Reviews - off track

After a couple of years of hosting, I notice that some reviewers kind of go off-piste on my place.
I’ve got three flights of stairs to my apartment, there is no lift - all these details are clearly stated in my listing. I arrange luggage carrying if required.
Some potential guests ask from time to time about the stairs and I always tell them exactly what to expected , bring up the issue of stairs where I think valid and I’ve recommended a few enquirers to look elsewhere after some exchanges.
However from time to time I get this kind of thing bolted on by some reviewers …along the lines of 'it didn’t bother me but there are stairs and no lift and for some guests it might be a problem…and so on.
I don’t reply to the reviews, but I admit to simmering over them mildly as all this stuff is already in the listing and I manage it well with guests. It seems that some reviewers aren’t reviewing their own experience but happy to enter the domain of theorizing for all situations.
I’ve never had a guest arrive and complain about the stairs, and with a city break, nearly all guests walk for oodles of km’s anyway and a few more stairs isn’t going to be much of a barrier.
Any ideas how to deal with it pro-actively are welcome. I’ve thought of giving each guest a big speech about the stairs to explain how it works but I feel doing that I’m explaining a problem that doesn’t exist for most.

Lol. I know this one! One of my reviews went as follows;

The window only opens a little. Zandra did offer us a fan. Be aware it might get hot in summer though we were fine.

For the record: the guest declined the fan and the window opens wide enough you can step out of it if you so desire, you just need to know how to undo the catch. I don’t show guests how because it seems unnecessary to give guests an opportunity to do something stupid.

So yes I know what you mean !

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I have both those issues! Manage them by pointing out third floor and no Air Co, but fans - in my communication before booking. Also put a photo of the stairs in the listing. All fine, but driven crazy by “Those with mobility issues might have problems with the stairs” Don’t know what the solution is, except a better rating system…

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I’m happy when reviewers mention aspects of our house that others might not like. We all know that guests don’t read the listing. They do read the reviews. We have large dogs (calm tempered and well trained) who have access the the entire house except for the guest room. We are explicit about them in our listing to the point of overkill. Yet until a guest wrote in his review that if you’re not a dog lover this isn’t the listing for you we got many guests who had religious prohibitions against touching dogs, dog allergies, fear of large dogs.

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We have your exact situation- Edinburgh is an ancient city and finding a lift in any building is astonshing. We’re on the 3rd floor, so people need to walk up 3 full/6 half flights of stairs to get to us.
My standard confirmation message says something like "We want you to be happy so please make sure you read our listing-in particular… " and then I put a list of all the things that I think they might not like, including the stairs. Since I’ve done that our reviews have improved massively.

I make sure that any ‘defects’ are always mentioned in the backwards-and-forwards conversation with guests prior to arrival. For example, the place I look after for a neighbour has no internet. So I always say in my messages ‘you do understand that there’s no internet available?’

If they don’t reply, then I ask them again. At least this way, I have a record that I told them repeatedly so there’s no way they can even think about refunds. Yes, it’s mentioned in the listing but as everyone here knows, it’s a very unusual guest who reads the listing!

No-one has ever commented about the lack of internet in their reviews because I’ve drilled it into them.

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The problem is that it’s impossible to know what someone else will consider a defect. We have dogs which is an asset to some and a defect to others. We don’t permit smoking indoors. Again an asset to some and a defect to others. We have wood floors in the guest room; an asset to those who believe carpet to be dirty, a defect to those who prefer carpet because their feet get cold on anything else. I believe that if I had to ask guests about everything they might view as a defect I’d be reviewing the entire listing with them. I do agree with you that it’s a good idea to make sure that they understand that your neighbor’s place doesn’t have WiFi as this is considered standard in the U.S.

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@theredlion – “off-piste”?? You’re either a Frenchman or a fencer/swordsman. I’ve never heard anyone else use that phrase!

