way how you feel. I was robbed at gunpoint here in Medellin, the city I love, just 2 weeks ago, and now walk around like a big barrel of nerves. My heart jumps when motorbikes pass my taxi (that was how I was robbed).

    I wrote about my experience too, which I hope helps someone down the line. I hope in time I won't be so nervous that it will happen again, and I hope in time you will be able to trust people once again.

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  4. I am sick that this happened to you. There are many organizations devoted to this and it is not the norm. Anonymous (above) while I don't believe your remarks were ill intended you are essentially laying the blame on lap of the victim. Do you hand over your keys to a valet or leave personal items in a hotel room? Perfect opportunities for your car to be stolen or personal items to be picked over. What about the keys you give to a cleaning service or opening your door to the cable guy? These are not exact parallels, but we must have some semblance of trust in our day to day lives. Criminals behave as criminals and will find the means to take advantage.

    This was posted by a friend on FB today and I wanted to share it:
    All that we experience - even if it is chaos or not what we want - is ultimately for our greatest good and will bring us closer to our true potential.

    Perhaps we are not meant to understand the why when we are so close to the thing that has shaken us, but eventually all will be revealed.

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  5. how very horrible, and these predatory degenerates exist! luckily most people are good and kind. so pained to hear of your trauma, and I couldn't help feeling guilty as we had enthused about airbnb @ dinner just a few weeks ago. I know it could happen regardless the service, and I am glad they are providing you with feedback and support. sending you a big ole hug -- let's get you some new UGGs, and you're welcome to stay w/ me until you can begin to find a way back to normal.

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  6. re: Trust
    It is hard to replace, but I strongly believe that it WILL return to you. Being the victim of a crime is a terrible thing (sadly, I'm with you on there), but giving up on people in whole is far far worse. It takes time, but trust returns. Let it.

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  7. Hi. I'm a travel writer and I'd like to talk to you for a story about home rentals. Maybe your experience can spare someone else from something similar.

    I looked on your site for an email, but didn't find one. Can you email me at chris(at)caroundtheworld(dot)com? Thanks so much!

    Chris

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  8. Very sad,I can only hope karma catches up with the people who did this quickly.

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  9. Wow! Your story is simply mind boggling! Everything always looks obvious looking back but blaming yourself for not having predicted such risks is not fair to yourself. Though there are always risks associated with this type of exchange, I don't believe anyone would anticipate such psychotic behavior. These people are not your typical thieves rather they have sociopathic behaviors. I do believe that it was a reasonable expectation to expect that the agency would have vetted the renter through a comprehensive due diligence review. What is their procedure to prevent someone from using a fake name? I'm deeply disturbed by what happened to you, but I hope that you will soon find peace again.

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  10. I'm really sorry you had this experience. I will keep you in my thoughts as you go through this. Consider seeing a counselor....you could easily develop PTSD from this event. Having an impartial third-party to talk to might help. Best of luck to you! Don't lose hope!

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  11. I'm so sorry to hear this. This is horrible. Do not blame yourself!

    So Airbnb.com has no way of identifying who DJ Pattrson is?? If they are accepting a commission it implies there has to be some sort of safety mechanism in place - eg. verified name & credit card or some other form of identity clearance.

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  12. Bottom-line, you crossed paths with a group of psychos, something none of us can truly defend against. I wish you only the best.

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  13. Your experience sounds like something out of "Clockwork Orange". We can only hope these monsters are dealt with one way (bad karma) or another. My thoughts & prayers are with you & I'm sending you the strength to move forward.

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  14. This is why I will never use airbnb.

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  15. What a horror story, and as Anonymous said above, you really can't defend against a group of psychos. I'm so sorry this happened to you.

    I've been robbed twice, once our apartment was ransacked (we also moved after that) and once at knife point. The good news is that you will recover, you will get your spirit back, you will get your trust back, but it will be different. You will be stronger. It gets better.

    I hope you write more about the recovery process, and keep us updated on the progress of the case. I'll be really curious to find out if you catch these a**holes. Please let us know!

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  16. I am so sorry that you are having to deal with such a traumatic experience. My thoughts are with you as you deal with this, and know that this is not indicative of everyone in the world, nor is it a sign of something you did. No one does anything to deserve this kind of thing. Ever.
    Take care.

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  17. Simply horrifying. I commiserate with you.

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  18. You Take your money, You Pay your chances ....

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  19. Wow, this is awful. I hope you recover soon - take that vacation and go and chill out somewhere for a while.

    I hope SFPD catch these assholes. If not, I'm a strong believer in karma...

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  21. Awful experience! I have friends who have used airbnb without a problem. It seems like at the very least, they need to revamp some security procedures and find a way to confirm someone's identity.

    Whenever someone violates your personal space it can be devistating. I have to agree with Tom though, I believe in karma!

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  22. Oh my God, your story made me shiver. I understand your trauma, they really worked on making you feel bad, apart from the disgusting robbing. Some people are plain sick.

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  23. That's a crazy story! Makes me think about what I would do when I would lose everything...

    I guess this could not happen to me though, since I'm a bit paranoid and always suspecting something bad. But don't blame it on you! It's a good thing there are people like you out there who believe in the good faith of others! Keep that!

    All you can do now is keep you head up. What happened cannot be undone, it's just water under the bridge...

    My best wishes to you!

    PS: Your story seems to make it's way around the globe. I'm in Switzerland reading this.

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  24. My heart and my thoughts go out to you. I hope first that your peace, happiness and "old self" come back over time and that time in some way can help heal this wound. I also hope that they find DJ and that he is punished for destroying your home and life. Best wishes to you dear and keep writing...

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  25. It looks like you are very lucky you didn't come home early.

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  26. Hi, I'm an editor at Matador. I sent you a message to your Matador account re this story. If you can give that a read and get back to me I'd really appreciate it.

    Thanks...and hope you're feeling better about things. What a crap thing to go through. All the best.

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  27. Hi, EJ,

    I write about startups for Reuters.

    I genuinely hate to bother you and was trying not to, but I'm trying to confirm your account and SFPD's public affairs office has told me that it can't locate this investigation without more details. Would you mind talking with me for a few minutes, possibly today or tomorrow? I'd greatly appreciate it if so. You can email me at reutersreporter123 at gmail.com. (I'd rather not post my name or Reuters email address here.)

    Thank you. Very sorry for your trauma.

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  28. Do not shrink as a result of this experience-grow from it. They stole your things-do not allow them to steal your open spirit as well.

    Wishing you all the best-and thank you for sharing this very personal account.

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  29. This sucks, I am so sorry you had this experience. I hope everything gets put back in place for you soon. I am trying airbnb as a guest for one night with my husband with the apartment owner there - I hope she's not spooked by your experience. It just sucks that there are terrible people in the world. Best wishes to you.

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  30. I just wanted to lend some support here: I'm sorry this happened to you, it's horrible, but don't beat yourself up too much. I've used airbnb dozens of times and never had a problem. My experience could have easily been your experience and vice versa. I'm sorry :(

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  31. What happened to you is shit. There's no other word for it. Please don't despair in humanity, because I would still like to think that most (a big majority of) people are intrinsically good. I feel for you, because it could have been me, so thank you for sharing. And you're always welcome for a free stay in London if you fancy it... But i'll be there.

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  32. Sorry to hear that this happened to you. We rent out out place on Airbnb and have had amazing renters, except for one who decided to throw a fourth of July party in our New York City apartment. It wasn't too bad, a broken potted plant and money to cover the damages was left, but never once did we think to blame Airbnb for it.

    You're renting out your HOME to someone, you really need to be reminded every time that there is a risk involved? Airbnb doesnt release personal info until after they are paid ensure they get the commission, which is understandable. That's why we take steps to do a google and Facebook search on the persons name before we exchange info to make sure they are real and legit people. Even after you do a check bad things can still happen but you assume that risk regardless.

    Again I'm sorry this happened to you, but all renters should take on the responsibility of making sure people are who they say they are. You can search anyone on the Internet these days, someone named dj pattrson should have been an obvious clue.

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  33. I used Airbnb as a host in 2010, and I no longer use it now. As you stated, the lack of information about the person who is coming into you home before the booking is accepted is absolutely petrifying. They are effectively anonymous to you as a host. For this reason I declined most of the requests from renters on there! I only accepted people once they had added me on facebook (which is difficult on Airbnb and against their rules).

    Airbnb don't understand the nature of meeting up online, I suspect that most of their team have minimal experience of it, and that is scary. I would consider using Airbnb again on a light, selective basis but I believe the team there need a solid kick up the backside (if this has not already given it to them - I am doubtful.)

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  34. Hi EJ, I'm an airbnb host in the Portland area and I'm horrified by what has happened to you. I see the person used a phone number that is in my area, which means s/he could easily be near me. I would like to do anything I can to help you solve who did this to you - as we all know, police can be too overburdened. If there were a way you could put out more information about the emails you received from this person - email headers so we can figure out the ISP or what phone service they used (since emails are often sent from phones now), misspelled phrases or unique phrases in their communication that might be helpful in finding the perpetrator online. Please post more information. Thank you!

