Two Boston-based doctors who had a terrifying experience while staying in an Airbnb guesthouse in Los Angeles in June have received an apology from the popular short-term rental company and a promise to “make it right.”
The plight of Jaleesa Jackson and Chiedozie Uwandu, medical residents in anesthesiology at Boston hospitals, was detailed in a Boston Globe column on Tuesday. Hundreds of readers posted stinging criticism of Airbnb, with some vowing never to patronize the company.
“Our original handling of this incident fell well below the high standards we set for ourselves,” the San Francisco company said in a statement. “We have apologized to Dr. Jackson and Dr. Uwandu for our insufficient response.”
“We are reviewing every aspect of this case from the reports of the host’s disturbing behavior to our response,” the statement continued. “Our community’s safety is our priority, we are deeply sorry for the anguish and inconvenience our guests have experienced and again we are working to make it right.”
Jackson said she was pleased to hear from Airbnb. “They apologized profusely and admitted they completely mishandled it,” she said.
As for a settlement, Jackson said she and Airbnb representatives were scheduled to talk by phone Thursday “to discuss things and come to a resolution.”
Jackson and Uwandu, who met at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, had hoped to get some relief from the stress of long hours by heading out to Southern California’s beaches for a few days.
The guesthouse they found on Airbnb had excellent reviews and a host, named JJ, considered so reliable and trustworthy that he was deemed by the company to be a “super host.”
But on the first morning in LA, Jackson and Uwandu were awakened before dawn by loud banging on the door and gruff shouts of “I know you are in there, Kevin!” It turned out to be JJ, in some kind of state of high agitation and confusion.
“Life’s too short for me to give you an explanation,” JJ told the couple by phone moments later. “Have a nice time in LA.”
The next morning around 2 a.m., things got far worse. As they slept, a man came crashing through a large window in their darkened bedroom, sending shards of glass everywhere and leaving him sprawled on the floor. Uwandu, 6 feet, 230 pounds, bolted out of bed and jumped on the man, getting a knee into his back to pin him down. Uwandu, his feet bloodied by the broken glass, screamed to Jackson to call 911.
The man broke free, but not before Jackson recognized him under his hooded sweatshirt: It was JJ.
A police helicopter arrived and helped corner the man, who was babbling incoherently about Airbnb ordering him to evict the couple over “cleaning fees.”
It turns out JJ had a valid lease on the guesthouse, but he did not have permission from the property owner to rent it out on Airbnb.
Jackson and Uwandu ended up spending $2,300 at a Hilton hotel (they wanted no part of another Airbnb rental).
Jackson negotiated with Airbnb for hours on the phone, seeking $5,000 in compensation for the terror they had experienced. Airbnb’s final offer was $2,500.
In a statement before the column ran, Airbnb declined to answer questions about the incident or JJ, except to say “negative incidents are extremely rare” and JJ “has been removed from our community.”Sean P. Murphy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @spmurphyboston.