Thursday, July 28, 2011

Airbnb Nightmare: No End In Sight

Somewhere around 1:00 am yesterday, my Airbnb.com horror story was picked up by Hacker News; to say this story has gone viral in the past two days would be the understatement of my life. I sit here now, taken aback and utterly astounded as I witness the internet in action, and watch my own story unfold across the Web, and across the world.

Yet as I read through the numerous websites, blog posts, news articles, reader comments and the recent statements made by representatives of Airbnb, I am struck by how much is being misconstrued from and stated about my story, and by the impressive number of doubters out there who are questioning the validity of my story – even the validity of my existence.

I recognize that my silence thus far has perhaps fed this storm, and I am sorry for that. But I have not written anything new on the subject in the past month for one simple reason: fear.

I was - and still am - scared of the unsettling fact that there are still psychotic criminals and identity thieves on the loose who already know much too much about me.

I was - and still am - scared of saying something that could jeopardize the ongoing criminal investigation.

And I was - but no longer am - scared of Airbnb’s reaction, the pressure and the veiled threat I have received from them since I initially blogged this story.

Ironic that my own tag line reads “I leap, the net appears”. Fear has never gotten me anywhere, and there is so much more that I need to say - and that you have every right to know. So here goes.

First, I want to clarify a few things I have read online, and address some of the falsehoods that have been directed toward me and my situation:

1. I have released no photographs related to the burglary. Any photos that have been used in the various articles and posts online are not photos of my apartment.

2. Other than occasionally sharing the link to my blog, I have made no statements to nor have I been interviewed by the press - yet. Any references to me, the burglary or my current situation thus far have been construed directly from my original blog post by the respective author(s).

3. I do exist. I am a real person using a nickname my parents stuck me with long ago. I do not work for the hotel industry, though I admit I love a Four Seasons as much as the next girl. Oh and on that note, I am female.

Next, I would like to address the article written by Airbnb founder Brian Chesky, published on TechCrunch on July 27, and provide the following clarifications. Quotes in bold are taken directly from Chesky’s article.

“On June 22nd, we learned that the home of one of our San Francisco hosts was vandalized by an Airbnb guest.”

Based on the delay in their response time, I have reason to believe that Airbnb did not learn of my situation until June 23rd.

“While we are not at liberty to discuss the details during the investigation, we understand that with our help, a suspect is now in custody, and our information will now become important evidence.”

As of today, July 28, I have received no confirmation from either the San Francisco Police Department or the District Attorney that any culprit is in custody for my case. One month ago an individual was apprehended, however as far as I know, this person was transferred to a neighboring jurisdiction for prosecution of previous crimes, and no charges or arrest warrant has been issued for my case within San Francisco County. If this has changed and Chesky’s statement is in fact true, I have not been made aware by city officials.

Word of caution to my fellow Bay Area residents: I have reason to believe that there were multiple people involved in the burglary of my home, not just one culprit. Take heed and be careful.

“We have been in close contact with her ever since, and have worked with the authorities to help find a resolution.”

If the “her” he is referring to is me, then the first part of this statement is false (the second I cannot attest to). During the first week of my nightmare, the customer service team at Airbnb was - as I stated in my June 29 blog post – helpful, caring and supportive. In particular, one customer service manager - and the company’s freelance photographer - were wonderfully kind to me, and both should know how grateful I am.

On June 29 I posted my story, and June 30 thus marks the last day I heard from the customer service team regarding my situation. In fact, my appointed “liaison” from Airbnb stopped contacting me altogether just three days after I reported the crime, on June 25, for reasons that are unknown to me. I have heard nothing from her since.

I blogged my story, and all these kind and supportive people just ... disappeared.

And since June 30? On this same day, I received a personal call from one of the co-founders of Airbnb. We had a lengthy conversation, in which he indicated having knowledge of the (previously mentioned) person who had been apprehended by the police, but that he could not discuss the details or these previous cases with me, as the investigation was ongoing. He then addressed his concerns about my blog post, and the potentially negative impact it could have on his company’s growth and current round of funding. During this call and in messages thereafter, he requested that I shut down the blog altogether or limit its access, and a few weeks later, suggested that I update the blog with a “twist" of good news so as to “complete[s] the story”.

Since June 30, this co-founder has been the only person at Airbnb from whom I have received occasional contact regarding my situation, his messages directed primarily at my blog post and its activity on Twitter. (Note: a second co-founder did email me for the first time around 2am yesterday, suggesting we meet for coffee as he “would enjoy meeting” me. He made no inquiry into my current emotional state, my safety or my well being.)

I have never met in person anyone from Airbnb. And I have not had any communication whatsoever with Brian Chesky.

“Once our host’s safety was secured, our attention moved to further strengthening our system.”

I am not clear here if Chesky is trying to convey the message that Airbnb was involved in securing my safety, but the company was not. My safety was secured by my own efforts. I arranged alternate accommodations, in the safety of a friend’s home. I arranged and paid for my own transportation while dislocated (with Airbnb's assurances that this expense would be compensated - which it has not been). I contacted the police, and insisted on a visit from CSI to dust for prints. I called a locksmith and had my locks changed.

I alone have spent hours on the phone with banks and credit bureaus, securing my identity, credit cards and bank accounts. I alone have spent hours with DAs, Victims Services and SFPD, trying to learn what I need to do to protect myself. It was suggested to me by the DA’s office that I seek restraining orders and do whatever I needed to do to ensure my own safety. I have been doing so ever since. Airbnb has not assisted me in securing my safety, if that is the implication being made in Chesky's article.

“We are upset that this happened but believe that our platform and staff were able to make a positive contribution to this unfortunate case”

The positive contribution mentioned in this statement might very well refer to the criminal investigation and communication with police; I can’t know for sure. But the staff at Airbnb has not made a positive contribution to me personally or my situation in any way, particularly since June 30.

Look, despite what some of you are saying, I am not an idiot. I understand why Airbnb called me and asked me to bring this story to an end; it is in their best profitable interest to do so. Unfortunately for me – 5 weeks and counting – there is no end in sight. Too much about this case remains unknown and unresolved, and according to both the District Attorneys and the police, it could be many more months before the criminal investigation moves forward.

In the meantime, I am still displaced, bouncing between friends’ homes, clutching my pillow and what’s left of my normalcy. I spend my mornings recalling nightmares and breathing through panic attacks, and my afternoons scouring the city’s pawn shops in the vain hope that I might recover some of my stolen treasures. I do not feel anything close to safe. I do not feel anything close to whole. Today I remain broken, but with the firm belief that in time, and with the support of friends, family, and a generally supportive public, this too shall pass and I will be made whole again.

For those of you who have offered (sometimes scathing, painful) criticism, I can do nothing but respect your freedom of speech, as it’s the same freedom that has allowed my own story to be heard.

For those of you who have expressed your sympathies and support, I cannot begin to express how much your comments have meant to me. Thank you.

And for those who have so generously suggested a donation fund be set up to help me recover, I thank you from the bottom of my heart, and suggest that instead, you keep the money and use it to book yourself into a nice, safe hotel room the next time you travel. You’ll be glad you did.

298 comments:

  1. Eloquent and well done. As I like to say sometimes, "Of all the things I could lie about, why would I choose this one?"

    Here's hoping for a decent resolution.

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  2. Too much about this case remains unknown and unresolved

    Agreed.

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  3. This is quite a story, thank you for sharing it. I am still completely gobsmacked that you rented your dwelling out, stuffed full of valuables and personal papers, to someone you never met nor confirmed the identity of. The whole idea of doing something like that I just simply do not understand. That said, I wish you the best of luck recovering from this event.

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  4. I'm deeply sorry for your heartache, but can you explain why the SFPD did not confirm that a crime took place when asked by USAToday? It seems they'd attempt to seek the public's help in determining what exactly happened. I am baffled by all the secrecy around this event. This seems like a big deal and something that has serious impact on one of the best ways to travel and lodging affordability and yet there is so much conjecture and speculation. good luck getting your life back together. I hope you find some peace.

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  5. I'll be steering clear of AirBnB now. I had considered renting my San Francisco house through them while on vacation myself. Now I see how devastating a violation of home can be, and how little support AirBnB offers. In fact the spin they are putting on their "efforts" is appalling.

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  6. To Anonymous-
    The whole business model of AirBNB, homeaway.com and VRBO is to provide a safe venue for people to rent out their homes so they can generate a little income. These websites profess that they are a "safe" way to rent your home. It doesn't sound like EJ left valuables and papers in the open. She, like most people I imagine, locked up her valuables. These criminals broke through the locks and stole her things. I've seen a lot of blaming of the victim on this blog and its appalling. Do you blame the rape victim because she wore a short skirt that night?
    She took every precaution that you would normally take if you believed that this service had security measures in place. If this company doesn't take precautions to weed out criminals like this then people should steer clear of Airbnb.

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  7. Still, at the end of the day you rented out your house to someone you not only hadn't met, you didn't even know who they really were, and they had the full run of the place. This just seems like something crazy to me, most people I know would never do something like this nor understand anyone who would.

    Just my $0.02, good luck EJ.

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  8. I believe you. 100%. I found your story just a day after I set my apartment up on airbnb. I was worried about safety and when I checked the FAQ, the issue wasn't addressed at all, save for one really stupid joke question about guests "stealing the grand piano". Ha ha. Not funny. What screening are they talking about? I've put my place up but no one has checked up on me...It's not like they ask for photo ID from either party.

    It would have been mildly better outcome had these robbers stolen things of monetary value, say electronics or expensive purses and left it that. What they did is vile and purposely intended to terrorise you and punish you for being trusting. I hope they go to hell.

    I am glad you have friends you can count on and I really hope there is some resolution soon. Airbnb should rightfully compensate you. So what if they are in their second round of funding? This incident reveals holes in their la-la-land business model - holes that should be fixed before any investor of sound mind gives them cash!

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  9. This is really a big issue it seems. I wonder how Airbnb is going to tackle this. Either compensate or leave it alone. But chances are high that these cases may repeat over time unless some strong online privacy rules are laid

    I wish you get your original home back soon !

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  10. Thank you for being brave enough to write this. You are absolutely right that Airbnb has implicitly vouched for your previous guest and has a duty of care to you. They need to take responsibility/insurance not bully you!

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  11. Maybe it's a cultural thing - but I am from Europe and to me you are one of those stereotypical Americans. Like the lady who became the reason why there's a "Hot Coffee" warning sign on every cup of coffee.

    I'm astonished by the sheer idiocy here: You let some total strangers into your house and cry now because they didn't behave. WTF?! Have you 0 common sense left?

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  12. oh shut up fac0r, just because you have zero faith in other people doesn't mean we have to be brought down to your level. How is this one guy who messed up her apartment a representative for the rest of us? You realize airbnb, the company, is worth billions, right? And now they've had a single bad case. Yes, it sucks, but I don't see how you resort to calling this 'sheer idiocy'.

