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Airbnb: Bragging About Meeting Their Legal Requirement

So I wanted everyone to know that today when I was out shopping I paid the legally required sales tax on some gum I bought at the drug store. I am very proud of myself for doing so, and was thinking of adding up all the taxes I paid this month and sending a memo to all government officials with my suggestions re: how they spend my generous largesse.

I have never bragged about paying my legally required sales tax before, but I got the idea from Airbnb and figured it must be the hip new thing to do. Did you see this story?

When Airbnb put up ads suggesting various ways San Francisco could use the company’s tax payments, it was undoubtedly aiming to drum up goodwill. “Dear Parking Enforcement,” one of the ads read, “please use the $12 million in hotel taxes to feed all expired parking meters. Love, Airbnb.” Another directed the city not to spend the money “all in one place,” but then said that if it did, “we suggest burritos.”

Weirdly, though, people from San Francisco didn’t appreciate all this hip helpfulness:

“I’m happy to hear that you paid your taxes this year,” Martha Kenney, an assistant professor at San Francisco State University, posted on Facebook. “I did too! Isn’t it awesome?” On Twitter, the ads were called “tone deaf & ignorant“ and “passive-aggressive.” The attacks grew forceful enough that Airbnb issued an apology Wednesday night, acknowledging the ads struck “the wrong tone.”

Big of them.

The arrogance of modern corporate America is pretty stunning sometimes. It reminds me of some quotes from out-of-touch billionaires whom my group American Family Voices made fun of a while back:

San Franciscans will vote on Proposition F on November 3. It is important because it places reasonable regulations on Airbnb. It is important because we need to slow down and think about the consequences of the transition into an on-demand economy, consequences like what just happened in New York, or what happened to an American traveling in Spain.

Markets require rules: rules about safety, fairness, and responsibility. It would be good to slow down the whole on-demand thing until regulators can catch up to the demands of the sharing economy. Prop F is a good step in that direction.

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