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OK, I’ll play devil’s advocate here. Before hosting, I stayed in a lot of airbnbs, and I still do. I try to make my reviews useful to others, not just rating the host. After effusive praise (usually, I’ve been pretty lucky with my stays), I typically add at the end “A few things to note.” My comments have included “This is an older row house and the steps to the bedrooms are narrow and steep. A large suitcase might not be easy to manage.”; “There is an architecturally significant historic building across the street. I believe it is currently used as a homeless shelter. I arrived back at the airbnb very late at night during my visit and felt quite safe.”; “Parking can be a challenge in this NYC neighborhood with alternate side parking.” and “The bathroom is very clean and well organized but extremely small, with an 11 inch corner sink.” I have traveled with older family members and people with mobility issues, and I truly appreciate these added details. If you’re getting the 5 stars, I wouldn’t worry about extra information.


What I have is full disclosure about the stairs in the listing, there is a picture of the stairwell and I also mention again in the preamble with guests if they need a help on arrival with luggage. I think somehow perhaps guests book and forget all about reading the listing description then somehow feel I was underhand about it all.

Review comments that add some other angle are welcome but the ’ Zandra’s bed is nice and comfortable but might be a problem if you are 9 feet tall’ types of review seem contrived to allow negativity.

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Oh you are welcome to add it to your vocab. Try and shoehorn it into one of your conversations today )

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I don’t know. These examples sound nitpicky. I think the host should really put these things in their listing. You’re not really reviewing the neighborhood, I don’t think. You’re not writing a guidebook of the area either… No matter how politely you state it, it’s going to be a bit of a crack at the host. I honestly might not book you if I thought you would get nitpicky about things like the examples you gave. I don’t think it’s all that constructive. For example, my guest inn in Japan had super steep and narrow steps, a feature of Japanese buildings of that vintage. I didn’t mention it in the review other than to say positive things about the building… ( I managed my suitcase just fine. )

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We use it here in Europe it’s just another way to say off track. Piste being from skiing/snowboarding (the track you ski down). What do you call those tracks in the US then?

I’ll add it to hometime and fortnightly which Americans also don’t use.

There is no secret that bad reviews happen to all hosts. Our advice is to answer them politely anyway since other people will also see your conversation. Obviously, you are already dealing with this kind of reviews proactively if you have all the details in the listing. You can also send some kind of document with a list of amenities and house rules in a message to a guest directly. This helps sometimes. If you feel you can offer some extra bonus to a guest - do that. I mean fruits, chocolate etc.

Huh? Fruits and chocolates ahead of a review or after one? After doesn’t make sense. You can leave all the goodies you want ahead of time and still get cracked in review if they don’t like the stairs. To be honest your advice sounds a little generic and not all that helpful.


Fruits and chocolate come before the review for sure. These goodies sometimes have unexpectedly calming effect on guests. So, yes, it might help to prevent the unwanted reviews. And this is not the only point I made. To answer the reviews (even bad ones) is as important.

Remember the OP isn’t talking about something going wrong (like the internet dropping out) in which case chocolates or a bottle of wine may be appropriate in terms of placating the guest. We’re talking about stairs. In which case the OP would need to give every guest chocolates just in case it’s an issue …

I’m not sure that approach would make sense.

This is about hospitality and I don’t see anything wrong with offering some extra bonus that doesn’t cost much to all guests. That is actually the point. To go the extra mile and do some small surprising things.

You’re conflating two issues. 1) general hospitality and going the extra mile 2) heading off problems using a variety of tools including small gifts and refunds as appropriate.

This thread is about 3) dealing with issues guest raise in reviews that are clearly mentioned in the listing. you suggested leaving chocolates or small gifts. I don’t see how that strategy works in relation to this particular issue.


I would agree with @iGMS, it’s better to reply to all reviews, even mean comments that guests leave. You would appear polite and open for communication. As for goodies I do leave a bottle of wine most of the time for my guests.