Archives April 2018

Writing reviews as a traveler

 

 

I hope my story last week doesn’t dissuade you from leaving honest reviews of your hosts when you travel. 

The simple fact is that, without reviews of both hosts and guests, Airbnb would cease to exist. Without reliable outside commentary, no one would trust each other enough to use Airbnb. 

So helpful, detailed reviews are critically important. 

When I leave reviews, particularly as a traveler, there are 2 things I think about. 

First, how was MY stay? Was the space clean, what’s the surrounding area like, how are the amenities, and so on. 

Second, I try to think of what potential pitfalls OTHER travelers might have. 

Are there stairs or a steeply inclined driveway? That would be good for people with mobility issues to know. Is there not a TV in the space? You may not care about that, but for some that would be a deal-breaker. Is it near a major highway? The noise from the cars could be very disruptive to light sleepers. 

I’m not encouraging you to nit-pick. Certainly make it clear that these were not issues for you during your stay. But the more people know, the more easily they can make an informed decision about their specific needs. 

This is better for everyone.

Informed guests are happy guests; happy guests leave good reviews; good reviews make happy hosts.

We all win. 

Tuesday Tip: Confront conflict

 

 

Clear house rules are important. But it’s naive to think that your rules, no matter how detailed, will cover every possible scenario. (I never ever would have thought to create a rule about no plaster heads in the oven!)

Eventually, issues are going to come up. 

That’s more or less inevitable. The key thing is how you handle them.

Most people don’t like conflict. Thus, when issues arise that they aren’t happy with, often their default behavior is to avoid the issue until it becomes unavoidable. By that point, they’re completely fed up and the other person has gotten comfortable doing the offending behavior. It’s a lose-lose situation for everyone involved. 

A far better approach is to address issues as they arrive. 

Sure, it will probably make you uncomfortable. But a little bit of discomfort now is much better than a lot of it later, wouldn’t you say? 

What NOT to do with a review you don’t like

 

 

I recently had a brief stay in a lovely Airbnb suite. 

It was a great stay. Comfortable, convenient, and thoughtful, it was obvious that the host had put great care into his space. In my 5-star review, I used words like “perfect,” “amazing,” and “would definitely stay again.” 

But there were also a few things that I felt like I should make other guests aware of.

Not that there was anything wrong, and it didn’t affect the quality of my stay, but I just wanted future guests to know so that they could make an informed decision about booking. 

The day after my review was published, I got a long message from the host. He apparently had gotten very upset with my review, and felt a need to defend himself to me. He laid out all of his reasons for doing things the way he does, saying that I was hurting his business by saying the things I did, yada yada yada. 

Y’all. Don’t be like that guy. 

The review process is a vital component of what makes Airbnb work.

Some guests will just say a word or two. Some will say things that sound like they loved the place but only give you 3 stars. And some, like myself, try to give reviews that give future guests more information about the place that the listing might not have. You have to live with all types. 

Don’t be an overly sensitive host. If someone says something in a review that’s inaccurate or misleading, you always have the right to post a comment below it explaining further. If it’s a flat-out lie, you can even call Airbnb and try to get the review removed. 

There are other much more professional ways to handle reviews you don’t like than messaging the guest after they’ve left to explain all the reasons their review was unacceptable.

In my case, this left a bad aftertaste from a stay that was really quite lovely. I was planning on returning there whenever I was in the area, but now I’m not so sure. His need to defend himself has probably cost him much more business than it saved him. Hopefully his story can keep us from making the same mistake in the future!

Tuesday Tip: Clear house rules

 

 

We’ve got a guest staying with us right now who’s here for an internship in special effects makeup and design. Her project while she’s here is basically to design and create a model alien. 

You can’t imagine the mess it’s been causing. 

There are knives and clippings all over her bedroom floor. The back porch is covered with foam bits from when she decided to dremel her model one evening. We’ve had plaster heads in the oven, and silicon masks in the shower. 

Hosting her has indeed been quite an adventure. And personally, I don’t mind the mess. But if such goings-on will bother you, make sure you make that very clear in your house rules! If you’ve made it clear from the beginning that such behavior is not allowed, it will be much easier to address a violation later on. 

