Request to change booking date on day of arrival

Apologies if this topic has been covered elsewhere but I am starting to get guests asking to change their reservation dates. I have a strict cancellation policy.
There are two concerns:
The first time it happened was short notice, a day or two before arrival (international guests) so I assume they would have known they were not taking their flights. What happened is they asked to rebook at a peak period but got it at the same nightly rate as the original low season reservation. (I will be keeping an eye on this in future)
Second concern a domestic guest tried to change the reservation dates on the day of arrival, a couple of hours prior to check in time. Airbnb system does not permit this change. Referred guest to airbnb CS. After several phone calls, messages and not such accurate information eg suggesting I cancel the booking for the guest (?!) I compromised and permitted the guest to come a week later for one night of the original 2 night stay.
My thoughts are that I am not too interested in these last minute changes when I plan for guest arrivals and have let this one through but not keen on this happening. It seems to occur with guests coming from the nearby city (100km distance) so now when I accept a reservation I remind guests of my strict cancellation policy on the acceptance message which gives them time to find somewhere else. It seems to be covering me now as I had a 3 night booking last weekend from the city and because I had advised guest of cancellation policy and no refund guest cancelled with no fuss.

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That’s really frustrating. I guess I have two questions for you, because I’m still new enough to this that I’m always learning and keen to understand all the logic that goes into people’s thinking when it comes to Airbnb policies, guests, and the whims of CS.

First, when it came to the guest who wanted to rebook at peak time but paying non-peak prices, did you agree? Or did you tell them that the only way they could rebook was if they paid the seasonal price? (Please tell me you did the latter!)

I’m disturbed (but not surprised by) your account of the CS experience. It sounds like they were continuously harassing you to break your cancellation policy to favour the guest, even though I assume you couldn’t have rebooked for the day the guest didn’t show.

Why did you “compromise”? Why didn’t you just refuse? I’m interested in following your logic here:

  1. Was it that you were afraid of CS? (Is there some way they can penalise you in their system for not appearing to compromise with guests?)
  2. Or is it that you were afraid of a bad review (could a guest who cancels the day of the booking still review you negatively for sticking with the policy they booked under?)?
  3. Or did you want to maintain a good relationship with the guest in case they wanted to stay with you again? (But then, why would you want a guest who tries to cancel the day of the booking to return?)
  4. Or were you just worn down by the protracted harassment and pleading of CS and the guest?
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Hi Lisa, these are great questions to reflect on and thank you for taking time to consider and raise them. I have hosted in house for about 4 - 5 years so these rebooking dates has not occurred up until recently. If anything I, as host, has occasionally suggested a guest change dates due to a) travel restrictions b) bushfire threats and evacuation of my self c) flooding rains and train tracks washed away, no public transport etc. These are considerations for guests visiting an area under stress. The features of the two date change reservations are that they have been very close to arrival day, one was two days earlier than arrival and the second example on the day.
Regarding the first rebooking of dates request, it was months ahead and I usually keep the same room rate (in house hosting) but have considered changing prices at Xmas, high season here, but not got around to it and have to take responsibility for that.
However the second one was last minute and the guest was phoning my private mobile which is only given to sms for last minute questions queries re arrival (not for fielding calls or cancellations etc) which go through the platform for accountability. The guest assumed I was understanding that they could not come because of a sore stomach (I wasnt) and I outlined extenuating circumstances in a formal message, explaining I could do nothing and guest would have to contact airbnb CS. Then it got confusing, and I got what seems like an inexperienced CS person who suggested I cancel the guest, I read those guidelines and realised that was a furfy and called another airbnb CS who agreed with my caution. Anyway as a compromise I offered a 1 day stay next week (I have 2 night minimum) which is still as much prep work. What I understand about myself in this scenario is that when there is a sense of urgency and I have a busy day scheduled in, I can make rash decisions or feel manipulated, where I imagine that or its actually happening. It is not in the spirit of how I host which is that airbnb was a community endeavour with responsibliities on both sides and this guest has really pushed the envelope IMO. No, I have confronted CS in the past saying if they try to overide my refusal of a guest refund I will stop hosting. Im pretty adamant about that. Im not too worried about a review because guests who cancel cannot review from my understanding. I actually would prefer not to have this guest stay even one night, noticed in other reviews guest had commented about someone making the guest breakfast!! Not my style LOL! Ive been pretty straightforward with guests over the years and as a guest myself let them know mistakes I made as a guest and how I rectified them. However I believe we have a role in educating guests the ethos of airbnb or what it aspired to be in the sense of in house hosting (not commercial hosting) and to try to encourage guests in decent behaviour. All up, when Im in a rush, Im vulnerable to being flexible rather than sensible and I reckon this could be a tactic used to obtain some favours or leniency for guests. Not sure.
Actually I reckon a solution could be that I do not permit schedule changes or rebooking dates within XX number of days prior to arrival date. Could be 14 days etc. Lower down in the listing ? Any thoughts on that?