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  13. Hi EJ, I want to personally apologize for being the person who posted this to YCombinator's news section. I had no idea the media storm that would follow, and I'm sure it's been a lot of pressure on you. I can't imagine. But I certainly hope it puts pressure on the company to fix their policies so nightmares like yours are rendered as unlikely as they possibly can be. I agreed with you wholeheartedly that there is an implied level of security that doesn't actually exist through the company, and they need to fix that.

    I posted it to HN because I'd inquired of the company directly for an update as to what the situation was after seeing your original blog post. The request for information was ignored. This situation clearly demanded an official response from the company to all other hosts, guests, and investors in the company.

    I know it's hard, but, ignore the clueless jerks. And if you possibly can, I'd encourage you to speak to the reporters who'd like to know more about what has happened to you. It may help someone else avoid the same situation, especially if pressure on the company forces them to finally institute verifications and checks that don't currently exist.

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  14. Government needs to protect consumers from the predatory business operations of Airbnb.

    On that note, the owners of the company sound like real d-bags trying to cover this thing up. I can't believe they are resorting to intimidating a customer!

    You should be ashamed, Airbnb.

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  15. I don't know that there is much that I can say that you haven't already covered. I can tell by your writing that you are well-grounded and you have covered this situation quite objectively, in my opinion. I wish the best for you and I hope that this is all soon behind you.

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  16. If AirBNB is more concerned about their next round of funding than taking care of their users than fuck em! I will personally donate to you to keep your blog online so that everyone can know the truth.

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  17. Glad you're doing well EJ. Or that you're on the road to doing well, at least : ). Can (can't) imagine how hard it is to recount this story, but just know that it's immensely appreciated. Keep in touch!

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  18. @facor:

    I'll bet every time someone trashes a hotel room you blame the person who owns the hotel.

    AirBnB has implicitly set itself up to be a company that essentially background checks the leasee and, as such, should be the one on the line when it comes to recouping damages. They should be paying EJ out of pocket to put her life back together and going after the jackasses who did this in court. None of the blame in this should be on EJ.

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  19. This is a terrible ordeal for anyone to have to go through.

    Our prayers are with you.

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  20. lol @chris. spoken like a real amerucan.

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  21. Thank you so much for writing so clearly and personally. It's really well written and I can feel the constrained rage as you move through this. I wish the best for you. I hope you can move on, stop searching pawn shops, find a new place and not feel like you have to relive this over and over. There's even a part of me that hope you aren't reading this and not trying to get answers or closure from all these random sputterings of people who've just happened upon this story. Fellow SF'er. Take care.

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  22. I too feel sorry for the state you are in now for having to trust a company. I am appalled by the reaction fron airbnb, especially the bit regarding the funding. You have never demanded anything for your loss but have just made a point to express your concerns on the safety guiidelines of airbnb. Though i really love the concept of renting out a place for additional income but the reaction to a reason which addressed real flaw in security is totally not acceptable.

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  23. I am never going to use AirBnb again. After what I read so far, calling you to limit access to your blog is waaay outta line. That's a bad move. The co-founder of AirBnB should instead prove to the public that they care and they will provide with everykind of help. Saying to limit blog access and write a 'happy story' to turn around this event is like a punch below the belt. F*ck AirBnB. It's just a money making exit scheme by an internet startup

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  24. What happened to you is terrible. It's also extremely bad form that Airbnb are trying to take credit for helping you to smooth over their PR nightmare. It's a flawed business model - this will happen again, and again, and again if they become more popular.

    You will eventually get over it. And when you do, I hope that you'll learn to trust people again.

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  25. I love your last paragraph...perfect :)

    And it looks like AirBnB is trying to spin this in their favor since they just got a huge chunk of funding...F* them

    I hope all goes well for you

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  26. Just because the offender committed a crime, doesn't necessarily mean AirBnB didn't perform a background check. It is absolutely ignorant to assume that a background check can predict the future without fail. Sure, it could help, and is a wise thing to do and should be expected, but one should never assume that it is foolproof.

    First there needs to be proof that AirBnB never did a reasonable background check. If they did, then it's going to be hard convincing a judge that AirBnB should be responsible for it's inability to predict the future.

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  27. All the best for you. And thank you for sharing this Information with us.

    BTW: You are stirring up some big $$$ investors behind AirBNB and their clones. If they offer you money to take down the blog, take it. If the don't sell it to newspaper. You should really try to make the best out of it.

    Again, all the best.

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  28. I thought those startup guys from the valley are all good guys. Now I have a different opinion. How silly they are to react in those ways? They make it even worse for their company and investors. Nowadays as an internet company all eyes are on you. They should have done everything they could to help you regardless of what it costs.

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  29. @EJ: Thank you for writing this story. Reading your previous post, I believed that AirBNB is handling this situation well, that they're helping you to the best of their abilities. That is what I expected from them, and I'm deeply, deeply disappointed to see it isn't the case.

    Leaving that aside, again I'd like to give you my deepest sympathy and wish you the end of this terrible nightmare. Just please, for yourself and all the other people around you, don't loose your faith in other people over this incident.

    @foxit: Thank you for posting it to HN. While this level of media coverage might be exhausting to handle for EJ, it's important to get this story out to the world - this way we force companies to become better or disappear, for all the other people.

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  30. Maybe it's a cultural thing - but I am from Europe and to me you are one of those stereotypical Americans. Like the lady who became the reason why there's a "Hot Coffee" warning sign on every cup of coffee. I'm astonished by the sheer idiocy here: You let some total strangers into your house and cry now because they didn't behave. WTF?! Have you 0 common sense left?

    Preach it, brother!

    This woman was hopelessly naive and has suffered a wrong. But rather than blaming the actual criminals (first) or blaming herself (second), she blames AirBnB (!) because she gave the keys to her apartment to someone she'd never met for an entire week.

    But now today she's become the aggressor. Today she goes out of her way to destroy their reputation on the internet, knowing that if they didn't get that funding round that they'd likely be out of business in the near future.

    Let's put this in perspective. This is a startup which employs a few dozen people and which has thousands of inbound customer service requests every day. A woman was victimized, they called the police, the police told them they had someone in custody.

    What more are they supposed to do? Get out there John Rambo style? Or pay for everyone who has a bad experience or claims they have a bad experience? That might sound like a great idea, but thing is that bad guys can victimize a system in multiple ways. All you'll see if AirBnB does that is that the same kinds of guys who rampaged through her apartment will set up various kind of fraud games, just like they did with Paypal.

    Lady, the only solution here is individual responsibility. You were sympathetic with the last post. Now you've lost all sympathy.

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  31. @fac0r and the last Anonymous

    The problem with AirBnB is that they prevent contact between the host and the guest until very late. There is no possibility to verify it's someone you'd want to live in your house for a bit. That makes AirBnB accountable, as part of their business model is guaranteeing with some confidence that guests are wellbehaved people.

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  32. AirBnB should compensate you for all youve suffered. Thats the least they can do at this point.

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  33. Thank you for your post, your story is already making headway in Germany, too, as Airbnbs' business model was imitated by some Germany copycat entrepreneurs (Wimdu).

    That being said, i think that Airbnbs business model is broken, as they will never be able to provide adequate security, as thorough screening of renters would make the whole platform unattractive and maybe unprofitable. Renting out apartments to strangers not simply "cool", but very dangerous.

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  34. You shoulnd't have put unknown guests in your house. It's not that airbnb doesn't check, it's that they can't possibly check anything actually of use, whoever wants to trick the system will get away with it. Letting strangers be in a position where they can vandalise your house is simply a bad idea because, eventually, some will.

    That said, the founders seem to be rats and scoundrels who are worried only about money. Good luck with that miserable life, I say.

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  35. It's amazing that some companies, particularly a social / web company like AirBnB, still believe that BS'ing and lack of communication is somehow not going to be turned on them for negative consequence.

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  36. Amazing post from what seems like a very honest person. As an avid member of the "tech world," we often ask ourselves this very obvious concerns about airbnb, but are quick to disregard when we see all the traction that such a company has picked up.

    I'm sorry you've had to suffer through countless nights of displacement, and I hope that airbnb will see to it that you're able to readjust your life back to normal (I'm sure the guys over there will try and turn this around!)

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  37. (I'm the last anonymous user again). By the way, as some other guy said before, if airbnb offers you money to take the blog down, take it, but negotiate because this is worth a lot to them greedy bastards. And be very clear they're only paying off the PR mess, not anything else they might be legally responsible for. And... I'd get a lawyer to check and modify anything they might want you to sign, if necessary.

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  38. EJ: I've followed this story from HN and TC. I'm very sorry for what you've been through.

    That net that appears when you jump -- it's there most of the time, but you might want to get in the habit of checking your harness first from here on out.

    You've just been through a really rough lesson. Learning how callus, evil, and uncaring people can be is a real shock. Fortunately, it's more than balanced by the good people can show.

    Take care of yourself. Protect yourself as best you can -- legally, mentally, and physically.

    The law moves very slowly. Don't wear yourself trying to force it along, but kick the tires every so often and check that there is in fact progress. You've got a groundswell of interest behind you right now, it's a bit of a beast you can't control, but may be useful to you.

    I'm not drawing conclusions one way or the other. Some things you did were naive, but what happened certainly wasn't your fault, and actions of others certainly put you in harms way. As to your own existence: regardless of what I or anyone else thinks, I'm sure you've got your own firm knowledge of this. It's another strength.

    Realize that AirBnB are probably terrified, and there will likely be more pressure on you, but you hold many of the cards. Get counsel from those you trust and know well on this, consider what's right for you, and strive for that.

    Life hurts sometimes. It's testing to see if you're paying attention. You'll be stronger for it.

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  39. Airbnb needs to offer you a settlement right away if they want this issue to die down. No, that won't help your emotional state but at least you won't have to worry about finding a new place and providing yourself with new furnishings. If the CEO had any brains at all he'd offer up a tidy $50K and have you sign a non-disclosure agreement barring you from speaking of the incident any further. Both sides could then walk away with some dignity and hope that things will work themselves out.

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  40. You should write for TC. They badly need a person who can write!!!

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  41. I too am saddened by your story. It is with my sincerest wishes that you are able to get over this and move forward with your life.

    Unfortunately, much worse happens to people in the world. As you mentioned "rape" several times, I imagine true rape victims would wish only their house was burglarized. Something to put it all in perspective.

    Lastly, I hope somebody posts the identities of those involved. It is a shame that victims get all the publicity and criminals remain anonymous. People need to know who is responsible for such heinous actions!

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  42. EJ,

    I am really sorry that this happened to you.

    Reading your story on HN, TC and this blog one thing is clear... You are a very talented writer with authenticity in every word.

    I agree with the TC post that said "I’ll say this. EJ knows how to write. And it’s hard not to feel for her."

    I hope that out of this horrible situation a new opportunity will open up for you.

    All the best,
    from
    Brisbane, Australia

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  43. GO GO GO. Thanks for the update. It's *really* interesting to see and hear that things are not always as they appear. Keep fighting. Wishing you the best in your return to normalcy.

