Source Airbnb
Source Airbnb
  • A South African family had their Christmas presents cleaned out in a house robbery while holidaying at Niagara Falls on the border of Canada and the USA.
  • The Mpofu family's experience turned into a cautionary tale about securing your stuff while staying in an Airbnb.
  • The incident didn't put in a dent in their Christmas spirit, though.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

The Mpofu family arrived at their Airbnb at Niagara Falls, on the border of Canada and the USA, dropped their luggage, and went out to dinner. When they returned, their luggage was gone – including all their Christmas presents, and one family member's insulin – and they quickly became a cautionary tale about security and rented accommodation.

"Stay cautious", warned a headline in USA Today. "Airbnb has been under pressure to improve safety and security at rental units," reported the Washington Post.

The family is spread across South Africa and Canada, and had organised a reunion at the famous North American landmark, using a common method to arrange accommodation for a large, close-knit group: an Airbnb booking.

But they found themselves staying at a traditional hotel instead, before the South African contingent cut short their stay, after declining the offer to use an alternative Airbnb unit from the same host.

While they were out at dinner, it seems, someone entered a side door to the basement of their unit, which had been unlocked, and entered the main housing section using a door to the basement that was also unlocked.

All the family's luggage, except for their well-hidden passports, disappeared, including wrapped presents and the rental unit's TV.

Though the holiday had turned into a "nightmare", the family did not "let this take the joy away from celebrating Christmas together as a family", said family member Sandra Mpofu in a Facebook post.

"I hope this brings light to anyone using Airbnb to secure your belongings and stay cautious whilst travelling," she said.

Airbnb said it had provided a full refund for the accommodation, and was "assisting with their stolen property".

Airbnb has faced a range of scandals and regulatory pressures in 2019, with South Africa intending limits on the platform to protect traditional hotels, reports that the company chose growth over the security of its users, and the revelation that hosts gossiped about guests – and shared footage of guests captured by hidden cameras.

Watch the report on the Mpofu family's experience from the WIVB-TV station in New York state:

(Compiled by Phillip de Wet)

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