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Then just refuse last minute changes . Tell the guest you can’t accept last minute changes as you are unlikely to be able to book the dates @Wolle

No point having a strict policy if you are not going to stand by it.

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Always stick to your cancellation policy.

In this situation, tell guest to contact Airbnb as they are the only ones that handle refunds and alterations.

Airbnb will inevitably call you to try persuade/ guilt trip you into refunding the guest. Don’t answer the phone.

They will then message you on the App. Then simply reiterate that the guest is free to cancel, however as per Airbnb’s policy, your cancellation policy will take effect.

Don’t bend. Stick to the cancellation policy and always place the blame on Airbnb.

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Yeah how frustrating that CS worked so hard to pressure you into allowing them to cancel! I like @rexbanner’s strategy of not answering the phone when they call to pressure you – but how would you ever know it’s Airbnb calling you?

My impression from spending time on this forum is that this is a frequent occurrence. Can more experienced hosts confirm? Does CS regularly try to pressure hosts into disregarding their cancellation policies?

@Wolle, thanks to the pandemic, people seem to be more likely to have bought travel insurance than ever before, but evidently not the guest with stomach troubles. Still, if you stop and consider it, no matter what, someone in that situation is going to lose: either you, or the guest. She isn’t coming, and you won’t be able to re-book. It’s a zero sum situation. It suggests that you have a kind and generous personality since, in that situation, you decided that you would be the one who loses, and you’d let the guest win.

But… that really doesn’t seem like a good business model!

So I guess it’s a question of why you do Airbnb – do you need the income, is it extra income, is it just for fun? For me in Sydney, where the law only allows me to have short-term guests 180 days of the year, it wouldn’t matter hugely because I have to leave my place vacant half the time anyway. But so much work goes into prepping a place, and I want to use it if guests aren’t there, yet after spending hours cleaning and getting the place perfect, I’d hate to waste all my work just so that I can dirty the place up and have to clean all over again for the next guest!

I can totally understand how you would have felt pressured. The whole Airbnb model is designed around blurring the line between business (a commodity/service economy) and friendship (a reciprocity/gift economy), and there’s a lot to be said for that – for example, that pressures guests to treat your home with respect, because they think of you as a person lending out your space rather than an impersonal business. But it can also lend itself to situations where someone trying to run a business gets pressured into making financially unwise decisions.

Anyway, it’s good you’re thinking this through so you will have a personal policy ready for the next time this happens.

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Just say “no” if you don’t want to change. I have the Strict policy, too, and I treat a change of dates as a cancel-and-rebook. I always tell a guest that cancels “How unfortunate that you can’t make it! Let me know what paperwork you need for your travel insurance and I’ll be happy to provide it.”

What a number of hosts do is to offer the guests a refund if the host can rebook the dates. Just don’t send the guests the money until after the replacement stay has completed and you have the money. It’s a known trick for the guest that cancelled to have a friend book, then the cancelling guest gets their money back, then the friend cancels and you are left with nothing.

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Wow. THIS is the heart of what Airbnb used to be and can still be for Hosts who live this.

Clearly this Airbnb is situated differently than mine or that of many Hosts, making cut-and-dried rules less appealing for this empathetic Host.

Emphasis added. Back to the heart of Airbnb and the particular locale of this Airbnb.

Emphasis added. There’s a LOT to unpack in @Wolle’s post, isn’t there?

It strikes me that @Wolle is feeling the clash from the best aspirations of an Airbnb Host in a challenging locale with guests who either game the system or simply feel that some Airbnbs offer a more cost-effective rental than a hotel. But this post and, look at this:

This isn’t simply about commercial cleaning practices.

