The DeMarco Cottage in the Finger Lakes region of western New York state
We are members of the sharing economy. At least we used to be.
When our kids were young, my wife and I had a rule about sharing. Regardless of the toy, game or book in question, each child had the choice to share or not to share. Sometimes our kids failed to share from their excess, but we still defended their freedom to choose what to do with their property. We wanted to help our children develop the habit of generosity by exercising their freedom responsibly.
We once shared (rented) our rustic cottage in the Finger Lakes region of western New York state with Airbnb guests we believed would respect our family home and the privacy and peace of our neighbors. In January 2017, however, I logged into my Airbnb account to answer a guest inquiry only to find that, before I could respond, Airbnb required us—the hosts—to accept its new “all belong” policy, which imposes an expansive array of politically correct language on those who use its services.
That’s when I discovered that if you decline to accept Airbnb’s #WeAccept forced sharing policy … you don’t belong.
I wrote an email to Airbnb challenging their requirement. Soon, a reply appeared saying the company had received over 20,000 responses to the policy change, but there were no answers to any of my concerns. Ten weeks later, still no response.
So, what’s all the fuss? Airbnb claims the policy is to be more inclusive, reduce bias and eliminate discrimination. But it is undermining the sharing economy and is just another politically correct progressive effort to bully people of faith to compromise their principles by relinquishing their property rights to unacceptable behavior.
Under Airbnb’s aggressive new policy hosts are NOT permitted to:
DETERMINE the suitability of their property for a disabled or elderly guest, even though the guest has no knowledge of its contours. Of course, if the guest is injured on your property, Airbnb only protects the host up to US$1M. The guest can still sue the host beyond these limits. Only a fool would accept these terms, especially if the host reasonably believes the guest could be injured.
DECLINE inquiring guests for any reason. Their “all belong” policy goes further than the legal requirements of even my fairly progressive state of New York. Like many Airbnb hosts, we don't rent to guests under 26 years of age … it’s not that we don’t like young people (four of our adult kids are in their 20s); it’s just that we don’t trust them with our home. So if a group of young professionals, motorcycle enthusiasts or ladies seeking a place for a bachelorette party wants to rent our cottage, Airbnb says we can’t decline them even if we have good reason to suspect they are likely to disturb our neighbors’ peace and tranquility.
DECIDE or render a judgment about a guest’s gender practices. The option is given to a host to decline an inquiring guest of the opposite gender who wants to stay in quarters while the host is there. Thus, a woman host can choose to decline a potential male guest. But should a man change his gender identity to a women, the host must comply with Airbnb’s “all belong” policy. Said another way, a host using Airbnb can NOT decline a guest claiming the same gender even if that guest is of the opposite sex. Political correctness is never about sound reasoning. Individuals relinquishing their judgment to this part of Airbnb’s new policy, can expect their imaginations soon to follow.
The strength of the sharing economy comes from each party respecting the freedom and property rights of the other person. Not surprisingly, this respect also aids the flourishing of healthy hospitality where the property owner shares openly and the guest receives with gratitude.
Hospitality, however, is conditional. There is an expectation that the visitor will respect the rules of the host. Forced sharing is submission which inverts this natural relationship, imposing the rules of the guest and making the host a hostage.
My first exposure to the sharing economy occurred in August 2015 when I was in Alameda, California, visiting my daughter. I needed a ride to the train station. A taxi was not available for 30 minutes so my daughter used her Uber account (a ride sharing service) and a car appeared within 3 minutes. I was amazed by how this technology helped facilitate the sharing of unused capacity. During the ride, I asked my driver, Amir, about his experiences with riders through Uber. His reply revealed his common sense about sharing. “95% of the people are good riders, no problems… unfortunately, about 5% think that they own you…when they treat me badly or ask me to do something wrong, I tell them to get out of my car!” Whether it is Amir’s car or our cottage, the freedom to use one’s judgment is key to sharing responsibly.
Whether or not Airbnb’s effort is conscious or not the effect on religious freedom is insidious. The company rose to market dominance on the strength of a fundamental tenet of the sharing economy, that most people trust the goodness of their fellow man and will act in good faith in mutually beneficial transactions. In a sweeping presumption of bad faith, Airbnb now seeks to deny access to that market to individuals and families with sincere and principled opposition to modern sexual mores being practiced in their own home.
Before you roll your eyes in defense of Airbnb’s utopian policy or label me with a false phobia, please consider the hypocrisy in Airbnb’s “all belong” policy. For decades, progressives told us to stay out of their bedrooms. Today, they lecture us on who must stay in our homes.
Alas, Airbnb is harming the “sharing economy” they helped start.
Peter C. DeMarco is an author and executive coach, organizational consultant and ethics educator, with 36 years as a leader including positions as Plant Manager to Division President, COO and CEO running operations and businesses in the U.S. and Mexico.