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Weighing the costs of enforcing rules vs getting a bad review


#1

For people that have been doing this a long time and have a lot of reviews, this thread probably won’t apply to you. But for a new AirBnB-er with less than 20 reviews, getting a bad one can HURT, so I’m really on the fence about pushing back about guests that take advantage because I know it will end with me getting a bad review.

I have a per-guest fee on my listing for more than 3 people. It’s not a big fee, but it does help with the extra time that I have to spend cleaning. When there are more beds used, there’s more laundry to do, etc. Because I don’t charge a cleaning fee, and we have a very narrow profit margin, the extra guest fee is important. I also feel that it’s a potential liability issue for both me and the guests if all people are not listed on the reservation. An example that I gave to someone was, what if someone got hurt during their stay or something and we needed to file an insurance claim? We would have no coverage if they didn’t disclose that guest on the reservation.

But in just a month of hosting I’ve had at least 3 parties of guests (that I know of) that have brought in more guests than registered. (I ended up losing a large Labor Day weekend reservation because the guest “forgot” to put her 3 children on the reservation and decided to cancel rather than pay for all the guests.) So I recently added to my house rules that ALL guests must be on the reservation, including children (which is also Air’s rule now, even to list infants on the reservation) and that I would be charging a $50 fee per person, per day for unauthorized guests. I thought this would encourage people to be honest about the number of guests on their reservation because my extra guest fee is WAY cheaper than my unauthorized guest fee.

Guess what? Didn’t work. Had a guest this week that left one person off their reservation. When I asked about it, they said, oops, it was a mistake when they made the reservation. I said that was fine, but could you please update your reservation to indicate the proper number of guests? At this point, they had already checked out, but the payment hadn’t been processed yet, so they still could have added that person. They suddenly stopped responding to my messages. I was trying to give them a chance to do the right thing and pay for all their guests. Had they changed the reservation then, they would have only had to pay an extra $10 for that guest, but now they’re getting charged $50.

I’m tired of people taking advantage and being dishonest, but I also am terrified of getting bad reviews! Any words of wisdom on getting through this new-host phase where every review can make or break you as a business?


Guest lied about smoking
#2

Before I offer any advice, opinions, etc., do you greet all your guests when they check in, or do you do self check in?


#3

Self check-in. I do have a camera at the entrance though, so I can see everyone who arrives.


#4

I assume you disclose your security cameras. Perhaps you could include a picture of the cameras captioned, “external security cameras for your safety.” Raising your extra guest fee to something scarier might help. I think Kona’s was $300.


#5

Yep, I do. Of course, that would require people to read the listing. sigh.


#6

Okay, thanks for the extra info.

Right off the top, I will say the following:

  1. At some point you are going to get a bad review. Accept this. Breathe.
  2. As a host, you MUST enforce your rules. You have rules for a reason. Guests who break one rule are more likely to break several rules unless you draw the line.

My ideal solution would be to greet each guest personally. If they turn up with more people than are booked, then you make the modifications to their reservation, and they must accept them and pay the difference BEFORE you check them in.

If that is not possible, then you must make it clear in your house rules, including the part about the camera and the unauthorized guest fee. Something like:

“The reservation must correctly reflect the number of guests staying in the property, including infants and children. Please note that the entrance way is monitored by a camera, and that any additional guests observed by the camera not indicated in the reservation will be assessed an additional $50 charge per person per day.”

When you observe more than the booked number of people arriving, I would do the following:

  1. Immediately create and send them a reservation modification through AirBnB. This will allow the guest a final opportunity to pay the additional $10 fee.
  2. Send them a message through the AirBnB platform that they were observed on the camera with more guests than the reservation indicated. Give them a deadline (2 hrs, 4hrs, etc.) for them to accept and pay for the modification. Make it clear that if they do not reply, you will be making a claim through AirBnB for the $50 per person per day charge.
  3. Call AirBnB and tell them what happened.
  4. If they ignore you, and/or continue to break your rules, have AirBnB cancel their reservation.

The key for me is always to manage the guest’s expectations, but also to make sure my expectations are clear and my rules are enforced.

If they do leave a bad review, I would simply leave a reply reiterating the house rules in a factual way. Think of it as another opportunity to make potential guests aware of your rules and your willingness to enforce them!


#7

I’m sure you’ve disclosed the camera as required by Airbnb under “other things to note or whatever it is.” And you’ve probably already read this here a dozen times but I’ll reiterate:

Put a picture of the camera. If you already have one move it up in the order because it doesn’t seem like your guests are seeing it. Also in the text of your listing mention the camera but sell it as a safety feature for their benefit, not because they are lying turds.