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  44. Response was with class, integrity and dignity. Blessings to you during your time of recovery - you will emerge with strength from this, no doubt. Sadly, AirBnB needs to assess their own learning and failures in handling this situation. Clearly judgement did not serve them well here.

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  45. this is great! i just figured out what i want to be when i grow up - a career criminal. now i can do burglary without breaking and entering!

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  46. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  47. @Ivo

    well, where's the problem then? don't use airbnb. if you do and shit happens ... well ... guess whom to blame.

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  48. Keep writing. I love startups, but not ones that don't put their users first.

    After reading this. I think that AirBnB really deserves to lose whatever round of funding they are after. Readers... If you are a VC and AirBnB are talking to you, my first question would be: What have you actually done to resolve this woman's situation. My second question would be: who do you plan to hire for PR going forward. My third question would be: Who will you be putting in as your new CEO.

    The rest of this is written to the CEO of AirBnB (because he should be reading every comment posted here): Yes, this is all your fault. Yes, you can fix it. Yes, it will cost you money.

    Stop listening to your lawyers (or your head) and listen to your heart. Your lawyers can save you some money if you get sued, but you'll lose your company if you don't handle this correctly. (and you are well on your way to that) You should have known this was going to happen and should have prepared for it earlier.

    Offer immediately to pay, in full, for this woman's troubles. Also pay for any counseling she decides to explore. Pay for several Private Investigators. Pay for a bodygaurd if she asks for one. Do for her what you might do for your own mother or wife in a similar situation. What you do now is the most important thing you will ever do for your company, let alone for another human being... And right now, you are doing it wrong.

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  49. As shocking as it is to read your story, it's even more shocking to read through the comments. The name calling and labeling you as "naive" is appalling. The fact that people trust each other is what makes sites like couchsurfing, airbnb, and ebay (and so many others) work. Does that make all users naive? And when things do go wrong are we just suppose to keep quiet. Bravo to you for speaking out! I hope that this helps create a stronger, more safe system for sites such as airbnb.

    As for me, I was considering using them to occasionally rent out my apartment, but after looking through their site and now reading your blog I'm thinking otherwise. I am a user of couchsurfing, which has it's own risks, but I like that I can interact with other users and read through their references and profiles (which are often quite lengthy which brings piece of mind).

    Anyways, I hope you can find a way to trust again. I can only imagine how violated you feel.

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  50. My sympathies.

    But I'll just say don't forget who the real person to blame is, and that is the criminal.

    It might be hard but see things this way when you are in the state of mind that you are in. But try to be grateful, because it certainly could have been worse...

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  51. This is not Airbnb's fault at all. It's the person(s) who did this to her. And, shocker - it's going to happen again to someone no matter how many background checks or other precautionary measures are instituted.

    It's also not Airbnb's job to be this woman's counselor. That said, obviously they took a very short-term view here and really didn't care about her at all. The business is their baby. They just want her to be quiet. I'm glad she wasn't bullied or smooth talked into taking down her blog - the nerve to even ask that! Complete d-bag move Airbnb!

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  52. Hey EJ - Brian Chesky (Airbnb CEO) here. My heart goes out to you. My co-founder just reached out again. We are available to talk anytime and help you through this. Please contact us directly to let us know how we can help. We are standing by.

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  53. @facor your the man, super pumped you can prove to all of us that no matter what country you are from, d-bags like you and the guys that trashed this house are always going to be a problem for the rest of us.

    @brian chesky had a lot of respect for what you have done but just lost it all based on this ONE comment on a blog. HINT: why don't you call her right now genius. This comment could not be more arrogant. "My Co-Founder is calling you." You have the title of CEO, correct? Step up.

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  54. It's not his job to be her counselor! She needs to rely on friends and family. Though it'd be nice if they followed through on what they promised her...

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  55. @brian chesky OBVIOUS HINT: don't have the guy who asked her to take down the blog be the one reaching out.

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  56. As this is an ongoing investigation, you are not obliged to reveal anything that could even remotely seem to compromise the police effort.

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  57. i wouldn't be surprised at all to learn that airBnB is running a disinformation/smear campaign to discredit this woman's account of events. how many of the "blame the victim" posters here are actually airBnB employees?

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  58. EJ, I am so sorry this happened to you. I hope you can recover your sense of safety and wellbeing again soon.

    Brian, I signed up two weeks ago with AirBnB, and will be deleting my listing. You absolutely need to change your business model, for the safety and peace of mind of all considered.

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  59. i like how brian posts a comment here pretending to care in order to soften the blow of this pr nightmare. this is not the first airbnb horror story but possibly the most publicized one. i am pretty sure that even one tiny bit of identity check would lessen incidents like this. i am a traditional landlord and i get a pretty detailed background check of potential tenants. i guess that kind of verification would be hard to scale for airbnb

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  60. @facor:
    I love how people trot out of the ol' you spilled coffee on yourself, you must be a moron.

    If you actually read the court case, it has merit and that's why our court system sided with the customer. McD purposefully and dangerously served their coffee much hotter than normal "because it enhanced the flavor". So hot as to cause burns that one would not normally get from a freshly brewed cup of coffee. Instead of serving a safe cup of coffee, they sacrificed customer safety for an extra profits.

    --
    And to the real article at hand, I've been following this story since it hit the blog news sites. I'm glad she did this follow up as I thought based on airbnb's response and new security measures, that they were in fact making things right. They do have responsibility in this. Their vetting process failed and for 3% it shouldn't have. Hell if I'm paying them 1% I expect them to do the vetting process for me and do it well. Why else would I give them money when I could use Craigslist for free and do my own vetting process. If 3% doesn't cover a better background check, then raise it to 5% because your business model is broken. The illusion of safety from your site as well as the implied fact that I'm paying you money to background check your members for me, means I expect the background check to be thorough. If that can't be done, then as I said, your business model is broken. Hang a sign out there that says "We are just like craigslist, only you have the pleasure of giving us 3% commission for the hookup." At least then I would have set my expectations accordingly. And its America, you will find someone who will give you the business for the "convenience" of having a more targeted audience to rent to.

    I hope this eventually gets resolved successfully and they find the people who did this.

    Cheers from San Francisco.

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  61. Wish you success in finding the perpetrator and rebuilding your condominium and security. What a horrid event to happen and my thoughts are with you.

    I was considering using AirBnB for my own condo but have now decided not to do so after this fiasco. I encourage others to follow suit - this is proof that the consequences of earning an extra hundred dollars is not worth the downside if someone unethical moves in and ransacks your humble abode.

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  62. The whole airbnb model seems ripe for this sort of abuse. What sort of utopia do airbnb customers believe they live in in order to feel comfortable letting complete strangers stay in their house/apartment while they're away on travel? That's simply asking for trouble.

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  63. Why would anyone hand over the keys to their home to a total stranger, and leave them unattended for a whole week?

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  64. Use a professional property manager.

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  65. Hi EJ, I'd love to interview you for Betabeat, a New York-based tech blog. You can reach me at ajeffries at observer . com.

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  66. @Brian chesky, you should not be waiting to help, you should be there with a blank check making this right as best you can. You of course never remove the nightmares and stress, but you could stop spinning and start doing. But you could become the insurance, which you should honestly start to sell as a product anyway to protect your clients. Use this to bring solutions and protections. I hope you learn and make it right NOW, not waiting for public opinion to steer your course. Quoting Ben Parker, Spiderman's uncle and Bill Gates, "with great power comes great responsibility"

    EJ Don't let the world of cynics who are trying to spin on behalf of a company take away your right to be a victim. You did what many people had done already and believed the press and just became the tip of the iceberg for airbnb political issues.

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  67. um, I'm 'European' (I suspect by the writing that the judgemental twits above claiming that title are, like me, from the UK) and we've lng had a tradition of hitch-hiking; giving lifts to people on the assumption that they aren't going to murder us at the first traffic light. Trusting that people who sign up for AirBnB aren't nutters is a similar leap of faith in human nature that's proven justified for an awful lot of people. Like the number of people suggesting a donation fund; the world is full of decent people (the Internet maybe less so). Stop beating up on EJ!

    I vaguely looked into AirBnB myself and assumed they'd have insurance to cover this kind of thing - sooner or later, something is going to go wrong, maybe not as scarily as this, but something that AirBnB should pay for. I hope the company works out that side of its business; it would do more good for the funding round than putting pressure on EJ to be all fixed now.

    Again, really hoping things get better; and really, really hoping you find a victim support group or counsellor to help you with the anxiety.

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  68. oh, the MacDonalds hot coffee story? It's even worse than 'enhanced flavour'. McD was brewing coffee with steam rather than hot water because they got more coffee out of the grounds that way; they had had repeated warnings that this made the coffee temperature at point of sale dangerously hot. Despite the obvious flaws in the case of the woman who was burned, the court found McD guilty because they had persisted in something that the health & safety investigators had told them not to do. Parallels to the airbnb situation are left to the reader...

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  69. @brian chesky SERIOUSLY? That's your blog comment to her? You're really clueless about customer support if you seriously can't be assed to call her up yourself and personally talk to her as CEO of the company that has a huge PR disaster on their hands since you blatently LIED in a TechCrunch article and now the truth is coming out that you basically did dick all as a company to help her after she posted the truth to her blog.

    Your company is going to suffer for this, your stupidity to have a co-founder call her and demand to take down the blog due to INVESTORS seeing it for your next round of funding. Do you care for your customers at ALL? Their well being? Who the hell tells a victim of a house raid that they should be silent like that and then turn around and not help them at all!

    Air BnB is going to be dragged through the mud for this, and you deserve it for how poorly you've treated this situation.

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  70. EJ Take heart. Someday you will be whole again. I
    believe so from reading through your blogs. You have an unquenchable spirit and the reason to know most people are a lot like you and this is hopefully an abnormality. Some people are born to take advantage of others, thankfully not most people. All the best from Canada.
    (Some comments here prove the mentality of what's out there, ignore them sounds like they may be from that company)

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  71. You need to go see a therapist. Lambasting AirBnB probably isn't going to make things better, you're just destroying a company that is trying to compete with the big hotels, and they need to.

    All your story shows is that they still have a lot of work ahead, so give them a chance and don't destroy them.

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  72. In my opinion, AirBnB now has a very short window of time to make things right. This story could turn into a disaster for them (if not the case already)... On the other end, working on an happy end with EJ could be worth a whole lot more than any marketing campaign they've run so far. My best wishes to you EJ.

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  73. AirBNB needs to be held to the same standards as a property management firm, where they are responsible for processing a complete background check with records of the drivers license ss#, and fingerprints, (which also deters problems...) they also need to make sure the property owners have proper insurance to cover costs of any damaged or stolen items. This whole mess could have been avoided by such screening, since AirBNB would have had the proper info to assist the police in their forensic investigation, demonstrating an outstanding level of competence, instead of showing us how they are all a bunch of inexperienced corporate goons who have absolutely no idea how to cover their asses and properly protect the people they are claiming to represent. (I hope that Brian and his co-founder understand the potential severity of this situation and do everything they can to help EJ restore her world and utilize the proper due diligence to prevent this from happening again to the absolute best of their abilities)

    To EJ:
    I wish you the very best in getting your world back together as quickly and painlessly as possible. I am sure you have learned alot of stuff you never wanted to know from this experience.

