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Reviewing an overly demanding guest

Hi folks,

I hope you are all doing well. India, like the gopher sticking its head outside its burrow and debating whether to come out, is wondering whether there are going to be six more weeks of the winter. I mean, the pandemic.

My listing is showing signs of limping back to life, but things could get shut down again if another wave of the pandemic returns.

The topic today is a European guest who came to stay for a month. He seemed like basically a nice chap, but on the whole was a problem guest. I’m really tempted to just not review him, because he definitely does not deserve my default all-positive review, and it’s much easier just not to review than write a negative one. A non-review will also not elicit hostile reactions from the guest. My past negative reviews have never produced a reaction, but this guest seems a bit special.

However, perhaps he is enough of a problem that I should warn other hosts about him. Based on what I write below, feel free to offer your opinions.

It seems likely he won’t review me, because (a) his approach to things seems to be not to concern himself with things that don’t directly affect him and (b) there is like a day and a half left in the review period.

When I initially accepted the booking, it was apparent that the guest spoke terrible English, though his written English was slightly better. I immediately thought this would be a problem in India, since the guest certainly didn’t speak any Indian language. It’s difficult enough in India, even if one does speak all the languages.

It wasn’t even the fact that the guest spoke terrible English. His approach to English conversation was to produce long-winded and almost incomprehensible sentences with bad pronunciation and much repetition, which was painful to listen to. I pointed out the language issue to him and his girlfriend, who did speak English, but he seemed to dismiss this as an issue. He basically said that he “would manage”. Well, he’s an adult, and it’s not my business. But I did think that we would end up doing a certain amount of hand-holding above and beyond. International guests do tend to require a little extra help. I thought this one might require more. As it turned out, it wound up being more than I was expecting. It also seems likely (though I don’t know this for certain), that he doesn’t have much travel experience outside his home country.

So, some small notes about his visit. Some of it may seem trivial to third parties.

On a number of occasions, he attempted to contact me by standing in the entrance area of our flat and shouting my name. That area is not far from my room, and well within earshot, especially if someone is being loud, as he was. On at least one occasion I was sleeping, and it woke me up. I told him not to do that, because it was quite strange and inappropriate. I told him to message me, or call me if it was urgent or an emergency. After I told him a couple of times, he mostly stopped, though he would still sometimes do it.

He would randomly decide to have breakfast at a range of times, ranging from 11 am all the way till 3 pm. He didn’t seem to be aware that my cook didn’t just sit in the kitchen all day waiting for orders. He’d then message me asking for a 5 egg omelette. On at least one occasion, he communicated this to my cook using sign language.

Normally guests have breakfast when they get up, unless it’s too late for them, and normally communicate with the cook directly, usually by just wandering into the kitchen. While this isn’t a big deal, it’s definitely a bit unusual. And it wasn’t necessarily convenient for my cook to drop what he was doing and make an omelette, nor for me to communicate with my cook at odd moments.

As far as I can tell, he would leave the air conditioner on when he left the room. And lights as well. Whenever we went in to clean, the A/C was on.

(This one wound up being a bit more serious.) In India, food and especially sugar will attract bugs, particularly ants. There are small red ants that are quite common here (I’m not sure what their scientific name is). They bite, and can be quite a nuisance. Anyway, we noticed them after the guest had been there some time, and every time we cleaned the room, it got worse. Three times, we had to take the bed apart and lift the mattress off the frame, because they were in the bed. The second time it happened, which was around a week before the guest departed, I wrote him a detailed message about this, but never responded to this either in writing or verbally. and when we did a proper clean of the room again after we left, the room was completely covered with ants and we had to do a through clean, and wound up getting bitten by the ants too. But even this was not completely successful, because the next guest said she got bitten, so I called in pest control. In hindsight, I should probably have done that at the time we did the cleaning, but I didn’t realise they would come back so fast.

I’m not sure what the guest was doing that was causing this, but I think he was eating chocolate in the room, including the bed, and not cleaning up after himself. Also, possibly sugar cola drinks. And I think he ate food in there as well.

