Aug 2, 2011

The Bachelorette and Table for Two Please

Did you watch this week’s final episode of The Bachelorette?  Ashley finally chose the bachelor she wants to spend the rest of her life with…and he chose her too.  Even though the season started back in May and finished in August, the actual events that took place happened over a mere 6 weeks or less.  If we count the actual time spent with her now fiancé, JP, we might even say it happened in less than 48 hours or perhaps 24 hours. And wow, where did these life long, you are my soul mate for life, events take place – in perfectly choreographed, exquisitely selected destinations like fancy restaurants, beaches, helicopters, nightclubs, resorts, and skyscrapers around the world (just to name a few).  And wow, the number of bachelors Ashley fell for in just the same short amount of time, who were perfect for her, ranged anywhere from 6 at a time to 2 before she finally chose the one her sister didn’t think was right for her in the real world.

So why are we talking about how quickly and where Ashley found her soul mate in a blog about the Internet?  Many of us have been lulled into using the power of technology and its ability to connect us quickly to replace the power of true human interaction that develops into the true human bond over long periods of time.  We text instead of calling, we email instead of visiting, we IM instead of dropping by, and we order online instead of going to the mall with friends to stroll, chat, and gossip.  Ashley did something very similar when she used the perfect dates, the perfect scenery, the perfect food, the perfect beaches, the perfect hotels and hot tubs, and the perfect resorts in place of the slowly orchestrated music that comes from a courtship choreographed over time.

Isn’t it time that we all power down, slow down, and breath in the world around us – the real world full of real people with real stories to be told and passed on to those who follow-us?

Until next time when you go online and read another article from me, enjoy some special time with someone special.  Table for two please.

See also Hemu’s other blogs on The Bachelorette here.

Aug 2, 2011

Nightmare Renters from Airbnb

Until recently, the name Airbnb was not something tossed around in the average news cycle or dinner party.  However, since a story recently broke about malicious use of rented property and Airbnb’s apparent woeful management of the crisis, the name is everywhere…and not in a good way.

Airbnb describes itself as a company engaged in “unlocking unique spaces worldwide.”  Through its web portal, the company allows people the world over to exchange housing, essentially turning private residences into mini-hotels, renting out their homes and finding residences to for short-term rental.  The service has proved useful for thousands of successful exchanges but truly atrocious stories are emerging about how this can go wrong.

Here’s the short version of what happened.  A host (EJ) rented her home to people who contacted her via Airbnb. When she returned, there seemed to be no end to the damage she encountered.  There were holes in doors and walls, items from shoes to an iPod were stolen, and her whole home was covered in powdered bleach.  They even, allegedly, stole her identity.  Soon after, another victim came forward and told his story of horror.  While these stories are truly awful, they should serve as a strong reminder for companies and users. (Note that the CEO of Airbnb provided this response to these stories.)

Online, we can get lulled in to a false sense of security.  We start to think that, because someone signed into a site or setup an account, they must be honest and reputable.  This is why it’s critical to always exercise extreme caution when engaging in person with someone you have only met online.  In the real world, we would never hand over the keys to our house without some serious ID and references and assurances.  The same should be true online.

Here are just a few other ways to help you keep yourself and your home safe and secure if you’re using rental sites like Airbnb:

  • Secure people:  Look for ways that security initiatives have been engaged on the site. Does the site offer background checks for renters, in the same way that SitterCity offers them for caregivers? Does the site separate out those who have been vetted from those who have not?
  • Assurances:  Look for ways the site plans to handle ‘security breaches.’    Does the site have a process for compensation in the event of damage?  Does the site offer or suggest short-term insurance options to cover loss?
  • Organization history:  Tech start- ups can have a brilliant idea, but don’t always build-in crisis response mechanisms to help a customer.    Does the site you’re considering have clearly delineated departments for helping users? Is there a helpdesk that responds to your inquiry? Does the site provide an emergency contact number that is available 24/7?
  • Check networks:  It is ideal if you know the person you are renting to and great if you have mutual contacts who can be references.   Since this may not always be possible, does the site provide other mechanisms to allow community vetting?

Like so many other online services, rental sites can offer us convenience and help.  As consumers, we must ask the right questions so that sites also proactively embrace safety and security.