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Friday, August 5, 2011

What If Airbnb Hooked Up Crazies with Chainsaws, Instead of Apartments?

Posted By on Fri, Aug 5, 2011 at 3:00 PM

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At the Snitch, we've been saddened to see the end of the crazy Airbnb story, where travel renters terrorized a homeowner by ransacking and stealing from her apartment.

We'd like to give it new life by suggesting another start-up business idea: Airbnb for chainsaws.

Airbnb became the talk of the Internet earlier this week when a host in San Francisco had her home vandalized, and then said the company didn't respond in a timely manner despite her experience of "utter hell." The company publicly apologized, saying that in the future, similarly abused customers would be covered for up to $50,000 for all property damaged by Airbnb guests.

It was an amazing story, eventually covered by hundreds of news outlets, including the Washington Post,, and the Christian Science Monitor. Readers dwelled on how the Internet brings millions of complete strangers ever closer into each other's personal business.

Now that the story has died down a bit, we've found ourselves searching in vain for another Internet morality tale about the horrors of stranger intimacy.

For a moment we thought we'd found our quarry when we read that San Francisco's Rentcycle, which links customers and providers wanting to rent tools and other things, just scored $1.4 million in startup capital.

Sadly, however, unlike Airbnb, Rentcycle is less likely to spawn horror stories. It specializes in helping consumers compare prices among professional rental companies -- the kind that are well-versed in making sure they aren't harmed by customers wanting to ruin or rip off their things.

We'd like to see Silicon Valley's investors take Rentcycle up a notch, and help inexperienced individuals rent their possessions to random strangers.

Imagine the bedlam when an anonymous tweaker temporarily gets his hands on somebody's forklift, chainsaw, mobile MIG welding unit, or -- my favorite -- pneumatic nailer.

During the first year or so of such a company's existence, it would become a Silicon Valley darling. Who wouldn't, after all, like to make an extra $14 per day renting out an unused wheelbarrow?

Eventually, however, the wrong strangers will get their hands on someone else's high-powered repeating nail gun and go berserk. When the Airbnb marauder unleashed her fury, the only things damaged and lost were the contents of an apartment. Imagine, however, the havoc that could have been wreaked if instead the saboteurs temporarily got their fingers around the grip of a Bostitch High-Power Coil Framing Nailer, or a Husqvarna 570 High Torque chainsaw?

Isolated apartment damage wouldn't be the only wreckage we'd be reading about.

In the best of all possible worlds, the victim who rented out her equipment would be a blogger. And she'd post vignettes about how the woman who went berserk with her chainsaw made her life hell. "Airbnb for Chainsaws" would come under intense media scrutiny.

And we'd again be able to revel in the drawbacks of putting the short-term rental business into the hands of nonprofessionals.
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Matt Smith


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