Airbnb host faces repercussions after sending racist message to cancel reservation

Image: Carl Court/Getty Image

An Airbnb host who cancelled a reservation by sending a racist comment is now paying the price.

It all started back in February when 26-year-old law clerk Dyne Suh booked Tami Barkers California cabin for a weekend of skiing with her fianc, The Guardian reported. Suh made the four-hour drive to the cabin, but Barker canceled the reservation at the last minute, texting Suh a racist message to inform her the reservation had been cancelled.

Now, thanks to an investigation from Airbnb, Barker has been banned from the platform and has to $5,000 in damages for racial discrimination.

According to The Guardian, Suh booked the cabin a month in advance, getting two additional guests and two dogs approved to accompany her and her fianc by Barker provided they pay an additional $50 per night. But on the day of the reservation when the Suh and her guests were just minutes away from the cabin, they attempted to confirm the price of the cabin via text message and Barker denied ever having approved Suh to bring extra guests, despite screenshots of the conversation being sent as a refresher.

Barker then reportedly sent Suh the following texts telling her the deal was off and cancelled her reservation: I wouldnt rent it to u if u were the last person on earth and One word says it all. Asian.

When Suh alerted Barker she was planning on complaining to Airbnb about the racist message, things began to get political. Barker reportedly replied, “Its why we have Trump and I will not allow this country to be told what to do by foreigners.” A distraught Suh filed complaints to both Airbnb and the Department of Fair Employment & Housing (DFEH,) which works with the house sharing economy to fight discrimination.

In the video below, recorded after the incident, Suh can be seen giving her emotional and tearful account of the incident, explaining I just feel so hurt. People thought: ‘Oh, with the election of President Obama racism is over in this country.’ No, its very much alive, it exists and it could happen to anyone.”

“It stings that after living in the US for over 23 years this is what happens. No matter if I follow the law … no matter how well I treat others, it doesnt matter. If youre Asian, youre less than human and people can treat you like trash,” Suh went on.

The repercussions of racism in home sharing economy

“This behavior is abhorrent and unacceptable. We have worked to provide the guest with our full support and in line with our non-discrimination policy, this host has been permanently removed from the Airbnb platform,” Airbnb spokesperson Nick Papas said back in April in regards to Barker.

As The Guardian states, this is the first occurrence where an Airbnb host has been penalized for racial bias “under a landmark agreement between the San Francisco-headquartered accommodation marketplace and the DFEH,” however, Airbnb has encountered issues with racism before. After the hashtag #AirbnbWhileBlack sparked a 10-month-long investigation back in 2016 over hosts refusing to rent their properties to people of color, the home sharing economy allowed DFEH to regulate it for racial bias.

“We want there to be strong anti-discrimination protections and preventions of harm, but we recognize that the world isnt divided into good guys and bad guys.”

In addition to the $5,000 in damages, Barker is also being required to take a college-level course in Asian American studies an idea which developed during the DFEH’s mediation sessions between the two parties. She also has to personally apologize to Suh in accordance with anti-discrimination laws, participate in a community education panel, and volunteer with a civil rights organization.

“We were thinking pretty creatively with this agreement. The law tends to be backwards-looking, focusing on compensating people for harm. Were interested in remedies that repair harm and transform relationships,” Kevin Kish, director of DFEH told the publication.

We want there to be strong anti-discrimination protections and preventions of harm, but we recognize that the world isnt divided into good guys and bad guys,” Kish went on. “Humans have biases and we also need to recognize that humans change.

In a statement to The Guardian, Barkers lawyer Edward Lee communicated his client’s regret for her “impetuous actions and comments,” sharing that Barker is happy to have worked with Suh and the DFEH “in a manner that can hopefully bring a positive outcome out of an unfortunate incident.”

Mashable reached out to Airbnb for additional comment.

UPDATE: July 13, 2017, 5:58 p.m. UTC Updated to include April statement from Airbnb spokesperson.

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