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Funny story/stolen painting

We have a small Airbnb in a beach town, and we have hosted hundreds of guests in the two years we’ve been on the platform. Because I am an artist, I had a postcard printed to welcome every guest. On one side of the postcard is this message: “Welcome to our home. Please accept the painting on the other side as our gift to you for staying here. We hope you enjoy your stay.” On the other side of the postcard is a print of one of my paintings.

Because my place is so small, even if you stay an entire weekend you are maybe looking at a grand total of $350. I have put 16 original paintings in the place not because I’m great but because I am free.

Some guests last weekend helped themselves to the 2‘ x 2‘ original oil painting on one of the walls. The cleaning team alerts me immediately. I called the guest and this is exactly the convo:

Hi, Guest. This is your Airbnb host. We’ve got a problem. You’ve removed an $800 painting out of my condo.

Yes, we did. We love it so much. Thank you.

My cleaning team is about to call 911. That painting wasn’t yours to take. I need you to turn your car around and bring my painting back so my guest that’s checking in later today won’t be walking into a condo that looks as though it’s been burglarized.

He apologized, claimed he misunderstood the verbiage on the back of the postcard, and shipped me the painting back. It arrived yesterday.

Here’s why in my heart I believe they stole the painting and simply tried to play it off as dumb when they got busted. I watched every moment of the Ring camera footage, and they hid the painting in their baggage when they left. The painting is so large it should have simply been carried out if someone thought that $800 painting was in some way a parting gift for a $350 stay.

Neither of us have reviewed each other yet. I feel like I have to give him the benefit of the doubt and chalk them up as unintelligent as opposed to thieves, even though I truly believe no one could have misunderstood my postcard, as no one has misunderstood it in the last two years.

So I think I’m going to do this: if they review me, I will review them and not mention this “accident.” I feel like I have to give them the benefit of the doubt. If they don’t review me, my inclination is simply not to review them at all. He only has one previous review that is good. Other than the stolen painting, they really were great guests, quiet, clean. I can’t imagine people in their mid-50s misunderstanding this, but I’m just happy I got the painting back, honestly.

So please enjoy a good laugh on my behalf of a guest thinking that an $800 original oil painting was their parting gift for $350 stay.


By all means highlight the fact they were good guests, but at the end of the day, they stole a piece of artwork from your listing. They thought they could blag it by the terminology used on your card, and probably hoped that you’d simply put it down to “the cost of doing business”.

Definitely call them out for it.



To be honest, the way you wrote the message implies they can take a painting “please accept my painting on the other side as our gift…” The other side of what? You didn’t say “on the back of this postcard.” Also you wrote “painting” not “print”. If it were I, I would toss out those postcards to avoid any further confusion. I think it should read “please take this postcard as a gift.” I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner.


I agree that your wording can be misconstrued. It’s odd. I would change the wording (why even say "please accept my painting…? It isn’t a painting, it’s a print on a postcard) and certainly not mention it in the review. I don’t necessarily think you can assume they hid it in their luggage- they may have been trying to pad it with clothing so it didn’t get damaged. I do this when I pack something fragile.

BTW, I like your art.


I actually agree that the postcard verbiage is confusing. I’d check your walls, too, but I’d most likely ask “Did you mean that the postcard is my gift or should I just put the painting in my luggage?”

I think putting it in the luggage to safeguard it is something I might do.

Always review your guests.

Totally agree.



I agree with @Ritz3 and @muddy that the message isn’t at all clear. Consider too that the guests had no idea that it was worth $800. Unless they are artists or art collectors most people have no idea about the value of paintings and might have though 'well, we paid $350 for this stay and they’ve given us a $15 parting gift. Nice."

(I said might).

I think that I’d been in the STR business for over thirty years when a guest left tomatoes under the ottoman. That was a first too. Just because something has never happened before doesn’t mean that it won’t.

You should definitely review them as you should all guests but I’d agree that they should be given the benefit of the doubt. If they were great guests in every other way, it’s a bit of a stretch to then see them as thieves stealing $800.


Perhaps you should put price stickers on the backs of the unframed artwork that you have hanging in the house. And change the postcard to read “Welcome to our home! Please accept this postcard of our original artwork as our gift for staying here. We hope you enjoy your stay! Sharra and Bill”

No confusion, no mention of framing it. If they ask about the art and if it’s for sale, that’s a different conversation.


Maybe the postcard message isn’t clear, but they knew what they were doing.
Who takes a painting off a wall and thinks it’s a freebie?
Criminal enterprise.
I’ve met another artist/host that displays her work in her rental. Guaranteed she puts prices on them.
I also display my craft in the rental, have a little writeup about it and each item is priced.


I think further dummy-proofing the card is something I’ll do on the next printing of them. I can’t imagine someone thinking “on the other side” could mean pluck a painting that’s hanging on my wall off my wall and leave a large hole; but, hey, I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt. The prior 400 guests understood the card, but there’s always an exception.

“Print” is good verbiage for the future. Thanks for the recommendation.


Thank you. And I’m definitely not mentioning it in the review. I’m just so happy to have it back. I painted it to tie in all the colors in the condo, so it really was an imperative piece of the aesthetic.


They took the giant painting on the top left of the photo. The other photo was from my cleaning team. The whole event is so entertaining. And regardless of what I think, I am going to dummy-proof the postcard and change the verbiage. Better safe than sorry.


I would read these words the same way that your guests did.


I agree with you. They knew what they were doing. “On the other side” couldn’t possibly mean pluck a painting off the wall and leave a giant hole where it was.

But I’ve learned a good lesson and gotten the painting back. Win win.

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Exactly. Their culpability is further proven by the fact that the one they took is a completely different painting, to the one printed on the postcard.

Life with no parole from me, dastardly art thieves.



“I think further dummy-proofing the card is something I’ll do on the next printing of them.”

I wouldn’t wait until you run out out the current postcards. Vista print is cheap and fast.


Please turn this card over and accept this print as our gift, it frames well…



I read it like your guests read it, that on the back side was a picture of the painting they could take. My husband read it like you intended, that the printed card itself was the gift. There is no way he’d let me leave with a painting. So there you go, you only need half the couple to read it like you meant it.


I suggest a minor edit or two:

Please turn this card over and accept this postcard as our gift. It frames well.


I’m the person who would call and ask if the card means I should take the painting, because I believe that the card says I should take the painting home and frame it.

Your bad, not the guest’s. The card needs to refer to “this print” not the painting.



I agree that the wording on the postcard needs to change and that you shouldn’t wait. I also agree that the guest has to be an idiot to think you are offering them a free painting as a thank you gift.

As far as the review, I believe honest reviews benefit us all. Just state facts, don’t speculate on the guest state of mind.

“XXX was clean, quiet and followed house rules. Unfortunately they took a painting from the wall in an odd misunderstanding. They shipped it back immediately so no harm done. Nevertheless the incident makes it hard to recommend them to other hosts.”

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