Did I really just make this ridiculous, rookie mistake?

Experienced host here who, in a lapse of judgement, made a big mistake and am now so frustrated with myself I just need a sympathetic, understanding ear. Sigh. The background:

A little over a week ago, I receive a VRBO inquiry for a 7-day booking in high season. The guest writes a personal note about how she and her husband spent two weeks on honeymoon at my cabin (before I bought it) and then proceeds to tell me at length how wonderful it was. Life changing, life affirming, and so on. It’s now their ten year anniversary and they’d like to bring their two young girls back to celebrate. However - big surprise! - they’re wondering if there’s “any possibility to negotiate the price or some of the extra fees” to make it more affordable for them since they booked direct from owner before and the nightly rate was significantly less. Well yes of course it was…it’s been ten years and a pandemic and skyrocketing inflation and so on! Anyhow, I tell her to look on AirBnB because the fees are less there and my rates are also less since I try to drive traffic to AirBnB, my preferred booking site. So then she writes me on AirBnB and says “I found you!” and asks again if we could negotiate. So in a moment of terrible judgement, I get on the phone with her and everything is all sweet and kind and I tell her this is a complete exception to my rule, but that I’ll let them book offline if they send me a check and sign a rental agreement and abide by the same cancellation policy as AirBnB. They think about it, she comes back and tells me it’s a yes for 6 days instead of 7 and we have another phone conversation and she starts sending me pics of the honeymoon from 10 years ago and tells me how wonderful the world is, etc. So I dig out the rental agreement I had a lawyer draw up a few years ago but never used, and I spend some time customizing it and send it to her. At this point I’m probably about an hour and a half total invested in this nonsense with the communication, negotiation, nicey nice chat, contract updating, etc. This was 4 days ago and suddenly this guest who was texting and calling me like I was her best friend has gone completely silent. I finally write and ask if she got my email and text and…silence. Ugh. (By the way, I’m not worried about this being a scam because of her knowledge of certain details of the cabin and canyon and her reviews on both booking sites).

I know I’ll get over this in no time and who cares in the grand scheme of things - there’s no damage to me, nor my cabin, nor to my sanity with these guests, but damn it sure is frustrating to make a concession and then find yourself dealing with people like this. Okay, thanks for listening. Lesson fully learned. Ha ha.


How did you get her phone number? Are guests’ phone numbers visible to hosts on VRBO before a booking is confirmed?

Sorry you wasted so much time with this person- I probably would have stopped communicating with her as soon as she continued trying to “negotiate” on the Airbnb inquiry. If she loved the place so much the first time, that she wasn’t willing to pay the asking price is a huge red flag. And duh, she expected it to be the same price as 10 years ago?


Well, it was an endearing mistake and a credit to your humanity. Good for you, Sir.

For all we know this prospective guest had/has a family emergency. Or just doesn’t easily have the money. It seems like she was 100% sincere.

Plus you have an updated agreement when you need it.

[I don’t know that it was truly a mistake. If those are the kinds of mistakes you make you lead a charmed life. Have faith that the time and care you invested was noticed, felt and will be passed forward. THIS is one of the ways you make a diffrence. You’ll never look back with regret on this one.]


Just remember the old saying: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me”

You didn’t make it to being fooled twice, so no shame on you.


@muddy No I don’t believe you can see contact info on either site until the booking is confirmed but she sent me her number embedded in a message in a way that it wasn’t auto flagged and blanked out. I’ve done this before and you have to get creative to get the number through. You might even know this trick because I believe you’re a long-time host too. And yes the price! I mean come on lady…I’m running a business which I did point out to her so at least I stood firm on my advertised rates. @HostAirbnbVRBO thanks for the pep talk. That’s exactly what I needed to put this nonsense behind me. You know, it’s like a loose hair that keeps tickling your neck but that you can never find. Unnecessarily annoying - ha! @PitonView good point - I’ll take it!


Yes, I know the spell out the phone number somehow so the algo doesn’t pick it up. But any guest who contacts me through Airbnb (the only platform I’m listed on) and does that is an immediate red flag to me, as they are trying to book off-platform.