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  74. Firstly, I believe the story. The fact that the SFPD won't comment or confirm stories the USA Today is common practice in a case involving a major corporation.

    Secondly everyone should understand the statistics here - just because it happened in this instance doesn't mean it will happen to you - it serves as a healthy reminder that we should always be quite careful when letting out our homes - ask for numbers, emails, physical mailing addresses, references et cetera.

    Thirdly this isn't EJ's fault, at least not in any direct way - no one should lay criticism to her trusting nature, it's like handing your car keys to a kid you think is the valet because his shirt says so, then he jacks your car. EJ placed a certain amount of trust in a reputable company and expected that all would go well ... she had no reason to suspect otherwise.

    Lastly this isn't AirBNB's fault, again not directly anyway. It seems AirBNB was riding on a streak of luck, and perhaps they took it for granted. The $20 EJ spent should be used to run criminal background checks on potential visitors - and in the case of Americans, Social Security Numbers should be collected. This would greatly reduce the chances of something like this happening again. As far as any lies they may be telling to make EJ feel better (apprehended criminals and such), they should know better, and that will come back to bite them if they are in fact lying.

    EJ - I'm a freelancer as well and there's no way I could be financially prepared for something like this, so I feel for you there. I also know what it's like to have your private life violated in such a berserk manner, it's terrifying, you feel like you have no control ... you feel vulnerable, it's awful. I hope this doesn't discourage you from traveling, I hope you don't let them take anything away away from who you are, away from your SELF. You seem like a great person, you'll power through this.

    Also, after reading some of your other blogs I've decided to follow you, some really great entries! You can find me at http://tannercampbell.com - I think some of the meditation techniques I write about might help you find a little peace in the middle of all this chaos.

    Best to you!
    Tanner Campbell

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  75. What a great blog post: telling the truth, telling your story, while amazingly remaining above blame and vitriol.

    Thanks for sharing, and God bless!

    BTW, Airbnb ... wow, this was a very, very stupid way to respond to this. Essentially, you hoped it would go away.

    If you wanted a good ending or PR story, you should have put her up in the Four Seasons indefinitely and assigned an admin exec to help her get her life back together.

    Then you might have had some good press out of it!

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  76. I wasn't planning on using AirBnB, and I'm certainly not going to now. They are clearly not remotely concerned about their users and obviously far more interested in their next round of funding. Good luck to you, I hope you get the justice you deserve.

    As to the supporters of AirBnB, you should realize that they are liars. EJ is only trying to set the record straight, not destroy them.

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  77. My best wishes to you. Good days are just about to come!

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  78. I'm shocked at how poorly AirBnb has handled this. The humane thing to have done would have been to set you up with nearby accomodations while you seek another place, replace what you lost, and help you with your identity theft issues, not to mention paying for counseling.

    I'll still use AirBnb, for now, but I'm very disappointed in their apparent lack of care beyond their own interests.

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  79. EJ, thank you. I really appreciate the emotional effort that it took you to write this and your previous entry out. Thank you for putting your proverbial balls on the chopping block and honestly detailing what's going on. I hope you can find a new place where you are not creeped out entering and walking the neighborhood. I am praying to Jesus for your recovery and for justice.

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  80. Hi EJ, thank you for writing about your experience with AirBnB. I am sorry for the horror you are forced to live through. I can only hope that you will be made whole, emotionally, mentally and financially, at the end of this ordeal.

    Along with many others, I too will never use AirBnB, not only to avoid similar experiences but also due to their lack of common moral decency. For their founders to not recognize that this is not matter of profit but of the well being of another human being is atrocious and speaks to their lack of a fundamental moral compass.

    BTW, you are a very eloquent writer and I've enjoyed reading your blog. Thank you for that.

    -Chewable

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  81. Get over it. You act like your entire family was murdered. Comparing yourself to a rape victim? Please. So what, you were robbed. Move if you have to, and get over it.

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  82. I feel for you EJ. It's true that whatever happened can't really be undone, but I really, really hope that you figure your way to handle this.

    Best of luck to you.

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  83. So, the primary argument against EJ at this point seems to be "you were an idiot for trusting AirBnB!" ... I'm pretty sure EJ already feels like she made a bad call by renting her place out this way, don't you think? It seems like the point of her blog post is to warn others that the risks here are real, and not to do what she did and trust AirBnB.

    In short, you seem to be making her point for her in a really hostile way.

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  84. Hi EJ: I'm a writer for The New York Observer and Betabeat.com. Would love to interview you and correct the record. Email me at ajeffries care of observer.com.

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  85. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  86. Dear "EJ", this may be an insensitive thing to say in this situation but you sound like a girl I'd love to meet in real life, sight unseen and all. Relax, I'm not an internet creepo (ok, par for the course...) and I live far, far away (in Munich, soon Zurich again). Just here to say that you have a wonderful "voice". I'm sure I'm not the first nor the last one to notice. Perhaps you will remember this ordeal one day as the break that got the world to notice you. You are obviously intelligent and articulate and you write wonderfully -- and now people like me know that you exist. I hope you will get published when you are ready. Surely you've heard the old Chinese story about the man whose horse ran away -- I know it's trite, but it seems quite fitting here. I just "subscribed" or "followed" your blog and will read more of it in bed on my new iPad. And by the way, I was in Paris last spring/summer too (also for the first time), so I'm enjoying your take especially. Your writing makes me want to write again. Thank you. HS

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  87. I wonder how much Paul Graham, YC, and the chase the buck and push it, here is some ramen has to do with AirBnB's response to date. Group think hits society at large.

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  88. I am deeply saddened by your story and hope that you can put your life back together soon. That said, Airbnb's Terms of Service clearly state that they do not perform background checks. It's not in "tiny print" it''s just there. Airbnb is not a property management firm, it's a place to find cheap accommodations and a great way to meet new people. I really feel for you EJ, I sincerely do, but I can't help but get the feeling that you didn't do your research on the operation, and/or didn't go with your gut when previously you said something felt "off."

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  89. You should sue the crap out of AirBNB

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  90. i am truly sorry for everything that has happened to you and the internet trolls that find pleasure in attacking people online, I hope that in time you do return to your sense of normalcy in your own home...best wishes

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  91. FWIW, I was a victim of a home burglary 20 years ago. The burglar took a shot at me with a 38, which, thankfully, missed. I had nightmares for a long time (still do on very rare occasions). I'm just writing to extend my sympathies and tell you that, though it might take a while, it will get better. Hang in there.

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  92. I've actually read the airbnb guys are(were?) decent and helpful, right from inception of airbnb. But once millions come into play, investors start talking about 10s of millions, words are bandied about IPOs someday and hundreds of millions, well most people lose their sense of what's really important. They're spending their days focused on growth and building a user base, and all sorts of words like that. In short, the victim's behavior/reaction is natural, and sad to say, airbnb's behavior is also natural... unless society wants to start putting a higher premium on humaneness and less on profits and being a socially wealthy big-wig.

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  93. I agree the issue here is the fuck them they can read our terms of service approach to making a buck. This is as abobe anon points out not specifically unique to this company or even YC companies or internet startups.


    What is unique to PG, YC, and the SF++ scene is that they are uniquely targetting our best and brightest and yeah tempting them with the rewards to ditch the unprofitable and more importantly unnecessary high minded ideals and priciples.

    To the nice guy founders of Air;n;: 'when salt loses its. ..'

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  94. I am so sorry this happened to you. And I am appalled at some of the uncompassionate responses on this page.

    But I want to object vigorously to your closing comment. You should let the Net catch you, if I may pun on your tagline. Please, please, PLEASE set up an account on PayPal(*) so that those of us who are so inclined can give you a hand. There's no shame in it at all.

    (* Or maybe WePay; they have much better customer service.)

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  95. I can sympathize with your feelings of frustration, fear, and anger as I too was robbed, my apartment broken into and thoroughly cleaned out. The healing process is long but you will heal. Good luck with everything and keep your head up.

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  96. I think it is very well and nice that people are willing to trust one another, but I could NEVER trust someone I never met and just rent out my house in exchange for theirs. Way too much potential dangers of criminal activity. If you think that your case is bad, what if the "renter" decided to make a copy of your house door and later come in to do something much WORSE? I think it's in everyone's interest to think about all the possible consequences before doing such a thing.
    PS - I do hope that you get your life back together, and to the Founder of AirBNB, you guys suck, you tried to manipulate fact and asked her to LIE so that you can get funding for more of THIS happening? Your company is actually enabling the criminals to target responsible people!

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  97. "The problem with AirBnB is that they prevent contact between the host and the guest until very late. There is no possibility to verify it's someone you'd want to live in your house for a bit. That makes AirBnB accountable, as part of their business model is guaranteeing with some confidence that guests are wellbehaved people."

    Some of you folks need to wake the-f-up and realize that life is not a fairy tale. This woman rented her place blindly, knowing full well that she could not have "contact until very late".

    The criminal is guilty of what they did, but the woman is 100% responsible for the opportunity she GAVE the criminal.

    You rent out your place to a complete stranger, let alone one you have not even met personally, then you MUST realize this could happen. When it does, no one is to blame but yourself.

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  98. Dear,

    All the best to you and yours in your efforts to return to normalcy.

    I can't imagine how horrific it is to have your home wantonly vandalized.

    God speed.

    Neil.

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  99. I read your story on TechCrunch and was amazed. I did a bit of hunting to find your blog because I thought there just had to be another side. Politics is a bitch and you can see why bnb is trying to cover their asses but frankly I think they are being insensitive and ridiculous. I am so sorry this happened to you. It would be wonderful if every one was good at the heart but some people just suck. So I think a solid F you should be tossed to these people who did this. Hopefully when they make it to jail the men in cornering cells are bigger and show them whose boss : )

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  100. You are making more damage to the AriBnB employees (and their families) than the raiders did to you.

    I hope one day an unsatisfied costumer completely fuck ups a company you work in.

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  101. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  102. WOW Ivan you are a selfish prick who obviously works for this joke of a company, AriBnB. News to you, if this is how they treat their customers, don't fool yourself and think they won't treat you with the same lack of regard.

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  103. Good morning EJ,

    I am with KRON-TV (Channel 4) and we'd love to interview you today. Please give me a call at 415-561-8905 or email us at assignmentdesk@kron.com

    Thanks so much,
    Carma H.

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  104. Yes and Ivan is NOT an employee or anyone affiliated with an airBNB employee? If airBNB screws up customer and then gets a bad reputation, then goes down the drain; guess what, your business model was fundamentally flawed. For you to victimize the victim again by harassing her is NOT the way to get customer back to your site. Whoever that posted as IVAN on this site, airBNB better find out quick who did it and come clean. Otherwise we will take it that airBNB as a company is trying to intimidate her!

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  105. Why no pictures? Easy enough in today's world of instant communication....

    First of all airbnb should step in and help in every way possible without any tradeoff from you. Why? Because they can. Because its just a nice thing to do and they are in a position to do so.

