When the customer is not always right

You know the old saying, the customer is always right?

I’m a firm believer that that is not always true. In fact, sometimes it’s patently false. 

Case in point. 

I had a guest check in last week. Arrived without any problems, everything seemed hunky-dory. 

Then I get a text from him asking to raise the heat. Ok, no problem, he could have done it himself, but I also have remote access, so I raise it to 76 for him. 

A few minutes later he messages again. “Can you turn it up to 85?” 

“Are you sure?” I asked him. “85 is really hot.” He insisted that he was sure. So I raised it to 85. 

About an hour later, I got another message from him. “We’re still cold,” he said. “Can you raise it to 92?”

Are you kidding me?? No one in their right minds needs the thermostat set to 92 degrees. Something about this was starting to sound really weird to me. So I politely told him that, unfortunately, we were already outside the window we normally allow guests to set the temperature, so I wouldn’t be raising the central heat any more. However, if he was still cold we had plenty of blankets and space heaters he could use. 

Then I went to sleep. Around midnight I got another text from him. “Hey it’s really hot. Could you lower the temperature?” 

Well, gee. No surprise there. What did you expect when you wanted the temperature to be in the nineties?? 

This story illustrates an important aspect of hosting in my mind. 

Customer service is, of course, a critically important aspect of this business. But good customer service doesn’t always mean kowtowing to a guest’s every whim.

Sometimes people don’t know what they want until you show it to them. And sometimes what they think they want isn’t really what they want. 

As the professional, it’s your job to draw the line on what’s acceptable and what isn’t acceptable with your guests. It’s your job to decide what requests you will accept and what you will deny. And if you decide to accept the request, it’s your job to do it with a good attitude. If you didn’t want to do it you should not have said yes. I’m so tired of hosts saying yes to a nitpicky guest’s every whim and then complaining about it online! 

Remember that you are the businessperson here. You get to decide what’s ok and what’s not ok. And once you’ve decided, stick with it. Don’t let someone bully you into doing something you don’t want to do. You may find out, in the end, it wasn’t actually what they wanted, either ;).

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.

Supply and demand is great…until it makes you greedy

A year ago, Atlanta was in the throes of Super Bowl madness. They hosted the Superbowl in 2019, and no one could have predicted what that would do to the short-term rental market.

All the experts said that the influx of people coming into the city was supposed to be enormous, on a scale rarely if ever seen in recent memory. In anticipation of this, thousands of new hosts put their space up on Airbnb, hoping to get a piece of the pie. Existing hosts jacked their prices up to exorbitant levels. They created all sorts of special packages and deals to entice fans to pay thousands of dollars to stay with them. It was going to be the biggest moneymaking weekend of the year for every host in the city. 

But then the wrong teams made it to the Super Bowl.

Rather than the teams with the rabid fan base and relatively close home town, the actual teams that made it to the Superbowl were either coming from very far away, or they had made it to the Superbowl so many times that it wasn’t that exciting for the fans anymore. 

As a result, the number of people who converged on the city was wayyyyy less than expected. 

Between the glut of new listings and the huge hike in many people’s rates, many, many homes were vacant that weekend. Hosts lost out on thousands of dollars of potential revenue that weekend. And in fact, the damage continued well past that weekend, as the market took many months to recover from the onslaught of new listings in such a short amount of time. 

So what’s my point?

My point is to not be greedy when it comes to making extra money on popular weekends. 

Yes, you should increase your prices according to demand. That’s one of the reasons I recommend using a dynamic pricing tool like Wheelhouse – it adjusts everything for you so that you don’t have to.

But if you’re greedy, there’s a high probability that you’re going to miss out. 

These days there is too much supply, too many other alternatives. People simply aren’t going to book with you if you increase your rates 10x what they normally are, no matter how many people are expected to come into the city that weekend. 

Plus it’s just plain unethical.