I have zero issue with a known guest, or one who’s been given my info by a friend or family member direct booking, in fact I give all my guests my contact info if they ever want to come back or refer someone (Of course I wouldn’t do this with an objectionable guest). But if they contact me through the platform, I don’t agree to them trying to circumvent it.


I don’t know when your “high season” is but if it’s some time away, like this summer, there’s a small chance that you still get the booking. Maybe she did have something come up. However, I tend to think she’s not going to be a good guest and I’d message her and tell her that because you didn’t hear back from her in a timely manner, the rental is no longer available. Then I’d block it for awhile. If it’s your high season you shouldn’t have any problem renting to someone who will treat your time with respect.


I learned this lesson as well. In my case, it was a referral from someone who stayed with me a year ago. It took so much time to negotiate and get the deal finalized, and ultimately the guest decided not to book because she wanted a full kitchen.

This is my main motivation for building a direct booking website. Just point them to it and ask them to book there. They are not paying platform fees (but will pay credit card fees). If they just look around and don’t book, I haven’t invested much time on them.


I won’t assist them but I also won’t turn down a booking if they go to the work to find us on another platform without any assistance from me. I try to discourage it, though.

@COCabin - the next time someone gives you their phone number and asks you to call them, simply say “It’s against my agreement with AirBnB [Vrbo] to call you or direct you on how to book us through a different platform.”

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Take the nightly rate they paid in 2013 and multiply it by 1.2914 and you can say you’re giving her the same exact price, adjusted to 2023 dollars.

Maybe it took a while but she finally realized you’re not the same host she rented from before?


Well and I should add that she provided a lot of details about the cabin and canyon and also reached out directly to the former owner to see about making the reservation. Since he and I are good friends, he texted me and mentioned that she wanted to get in touch. So I guess it seemed okay to talk offline. Anyhow, I don’t know why I’m providing all of this background (!?!) except to say that I’m an embarrassed host who feels the need to salvage some dignity. Ha ha. Thank you all for the support!


What was your mistake? I dont see one. You invested some time to try to get a booking and it did not happen. It’s a numbers game.
I book direct as often as possible. I have OwnerRez and a contract for every guest.
I am easy to locate from the listing for anyone who wants to find me or call me.
I raise my prices on AirBnb and strongly prefer VRBO which allows owners more control.


She’s probably busy or offline, and will send over the contracts and $ soon. She might have super unrealistic expectations, however. Honeymoons are quite diff from 10 years and 2 kiddos later…


Unless someone is camping or something with no cell signal or wifi, or has just had an accident or a family member die or get quite ill, I don’t think anyone is so busy they can’t take 1 minute to send a message saying “Super busy- will get back to you in a few days”. Ghosting someone who has obviously spent a lot of time communicating with you is just rude.


I don’t see that you made a mistake. You dealt with a potential customer as we all do every day - and this one didn’t work out. That’s all it was.

  • Imagine the car salesperson who has taken 60 potential customers on test drives that week and not one has turned into a sale.

  • Imagine the home improvements salesperson who has followed up a hundred leads that week with no bites.

  • Imagine the restaurateur who has his staff in place and his food stocks ready but gets no customers because of a sudden torrential storm.

  • Imagine the business person who sent out 20 time-consuming proposals (on fine paper with expensive hardcovers) last week and none of the recipients can be contacted.

You did nothing wrong. :slight_smile:


Absolutely! You’re a nice person and you enjoyed the interactions, and I’m sure the guest did, too. You made a friend for a little while and that’s a nice thing. No real harm done.

Going forward you might want to think about your boundaries–an overused word I know but a powerful one. You’re running a business and it’s good to decide in advance what concessions you’re willing to make.

I also wondered why you’re listed on VRBO at all if you would steer a guest to Air. The answer is probably you need or want more bookings. You may want to look at your booking data and see if it’s really worth listing your property on both platforms.


I think “what goes around, comes around”. You were empathetic and generous and it wasn’t rewarded this time but in the big scheme of life, there will be some generosity and empathy heading your way. You create a culture by the way you treat others. Culture envelops communities and that’s what we live in.