    I own 20 rental properties in the city. At least 1/2 of them have been broken into over the years. My tenants do not write blog posts. Each and everyone has had to stay right at that house the very same night after. Some of these were scary home invasions. The culprit here is 1) a sadistic horrible person who took advantage of the creativity of a company like airbnb and the trusting of you. But isn't it time to step up and deal with this. Its a house, not your life. It can be rebuilt.

    I feel terrible for you but in the end you made a decision knowing its a terrible world out their. Just watch the news.

    I have rented my house for over 30 weeks on VRBO.com at 5k a week. I love it. However, I get to fully vet the renter which I do. My assumption is that anyone that can pay 5k upfront, provide me pay stubs, allow me to do a background check etc is not going to trash my place. Airbnb on the other hand has a problem...1) $20-100 a night is not much to pay for access 2) the renter not being able to vet the tenant... I love VRBO, not in a million years would I leave my house or even stay home with a airbnb tenant, too much risk, too little money... That is just me personally.

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  106. Over the years, I have rented vacation homes through various agencies. I had to provide my Drivers License and credit card numbers. I also met with many of the agents to get the keys etc.

    Sorry to here of your bad situation. Looking back you should have place valuables in a safe. And maybe alerted neighbors to call cops if they saw or heard anything strange. Too bad you did not have a nanny cam....

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  107. I have not used Airbnb, but others above have said they had no verification of their identity. You just sign up for an account, and you're done. If that is true, it blows my mind! You can't even rent a car without giving a credit card and photo id. How can Airbnb not have this info on every user of the service?

    I don't trash hotel rooms because I'm a nice guy, but if I wanted to, the knowledge that they have my credit card and all my info on file would stop me.

    The day after this happened, Airbnb should have handed her a check drawn from the vandal's credit card, along with a printout of his/her identity, including name, address, SSN, driver's license, etc. Then the victim could file criminal charges as well as a civil suit against them personally. The fact that this has not happened says Airbnb can't or won't provide the info.

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  108. I hope the various outlets who first reported your story also share your follow-up. Airbnb should be ashamed for further victimizing you by pressuring you for silence.

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  109. Unlike many other commenters here I don't blame you for wanting to trust people. Cynicism and assuming the worst of everyone has only made this world a darker place, and people like you help brighten it up a little. Of course sometimes you get burned by people you trust, but those really are the small minority of people, and letting a few bad actors ruin your trusting nature seems to be adding tragedy to misfortune.

    I've also experienced having my home burglarized so I completely understand how you feel right now. I remember the sense of deep, deep violation--home was not home anymore, and if I couldn't feel safe there where could I? Losing material items--even cherished ones--is one thing, but losing your privacy and losing control over who is allowed into your home is something that takes a lot longer to get over.

    But the truth is, you do heal. Time and perspective helps you realize that this is not likely to happen to you again, and that you do in fact control your own safety and your home, despite the occasional destructive actions of others. You might have to move--if that's what it takes to feel safe again, then do it. It's just an apartment and it sounds like you have a talent for making any house feel like a home.

    One last thing: you can think of the "leap" you took as using Airbnb, but instead I think the leap you're taking is being vulnerable and asking for help in one the darkest times of your life. Your net is still there, in the form of your friends, your family, and supportive random strangers.

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  110. My heart goes out to you and the violation and devastation you must feel. My wife and I were displaced 3 months ago last year. The problem I have with AirBnB is that they seem to have a naive view of the world. I read through their website previously and they downplay the security/vandalism issue. In their world, people are nice and good and you don't need to worry much about vandalism and thieves. However, as AirBnB expands, it also expands into a broader population, some of which are just looking for a cheap place to party with friends and do drugs. If they can sign up with AirBnB with a fake/stolen credit card and then stay at a place and party like crazy for a week with no supervision... it's ideal for them. But it's devastating for the owner of the place. EJ - if you need to move/sell your current place because you don't feel comfortable there anymore, I would do so... and I would bill AirBnB for the expenses as well. In fact, I would keep tally of not just expenses but also inconvenience charges, ie., how many days you're spending on this.

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  111. @Brian Chesky

    Stop posturing. You know how to contact her if you need to, because you were in contact before. Posting it here (in a way that "doesn't scale", like so much of what you did early on, since you won't be able to salve over every person this could happen to) just sounds like more bad, baaad PR, of the type that issued forth from you yesterday.

    How to actually fix this situation? Well, Airbnb is the Ebay of spaces, right? PUT IN PLACE THE SAME VERIFICATION MECHANISMS AVAILABLE TO EBAY USERS.

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  112. Hey EJ, I am sorry for your misfortunes. Your story and words will help others. Services like Air BNB while nice, have high risks. Until they figure out more secured ways to screen guests and protect people like you, I would definitely stay away.

    Hang in ther buddy!

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  113. EJ, part of me has been hoping that Ashton Kutcher is going to pop up and say you've been punk'd.

    So very sorry for your experience. Sounds like you have some great friends to help you through this.

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  114. I was horrified when I heard about your story. Brian Chesky's response on TechCrunch suggests that AirBnb has been assisting you so I'm glad that you have provided an update clarifying what has actually happened (especially since June 30th).

    My heart goes out to you and I wish you peace and safety. I hope the perpetrators are swiftly brough to justice. It digusts me that there are so many "blame the victim" comments out there. Nobody deserves to be treated this way. Nobody.

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  115. EJ, keep writing; it's your calling after all. Although you've been cursed by AirBnB, you've been blessed with a HUGE audience, and we all want to know how the story ends.

    Write more about what happened the day you came home, your interactions with city officials, the landscape of your emotions and outlook, AirBnB's faltering response, your detective work. Write something every day.

    Talk to the press just enough to maximize your impact. If the press keeps calling the SFPD for developments, they'll work harder. Also, your neighbors saw multiple suspects -- clearly enough for composite sketches? If so, get sketches made somehow.

    Internet-enabled crime is a big story these days. You have, sadly, a big scoop on that story. Work it.

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  116. What to say? Good luck?

    The faith in the net -- I hope that endures. We all need that.

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  117. airbnb asks us to open our hearts and trust the world - Brian, and other co-founders of airbnb I am speaking to you since I know you are reading this, how can we do this when it seems like the founders of this "movement" cannot even be trusted? You blatantly lied in your response to the situation that you blasted out to the media. Thank you EJ for your courage in posting and sharing your story. Do not be afraid to share the truth.

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  118. To Anonymous @ 1:25p: Beautifully written.

    EJ - Things happen sometimes when you live life instead of being afraid of the experiences it might bring. Generally those experiences are grand, but sometimes, they suck. Because of that, you now know how to protect yourself -- a valuable lesson that I sincerely hope doesn't sour your trusting nature or outlook on life.

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  119. that the CEO posted a comment here as a response is probably the dumbest thing I've ever seen.

    EJ, take care and hope they catch those guys soonest!

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  120. Jeez, are you a British ex-pat, coz you've got the whinging thing down!

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  121. I feel extremely bad for you but I can't comprehend why you would rent out your primary residence with all your belongings. If it was a vacation or second home I would understand if you want to generate some extra income but renting out your home is absurd!!!!!! To me, my privacy is worth more than the realized income generated.

    AirBnb is a good idea with its flaws (which you have exposed) but I think your reasoning to rent out your home to a complete stranger is no ones fault but your own. Maybe it's me but I not sure why people are so trusting.

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  122. Unfortunately, AirBnB does not seem to understand that they have set up a system that makes it very easy for criminals to access the homes of people who are on vacation. There are many criminals in this world who spend time trying to find ways to take advantage of such services.

    I am very sorry you have had to endure this. You are not at fault. I hope you are able to get back on your feet and move forward. In fact, I know you will. Best

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  123. EJ, I feel terrible for you and hope it all works out in the end. Its very disappointing how airbnb is handling the entire situation.

    @Brian I am definitely staying away from airbnb, both as a host and renter. You guys blatantly lied in your response and I have zero trust in the way you guys do business. Your comment here was also completely useless. You have her contact info, get a hold of her and be proactive in solving her problems. Don't wait for her to come to you.

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  124. Hey, I just wanted to say that I'm impressed by how you're handling this situation. Despite the horrifying trauma you've experienced, you're writing with a level of grace and poise that we should all aspire to in the best of times. Rely on the people who know and love you, and rest assured that even those of us who may never know you in person can still respect the way you're handling yourself.

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  125. Good God, what makes any of you people think AirBnB is doing ANY kind of investigation of the users on their site? Did you provide enough personal information for them to investigate YOU? Do you even have any concept of the level of information it takes to actually do a thorough background check, not to mention the cost? What makes you think it can be done on a business model that's charging you a measly 3% of your transaction?

    And for that matter, what makes you think YOU can effectively investigate someone with nothing more than a (purported) name and (possibly untraceable) phone number and (possibly temporary) email address? On FaceBook? What, you think nobody ever created a dummy profile on FaceBook?

    Did you even read the terms of service? They make it abundantly clear they're not doing any kind of background check on their users. They are providing a communications conduit, and a funds transfer environment. Nothing more.

    Unfortunately, much worse things that this can happen. Apparently none of you read the news, or watch horror films, read crime novels, or have much of an imagination. Good luck to all of you who leap and have faith in the net. I'll stick to my faith in my good sense in avoiding totally unnecessary risks.

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  126. @Brian "We are standing by"? Really? What a wonderfully arrogant response.

    @facor Thanks for acting like a stereotypically smug European prick.

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  127. Anonymous 2:26, I used my real name and a credit card number to book via the site. That's all that Priceline asks for when I book through them, too. That Airbnb chooses not to at least verify names and credit card numbers (Pattrson isn't even a real name) is on them, not the hosts.

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  128. @Matt ("Unfortunately, AirBnB does not seem to understand that they have set up a system that makes it very easy for criminals to access the homes of people who are on vacation. There are many criminals in this world who spend time trying to find ways to take advantage of such services.")

    No, they DO understand. It's just that those naive, sheepish and gullible enough to use the service are also less likely to make a fuss in case things go wrong.

    To all those accusing people of cynism: you're probably part of these retarded sheep. It's common sense you're taking too big a risk renting your house with valuable stuff in it for so short a period, so little money and no previous payment as guarantee.

    To anyone who gets robbed on airbnb: YOU HAD IT COMING (and the airbnb founders know, they surely would NOT use the service themselves!)

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  129. The CEO could have called, but posted a comment that someone else would instead? Pathetic. And NO, people DON'T have it coming to them if the rent out their place. As previous commenters have said, so the hotel is to blame when someone destroys a hotel room? Ignorant logic. Prayers that EJ can get back to living a life without this mess soon.

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  130. Well said. And I appreciate you calling out AirBnB's doublespeak - they should really drop the PR and valuation concerns and really focus on making you whole in this matter. I hope it's over soon.

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  131. Don't let them chill you! It's their own damned fault this happened, what with their lack of checks. And the not knowing the name thing is ludicrous.