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  35. I use couchsurfing.org quite frequently. Yes, we do give our guests a key and let them stay home when we aren't home. Guess what? Our house has been broken into twice. Not by couchsurfers, but by strangers. In the middle of the day. We were lucky there wasn't much senseless damage to the house, but my deceased mother's and grandmother's rings were taken. I was heartbroken that I no longer get to enjoy them, and that no one else will enjoy them as much as I do, but then you realize, they are just things. I still have the memories. I have a friend that has lost EVERYTHING in a home fire. When I am at home looking at all my stuff, I realize it is just kindling for a fire and that helps me put things in perspective. Anything can happen anywhere. Everytime you give your credit card to the server in a restaurant...everytime you leave your house it can be broken into or you can be mugged. You can be assaulted by strangers or by people you know. I refuse to live in fear. Our couchsurfing experiences have been wonderful. I don't want to deprive myself of that pleasure beause some stranger NOT associated with couchsurfing broke into my house. Be well.

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  36. The person who robbed you was likely African American, or someone who was trying to leave clues as if he/she was african american. DJ Patterson is an african american sounding name. Among bay area african americans illiteracy is rampant, so the misspelling of the name follows. There are the most violent, drug ridden, degenerate, extreme war zone black neighborhoods within ten miles of san francisco. Knowing this is only a $5 bart ride away, why would you leave the apartment alone with anyone in san francisco, without meeting them first. That was your mistake. The worst case scenario happened, and you can be grateful that when you went through this experience to learn your lesson, you weren't physically there to be assaulted. It's more like a fire happened. Stop thinking about the embarassment and personal violation aspect, just stop. Think of it like this: there was a fire, everything's gone, collect any benefits due and rebuild. Don't mean to be personally harsh, but there was an easy way to aviod this, stay and meet them first.

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  37. Found this looking for AirBNB info. So sorry to read it. I hope you are a step towards recovering.

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  38. Since recovery of previous state seems impossible, consider the option of change.

    Watch fight club, since it explains the philosophy of living without being so attached to property better than I can here.

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  39. I'm so sorry this happened to you and would like to offer you my deepest sympathy. Thank you for sharing this story and I hope that AirBnB team will improve their services to avoid further situations similar to this. And I also hope that - despite what happened here - you will start trusting people again.

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  40. @Anonymous who wrote on July 14, 2011 12:40 AM

    I think the author already accepted partial blame for the issue, but along those lines, perhaps ultimately everyone is at some fault for anything that happens in their life. If you want it to take that far, I imagine that YOU will never be justifiably upset at anything or anyone in your life.

    Your criticism (anonymity from fear of retribution?) is callous.

    @Commodityworldnews

    Nice. Truly. Anonymity enables the bigots in us all.

    For the author, wishing you the best in your recovery and it is hopefully a lesson for AirBnB in the future. As you did, I would have expected AirBnB to help with some of the background checks to help out their customers. That's what middleman services (Craigslist is a free for all, so doesn't count) are expected to do, that's why you pay them.

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  41. It's awful the way the same story repeats itself, a tiny minority of people lacking basic intelligence and respect for others ruin what is - for the 97% - a great thing. An awful thing to have happened to you and my deepest sympathies, I sincerely hope the people responsible are caught and severely punished.

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  42. This pisses me off. No one deserves to have this happen to them. Hang tough. The bad guys may have stolen your spirit, but they will never be able to steal your faith. I hope the Airbnb team will publicly address this and that SFPD finds these thugs and send them where they belong.

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  43. This really really annoys me that people can get away with stuff like this. I feel so sorry for you.

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  44. So sorry for you loss. Seems to me that the people here preaching to you that you should have known better are just doing it in order to justify (to themselves) their own paranoid nature. I hope some positive stuff has been happening to you since this horrible incident, and I hope that they catch the sick mofos who did this to you.

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  45. this is absolutely terrible.. I feel for you. I still cant see how airbnb is legal. what about housing/zoning/rental laws?

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  46. What a horrendous experience.

    The one paragraph that upset me most though was about yourself:

    "I get angry when I realize I will never again be who I've always been before, someone who lived strong and free by the creed that people are essentially good, that if you think optimistically, trust others, and have faith in the world around you, it will take care of you in return."

    I completely understand and it will take a long time for you to work through this. But you will gain trust in people again.
    The majority of humanity is good or at least apathetic otherwise we would live in complete and utter anarchy. And those 3% who spoil it for everyone else...they will be found out eventually.

    Please try and get some professional support to help you get through this. I wish you all the best for the future.

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  47. I'm sorry this happened to you. Best of luck working with AirBnB and SFPD (which are both definitely way above average in customer service for this kind of thing), and I hope you can get back to your regularly scheduled happy life as quickly as possible.

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  48. I would not in any way respond to the request by someone here who commented and said he/she was from Reuters, but would not leave name nor Reuters e mail. VERY SUSPICIOUS!

    I am praying for your peace and protection.

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  49. Oh my. I am so sorry, and I am thoroughly horrified for you. I myself have just recently used airbnb for the first time, as a traveler, and have been whimsically thinking of offering up my own space sometime. I'm sorry for what has happened to you, and extremely angry at how your kindness was returned. I hope something good comes out of these ashes for you. Be strong. *hug*

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  50. This story really has traveled around. I'm reading it from México.

    As almost everyone, I'm sorry this happened to you, and hope you get back to your feet and recover your peace of mind.

    No one asks to be a victim and going through your life distrusting everything and everyone is just plain exhausting.

    I look forward reading you're doing better and for the time being, my best wishes go to you!

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  51. You have to be stupid to put somebody you don't know in your house. Moreover! Leaving your iPod, jewellery and stuff like that inside!! Your mother never told you when you were a child to be careful with your belongings?

    Americans are so innocent and stupid. Having a society like yours with so much crime I don't understand that you still do things like that.

    Anyways, I hope they catch the thief...

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  52. You don't deserve this, no one does.... but welcome to the real world.
    I would never EVER let someone I don't know live in my apartment when I wasn't there. ESPECIALLY if I left any kind of valuables there. Credit card? Seriously? You really thought that someone who couldn't afford a hotel WOULDN'T steal from you?

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  53. "The apartment’s energy - once light and airy -now feels thick and disquieting. I've had the place scrubbed and sterilized, every inch of it. I've burned candles and white sage, repotted my (near death - they didn't water it) houseplant, and bought myself some bright flowers".

    I am the one from before, now I understand why you are so innocent, you believe in stupidities like these. Do you believe in Santa Claus too? I've been told that in the USA many people are like that, but now I confirm it. I would never imagine somebody I know saying stuff like that: "the spirit of my appartment"... LOL, if I told you "buy this papers, you can change them for money in the bank" I am sure you would buy them!

    And nobody before, in the comments, told you this!! WTF! Americans have no common sense at all!

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  54. Horrible thing that happened to you, EJ. Horrible.

    And I don't expect what I am about to write will change one iota how you feel about things, at least for now. But for everybody else…

    If we accept AirBNB's assurances that this is the first time a house has been ransacked (and with a tech-literate customer base, keeping incidents like this quiet would be next to impossible) EJ didn't get one of the "3%".

    She "won" the lottery.

    AirBNB has had one million bookings in the last four months alone. So we're literally talking one in a million, or 0.0001%.

    EJ had a better chance of being hit by lightning in the same period.

    I'm sure this comes as little comfort to EJ, and if I was in your position I'd hope I could be as even-handed about this as you appear to be. But I'd also hope that people reading this don't get disproportionately scared about using AirBNB or CouchSurfing, or welcoming strangers into their homes.

    We've had twenty of thirty couchsurfers over the years, and for the most part it's been enriching for everyone concerned (a couple were really boring, but that is the risk you take!). We've done this, with a very young baby in the house, largely because when I travelled overseas as a youngster the highlights were when complete strangers generously offered to let me stay in their house.

    People who focus on obsessively on minimising the chances of bad things happening tend not to have very interesting lives. For the rest of us, yes, occasionally we get taken advantage of.

    But if you never said hi to a stranger in your life, you'd never have made a single friend.

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  55. this post has gone quite a long way...i'm reading this post from the philippines, and having grown up in a 3rd world country, i was very wary about couchsurfing. i haven't tried it yet and i don't think you deserved this at all, but i thank you for writing about this bad experience. i think this post is something that many can learn from.

    i realized after reading this post that it's almost a month old, and i hope that by now, you've managed to start recovering from this incident. :)

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  56. If it's any consolation, the fact they used a web mail provider to commit these crimes means they probably left a trail in the form of login records.