Would you rather make a lot more money than you normally would, or try to scalp some poor guest by charging exorbitant rates that no one should ever have to pay? Even if someone does book, there’s just something unethical about that to me. 

Plus I’m very risk-averse, and I’d much rather a guaranteed payout that’s larger than normal, than the possibility of an even bigger one that also has a chance of no payout at all. 

For most people hosting on Airbnb these days, it is a business for them (or at the very least a lucrative side hustle).

I’m not suggesting that you ignore that and just give your space away for pennies on the dollar of what it’s worth. 

But I am asking you to be reasonable. Charge what you would reasonably expect to pay if the tables were turned. Don’t charge an arm and a leg for someone to have the privilege of not sleeping in their car for the weekend. In the end, it’s better for both of you – they’re charged reasonable fees, and you actually get booked!

Three common short-term rental scams

As a short-term rental host, you’ve got a fine line to walk.

On the one hand, you want to do your best to give your guests a good experience – which may sometimes include compensating them when you or your cleaner legitimately messes up.

On the other hand, you are running a business and can’t be expected to give away all of your profits.

As Airbnb and other sites like it have gotten more legitimate and established, so have the scammers. People who aren’t looking to pay honestly for a stay, but want to get a free ride any way they can.

So how can you tell the difference?

Here are 3 common scams I’ve seen – and what to do about them.

Cashier’s check

This is one of the most common short-term rental scams going around right now. If you see someone ask to pay with a cashier’s check instead of through the booking site, for any reason, IT’S A SCAM. Do NOT accept them. Period, full stop.

It’s very easy to forge a cashier’s check, but it often takes weeks to bounce back from the bank, which means by the time you realize it was a fake and the banks takes that money back, your scamming guests will be long gone with a free stay under their belt.

Unclean listing

These short-term rental scams can take a myriad of forms. A guest might say they saw a roach, mold, unwashed towels, socks in the bedding, etc. Sometimes they’re telling the truth. But often they are not, or they’re nit-picking and looking for tiny little issues in order to get a free night.

If this happens, simply ask as professionally as you can for a picture of their claim. You can blame it on your cleaner if you want – “I just need to have a picture to show my cleaner when I talk to her to address the issues you brought up with this cleaning.”

If they can’t produce a picture, it’s a scam. If they wait until the last day of their stay to complain, it’s probably also a scam. You might want to include a caveat in your listing that refunds due to cleanliness issues are only given if reported within 24 hours of checking in.

Urgent cancellation

People come up with all sorts of reasons they might need to cancel. They booked the wrong location by mistake. Their flight was delayed. Death in the family. Someone else in their party had already booked a space for them. The list is seemingly endless.

You’ll get asked all the time to be flexible on your cancellation policy because of these extenuating or unforeseen circumstances. The most pragmatic thing to do would be to take the stance that lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part. This means that you stick to your cancellation policy – always. If they cancel 12 hours before check-in they won’t get a full refund, regardless of their story.

However, I also know that some people are very uncomfortable taking this hard line, especially when the guests are claiming something like a death in the family happened. If you’re open to giving a partial refund because of something like that, definitely ask for some sort of proof before you hand over the money! Scammers know that pulling on people’s heartstrings is the easiest way to get what they want.

Although those are some of the most common scams you’ll see, it is by no means an exhaustive list. Be sure to approach all guest requests for refunds with a fair amount of skepticism. Sometimes a refund is totally warranted – I myself just refunded a guest nearly $200 only a couple days ago. But often it’s just someone trying to pull one over on you. Make sure to ask lots of questions and require evidence of some sort to back up their claims before you go along with their request.

What are some other scams you’ve seen? Let me know in the comments!

Your first job as a host

I’m a member of a lot of groups for hosts on Facebook. Many of them are very helpful, offering lots of great tips and strategies for more successful hosting. However, there’s also a common thread among them that is not as helpful: complaining.

Oh my word. Some of these hosts complain like you wouldn’t believe.

