Archives March 2020

How to grow stronger in the midst of COVID-19

If you’re like most of the globe right now, your world has probably shifted for the most part to online video calls from inside the safety of your home. As we all battle the infamous COVID-19, more and more countries and states are issuing stricter and stricter lockdown measures to try to combat the spread of the virus.

I and my family are no different. Everything we do regularly has either been cancelled or gone virtual. This includes my ESL (English as a Second Language) class, which I now meet with twice a week from the comfort of my own living room.

Every time we have met for the past 2 weeks, I’ve made a point to ask a simple question: what’s something good that’s happened to you since we saw each other last?

At first many of them said that nothing good had happened to them. They were stuck inside, with nothing to do, sometimes without a job, etc. I don’t need to elaborate anymore. We all know the havoc this virus has wrecked on everyone’s lives.

But I continued asking the question, and will continue to do so until we meet again in person. There are only 2 rules: everyone has to answer, and no one can say “nothing.”

Why am I doing this?

Simple. Right now the world looks bleak. It’s easy to focus on the negative, even if you’re a naturally positive person.

But there are still good things happening in the world. There are still good things happening to you.

Some of the answers that have come up on my calls with my students have been things like:

  • Helped my uncle pick out furniture for his phone
  • Baked bread today for the first time
  • Cut my husband’s hair (badly)
  • Worked on a home improvement project
  • My son got accepted into a good daycare
  • Played yard games in the backyard
  • Went for a walk
  • Finished a puzzle
  • Got my first sprouts in my new vegetable garden

Most of these things are small, insignificant things. But they are important to name because they help us to focus on the right things.

If we only focus on the bad we’re all going to go crazy before this thing is over. We’ve got to be intentional, now more than ever, about intentionally seeking out good.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not minimizing the horror of the corona virus. I know things look awful. I can personally attest to this.

I’ve lost thousands of dollars of business within just a few days. I have family members who are completely out of work. I lost a family member and was unable to hold a funeral for him. Trust me, I really do get it.

But there are also bright spots. If nothing else, you are still alive, which thousands of people no longer are because of COVID-19.

So I challenge you this week, to do one of the hardest things you might have had to do in a long time: be happy. Be positive and persistent. Be optimistic and creative. I promise you…this too will pass. And I hope on the other side, you will be stronger than ever. But that strength starts now.

Looking for more things to do while under lockdown? Check out this list that USA Today has put together of 100 activities to keep you occupied while you’re stuck inside!

A hard-earned lesson about Airbnb’s claim center

I recently learned a lesson the hard way about navigating Airbnb’s claims center. 

Airbnb’s Terms Of Service require that you submit any damage claims to them within 14 days of a guests’ checkout, or before the next guest checks in, whichever is greater. I’ve known this for a long time. If you’ve ever filed a single reimbursement claim through Airbnb this is one of the first things you’ll learn. 

However, what I didn’t know is how Airbnb calculates “time of check-in.” 

As I mentioned in last week’s blog, I recently had an emergency garbage disposal that had to be, well, disposed of (pun intended). Since it was a same-day check-in, I had to get things done as quickly as possible. 

I had reached out to the guest arriving that day, asking when she planned on getting there. She said between 5:00-6:00 pm. Great. That would give the plumber a little more time past the 4:00 pm check-in time to get things done. He wrapped up and gave me an invoice, which I promptly submitted to Airbnb for a damage reimbursement claim. 

The claim was submitted at 4:15 pm. 

A few days later, I got an email from the Airbnb case manager: “we’re sorry, but our TOS require that you submit a claim before the next guest checks in to be eligible for a damage reimbursement. Since your guest checked in at 4:00 pm, and you submitted this at 4:15 pm, you’re not eligible, yada yada yada.” 

What…the…heck. 

I was so angry. Despite the guest stating in writing in Airbnb that she wasn’t checking in until 5:00 or 6:00, and despite me sending screenshots of the smart lock and outside video camera showing her arrival time, the case manager wasn’t budging. 

I mean, I guess in a way I get it. Airbnb isn’t responsible for the success of their individual hosts; only for the success of them as a company. Like any insurance company, it’s in their best interest to deny claims whenever possible. 