    With a warrant/court order/subpoena the police should be able to find out where the offender was located when they contacted you (prior to being on your Internet connection of course) and AirBnB will have similar records for the booking itself. Here's some information specific to gmail: https://mail.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=7995

    Before I get your hopes up though, the process may be complicated and they may have taken steps (for example, using an Internet cafe or some other victim's connection). On the other hand, if you're quick enough you might still catch them at their next port of call, via CCTV footage wherever they accessed the Internet from, etc.

    Good luck!

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  57. I am genuinely sorry for what has happened to you. I also understand how you now feel about your home that has become a violated space.

    Best of luck recovering from this ordeal. It's not going to mean much now, but just remember that most of us out there are like you - honest individuals who just want things to be "good".

    (Also, ignore the harsh comments made by "Anonymous" posters. It's the curse of the Internet)

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  58. Very sorry to hear.

    I hope you can get your vibe back after getting to terms with what happened to you.

    Remember, you're never alone and you're not in any way responsible for something like this - there is no way you could turn the perpetrators down, because you wanted to help them, and it's OK - you're not one of the bad guys and you're not supposed to think like they do.

    Thanks for taking the time to write this and thanks for doing so much to cope - if you can get through this without turning into a different person, I'll be very happy, but I'll never blame you if you do.

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  59. Absolutely horrific.

    Have you been able to find what purchases were made with your credit card & coupons?

    Could it be worth investigating the orders and delivery addresses or whether they were picked up in store?

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  60. This is just sad how people could do things like this. I sympathise with you and with victims of similar crimes around the world.

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  61. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  62. "What was the advantage of using this service over Craigslist, which is free? Ironically airbnb.com’s site states “the promise of our site is that it is entirely transparent” when in reality, it is not. And therein lies the fundamental, though not immediately apparent, difference: on Craigslist,"

    I do not think Airbnb and Craigslist are remotely comparable. For one, that 3% would be a lot higher on Craigslist.

    What you get for using Airbnb is a targeting, and financial security. You definitely get paid, and you have an easy facility through which you can manage your property. Airbnb upgrades your property's status to that of a hotel; to the point where they can issue visa letters in your name.

    It is ultimately your own fault that you did not check and record your guests' identities, not to mention not doing so is illegal in many countries given your guests are foreign. To not know your customer's identity, you had to have bypassed Airbnb entirely during the payment process, too!

    Craigslist is not even in the same league as Airbnb, and while my heart goes out to you, it is not Airbnb's fault that you were careless.

    I hope this does not push Airbnb to modify their customer experience, I would hate to see a great service get overcomplicated.

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  63. That is a terrible experience and you are probably the first to go through this. I wish you all the best in selling your home and moving to a new location. Hopefully the culprit in this case is brought to justice as well.

    It will be interesting to see how AirBnB treats this case as it's going to be picked up by mainstream media fairly quickly.

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  64. How exactly, are you so certain that it was the AirBNB tenants that did this to your apartment?

    Secondly, comparing your experience to rape is just pathetic - while what happened to you is awful, everything that was stolen or damaged can be replaced.

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  65. I've dealt with scammers before and can emphasize with some of the same emotions that you're experiencing now... but wow, nothing quite at that level of intensity. That is hell.

    Your misfortune is most dreadful, and needless to say it's taken quite a toll on you. But know that it's not your fault, you were just a victim to a bunch of low-life trash. If it weren't you, it would have been somebody else.

    I just hope that these douche-bags are caught and brought to justice. I also hope that you'll slowly be able to piece back your life together and get over this ordeal.

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  66. I wonder what would have happend if airbnb would have launched based on invites only (ala gmail). Then their users would be a nice network that they could traverse back to a real person.

    The reason airbnb has been so great is because it was friends of friends. Now they are popular enough that the even craigslist weirdos use it. The idea doesnt scale unless they get the reviews/referrals working properly. That is, if someone doesnt already have a referral, users should at least consider not accepting the guest- or at looking for facebook profile, etc. And certainly, they should meet the guest in person and not leave valuables in the apartment. But all of this only works if people actually have referrals. As it stands, the vast majority of users do not, so renters accept anyone who can pay.

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  67. Dearl EJRoundTheWorld:

    I am also an Airbnb host. Several months ago I complained to them that they don't do guest identification checks of any kind - something I discovered fortunately far more innocently and without any negative experience.

    Their response at the time was that it was "impossible" for them to do verifications. I think a place like Amazon might disagree. Certainly one can never be 100% certain with online-only contacts, but there are easy steps they could have taken to be a lot more certain than they are currently.

    Hopefully they take the suggestion of doing better checking to heart now, because if they don't their business model will crumble.

    I still like Airbnb. I still host Airbnb. But if they don't do right by you, you should - without hesitation - sue them. I'm sure there's plenty of other evidence of their culpability, but if necessary I'd testify on your behalf that they knew, or should have known, about this issue for months before this happened to you.

    Best wishes on recovery.

    You can reach me at feoy74 (at) hotmail (dot) com

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  68. I feel sorry for you but don't blame it on yourself.. there are bad people in everywhere..every industry.. you will get through this..don't worry!!..think this as a starting place or revelation for you to start a new life..take positives and be secure next time around...

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  69. This is horrific and sickening, no one deserves this. I don't think this is anything anyone can say to make things right but hopefully with time, you'll find your way back to your normal routine.

    As for the anonymous commenter at 8:50AM, July 27, I agree with the question about how certain one can be it was Airbnb - they could have just left the door open for someone else to walk in. However, if your neighbors are telling you they had plenty of people in the apartment and the person has suddenly gone MIA after so much email contact, pretty hard to think otherwise.

    As for your comment about comparing this to rape being pathetic, I think you're naive at best and probably ignorant at worst (I had another choice word here previously). I'm guessing you likely haven't ever truly been/felt victimized.

    Yes, it wasn't a physical attack but it is the notion of having your entire life violated, your privacy stripped from you, your personal possessions - what you consider yours and only yours - ripped away from you, the possibility that someone has stolen your entire identity, this is not all be "replaced".

    This type of experience consumes you, it is all you think about and a part of you is stripped away. Simply equating this to the loss of material possessions is ridiculous.

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  70. I'm so sorry this happened to you. I'm sure you don't deserve this. I hope the police catches them. Don't listen to others who doesn't understand your situation. Stand strong. :) God bless and I hope you finally get your life back in order. Good luck!

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  71. Sorry to hear about this catastrophe EJ. Just wanted to say that a lot of us appreciate you putting your story out there and we sympathize with you. Shame you have to also have to deal with all the meaningless hate from anonymous posters.
    As someone who had previously touted airbnb I'm a bit shocked that they do so little to protect their customer base. This was most certainly bound to happen and will only happen more frequently as time goes on. I actually think I agree with whatever comment mentioned suing them, this is something they clearly allowed to happen and a lesson they need to learn so that others don't fall victim the way you did.
    I wish you the best of luck with the investigation!

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  72. That's a terrible experience, and I'm sorry you had to go through with it. My friend is staying with me now as she's renting her apartment through airbnb.com (and on her way to SF later tonight). Her rule is to verify the person through hard-to-fake means like an active Facebook profile, goos user reviews, etc. before renting her space. I'm guessing that you won't be handing your keys out to anyone in the future, but verifying who the person is before you do could help prevent this kind of thing from happening to others.

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  73. I am so sorry this happened to you.

    I am compelled to write that your account of events was extremely well written. I don't often read blog posts like this but after reading the first couple sentences, I continued and was fully absorbed by it.

    Many here have commented about Karma. I agree. You sound like a very good person and whoever did this will face consequences at some point, in some way.

    Thanks for writing this. I was always curious why Airbnb was so popular. I am in my 50s so I suspect I don't get it. I am too old to be trusting.

    I hope you find peace and can move on with optimism.

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  74. So sorry to read about your experience. Very touching piece and my thoughts and best wishes are with you. I sincerely hope you eventually mentally recover from this.

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  75. You need an "UPDATED" section of this post. what's the latest? Has AirBnB responded? any leads from the cops?

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  76. So AirBNB not only invites strangers into your homes, but also lets them know when you're going to be out of town? I'm surprised this could have happened.

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  77. I wanted you to know that my heart goes out to you and that I completely understand how you feel. You nailed my emotions completely when you said that home didn't feel like home anymore. A few years ago, my home was robbed. It wasn't a happy place after that, and I moved out shortly thereafter.

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  78. See, my girlfriend would say that i'm uberparanoid - and she'd be right. I feel awful for you (because I've had similar happen to me) and hope that these miserable bastards are caught and get to enjoy the great prison sex at Folsom.

    That being said, this is precisely why I would never rent out my own place to someone randomly selected by airbnb. The fact that this hasn't happened more frequently (that we know about) is baffling to me. The only way I see this working is to rent out a place that is satellite to your place of residence.

    Good luck to you.

