News

Menlo Park woman describes Airbnb nightmare

 

Menlo Park homeowner Sharon Marzouk made headlines recently when she came home from extended travel to be greeted with what she calls her "Airbnb Nightmare Reality."

Ms. Marzouk said in a blog post that she departed on a trip after using Airbnb to rent out a room of her home to a 20-something woman whose name Ms. Marzouk is not releasing. While away, she received an urgent call from a housemate to return home.

Upon returning, she said she found that the tenant had neglected a running bath, which caused flooding damage to the house. In the tenant's bedroom, she found paraphernalia suggesting she was a sex worker and had been using the bedroom as a filming location.

On her blog post, Ms. Marzouk said she had thought Airbnb was a great way to quickly and conveniently find renters. She had met with the prospective tenant and the profile on Airbnb "seemed normal," she said.

She discovered only after the fact that the tenant had not been "verified" by Airbnb.

"Letting random strangers into your home is a very big risk," she wrote. "This has happened to me, and I did all of my reasonable due diligence, and it very well could happen to anyone."

Read Ms. Marzouk's full account of the incident online.

Comments

4 people like this
Posted by SLU
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Aug 17, 2016 at 12:40 pm

I'm sorry for Sharon's experience and appreciate her alerting us all to the risks of participating in the larger "sharing economy". There will always be stories of gross negligence and abuse, and large, formal companies have built these costs into their business model.

When I take Uber or rent through AirBnB, I am assuming the risks that are otherwise covered by taxis and hotels. In return, I get a much lower cost model and huge access to the market. If you aren't prepared to take those risks, stick with the formal economy and pay the premium.

Your choice.


1 person likes this
Posted by resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Aug 17, 2016 at 2:14 pm

This is a one-sided and heavily redacted account of what happened. She knows the woman's name. At least give the woman a chance to respond before publishing this story in every possible newspaper.


3 people like this
Posted by chef123
a resident of another community
on Aug 17, 2016 at 2:37 pm

why is this one sided? if something happened, something happened. and no one is preventing the other side from telling its side of the story.


Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Aug 17, 2016 at 3:14 pm

Did you even ask the other side for their story? If they don't know this story is being printed, they have no opportunity to have their response included in the article.


8 people like this
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Aug 17, 2016 at 3:16 pm

"Letting random strangers into your home is a very big risk," she wrote.

Brilliant thought for the day.


4 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 17, 2016 at 3:32 pm

For those of us who actually participate in AirBnB, letting strangers into your house is actually the most liberating/fulfilling part. I know a lot of people don't get that, and horror stories like this only confirm suspicions. But then that's why we have hotels.

Interestingly though, AirBnB claims to have around 200 people on staff including ex FBI whose role is purely to vet people and look after security, so something like this doesn't happen. Oh well....


2 people like this
Posted by pogo
a resident of Woodside: other
on Aug 17, 2016 at 7:18 pm

pogo is a registered user.

"AirBnB claims to have around 200 people on staff including ex FBI whose role is purely to vet people and look after security."

More than 100,000 rooms are rented out every night on AirBNB. That means that each of the 200 AirBNB security people only needs to verify 500 individual tenants every night. That means they only have to verify about 75 tenants every hour of their work day.

Sounds reasonable.


13 people like this
Posted by Sharon
a resident of another community
on Aug 17, 2016 at 8:01 pm

Yes, I am the person mentioned in this story. The claim to background check if they have the full name and birthdate. But by default they do not collect that information. So they actively try not to verify people, while making it seem to users that it is a safe and secure sharing community.

I have been sharing my home with roommates for many years now. So it is not a new concept for me. What is new is trusting Airbnb to handle the process because they make a convincing impression that they verify... and then realizing that they haven't done something as basic as checking ID, but not openly alerting the host that they haven't done this basic check either.

Other people who have less experience than I will and have been put in much worse situations. I took precautions like meeting her beforehand, having other people I trust staying in the house, and not a renter that was longer term where they had more at stake in terms of a financial commitment.