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  132. This reminds me of of the earlier days with eBay until they start adding security measures to help the buyer. Unfortunately, it had to take an incident like this for them to do so.

    The way I look at is that AirBnb is a broker. They should provider an option for the rentee to pay an addition fee to do a background check like a landlord does and provides both parties the option to buy renter insurance.

    I put some of the blame on EJ for being so trusting. Seriously, there could not have been a bigger red flag when the renter misspells their last name. I'm assuming this isn't the first time you've done this. It's asinine you would play Russian Roulette with your privacy and personal stuff for a few $$$. I know times are tough and people a naive but...

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  133. I feel so sorry for what happened to you, and I hope that over time you faith in others will be restored. I have been linking to AIRBNB on my blog, but that stops right now. But I do think you should allow people to show you that there is goodness in strangers too, and let them donate what they can to help you out. Give us that chance.

    all the best from Sandra

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  134. I've been robbed before and it is a shaky, unstable feeling, which takes a long time to recover from. My huge condolences to you. It will take time heal and it feels like the universe is unfair when these things happen to you.

    However, I'm both a traveler and user of services like Couchsurfing and I just used airbnb, which incidentally saved me from being homeless for 2 days.

    I think there are some misconceptions being thrown around and this is only my opinion, so of course not solid truth. I only speak from my own experiences using these kinds of services.

    If in fact airbnb pressured you to alter or delete these blog posts about your experiences, that is unfortunate. Free speech, remember?

    If they also offered to compensate you for this trauma, and haven't as of yet (maybe they still will?), that's also too bad.

    I suggest they revise their PR strategy.

    As a stand alone service, airbnb and sites like couchsurfing are user generated. Last year I wrote an article about couchsurfing and how safe it really is for female travelers, this is after a major rape case between a host and surfer.

    As a result of that case, couchsurfing staff have strengthened their reference and checks, and I'm sure airbnb will consider the same now.

    My point is, those checks are essentially the user's responsibility to vet and ensure they are comfortable with the transaction. It's not airbnb or couchsurfing's responsibility. There is only so much they CAN do. I agree with credit checks or what CS does is verify your existence by sending a postcard and you have to send it back.

    You mention in your previous blog post that the culprit's email and phone number wasn't released until you accepted the reservation. TRUE.

    But what is not accurate is it's implied there are NO checks for the user at all. Untrue.

    I used airbnb last month, so my experience is very recent:

    You can read reviews of someone who wants a reservation, even see their picture (if it's real).

    You CAN email the person before accepting the reservation, as my hosts did with me before accepting my request. It would be the same type of interaction even if you had their email address. What's the diff then? The email exchange is through the airbnb site (same as CS). We emailed several times before they said "yes" to me.

    Whatever you do, always, always read reviews of the host or the requster, blindly accepting a request and not feeling it out is user responsibility. If the requester has NO reviews, I wouldn't let them near my apartment.

    References/reviews are they for a reason. It's to everyone's benefit to pay attention to them.

    It's clear you were in a rush for your business trip and may have had no time to do these steps, which I'm sure you are regretful of. The fact is, these steps do exist and I think it's unfair to paint it like they aren't there. Nor am I saying that the robbery wouldn't have happened if you had done these things, but to omit that these "checks" exist? Again, perhaps not the full story on how airbnb works?

    I'm not attempting to make light of your horrific episode, my god, how traumatizing, but putting out alarmist ideas about these sites makes them seem dangerous and not an option for travelers. They are conceivable options, but they also must be used with full knowledge and using your gut instinct.

    The spirit of these sites (for airbnb, maybe make a little dough), is to bring travelers and travel lovers together. They meet, interact, etc.

    Are they always 100% full proof? Absolutely not. In fact, these sites are microcosms of the world. You will meet untrustworthy people, great, amazing people.. People you like, hate, feel neutral on.

    I'm not excusing airbnb's conduct, or stating it's right, if anything, what they should be doing is figuring out how to make it clearer how to use their service to everyone's benefit.

    I truly hope your life begins to normalize! :)

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  135. If I was less than 7000 miles away, I'd be over there helping you clear the joint up. I've used Airbnb and from my point of view, it worked rather well, but I could just have easily done what these people did to your place. There's no protection against it at all. It really sucks and it's making me consider using Airbnb again. I'm sorry mate - wish I could help.

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  136. EJ,

    First and foremost, I'd like to say I'm so sorry for what you've been through. As a single woman living on my own in a (seemingly) safe and special space, I understand your feelings of extreme violation and vulnerability and feel sorry for the people that can't comprehend it, or allow you to express your feelings without condemning you.

    I'm also an airbnb and couchsurfing host and guest, and at the very least you've helped me learn valuable lessons if I'm going to continue trusting anyone with my space, which I have (albeit while I'm there). I think the days of letting someone have the code to my door are over though.

    I believe couchsurfing's system of security is superior to airbnb's. I'd like airbnb to implement a similar system - and they certainly can do that, they just choose to make it easier for themselves by not doing it. Couchsurfing survives on donations and volunteers. Airbnb has income and employees.

    When I was researching how to stay safe before approving my first guest, I found only one Airbnb FAQ topic that said "Will someone steal my grand piano?" The nonchalant answer: "Highly unlikely. Grand pianos weigh thousands of pounds and will not fit through doors." Here is a screenshot of the cached page http://imgur.com/e02tf - the original no longer exists.

    On their brand new "Safety" page (likely constructed in response to your unfortunate incident), it says "Look to Your Network - In your research, if you find that a traveler has ties to universities, clubs or organizations, it adds color and credibility to their back story and helps to put them in a broader context." Color and credibility - HAH. Anyone can join any of airbnb's groups, and the facebook connection is a joke. It simply shows minute thumbnails of facebook friends who also have airbnb accounts...supposedly, with no way of navigating to those friends' accounts. Unless they write a recommendation for you, which you have to request that they do. These and the reviews are helpful to me as a host, as well as a full profile. There is some sensible advice on the Safety page, however most of it appears to be feel-good lip service packaged in a lovely, slick gui wrapper.

    I hope you find some strength from those of us who want you to continue fighting. I hope you eventually heal with only minor scars from this battle. I hope the police catch the bastards, whoever did it. Thank you for posting this. I'll be reading to keep up with your journey.

    J

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  137. I think it is terrible that people are being mean to you. I'm sure when you decided to become a part of Airbnb that you did not have this in mind. You were burglarized and Airbnb made a profit; meaning they collected a portion of whatever monies the thieves paid.
    I'm so sorry this happened to you. Airbnb needs to step up and stop acting like they were not involved, because they were.

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  138. EJ I'm so sorry you're going through this, and having to deal with so much crass criticism in a time of total vulnerability on top of struggling to get your life back togerther. Seems to me that some Airbnb employees have been commenting here to drum up support for themselves. Only the most insensitive person would assume having one's house irreparably vandalized is the perfect time to criticize them for having trusted a company that pretends to take care of them.

    I'm from Europe, too. We have plenty of similar home swapping companies here, so I really don't know why people are attacking you for being "American." Feeling violated after having your home destroyed and family heirlooms plundered is hardly an American-specific reaction.

    Ignore the jerks.

    Wishing you well (and wishing you swift justice) from Germany.

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  139. I'm guessing the folks who are blaming EJ are Calvinists. If you don't know what that means it's an offshoot of Protestantism where in, unlike what Jesus might say, anything that goes wrong in your life is because you did something wrong. Out of a job? It's because you're a sinner. Raped? Same thing. Same thing here, it sounds like.

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  140. Can I jump on in the congo train of drama too?!!

    Woo!

        ΛΛ          ΛΛ
       ./) ゚д゚)')       ('(゚д゚ (ヽ
    (( /    / ))      ((ヽ ) ))
      し―J             し―J

    le drama

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  141. PR ploy to get customers of AirBNB to purchase insurance. This whole "tragedy" is making Airbnb a mint.

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  142. Dont be a moron and blame a company for being dumb. Who in there right mind would allow a stranger in there home and leave all their most prized and personal possessions in there. its the same reason why when you stay at a hotel you take everything with you or lock it all in a safe. I cant stand when people just blame others for their mistakes, you should of been smarter...shame on you!!!!

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  143. You are very strong indeed to share all of this with us, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for doing so.

    And to those who have not a shred of compassion about them, those who criticize you and blame you, I say shame on them.

    My best wishes are with you for a fast resolution. What you have gone through is horrible, and nobody should ever be put through that again.

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  144. She's not trying to destroy Airbnb. She is simply stating the facts, given all the other noise out there. Facts are good.

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  145. great post. thank you very much for taking to your blog.

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  146. http://www.thealarmclock.com/mt/archives/2011/07/airbnb_confirms.html

    Yeah.... So F* them.

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  147. First, I hope you get your stuff back and I hope the criminals go to prison. I am sorry you have to go through this. Second, I think you're plain nuts for even allowing the situation to happen in the first place. I truly hope you have a learned a lesson here. If you give so much trust to strangers and it happens again I have no sympathy for you. Good luck.

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  148. Thanks for your transparency, sorry for your troubles. I'll spare you a grand rant against AirBnB. The short form:

    1] Sue them. Not for money, but for precedence. As they get closer to an IPO, this should not be allowed to happen.

    2] Fight; don't cave. They gain more from you folding or being bought out than you (or any else) do.

    3] Everyone funding this POS business idea "missed" or ignored this gaping hole in the business plan that you were a victim of. Sue them, too.

    AirBnB is irresponsible, and needs to go down.

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  149. Thank for continuing to post about your experiences despite any pressure to stay quiet.

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  150. EJ - it's hard to believe the negative comments or the ones that appear to spin in ways that relieve the company of any negligence. I'd love to see the ip's of the posters to see if any were left by users on the companies network. If they did a real background check wouldn't the persons warrant on "unrelated charges" have shown and I'm guessing this wasn't their first arrest and that they have a history. Good luck getting your life back to normal and please keep up the transparency because you're saving others from the same fate as you.

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  151. I just recently discovered AirBNB and was excited about the company. I'm glad that you have been brave enough to post these blogs as it could help save others in the future. Good luck to you.

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  152. Airbnb's response and handling of this is laughable at best. EJ my sympathy goes out to you, I cannot imagine what you are going through but hope there is resolve/light at the end of all of this for you.

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  153. I'm impressed by the eloquence you've shown in your two blog posts. It's very sad that you have fallen victim to a psychopath.

    That said, my first reaction when I saw AirBnB and their business model was: "now, that sounds creepy, renting out your place to complete strangers."

    While it's true that AirBnB *should* vet renters thoroughly and provide adequate protection to landlords, it must be quite obvious to anyone that such a startup just can't provide that while being profitable.

    You've been careless, and it has been cruelly punished.

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  154. Wow, just read the original post as well.

    Truly horrible story, depressing how AirBnB have (not) treated you.

    I hope you get things straightened out, get your life back together and catch the folks that did this to you.

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  155. Dear EJ,

    That is truly a horrific story. I do sincerely hope that you can get back to where you were as I'm sure you'll come back to realize that most people are indeed good.