This is the worst pest problem I’ve had since I started hosting here in May 2016. I’ve occasionally had ant issues, because guests are often not as clean as one would like, but never anything like this. Of course, the fact that he was here a month no doubt exacerbated things.

The guest was getting married, so he wanted to buy some clothes for himself and his fiancee. I’ve occasionally helped with similar things before, so I got one of the people who works part time for me (I’ll call him S) to take him around and show him shops and so forth. This wound up being more work than anticipated, because the guest didn’t seem inclined to make up his mind easily, and wanted to shop around. And S kept being roped into this.

More problematic was that he also wanted to buy some jewellery. I’m still not sure whether this was his fiancee, or as a business thing. As mentioned, it was not easy to communicate with him. Anyway, this wound up being something of a nuisance in the last two weeks of his stay, and particularly the last week. Because he couldn’t decide what he wanted to buy, and was wandering around trying to negotiate quality and prices with different people. S got roped into this and to some extent I did too. Then he decided on something, but decided to have most of the money to pay for the thing sent from Europe by his fiancee. Eventually, it didn’t arrive before his departure, though of course everyone was hoping it would, but he had already partly paid the jeweller, who apparently wasn’t willing to give the money back. So in the last couple of days, we were in his room having conferences on the phone with his fiancee (who wasn’t in India), and the jeweller, trying to decide what to do. We didn’t spend a ton of time doing this, but it still went on for an hour or two every day, and was quite distracting. And I didn’t exactly volunteer for this. He sent me several messages asking for help.

But he wasn’t easy to deal with, nor cooperative, and it was hard to understand what he was saying at the best of times. I was trying to discuss with his fiancee about what to do, because she did actually speak English, but it didn’t go well.

After that, just before he left, he complained to me that nobody was listening to him, and that we were talking over him. I thought this was a bit rich, seeing as he was the one asking for help. And by the end he was almost treating us like his assistants, which felt quite weird.

I thought that since it seemed there was some delay in the money, and that he should wait a little longer for it to arrive. But he didn’t want to do that, and in the end, it’s just as well he didn’t, because it seems there was an error in transmission, though I don’t understand how that was possible, and the money never did arrive.

Anyway, this struck both myself and S as a bit much for what was just supposed to be a rental stay, and between the ants and the jewellery shopping, we were quite relieved when he was gone. Though, like I said, he seemed basically like a nice guy.

Finally, the evening when he was leaving, we had this weird conversation. Where, first, as already described, he complained that we were “talking over him” and that it was “not comfortable”. I didn’t say much to this. I thought it better not to rile him up. So I said that I understood what he was saying and I was sorry. I’d already offered to call him a taxi at 1 am via the Uber app, so I told him to call me when he was ready to leave. Then he weirdly asked me why he should call me, and said that he was always on time, and that if he said he would be ready at 1 am he would be ready at 1 am. I didn’t know what to say to this so just shrugged.

Then at around 5 to 1, I went to check on him, and saw that he’d taken his luggage and gone downstairs without saying anything to me. So I followed him. S was downstairs too, though I’d not told him to come. So I ordered him his taxi, waited till it came, made sure that the driver knew which terminal/gate he needed to be taken to, because I at least really didn’t want him to miss his flight and come back
here again.

Sorry, for the long winded stream of consciousness message. I could make it shorter, but that would be even more work. So, how about this as a possible review? Did I leave out anything important? Did I include or emphasize something trivial? Could my wording be improved?

                                * 

xxx visited for a month during his trip to India.

He seemed like a nice person.

However, he was not sufficiently careful with cleanliness, and there was an ant infestation in the guest room during his stay. He did not respond to requests to be more careful. After he left, I had to call pest control to deal with the problem.

As far as I can tell, he did not bother to turn off the A/C when he left the room.

Prospective hosts should be aware that he does not speak English well, which may make communication challenging.

