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Scroll down for notes from the WayOut experience. If we don't study ourselves, we get studied. Often, with a lot of misunderstanding and misrepresentation. We're side launching a community ethnographic endeavor-- out of the ivory tower and into the grassroots. The snapshots below are excerpts from written and audio field notes. Join the research. Not as subjects, but as intellectuals. Post your reactions, insights, analysis and similar experiences.
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"I’m worried about listing it on AirBnB."
After we walked around the land, the owner showed us a beautiful little tiny one room cabin. In addition to the rv hookups and rustic sites for tent and car campers, she wanted shelters for people who need a little luxury to consider camping in the woods. The little cabin has a small bathroom with a flush toilet and shower as well as wall mounted tv. I told her it was lovely and asked if it was a nice draw to her campground. She paused in her response and said “I’m worried about listing it on Air BnB.” She had heard from other landowners that some listing services err on the side of the renter without investigating and that you could easily be required to give a full refund for minor issues. She shared a concern about people coming to stay there and the potential they would leave a negative review because they found a bug or something minor she didn’t yet know about because she was just starting out. She couldn’t risk reviews written in bad faith and full refunds.
While we laughed at the absurdity of someone being upset by a bug in a tiny cabin in the middle of the woods, she wasn’t the only landowner that held the concern of graceless reviews with us. They all felt comforted knowing that the WayOut Railroad would be a community where they could trust that a member would not sweat the small stuff and would at least give them a chance to fix unexpected mishaps that are bound to occur. Capitalism is built on prioritizing the value of money over the value of relationships. For small business owners just starting out this can leave them in a difficult place. For Black small business owners, stereotypes and bias due to race adds another unfair disadvantage as people are less likely to give those they do not relate to, the grace we all deserve. As such, after talking with landowners, WayOut Railroad has a “Business is Personal" policy. We ask our members to talk to their hosts, give them a chance to fix real issues before formally complaining, and put grace, relationships, and care for people back into the heart of business. For many of us, business is indeed personal and that's good for community.
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