I also think that “what goes around, comes around” applies to how we treat Airbnb, too. I think embedding phone numbers in message text is something that you might reconsider. I prefer to abide by Airbnb rules because it protects all hosts from having to haggle over price and pays the salaries and insurance costs to support and protect us. Each action builds a culture and I want a culture of honesty.


Unfortunately I don’t associate honesty with Airbnb
I feel the marketing is dishonest
The support almost non existent
Air Cover is a fraud
The so called spirit of community that makes me the default insurer for a guest initiated failed booking……


How exactly does Airbnb “protect” me? And Airbnb doesn’t provide insurance.


Airbnb does provide (primary) Host Liability Insurance up to $1,000,000 of coverage.

But, as you’re probably thinking of, Airbnb provides under its AirCover for Hosts program only damage protection for property damage, which is explicitly not insurance.

A reader might think ‘So what?’ They call it ‘damage protection’ but it’s really insurance. Well, there are differences.

Maybe the biggest thing to keep in mind is that damage protection covers the property only for damage caused by the guest during a booking. A comprehensive insurance policy would cover your property all year long and for things that have nothing to do with guests: wind-driven rain, fire, etc.

Additional differences that I see between Airbnb’s damage protection and what an insurer providing commercial protection of your property might provide are these:

  1. Under Host Damage Protection the Host must first seek reimbursement from the guest within 14 days in order to make a claim with Airbnb, and the guest must not respond or fully pay.

  2. Host Damage Protection coverage might not include coverage that you could secure with some insurers, for example:

a. Replacement cost coverage. Airbnb’s policy covers depreciated value. Some individual polices would provide replacement cost coverage.

b. Damage to your property that is not the listing. For example, suppose you’re a Home Share Host who lives in a split-level home and the guest causes a fire or a flood that damages your living area below the listing. Damage to your home would not be a ‘covered accommodation.’ You’d need to secure reimbursement from your homeowner’s policy, which might exclude coverage for commercial use of your home.

[In fact, it’s been reported in the news that some insurers have denied coverage for damage to a residence under a homeowners insurance policy when that policy did not permit commercial use of the home, even though the damage was unrelated to the commercial use.]

  1. Procedural Issues: In a dispute after Airbnb’s revised terms of service (Section 23) effective 3/30/23 are in place for a Host, a dispute on coverage would be sought by a U.S. Host [I just didn’t look this up to see how different, if at all, it is for non-U.S. Hosts), 30 days after providing a ‘Notice of Dispute’ through either in:

i) Small claims court (23.2), which is subject to small claims dollar limits, typically $10,000 or less (either party may request this), or

ii)AAA arbitration that the Host would pay its share for.

Under the newly revised terms of service these fees are not waived or paid by Airbnb and are substantial: $1,700 filing fee plus $750 arbitrator compensation for a desk arbitration, or [more].

d. In an insurance arrangement a U.S. Host could seek assistance/relief from its state regulator of insurance if the Host felt the insurer was acting improperly, but not under Airbnb’s Host Damage Protection.

  1. Claims Handling: Insurers vary in how flexibly they deal with claims and documentation requests. For example, Chubb has long had a reputation for handling claims in a very easy and generous way (their premiums reflect that). Anecdotally, we don’t hear stories that Airbnb is uniformly easy to deal with when making claims, but there is a bias here: people don’t typically come here to praise Airbnb, but to bury it in criticisms.

  2. Coaching: Some insurers will coach you. For example, Proper insurance looked at all our pictures, inside and out, and coached me on a few things we should do. Some insurers do that; others don’t. But Airbnb to my knowledge takes no interest in the safety of its listings.

Example: We had guests that included a 90 year-old in winter. We have outside steps (with railings) but it occurred to me that I could offer an accommodation that the guests enter their unit from my living area because they would avoid all outside steps. I first asked my agent, who advised me that because we have no shared spaces that if the guest fell in my home I would not be covered, I doubt that I would have received reliable advice from an Airbnb customer service rep though I should have figured that on my own because my space is not a ‘covered accommodation’.

This is not an exhaustive list and not legal advice, just my reading of the terms of service. Others here I’m sure can add more.