A recent incident involving the Airbnb platform, reported by the daily South China Morning Post, illustrates the difficulty of building trust between platform users.
Here is how the media describes what happened:
“A couple from China staying at an Airbnb home in South Korea left the gas on and taps running for 25 days in revenge after the host refused their request to cancel their booking. The unidentified couple reportedly wasted 120 tonnes of water and left a water and electricity bill of US$116 and a gas bill of about US$730, NetEase News reported.”
As we explain in our book, the participants in a platform, depending on the group to which they belong, have different, though normally convergent and complementary, motivations. This is what makes a platform useful. However, expectations and interests can be contradictory, which is a source of tension. The platform, therefore, has a role to play in trying to minimize these tensions and reduce the level of mistrust between participants.
For instance, Airbnb offers hosts damage coverage that covers hosts for traveler damage up to US$3 million. This coverage, called AirCover, concerns damages to the accommodation, the furnishings, and the equipment. In this particular case, the unhappy customers seemed to know this, since instead of trashing the apartment, they were blowing up the rental charges through water and gas consumption. Since the latter is not covered by AirCover, the platform did not intervene in this dispute. We can imagine that the host will probably not remain a customer of the platform in the future.