Guests who made you change how you do things at your Airbnb

Recently I’ve been reading here accounts of hosts who carefully document the state of their place before guests arrive, and wondering how frequently that becomes necessary to make a claim after a stay, or refute a lying guest.

I remember once staying at a lovely home in Tasmania where there was a document posted prominently in the kitchen listing every single kitchen item (“whisk - 2; forks - 12; pie tin - 2, etc”). I remember thinking, “Wow, there’s an unhappy story behind that list!”

When we started letting our place on Airbnb, we had a property manager who said, “Take out anything expensive and anything that you care about.” I whined, “But I want to put nice things here. I like it when I stay at places that have nice things!” and she said, “People are going to steal things or lose things and I’d rather take the hit and replace your stolen items at my own expense than ask guests for the missing items and risk getting a bad review and losing my superhost status.” O_O

I’m a new host and lucky enough that so far I’ve had lovely guests. But I keep wondering: what kind of nightmare guest will I encounter in the future? And should I be trying to protect myself against the rare terrible guest, or is it too much effort and I should just deal when it happens?

So I would love for people here to comment on:

  1. What’s something a guest did that made you change how you do things at your Airbnb? (e.g. documenting items in the house in case of theft, making new house rules; putting up signs, etc.), and

  2. On reflection, do you think that change was worth it? (e.g. in taking time to document the state of the home before each stay, do you think it’s worth the effort in protecting you against the rare dishonest or bad guest? If you wrote some very specific new house rule, do you think it stops people from doing weird things?)

I really haven’t changed anything since I started hosting, but I’m a homeshare host, which in many ways is quite different from an entire place listing. For instance, I really have no rules except no pets. I only host one guest at a time, in a room with a single bed, so of course I don’t get children, nor can anyone sneak in extra guests or throw a party, so rules aren’t necessary. My guests share my kitchen and they have all cleaned up after themselves without needing any rule about it. But an entire place is different, you do need house rules. But don’t make a new rule just because one guest does something bizarre. That just seems silly.

I have never had a guest damage or steal anything, and don’t lock my bedroom or anything. Of course I don’t leave money or credit cards laying around, nor have expensive jewelry or electronics, etc. to worry about.

I think that there are a lot of factors that influence the type of guests hosts get and whether they get problematic guests. The nature of the listing, how many guests it accommodates, the location, the amount and type of interaction the host has with guests, why guests come, all can have a bearing on the level of problems you might encounter.

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Rarely do we have guests that doesn’t teach us something or causes us to change something, in the smallest way. Rarely. We do ask a lot of questions or engage them in seemingly general conversation on their way out, and sure enough something is mentioned that causes us to think of a better way.

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That’s a real skill, to elicit feedback from guests like that – I have found that people are so polite they don’t want to be seen as complaining and I have to probe carefully to get people to say anything. I recently started writing to guests after their stay:

“…In addition to your online review, we also welcome any other private feedback: if you can think of anything we could do to make future guests more comfortable, or anything we should be telling guests that wasn’t in our guest info book, please feel free to either message us here or via email. We’re interested in all the feedback, good and bad: even if it’s something that you wouldn’t normally leave in a review because it’s something that you know we can’t change (like the stairs up to the apartment, for example); even if we can’t change it, at least we can warn future guests about it!”

But so far nobody has responded to this request except one other host visiting our city. (He gets it since he’s spent lots of time thinking about such things himself!)

So what are a couple of things you have done differently? For myself, I have:

  • added a loose tea strainer after a guest asked for one
  • downloaded more news sites on our smart TV after discovering a guest wanted to just watch the news on TV, not his computer, and
  • I’m working now to engineer a better shower door system after another guest commented on how hard it is to contain the splashing.

But really I was more curious about things people do to preempt bad guest behaviour – I guess I have a fascination with the horror stories!

Reggie’s response made me realize I have changed some things, altho they are minor. For instance, because I homeshare, I don’t have any written instructions, I just mention things verbally. When I first started hosting, I just assumed that guests would leave the bed unmade when they check-out (which is what I want, so I can check for any stains that might need pre-treatment).

But I found that some guests stripped the bed and balled up the dirty linens, some stripped the bed and folded the stuff up, some just left it unmade, and one guy actually made the bed perfectly, hospital corners and all. So now I try to remember to tell them just to leave the bed unmade, that I will deal with it.

There’s been a few communication changes like that.

Prempting bad behavior, I would venture a guess, has a lot to do with the rapport you create with a guest before they arrive, making expectations clear, and not giving guests the idea that you are a pushover who’s so terrified of a bad review that you allow them to get away with unacceptable things.

For instance, while automated messages can be a time saver, they are also impersonal. Guests behave better when they have the idea that the host is present in some way, pays attention, and personally cares about their guests and the home. So even if you use saved or automated messages, you can personally message the guest, letting them know that they will be receiving some, so to make sure they have their notifications turned on, and to feel free to let you know if anything is unclear or they have any questions.

I tend to exchange several messages with guests between when they book and when they check-in, and they aren’t necessarily all businesslike- we sometimes joke around or I’ll inject something funny into the info I send them, like that my address won’t do them any good, because house numbers don’t go in any discernible order- # 50 can be right next to #186, welcome to crazy Mexico, so they might be looking for a hotel if they don’t have the map I sent them accessible.

