Warning about Instant Book - learning about "No Negative Review" Rule

Hi All - long time host here (coming up on 8 years on the AirBNB Platform), with multiple properties.

I just disabled instant book on all my listings - and I wanted to share a warning about enabling instant book, as I would have appreciated knowing it before a recent interaction I had over a guest I cancelled after reading his most recent review (he threw a party during COVID lockdown - fun!).

With instant book, you allow “anyone” to stay with you. To offset this risk, AirBNB has “rules” about who can book your place. One of them is to only allow bookings when “guest does not have negative reviews.”

It seems like this would disqualify a guest with a 1 star review, for having a party, from being your guest - but as I learned after 3 weeks of messaging with AirBNB support and eventually with a supervisor (only 14 days after I requested one!), that’s not how AirBNB thinks about the world!

For them (but not published ANYWHERE on the “enable Instant Book” workflow), “not having negative reviews” means a 3* AVERAGE. So if someone threw a RAGING PARTY and got a 1 STAR review, but also stayed 2 times for a night in a shared room and got a 5 star review for each…that person can instant book your house!

Doesn’t that seem EXACTLY like what “don’t allow guests with negative reviews to book” should mean? To be honest, based on my last few years’ experience as a host, I can’t say I am surprised, just disappointed.

Hope this helps someone - and thanks for letting me vent too.

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Thanks, good to know about the 3+ average cutoff, and agree it’s meaningless without providing hosts the potential guest’s actual average rating value. I’ve known for a while that by “require guests to have recommendations [sic plural] from other hosts and no negative reviews”, Airbnb means that a guest with even a single non-negative review will be allowed to instant book. A single review hardly tells you much, but it is what it is, and I suppose is better than not even having that.

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This should be a warning shot to all the hosts who cannot bring themselves to be critical in their reviews - those who ‘don’t want to be negative’ for example, and only want to leave ‘good reviews or none at all’.

It’s scary to think that there are hosts out there who unleash these guests on us all due to a misguided sense of concern for the at fault guests.

As stated recently on this forum - stop thinking ‘good’ or ‘bad’ reviews, and think simply ‘honest’. It is your duty to help out us other hosts…

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Unless you don’t think it’s your duty… as detailed on another thread.

@HostingPalmSprings So does this mean that Airbnb no longer allows hosts who use instant book to have 3 penalty free cancellations? When I’ve cancelled a booking I chose “not comfortable with this guest.” It’s been simple and painless.

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Hi KKC, I had used 2 free cancellations based on what I consider to be “bad fits” with my properties (folks whose message along with their instant book made me feel uncomfortable about how well they take care of my place), and I didn’t think I should lose my third, because when I opened up this guests reviews, the first review at the top from a three months ago, was a one-star review from a host saying that the guest threw a party at their house during a lockdown period, and trashed the house.

That’s what drove me to escalate what I felt like was an error in the way the system was applying the negative review rule, and I learned was in fact a feature of the system.

With multiple listings on instant book, three penalty free cancellations a year doesn’t feel sufficient, especially when I don’t have a way to weed out people who I don’t think are going to take good care of my places.

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I see. With my listing I rarely cancel. I have mostly one night stays and even longer stays are only a few days. And no one can have a party here. So IB works great for me. Vetting guests is not anything I want to do.

Let us know if you see any drop in bookings due to moving down in search results. That used to be a thing, maybe it doesn’t really affect well established hosts.

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I’m confused. The Airbnb site says “only positive reviews from other hosts” is the criterion.

I’ve always assumed this would screen out guests who got a “No” host response on “Would you host this guest again?” and did not take star ratings into consideration at all. So a guest could be all 1 stars and if the host said they would host them again, that would be considered positive and they could instant book.

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@dpfromva this is what I see. I underlined the part that I find misleading, and unfair.

“No negative reviews” should clearly exclude somebody with a one-star review for throwing a party, and should not require that one of my three vetoes be used for that person.

If the only condition were recommended by other hosts, I’d agree with you.

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I don’t think there was ever a way to take a guest’s star rating into consideration as that number is not exposed to hosts. Or I’ve never been able to see a guest rating at least and don’t have one for myself as a guest either. Hosts just get to read the guest’s reviews by other hosts and rely on the opaque system to enforce “positive reviews” in instant bookings.

Based on @HostingPalmSprings, if a guest got all 1 stars, their average would be below 3 and they would get filtered out automatically by the system for instant books.

Air really likes to talk out of both sides of their mouth…
So much of what is policy and enforced is totally contradictory. I seriously wonder how old the policy deciders are because they really don’t seem to think through the ramifications.

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Completely agree. The “No negative reviews” wording is what gave me some confidence and is rather misleading if the backend implementation is a 3+ average.

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I agree it’s at best confusing and at worst misleading.

I’m pretty sure it used to just screen out from IB any guests with no ratings (newbies) AND those who got the now-defunct thumbs down “not recommended.”

The response you got on average guest stars is interesting and not what I expected. Sigh, Airbnb is not noted for transparency, whether through intent or just poor communications.

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Actually, it is worse, thanks to Air making the feature as confusing as possible (shocking, I know). My understanding is this only prevents IB where previous hosts have Never Hit “No” for “Would you host again?”.
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Their rating and stars are irrelevant. Yep, this is very misleading. Granted, this might have changed, but I would be surprised. It serves Air to leave this as unclarified as possible.
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@randomoid Here’s the chat I got from the supervisor today. I think this is how it works, although their system is so screwed up, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it’s not consistent and how they apply things.

@KKC I certainly will report if we see a significant drop off in bookings, but between airbnb no instant book, and vrbo, I’m pretty confident we’ll hit the occupancy we need.

Aside from this policy being asinine and ridiculous, I also was so frustrated, that it literally took an entire month for them to get back to me. I opened the ticket complaining on June 5th, I requested a supervisor on June 17th, and I got a response today, July 1st. The service that Airbnb has been getting slowly worse and worse over the past two or three years, likely as they marched towards IPO, and focused on cutting costs, but this feels like a new low. Even my cell phone carrier gets back to me sooner when I ask for a supervisor.

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@Jefferson well said and +1

Sergio might be correct. Maybe. Or not. He probably “believes it is so” - does not make it the truth, especially if it isn’t stated in black and white on an official Air help site, etc.
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We should test it someday :slight_smile:

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Hmm, was the double negative inadvertent? As in you meant “allows IB”, not “prevents IB”, right?

The way I read it is that the ‘average’ is calculated on one hosts’ rating across different measures— not the average across different hosts.

So a better example would be if the host gives them a 4 for communication, 4 for cleanliness, and 1 for house rules, they would not fall below the threshold.

You think they were fixing bugs and maybe even racing to implement this silly 3+ policy last month in order to have a defensible answer to hosts like you complaining to them? :slight_smile:

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Truth. If so, we are back to clueless square one. :slight_smile: