Airbnb: The Prostitution Of CouchSurfing
I don't know why but the idea of Airbnb's business model is nauseating. On the face of it, Airbnb sounds like a sustainable way to utilize free space and from an efficiency perspective, I'm a big believer in resource-sharing.
- Soundtrack of the report
- The Police
Cities around the world have programs for car-sharing and biking-sharing, which I think are fantastic. But Airbnb is not really about sharing resources or being environmentally friendly. Airbnb is about capitalism, greed and profit. It's like eBay but members are not like those who sell their used, unwanted things for a bargain. They're more like those eBay sellers who run a business to make money.
Members of Airbnb will often rationalize why they support "hosting" with this system. One common thread is that they enjoy meeting interesting people. I find that laughable. That's like saying a prostitute works for the social activity. Of course, this is a slightly different example. With Airbnb you don't always get a happy ending. The fact remains though that when money changes hands, the dynamics are very different. That's why just because you can make money, doesn't mean you should.
For example, how would it work if you become great friends with your guest? If you wanted to go visit them in their country, would you need to pay them for their room? How about if you got along really well and something romantic occurred? Would you still collect payment at the end of their stay? And tell me again, how this does not resemble prostitution?
Then there's the ethics. I find it quite fitting that this company spammed its way to a a billion dollar valuation. Some may consider it shrewd marketing but I think it just represents what Airbnb is all about: greed.
But is it really a bad thing to want to make a bit of extra cash from your free space? Of course not. But when everything becomes about ways to make money, you begin to lose your humanity. In a way, I'm glad for the existence of Airbnb. It will draw unsavoury people away from hospitality networks, the ones who feel they need a tangible reward from hosting. Rather than having to demand gifts or services for hosting, they can now plainly state a price and cut straight to the chase. They never got Couchsurfing anyway. Real hospitality is about unconditional generosity.
Perhaps the people behind Airbnb were just smart enough to realize that if Couchsurfing could become mainstream, so could it's antithesis. I'm sure it's just a matter of time when systems for renting out anything for profit become conventional tools, from your office space to your car to your stuff, maybe even your friends and your body. Goodbye humanity.
Roy is a perpetual traveler. He's lived in 7 countries, traveled to 40+ more and
right now usually works on a cruise ship. He also likes to contradict and talk about himself in the third-person. You can follow his travels on cruisesurfingz.com.