Their guests had the nerve to use the provided kitchen. Guests didn’t strip the beds. Brought a friend over without telling them. Had kids who scribbled in the guest book.

Seriously, some of these complaints are so trivial.

When I see hosts talking like this I want to shake them and ask them why they got into this business in the first place.

This is first a foremost a hospitality industry. Your job is to make your guests happy.

This means that your job is also to be understanding of guests’ needs and mentality while on vacation.

People on vacation aren’t going to want to strip the beds. That’s why they pay a cleaning fee. Many people book short-term rentals instead of hotels specifically for the express purpose of having a kitchen available to save on food costs…how can you expect them to not use it? And anyone who’s ever been around kids knows that even the best-behaved of them will get into the crayon box and write on something they shouldn’t at some point in their lives.

Webster’s defines hospitality as “the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.”

Working in the hospitality industry, while perhaps slightly different because there is still an end goal of profit, should have more or less the same vision.

That means no charging people for extra electricity usage or other stupid charges like that.

It means graciously providing if someone wants extra towels.

Writing off small damages such as stained face towels as a cost of doing business.

Being proactive about inquiring towards and providing for the guests’ needs.

Tools like TurnoverBNB, Your Porter, August Locks, Wheelhouse, and more are all geared towards making managing short-term rentals easier and more streamlined. These sorts of apps have made a business out of making hosts’ lives easier.

But have we as hosts forgotten that our jobs are essentially to make our guests’ lives easier?

Don’t forget that. It’s the heart of this business. And without it, you’re going to get frustrated and burned out in a hurry.

How to stay motivated when you want to quit

If you’ve been hosting for any amount of time, you’ve probably experienced a period when you wanted to quit.

Whether it’s a nightmare party, needy guest, or just a day you don’t want to clean, it’s impossible to work in this industry without getting tired and worn out sometimes.

Personally, I love hosting. I host parties in my home 2 or 3 times a month, and I have Airbnb guests staying with me probably at least half of the year, every year. But even I have days when I want to throw in the towel.

I’ve found a simple trick to help keep me going.

I put a guestbook in the rooms for people to sign.

It’s not compulsory, and many people don’t write anything in it. But the ones who do…those messages warm my heart every time I read them. They’re full of heartfelt thank-yous, reminiscences of great memories, and exclamation points. So many exclamation points.

This guest book has become a great solace to me on those days when I want to dive into a hole and just give up.

I’ll curl up on my couch with a big fuzzy blanket and just read the thank yous from all the wonderful people who have stayed in our home. And it refreshes and encourages me like you wouldn’t believe.

If you don’t already have a guestbook in your Airbnb spaces, I encourage you to get one today. A simple lined travel journal will suffice.

What tips do you have to help you stay motivated when you want to quit? Let me know in the comments!

Stupidity is overcome-able

Last week I got a text from a guest that said, “you have a hole in your kitchen wall.”

Let me tell you what, that got my attention!

I immediately asked her where the hole was; she responded with “behind the dishwasher.” This made me a little confused. “You can’t see behind the dishwasher,” I told her. “How can you see the hole?”

This was her response. “Well I can’t see it, but I know it’s there. I left out a box of donuts last night and now it’s covered in ants, so there must be a hole for them to get in.”


It took everything in me not to laugh in her face.

Of course if you leave donuts out ants are going to find them! Houses are never completely airtight; just because you see ants doesn’t mean there is a hole in the wall. 

But it’s becoming increasingly common these days to deal with guest who seem to have lost all of their common sense. I’ve heard all sorts of stories. Guests who arrive at the completely wrong house and then complain that it wasn’t cleaned. Guests who can’t figure out how to handle a driveway and so drive across the lawn instead. Guests who can’t figure out how to unlock the door – or who lock themselves out of the house completely. 

Seriously, where have all of these travelers’ brains gone?

