Waking up with bedbug bites can be a nightmare. It’s also a costly and traumatic problem for Airbnb guests and hosts. CNET: CNET spoke to eight people who dealt with bedbugs in Airbnb rentals within the last three years. All of them said Airbnb, which was founded in 2008, doesn’t seem to have a systematic procedure in place for handling outbreaks. And most said that while they eventually received some form of compensation from Airbnb, the company failed to provide adequate support. “This is my first real issue with Airbnb,” says Dariele Blain, whose weekend away with friends went awry after she says the critters emerged at her Airbnb rental in Philadelphia. “But it’s such an egregious one that I don’t know if I’ll book with them again.” Like other Silicon Valley unicorns — private companies with a high valuation — Airbnb is known for “disruption,” the idea of changing a service or product with technology to make it better. It’s turned the lodging industry on its head by getting regular people to use its platform to rent out rooms or entire homes to travelers. Airbnb’s service is now operating in almost every country on Earth and it has over 6 million listings for rent. That’s more rooms than the top five hotel chains combined.
For each rental, Airbnb typically gets a cut of between 14% and 20%. The company, which may go public this year, is currently valued at $31 billion. Airbnb proponents say these short-term rentals help hosts make ends meet, while also bringing more visitors to cities where people can’t afford high-cost hotels. But its business model has also triggered unintended consequences. The company has been blamed for rising rent and reduced rental stock in many cities, including its hometown of San Francisco. And in the case of bedbugs, Airbnb’s use of millions of independent hosts means that trying to keep a lid on the pest epidemic can be hard to do, experts say.