    And it's clear from your writing that you've got a lot on the ball. I took a quick look at the Terms of Use on the airbnb site and wondered if you had noticed section 7.7 (Damages). According to that, if a host notifies and makes claims regarding damage to the location, following a 48 hour notice to the guest, airbnb has the right to charge the guest's credit card for the damages.

    This is just one thing that looked like it might be worth pursuing. And while I haven't read through all the comments, I'm sure that others have suggested engaging with an attorney. I am not one, but if I were in your shoes, I would certainly be looking closely at the Terms of Service and deciding what various forms of recourse you have against the criminals.

    Again, I do honestly believe that you can come out of this "whole," in the "spirit" sense. It will take time, but I'm certain it's possible.

    Wishing you the best.

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  156. I think the haters are believers in the just-world theory.

    I'm sorry this happened to you and wish the best for your future.

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  157. Ej, I'm so sorry to hear about everything that has happened to you and your home. I hope you can find some peace in the world after what you have been through. Continue to stay strong.
    -A, from Seattle

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  158. As someone who has been robbed (twice) in the same apartment, I want to tell you that the feeling of being violated does dissipate. I know it seems like it never will, but it does. Slowly.

    My robber was eventually caught after I found my own clothes in a 2nd hand store. It was 5 months later, so don't give up.

    My only other advice is, get a dog? I myself bought a gun (and sold it a few moths later), but it did give me an uneasy peace until I felt I didn't need it anymore. That and I set up a web cam in my apartment so I could check when I felt the need.

    I wish there was something more I could say, but words fail.

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  159. What an awful experience! I'm equally shocked and appalled not only at the initial invasion of your privacy but the treatment you have endured since. I hope everything works out for you. Best wishes C

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  160. Looks like the top MBA programs need to start teaching these bean counters ethics as WELL as proper customer service.

    It astounds me to think of how they've blown this situation time and time again... especially after receiving over $120 million in funding! At least there will be an important case study to teach moving forward...

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  161. As a tech entrepreneur who has started or helped start several companies and raised hundreds of millions of venture money, this story amazes me.

    First, Airbnb is trying to cover up a massive hole in its business model. Second, their CEO should lose his job over this textbook case of awful crisis management (including the pathetic "we are standing by" message). Leaders are tested when they are called on to put the interests of others ahead of their own. AirBnB failed -- and leaders have paid with their jobs for much less.

    A New York startup team I advise recently came to town and stayed in San Francisco. I met them in a nice, fully furnished house with a huge flat screen TV and a well-stocked kitchen in the Mission. They indicated that they had rented it via AirBNB. I asked "what's to keep you from trashing the place?". Answer "um, nothing. But we won't" (and like most humans, they didn't). But my question remained: what in the system keeps a visitor from trashing the house or keeps a crook from systematically seeking out homes to trash?

    AirBnB has a problem that no insurance policy can fix because the adverse selection problems are huge and systemic. Crooks now know that they can flock to AirBnB -- as do insurance scammers looking to unload their stuff. Any policy will have a huge deductible and impose frictional registration requirements that will slow AirBnB way down. THAT is why their CEO is cranky -- the real risks of his business have been exposed, fewer people will list homes, and his cost of equity capital just went up. Personally, I hate it when that happens.

    But that does not justify treating EJ as part of the problem. A rationally selfish CEO would have been on the scene in an hour, spending money like there was no tomorrow. A month of temporary housing, legal help, staff to handle all the hassles, and full replacement cost of all the stolen stuff would be step one. A full apology would be step two. By now, they should be on step 15, not at zero.

    The $50,000 the company should have spent would not fix the business model problem -- but it would at least demonstrate that the company had leadership worthy of the name.

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  162. You are a smart cookie, anonymous. The CEO should have lit a fire under his arse and gotten on this ASAP. Being a small start-up(ish) company, it appears that they didn't have a plan in place to deal with these types of situations. I highly doubt they have a PR anything in their company. Anything that is done at this point will be seen as hush money, but the damage has already been done to their rep and to highlighting the huge hole in their business.

    For both EJ & airbnb, hindsight is 20-20...EJ: Renting home to complete strangers; AirBnB: Missing a chance to right the situation early on and creating a PR nightmare instead. Wonder what the VC community is thinking about them right now?

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  163. First, sorry for what you experienced. I rented a place in Santa Cruz through airbnb, trip still to come. I had many questions about using the site since it was new to me, but ultimately, there were enough recs written (by clearly real humans) about the property owner that I felt comfortable proceeding. Plus the owner lives on next to the rental property.

    Ironically, it doesn't even matter if your story is true (I'm not questioning veracity) because you've done a service to the community of potential customers of airbnb and similar services by surfacing very real holes in their business model that they must fix.

    We were thinking of renting out our place in SF, too, but we will take many more precautions and do much more research before attempting.

    So thank you for taking a risk with your posts on this topic. You've helped many people you will never meet and, if they can look at themselves clearly, you've helped airbnb, too.

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  164. EJ, your story has broken my heart. There is nothing I can say that will help undo the depth of damage that's been done to your life. I can only hope that your intelligence, fortitude, and grace – which are so very apparent in your writing – will bear you through this.

    Airbnb, if you're reading this (and I know you are), for the love of god, DO SOMETHING TO HELP, AND DO IT NOW. Your business model is innovative and promising, but unless you can prove that the people behind that business are human beings who care about their customers, you can kiss that billion-dollar valuation goodbye.

    I had booked an Airbnb reservation for a trip next month. I've cancelled it.

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  165. It sounds like you have learned a very valuable lesson. The net does not always appear.

    Take care of yourself.

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  166. Keep the post up, and update as things develop. It is the only pressure you have on them, and frankly, VC-backed startups can get desperate, and make things personal. This will help guard against that (but will not guarantee it).

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  167. This is a very odd business model. Something for the Facebook generation who thinks avatars are real people.

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  168. So, your house was stolen and vandalised. The police has been informed, now quit the drama. AirBNB or not, this story is getting out of proportion. This happens to hundreds of people around the world, and I bet they mostly survive and get back up.

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  169. With combined fees from the homeowner and lodger, Airbnb is earning up to 15% on these transactions. Given that, they should place much greater effort on safeguards to ensure a truly trusted user community. Otherwise, they offer few advantages over (free) Craigslist.

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  170. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  171. Not that this makes things any better, but my suspicion is that the radio silence with Airbnb folks probably began after someone consulted their law firm, which likely gave the usual ultra-conservative advice about not saying anything that could be used against the company in litigation. If I'm right, this is a poorly conceived, missing-the-forest-for-the-trees approach. I speak from experience having headed the legal team at eHarmony for three years.

    From a business perspective, it's *far* more important to preserve goodwill, reputation, and trust of millions of current or potential customers than to risk having to pay some money to settle a relatively minor legal claim (no violence or physical injury, thank God). For the first few years at eHarmony, the President himself would occasionally call customers who had unpleasant experiences, expressing condolences (while not admitting liability, of course). Airbnb could really stand to learn from the grizzled veterans who've dealt with nearly identical trust and safety issues at eBay, MySpace, Match.com, etc.

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  172. @EJ: I can only wish you well and tell you to keep up the good fight. You will recover, it will take time. I am similar to you in that I go through things trusting all will be well. I encourage you to keep believing so, and doing all you can to make it so.

    @NaySayers: I don't understand how you can be unsupportive of someone in this situation. My only thought is that you have never had your home broken into or had things stolen by people you trusted to be good people. That has nothing to do with naivety, someone you've known for years as a good person could suddenly turn around and rob you blind. Murderers do it all the time, but instead of taking possessions, they steal lives.

    The rape victim doesn't ask to be raped. Stating that it is their fault means that you believe people to have no self control whatsoever. As a survivor of situations where people have routinely "lost control", unless your muscle memory is that of raping someone, there is no excuse. However, if there is a case where someone loses control and isn't culpable for their actions and/or situations leading up to the event, my apologies for implying that you couldn't stop yourself from doing wrong.

    However, I am a believer in the willpower of one, and am living proof that will alone can overcome your adversities. If one chooses to do the right thing, and chooses to follow that choice no matter what, no force in the world can stop them from doing so, even if it means their death. To give up your will is to lose yourself, and as such, your life is that of a husk, a shell, with no recourse better than to expect your end with glee.

    @AirBNB: Do better, you could afford to do so and would have made more money. With something like this drawing attention, as a business, you need to resolve a breaking situation such as this in an amicable way, as fast as possible. You could have gotten a better "funding" than you did if you had done so.

    @Employees of Airbnb: if you are suffering because of this, I recommend forwarding resumes to other prospects for employment. You will be the first to be cut, while the bosses ride their golden parachutes to safety. They have earned it, after all, by exploiting the idea under which you find yourself employeed. You are merely a cog in the machine.

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  173. Hey EJ.. Ignore the people who do not understand what you feel or care about you. You are free to say what you want, and them asking you to downplay your loss isn't acceptable. I wish I was in SF so I could offer you my house to live in. You deserve more from AirBNB. They shouldn't be just all for money... I would say take a short trip and just go enjoy yourself. I would offer you my house to stay in for free if you came here! As a female, I understand fully what you're saying and do feel the same as you. Hugs work wonders and I wish I could give you one right now...

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  174. Thank you for telling your story even though it has left you open to all this criticism in what is surely a difficult time for you.

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  175. I had considered both posting my SF condo on airbnb and to rent one through the site for my upcoming trips. After reading this, there is no way I'll ever consider it again. I wonder how many others have felt the same way after reading this visceral, extremely immature reaction by airbnb. It's sad the VCs trusted them enough to fund them over $100 million in funding. I hope they'll reconsider.

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  176. AirBNB is just a stupid idea; letting strangers crash at your house? C'mon, have you watched the evening news anytime in the last, oh - I don't know, 30 years?

    Spare us the poor me attitude. Why don't you take any responsibility here? Why do you expect Airbnb to "help" here? After all, you're the idiot who let people stay in your home while you were not there.

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  177. First, EJ, my deepest sympathy for you. You will emerge from this as a stronger person. Btw, your writing is amazing!

    I must agree the case is handled outrageously poorly by airbnb. Asking you take off the blog is so out of the line that it sounds like coming from a greedy giant corporation that people don't normally associate bay area startups with. In reality however, nothing is just black and white, good or evil. I met Brian Chesky during my days at YC, and he was in fact a nice smart guy who pays tremendous attention to the users, their needs and their well-being( even though obviously not so much any more). When money, investments and prospect of IPO are on the line, people often change in ways they might not even be aware of, and they can lose sight of what's important. Everyone has his/her inner angel and devil. At the end of the day, I believe Brian and his partner are still genuinely compassionate people. Give Brian and airbnb a chance to help you and correct what was clearly wrong.

    To airbnb, please apologize and help EJ. Also it goes without saying that better security measure must be in place, and perhaps some level of insurance. It's simply a matter of being responsible for your users.