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  79. This is a crappy thing to happen to anyone, but I think you only harm yourself by being so melodramatic about it. Ok, it sucks that you lost some stuff and your apartment was trashed, but you are alive and healthy and they didn't take your job or your bank account. Pay $50 for one of those identity theft protection services, and move on with your life. Letting them get to you so deeply is giving them more than they deserve. This was probably done by a group of punk kids who have had dreadful lives and non-existant families. Be happy you weren't one of the kids who was murdered on the island in Norway a few days ago, or one of the thousands of random Pakistani villagers killed by US drones over the last few years.

    It's all about resilience in a life that is undoubtedly encumbered by suffering. Attachment to your sunny apartment and random stuff provides fleeting moments of happiness that dissipate like bites of chocolate cake, but not being attached to such things will free you from the dread you write about. Go hang out with friends, buy some new shit, and move to a cheaper apartment so you don't have to stress about paying the rent. Life is too short to let something like this drain you for even days, let alone weeks or months.

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  80. You're super naive, you trust strangers? Why do you think people, including yourself, have locks on your door?? Because that '3%' you talk about is out there. You were rolling the dice.

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  81. Sorry this happened to you. I wonder if the email address was a key/clue? And maybe the phone number?

    Maybe Airbnb should require Facebook login so usres can help verify the person. And maybe phone numbers that are traceable (business, homes). Also, id's credit card, DL, and such.

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  82. Hi, I am a student who loves traveling. I feel sad that this happened to you, and I feel people with good intentions have lost out. You have my gratitude for being trusting, and sympathies for the violation. I hope the universe has its eye on DJ Pattrson.

    HP from Dallas, TX

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  83. Dj Pattrson is a name I am also familar with - last month this person ransacked my apartment and cut the head off my dog in the proess of ruining everything I own and stealing anything and everything which was worth anything. AirBNB is a warzone.. thread carefully.

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  84. This has got to be one of the most hilarious pranks I've heard of in a long long time! Fantastic I can't wait to pull this stunt on someone myself hahahaha man.. awesome

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  85. I would be just as insane about this as you. It's not the end of the world, but fuck it . . . that is some serious weird bullshit that cannot be tolerated. At least you're renting!

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  86. I read through the comments, don't listen to the one's who blame you! They are the ones who go through life in fear of all the bad things that can happen, and are relieved that one bad day in your life can be used to justify their miserable life of fear.

    HP

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  87. Thank you for writing about and sharing your experience. I'm sorry this happened to your apartment. I hope that the police are able to track down who did it.

    You are a good writer. However, I was really astounded that you thought it was appropriate to compare your experience to rape which is a much graver crime with much deeper consequences for it's victims.

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  88. What an awful story. My thoughts are with you. Please do update with any police information as soon as they have anything. I really hope the bastards get what they deserve. With them wearing your clothes and leaving food, I doubt there's lack of DNA to track them down??

    I've signed up with airbnb but have yet to rent out. I'm now wondering if it's worth the risk.
    MK

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  89. this is why if i were to rent out my apartment it would also have a camera...with a turret on it...just in case.
    im not trusting, not generally. i WISH people were honest and generally good, i wish good deeds were rewarded in kind and act as though they would be(knowing full and well they shan't) and if wishing made it true what a great would it would be.

    but its not, so long as people trust people there will be people to exploit this. so long as something exploitable exists at all, someone will rise to fill this niche.

    so a camera, which records what they are doing, sends that video to my computer or phone and if they are doing bad things that's what the turret is for.
    (ok the turret might be overkill...a paint ball turret maybe? nah just call the cops...no sense scaring them off when an arrest would be much better)

    so yeah...next time...camera!

    @alex: they cut the head off of your dog? like a real living dog? not a statue of a dog or something...they killed your dog and cut its head off?

    people, i swear...

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  90. Thank you for sharing this story. This unfortunately was going to happen to someone using AirBnB and also unfortunately you will not be the last. My heart aches for you, I know what it felt like to have my car broken into and my stuff gone through, and the feeling of coming back to the car and feeling helpless. I can't even imagine the magnitude of that feeling in my own apartment, with priceless valuables.

    I did not realize that AirBnB did not allow exchange of personal details / researching the person who was to stay with you -- that is extremely concerning. I've used Couchsurfing a few times -- only to stay places, not to have people stay at my place -- and it's always been a good experience, but i've been cautious and also have done my research. I stayed in another person's apartment on craigslist and researched him as well. Of course, something could have gone wrong in any of these situations, but AirBnB seems to have a major security issue. I'm so sorry this had to happen to you, and it's important this story gets told so AirBnB fixes its security issues.

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  91. Oh sweetie. I am so sorry this happened to you :( I so hope they catch this person/people! I wish there was more I could do to help!

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  92. AirBNB gives you crabs.

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  93. I'm so sorry to hear of your horrible experience. I have hosted four times with airbnb, but each time I was also staying at the apartment. Only once did I friend the person on fb to verify their identity. I will be much more cautious if I use the service again.

    I will say that I have had much better experiences when hosting travelers from outside the US as they are generally friendlier, more interested in learning about the area from me, etc.

    Hindsight is always 20/20. Do not blame yourself. Just learn from this experience.

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  94. So sorry to hear about this awful experience. I'm going to add to the suggestion that you find a victim support group or a counsellor, because you don't need to let these creeps change who you are - get the support you need and take the time you need and carry on getting wonderful things back from the universe as often as possible.

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  95. Hey. It's awful. Still, you ask what the benefit of AirBnB is, shortly after and before explaining that they are helping you in every way including financially.

    Look, I'm sorry this happened to you, but are you even certain that it was the guest who did it? Who's to say it wasn't someone after the guest left?

    Also, sorry for this, but this sounds like the kind of thing the hotel industry would pay big big money to get published and spread around. Hell, they might have even done it themselves.

    I'm not questioning whether this happened to you and you have my sympathy, but it all smells as funny as you say your apartment does.

    Frankly, I'm amazed you would leave your passport, jewelry, and money in an apartment you are renting to strangers...that's just...retarded...and didn't you say you were traveling? Do you have multiple passports?

    Just my two cents..again, sorry this happened but it's a bit like walking into a prison in a bikini.

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  96. Sorry to hear about this awful experience, but I'm glad you shared it. I've thought about doing the same kind of thing, but may rethink doing anything like this at all, at least while we're not at home.

    I don't mind the idea of couchsurfing, but I'm not sure I'd like the idea of someone being in my home while I'm not there for any length of time.

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  97. oh man, that sux. i hope you will recover your faith in humanity. perhaps you should report the email of the crook to gmail offices, and may be they can give all the content to SFPD?

    good luck!

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  98. I am sorry this happened to you. I hope you recover your ability to trust.

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  99. I sincerely hope none of the people who have taken the opportunity to tear a strip off the person in these comments ever works in an industry where compassion or tact are required, because you've dropped that ball, and HARD.

    Whatever gaps you perceive in common sense here, and whatever you would do differently from the beginning, and however you choose to validate what values other people put behind notions like "possessions" or "property" or even "trust", to have your first response be "You're so stupid, I never would have done this"... well, it's a response begging for some sort of karma, and I don't even really *believe* in the notion of karma.

    Leave the "blame the victim" bullshit for defense lawyers, and at least offer your counsel on being more secure and safe in the future (tips on how to vet visitors, where to store valuables, etc -- all of which are valuable things for others to learn, and TRUE, no denying it) with some modicum of grace.

    But, quite frankly, I'm pretty damn sure they know all these things now, and that your little rant in the comments only served to toss acid in a pretty deep wound.

    I won't even mention the racial or gender-based comments, because that's a level of asinine that doesn't deserve a response.

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  100. Word to the wise: Use a professional Property Management company that carries insurance and protect yourself. This will become a trend on AirBnB.

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  101. Obviously, this was a crime committed by a team funded by the State of Ca, City of SF, and the national hotel chains b/c Airbnb is effing with their business model.

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  102. AirBnB should offer you a job as a host advocate or something, to prevent this from happening in the future - I'll never use AirBnB again until I hear that they've made your situation right

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  103. Can you say, "AirBnB character assassination"?

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  104. This is terrible. My prayers are with you. My apartment was also robbed a few years back and I definitely know how it feels to be traumatized by such an experience. It changes you. However, the silver lining is, eventually, you will move past this and become stronger and wiser for it. (Cheesy as that may sound, it's true). As for DJ Pattrson & Company, I'm sure they will rot in hell. Karma's a bitch. Stay safe and please post updates on your story!

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  105. hey
    shouldnt airbnb have their cc number ?
    seems like you have not use the easy way of getting cash to leave them out ?

    horrible story - sorry for you bro
    maybe use a paysite to get a hold of the phone numbers owner and also try google/fb/whateves with all the info they left

    did u have personal contact could u id the guys again ?
    then try to post a similar posting and wait for the responses and filter them out

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  106. I don't understand, are you saying that you rent a place to a complete stranger without asking to provide you with any type of identification whatsoever? I don't know how AirBnB works, was it their job to ask for it or yours, but not doing it, that's plain crazy...

