Airbnb has apologized after riling up residents of San Francisco with a misguided marketing campaign that attempted to highlight its tax payments with snarky messaging.
A series of ads on bus shelters and billboards saw Airbnb call out public libraries, the Board of Education and Public Works departments on their shortcomings, and instructed them to use the $12 million that the company pays in hotel tax to shape up.
The ads were in such poor taste that it led many people to speculate whether they were all a hoax.
— Aral Balkan (@aral) October 22, 2015
Martha Kenney, an assistant professor at San Francisco State University spotted the above ad, which read:
Dear Public Library System,
We hope you use some of the $12 million in hotel taxes to keep the library open later.
She promptly posted a reply on Facebook:
I’m happy to hear that you paid your taxes this year. I did too! Isn’t it awesome? However, I’ve crunched some numbers and I have some bad news for you. Out of your $12 mil of hotel tax, only 1.4% percent goes to the SF Public Libraries. So that’s $168,000. Divided by the 868 library staff, we have $193 per person. Assuming each employee works 5 days per week minus holidays, this is $0.78 per employee per day. Since that’s significantly under San Francisco minimum wage ($12.25/hr), I doubt that your hotel tax can keep the libraries open more than a minute or two later.
However, had you donated that $8 million you spent fighting Proposition F directly to the public libraries you love so much, that could have made a bigger difference. Oh well. Hindsight is 20/20!
Martha Kenney (San Francisco resident)
Airbnb has since issued an apology and will take down the offensive ads. In a statement, the company said:
The intent was to show the hotel tax contribution from our hosts and guests, which is roughly $1 million per month. It was the wrong tone and we apologize to anyone who was offended. These ads are being taken down immediately.