Airbnb waives fees in Sandy-affected areas, car-sharing site Uber ups fees amid high demand

Two tech startups — one that pairs travelers with hosts and another that pairs drivers with people who need rides — have found diverging ways to deal with demand for their services in aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.

Airbnb, the online home rental service, is waiving fees for the more than 20,000 listings it has in areas affected by Superstorm Sandy. The San-Francisco-based startup said late Wednesday that it will forgo fees it charges for both hosts and travelers booking from Oct. 31 to Nov. 7 in New York City, the Hamptons region of Long Island, New York, Providence, R.I., and Atlantic City, N.J. Length of stay must be seven nights or fewer.

"If you're an existing host in an affected area and can help, please consider lowering your price. You can do this in your account settings," the company said in an email to users. "If you are in a position to share space, please consider listing your space so others might find you."

People use Airbnb to rent their homes, rooms, cottages and farmhouses to travelers looking for alternatives to hotels. The company makes money from the fees it charges.

Uber, meanwhile, faced criticism on Twitter after instituting what it calls "surge pricing" in the aftermath of Sandy. The company, which pairs drivers with riders, said in a blog post that "raising the price is the only sustainable way to maximize the number of rides and minimize the number of people stranded."

Doubling drivers' fares, Uber wrote, "tripled the number of cars on the road and kept them out there far longer." Faced with a backlash, the San Francisco-based startup paid $100,000 to drivers in additional fees on Wednesday, rather than raise prices on customers.

As a result of the company's payout, customers were "mostly able to avoid higher prices the day after Sandy," the blog post said.

The company's good will gesture, it said, couldn't continue indefinitely "without breaking the bank." By late Thursday morning, Uber said it would go back to its regular surge pricing, which it has instituted in the past during high-demand times such as New Year's Eve.





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