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.
From The Hill
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, DC appear to be engaging in flagrant price gouging with absolutely no curtailment from the company. One homethat 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 Clinton, 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.
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