Ink Out Loud: Innkeepers and gatekeepers |

Ink Out Loud: Innkeepers and gatekeepers

I wanted to attend Robin’s wedding in Carmel last year, but my budget didn’t really allow for a hotel room just short of $400 per night. After all, it wasn’t even a nice hotel. I was faced with the decision to miss the wedding or break the bank. Then I remembered many of my friends gave rave reviews of their experiences with Airbnb. I logged in and located a room for less than $50 per night.

I began a conversation online with a young woman who just secured her first job out of college as a middle-school science teacher. She had a small, tidy apartment just a couple of miles from the wedding venue. I felt comfortable with my choice and reserved the room.

When I arrived, we shared about 15 minutes of conversation. She showed me around the apartment, pointed out where to find the coffee and then handed me a small basket containing soap, shampoo, conditioner, an index card with the Internet password and a couple of Andes mints. She introduced me to her cat and gave me a key. It was a lovely exchange.

I told her all I really needed was a shower and a bed. I felt good. I was helping her pay down her college loans and she was making it possible for me to attend the wedding.

As a news person I am often a skeptic. I’ve read plenty of accounts of thievery, scams and even violence as a result of the emerging entrepreneurial environment that allows for the average Joe or Jane to utilize resources such as extra space or a vehicle.

I suppose excellent critical thinking skills and relentless research are the keys to good experiences with Airbnb, Craigslist, Lyft, Uber and the myriad of other person-to-person catalyst companies.

Negative social impacts can reach outside of the type of experience I had in Carmel. You see, if that room was not available, I would have missed the wedding. The young woman would have about $50 less to pay her bills.

But the door is now opened for everyone to be an innkeeper, a cab driver, a car rental agent … an entrepreneur. But not everyone is honest or ethical on either side of the transactions.

Some people exploit the services to gain entry, steal, gather personal information or even to find victims to harm physically.

There are also the unintended consequences. According to a May 14 report on ABC news, San Francisco, about 25- to 40- percent of units that could be rented to residents of San Francisco are instead Airbnb rentals, which appears to be resulting in a lack of affordable housing.

It is a real shame. It seems that the very services that make life more livable for those who need it most are compromised by greedy or unscrupulous people.

I am also closely following news about Senate Bill 539, led by Sen. Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg), which aims to get online vacation rental companies to disclose business records for the purpose of taxation. SB-539 would give local governments a better ability to track vacation rentals and enforce local ordinances.

“This legislation is simple. It makes online vacation rental businesses follow local laws just like the rest of us,” McGuire told members of the media this month.

Mandy Feder is the Managing Editor of the Tahoe Daily Tribune. She can be reached at or call 530-542-8006.

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