1 star review for communiating county fire restrictions to a guest who never showed up

We host yurts in California in a high-fire danger area. Per county regulations fires are only allowed when there is absolutely no wind. We have fire rings at 2 tents that are farther from vegetation and allow fires when people ask as long as there is no wind. The third tent is near bushes and we never allow fires. We are not mentioning that we allow fires under some conditions in the description as we want to discourage fires as much as possible.
This guest asked about fires a day before coming, and I texted them that we don’t allow fires at this tent. I also mentioned that even if we did, with the expected wind fires would also be against county regulations. The guest canceled her reservation the morning of the day they were planning to come.
Then the guest who was never here wrote us a one-star review. It said, “Please make sure you read the description and ask questions before going. Area does not allow campfires but it does not state in the listing”.
We don’t say we allow them - we shouldn’t have to state that we don’t allow them, especially in a high-fire area. But that is not what I have a problem with.
Here is the problem:
The guest gave us 1 star for check-in - - she was never here.
The guest gave us 1 star for cleanliness - - she was never here.
The guest gave us 1 star for accuracy - - how could she assess accuracy when she was never here?
Same thing with location - she never saw it but gave us 1 star.
Communication is debatable as she is upset with fires not being addressed in the description.
Value is also ridiculous, this tent is the cheapest on our property and in the area and don’t you have to see a place to evaluate value?
My questions are:

  1. Why does she get to review us when she was never here and canceled her reservation?
  2. Can I ask Air to remove the review because it violates terms by not providing relevant information?
  3. Is calling the superhost number the best way to deal with air or is there a way to email and would that be better?
    Curious what other hosts think about this, and also if we should address fires in the description in the future.

the only useful thing she wrote was ‘please make sure you read the listing’.
Yes.
Everytime.
that’s a base level requirement.
numpty.

You should def challenge it. good luck.

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oh but they will say that is relevant information.
Like mine “doesn’t have a TV”
i mention it 3 times. but apparently it’s relevant info they are allowed to point out, and give me 3stars for accuracy and overall

  1. If a guest cancels day of check in, they are allowed to write a review. While this seems unfair on the face of it, I can sort of understand why Airbnb allows this- they have no proof that the guest did not arrive and then cancel for some legitimate reason, like the place was not as advertised, dirty, or they couldn’t access the unit and the host wasn’t responding to communication.

  2. Yes, I think you stand a good chance of getting this removed under the new policy of being able to get retaliation reviews removed. Make sure to quote that new policy, not ask for it to be removed due to the standard review violation criteria (like relevancy, because they will say it is relevant, as you don’t allow fires. Irrelevancy is more like the guest complaining about something that has nothing to do with your listing, like they found the public transportation system poor, or that the weather was bad).

  3. For non-urgent matters (which is what I would consider this to be, even though it likely tanked your rating- urgent would be a guest in residence threatening you or actively trashing the place), I prefer communicating with CS by message, rather than phone. You will then have a written record of the exchanges with CS (good idea to screenshot them) and personally I find it easier to stay on point without them catching you off-guard by saying something on the phone that you have no immediate answer for, or need to find the relevant policy to quote to them.

Be aware that it may take several back and forths to even get them to acknowledge your issue correctly. They tend to just first send some useless links to Help articles or policies. Just stay patient, polite, and persistent even when you feel like you want to wring their necks. It recently took me 7 back and forth messages with 3 different reps before I got an answer to a very simple question. I admit I had a hard time staying polite with the first 2 reps useless responses, but the advantage in stating my irritation with their idiotic replies was that they passed it on until got a rep who actually bothered themselves to respond on point.

While I understand your reasoning in not mentioning fires at all, I think that reasoning is a bit faulty. If you say nothing about it, I would suggest that you should, as guests who are glamping would naturally associate camping with being able to sit around a campfire. You can’t assume that guests who are not from your area would know the fire hazards and regulations.

As is often the case, a negative interaction with a guest can be used as a learning experience as to what we need make clear ahead of time.

Something like, “Please note: As we are in a high fire hazard zone, there are stringent govt. regulations re campfires. They might be allowed in certain areas of our property under certain weather conditions, but do not assume you will be able to have a campfire. As weather conditions can change quickly, we can only advise you when you are in residence as to whether you might be able to have a fire at any particular time- we cannot tell you this ahead of time.”

I would not only state this in your listing, but also reiterate it when guests first book or request to book, so they can cancel penalty-free if they aren’t onboard with this.

10 Likes

nope. complaining about the weather is allowed. :roll_eyes:

Okay, bad example, then. I know there is something in those review guidelines about how much of the review being considered irrelevant makes the entire review considered irrelevant. Like maybe if their entire written review just said “We had miserable weekend because it rained the whole time”, you might have a good chance of it being removed, but if bad weather was just part of an otherwise relevant review, you probably wouldn’t.

Ask Airbnb. But you can respond to her review saying ‘unfortunately X cancelled her stay and did not stay here’.

I generally advise that hosts should not respond to reviews but you might think it worthwhile in this case.

You can try but it will be time-consuming.

In many years of being a SH I’ve only called them twice and been very happy with the responses. Anecdotally, Twitter has a good response rate.

I would seriously consider whether querying this review would be a good use of your time.