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  107. I can't believe you are comparing the feeling of loss of material things to the loss of soul after being raped. Sorry all your "STUFF" is gone.. but really, that's all it is.

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  108. Wow that is so awful and I'm so sorry it happened. My husband and I have just traveled for 9 weeks with airbnb on many occasions and we've loved the experience and always been super considerate when in someone's home. I'm so sorry u didn't get us! You'd like to think that most people would be considerate. I hope it works out for you and sharing your experience is so helpful.

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  109. The experience of having your life and livelihood destroyed isn't in any way just about "STUFF"... If you did actually read the entire article and still feel that this story is all about "STUFF", then I'm sorry to hear that you're so frigged cold on the inside.

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  110. Hi EJ,
    I'm an intern at Gizmodo.com and we were moved by your story and would love it if you'd drop us a line! mzhao(at)gizmodo.com
    Best,
    Michael

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  111. this is why airbnb will just be a shitty, money-grubbing ripoff of couchsurfing.org. CS works because you can actually communicate with the people staying at your place, on the phone, in person, etc... and theres no financial obligation to host people you don't like. Airbnb saw this model and thought "how silly, these hippies aren't even CHARGING each other!" and quickly tried to figure out how they could make money off of it. Oops! They forgot about building community, trust, and a verification system, which even the FREE site couchsurfing.org has. Well, at least they built a good payment portal.

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  112. actually Thomas.. when compared to the violations of a rape, it is about STUFF...

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  113. You need to post this on Reddit.com, they'll help you find the culprits faster than the police could.

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  114. EJ, please don't let them steal your spirit. This was an intensely traumatic experience and should be treated as such. I would encourage you to seek out a crisis counselor or therapist ASAP to get some support in dealing with the post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression, etc. There are many caring souls who devote their professional lives to helping people like you overcome this kind of horrific experience. That's what they're there for, like the police who came when you dialed 911.

    Best of luck, and don't let the bastards grind you down.

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  115. Hi EJ, I'm so sorry this happened to you, looking into this post for a story for TechCrunch -- Please email me when you get a chance: alexia@techcrunch.com

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  116. Ugh,

    I can't even begin to express my heartfelt sympathies. If you wish to start a PayPal/Donation fund, I will be the first to chip in with what little I have. Please do so.

    Second, this tale just about ensures I won't be renting my apartment out to anyone I don't know personally. Ever. CL, AirBnB and Couchsurfing are no longer options anymore.

    Again, I'm so sorry for your loss and I hope SFPD nails this asshat.

    Jane

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  117. I'm so sorry you went through this. I lost my faith once too (a different situation). I'm still cautious and weary, very weary. I hope you recover and pull through.

    Good luck.

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  118. I second the paypal/donation fund idea. Let your community help out. It will help you heal, too, to experience the opposite behavior after this ordeal.

    This might sound hokey, but here's something to chew on: The wonderful environment you created in your apartment is simply a reflection of the warm, open lightness of *you*, and you *can* create it again. They didn't steal who you really are- they can't. I know it's tempting to say they did, but that's because the wound is fresh. Nurse yourself gently, give yourself time to heal.

    Maybe you have to move to re-inspire yourself and feel safe. Have a yard sale or donate your stuff to a women's shelter. I'd just get rid of it all, unless they left a couple of sentimental items intact. Find a new space to sit with and heal. Only add things to it as they inspire you and mean something. Rebuild. I know it's not about the stuff. It's about the sanctity of your own space. Reclaim it. More importantly, redefine it.

    If I could send you some fortitude, levity, and peace of mind, I would box it up right now. Hang in there.

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  119. Anonymous commenter on July 7 2:11 may be right. The technology community that created this set of circumstances for you is the same one that may be able to best help. I wonder if there are some hackers out there that can catch the sick bastard.

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  120. Shocking story. My home was robbed once and while it did take a while to adjust, I eventually did, trust will return, not to say you shouldn't move out if you feel you must, just give it time...

    I did a quick google and found this, not sure it would be helpful, or even accurate...

    http://www.reversenumberdatabase.com/searchResults?phone=971-217-7917

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  121. Sorry that this happened to you and I hope you'll get over it some day. Thanks for sharing and thanks for the warning.
    That pretty much kills couchsurfing for me.
    Another idea that wasn't fully thought through.

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  122. Do not allow this trauma to let your defenses take over. Once the walls go up it will be hard to get back to where you were, which believe or not is a place of truth. Trust, joy, the desire to share are all truth.

    Maybe there are things to learn from this. It is possible that the safe haven that your apartment afforded you is within you. Now that it is all gone you can find out, if you don't shutdown.

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  123. Not familiar with this service. What's to stop the renter from copying your keys before they return them? I'm kind of amazed that airbnb exists and people use it. Maybe it's just how I was raised...

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  124. I'm typing this from my first night ever in an AirBNB, and was thinking of never going back to a hostel ever. Your story is so sad, I hope AirBNB can find a solution that works for everyone.

    :(

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  125. I am sorry this happened to you. Sending you strength and peace.

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  126. I'm so sorry this happened to you. I understand why you feel so invaded and how hard it is to put your life back together after something like this has happened. I agree with you about the security measures and more information AirBnB needs to provide. They need better customer service. My husband and I had an unfortunate incident using their services in Europe where the apartment we rented was not any where near what was advertised. They wouldn't give us a refund for the nights we didn't stay there. Eventually they gave us half but it took a lot of convincing. That is no where near your situation, but I believe they need to have better measures to ensure people are safe, secure, and are getting what they expect in an apartment and someone renting.

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  127. This is truly a tragic story and I am so sorry to hear that it happened to you. you will recover and get through it all, material possession have tremendous value - especially those from family but they can be replaced or forgotten with time. Be thankful that you didn't come home a few days early and surprise these simply horrible people. They will get theirs in life - karmas a bitch.

    I have had similar things happen before (although not NEARLY this dreadful or all encompassing) and what I found was the worst thing to lose was TRUST. It changes our outlook and interacting with people to a certain extent. Hard as we might try, the absolute level of trust that we have with others has changed. It's like losing a bit of childhood, or realizing that a trusted friend has lied to you. It isn't necessarily a BAD thing to be a bit more cautious or skeptical - a bit, but we don't want to limit our outlook and extraverted nature as that is what has gotten us to where we are TODAY. Finding the NEW balance will simply take time.

    On the topic of airbnb, this is one of the things that I just don't understand why they don't pursue - and that is user verification from a security perspective. We're talking about exposing major assets here and even peoples safety. From that perspective I see no reason why they wouldn't VERIFY an individual with a background and security/criminal record check. This costs about 25$ today, probably much less in bulk. they could do standard verification and even possibly a video capture from a webcam. At that point, we would pretty much eliminate ANYONE who wasn't truly interested in the service and all but the most HARDENED criminals. For an enterprise such as this I think that is where they are going to need to go.

    For you, I would do as others say. Donate SOME of the stuff, just give it away to a charity that isn't concerned that some thief has touched it (I totally understand your perspective here) Also, household items, etc. Find a women's shelter or can I recommend shelternetwork who will take furniture, kitchen stuff, clothing, etc.

    remember, your donations are deductible so be sure itemize and categorize your donations and also your LOSSES from THEFT are deductible.

    Then, as in NOW find a friend who will let you stay with them for a little while. Even better move from friend to friend every few days so nobody feels overwhelmed. It IS very important to feel safe and comfortable as you recover from this attack. It IS an attack, not on you personally but indirectly and our response - as you have noted above - is similar. We feel violated and insecure. Friends can help with that feeling and you NEED to be able to get consistant restful sleep for several nights to start to get better. I agree with your notion that you need to MOVE in the end.

    To that end, I offer the following. If you move, I will come help you do it and if you want to get away for the weekend my wife and I can offer our guest room down on the peninsula where the weather is lovely this time of year and the flowers on the patio are blooming nicely.

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  128. I've airbnbed many times and generally had good experiences besides that one guest who was like a bull in a China shop .

    I've always made it a point to meet the guest in person during the key exchange. And feel them out there too.

    Recently when I gmail back and forth their g+ account pops up as a suggested friend. Maybe u should make being fb friends a requirement during your length of stay.

    Also take a security deposit.

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  129. 2000 words and not a single photo? I doubt this is real.

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  130. I hope they catch the people responsible and that you can start to put your life together after this terrible violation.

    One thing in your post stood out to me: "In retrospect, and as I read through my initial email exchanges with Dj, I recognize now that something was “off” in his manner of communication, that I trusted too easily, and probably did not do my due diligence to properly protect myself and my home."