Eventually, I was able to escalate my case and get the claim approved. But through the process I learned 2 important lessons. 

First, if at all possible, always submit your damage claims before your posted check-in time on the day a guest checks in – even if the guest has told you they won’t be checking in until later. 

It will just make your case so much easier to win if you don’t have to argue about when the damage was reported, who’s responsible for it, etc. 

Second, if you do for whatever reason have to submit the claim after your posted check-in time, go overboard on the time-based evidence to prove that it was still before the guest actually checked in. Send screenshots of smart locks, cameras, and whatever else you might have installed that will help your case. Make a note in the case file that you can submit more evidence as needed. Make it as difficult as possible for Airbnb to reasonably claim that you have not complied with their TOS. 

In my case, I even quoted the TOS back to my case manager, showing them that the Terms Of Service explicitly say that I must file a claim before the next guest checks in…not before my next check-in time. 

Although I was eventually successful, it took hours of talking with various case reps and is not a situation I ever want to be in again.

I’m grateful that my lesson was learned on a relatively small case – I’d much rather potentially lose a $300 claim than a $3,000 one! 

So many hosts these days complain about how Airbnb is so not helpful to them in their hosting businesses because of X, Y, or Z. What those hosts have forgotten is that they are not business partners with Airbnb. Airbnb has their own best interests at heart – and they’re not always the same as yours. 

Don’t be insulted or upset by this. Accept it as a fact of life and learn to play by their rules. Either that or close down shop and go do something else.

The one thing as an Airbnb host that you need to make crystal clear to your property owners

I recently had a cohosting situation that put into stark reality the importance of making expectations crystal clear. Let me explain what happened and a few important lessons I learned from it… 

I got a call from the cleaner on a Saturday morning, right after a guest had checked out. She said that the garbage disposal was broken and was backing up into the sink and smelling up the whole kitchen. Of course, we had a guest checking in later that afternoon (isn’t that always when problems happen?) 

I have been hired by my clients to take care of problems as often as possible.

So I made a judgement call and took care of it. I found a plumber who could do an emergency replacement that very day. He went, got it fixed, and the next guest checked in without being any bit the wiser. The total cost, including the cost of the new garbage disposal, was about $300. 

Later, I told my property manager, saying something like this: “hey, we had an emergency this weekend. I took care of it and filed a claim, but just in case the claim gets denied, it’ll cost about $300. FYI.”  (but of course, I said it a bit more tactfully than that)

She was not pleased. 

From her perspective, nothing matters more than the bottom line, and she was understandably upset that I had made a decision which could potentially cost her $300. But from my perspective, the top priority is our guests’ satisfaction, and if it costs a little bit of money to achieve that goal, it’s worth spending. Plus, in this case, it wasn’t really something that could have waited…you’ve got to have a working sink if you’re going to advertise a kitchen! 

This brought up an important conflict of interest that I think is always going to eventually rear its head in a cohosting situation. 

As a property manager, your priorities are going to be different from the homeowners’. 

So you need to make crystal clear when you start working with them what the expectations are. 

How much money do they need to make every month?

How much in the way of maintenance do they want you to handle without consulting them?

How much money are you authorized to spend in a month without getting their permission?

I know it’s awkward to talk about some of these things. But you’ve got to be upfront from the get-go. If not, you’re just going to get yourself in trouble and frustrate your homeowner. You won’t be able to keep your clients very long if you’re not clear on what their needs and expectations are. 

But the flip side is also true. You need to be very clear with your clients about what your expectations are. 

In my case, I had to be very upfront with the homeowner: I won’t manage a place that’s not kept up. If it’s at all in my power, I’m not going to let a guest stay in a place that doesn’t have a working sink (or toilet, stove, fridge, whatever). Those are my standards of hosting; if they do not want to comply with those standards then it is better that we don’t work together. 

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not being flippant. I know that being this upfront and direct is incredibly hard for some people. But the fact of the matter is, it’s a requirement for being a cohost. If you can’t do that, then you probably shouldn’t be in this business.