By the way (just a point for consideration) I’ve had great reviews from people who have canceled such as ‘J made the process so easy’ and ‘thank you for being so understanding’.

Yes, it’s bothersome that potential guests might think that you’re fine with cancellations but it keeps the star rating up.

If it had just been a matter of the written review, I might agree, but this guest gave the host 1 star in many categories, tanking their ratings. So if it were me, I would consider it worthwhile, if no doubt fraught with frustration and time consuming, as most review removal requests are.

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What is the basis you suggest for removing the review?

You suggest ‘retaliation’ but retaliation for what? For the Host saying that fires are not permitted?

If Airbnb permits reviews when cancelation is on the day of check-in then how does Airbnb know that the guest did not view the property? [Though it seems to me that if the guest canceled before the check-in time that would be evidence that the guest did not see the property. ]

I’m not challenging you. I hope you’re right.

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It seems that the guest gave 1 star ratings in retaliation for being told she couldn’t have a campfire, yes. Or at least in retaliation for feeling she wanted to cancel if she couldn’t have a campfire. If the OP has posted the entire written review of the guest, this is all the guest mentions, so she obviously has nothing else to say, since she never arrived. The 1 star ratings are therefore not based on reality, they are just mean-spirited, as she had no idea if it was clean, or good value, and of course she chose the location, but obviously didn’t research fire regs in the area.

While Airbnb does allow same-day cancellations to review, I would hope they could look at the message stream between the guest and host to see that the conversation about the fires took place the day before check-in, even if the guest waited until the following morning to cancel. The guest either was still mulling over whether to cancel or not, or she knew she could leave a bad review in revenge if she waited to cancel.

On the Airbnb CC, several hosts in the past week have said they were able to get retaliation reviews removed since this new policy was mentioned, otherwise I wouldn’t have suggested the OP try. They said it took the usual back and forth and initial “no” from CS to deal with, but some hosts did have success, even in removing a bad revenge review from a couple of years back.

It doesn’t hurt to ask. Do you know what she gave you for an overall rating?

It doesn’t hurt to call the Superhost number and ask that the review be removed. Just don’t expect a positive response. I think @jaquo gave the best advice, which I echo – in this particular incidence, Respond to the review simply and factually

“Guest did not stay here, Comments about cleanliness, etc. should be ignored. Apparently Guest does not understand state and county fire-danger restrictions on building open fires in forested areas, and chose to cancel her reservation the day of check-in because we would not allow open fire at the site.”

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The problem is, the guest didn’t make comments about cleanliness or anything else but the “no fires” in her written review. She just marked them 1 star. And no one looking at the ratings knows that guest tanked them- guests just see the amalgamated ratings for each category. So a guest could see a 4.2 cleanliness rating, and have no idea whether one guest tanked a 5 star rating with their one star review, or whether 10 guests gave low cleanliness ratings.

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Even though a future guest won’t see them, are those ratings part of the evidence that the OP should include in the email saying that they were in retaliation and that since the guest canceled before checking in (citing the time of the cancelation, which hopefully is before the check-in time) the guest could not have observed the cleanliness or other conditions of the unit?

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Yes, of course. The written review isn’t the problem, that’s a nothing burger- it’s the 1 star ratings that are the issue.

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I agree. If it were my place I would outlaw all camp fires. There are plenty of us campers who rarely or never bother to build a campfire.

Where I live we have “red flag warning” days and if you also have those, being more specific about how fire danger assessment operates in your area would help.

3 Likes

Fire in general, be it campfires, fireplaces, or woodstoves, is not a great idea as a guest offering. I would venture a guess that the majority of first worlders have never built or tended a fire in their lives. I’ve read several host posts where their guests had no idea how to use the fireplace and didn’t bother reading the house manual instructions, didn’t open the flue (A flue? What’s that?), filled the house with smoke, moved half burnt logs across the room in their panic, etc., etc. These guests have never used a fireplace- they just think it looks so romantic in the movies.

We used to go camping a lot when my now adult kids were young, and we always had campfires. This was on the Pacific Northwest coast where it’s usually too rainy and damp for major fire hazards, although it can get dangerously dry in the late summer. The fire was not just for ambiance, but for practical purposes, too- warmth, cooking, warding off bears and cougars.

But we were very fire safety concious- there were never combustible materials near the fire, we would never break camp and leave a smoldering fire or just kick dirt over it- fire can travel underground through tree roots and pop up somewhere else. We always poured plenty of water over whatever was left in the firepit, ensuring it was thoroughly doused.

I certainly wouldn’t trust the average guest with unmonitored fires.

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Which is why we prohibit all open flames. All.

I think you can make a pitch that the review is irrelevant according to Airbnb's Reviews Policy - Airbnb Help Center.

  1. We cannot allow guests to break California laws to control wildfires, including restrictions that vary based on current wind conditions. Airbnb policy states that reviews should not be written against a host who enforces a policy or rule.

  2. The guest did not stay because they didn’t want to follow the wildfire laws. Airbnb policy states that the review may be removed if the guest never arrived.

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Leaving out reason 3:

  1. The guest is a selfish jerk who doesn’t care if they burn California down just so they can roast marshmallows over a campfire.
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