Airbnb doubles down on douchebaggery

Here's how they're spending some of that $8M to defeat Prop F:

Martha Kenney:

Dear Airbnb,

I'm happy to hear that you paid your taxes this year. I did too! Isn't it awesome? However, I've crunched some numbers and I have some bad news for you. Out of your $12 mil of hotel tax, only 1.4% percent goes to the SF Public Libraries. So that's $168,000. Divided by the 868 library staff, we have $193 per person. Assuming each employee works 5 days per week minus holidays, this is $0.78 per employee per day. Since that's significantly under San Francisco minimum wage ($12.25/hr), I doubt that your hotel tax can keep the libraries open more than a minute or two later.

However, had you donated that $8 million you spent fighting Proposition F directly to the public libraries you love so much, that could have made a bigger difference. Oh well. Hindsight is 20/20!

Like I said before, When a multinational corporation spends $8M to defeat a ballot measure in a single city, it's a foregone conclusion that you should vote for it. There is literally no chance that doing what they want is in your best interest, unless you are on their board.

And let's not forget that the $12M to which they are referring is an assessment for several years worth of taxes that they skipped paying in the first place, and includes fines. "Officials had estimated that Airbnb owed the city as much as $25 million."

So they dodged half their tax bill and are now being gloating pricks about having finally paid half of what they owed. Well played, AirBnB. Well played.

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50 Responses:

  1. I'm in total support of Prop F but even I thought that some political graffiti artist did these. They're so smug and passive aggressive, didn't think they'd do this before an election. I was wrong.

  2. Dara says:

    Wow, what douchebags. Shared around, because wow.

  3. TPS Report says:

    The more I think about this, the angrier it makes me.

    Congratulations, AirBnB. Your campaign has made me not only hate you, but it's actually spilled over into a growing disgust for capitalism overall.

    I hope whoever decided to launch a campaign against paying taxes for our crumbling national infrastructure dies because of a bridge collapse, or an attack from a homeless man, or toxins that leaked into your groundwater thanks to a push against regulation from an equally morally bankrupt person in the petrochemical industry who noticed they could save 0.0005 cents per gallon by spiking everyone's lemonade with benzene.

    That's all I want.
    Just some Greek-tragedy-level poetic justice.

  4. Airbnb HQ is at 8th and Brannan, walking & spitting distance from DNA.

    • It appears that your p and h keys are mixed up.

    • jwb says:

      Yes it is, and if you want to see how many assclowns work at this place, stand around in the afternoon and watch each and every one of their employees walk out of their building and into a double-parked Uber. It's a real nexus of douche.

      • Adam says:

        My office is in the alley behind Airbnb, so I get to watch them come out on their smoke breaks all day long (and shuttle between the main building and some ancillary meeting room they have to go into the alley to get to).

        From that sample it's clear they don't hire anyone over the apparent age of 28 or so.

  5. mlis says:

    i'm going to start a consulting business contracting out 40+ year olds to bay area companies that have an average age under 35, to advise them on shit that's actually too stupid to spend time on (e.g. the above or facebook's ill-advised dead children/friends/pets 'memories' feature). it needs a catchy name, however, 'Tsk!' probably won't cut it.

  6. Neil Girling says:

    EVEN WORSE: apparently these ads are not part of the $8M they're spending to defeat Prop F.

  7. Jim Sweeney says:

    HOPE YOU LIKE OUR FREE MONEY WE SHOULDN'T HAVE TO GIVE YOU, SAN FRANCISCO FREELOADERS... Whoops, we aggravated an already terrible housing market, then all the sewers backed up and nobody came to pick up the garbage,,,

  8. 205guy says:

    Update: a Bloomberg article linked from the same user's Facebook confirms the ads are not parodies and that Airbnb is removing them immediately due to the massive fail in public relations--and I agree with you that it just reveals how out of touch the company is.

    One thing I'm not sure about is what the 12 million refer to. The sfgate article linked seems to imply they paid more than that in back taxes, but the amount wasn't publicly revealed. Maybe it has since been revealed. But the 12 million seems more in line with the 1 million per month figure that Airbnb will collect going forward. In that case it seems more like an attempt to influence the prop F election, so I wonder if it's being reported as campaign expenses.