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  178. You're very selfish to post this. Airbnb is a great service that helps hosts make lots of money in difficult times and travelers find great interesting places to stay. It's a shame that this happened to you but in your self gratifying posts you're (whether you realize it or not) an enemy of progress, freedom, markets and innovation. You should be ashamed. This act might have cost you some possessions but your reaction might cost the world something great. Hope it's worth it.

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  179. To the host, sorry this happened, maybe re-think renting your house to strangers, especially when you are not home.

    To AirBNB - the company has done fine by me. They don't owe someone money for some criminal taking advantage of a situation. Maybe they should add a level of protection to those who elect to rent their homes to strangers without being present.

    To everyone posting - the host rented her house to make money. You make more money when you take on more risk. The host chose to take on the risk to make more (or easier money). If Air BNB compensates her then they are the suckers.

    Regarding the blog post, AirBNB should know better than to ask you to take it down. People will see through the rhetoric and make their own choices.

    Seriously though, I am sorry for your loss and hope that you can heal. Life is not without difficulty. I hope this makes you a stronger person.

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  180. First, I know a few others have addressed the McDonalds coffee lawsuit comment, but this one drives me crazy and I just have to say something:
    - The woman in the suit, a 79 year old, was handed a cup of coffee that was in excess of 180 degrees, which will cause a 3rd degree burn in about 2-7 seconds.
    - When the coffee spilled it gave her severe 3rd degree burns (including on her groin, genitals, etc.). She was hospitalized for 8 days and received numerous skin grafts.
    - She asked for $20,000 from McDonalds to cover her out-of-pocket medical expenses. McDonalds declined.
    - It was revealed that McD’s had had more than 700 claims of coffee burns including 3rd degree burns. Their own QA managers testified that the company had a policy of keeping the coffee temp between 180 to 190, knew it was dangerous at that temp, and had no intention of changing the policy.
    - The jury was so incensed by these and other facts that they awarded her $160k in damages plus $2.7 million in punitive damages later reduced to $480k.
    - What people who gripe about personal injury cases fail to understand is that such lawsuits are not just to compensate injured parties. They are a mechanism our society uses to pursue a policy of encouraging safe products and services and eliminating unsafe ones. People focus on the plaintiff getting $X million when they need to realize that multimillion dollar awards are more about the defendant than the plaintiff. Only $X million is enough money to make a McDonalds correct unsafe products (bad PR can too, but it often fails to as in the coffee case). This system supplements other enforcement systems such as laws and regulations, etc. in ways a system of legislated rules can’t handle. No one can think of all the rules that would have to be written (e.g. Thou shalt not serve 185 deg coffee?)
    - We all benefit from this system in ways we don’t even realize and have expectations about the safety of goods and services that are the result of this system. It works so well, in fact, that it can cause us at times to be less circumspect and more trusting in companies than we should be – e.g. “I assumed Airbnb did a background check.”
    - If Airbnb corrects this flaw in the business model in response to a lawsuit from EJ (or gets sued out of existence), one way to look at it is our legal system weeding out a service that presents too much unforeseen risk without sufficient social benefit (driving cars has huge risk, but too much benefit for us to collectively eliminate it).
    - I can’t see a way for Airbnb to remedy this flaw in their business model. As another poster said, VRBO works because, (A) it’s a more open and direct dialogue between owner and renter conducive to credit checks, etc. (B) it’s bigger dollars up front thereby weeding out more thugs etc. and (C) they’re often vacation homes in vacation areas with little personal effects in them. There’s just not enough dollars involved in the Airbnb transaction to cover the measures necessary to make opening your home to someone a reasonably safe proposition and even a small percentage of disasters like this one are too eye-catchingly horrible and affecting.
    - I think Airbnb would be far more likely found in a lawsuit to be conveying the perception to their consumers that they they’ve taken measures to help insure a safe service. This is so simply given the fact that facilitating these rental arrangements is the only thing they do (as opposed to Craigslist, which by its look and nature tells you it’s the wild west and you’re on your own). Language in their Terms of Service to the contrary isn’t, I think, going to help them argue otherwise.

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  181. Wow - a lot of differing comments. I for one agree with @Antone - the company must have been advised (though ill-advised) to stay put and say nothing but what needs to happen is a show of compassion and good faith on the part of the founders. They need to fix this and fast.

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  182. @Rob: If you are indeed Robert M. Calderoni, Chairman and CEO of Ariba, YOU should be ashamed of yourself to post such a retarded comment, which doesn't add any value whatsoever here.

    If anything, it just shows Brian Chesky isn't the biggest moronic CEO out there. Rather, it's you.

    airbnb's business model is broken and has been exposed as such, their CEO has NO CLUE about how to handle PR without coming off as an arrogant ass... just like you with such an arrogant comment.

    "Let my co-founder call you" and "We are standing by". No, don't stand by... MOVE YOUR ASS and FIX THINGS.

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  183. Hi EJ-
    So sorry this happened to you. I've been traveling and using Couchsurfing (CS) for years and now Airbnb for a few months. I agree with "J". The CS FULL profiles, references, vouching system, postcard in the mail verification, etc is way superior to Airbnb. AND CS is free service to all. In fact, I emailed Airbnb a few months ago to give my feedback about their weak profiles and how SO few of people requesting to stay in my apt had their profile filled out. Or they just had one sentence. CS has paragraphs and way more things in place. And they, and the community, highly urge all users to fill out profiles completely. You can learn a lot about a person not only by what he writes, but by how he writes it. That coupled with all the references (and being able to check those profiles) and other things...is hard to fake. Yes, you have to still be careful and look for red flags or anything that makes you uncomfortable, but in most circumstances all the things combined lead to a very good experience.

    If they copied the CS business model...which they basically did...why didn't they at least copy the higher security level and thoroughness of it.

    I do love meeting new people and do believe, as so many others commented here, that people are more good than evil, but I am also very careful in screening my guests.

    Either way, I truly hope they change their level of security NOW. Sorry again this had to happen to you in order for that to happen.
    Take Care....it will get better.

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  184. EJ, I am disgusted by the heartless, selfish and ignorant comments people are leaving on your blog. You did what a lot of people do, took the word of a company that it would be quite safe to use their service.

    Airbnb have acted appallingly towards you. They have the ultimate responsibility in ensuring that their clients are thoroughly checked before allowing them on their database of renters.

    If a company cannot ensure that your home and possessions are safe why the hell are they in business?

    I was considering letting a room in my house via them. No longer. The CEO comes across as arrogant and uncaring, making untrue statements to ensure that they receive the further funding that they have been crowing about.

    To lose your personal possessions, to come back to your home trashed and violated, is no joke. The heartless and thoughtless comments you are receiving are no joke either. Some people have no compassion until they are the victim.

    Stay strong, keep posting and to hell with all the 'anonymous'commenter's who dare not put a name to their vitriol.

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  185. Thanks for having shared with us, I, for one, will never use AirBnB or Wimdu or whatsoever to let my apt rented nor to rent someone else's apt during my vacation.

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  186. Interesting and not surprising that a American, capitalistic company would react this way. They don't give a shit about you, only themselves and their investors.

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  187. Thank you for showing us your courage in this most vulnerable time.

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  188. Dear EJ,
    So sorry that you have had to go through this ordeal. I hope you are able to resolve the main issues regarding your housing, documents and identity theft, although clearly some personal items have been irretrievably lost.
    I am astonished and annoyed to hear what airbnb's response has been thus far. They should clearly compensate you and assist you and the police with the criminal investigation, if nothing else to salvage their precious funding round (and eventual IPO).
    Ever since I attended an initial presentation on airbnb, I have thought that they have a gigantic potential liability, that no amount of legalese or obfuscation will eliminate. In your case, thankfully, it did not lead to personal violence, but imagine if in the future some guest or host is attacked or even murdered (considering that they also allow the renting of rooms).
    My personal experience (as a guest only) has been mixed. I had a delightful stay at an entire department in Amsterdam, for a cost lower than a hotel room. Then I reserved a room on the beach in Miami, but only after paying did I realize it was not in fact a private apartment but a "condo-hotel" with a two star rating and horrid comments in TripAdvisor. Even though I cancelled immediately, the "host" kept my money (airbnb refunded only their commission).
    I wish you all the best!

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  189. Balanced, thoughtful, and genuine. I wish you the best. I'm sorry this happened to you.

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  190. EJ, I am so very, very sorry for what happened to you. I was also an Airbnb host in the past, but I will never use Airbnb's services again. You have done a real service to others by sharing your story. Thank you.

    @ Brian Chesky: "Standing by"? Airbnb's failure to provide compensation and care to EJ immediately is reprehensible.

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  191. Why don't you just hire a lawyer and go after AirBNB? If I were you I'd do that and make sure it got publicized.

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  192. @foxit: I understand that you feel bad, and you think you started the media storm, but EJ posted the incident online and she ultimately must take responsibility for the fallout. As she says herself, "it’s the same freedom that has allowed my own story to be heard."

    That having been said, EJ, hang in there--IMHO, you did the right thing by publicizing your story, and it's getting harder and harder in this day and age to do the right thing. I hope good karma will prevail...

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  193. Another thing: Airbnb's responses (even replies to this post) are appalling. That they didn't have a "sufficient" planned response for this inevitable incident speaks volumes to a gaping hole in their business plan--now they're paying the price.

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  194. @EJ: I've been following your story since yesterday. I'm terribly sorry this happened to you, and I sincerely hope you will recover you view of the world and the goodness of the people in it. It might seem like the end of the world right now, but you'll recover. You will recover, and you will come out stronger because of it. Best of luck.

    @Brian Chesky: Commenting on the victim's blog (after ignoring her for over a month and then asking her to delete her blog). You had the chance to handle this like professionals, but I guess the fundings were more important, huh? Dude, even after all the hoopla this has made for the past few days, you *still* aren't doing the right thing. Refusing to comment on the *Washington Post* is a mark of someone who's in a cover-up mode. I'm not a hateful person, but fuck you man, you really screwed up.
    Also, this is the interwebz, so I don't trust one freakin' word that comes from your mouth. I'll be waiting for that honest, unbiased article.

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  195. guys, let not use their service anymore, let us move to Wimdu, the clone. It is much safer and more convenient what I've heard. Don't forget to register and redeem vouchers (if still available)!

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  196. Sorry to hear about the trouble you're having and dealing with comments from stupid people. I hope you get the resolution you deserve and that this press attention only serves to help you. I'm on your side.

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  197. I truly admire you for being able share your experience..its not easy to do so. They say that what doesnt kill you will just make you stronger..i hope this saying applies to you and that you will continue believing that a net will appear everytime you take a leap..wishing you all the best in this upward struggle..

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  198. EJ, I read some things this morning I consider truly horrifying about a man who contacted you and passed on your contact information without even asking your permission first. He said he communicated with you via email.

    http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2825523

    He later said at that link (and I responded, refuting) that "your friends" worked very hard to promote this story. I responded that we do not know each other and it was my posting that caused it to come to a wider audience, so how could that possibly be?

    I know you're wary already, but please be very wary indeed of contact from people like this. Please lawyer up if you haven't. This just chills me and I don't want to see you come out worse on this than has already happened to you.

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