Airbnb's tone-deaf call for donations to help hosts backfired predictably

People are not having it.


More often than not, companies will shroud their money-making ventures behind language rooted in guilting the user into making a donation. Case in point: Airbnb, which has recently pledged $250 million in efforts to help hosts whose rental businesses have taken a hit due to the coronavirus. In a recent development, as pointed out by several users on Twitter, the company has asked users to send "kindness cards" to their hosts as a way to help them "now more than ever." A phrase that should be retired at this point, ideally.

People have already given their sharp takes on this donation call. While optional and entirely up to the guest, it's a problem that Airbnb and its host demographic created for itself by renting multiple properties despite the fact that it is a violation of various local laws. As New York Times tech reporter Mike Isaac pointed it out on Twitter, the company formed a "mechanism in which you can [...] donate money to landlords, many of whom have overextended themselves by leveraging multiple properties which they rented out [pre-COVID-19], and are now going empty."

No sympathy for Airbnb — Airbnb's marketing team might have thought that this call for donations for hosts would soften people and bring the guest-host dynamic to a more amicable level, but it backfired. And there's a reason for this understandable rage coming from guests who, statistically speaking, cannot afford a single house of their own — much less multiple properties like many affluent Airbnb hosts have.

The fury is rooted in years of local populations in various cities, especially in the United States, witnessing Airbnb displace tenants and suffocate housing markets. Mega-hosts, in particular, bought up multiple properties and put them out as short-term rentals as their main source of income. In the name of "democratizing" the housing market, Airbnb hyper-accelerated the housing crises and gentrification in different parts of the world, according to its countless critics.

Jane Barlow - PA Images/PA Images/Getty Images

Disrupting housing as it we know it — In a typical Silicon Valley fashion of "disrupting" an industry, Airbnb effectively disrupted housing for regular people, and seems to have replaced it with a decentralized concept of living. It turned the otherwise affordable couch-surfing notion into a debilitating and inflated housing quagmire that frequently violated renting laws in different cities.

And people are slamming the company for it. When profit-minded hosts define the ethos of your company, guilt-tripping financially struggling people into donating will never work.