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With scandals mounting, Airbnb hires a few cops to win back our trust

With scandals mounting, Airbnb hires a few cops to win back our trust
[Photo: Alexandre Debiève/Unsplash]

On Halloween, a shooting at an Airbnb rental in Orinda, California, left five dead. That same day, a report from Vice detailed a “nationwide scam” hosted on the service that left guests swindled and stranded. In response, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky said days ago that the company would ban “party houses,” while providing little explanation of what, exactly, a party house is. Today, the CEO is back with another pledge, more damage control, and perhaps the hope that hiring two top cops as advisors will make the service safer.

Airbnb really wants you to trust it can keep its next big promise. In a blog post that repeats the word “trust” 17 times, Chesky says Airbnb is launching a program to verify “all seven million listings” on its service—a task that will take more than a year. “By December 15, 2020, every home and every host on Airbnb will be reviewed with the objective of 100% verification,” he wrote.

Chesky’s post says little about what, specifically, will be verified and who will do this work, but a company spokesperson offered more:

“A verified home has accurate photos, address information and listing details. And all verified listings meet our basic quality standards including cleanliness and basic home amenities. Work will be done by our trust team.”

In the meantime, the post mentions other efforts (Chesky calls them “solutions”) coming to Airbnb, including a new guarantee for Airbnb guests who get stuck with listings that do “not meet our accuracy standards.” Airbnb also added two former city police chiefs to its payroll, a spokesperson tells Fast Company.

Charles Ramsey, of the Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., police departments, and Ronald Davis, of East Palo Alto and the Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, will both advise Airbnb’s “trust leadership on a number of issues—beyond the [company’s upcoming ’24/7 Neighbor Hotline’]—to help enhance our online and offline safety strategy,” the spokesperson says. Additionally, Chesky says Airbnb is “expanding manual screening of high-risk reservations.”

Today’s post includes the platitudes you’d expect from a CEO. There’s stuff like: “The world moves at the speed of trust, and the more trust that exists, the more access we can all have.” (Apropos of perhaps nothing, The Speed of Trust is also the name of a 2008 New York Times best-seller.) But Chesky also describes the challenges Airbnb has created for itself as a test we all might hopefully pass: “[People] are, in fact, fundamentally good, and [we] are 99% the same,” Chesky writes, repeating what’s become a company motto. “We still believe this, and with these changes, we hope to continue to demonstrate this to the world.”

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