  9. warmi says:

    Anytime a company avoids paying some kind of tax bill , it is a win to the society as whole because no matter how incompetent, no corporations are run as badly and as carelessly as just about every public entity out there.

  10. And let's not forget how AirBnb distorts the regular rental markets for ordinary folks as landlords switch out of monthly rentals to AirBnB because the regulatory provisions are more lax and the profits higher. In London, this has caused a significant shortage of decent affordable homes for ordinary workers not on inflated google and apple salaries.
    I expect the same is true in San Francisco, LA, NY and other big cities with mobile and student populations.

    • callmenerdly says:

      Your usage of "ordinary folks" is either pretentious or disingenuous. Then you quickly mention London, and "expect the same is true in San Francisco, LA, NY, and other big cities..." blah.

      Rather than use other people's problems, why don't you provide a meaningful anecdote that speaks from your own experience?

      • Are you an English teacher or studying for SAT? Stop lecturing about disingenuousness and go teach some HS classes where they will appreciate a "meaningful anecdote", or get back to the books. This forum is not for submitting college entrance essays.
        I have experience of AirBnB and inflated rents in both London and SF. AirBnB is causing rent inflation wherever they have a large business presence.

        • callmenerdly says:

          My comment was obnoxious and didn't add to the overall conversation. Apologies. My only excuse (bad day I guess, bad attitude) is not a good one.

    • Steve Harris says:

      Hm, not London. Airbnb isn't a big thing here for locals renting, and the big salaries don't come from Google / Apple (they don't pay much, relatively speaking, and Apple don't even have a significant presence here) they come from the financial services companies.

      It's true there's no affordable housing though.

      • I have direct experience of the opposite in London where members of my family were evicted by a landlord who immediately switched all the flats in a building to AirBnB—there you are callmenerdly—a personal anecdote.
        Apple and google are examples for SF but I could think of some examples for London too if pressed.
        But enough—AirBnB is a market disrupter with little thought of who they hurt.

  11. Aardman says:

    Is there something about the so-called sharing economy that makes it attract some of the biggest a-holes? Is it that you need to be a bit on the miasanthropic/anti-social side to start a business that makes money by violating laws and regulations, avoiding liability, and evading taxes?

    • Joker_vD says:

      Well, you see, a company that evades liability and taxes is at advantage compared to companies that pay their taxes and follow laws and regulations.

      After all, "survival of the fittest" can be described many competitive games, for suitable definition of "fit"; sadly, it almost never means "sharing and caring, giving to the public, operating to roughly break even on expenses, paying actual work-doers more than managers and owners".

      But some people still like to think that a hypothetical business man, who struggled and pushed, took every opportunity to increase profits and squash the competition, evade the law (even going to maybe order an assassination of a particularly meddling official), build, build, build his corporation to be even bigger and more powerful, giving him more and more money and power, that such a business man will be a gentle, caring soul, thinking about well-being of others, and using his honestly earned by hard work money to improve our imperfect world and make it a better place. Yeah, sounds entirely plausible.

    • Thomas Lord says:

      Is there something about the so-called sharing economy that makes it attract some of the biggest a-holes?

      If they hired decent people, the decent people would change these firms from the inside with the aim of establishing a symbiotic rather than parasitic relation to communities. That would probably crush the potential upside, turning so-called unicorns into so-called lifestyle businesses.

      Consider, as an example, the differences between Craig Newmark, and his accomplishments, vs. say, Brian Chesky or Travis Kalanick.

  12. Cat Mara says:

    Let me play you the song of the douchebro valleybert:


  13. Damien says:

    The point people are missing - and this is completely Airbnb's fault - is that they are upset about hotel taxes. Not income taxes, not sales taxes - hotel taxes. But these ads don't bring focus to this issue at all, which is a major fail.

    This is also not a tax on Airbnb - hotel taxes are passed directly to the consumer (that's you and me). Sales tax is already 10% - I don't want to pay an extra 14% because SF labels Airbnb a "hotel" (which it clearly is not). 24% government take on every transaction is ridiculous.