Coming to terms with not knowing

 

 

I’ve had so many guests stay with me whose schedules I knew absolutely nothing about. 

Or perhaps I knew their schedule while here, but I didn’t know where they were coming from, how they were getting around, etc. 

The point is, it’s important as a host to not expect guests to fill you in on every detail of their coming and going. You can still give them a great experience without knowing all the details. 

Most guests won’t fill you in on many details of their trip. But it’s not because they’re being rude or disrespectful.

Try to look at it from their perspective. If you were checking into a hotel, would you expect to have to tell the front desk why you were in town, where you came from, how you arrived, etc? Of course not. You pay your money, get your key, and go to your room. 

In many ways Airbnb is far more personal than staying in a hotel. That’s what so many people like about using it. However, at the end of the day you’re still providing lodging to travelers, just like hotels. And when it comes to filling you in on the details of their trip, many guests will not see a need to keep you informed any more than they do in hotels.

So just go with the flow. Don’t take it personally. 

Now, if there is something you need to know, make sure to ask. For example, perhaps you’re planning on meeting them when they arrive to give them their key and show them around. In that case, you would definitely need to know when they’re getting in!

But if it’s not pertinent information, just learn to accept not knowing. It’s challenging sometimes. I’ve had plenty of guests where I’m constantly thinking “what the heck are you doing here??” 

I’ve finally come to terms with not knowing. If they want to tell me, they will. If not, I’m going to enjoy the time I have with them regardless! 

Tuesday Tip: Backup keys

 

Personally, I don’t like giving guests keys at all. I prefer codes that can be changed once they’ve left.

However, if you are going to go with keys, last week’s Tuesday Tip is a great example of what can go awry if you’re not careful.

Even the most organized of hosts can make mistakes.

And that’s not even taking into consideration guests, who always have the potential to lose whatever you’ve given them.

So you should always always ALWAYS have a spare key hidden somewhere near the property entrance. If your guest has problems getting in for whatever reason and you’re not around, just point them to the spare. Crisis averted!

Hosting friends vs. guests

 

 

There’s a conversation I had last year that has stuck with me as if it were yesterday.

I was staying in an Airbnb space in Nashville, TN. The hosts were friendly and talkative to the point of being slightly annoying. For some reason, the wife felt a need to tell me all about her philosophy on every aspect of the hosting experience. 

It was the bit about the dishes that really struck me. 

She told me a brief anecdote about a guest who had accidentally broken one of their glass cups. She summed it up with a sentence that started with “and that’s when I learned…”

Mentally, I had already finished the sentence for her. I was sure she was going to say “and that’s when I learned not to stress the small stuff,” or something along those lines. 

I was wrong.

In reality, what she said was “and that’s when I learned to give guests plastic cups.” 

She seemed so proud of this revelation, but it really irked me. 

So many people host just for the money. And you can tell. When their heart isn’t in it, you’re paying for a bed to sleep in. When they are actually eager to invite you into their home, you’re getting a new friend. 

This is how I look at my guests who come into my home. I would never ask a friend to use a plastic cup while I used a glass one; so why would I do that to a guest? 

It will perhaps cost you slightly more money in the long run to take this philosophy. But in my experience, it pays for itself many times over in connections, stories, and newly forged friendships. 

And if replacing whatever they’ve broken really bothers you, just ask them to pay to replace it! 

Tuesday Tip: Keys

 

 

I recently stayed in an Airbnb place in Pennsylvania.

After I checked in, I decided to head out for the afternoon, and the host made sure to give me a key to the house before I left.

Except there was a problem: she gave me the wrong key!

I didn’t find this out until I returned back that evening. The house was dark and empty, and I was stuck out in the cold with a key to who knows what. 

So as a host, if you’re going to give your guests physical keys, make sure that you have multiple copies of your keys made for guests. Labelling them is also a good idea, to avoid any confusion.

You don’t want to leave your guests out in the cold – either literally or figuratively :).