    I recently read a book called "The Gift of Fear" (by Gavin de Becker) that talked explicitly about learning to trust your intuition and how trusting that voice in ourselves can protect us from harm. I would recommend this book as part of the process of your recovery from this incident as it may help you re-establish when your trust can be safely extended.

    Thanks for sharing your experience and pointing out the things that AirBnB can do to make hosts and travelers safer. Nobody should have to go through what you did and they should do everything they can to protect the people they are bringing together through their service.

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  131. I found on another site (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2811080), posted by someone claiming to be the AirBnB CEO, that they have a suspect in custody.

    I hope this is true! Anyone know if it is?

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  132. is it possible for google to provide details of where and when the Gmail account was created, maybe an ip address or something. Google knows everything so id be surprised if they cant somehow help

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  133. It sounds like they were cooking meth in your house. I would ask the police if they can have a hazmat team test for this. Your house could be very dangerous to live in if that's what happened.

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  134. I hope the AirBNB crew isn't still celebrating the $113 Million they just raked in in their latest capital raise.

    I'm very sorry for what happened to you and sincerely hope this DJ Pattrson person is found.

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  135. I'm so sorry this happened. One of those things that you wish would never happen to anyone. I hope over time you are able to recover some of that spirit that was lost.

    As a freelancer myself, I can only imagine the financial burden this creates for you. Do you have a PayPal account, or perhaps a donate button to put on your site? I'd love to chip in something to help you rebuild and move on.

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  136. Hi,

    I'm so sorry this happened to you. I'm a writer at PCWorld and we were hoping to talk with you a little about your experience. I'd understand if this blog post is all you want to say on the matter but if you would like to talk please drop me a line at ddaw@pcworld.com

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  137. like most of the previous commenters, i am sick over what happened to you and i send you love and light in dealing with the aftermath. i have been an airbnb host for almost 3 years. i now host full-time and so rely heavily on the company for my livelihood. my cousin sent me this article as a warning and i'm glad she did! it's well written and informative and it is a reminder to me that what i do IS a risk, and my line of questioning is valid and necessary.

    i've gotten more and more strict since i started hosting - now i pretty much put my guests through the ringer - asking if they are male or female (if i can't tell from the name), what they do for a living, what they plan to do in NYC (where i live), whether or not they will cook, etc... i basically try to engage them in a conversation. if i sense resistance, i won't rent to them. i am sharing the most intimate of spaces with guests - my home - so i expect them to be open and happy to share who they are. if they're not, something's wrong. (with the exception that it may be language barriers, but you can tell when someone is trying!)

    i try to avoid renting when i'm not home, but it happens. i like to at least meet the guests on at least one end of their trip though, preferably the beginning, and i tell them someone will be checking in on them even if they won't.

    i do just want to clarify though that as a host there is a 3% charge which is a credit card fee. the guest is the one who pays a "service fee," a variable percentage for using airbnb based on the total cost of the booking. airbnb does not claim to screen guests so yes, it is our job. however, they should absolutely have a 24/7 hotline - i'm with you there. and perhaps they could do a better job of guiding new hosts. i have learned a lot by trial and error, and it is just luck that nothing too bad happened to me while i was learning. perhaps they should even have a training course. i should teach one! :)

    i won't stop renting through airbnb because of this. but i will be more grateful. and i will be even more insistent than i get all the answers i want before accepting a booking. it's my right and in fact, the guest should be happy i am so careful. best to you! your spirit is not anyone's to take.

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  138. oh also, some people have suggested becoming FB friends with guests before they arrive. i would warn against this. there are plenty of ways to learn more about the guest without allowing them so much access to you. i find it's best to keep things professional until/unless we become friends after their stay.

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  139. Please set up a Paypal account! There are quite a few people that would contribute to your fund (see http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2813956 for example).

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  140. I just wanted to chime in with all the others to say how very sorry I am to hear about what happened to you. In some small way, I hope the numerous supportive comments help you get through this!

    You: a good person. Them: sucky, bad, horrible people that deserve to be severely punished for their crimes.

    Alex

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  141. don't trust anyone that you have not had real face time with. i have learned this lesson also but not with the damages you have had. i just had my medical records looked at and things like store shopper cards, comcast/TIVO. he's into that too. So people you meet online are not who they say they are and they can hack into ALL of your online records-everything with your name on it. Doctor's photos too. I feel violated also but chin-up and lesson learned. no one can take your human-ness away. your dignity is independent of anything others can do to you. hugs to you and remember you're not alone with being the chump of an internet scam. there's lots of us out here...and we're noe going to be fooled twice.

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  142. You are very brave for putting words on this blog.
    I want to tell you something. I don't think you are to blame. You trusted a website, and you trusted your guest, and there is essentially nothing wrong with that. The ones who made the mistake, were the guys who did you this. This is not your fault. These guys are sick, and have very serious problems that are not your fault. They are out there, damaging other person's life, so they are the ones making mistakes repeatedly. If you believe in karma, you can rest assured that this sickos will pay for this someday.
    Best wishes for you.

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  143. When you become violated by some injustice, you grow to realize how naive you've been. Trusting the world was never a logical. The world has never been a place of good.

    You will dream of revenge. You will likely never get it. It is best that you come to terms with this sooner rather than later.

    Time, however, heals all. You will still be somewhat jaded and cynical, but you will grow to realize that not all the world is bad. Sure, you cannot blindly trust everyone. But there are people that are worth your while. And it is from these people that you will learn to draw inspiration.

    Best of luck to you.

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  144. I am sorry you have had such an awful experience. Do not blame yourself for something that a nutcase(s) has done. Even if the Police do not catch this person, life will. I am a great believer in fate.

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  145. Wow this sucks, I really feel bad for you. I wish I could send some money to help you out. I'm not a wealthy person but I do believe in helping people when they are in need and even though airbnb is helping you out I still feel the need to donate money.

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  146. This is horribly wrong and violative of your own abode, the only place we always felt safe all the time. Thank you for sharing this though in here where I live (Philippines), we do not have the same company like the one you said and if we have visitors coming to our place to stay, we have at least, made initial personal contacts as possible (for basic information) and we never leave our homes to them.

    I am a couchsurfer so I have had the habit to host guests in my humble home but I am with them when they are here.

    Thank you once again for sharing this scenario. It could and will always happen to any unsuspecting host anytime. Your blog post is just as helpful to many CS and travelers alike, whether they be in San Francisco or anywhere in the world.

    God bless you in your journeys!

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  147. DJ works for the hotel lobby mafia, they are setting out to destroy any and all competition to their expensive bland travel lifestyle.

    sorry to hear what happened to you.

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  148. Hopefully your landlord doesn't find out that you are violating your lease by subletting your apartment. If you rent in SF, AirBnb is definitely against the rent control rules.

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  149. Trust only your closest friends. A percentage
    of people are NOT basically good.

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  150. I recently returned from some lengthy travels where I also had a bad experience with AirBNB (not as bad as this!) -- I had rented, and therefore paid, for a room in Argentina, but when I arrived the host was nowhere to be found. I spent eleven days going from hostel to hostel until the host returned.

    Again, as you said, AirBNB's customer service was very helpful, and they refunded me for the time I wasn't able to be in the room I'd rented (even as the host tried to claim she didn't owe me anything).

    However...

    On the same trip, I *also* did some couch-surfing (which some people here are conflating with AirBNB, which is, of course, incorrect), some WWOOFing, and at one point -- after my backpack containing my money, passport, computer, ID, phone, credit card, EVERYTHING, was stolen -- I relied purely on the generosity of strangers; the theft happened at a cafe and the owners, a wonderfully kind couple, let me stay in their spare room for a week until I got my new passport and credit card. Couchsurfing and WWOOFing also rely on human goodness more than economic incentive. And I have yet to have a bad interaction with any of them.

    Truly, I suspect that AirBNB's goal -- to monetize the sharing economy -- may be something which sounds great on paper, but which in fact together the worst of both worlds. AirBNB styles itself a peer-to-peer system in which trust is paramount, but because it's payment-based, it can attract the unscrupulous at the same time it offers a false sense of security. I appreciate what they're trying to do, but I wonder if it can be scaled into success at any level.

    (Also: hey, I know what it's like to have all your shit stolen, and it sucks a lot. Sorry it happened.)

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  151. I have hosted hundreds of guests from AirBnB and Roomorama with great experiences. In fact, I have been so successful that I have urged my friends with extra apartments to rent theirs similarly.

    After recovering from the horror of this story, my next thought turned to catching these f*ckers. My thought is that AirBnB takes payments either via PayPal or credit card, both of which are traceable (assuming that these weren't stolen). If AirBnB hasn't released payment information to you, that's the least they could do. That's a good starting point, but nothing in the story followed up on the financial data.

    As an aside, I use a fingerprint lock to let guests into my home, and I always joke with them, that if they misbehave, that I will send their prints to the Department of Homeland Security.

    Best of luck.

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  152. Sorry to hear about your horrible experience. I wish you peace of mind.

