[More from Mashable: Airbnb Responds After Vandals Ransack User’s Home]
Airbnb, the self-described "marketplace for spaces," has issued an unconditional apology for how it treated one of its users after her place was ransacked by thieves.
In addition to the apology, Airbnb has launched a new Trust & Safety Center and issued a $50,000 retroactive insurance guarantee. This protects hosts, past and present, from property damage caused by Airbnb guests.
[More from Mashable: HOW TO: Land a Job at Airbnb]
Last week, the story of "EJ," a San Francisco-based event planner in her 30s, drew national media attention. She wrote about how her life has been turned upside-down after she rented her place out for a week on Airbnb. When she returned, she found almost all of her personal possessions stolen or destroyed.
The result was a firestorm of controversy that wasn't quelled by a response from Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky or an explanation posted by Airbnb investor and Y Combinator founder Paul Graham. In fact, it got worse when "EJ" publicly refuted Airbnb's claims that Airbnb was doing everything it could to assist her in her time of need. The result was a crisis in confidence -- not only for Airbnb, but its entire business model.
Airbnb's Response: "We Have Really Screwed Things Up."
On Monday, Airbnb's CEO made steps to fix the situation and repair the damage caused by the crisis. "We felt paralyzed, and over the last four weeks, we have really screwed things up.," Chesky said in ablog post. He explained further that his previous statement didn't "reflect [his] true feelings."
"With regards to EJ, we let her down, and for that we are very sorry," Chesky wrote. "We should have responded faster, communicated more sensitively, and taken more decisive action to make sure she felt safe and secure. But we weren’t prepared for the crisis and we dropped the ball. Now we’re dealing with the consequences."
The company also officially announced the launch of the Airbnb Trust & Safety Center, dedicated to informing its users about how to protect themselves against fraud and explaining the new measures Airbnb is taking to protect its users from a similar experience.
The biggest change is the addition of the Airbnb Guarantee, essentially a $50,000 insurance policy that protects Airbnb hosts if guests vandalize their personal property. If a guest steals a host's things or damages his or her place, Airbnb will compensate that guest for the damage. The program launches on August 15, but it will also apply retroactively to any hosts that have reported damage previously.
The company is also enhancing its customer service. Starting next week, it will have a customer support hotline available 24 hours a day. It is also doubling its support team -- a previously announced move -- and has hired an eBay veteran as its Director of Customer Support. The company has also established a task force dedicated to reviewing suspicious activity and implementing new security features.
Airbnb's mea culpa may be too late for EJ, but it was the right move to restore user confidence in its platform. As we wrote last week, Airbnb failed to protect its customers and instead served its own self-interests. The accusation that Airbnb tried to get EJ to take down her blog post was especially damaging, but will likely fade in the wake of today's apology.
Airbnb was founded in 2008 by Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia and Nathan Blecharczyk. It struggled to stay afloat until it received an investment from the Y Combinator startup incubator and seed venture fund. It recently raised $112 million in funding, putting the company's value at $1.3 billion. Its investors include Greylock Partners, Sequoia Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, DST Global, General Catalyst, Ashton Kutcher and Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos.
This story originally published on Mashable here.