Airbnb's Airbungle

Airbnb has raised the ire of a few by putting up ads trumpeting the millions of dollars the app pays in taxes ( People found this in poor taste, and it’s obvious why. Airbnb is exhibiting a classic case of a tone-deaf corporation totally missing its mark when it attempts to relate to the general public.

I shouldn’t even have to be saying this, but Airbnb’s first mistake is allowing the conceit that they should even have to pay taxes.

Think about the average person seeing these ads. Wow, $12 million in hotel taxes? They must be a bunch of betas who let the government push them around whenever. Hmm, they’re bragging that they paid for this library. Like any self-respecting consumer would be caught dead borrowing anything for free!

Then there’s the fact they’re running them at bus stops of all places. I say it every day but I will say it again: people who take buses do not influence public thought. They may in other countries, but we’re not in “other countries”. This is the closest a company can get to just getting on its knees and groveling in front of the least essential people they can find.

If I were running this campaign, I would be focusing on this central truth: cities should be paying Airbnb to operate in their “jurisdiction”. Think about it. By purchasing large swaths of apartments and homes, the app all but ensures that more useless families and individuals won’t live in them. Yes, this causes housing scarcity. It also causes loser scarcity.

A typical ad may go something like this: a panorama shot of San Francisco. Hustle and bustle. Smart-looking men are hurriedly rushing into buildings. There’s a bottleneck on the sidewalk as a fat oaf father, useless mother, and two sticky-handed children are doddering around like fools. Suddenly, a building falls on top of them. It reads “Airbnb”. The flow of people is now effortlessly walking through the building, their work unimpeded and the human anchors mercilessly destroyed. Everyone cheers. Narrator: “a better way to city.”

Replace the pathetic bus ads with triumphant proclamations like “Airbnb: the city cleanser”, “what have your neighbors done for you lately”, and simply “Here’s your rent control”, with a middle finger underneath. This outright show of strength won’t just endear people to the dynamo temporary housing service, it will finally give the government fat cats the healthy dose of fear they deserve.

Just like it’s the duty of apps to streamline society, it is our responsibility to optimize their representation to the public. Let it be known, that when you start off by apologizing for something you never should, which is essentially what taxes are, people won’t respect you. Airbnb is possibly the most important service in the world. It’s time for them to start acting like it.