    • Damien says:

      One other point - this initiative is protection for the large hotel chains, who don't appreciate the competition. Much as taxi companies want to restrict Uber in order to protect their [economic] rents, hotels want to restrict Airbnb. Read the initiative - it is flatly anti-consumer:,_Proposition_F_(November_2015)

      • Thomas Lord says:

        Read the initiative - it is flatly anti-consumer:

        Fortunately, shill, most of us are people, not abstract consumers. Our interests in the disposition of housing stock are broader than the narrow price point of beds for short-term rent. There is more to life and our concerns for transportation than how easy or hard it is to buy a ride across town in the back some economically desperate person's obsessively vacuumed Prius.

        • "Anti-people" wouldn't make sense. If you consume then you're a consumer, it's not abstract. I have no economic interest in Airbnb and Uber apart from being a frequent customer (of Uber).

          So personal attacks aside, currently it is your choice whether to use these services or not. That's a freedom. This law seeks to restrict that freedom (apart from the taxes, by restricting availability), which I oppose. So I am shilling freedom.

          • MattyJ says:

            Whether or not you use the service, it affects renters as a whole. It cuts down on inventory for long term renters that want to actually live here, essentially by turning apartments into hotels.

            I can't imagine how jwz would feel if some company came in to disrupt the nightclub business, and they just ran nightclubs out of their livingrooms, but then claimed that they weren't nightclubs.

            It's not about 'fearing the competition', it's about skirting the rules and laws everyone else in the same business has to abide by.

            • jwz says:

              Those are called "speakeasies" and the ABC takes a dim view.

            • As I detailed in my response to Elusis, I agree "a tax on non-residents staying in SF" can be part of a coherent policy. I'd still oppose Prop F on other grounds, though - specifically the arbitrary 75 day annual limit and silly penalties for advertising aggregators.

              Thanks for posting the metaphor. There are similar services for personal chefs and even eating at other people's homes, but I don't think any are widespread enough to garner bureaucratic attention. Not sure about speakeasies.

          • Thomas Lord says:

            Late followup but let's also remember that this "libertarian" conceit:

            So I am shilling freedom.

            is, how can we put this?

            As I'm sure you know, because you're so bright and well informed, the modern state developed in reaction to earlier forms (mostly feudalism) precisely to impose by force a bourgeois system of private poverty that features the appropriation of the product of unpaid labor alongside the forced impoverishment of the workforce necessary to this arbitrary, asymmetric, and oppressive political economy. The principle advancement over land-bound servitude is the socialization of the liabilities arising from maintaining a slave class, alongside a thorough privatization of the surplus slaves produce.

            You are shilling for your chains.

            • Slavery may be a bit strong given historical context, but let's assume I'm a slave who owns a home a San Francisco, and works weekly in Chicago as a consultant. Also, assume my desire to escape my slavery, albeit temporarily, via travel to exotic locations to visit other slaves and perhaps some enlightened free folk. Short term rental of my humble abode is exactly the type of resource sharing that will fund my travels...yet this Prop F seeks to preclude my freedom to use my home in this way.

              So while I largely agree with your argument that the whole system is shackles all the way down, I don't see how resource sharing my property in order to fund [my definition of] freedom is perpetuating that.

              Understand, my "shilling for freedom" is regarding the 75 day limitation, not the tax liability (which I think is justifiable, upon reflection).

              • Thomas Lord says:

                Short term rental of my humble abode is exactly the type of resource sharing that will fund my travels

                The proposition AirBnB Inc. has offered you is a chance to flout that regulation which is designed to prevent housing market failures -- in other words, a chance to bend over and screw your neighbors against their will. The corporation will then split the private gains with you.

                That is not "freedom". That is class war.

                Freedom would be that situation where you can travel without screwing over your neighbors.

                • It's a pretty strong assumption that renting a place is synonymous with screwing over your neighbors. I think there are other regulations in place to deal with poor community behavior. This proposition essentially assumes that anyone renting their property in this way is a bad actor. Our system - as it has evolved - is to presume innocence and punish bad behavior.

