Airbnb leaves Trump supporters out in the cold
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It is no secret to anyone paying attention that the tech industry loathes president-elect Trump and his supporters. Despite attempting to make nice with the president-elect, the industry nevertheless remains a creature of the hyper-liberal culture in its hometown of San Francisco. While tech higher ups awkwardly rub shoulders with Trump and his tech whisperer Peter Thiel, tech platforms still engage in petty, irrelevant protests against Trump, such as Twitter’s comically impotent threat to possibly ban Trump’s account if he violates their Kafkaesque terms of service.

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The latest such bit of pettiness comes from the sharing company Airbnb, which enables users to “share” their homes or apartments with visitors, ostensibly at reduced rates relative to the native hospitality industry. However, tellingly, a major exception to that “affordability” standard appears to revolve around housing for – what else? – Trump’s inauguration.

 

Specifically, Airbnb users in and around Washington, D.C., appear to be engaging in flagrant price gouging with absolutely no curtailment from the company. One home that usually runs only $165 per night shoots to $819 per night the weekend of the inauguration. Another that runs only $96 per night most of the time runs $957 the weekend of the inauguration. Perhaps most comically, one shared room that usually runs only $19 per night hits a mind-boggling $1062 the weekend of the inauguration.

Airbnb’s defenders will no doubt insist this is just the free market at work. A simple fact obviously militates against that: area hotels such as the Georgetown Best Western run between $300-$400/night as of press time. Expand your search to the DC metro region outside Washington proper and you see rooms going in the high 200s.

And that’s for a non-shared room. If the market really demanded that even shared rooms were worth over $1000, you would expect even the cheapest motels to be either sold out or going for multiple thousands of dollars on inauguration weekend. Instead, you see area hotels charging rates that are high, but by no means insanely crippling to an average consumer. In other words, this cannot be a market rate taking command. Something else must be in effect.

Well, unfortunately, something very much is. Breitbart last month reported on a troubling development within the D.C. Airbnb community. Apparently, full-time residents of the Swamp, which went 93-94 percent for Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonSessions says he doesn't regret recusing himself from Russia probe Judiciary Committee Republicans want a second special counsel: report Fusion GPS: White House trying to smear us on Russia MORE, are not at all enthused at the prospect of letting the sort of icky, deplorable average Americans who voted for Trump into their homes. The one exception? Quoth Breitbart:

“We don’t trust Trump supporters to stay in our place,” another host told the Huffington Post, expressing concern that Trump supporters would damage her home after seeing her art collection and characterizing her as a “liberal elite.”

The host said, however, that she might re-evaluate her decision if rental space grows scarce and she can command an even higher rate because she wouldn’t mind “gouging” Trump fans.

Yes, one imagines that a cool $1000/night probably could fetch a nice new art collection on the off-chance that those peasants trod on the carpet or knock over this person’s newly installed replica of Piss Christ, or otherwise deface whatever sort of “art” might get one labeled a “liberal elite.” Not to mention, what liberal elite hasn’t fantasized about shutting the door in the face of down-on-their-luck Republicans, Ebenezer Scrooge-like, because they can’t afford entire paychecks’ worth of rent?

Of course, people like this are entitled to be childish, and there is no law saying that one must rent one’s home out to whoever comes knocking. Thank heaven. But there are still multiple problems.

Firstly, if Airbnb is going to permit its users to make a business of letting their homes, then it had better make clear to them that rate hikes on the basis of politics are bad business, bad politics, and unacceptable if they wish to continue to advertise their homes on the platform. That the company has not done this is deeply negligent at best, and more likely to be because Airbnb’s executives tacitly agree with their bigoted users.

Secondly, not all Airbnb users are normal citizens seeking to rent out residential properties. Many are actually hotels, greedy landlords, or similar businesses looking to cash in by letting rooms under the pretense of being normal homeowners, and thus being able to command higher rates.

In other words, it is very likely that at least some of the rooms being offered at exorbitant rates during inauguration are being offered by ostensibly "full" hotels looking to scalp consumers, or by landlords looking to evade laws against discrimination on the basis of politics. To not police this is more than simply negligent on Airbnb's part: it shows an active contempt for the rule of law that is sadly endemic in much of the tech sphere. If Airbnb is willing to behave this way under Obama, imagine the degree to which they will be tempted to defy being governed by political adversaries. 

One only hopes that the incoming administration and its supporters will take the site's refusal to police its users for what it is: an invitation to discipline the sneering elites who run Airbnb, and the sneering elites who use it.

Mytheos Holt (@MytheosHolt) is a senior fellow at the Institute for Liberty, a conservative public policy advocacy organization. He worked as a speechwriter for Sen. John BarrassoJohn BarrassoLive coverage: Senate begins debate on ObamaCare repeal What Trump can do to cripple ObamaCare Top Republican: Senate will vote to proceed to House healthcare bill MORE (R-Wyo.), and has written for conservative publications including The Federalist. Yes, Mytheos is his real name.


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