I jest somewhat, but in all honesty, you’re going to encounter people like this. If you haven’t already, I promise you they’re coming. How do you handle this with grace and professionalism when it happens?

If a simple thing will make the guest happy, just do that. If they’re complaining about ants because they left their donuts on the counter, just drop off a can of ant spray for them if you can. Little things like that can go a long way. 

However, I know that it’s not always going to be feasible to directly address a guest’s needs – especially if they are particularly needy.

In cases like this, it’s important to still be courteous and kind.

Tell them honestly but tactfully why you can’t help them out. Offer them a small refund on their stay if that’s appropriate and you feel comfortable doing so.

Many people aren’t looking so much for someone to solve all of their problems; they just want to feel like someone is listening to their problems.

So make them feel heard – no matter how ridiculous their complaints seem to you.

I promise you, this will go a long way. Some of the best reviews I’ve gotten have been from people who have had lots of problems during their stay. Although they had problems, I did my best to address their concerns while they were here, and that made them really happy. 

People really aren’t as complicated as some of us make them out to be. Problems really aren’t the end of the world. Stupidity is overcome-able. Just take a deep breath, choose your words carefully, and remember that we all have our dumb moments ;). It’s not the end of the world.  

Have you had a ridiculous interaction with a guest? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

What your top priority should be

They say all good things must come to an end. 

I’ve certainly been feeling that recently. 

I’ve been working with the same cleaner on all of my properties for over a year now. She was dependable, honest, hard-working, and a fantastic cleaner. She was, admittedly, not fantastic in the communication department, but she always got the job done, so I didn’t worry too much about that. 

But over that last few weeks, something has changed. Her work has gotten sloppier and lazier, while at the same time her communication has also tanked. She’s become erratic and unreliable. After several missed cleanings and hugely unprofessional messages, I finally came to the difficult decision of letting her go. 

This was so hard for me – for several reasons. For one, she really did great work, and was one of the cheapest cleaners around (too cheap, in fact – I kept telling her she needed to raise her rates). I also genuinely liked her as a person and wanted to see her succeed. 

But in the end, the drama proved too much for me, and I had to move on to other cleaners.

I’m going to come right out and say it. Finding a good cleaner should be your absolute top priority.

I’ve learned 2 important lessons from this unhappy saga. 

First, finding a good cleaner is priceless. They’re worth their weight in gold. If you have found one of those, you need to do everything you can to keep them happy and make them feel appreciated. Pay them promptly. Give them occasional unexpected bonuses. Text them periodically just to say that you appreciate their work. Don’t make unreasonable expectations of them. Be willing to block off time on your properties to allow them to get the job done the next day if they need it. Be mindful that they have a life outside of cleaning, and respect that. 

Some people might struggle with going above and beyond for their cleaners. They feel like these tactics will lose them money and don’t necessarily see the point. 

I promise you, in the long run you’ll lose much more money (and sanity!) with an unhappy cleaner. There will always be more guests and more bookings. Finding a good cleaner is hard, because they are few and far between. If you’ve got one you need to do everything you can to hang onto them. 

The other important lesson that I learned is that if something is not working for you, you need to change it ASAP.

In my situation, as in most, that meant first talking with my cleaner and seeing if we could sort out our differences. But if that doesn’t work, you need to do whatever you can to get into a better place. Don’t hold onto things you’ve done or people you’ve worked with in the past just because they used to work well. If they’re not working well now, if they’re causing you unnecessary stress and drama, you need to cut them loose and find something (or someone) that works better for you. 

Don’t be sentimental or soft-hearted with stuff like this. Your own mental sanity, the stability of your family, and the success of your rental depends on this. It’s important to have a well-functioning machine you can depend on. Anything less than that is simply unacceptable.

What about you? What lessons have you learned to help you run your short-tern rental better?

The lifeblood of short-term rentals

I’m in a lot of hosting forums and membership sites. I rarely post – I prefer the “silent lurker” approach – but I often browse the posts to see what other people are saying. You never know when you might glean something useful.