                  I suspect the 75 day limitation is less about protecting neighbors and more about protecting hotel chains. Speaking of chains, where do large hotels fall on the freedom/slavery continuum?

                  • Thomas Lord says:

                    It's a pretty strong assumption that renting a place is synonymous with screwing over your neighbors.

                    Have you not noticed that the neighbor-screwing is so over the top that Prop F is on the ballet? Do you think people are pushing for this measure just for shits and giggles?

                    This proposition essentially assumes that anyone renting their property in this way is a bad actor.

                    Don't be such a drama queen. The proposition aims to limit and regulate a particular form of commerce.

                    I suspect the 75 day limitation is less about protecting neighbors and more about protecting hotel chains.

                    Oh my god you are out of touch.

                    Yes, F is meant to help protect peaceful enjoyment.

                    Yes, F is meant to protect the well regulated short-term rental market from the cheaters.

                    Yes, F is meant to relieve a housing supply market failure caused by AirBnB Inc's parasitic extraction.

                    Speaking of chains, where do large hotels fall on the freedom/slavery continuum?

                    Again with the drama queen stuff. Geeze.

                    Some of them have nice buildings well suited for travelers regardless of the structure of the political economy.

                  • Thomas I'm unable to reply to your message below due to website limits, so I'm replying here.

                    You're clearly a smart person, and surely understand that public good and financial interests can align - the "Bootleggers and Baptists" coalition ( In this case I'll count you among the well-meaning.

                    Also being smart you surely understand that calling me a drama queen and out of touch is not actually an argument. There's nothing "out of touch" about thinking 75 days is too restrictive. There's nothing dramatic about identifying that a law presumes (prevents) bad behavior versus punishing it.

                    Your "Yes" statements may affirm your support for the proposition, but there are plenty of "Yes" reasons that are just as true.

                    Yes, Prop F further limits people's use of private property (perhaps reasonably)
                    Yes, Prop F protects hotels from competition (perhaps reasonably)
                    Yes, Prop F forces compliance responsibility from property owners on to transaction facilitators (a topic we haven't discussed)

                    None of that implies your reasons are wrong, or that your support is misplaced. And that's an argument - there's no reason to characterize me personally as dramatic or out of touch simply for thinking differently.

    • Elusis says:

      " Sales tax is already 10% - I don't want to pay an extra 14% because SF labels Airbnb a "hotel""

      And I don't want to eat my broccoli, but I do because I know it's good for me - I don't want to develop a preventable vitamin deficiency or die of colon cancer from never eating any fiber.

      You don't want to pay hotel tax when you rent a room. Fortunately, it's not up to you, and therefore rather than shifting the cost of your visit to the people who live here (e.g. your use of roads, public transit, parks, utilities, and the educated work force serving you while you're here, none of which you pay for because you pay your state/local taxes elsewhere, as well as taking up space where local workers could potentially live), you put your nickel in the pot for the public good whether you want to or not.

      Lolbertarians and other late-stage capitalists, however, are invited to do all their travel in the form of flying between helipads on their offshore lawless city-states, and stay the fuck out of our cities.

      • Damien says:

        Yes, that's a valid point that non-residents should pay additional taxes to offset use that residents pay through income and property taxes. 14% is arbitrary but the city has a right to set that. That logic does extend to Airbnb customers, so it makes sense as a coherent policy.

        I still think the 75 day restriction is anti-consumer, but that's some distance from the original post.

        It is actually up to me if I pay that tax - voting with my wallet, I can simply not rent a room in SF. I already live in the Bay Area so visiting is much more economical than staying.

        In case you missed that, I agreed with your point, on the internet

  14. HPD says:

    As a part time landlord and full time tenant I hate AirBnB because it means a lot of random people in and out of the building. I wrote clauses into the leases to prevent any tenant from renting out their apartment on AirBnB. That being said AirBnB is less of an issue in NY because of general rules about renting and the large number of stabilized/rent controlled tenants. NY has a lot of affordability problems, but they come from not enough new rental units and the difficulty of tearing down smaller buildings and tenements to build larger modern buildings.