Imagine you booked a gorgeous Italian villa, paid the necessary payment, got all excited on the plane there with your friends all to arrive and discover that the villa doesn’t actually exist… 

Well that’s exactly what happened to TikToker Alix Earle – that is until AirBnB came to the rescue. On Tuesday, Earle posted a video informing her over five million followers that she and her friends had fallen prey to a scam after booking a fake villa in Positano, Italy. One day and 5.5 million views later, the group of about 10 women are spending their European vacation in a villa overlooking the Mediterranean Sea thanks to Airbnb.

But it is the way that AirBnB went about it that was so genius from a marketing perspective, positioning themselves as a firm Gen Z favourite from now. The company literally commented under Earle’s video; “babes we got you. our people are calling you now”. 

In case you’re wondering, the original scam took place on Booking.com. It’s unclear how much the group spent on the fake rental, but Booking.com commented on one of Earle’s videos apologising for the mishap. Alas, not great business for Booking.com but great air time for Airbnb who more than delivered on accommodations with a Positano villa decked out with a massage table, steam room, and a terrace overlooking vast blue waters. I’m slightly jealous to be honest… 

Such tactics have encouraged Gen Z social users to view AirBnB as the ‘sugar daddy’ of the internet. “Airbnb is our wealthy man,” Earle captioned a video of her and fellow travellers wearing matching robes. “Airbnb marketing for the year = complete,” one commenter wrote under the video. Social media commentator Jack Appleby wrote in a tweet that the video of Earle thanking Airbnb garnered close to two million views in four hours.

Naturally with every appraisal there comes a critique. Others users have commented that they weren’t as lucky when they were left stranded from an Airbnb scam. “Where was this attitude when my AirBnB host cancelled on me day of, for no apparent reason last year” one TikToker wrote in response to the company’s offer to help with another stating that “customer service shouldn’t be determined by follower count,” – fair enough.

A Booking.com representative told Insider the company’s investigation into the matter determined the scam didn’t occur on its site.

“Upon investigation, we can now confirm that this fake villa listing was not booked via Booking.com, but instead found on a fake copycat website,” the statement read. “Since confirming this was not a legitimate Booking.com URL we have subsequently been successful in requesting the website to be taken down.”

Categorized in: