How to save time and energy dealing with bad guests

I’d like to start this article by prefacing it with this statement: I love Airbnb. I love hosting guests and cohosting for owners. It’s a wonderful tool that has opened up doors I could never dream of. 

That being said…sometimes Airbnb really sucks. 

One of the biggest issues that a host can deal with is retaliatory reviews by unhappy guests. As guests are becoming both more cunning and more picky, it’s unfortunately becoming a bigger and bigger issue. 

Often, Airbnb doesn’t do a whole lot to stop this. They say that they will remove a review that violates their terms of service (TOS), but in practice, it’s incredibly difficult to get a review removed once it’s been posted. The few times I’ve had to ask that a review be removed, I’ve had to go through multiple agents over the course of several weeks. Eventually I have to actually tell them word-for-word what part of their own TOS was actually violated. 

I won’t lie. It’s a huge pain. But with Airbnb bookings being so reliant on reviews, it’s worth the effort to get fraudulent or retaliatory reviews removed. 

I’ve learned something important about this process that’s making the whole thing infinitely easier. 

Be the first person they hear from. 

Airbnb reps are, at the end of the day, people just like you and me. And just like you and me, they are going to tend to believe the first person they hear from. 

Most guests who are going to cause you problems in the review have already caused you problems during their stay. A bad review should almost always be something you see coming. So after they check out, if they’ve done things that have legitimately been cause for worry, concern, or stress, call Airbnb and let them know.

This is ESPECIALLY true if you have evidence that they’ve actually threatened you with a bad review if you don’t give them what they want (usually a refund). 

You’re not reporting the guest. They’re not going to get in trouble. You’re simply making a paper trail that Airbnb reps can follow later on. This paper trail is what they’re going to use to make their decision on whether a review should be removed or not. And like most human beings, they’re probably going to side with the person they heard from first. 

I had a guest a few weeks ago who did this. Said they were going to cancel but never did. Several days after their reservation ended, they reached out to me asking where their refund was. When I told them that it wasn’t coming because they never actually canceled, they got all sorts of angry at me. Accused me of fraud, and theft, and told me point blank that they’d leave me a bad review if they didn’t get their money back. 

At this point, I called Airbnb. Told them the story, got the rep to review the thread, and he agreed that the messages were totally against Airbnb’s TOS. He assured me that if the guest did leave a retaliatory review, they would remove it. After our conversation ended, I got him to recap what he’d said in writing. 

And lo and behold, when the guest left a bad review (no surprise there), I was able to have it removed relatively easily. 

Now, I’m no psychologist. I could be totally off-base here. But I’m pretty sure it was so easy because I had gotten my story in first. 

I don’t like playing mind games. I wish as a host you never had to learn these sorts of tricks. But the fact is that they’re a part of the game if you want to be successful. So learn the rules of the game and play by them! Be proactive with Airbnb when you have unpleasant guests. You’ll get much better results in far less time. 

I promise you, in the long run, it’s going to save you so much stress and energy!

2020: the year of kindness

If you’re in this business for any length of time, you’ll end up talking with Airbnb support a lot.

I recently got an email from an Airbnb agent closing a thread we’d had going back and forth for a few days. Her message said simply, “Thank you for your response. I really appreciate you being so kind.”

This one hit me right in the gut. I kinda felt like I’d been sucker-punched.

Because the thing is, I had not been “so kind.” I hadn’t even been marginally kind. This was one of the interactions with Airbnb that I can’t say I was particularly proud of how I’d handled.

That’s why her message hit me so hard. Even though I had been rude and reacted in the heat of the moment, she continued to be kind. Isn’t that the definition of the hospitality industry?

As hosts, that’s what we need to do with our guests every day. Be kind…period. Even if they’re rude to us. Even if they make unreasonable requests. It’s easy to assume they’re trying to be rude, but that’s rarely if ever the case. They may just be having a bad day, like I was. It’s our job to be kind, anyway.

(We should do that with everyone we interact with, but obviously sometimes we’re going to blow it, like I did with the Airbnb rep)

This is the start of a new year – a new decade, even. A perfect time for new beginnings. If this is something you’ve struggled with in the past – whether it be with guests, friends and family, strangers, or all of the above – I encourage you to make 2020 the year you turn over a new leaf.

Give yourself grace, of course, because you will mess up…but make this the year you focus on treating all people you interact with with grace, dignity, and kindness…regardless of whether you feel that they deserve it or not.