These posts represent the best of what the Airbnb community truly offers. If I were Airbnb this is what I would want to offer, sell. I suppose, though, it’s so challenging to scale THIS kind of heart, drive, commitment.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to try?

Not to say it’s easier than ever to become an Airbnb Host, but that maybe you’re not up to it. That it requires business skills, but that’s not nearly enough.

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I only answer calls from people I know or names that show up on caller ID that I recognize. If caller ID showed as Airbnb I’d let it go to voicemail unless I was expecting a callback.

This forum is not a random sample of Airbnb host experiences. It’s disproportionately hosts who turn to the internet when something goes wrong. They google for answers or some some come here to complain because they either think the forum is run by Airbnb or they think Airbnb assigns an employee to read the forum. There are some of us who came here knowing that learning from others would make us better hosts and have had few problems. There are quite a few that are longtime hosts and we literally only see them when they have a problem. There are members here who have had few or no problems but for some reason they perpetuate the idea that Airbnb is a terrible company that treats hosts like dirt.

That’s not to say there are no problems with Airbnb, there are. But don’t let this forum make you irrationally fearful.

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Hi Rex, this is very sensible advice! I will absolutely take this on board and put responsibility back where due!
Thanks so much :slight_smile:

Hi there, again great reflective questions for me, I orignally hosted a single room due to lack of accommodation (Blue Mountains) for the Ultratrail marathon some years back and it went from there. It is not my source of income and has been mostly a great experience due to the type of guests coming who are in semi-retreat /creative project or study mode as well as the rock climbers, marathon runners and bushwalkers who appreciate the quiet and natural environment. Thse last minute capers catch me on the hop and these responses from other hosts are helping me to formulate a prepared, succinct and firm response to guests who try to ovveride my strict cancellation policy.

The guest has now taken up the 1 night stay and left yesterday morning. Guest asked for air freshener stating someone had been eating curry in the bedroom, room has been unoccupied for 17 days, I use cinnamon oil in a spray bottle for surfaces. My intention of giving and getting some feedback from the guest before departing did not happen as person loaded their vehicle and did not come back to say goodbye, so I messaged person via airbnb with some of the topics I would have discussed. This has been good learning for me and next step is to message the scenario #1 international guests to let them know that I will not be accepting booking date changes.

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What did you send in the message to the guest?

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Hi xxguest, I was going to chat with you before you left this morning but you didnt come back in to say goodbye. There are a couple of things I wanted to let you know about:

  1. Changing a booking date on the day of arrival is not a regular or permissable practice. A cancellation is the usual choice if a guest does not want to come.
  2. Phoning my personal mobile (which I provide to guests for last minute directions or questions) is not appropriate as tracking of messages through the airbnb platform ensures transparency and accountability and Customer Support can track events and respond with sufficient information if needed to provide feedback.
  3. Your assumption that a change in travel dates was an option at such late notice, or even at all. The course of action open to you was to cancel your booking or to at least take up the second day of your stay depending on your ‘stomach’ condition.
  4. My cancellation policy is strict, and clearly stated in my listing. It is guests resonsiblity to take out travel insurance as a protection in case of changes in travel plans.
  5. As a pressured compromise I offered you a 1 day stay the following week which you took up last night. Guests are welcomed into hosts homes if doing in home hosting and the original intent and purpose of airbnb was a collaboration and cooperation between hosts and guests.
  6. Your comment about the smell of curry in the bedroom. This room has been unoccupied since the previous guest left 17 days ago. Guests may notice smells and in this case I advised you I disinfect surfaces using cinnamon spray, and had done the room prior to you arriving.
    Given these comments that I would have preferred to chat with you about, I have had to come to a decision about booking changes, especially last minute changes that you assumed were possible and indeed I compromised on. I will not permit this again unless it is through airbnb extenuating circumstances. My policies and house rules are developed and adjusted through guest behaviour and until now, I have not had to make a firm decision on changes / rebooking etc, but this flexibility is now not available to future guests. I really do suggest that you read guidelines and fully understand how airbnb functions if you don’t already know and desist from unreasonable requests such as impossible date changes when airbnb system can clearly demonstrate it cannot do it.
    Trying to get hosts to amend the system for guests benefit or convenience takes considerable time and patience. I do hope you understand what I am writing is a reminder and in the form of guest education, in the same way we as hosts, also need education about good practices. Kind regards, xxhost

