Airbnb has become a solution for travelers or backpackers with limited budget. No need to book with second-rate hotels or inns for Airbnb offers more homey accommodations. How does this work? Individuals called as “hosts” list their apartments, homes and personal spaces via Airbnb site, which travelers or guests can rent. A scheme more popularly known as economy sharing.
In a recent news from New York Times, Airbnb was put into a bad light because of a horrible experience that victimized a 19 y.o traveler named Jacob Lopez.
According to the report, Lopez was sexually assaulted by his host in Madrid, Spain. He was locked from the outside in the apartment located at the fourth floor that he rented. Before the assault happened, Lopez was able to contact his mother Micaela Giles via text to inform about his dangerous situation.
Giles immediately called Airbnb and this is where this company allegedly fell short . The report said “When she called Airbnb, its employees would not give her the address and would not call the police. Instead, they gave her a number for the Madrid police and told her to ask the police to call the company for the address. But the number led to a recording in Spanish that kept disconnecting her, she said, and when she repeatedly called back her Airbnb contact, the calls went straight to voice mail.”
In order for Lopez to get out of the apartment, he had to make-up stories of meeting friends outside who knows where he was checked-in. He reasoned out that if he won’t be able to see them, his friends may get worried and contact the police. Afraid of being tracked down, the offender allowed Lopez to go outside with his things.
It was confirmed that the alleged offender was a”born male but is living as a woman.” The allegations were denied saying the sexual act was consensus.
Madrid police haven’t released any comment on the investigation, but has visited the host involved.
This was not the first time for Lopez to book with Airbnb. In 2014, he stayed with Brazilian Airbnb hosts and had no problems.
As for Airbnb’s side , the report stated that “According to Airbnb, this was a unique situation on a weekend when 800,000 people were staying worldwide with an Airbnb host. A number of the company’s safety procedures came into conflict. On one hand, Airbnb wants sexual assault victims to be able to decide for themselves when, how or if to report a crime. On the other, the company wants to report crimes in progress when customers are in danger and will turn over information quickly if the police request it.”
Nick Papas, a company spokesman also said that ” …Ms. Giles said she warned of an imminent assault when she first called but later, after hearing from her son, told the company that it had already happened.”
“We realize we can learn a lot from this incident and we can do better…We are clarifying our policies so that our team will always contact law enforcement if we are made aware of an emergency situation in progress. Safety is our No. 1 priority, and we want to get our hosts and guests as much help as possible.” as stated in his email to New York Times.
Visiting the Airbnb’s site, there’s this so called Safety Center. This explains how the hosts’ and the guests’ identities are established.
For verifying ID’s Airbnb requires “2 forms of ID: an official ID and an online profile.”
Aside from these measures, Lopez have few tips to share when booking with Airbnb -” The guest and a family member or friend should always have the host’s address easily accessible.
Make sure your phone has international service and that you know how to call the local emergency number; Mr. Lopez did not realize his phone would allow him to call and said he would have been scared to speak out loud into the phone in any event
Also, a few details on his host’s profile did not match her Facebook page. In retrospect, he wishes he had been more suspicious, even though he said that she had good reviews on Airbnb”.
Lopez was able to head back home but had to take trauma therapy. The listing has been removed as well from Airbnb site.