Airbnb ‘Black Box’ Team Spending $50 Million a Year To Cover Up Rapes and Other Crimes? Here’s the Latest …

Last Updated on June 15, 2021

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Airbnb’s “Black Box” safety team spends over $50 million a year covering up rapes and other crimes, according to recent reports. The online lodging marketplace allegedly has a system that ensures crimes that occur during Airbnb stays don’t mar the company’s reputation. The strategy? Give employees blank checks to be used to keep renters quiet.

The secretive “black box” team is tasked with helping rape victims and getting clean-up crews to clean homes after particularly harrowing stays. On some occasions, employees have paid crews to clean up dismembered human remains.

A report released by Bloomberg Businessweek alleges that Airbnb knowingly spends $50 million to cover up disastrous stays that could paint a bad picture. This money is used to pay off hosts and guests after things go wrong. Bloomberg interviewed eight former members of the secretive safety team and 45 current members, who spoke anonymously about their roles at Airbnb.

According to the reports, the job is difficult and nerve-wracking and involves mediating conflicts between hosts, guests, and the company. One former agent admitted that “I had a situation where I had to get off the phone and go cry. That’s all you can do.”

Airbnb reportedly spends millions to cover up nightmare stays that could ruin its reputation.
Airbnb reportedly spends millions to cover up nightmare stays that could ruin its reputation. Former and current embers of the “black box” safety team spoke out. Photo Credit: AngieYeoh / Shutterstock.com

Though the safety team is highly publicized on Airbnb’s website, the secretive department has not been publicly disclosed. Instead of mediating small conflicts, some team members are required to deal with larger issues that protect the company’s image and prevent lawsuits from disrupting Airbnb’s media presence.

The $50 million per year is dedicated to settlements that keep Airbnb out of lawsuits and other criminal filings, such as rape cases, murders, and assaults. The team is made up of around 100 agents around the world, stationed in prime locations for Airbnb rentals, such as Dublin, Montreal, and Singapore.

The Black Box members have backgrounds in military or emergency services and have the power to deal with the most difficult crises that occur during Airbnb stays, such as sexual assaults, murders, deaths, and other tragic crimes. The team supports hosts and guests, while simultaneously dealing with the situations, throwing millions at those involved to keep things quiet. Airbnb does not want to be liable or blamed for those criminal incidents.

In one particularly shocking incident a woman renting an Airbnb was attacked at knifepoint during her stay. The attacker allegedly used a spare key left at a nearby bodega for the popular Airbnb apartment (located on the first floor of a building on West 37th Street, blocks away from Times Square). Since the rental was so popular, the host left keys for renters to pick up.

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The $50 million per year is dedicated to settlements that keep Airbnb out of lawsuits and other criminal filings, such as rape cases, murders, and assaults. Photo credit: Shutterstock.com

The attacker hid in the shadows while the woman entered after a night with friends. He then jumped out and threatened her with the knife, then raped her. He was caught by police an hour later after he returned to the scene of the crime to check on the woman.

The story was unreported until Bloomberg revealed it. Airbnb wrote the woman a check for $7 million under the condition that she keeps quiet about the incident. She signed the agreement, which read that she does not talk about the settlement, “or imply responsibility or liability” on Airbnb or the host.

Airbnb continues to throw millions to settle with hosts and guests after nightmare stays, including incidents where hosts find dismembered human remains in their homes after renters leave. The members of the secretive safety team are required to handle these situations, protecting the company from detrimental stories and bad press.

The Black Box team is supposed to prevent bad publicity and make sure potential renters don’t worry about potential crimes. It seems the system has worked in the company’s favor, as Airbnb currently holds a $90 billion market value. The share price has doubled since it went public in December.

Chris Sacca, one of the first venture capitalists the founders sought during the initial development phase, turned the investment down. “Guys, this is super dangerous,” he told the founders, Chesky and Joe Gebbia, and engineer Nate Blecharczyk after their presentation. “Somebody’s going to get raped or murdered, and the blood is gonna be on your hands.”

There have been countless incidents that the Black Box team has protected the company from, such as the murder of a Florida woman, Carla Stefaniak, during her stay. She was killed by a security guard at the apartment complex in Costa Rica.

Her body was found half-naked and covered in plastic bags near the San Jose vacation rental, but Airbnb issued massive payouts to silence her family. In a lawsuit Stefaniak’s family filed, they claimed the company failed to perform a proper background check on 33-year-old Bismark Espinoza Martínez, who turned out to be working in the country illegally.

The case was settled, though the amount was kept secret. The payouts have kept Airbnb in the public’s favor, with millions of users traveling the world and utilizing the online rental marketplace to keep travel costs low.