Friday, April 18, 2014

The Notell Hotel goes Airbnb

I guess this was inevitable, but it seems that Airbnb is suffering from the “from our house to whorehouse” syndrome.

This we learned earlier in the week when that bastion of journalistic integrity and intelligence – and yet an occasional source of excellent scoop - The New York Post, reported that, just as civilians can save on steep hotel bills with Airbnb, so, too can hookers. No more sleezoid Notell Hotel. No more paying through the nose for someplace upscale. Nope, now it’s all the comforts of home – and more – at Manhattan apartments.

One person who found herself an unwitting madam-for-the-day is Jessica Penzari.

“She [the renter] told me that she was in the Army and needed a place to hang out before she got shipped out,” Penzari said of her Airbnb “guest.”

“She said she was being deployed that week. She was asking for places to go out with her friends.” (Source: NY Post)

Ah, yes, another version of “thank you for your service.”

But when a hooker got slashed by a client in the West 43rd Street apartment over the price of his “massage,” Penzari got a call from cops.

When she returned, Penzari was shocked to find telltale remnants including baby wipes and “at least 10 condoms.”

No word on whether the condoms had been, ahem, unfurled and fulfilled. (Double, triple, quadruple EWW.)

Penzari said Airbnb put her up in the swanky InterContinental hotel in Times Square for two nights — with room-service meals — and also paid to change her door locks, clean her apartment and replace her pillows and other belongings.

Which does not exactly make up for the full double, triple, quadruple EWW factor, I’m guessing.

I suspect there’s a new apartment in Jessica’s future.

And Jessica is not, of course, the only one whose digs are being compromised. One working girl told The Post that her escort service rents Airbnb flats for days at a time.

“It’s more discreet and much cheaper than The Waldorf,” said the sex worker, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“Hotels have doormen and cameras. They ask questions. Apartments are usually buzz-in.”

Smart business move, no?

And speaking of working girls and not-so-smart business moves. Many years ago, my husband and I were in the lobby bar at the NY Hilton on 6th Avenue. Sitting at the table next to us were what we assumed were, based on our eavesdropping, a prostitute and a prospective john.

I remember feeling terrible for the girl – who seemed very young, maybe 20-21 – who told the fellow that she was a model. When he asked who she modeled for, her answer was “Mostly for myself.”

She then agreed to accept a check, which didn’t seem like the shrewdest move on her part. On the other hand, if he used a legit check and tried to cancel payment, the girl would have a way to track him down. Wonder whatever happened with that transaction. Personally, I would have held out for cash.

There have been plenty of unseemly incidents involving Airbnb renters: an orgy that was promoted online; a flat that ended up used as a nude massage parlor; apartments pillaged; souvenir crack pipes left behind.

Although I do know some people who have done so – not as prostitutes, druggies, orgy-participants, or crack smokers; just as ordinary travelers - I’ve never used Airbnb. I have, however, used vacation-rental-by-owner services (including Vacation Rental By Owner), which are a bit more structured: references, contracts, security deposits required.

Airbnb maintains that all the unseemly incidents are nothing particular to their business model:

“The entire hospitality industry deals with issues like this, and we have zero tolerance for this activity,” it said.

Zero tolerance, sure, but also zero security measures – guards, cameras, front desks – that even the slimiest of Notell Motels would have.

Not that I was considering it to begin with, but I sure won’t be renting out my digs anytime soon.

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