I put my story out there not to shame the person who was in my house. I put it out there to raise awareness to others, and to hopefully put some pressure on Airbnb to better their practices.


Like this comment
Posted by pogo
a resident of Woodside: other
on Aug 18, 2016 at 7:39 am

pogo is a registered user.

Good post, Sharon and thank you.

For those who use AirBNB, yours is a very good lesson. I would never rely on a third party for verification of a stranger. Perhaps those who wish to use this system can ask for verification on their own (at minimum, email a photo ID to you in advance, perhaps even requiring a reference). While cumbersome, it may spare others the harm you suffered.

And perhaps there will be - or already is - a third party verification system or app! Hey, techies, there's an idea for you...


Like this comment
Posted by Alan
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Aug 18, 2016 at 10:20 am

There's risk of another sort when using AirBnB. When my wife and I were looking to rent a house for a week, we found what appeared to be the perfect location for us in a place without many rentals. When we looked to reserve his home, he redirected us to his Craigslist ad - so as to avoid the AirBnB. He wanted full payment, non-refundable, up front. He said part of that week was already reserved by someone else, but he hadn't cashed the check, and was willing to tear it up. There was some other detail in the contract that concerned us. When he started to throw a hissy fit when we expressed our concerns, we said, uh, no thanks. We found another home rental via a similar home-sharing service that suited us better, and suspect we avoided a bad situation.

Obviously, this guy's bad behavior was not AirBnB's fault. But it underscores the risk of these sorts of rentals; you always have to watch out for yourself.


Like this comment
Posted by Sarah
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 18, 2016 at 2:09 pm

The vast majority of Airbnb experiences are positive ones. To spread fear about Airbnb due to one bad experience is comparable to warning others not to drive a car after getting into a car accident. It is always a good idea to use caution but ridiculous to stop using a service that is positive 99% of the time.


4 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 18, 2016 at 2:22 pm

Sarah: Don't waste your breath. The biggest challenge to AirBnB (aside from reckless porn stars) are grumpy older Americans who have the wrong expectations and are mistrusting. Keep it a closed systems of people who appreciate it and thrive.


3 people like this
Posted by Sharon
a resident of another community
on Aug 18, 2016 at 6:44 pm

Sarah and "really?". Grumpy old Americans? I definitely wouldn't classify myself as that. And 99%? Check out this website: Web Link Now, don't get me wrong, I have had positive experiences on Airbnb as well. I had just come back from traveling the world and stayed in 2 airbnbs abroad, then was in 1 in California. But then this happened to me as a host. Everyone has a right to tell their story. All I did was tell mine. Here is the full note: Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 18, 2016 at 9:49 pm

Sharon: I'm not disparaging your experience (hence the reckless porn star proviso), but as you probably know as well as me, the sharing economy suits some groups of people better than others. And as unfortunate as your experience is (and I'm going to be a bit more careful myself), my point is that it gets hijacked as fodder for those that have no aptitude to participate in AirBnB in the first place. And my point is that's just as well, because most of the problems aren't blue movies being filmed in unsuspecting houses, but the endless friction and complaints of people who think we're the Hilton for half the price.

Sorry about your experience.


1 person likes this
Posted by Catherine McMillan
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 18, 2016 at 10:40 pm

We are currently hosting a refugee from AirBnB - a very young colleague who just moved here from the East Coast to take a local job. The location was less than desirable ... which is hard to ascertain when you don't know the area ... but she was promised a basic kitchenette. What she found was that the kitchenette was a kids' plastic shelving system in primary colors loaded with a tiny microwave and a hot plate on a decrepit patio (all outside), and no access to a refrigerator of any size for a month! The discrepancy between the host's AirBnB photos and those my 24-year-old colleague took are startling and a sickening reminder about the many ways that people can come up with to make a buck. On the other hand, I have friends who've opened up their homes to AirBnB guests with no issues. Like all new-ish concepts, it gives us pause.


6 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Aug 22, 2016 at 7:51 pm

A warning from the Mountain View Police about Airbnb: Web Link
I would be a lot more worried about stuff like this than some solo porn production.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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