This is Shell. She's an Airbnb host. New Yorkers met Shell when her face appeared on "New Yorkers love us" subway ads. They saw her in this promotional Airbnb video about providing free housing for people who lost their homes in Hurricane Sandy.
What the advertisements neglected to mention is that Shell became Airbnb's poster child "a few months after" she was evicted for renting out a barn up upstate because she violated her lease and pissed off her seemingly generous landlord. Joe Coscarelli from New York magazine digs into the whole embarrassing affair:
As a result of her loyalty and good Sandy deed, Shell was asked by Airbnb to star in its New York–loves-us ad campaign, which was shot over the summer, a few months after she was evicted from Griffith's place in exactly the kind of fight Airbnb wants to avoid being associated with. The company, she says, knew about her situation, and Shell casually name-drops "Joe and Brian" — Airbnb founders Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky — in conversation. "They know who I am as a host," she says.
"I'm renting this because I'm associated with artists and need a full studio," Griffith says his new tenant told him at the time, warning that her "artist friends from around the world would show up and collaborate." He thought that sounded charming.
Griffith didn't realize that in sharing economy jargon, "collaborate" means charges others money to use his home and give a cut of that money to a company that venture capitalists say is worth $10 billion.
While she was gone — say, in search of fabric in South Africa — Shell was something of mini share-economy mogul, renting out the barn (and her other leased properties) to help cover her monthly payments, in direct violation of her lease. "Friends are one thing," says Griffith now. "Groups of social-networking strangers is a completely different ball of wax."
Shell tells New York magazine she thought she was "very clear" to her landlord about "the concept of what I was doing," but Griffith clearly didn't realize the concept was real estate not global artist retreat:
Griffith figured out his own barn was being advertised on Airbnb when he received a message from LinkedIn asking if he knew Martinez, listed there as a former real-estate agent and the founder of something called Shell's Brooklyn Loft. Neighbors had mentioned seeing strangers around his place upstate, and suddenly something clicked. "I looked up barns in the area and my place came up at $475 a night," he says. The barn was also listed on Airbnb competitors TripAdvisor, FlipKey, Dwellable, and Outpost. "I was like, 'Of course! How could I be so stupid? How could I not have known?'"
Shell and Airbnb seem like a natural match because Airbnb hasn't made itself very clear to hosts either, when it comes to the fact that sub-leasing on their platform may be illegal and get you subpoenaed or that hosts may not have been paying proper taxes.
According to her 276 guest reviews on the site dating back to 2010, Shell also rents out a place in Puerto Rico and a ground-floor apartment in Brooklyn. ("In order to comply with NYC laws, I only sublet this apartment for stays that are 30 days or longer," she warns in the latter listing.) In addition to the barn, there was once another place upstate, in nearby Rhinebeck.
When Griffith tried to notify Airbnb, he got "absolutely nowhere." And Shell rented Griffith's place out for a wedding after she was evicted. The bride and groom left a comment thanking "Shell + Team" for their services.
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[Image via Airbnb]