Airbnb’s dirty laundry makes a reappearance

A smart Airbnb host cleans up the place before guests arrive – nobody wants to look at someone else’s dirty laundry. So it’s understandable that Airbnb followed the same protocol and tidied up its data set before inviting the world in to see it. After all, the company is facing criticism that it’s contributing to housing shortages by facilitating the conversion of rental apartments to “de facto hotels.” And it turns out that Airbnb had a big pile of dirty laundry to remove from its metrics.

Late last year, the company released data for New York City showing that most of Airbnb’s local-listings revenue there came from hosts with one or two listings, BloombergBusiness reported. “Our hope is that people will understand 99 percent of people on Airbnb in New York City are using it as an economic lifeline,” an unnamed company executive said to The New York Times at the timeNow, Airbnb has admitted in a letter to New York’s state assembly and senate that it hid some dirty laundry, removing 1,500 listings from commercial landlords, before opening up its data to the public. Such listings, the company explained, “did not reflect Airbnb’s vision for our community.”

But dirty laundry, of course, tends to pile up anew, even after a heap of it has been shoved out of view. Many of the purged listings reappeared, according to a Bloomberg article Thursday. This time, however, Airbnb is pledging to actually keep the laundry clean, rather than just hiding it when it’s dirty.

“Today, we suspended 138 hosts who had listings removed from our community in New York City and later attempted to list space in New York City on Airbnb,” a company spokesman said in response to an inquiry from Bloomberg about the reappearance of listings. “We are constantly reviewing our community, and if we find unwelcome commercial activity in New York City, those listings will be removed.”


Photo: A “thank-you tunnel” for recruiters at Airbnb in San Francisco. (Courtesy Glassdoor)


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  • Tony Wasserman

    AirBnB’s “dirty laundry” should also include the ease with which property owners can discriminate against potential renters. Having been turned down 3x for inexplicable reasons, I’m back to hotels where they don’t care about my age, looks, or personal interests when I book a room. I can only imagine how difficult AirBnB must be for people from ethnic and racial minorities. I’ve never heard Brian Chesky or other AirBnB execs address this issue.