I read the referenced NY Times article and I am much less inscensed. Perhaps another word would have served but in the context of the article which was clearly an attack of individual owner/renters it was not a bad choice. The article strongly suggests a professionally managed property would be a safer choice and inferred the only benifit to renting directly from an owner would be a cost savings.
It's sad to say but some owners deserve to be maligned. I recently rented a VRBO property that was far less than perfect. We got locked out of bedrooms by locks the owner knew were broken, the liviing room DVD was broken and he "forgot" to fix it. His best suggestion was the 8 of us should go watch the TV in the bedroom. The refrigerator was fully stocked with half empty bottles of this and that and each kitchen cabinet was stuffed to the point of being a booby-trap. Post it notes were stuck to everything, the small bathroom counter was covered with expired bottles of foot cream. The Ritz it was not. But oddly enough the place worked for us despite all it's shortcomings. I gave the place a carefully worded review. But, if we had hit that final straw, and it was close at times, I would have justifiably torn him a new one.
In other words he would have been maligned but not unfairly maligned. The review would have stuck like glue. Some owners might claim it unfair but as a user of the site who sent money on trust to a guy who needs to either change his ways or get out of the business, well let's just say this fellow is not doing the majority of owner/renters any favors.
Reading the original post I started thinking about newspaper advertising and customers. It is the advertisers in the paper who carry the financial burden. The subscription or newstand price is a mere token in comparrison. Who is the customer in that respect? It would be a very foolish editor that would suggest the reader was not the customer. That VRBO HA users get the services free doesn't change that perspective in my opinion.
In closing I will say I am not the fan of VRBO I once was, I was drawn to the post because I expected it to add fuel to my fire. I think managment has lost clear vision and has been spending resources looking for profits on features that will ultimatly cost them more in the end. It's inevitable since VRBO has started thumbing it's nose at the little guy who was originally thier only and best friend that another player (hopefully one with the integrity to not sell out) is going to jump into the market and walk away with those of us who've had enough.