Hi Rolf, guest did not respond to this and I have yet to write a guest review. However I did write to the only other guest that did a change of date request a day before arrival (from an international destination) and advising that this option is no longer available to future guests and to be sure that this guest will or will not take up the reservation for December.
In all this situation it has been a learning experience for me and the one thing I am extremely pleased about is that when the CS recommended I send a change of date request link to the guest, when I checked that out, it appears that I as host, was unable to take the booking. I dodged a big bullet there and called another airbnb CS and said as such and she said she would address that with her colleague. When a guest does push the envelope such as this experience shows, their later behaviour can be an indication of whether it was valid and or appreciated, in this case it was not, so I guess it was a successful manoeuvre by the guest. I did phone airbnb yesterday to ask which airbnb policy ever permits a date change a few hours before arrival. Of course one does not exist in the cancellation policy, but the date change scenario can occur even after a guest has arrived from what I read. CS said yesterday hosts can override their own cancellation policy etc.
Interestingly a date change request from a guest 1 hr before check in opens on the day of arrival cannot be accepted by the host through clicking accept, this is where the intervention of CS support is needed taking up time and potential misinformation.
I have definitely had a wallop of an experience of unsustainable hosting LOL! This forum and peoples interest and reflections are very helpful.

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I now look at it as: either they pay for the stay or I do :woman_shrugging:t3: my Economic cost is that loss of revenue because I probably won’t be able to book the dates that guest had blocked. They know the policy. Guilt/desire to be understanding cost me multiple states before I buckled down… this is my business, not a charity.

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That guest education e-mail was very thorough – sounds like you definitely decided to air your frustrations with them! But I wonder if now that will result in the person retaliating with a negative review… or did you allow the person to stay outside of the formal Airbnb booking so they can’t review? You will have to let us know if this results in a negative review later!

Prepare for a low star rating.

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My two cents here, and others might disagree. I would not write a letter to a guest like this or even engage them in this kind of guest education.

I very much appreciate your kind and good intentions here.

A letter with such constructive criticism is very challenging to write in such a way that it is received well. So challenging I wouldn’t undertake it.

A face-to-face conversation – which I know was your hope – is much better but even then I think it is unlikely to be received well. I wouldn’t do it except piecemeal as events occur.

I think that these messages would make more sense if delivered in real time as the request or message occurred.

For example, if the guest changes the booking date (presumably the start date) on the reserved day of arrival, THAT is the time to write something like “I cannot accept a change in the reservation. Please contact Airbnb if you wish to cancel.”

WHEN the guest contacts you on the phone with a text you can THEN respond “Please keep all messages on the Airbnb platform (their rules). I’ll look for your messages there.”

As to your other policies and what you will do next time, I would wait for those incidents to arise and then accept them or deny them. You don’t need to explain your rationale, and doing so will likely get you in a time-consuming back/forth and also a focus on word choices that will be a distraction.

At this point I would work on a VERY SHORT guest review. You might want to post the draft review here for suggestions.

Based on what you’ve written, my review might be (and I’m really curious whether they kept the property clean).

“Guest did not follow House Rules regarding cancellation policies (requested later starting date on reservation’s day of arrival). This guest did/did not respect the property and kept/did not keep it reasonably clean. Complained of smell of curry though property has been unoccupied for 17 days and disinfected. Would/Would not host again.”

That might still be too long. Others will be sure to say so if they feel it is.

Good luck!

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Guest did not follow House Rules. This guest did/did not respect the property and did not keep it reasonably clean. Would not host again.

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The only suggestion I’d have here is to say what house rule was not followed. Others here have made that point that they’d like to know specifically what the guest did in case that wouldn’t bother the next host.

For example, I might write that guest occasionally wore shoes in house, a violation of our house rules. That might not bother the next Host, especially if that is all that I have.

The fact that it was ‘occasionally’ might also be important because it shows that the guest tried, was in substantial compliance and so is not at all a jerk.

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Cancellation policies are not house rules, so I guess the question is were any house rules broken?

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