A user named "EJ" rented her San Francisco apartment out through the online service Airbnb, but returned home to see this:
"They smashed a hole through a locked closet door, and found the passport, cash, credit card and grandmother's jewelry I had hidden inside. They took my camera, my iPod, an old laptop, and my external backup drive filled with photos, journals... my entire life. They found my birth certificate and social security card, which I believe they photocopied - using the printer/copier I kindly left out for my guests' use. They rifled through all my drawers, wore my shoes and clothes, and left my clothing crumpled up in a pile of wet, mildewing towels on the closet floor. They found my coupons for Bed Bath & Beyond and used the discount, along with my Mastercard, to shop online. Despite the heat wave, they used my fireplace and multiple Duraflame logs to reduce mounds of stuff (my stuff??) to ash - including, I believe, the missing set of guest sheets I left carefully folded for their comfort. Yet they were stupid and careless enough to leave the flue closed; dirty gray ash now covered every surface inside."
"The kitchen was a disaster - the sink piled high with filthy dishes, pots and pans burnt out and ruined. Comet Cleanser was dumped everywhere; the kitchen counters, wood furniture, my gorgeous new bed frame, my desk, my printer... all were doused in powdered bleach. The death-like smell emanating from the bathroom was frightening (and still is) and the bathroom sink was caked with a crusty yellow substance. Various pairs of my gloves were strewn about - leather, dishwashing and otherwise - I imagine in a weak attempt to cover up fingerprints. Whoever these people were, they were living large and having one hell of a time for an entire week inside my home, unwatched, unchecked, free to do whatever destruction they wished. And damn, did they do a lot of it."
Until now Airbnb, a service that lets people rent out their homes and become a sort of mini-hotel launched in 2008, has been growing rapidly. It is now a part of the billion dollar valuation club. But now the company is baffled by EJ's blog post about her harrowing experience.
The creepiest part of this is that the renter was sending cheerful emails during the week's rampage:
"All the while, Dj Pattrson was sending me friendly emails, thanking me for being such a great host, for respecting his/her privacy.... telling me how much he/she was enjoying my beautiful apartment bathed in sunlight, how much he/she particularly loved the "little loft area" upstairs... with an "lol" closing one sentence, just for good measure. It makes me sick to my stomach to think now of these emails."
Airbnb's CEO Brian Chesky told Techcrunch that the company has offered to "assist financially, find new housing for the host, and anything else she can think of to make her life easier."
EJ also says it's not clear to her that the police have anyone responsible in custody. And worst of all, she talks about how her life continues to be disrupted and she fears for her personal safety since the criminals know just about everything about her after living in her home for a week.
"In the meantime, I am still displaced, bouncing between friends' homes, clutching my pillow and what's left of my normalcy. I spend my mornings recalling nightmares and breathing through panic attacks, and my afternoons scouring the city's pawn shops in the vain hope that I might recover some of my stolen treasures. I do not feel anything close to safe. I do not feel anything close to whole. Today I remain broken, but with the firm belief that in time, and with the support of friends, family, and a generally supportive public, this too shall pass and I will be made whole again."
And then there's the end of her post. Which really says it all.
"And for those who have so generously suggested a donation fund be set up to help me recover, I thank you from the bottom of my heart, and suggest that instead, you keep the money and use it to book yourself into a nice, safe hotel room the next time you travel. You'll be glad you did."