Plenty of hosts have never had any horror guests, although it’s entertaining to read about, although sad for the host. Hosts rarely post to rave about their wonderful guests, they post about problems, looking for help, so it’s easy to get the impression that the str world is filled with disrespectful, piggy, lying, complaining guests, when I doubt that represents the norm.

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Aye @muddy is really an accumulation of a string of little things over time, and I usually make a ‘game’ out of it by saying - “Ah come on guys you are not helping by not willing to be ‘criticos’!” Finally someone says - “It would great if the lighting…”. Bingo.

After much trial and error. Who doesn’t try to read ‘something’ when going to bed, book or ‘iphone’? Who wants to try to read in low light, or illuminate the whole room when doing so disturbing others, or hold a book under a lamp shade, who doesn’t want their phone plugged in if that is their thing; or fumble around reaching for an on/off light switch when dozing off? We have these in every bed on both sides of them >
reading lights
The guests oftentimes say, you guys have thought of everything, not really, we been collecting what they had to say. :slight_smile:

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No bedside reading lamp is one of my pet peeves. Or bedside tables filled with useless decorative items so guests have nowhere to put all the stuff humans put on their bedside table.

But I have to assume that many hosts never read in bed, by the number of new listings I see with no bedside tables or reading lamps, or tables and lamps too low to be of use, or only one on one side, with a bed intended to sleep two.

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We’ve got that covered!

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Nice! Now we talking.

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Okay, you pass :wink: ,but I’d stack the reading material elsewhere (maybe you just did that for the photo) so guests don’t have to move it to make room for their phone, watch, magazine, water, sleeping pills or whatever else they need to unload there.

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A shelf against that wall holding 8-10 books sure would look attractive and be functional.

(Good catch @muddy )

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Yep that was just for the photo, because the industrial stool we use as a bedside table usually just has a box of tissues on it, but in the photo that looked bleak, and I wanted to create a feel of a cozy space where you can curl up and read. Here’s the bookshelves in the other room (more books on the shelves now than when I took the photo)

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But that’s a great idea to mount a floating shelf on the wall in the bedroom, too!

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Guests do take stuff, not always, but when it does happen, it’s annoying. I had a teddy bear on the masterd bedroom bed which belonged to my mother in law. She had passed away and I thought it would be nice to have something of hers there. It was not an expensive item but it was had tremendous emotional value.

Other stuff taken didn’t have any emotional value so I quickly learned not to put anything that I’m attached to emotionally in my Airbnb house.

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That’s sad! And good tip – no STR insurance can cover certain losses

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I’ve probably changed a lot that I don’t remember in over 10 years. I’ve added a few convenience items in the room in our homeshare. The area constantly in need of change is written instructions and guides about things to do. I recently reviewed mine and found two places that had closed and added new restaurants and services in town. I’ve added a few little signs too. Lockboxes and more exterior motion detection lighting were added at some point. We’ve had thankfully few nightmare guests and they probably didn’t even rise to that level. We’ve had more irritation than damage including: woman who unplugged and defrosted the fridge, guests who park in the driveway blocking access for several LTR tenants, wet towels on nice wooden furniture or floors, cleaning out everything in the “in case you forgot” basket, taking key home, ignoring arrival directions, and one guest snuck in. I do agree that homeshares have very different risks than private units.

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I see you and raise you: taking the basket as well. It wasn’t expensive, i got a bunch of canvas planters with cute embroidery “plants over people” from a cool hipster stationery/decor shop in Australia, they were only like $5 each, but still, they are a discontinued item now, and the guests took the basket filled with all the items. I had a spare (I bought a bunch of them when I saw them on sale) but I never ever thought someone would steal the basket too. (these were BDC guests, they stole quite a few things, and i’ve since shut down our listing there, if i ever go back i will up my pricing by something outrageous)

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I imagine we’ve changed or added some house rules over time. The only one I specifically remember is about no strong scents or perfumes. Something like that.

That came about because of a Middle Eastern guest who was so liberal with cologne that I couldn’t get the room to stop smelling awful.

I have problems with scents and perfumes. It hadn’t occurred to me that I would need a rule about that, but I did. Other guests since have either coincidentally been compliant or they have read and followed the rule.

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Re B.con, in the T and Cs you agree to, you must be the cheapest on their site. I am set up with the strictest policies possible, no ridiculous discounts for their Genius members and payment up front!

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I’ve changed many things along the way, in the past 4 years of being an airbnb host (side note, as a college adjunct instructor, I also find that I’ve changed many things over the years, based on the things students do). A couple things we’ve changed: We have some really cute bright pink FABRIC dining chairs. They are so perfect in the dining room, but because of guests allowing their kids to smudge and wipe their hands EVERYWHERE, we added a few chair covers that we ask guests to use if their kids (or they) are a wee bit messy.

Another change: because of guests that turned on the pool heater (rules explicitly state that the heater should strictly be used for the hot tub, NOT the pool), leaving us with an insane gas bill at the end of the month, we ripped out the old control system, and installed a new smart system that we can fully monitor remotely. It also has a cut off time if the heater is on for too long.

There are many, many more, but these are the ones that first came to mind.
Yes, totally worth the changes. Everything is about streamlining and making life easier as hosts…