Also, he may prove a more demanding guest than average. In our case, we became involved in his personal shopping projects during his stay to an extent that did not really feel appropriate. However, he did not seem to be aware that his requirements exceeded a reasonable threshold, nor did he seem particularly appreciative of our efforts.

And the end of his stay he simply walked out of the building without making any attempt to communicate with me, even though he had asked him to order a ride for him on Uber (at 1 am).

Cleanliness 2/5, Communication 3/5, Observance of House Rules 2/5

4 Likes

Welcome back, Faheem. I’m happy to see you’ve made it through the pandemic so far.

7 Likes

ALWAYS REVIEW EVERY GUEST!!! NOT just a generic boilerplate. Be honest. The Review isn’t for the guest, is seldom read by guests, and he/she can’t do anything to hurt you or your listing. The Review is for US – your fellow hosts!!!

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Thanks, @KKC. Happy to still be alive. For now. And good to be back.

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Hi there! I just received advice from this group and let me put that advice to the test here. Important: review as guest, not as person. I assume but don’t know that you have house rules that say not to eat in room. If not, I’m not sure you can blame him for doing so. Same on turning off A/C.

Review: Didn’t follow house rules on not eating in room or turning off A/C when not in room, even when repeatedly reminded to do so. Very difficult to understand his English. Very demanding of services not related to lodging. Do not recommend.

6 Likes

I’m sure you are quite happy to see the back of him.

The draft review seems fine to me. Most of his behavior could be characterized as “Seemed to assume that the host and staff were his personal concierges, yet failed to express any appreciation when we went over and above to help him go shopping, make phone calls for him, etc.”

You don’t mention where he was from, but he sounds like someone who is accustomed to having servants and maids and is maybe used to being given special treatment and everyone raptly listening to what he has to say, because of his status in the family (like the only son with female siblings).

As an aside, that standing outside or in the hallway and shouting for you is very common here in Mexico where I live.
It seems to be a cultural thing of respecting private property, even though it seems disrespectful to us to shout like that.

Mexicans will stand outside someone’s gate, which isn’t locked, even someone they know well, and yell, “JOSÉ! JOSÉ!”
They’ll wait 30 seconds and yell like that again. It is somehow more respectful to them to wake someone up, or disturb the neighbors, than to enter their yard without permission.

One time my neighbor’s worker was doing that outside his gate. After it went on for a full 5 minutes, I came out and said, “Paul isn’t home” (obviously). “Oh, he’s not home?” “His truck isn’t here, so he’s gone out”. “Oh, okay” the guy says and walks away.
I don’t know how long he would have kept yelling had I not come out.

4 Likes

You don’t want him back?
I wouldn’t want him either, he’s sounds like an awful lot of effort to host.
Please review him, say no to hosting again and let other hosts make their own decisions based on your review

5 Likes

@faheem Here is a recipe for a non-toxic ant killer that may save you from having to pay for fumigations. (There are so many kinds of ants, but we call those tiny red stinging ants fire ants)

Ant killer
(Do not be tempted to make it stronger…if it is too strong they will not take the bait.)

Place into 1-cup liquid measuring cup:
1/2 teaspoon boric acid powder
1 1/2 Tablespoons white sugar
Fill to 2/3 cup line with warm water
Stir/whisk to dissolve completely.

Fold half a paper towel a few times into roughly a 3 inch square; dip in the liquid and set the wet square on the counter, floor or even on a tile wall. Put remaining liquid in fridge covered.

The paper towel will dry out over night. Discard and repeat with new towel; repeat until you see no ants. Usually gone in one day, but treat two days to be sure.

Leftover liquid can be kept refrigerated for future use for at least a month.

3 Likes

Hi Faheem! My suggestion is. maybe shorter?

He seemed like a nice person, who booked for 30 days.

He was not clean enough in his room food habits and caused an ant infestation. This involved extra cleanup, and he was not more careful after that. Professional pest control dealt with the problem.

Guest left a/c on constantly.

Communication in English was very challenging.

We tried to help guest with assistance in major shopping without success. He was unaware that his continued requests exceeded a reasonable threshold within our household and elsewhere. He was perhaps innocently quite rude to my staff.

