Reviews, refunds and high-maintenance guests

Hi everybody!
I need your help again. I have a guest that I am expecting may not leave me a very favorable review (all my reviews so far have been 5 stars, all of them), and if that happens, I wonder what the best response may be.

So, here goes - the lady books my apartment for 1 person a while ago. She calls me a couple of days before the arrival, saying she is bringing her daughter - I say no problem, no additional charge, using Airbnb ofcourse, so my responses are recorded.

She arrives yesterday, I was outside so I greeted them - the daughter (an adult) notices my accent (I am originally from Europe living in the US for over 20 years now) and asks where am I from, saying “oh, not an American”. I am a US citizen so I was not happy with that, but oh well…

Mom tells me they had change in plans and will leaving a day earlier, would it be too late for a refund - I advise her to call Airbnb. Also tell her to text me if they need anything.

A minute later, after they hauled their huge suitcases in (I am still outside) she asks me if I have an air freshener in the apartment, she detects a pleasant smell but if it’s chemical it will bother her. She is not asthmatic (I asked her), and no, I do not keep air freshener in the apartment.

10 minutes later, she rings on my door (what happened to the texting?) telling me that a fire alarm is beeping, can she take a battery out. I give her a few batteries (I was cleaning the place in the morning and did not hear anything, otherwise I’d replace it myself). I would go in the apartment to replace it but I did not want to bother them since they were already in.

Airbnb sends me a message about her request to shorten her stay, and I refund a night - I did not have to but at this point I detect a more “complicated” guest, so I think, ok, let her have it.

This morning I get a message from her (finally she is using Airbnb) asking if I can give her unscented sheets, she could not sleep in the bed because the scent bothered her, she slept on a couch using the new comforter I keep as a spare. I use a bit of fabric softener in my laundry, I do not find it overwhelming (and I am asthmatic) and never had any complaints about the scent before.
She says she will try to wash the sheets (we do not offer laundry but there is a set in the apartment) to see if that helps.
I told here where spare sheets are but they are all laundered the same way, and advised her to call Airbnb if she finds her accomodations unsuitable and I will refund a night if they leave today. Has not heard from her since.

I realize this guest is not doing anything wrong, but as I said, the review may not be 5 stars. I feel that I did not really meet her needs, however, I did not know that fire alarm will start beeping or she is sensitive to scents.

If she complains about the scent can I say something like “I wish the guest told me about their sensitivity to scents ahead of time so I can make sure there is no lingering fabric softener on the sheets”. That’s what I would do have I known. And once again, it really is just a bit of fabric softener, nothing else.

Sorry this is long - but thanks in advance for your advice :slight_smile:

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How many do you have?

If it’s less than 5 star and you have a bunch of them, it won’t really matter. Don’t review her first, wait until you get notification that she’s left a review or right before the 14 days is up. Please review her honestly as she is a major PITA and most of us would NOT want to host her.

I’d give her a thumbs down, star or two deduction on communication, and if she violates any rules or leaves the place a mess deductions on those as well.

As for any apparent bias against foreigner born citizens, ignore it.


In your situation I would charge for extra guests and wouldn’t have refunded her the last night.

You are letting this guest walk all over you.

If she has an issue with fragances for linens she would have told you in advance not wait until she got to your place. And why would she want an air freshner if she has a problem with chemical based smells? I would definitely gone over if she said the fire alarm was going off and wouldn’t leave a guest to change the batteries.

Message her now and say that as you haven’t heard from her about cancelling her booking, you are presuming everything is fine and she will be staying the final night. Remind her of the check out time and confirm you will be there 10 minutes after checkout to clean the property.


Thanks for the replies, much appreciated :slight_smile:

Yeah, I missed the boat on the fire alarm - I know this sounds as an excuse but she caught me off guard when she rang the door - I was in the middle of vacuuming, dragging the whole-house vacuum hose around, disheveled, hot, trying to keep my dog away from her - I should have said to give me a minute to clean up and I’ll come up and change the battery. Lessons learned.

@KKC - thank you, you always make me feel better :slight_smile: I agree, this guest is a bit of PITA. She has one 5-star review, I wonder why did she not stay at that same place instead of booking with me…
I have 20 reviews so far (about the same amount of guests did not leave a review). Here is my listing:

Thanks again!

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Hi Helsi,
She did not ask for the air freshener, she was asking if I had one in the apartment already as she was bothered by the scent. I think maybe the floor cleaner scent was still in the air as I cleaned the floor just before their arrival (with all natural cleaner so no chemicals). Not sure what else could it be.

There does seem to be a theme emerging in recent posts about guests complaining about “fragrances”. I don’t have time (time = incompetence this late at night; a stressful one…) to audit these, but it’s worrying in that some people may be using this as a pre-thought out scam. I have every sympathy for people who have real allergies; I have occasional asthma, usually brought on by a cold/chest infection or windy, dusty conditions. I recently ended up in an emergency clinic in the Canary Islands with bronchitis and asthma. The hotel wasn’t responsible for the wind and ensuing dust.