I just made my cleaner cry – and I’m so happy about it

Yesterday I made my primary cleaner cry. And I’m delighted about it.

No, I’m not a monster. They were tears of joy, and I was simply happy to be able to be the bearer of good news.

What did I do to cause such emotion?

I gave her a Christmas bonus for all of the hard work she’s done for me over the past year.

No, she’s not been perfect. I’ve found plenty of issues that needed to be addressed over the last year. But she is a willing learner and receptive to feedback, and that has made all the difference.

Some people expect perfection from their cleaners every…single…time. That is simply unreasonable. Those people forget that cleaners are humans, too. They are juggling family, health challenges, other responsibilities, and more – just like the rest of us. And no one – no one – is perfect.

So if you’re the type of person who will fire your cleaner after a single transgression, perhaps you need to rethink your strategy. Try talking to them respectfully about the problem, and make your expectations clear for next time.

Here are 3 tips I have for creating healthy and long-lasting relationships with your cleaners.

  1. Be honest about your needs – but kind. I like to employ the sandwich method – sandwich the constructive criticism in between 2 compliments. It becomes much easier to take that way.
  2. Use checklists for every property. This will make it much easier to have those hard conversations mentioned in #1. Either the items on the checklist are getting done, or they aren’t. Plain and simple.

    Need a good checklist? Click here to get mine!
  3. Finally, I try to make sure my cleaner knows I appreciate her in more tangible ways – like generous Christmas bonuses.

If you’re paying someone to work for you, and you say you appreciate them, but their paycheck doesn’t reflect that, eventually they’re going to look for work elsewhere. It’s worth it to me to shell out a little more to create those long-term, lasting relationships.

At the end of the day, this is a people-centered business. And if you’re not treating your own people right, how can you expect them to do their best for your guests?

EDIT:

I’ve had some people ask why I didn’t treat every cleaner I’ve worked with this year the same. Well, the short answer is that all of our relationships are different. Some have done hundreds of cleanings for me this year and put up with a lot of challenges. Some have done just one or two and been difficult to work with. Many fall somewhere in the middle. The bonuses I give are commensurate with the work that’s been done and the relationship that’s already been created. It’s up to you if you want to do things differently :). But for me, I’ve worked with over a dozen cleaners this year and sadly, it just wouldn’t be financially feasible to do the same thing with them all :(.

See you next week!

I can’t believe we’re already into 2019! 

Last year was amazing, and I can’t wait to see what this year has in store. 

Today, however, happens to be my birthday, so I am taking the day off from writing :). See everyone next week!

Happy hosting!

 

Keep an eye on your guests!

The era of unlocked front doors and implicit trust in strangers is long past us.

These days, you have to play it smart.

I’m not trying to instill panic or fear in your. There are still plenty of good, honest people out there. But you can’t really assume that all of your guests are going to be like that. And if you wait to make precautions until you know you’ve got a bad apple, it’ll be too late.

That’s why this week’s Tuesday tip was to get a video doorbell or some other type of camera installed on your property.

Video recording devices will go a long way in helping you protect your property, especially if you live off-site.

I’ve used my outside doorbells to prove everything from drug use to extra guests to unauthorized parties. I’ve also used them to stop potentially damaging situations before they got out of hand. They give me a peace of mind that I wouldn’t be able to get otherwise. Except, I guess, if I just camped out in front of the houses that I manage…but seriously, who’s got time for that? Also, that’s creepy…

I recently had an unexpected issue in which the guest decided to cover up the camera with duck tape so I couldn’t see what was coming in and out of the house. I asked her to remove it or I would have to charge her the maximum extra guest fee. She complied, and after that I put a separate fee in my listing for tampering with the camera – haven’t had an issue since.

A lot of beginning hosts don’t want to invest in a camera. Video doorbells (or other types of security cameras) can be pricey – they often cost at least several hundred dollars. “What’s the worst that could happen?”, the new host rationalizes to themselves.

Let me be clear: the worst that could happen is thousands of dollars in damage with every single booking.

That is not likely to happen, of course – the vast majority of short-term rental reservations conclude without a hitch. But I am trying to emphasize to you that you are making an investment as a host, and it’s worth taking the precautions to protect your investment. Bite the bullet and buy a camera now, before you end up regretting not having one after the terrible guest has checked out!

Almost done!Just tell me where to send all your goodies 🙂