Guest left without saying anything, even though he had asked host to order a ride for him on Uber (at 1 am).

Cleanliness 2/5, Communication 3/5, Observance of House Rules 2/5

1 Like

Even shorter would be better.

I wouldn’t comment on what he was aware of. How would you truly know? Nor whether he is a nice person; review is of him as a guest. That he left without saying anything is captured by ‘rude’ earlier: opportunity to cut. If eating in room is against house rules, that is sufficient.

4 Likes

Hi, Faheem! Welcome back.

Make it shorter. Leave out communication difficulties as it sounds like he doesn’t speak much English.

“Guest repeatedly left food messes in bedroom, causing an ant infestation which required professional treatment. Treated host and host’s friends rudely and consumed excessive quantities of their time with his unreasonable demands. Cannot recommend.

6 Likes

They aren’t for the guest, they are for YOUR FELLOW HOSTS. Please review with all the warts.

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@faheem I have no advice. Glad you are back. A great story. We don’t do long bookings but do have a two week one later in the year. Would love to visit India or anywhere again. Was thinking of another Phuket/ Thailand trip but we both have maybe not long COVID but still recovering from it. Off to Uluru in July so sticking to travelling in Australia for now.

Welcome back @faheem!

I like @PitonView summary but feel like unreasonable demands needs some kind of brief explanation. Maybe “…quantities of their time for personal shopping assistance.”

That tells future hosts more about his “neediness” unrelated to hosting.

1 Like

No suggestions. Like most of the above ones anyway. Welcome back. Thought of you periodically and glad you’re AOK.

1 Like

Hi @KenH,

It’s nice to hear from you again after so long. I hope you are doing well, and that your listing is too.

Yes, I know in theory that one should always review guests, but it’s hard to remember my responsibility to fellow hosts when I have so little contact with them. Perhaps I should hang out here more often. And my standard reviews are a fairly generic template, but most of my guests are only here a few days, and do little that is worth reporting, one way or the other. Anyway, consider me suitably chastised. :slight_smile:

2 Likes

@faheem I have never, fortunately, had a guest who deserved a negative review, but I can imagine that it isn’t something hosts enjoy having to do.
I can understand why it’s easier to just not leave a review- they’re gone and you never have to deal with them again.

But when hosts shy away from leaving honest reviews for bad guests, this is how those bad guests keep getting passed around, making all their hosts’ lives a royal pain, with the host left wondering why this bad guest had no negative reviews.

And FYI, I dismiss entirely the sort of template generic reviews that just say “Nice guests” or “Great guests!” because those reviews tell me nothing, and I figure (as confirmed by looking at the reviews that host has left for other guests) that the host leaves that same review for all their guests unless their behavior was completely egregious.

Hi Faheem, nice to hear from you!

I agree with posting a briefer review. I would not mention the language issue. Some international travelers are simply not going to speak the language well. It would be weird to have a rule that “Guests must speak fluent [Indian dialect] or English in order to stay here.”

I appreciate your sense of hospitality in accommodating your clueless guest. You might want want to add a few rules, such as breakfast hours, no food consumption in bedrooms, and A/C to be turned off when leaving the room. Unfortunately it is not always practical to rely on mutual goodwill.

You could make the latter a bit humorous, “Although we have pest control, please do not keep or consume food in your bedroom, or you and the entire household might be visited by annoying ants. We are not responsible if food is eaten in the bedroom.”

The last sentence is to prevent refund requests being granted by Airbnb due to pests. Adding this needs to be weighed against a negative impression on potential guests that there are possible insect issues.

“Unfortunately the guest did not follow repeated reminders about not eating in their room and use of the A/C. They also took up an unusual amount of staff time when they did not make proper arrangements for money transfers for shopping expeditions and ordered meals at odd hours.”

I always wanted to write this review:

“The guest cared for my home as if it was their own, which apparently is littered with food remains, pee all around the toilet, and blatant disregard for their furnishings.”

4 Likes
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