Airbnb Faces Backlash After Asking People to Donate to Hosts With ‘Kindness Cards'

With the cards people can send a note of encouragement and an optional donation to previous hosts.

Host welcomes couple at house rental
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Airbnb has launched a unique way to support hosts during the ongoing coronavirus crisis, but not everyone is embracing it.

According to USA Today, Airbnb recently sent out emails to guests asking them to send “kindness cards” to their past hosts. The cards are basically a digital comment card that guests can write an encouraging message on, with the option to add a monetary contribution to their host.

The email campaign is in response to hardships that hosts have had to endure while people are staying at home to combat the spread of coronavirus. The email to guests reads, “Like all of us, hosts on Airbnb are impacted by COVID-19, and many of them are unable to welcome guests. Now more than ever, it’s important to reach out and support one another—even in small ways,” USA Today reported.

Instructions on the Airbnb website say that guests can click on the email to “Send a Kindness Card,” and be shown hosts that they’ve given four or five stars to in the past. Then, they can choose a card design, write a message, and choose whether or not to add a donation to their host. Of course, not everyone is happy with the idea.

According to USA Today, some people on Twitter have taken issue with the idea of donating money to hosts, some of whom may be more well-off financially, despite the crisis. “Why would I donate to my host? I can't even afford one house,” one user wrote. Some have also argued that it isn’t past guests’ responsibility to support hosts long after their stays, citing the fact that they paid to stay in their host’s rooms and houses should be enough in terms of monetary compensation. Others liken the idea to paying extra rent to landlords just to be nice, according to Business Insider.

Another user also pointed out the concerning issue, having experienced some questionable conduct from hosts. “Airbnb asked me to send a 'kindness card' to the host who made my female friends so uncomfortable they didn’t want to spend a minute alone inside the apartment in case he came back,” the user wrote, USA Today reported.

A handful of users have expressed that they thought the idea was a good way to connect and form interpersonal relationships. Airbnb defended the initiative by saying it is “in the spirit of rekindling connections.” Airbnb spokesperson Ben Breit said to USA Today, “During this challenging time we heard from many guests who were interested in supporting and reconnecting with past hosts...We developed a new feature that allows guests to send virtual cards with messages of support and encouragement to hosts who provided excellent hospitality. If they wish, guests have the option to add a voluntary financial contribution.”

Airbnb has been in hot water with hosts since the coronavirus crisis began, since the company told hosts to refund guests who needed to cancel their trips due to the pandemic. According to USA Today, the company spent $250 million in March to try to reimburse hosts for their cancellations plus a $17 million fund for Airbnb Superhosts, though the site reported $1 billion in cancellations, CEO Brian Chesky told USA Today.

Sending a nice note is certainly an easy way to encourage past hosts who have given you an excellent experience while traveling, though perhaps sending extra money may be a bit of a stretch for many users on Airbnb. According to USA Today, the hosts do not have to keep the donation, and can put it towards a charity instead.

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