One thing that comes up a lot is long-term stays – specifically, whether or not you should allow discounts for long-term stays. 


Most of the time, the overwhelmingly majority opinion is against discounts. A monthly discount cuts into your profit, they say. And this certainly might be true, although it’s no guarantee – those arguments fail to take into account that you might not have full occupancy.


But I digress. 


If I’m honest, I have to admit that arguments like that really turn my stomach. Yes, many people are in Airbnb to make money, either as a side hustle or full-blown business. But when they focus solely on the money, they lose touch of the human aspect of things. They forget that they are running a hospitality business, that there are real people on the other side of their bookings and inquiries. 


I don’t have a monthly discount listed on any of my properties. But I will often give one anyway. I did that for the traveling nurse who’d been through 4 other houses in her 6-week stint because people kept kicking her out to make more money with shorter stays. I did the same thing for a local man who was going through a nasty divorce. 


Could I have made more money if I’d insisted these people pay full price, or even not rented to them altogether? Absolutely.

But would I have been unhappy with how I’d treated these human beings in need? Also, absolutely. 


This business is about more than just making money. Hospitality is the lifeblood of short-term rentals. What does that mean, exactly? Hospitality is defined as “the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.”


Friendly and generous


Successful hosting requires generosity. Whether it’s your time, creativity, money, or something else, if you’re not putting your heart into truly caring for your guests, eventually you’re going to burn out. 


Because really, in short-term rentals, if we’re not caring about people, why are we even here?

The importance of doing something you love

I went to a short-term rental networking event this past week. 

I have to be honest, I didn’t want to go. I was peopled-out, and just wanted to curl up on my couch with a movie and fuzzy blanket. But I knew it would be a good opportunity to meet other people in the short-term rental space, so I reluctantly put on pants, dragged myself out the door, and went. 

I’m so glad I did. 

The event, honestly, was only so-so. But as I spoke to people, I was reminded of why I love doing what I do. 

Not only that, but I was reminded of the importance of doing something you love. 

One conversation, with a man called Dito, especially stood out to me. I was telling him about my history of how I got into the short-term rental market. It really came about by accident, after I realized that I didn’t want to be a full-time writer anymore. I was explaining to him how much I used to hate networking, because I didn’t like “selling myself.” 

He cut me off. “But you’re still selling yourself,” he pointed out. 

He was right. Every time I tell someone what I do, I am selling myself. So why don’t I see it that way anymore? 

It’s because I love what I do. 

I love hosting. I love enabling other people to host. I love teaching them how to be better hosts. And I genuinely believe that not selling myself would be a disservice to the people who might be interested in what I have to offer. 

Sometimes people forget that Airbnb and other short-term rental platforms are, in their essence, hospitality industries. Yes, there is the potential to make a lot of extra income, and that can be a very appealing allure to many people. But if you don’t do it with generous hospitality at the heart of it, you’re going to either burn out or lose all your good guests.  Neither one of those scenarios is a recipe for success. 

If you’re going to get into this business, even as a side hustle, you have got to love hospitality.

If you don’t, you have have got to hire someone who does love it to take care of things on the front end. Or perhaps you should find a side hustle better suited to your needs and personality.

But if you do love hospitality, this might be the perfect gig for you. Few things in life bring me more joy than thinking of creative ways to make my guests happy, and hearing the happy feedback from them when I succeed. It’s why I’m so good at what I do. It’s why I have hundreds of 5 star reviews and nearly a 100% retention rate with my clients. It’s why I’m so passionate about sharing my knowledge with like-minded people. 

You may not be able to put all of your energy towards doing this full-time. That’s ok. But if enabling good hosting and traveling experiences sparks a chord with you, if it’s something you think you might love, then I encourage you to give it a go. You never know until you try. Who knows, you might find out that you love it as much as I do!