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  153. "Thus by the time this reservation was confirmed and I was given Dj’s email address and phone number, I was on a plane heading East, and he/she was armed with my welcoming instructions on where to pick up the keys to my apartment."

    That's my only issue since you said you didn't know if DJ is a he or a she. You were given their phone number and never called (or called and only left a message). Under no circumstance would I ever rent out my home without at the very least talking to the person on the phone, ideally a face to face meeting.

    If you're too busy or in too much of a hurry to call or meet the person who will be living in your home, you have to accept a certain amount of responsibility. And no, I'm not blaming the victim. I'm talking common sense and accepting responsibility.

    Who knows, maybe the phone number wasn't real or someone would have pretended to be "DJ." But maybe you would have heard a voice and maybe that voice would have been somehow off. It surprising how much you can learn about a person by just hearing their voice. Coupled with the misspelled last name, a weird phone call could have been enough to cancel the rental.

    I'm sorry this happened to you and I hope you're able to reclaim your free spirit nature but perhaps with a bit more real world wisdom.

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  154. This is just plain terrible. My boyfriend and I were also hosting on Airbnb here in SF and have recently stopped. All of our experiences up until this point have been great, but I could not imagine being able to deal with an experience like this. If there is anything I can do to help, I would be more than glad. I hope everything works out and SFPD finds out who did this to you.

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  155. Very sad to see that this happened.

    I would be upset as HELL, if this happened to me.

    sending + energy.
    G

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  156. I am just another stranger, but you have my absolute sympathy. Is there anything that people (outsiders, but ones who truly care) can do for you? If you follow up with another post, I know I'd be happy to assist.

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  157. You need to sue the living heck out of the company that put you into this situation so it never happens again to anyone!

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  158. Reading from Paris, France. In all fairness, it's not Airbnb's fault you didn't do your research. I mean, did you even check if they had reviews or people recommending them? I bet they didn't have any reviews and that you still accepted them without even looking them up on Google... I feel sorry for what happened to you, but maybe this will help you to be smarter in the future about your decisions.

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  159. I don't have the words to express how truly sorry I a for you. As a victim of a crime that stripped my trust and general feeling of comfort in my own skin, it does lessen with time. You will be forever changed by this, but hopefully you will come to a place where you do feel safe again. It will take time and patience. You will be quicker to jump and be defensive, it will be hard. The people around you need to be understanding that this was not just a break into your apartment, they broke into you. I hope you are able to heal and come to a place where you can find peace and be safe.

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  160. You are just too trusting of people by leaving your keys for a person whom you've never even met once. I'm sure you'll put this behind you and will become a stronger person as a result. It's unfortunate we live in a society filled with bad people who have taken advantage of your kindness.

    If you decide to rent your apartment again on craiglist or airbnb or somewhere else, at least ask for 6x your rent, which is typical nowadays for short term sublets.

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  161. Sending you love and prayers and sweetness and healing. You will heal. Your net will appear. Remember: it does every time.

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  162. dont be such a pussy
    get out your PVP gear
    find them
    have at them

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  163. DJ, I completely sympathize with your situation as I sublet my San Francisco apartment to two individuals a year ago who stole great amounts of my belongings, wore my clothes, and then stiffed me on rent. I hope that this becomes a cautionary tale to anyone (maybe this is more of an SF thing?) anywhere who thinks that there is still decency in human kind. There isn't.

    Do you ever get your sense of space back? It depends on how fast you can excise everything that was done from your life. I still find small things a year later (like a missing cup that they broke) which remind me of how much I'd like to find them and leave them in the middle of the Sahara without food or water after kicking in their teeth. The anger and sense of rape doesn't seem to diminish.

    I only hope you're a more easy going person than I am and SFPD actually works with you as they refused to even let me file any charges.

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  164. I'm terribly sorry that this happened to you! I use Airbnb and it makes me sad to hear that someone rampantly abused the honor system inherent in this service to travelers. Good luck and I hope you catch those awful people responsible for tearing apart your life.

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  165. Did you get the IP address he mailed you from?

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  166. I am so happy that they have this criminal in custody. I just read the update online. I don't believe in "Karma" per se, but I believe in sowing and reaping. By saying that, this person is going to be Reaping for a long time.

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  167. I Feel for you, the anxiety you must feel now in your own home must me torturous. I hope that you can find solace and that this will not change your views that essentially all people are good. Some have strayed and commit acts of cowardice which inflict hurt on others, But they will get their retribution, karma works both ways!

    My thoughts are with you

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  168. Cant believe this could actually happen through airbnb. Very unfortunate but you have to get back on your feet if you havent already and keep moving ahead.

    Think airbnb is great as I would rather stay at someone's house and help them with some extra money than pay hotel chains. Plus you get to meet great people along the way. Stop disheartening yourself over this, don't lose faith in people. You'll end up losing more: being your own true great self.

    If you want to take that vacation / change of scene, you are more than welcome down here in the tropics. I got a place with extra space, for you, free. There, my two cents of trust back at you. Good vibes all the way from Panama!

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  169. No offence but you'd have to be barking mad to give some random the keys to your apartment.

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  170. There's always going to be outside chance of something going wrong. Personally, I've used Airbnb over 5 times now and each experience has been phenomenal. To tell the truth, each experience has restored my faith in humanity a bit.

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  171. I had a really bad experience as a renter through AirBnB. And while the folks in their customer service were great, and even one of the higher ups called me directly and relocated me, I was made to feel like I was overreacting about my situation.
    You see, this person had nothing but good reviews and even one of the owners spent a night there. But that doesn't really mean anything in the end if your experience is bad.
    I really hope that this helps AirBnB to take a look at their practices and institute a better screening process.
    I am sorry that this happened to you and hope that you can regain your sense of safety and control.

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  172. So sorry to hear this happened to you. SF is a great and terrible city all at the same time. I love living here but one has to be careful with their personal property. I recently had my car broken into and my laptop stolen. My windows are tinted, my backpack was out of view, my car was parked under a streetlamp about 15 feet from the front door of SF State. Some people are just rotten, and there's no way around it but to be extra cautious and observant. I hope things get better for you and I hope you find a new, more comfortable place to live.

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  173. "Ben Koonse said...
    There's always going to be outside chance of something going wrong. Personally, I've used Airbnb over 5 times now and each experience has been phenomenal. To tell the truth, each experience has restored my faith in humanity a bit. "

    Yeah, this could be it! Do it again after you restored your apartment! Give it a chance, will ya? Prove you didn't become smarter!

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  174. A friend of mine was trying to rent apt via airbnb -- horrible experience. The person replied that we can meet and tried to put the telephone number. My friend was waiting for his call because both of the people did not go to bed until very late. It was Friday evening, then it was night, and ended up that a person was sorry because he thought that we had his number. So I also agree that this business is a fraud and if a payment was sent, they should show numbers and contacts, as there is no other way. When my friend wrote a complain to airbnb, they replied in 12 -14 hours. He tried to delete account, but once registered you cannot delete account. Good thing is that he could tell all friends never use it. Hotels are not as expensive, and you do not need to deal with BS

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  175. I have considered doing various apartment trades, but it's never quite worked out. Now I will never consider this again.
    I am so sorry that this happened to you, and I hope that you can recover soon. People suck.

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  176. This is horrible, how could someone do such a thing, the cheapest kind of gratitude, God damn their filthy attitude, cowards and scum heads to the core, I really wish that they are found and brought to trial. One thing I can say, what good comes from the heart will not go in vain, it will be added unto you many fold, a better apt and better furniture and all that you had, just dont close up, but rather scrutinise those you may welcome to your place. cheers.

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  177. Ugh, terrible experience, I'm sorry this happened to you.

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  178. Hi EJ,

    "I leap, the net appears. Every time."

    I believe in you, that you will regain your security, your identity, your confidence, your compassion, your creativity, and your faith. You will emerge stronger and kinder not in spite of but because of this traumatic experience.

    You are angry, angry at DJ, at AirBnB, and at yourself. You don't understand why this has happened, what kind of role you yourself played in this happening, and what it means about this world and about you yourself that this has happened.

    Because this understanding doesn't come easily, it may haunt you for the rest of your life. EJ, in times like these, I would like to remind you that you have a choice:

    "I leap, the net appears. Every time."

    Love and light

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  179. EJ -

    Knowing that this is a month old and we live in the same beautiful city, I hope you are well on your path to recovery. You may never get over this but you will recover and rebuild. Take the necessary steps you need to take to not be a victim. You are strong & a survivor. Live each day knowing that. Take care of yourself & don't stop living your life as full as you have in the past.

    I've called that number leaving several silent voice mails for you tonight hoping to fill their box with much frustration and annoyance. Little comfort I am sure but hopefully it made you smile. (And don't worry it's an anonymous number. Made sure of it.)

