Willis’ tweets about his after-hours predicament were retweeted by more than 7,000 people, some of the natural target audience for the international accommodation-sharing business.
The Airbnb team encouraged Waterstones to use the blunder to its advantage by hosting a sleepover for people who would love to spend a night in a bookshop.
It fitted perfectly with the US company’s latest initiative, Night At …, which aims to unlock places around the world where it has never previously been possible to stay.
Waterstones launched a competition through Airbnb that gave ten lucky bookworms free rein to wander around its giant Piccadilly store in London before falling asleep inside – on condition that they would be released in the morning.
What is more, Weetabix, Innocent Smoothies, Teapigs and Graze joined in the fun by providing a midnight feast and breakfast the following day.
This left Waterstones off the hook and Airbnb benefitting from extensive media coverage of its quirky initiative.