Everyone knows Anthony in the North End – just not this one
Phony host names on rental site mislead as to who the owner is
THIS STORY IS A SIDEBAR TO THE MAIN STORY: THE AIRBNB GOLD RUSH IS ON.
ANTHONY WAS A popular Airbnb host. His 88 units in Boston, including about half in the North End, drew more than 2,000 mostly positive reviews over a 15-month period.
“We had a fantastic stay in Anthony’s place,” wrote Carol from Killarney, Ireland, who stayed there in October. “It is in a great location in the heart of the North End. Probably one of the comfiest beds I have slept in!”
Anthony, whose clean, handsome face adorned the listings in a picture with, presumably, his pretty blonde wife or girlfriend lovingly draping her arms around him, loves to travel, he says in his bio. “Entrepreneur by day, international traveler in my spare time,” he writes. “Living the busy startup life. Would love to host you!”
Very inviting and warm except one thing—this Anthony isn’t real, unless he has a second job as a model. The picture on the Airbnb listing appears to be a stock photo from Getty images. The photo also appears on webpages for a Canadian church, a Florida payday loan company, a Washington state dental practice, and a California bail bondsman. Anthony, as people of a certain age might recall, was the name of the kid in the old Prince Spaghetti ads.
In November, after the Alliance of Downtown Civic Organizations began asking around about who Anthony is following complaints by residents near some of his units, Anthony’s face suddenly disappeared from the listings and the new host was listed simply as Domio. It appears that Domio is a New York-based, short-term rental management company that, for a 20 percent cut, acts as host for thousands of listings around the globe on Airbnb. Company officials did not return a request for comment.Airbnb officials dismiss the “Anthony” listing as an outlier, even though it appears many of the commercial listings have false names and bios. Crystal Davis, a spokeswoman for Airbnb, insists those aren’t indicative of the company’s average host. “They have their own websites,” Davis says of the commercial offerings. “Airbnb isn’t their only channel.”
It’s clearly a marketing practice, an action to maintain the perception that Airbnb hosts are just folks like us looking to share their homes. “A lot of these names are fake on Airbnb,” says Ford Cavallari, chairman of the Alliance of Downtown Civic Organizations. “This is a great example of one of the things that I think is really rotten about what’s going on here.”