Airbnb apologizes for Muni shelter ads, and a new meme is born

air bnb public works bus ad
Photo from Facebook/Kevin Soriano

Airbnb is apologizing about posting a series of passive-aggressive, totally off-the-mark Muni shelter ads that have been popping up all around town. And in response, San Franciscans have made their own memes with even better sarcasm than one could have ever hoped.

At first these ads seemed too ridiculous to be real (one ad reads, “Dear Public Works, please use some of the $12 million in hotel taxes to install more electric vehicle charging stations.” Really? This is the ad you put on a Muni shelter?)

Airbnb initially brushed off SFWeekly‘s attempts to verify that the ads were from the company (according to SFWeekly, Airbnb’s response was, “Are you seriously writing about this?”). Why yes, pretty much everyone from Tech Crunch and SFist to Business Insider and Huffpo is writing about it.

Here’s another Airbnb Muni ad: “Dear Public Library System, we hope you use some of the $12 million in hotel taxes to keep the library open later.”

airbnb library muni ad

The photo above is from Martha Kenney, who had posted about the library ad on her Facebook page, which was then shared more than 600 times. Kenney pointed out that this sign was outside of the Ingleside public library.

Soon enough, Airbnb’s official apology arrived. From SFWeekly:

Airbnb has confirmed that the ads are indeed real and says that it plans to take them down. We’ve reached out to SFMTA to attempt to confirm the cancellation. Here’s Airbnb’s statement:
“The intent was to show the hotel tax contribution from our hosts and guests, which is roughly $1 million per month. It was the wrong tone and we apologize to anyone who was offended. These ads are being taken down immediately.”

We’re just a few weeks away from voting on Prop F, which would add more strict regulations to short-term rentals in the city, and San Franciscans are not amused by these ads. By “not amused” I mean “too broke to do anything about it except make funny pissed-off memes.”

We found these on Twitter via @loudgayamerica (full disclosure: he is also a Muni Diaries Live storyteller).

airbnb muni ad spoof 4

air bnb muni ad spoof 2

air bnb muni ad spoof 1

Here’s what’s probably actually happening at Airbnb HQ:

air bnb muni ad spoof 3

A lesson to ad agencies everywhere: Never make fun of librarians or Muni riders. We’ll update you when we have more information about when the ads might be removed.

SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose said that Clear Channel, who manages the ad space, received a request to remove the ads and that they would be removed Friday or Saturday.


  • Gary Bogue

    Here in Rochester (NY) our conservative bus company sells ad space on the OUTSIDE of transit buses to car dealers. Not only does this make the buses amazingly ugly and difficult to see out of at night, but the ads typically suggest that if you buy one of their vehicles, you will no longer need to ride the “loser cruiser.” Nice.

  • Dexter Wong

    And they wonder why Airbnb is disliked as a company?

  • Barbara

    Dear AirBnB,
    Please pay your many years worth of back taxes. You know, the one’s you avoided so obstinately and disruptively. Thanks.
    SF Citizens

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