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  180. How horribly tragic. I am so sorry for you. Don't lose your faith in humanity. Sending good karma your way.
    -M in Israel

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  181. sorry but..... Dj Pattrson ? really ?

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  182. I guess I cannot understand how you cannot identify the person (in order to prosecute). How did the person get the key? From another person? The neighbors saw him / her? I also find it incredible that AirBnB cannot do anything.

    At the end of my twenties, I've already had my fair share of experiences like this. To name a few: my partner and I went to Mali, hiked the Pays Dogon with a guide who then was kind enough to "open up his home" to us and let us spend a night with his family under his roof. On the bus out of the city the next morning we notied that he stole half of our cash. We recently bought an apartment that needed a lot of work, hired a contractor who said he needed an advance payment to finish the job and then took the money and ran. We attacked him in court, we won, and then the dude and his bank account disappeared. To boot, this year some chick in San Diego stole my identity via my driver's license. I have been living in France for 6 years and I haven't used my American driver's license for just as long. Plus, I never lived in CA.

    I'm not saying that what I've been through is any worse than your experience. But after successive kicks in the face, you can either choose to be a victim / victimized or you can get on with your life. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right? Trust me, you'll get over it: you'll have an epiphany and that epiphany will feel awesome.

    As far as AirBnB is concerned, I am glad that on their euphoric wave of funding and media coverage, people are starting to pose some serious questions about their service. Hopefully this will only improve their service and prevent problems like this in the future. Personally, perhaps like many "Couchsurfers," I am not a fan of their concept; I feel like they just put pretty packaging and a price tag on what was and still is a pro bono, humble humanitarian effort in hospitality and exchange (Couchsurfing.com). Yeah, their website looks shitty but it's full of humble people who are not out there just to make a buck.

    Plus, exchanges like this have existed in Europe for years (always with some element of risk); I don't buy it when the people backing this company are calling it an innovative concept. Like most people, I am very attracted to the look and feel of the product but looking further into it, I was rather appalled by the overall prices of the listings. The idea of staying in some rich dude's designer pad and putting more money in his/her pocket doesn't interest me.

    I'm sorry this happened to you. They robbed your place but trust me, they have not robbed your spirit.

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  183. Hi EJ,

    My thoughts and prayers are with you. No one should have to go through something like this.

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  184. EJ, I'm very sorry for your experience.

    For those of you who think that giving your keys to a 'random' is an insane idea, AirBnB operates on a model of trust as well as financial incentive. We've used AirBnB a couple of times as travellers and are considerate, professional people; I'm a teacher and my husband is an engineer.

    I find it appalling that someone would be so disrespectful primarily because we're respectful people ourselves. At the last place we stayed at I stripped the bedding, washed the dishes and thoroughly cleaned (even scrubbing the toilet,) before we vacated. I know if I were away and someone were using my place I'd want it to be pristine and cared for on my return.

    I prefer AirBnB to Couchsurfing as we're in our mid-30s and like having a bit of space and privacy. I do agree that they should have a 24 hour help line and I am concerned that one day we will be led astray by the system; that we'll be waiting for keys that never appear and be stuck without accommodation somewhere abroad. My husband is a little more wary of AirBnB than I am and although we appreciate being able to stay in other people's places, I know he would never consider renting out our own.

    It's a shame that there are people who ruin these things for everyone else. I hope the perpetrators are caught and that some semblance of your faith in humanity will be restored.

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  185. That's absolutely horrendous. I feel so so so sorry for you and I'm appalled by the way your good nature, generosity and hospitality were treated with such unspeakable derision. I really really hope that those awful people are brought to justice. Sending you hugs (pitiful I know) from the UK.

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  186. Please don't give up on the human race. The vast majority of people would be horrified if they read your story and would feel your sadness and pain just as I am doing right now.

    Regrettably there are a few people who have lost their way in life and do not behave in a morally respectful way. Perhaps they need punished for their wrongdoings, perhaps they need help to get back on track or perhaps even they will be like that all their lives. To carry out such actions is not the work of a sane and rational mind. You were, as you wrote, an unfortunate host to the wrong sort of person. It does not mean that we all need to be tarred with the same brush. Learn from the experience, and when the time is right, you will discover that it has made you a stronger person.

    I have traveled on a budget for the last four years and have stayed in numerous homes, sometimes with hosts and sometimes alone. The topic of burgulary and trust often comes up and the resounding conclusion is that the world is a better place because of people like you. People like us. People who believe in using our resources to the maximum, by sharing our possessions with others who will appreciate their attributes when we are unable to do so. By offering a helping hand, a bed or a car for the afternoon (or longer). To take joy in helping and making things possible for others.

    Draw from the comments above, from all these folk who have taken the time to care and offer support. Take the positive advice that you know to be true in your heart and discard the rest. Take time to reflect and heal and then you will know how you feel and what you need to do to continue.

    I give thanks that you are safe and unharmed, that you have shared with us your story as a caution to others and to everyone who has taken the time to comment.

    Look after yourself and take good care.

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  187. (hug) Hope you recover your faith soon.

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  188. Hi EJ,

    My name is Hayley Tsukayama -- I'm a tech writer for the Washington Post. Would you be open to speaking with me for a piece for The Post? You can reach me at tsukayamah (at) washpost (dot) com or at 202-334-9610

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  189. You have a free room in NYC whenever you need it, just contact me in advance.

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  190. Check out people via www.blekko.com

    Not all people are like Pattrson. I've met some really good ones and a very few real shits.

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  191. I'm sorry to hear that this happened and hope there is some form of recovery for you personally as well as your belongings.

    My general observation though, is that things like this happen more to people who believe in "karma" than people who don't. People who don't believe in "karma" believe in responsibility and understand risk. They buy insurance, they tell their kids not to talk to strangers. They lock the front door and their car doors.

    Imagine what your grandmother would say if you said that you were going to let a total stranger have full run of your apartment. Imagine trying to explain "karma" to your grandmother as the rationale for why you are ok allowing people in who you hadn't met before and know little about.

    I don't mean to lecture the victim here who I hope recovers as much as she can, rather, I'm hoping to lecture the next people who believe in "karma" and are going to allow this to have any chance of happening to them.

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  192. I agree with July 27, 2011 5:30 PM

    I was thinking that some of the damage was beyond just a scam. Scammers want in and out. Meth, drugs, different story.

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  193. Hi EJ, I'm a travel reporter for USA TODAY and hope to follow up with you for a story. You can reach me at lbly@usatoday.com

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  194. EJ, my heart goes out to you after this shocking and horrendous violation. We've never met, but I'm so happy to see such a wonderful wellspring of support for you from the people commenting here. It always fascinates me -- the contrast between negative forces like the perpetrators of the crime and positive energy like the people here who want to support and lift you up. Remember that the world is full of goodness, too. And so I add my voice to this group's and send you comfort, healing, and strength to face the future with determination and grace.

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  195. This sounds like a total scam. I'm sorry, where's the police report? Why did this just go viral 24 hours ago when the alleged event happened nearly a month ago. Why is the blog editor not providing contact info for writers who wish to interview her? Why is she renting her place to someone if she does not own it. Or if she owns it why didn't her home owner insurance policy cover it. If you're a renter my guess is the owner is probably going to evict you and press charges. No legitimate news source is actually following up with this story and my feeling is when you rent to someone illegally there's not much the SFPD are willing to do to help you.

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  196. No one deserves that... I hope you don't let them take your spirit! You can still have faith in most people, because other people like you are out there. I hope the cops catch the jerks that did this and they suffer.

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  197. Really sorry this happened to you. It totally sucks that a few people in this world wreck so much for the rest. I also travel a lot and have thought about renting out my place. But the idea of people possibly not respecting my private areas stop me from doing so. The best experiences I have had travelling are when I met up with locals and have been invited to stay with them. But even that I am weary of because of the small percentage of people out there that try to scam you or worse. It's sad really. Once again sorry for your experience.

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  198. This is a horrible thing to have happen to you. No one deserves this. Please be careful as you recover - the scenario you describe paints a picture of a very disturbed individual. Do not trust new people who show up in your life to "help" or "write an article". This unbalanced individual may get the ultimate thrill from "befriending" or "helping" you if he can, after he has done this terrible thing to you.
    If you have someone you know and trust, put them on the front lines of your dealings with folks until you get your balance back - you will get your balance back.
    Perhaps you could circulate photos of the missing jewelry, assuming it doesn't harm the police investigation. If I saw your grandmother's bracelet somewhere, I would phone the authorities!

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  199. Hi there EJ,

    Like most of the people above I feel your outrage and am sorry that you have gone through this ordeal - while I can't send you new UGG's or replace your grandmother's memories - I would gladly open my home to you for a few days of peace and quiet if you would like...

    It may not be your cozy home of some weeks ago but I hope it will/would help you regroup...

    Feel free to contact me anytime at: exlemor@gmail.com

    Cheers,

    Emmanuel.

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