Call me paranoid, but that doesn’t mean they are not out to get you!


It may be a theme, but it is real. I hate it when my sheets smell like “stuff.” Just three guest groups ago a young woman arrived with welts on her arms from the fabric finish used in the previous AirBNB and her eyes were puffy. One night in my basically scent free bed and environment and the hives were much clearer and her eyes were back to normal.

There is really no reason to use any scents in the laundry. It does nothing to enhance anyone’s experience sleeping and you run the risk that a person with a sensitivity to that scent will have their visit ruined.


Thanks Joan. I am sorry you had to go to the emergency room - as an allergy/asthma sufferer myself, I understand so well.

Oh, I forgot to mention - on her facebook site, this same guest is praising essential oils and their scents! And while I do not use essential oils for the apartment (as not to aggravate anyone’s sensitivities), I also use mostly natural products for cleaning and laundry. Is she out to get me - at this point I am inclined to believe anything.
I almost have a feeling that she started complaining the moment I told her to call Airbnb if she needs to change (shorten) her booking. Maybe she thought her chances of getting a refund would increase if she complains. Disgraceful if that’s what she was trying to do. Guests like this are really much better to book a hotel room.

I have a feeling that original intention of Airbnb as a “sharing experience” platform of a sort is gone and people are using Airbnb as a cheaper alternative to the hotels nowadays, forgetting that they are in somebody’s home and the stay/amenities may not be comparable to that in a hotel.


I had hoped I made it clear that I am sympathetic to allergies, nor do I use scented stuff for laundry, cleaning products et al. The only allergens in my house are the cats; I made a choice, okay, a quick one, outside the pet shop 20 years ago. For many years I could not cuddle them without a bout of hay fever, but I seem to have become immune.

Lots of research coming out of the US and UK at the moment, about the overuse of cleaning products with anti microbials etc, our houses being too clean, and kids on gadgets instead of outside playing with dirt, causing dreadful illnesses, including common childhood leukaemia.

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I agree that sensitivities are real, as I am allergic to literally everything (confirmed by allergy testing), but if a guest is that sensitive, would it not be their responsibility to let the host know, just to make sure their sensitivity in not triggered?
In this case, the guest stopped complaining after I advised her she is welcome to contact Airbnb to get a more suitable accommodation if she is this bothered, and I will refund another night. She did not cancel her stay so I guess the place is not that unbearable.


Well done for checking out her FB site. Stick to your guns on this one.

I don’t use fabric softener but if the laundry washing liquid on sale that week is “lemon scented” then that’s what they get.:japanese_goblin:


I understood that @Siladhiel

The focus of my point however was that hosts need to be firm and professional with guests and that includes charging for extra guests and not allowing last minute cancellations.

It was also that if a guest has a reaction to chemical fragrances, they wouldn’t ask for air fresheners which include them. And that if it was such an issue she would have let you know on booking or asked about this before booking.

Yes, she should have told you ahead of time. In our email to guests before they arrive, I ask them if they have any allergies or sensitivities (especially important since we serve breakfast). You may want to try doing that. If anything, it gives you an out because you can say you asked them and they didn’t tell you.

Thanks everybody :slight_smile:

I use Ms. Meyer’s products - they are natural with no harsh chemicals but they are scented, lightly, and they leave a pleasant scent - especially all purpose cleaner.

The guest sent me a message in the early afternoon that they will stay, she is in a process of washing sheets (while not even in the apartment at that time) and would be fine on a couch if washing sheets does not help, and how I am an excellent host and they love my home. She said she is using only essential oils in her life (like those do not smell) and chemical scents offend her. She confirmed she has no “allergies” (sic, not sure why she put it in quotes).

She is making a big deal about the scent that is not chemical in the first place, but I am not going to debate with her. I wonder what guests like that do in the hotels? I am pretty sure hotels do use chemicals.

They are leaving today, all I can say is good riddance.

Thanks for letting me vent :slight_smile:

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If this guest is fixated on whether or not the origin of a fragrance is chemical, she may have “multiple chemical sensitivities” (MCS) which I understand is different than allergies. The “cause” may be psychological rather than physiological, so the smell may bother her if she perceives that it is a chemical smell, whether or not it actually is. For more information on MCS:

A friend of mine offers a “scent-free” listing, and this would be the type of place your guest would want to stay.

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Good riddance is right – though I would be prompted to do a return note to Mrs. Crab-pot to send her on her way:

Thank you for your note and kind compliments! I am so sorry the one cleaning product I use, (Mrs. Meyer’s) affected you but I do understand that scents and products are subjective to us all. With me, the only product I cannot tolerate are essential oils. If a guest uses them, as one did recently, it not only makes me ill but takes an enormous amount of effort to eliminate all traces from the rental. Have a safe trip! … :laughing:


@SandyToes - love it! I’ll steal some of it for a private review for sure :smiley:


Thanks for sharing. I’m learning a lot about what to do/not do from y’all.

BTW: Your place is lovely.