I think the camera acts as a deterrent but only if they know it’s there. Maybe even put this in your check in message. “my security cam will let me know when you’ve arrived so there’s no need to message me to let me know you’ve checked in. Have a safe trip!” Or something like that. Again keep it friendly and make it about how convenient it is for the guest.

As for the review, don’t let people intimidate you. They should be just as afraid of a bad review as you are.


#8

Two more questions:

Why do you think this way? As @K9KarmaCasa says, guests are just as worried about getting bad review. Why do you believe that you’ll get a bad review simply for enforcing the rules? And you will get bad reviews from time to time from awkward buggers - no matter how perfect your listing and your accommodation is. I know that sounds harsh but don’t be in fear of it. Once it’s happened you’ll be a lot more relaxed!

Question 2:

What does your insurance company say is the maximum occupancy? When you are informing guests that you have a maximum ocupancy, the fact that you can say that your insurance company insists on it gives you that bit more authority :slight_smile:


#9

Thanks. I needed these reminders. :purple_heart:


#10

I guess because there are a lot of AirBnBs around here, and the highest rated are always at the top of the search results, so this potentially gets me less reservations.

It doesn’t actually say.


#11

Remember that probably half those hosts will probably drop out once they realise that Airbnb isn’t the money for old rope that they’ve been led to believe it is. Truly, I’m in Fort Lauderdale and compete with thousands (literally) of Airbnbs, other rentals, motels, hotels, campgrounds, houseboats for rent — you name it.

Don’t worry about the competition. Offer a great service. You’ll be fine :slight_smile:

Check with your insurance company about exactly what the situation is. That gives you a lot of leverage when you’re talking to guests - then it’s not you dictating to them, it’s the big,bad insurance people.


#12

To prevent people from “making mistakes”, this is my first message after receiving a reservation:

Hi (name),
Thank you for preferring us. You have reserved the (room name) room with (private/shared) bathroom for (number) nights for (1/2) persons, check in on (weekday + date), check out on (weekday+date).

To serve you better, please allow me to ask the following questions:

  • Could you please give me the complete names of both? This is for our administration.
  • etc. …

In your case: Confirm in your first message for how many people they made a reservation. If you have trouble with free traveling children, make it clear that they should be included. Ask for everyone’s full name for insurance reasons.
This tactic won’t get you totally rid of the problem, but I do think it will lower the chance, because guests will feel the pressure to be truthful.


#14

STOP BEING AFRAID OF BAD REVIEWS!!! JUST STOP! Stop being afraid of your guests. No one is going to execute you for one bad review!

Why do you not charge a cleaning fee? There is no reason not to have a cleaning fee. Charge $20 minimum, but don’t get all piggish and charge $100 cleaning fee for a $100 a night listing.

You added the All Guest bit in the House Rues, but Guests don’t read that far. If I look at your listing, I need to see on that first page a line that says something like:

“$50 per person per day for unauthorized Guests. You MUST list All Guests on your reservation. “Forgot” is not an excuse and you will still be charged.”

WHY do people think they can add more guests without paying. Read your listing again. Or give us the URL and we’ll look it over and see what the problem might be.


#15

We are relatively new hosts and we have about 30 reviews. Getting one bad one won’t ruin your listing. We got a two star one several months back and were completely blindsided by it. We almost lost our Superhost status. Then a couple weeks later we had a wonderful family who gave us 5 stars. One bad review won’t ruin your listing. Enforce your extra person fee and report the guest to Airbnb with screenshots from the camera. Then give them a nice 1 star review on top of that. Like others have said, maybe greeting guests in person would be a wise idea if possible to catch them immediately in the act.


#16

Because it’s something that I can offer that most other hosts in the area don’t. It makes me stand out from the competition.

I kind of feel that shouldn’t be my problem. Especially because I make a note right at the top of my listing to please read the entire listing carefully before booking. But they are required to acknowledge they read the house rules before booking. So even if they didn’t read the rest of the listing, they should have at least read those.

Ouch! :frowning:


#17

Point being that we recovered! We also received a three star review from some idiot who was angry that we made him pay for extra undisclosed children. We knew it was coming so he got a 1 star review in return. We’ve still had bookings after that even though his review was at the top of our page for a while.


#18

Can you explain why that is?


#19

What do you mean? If the title of my listing states that I don’t charge extra fees for cleaning, and no one else’s listing says that, a guest will be more likely to click on my listing than a similar listing, imo.

update: When I talked to Air yesterday, they said they would process the $50 unauthorized guest fee. I told them to hold off so that I could give the guest a chance to respond. I emailed them back today and told them to go ahead, and the case manager said they are processing the fee, but it will be coming from Air, not the guest. Not that I’m complaining about getting the fee… but what’s the point then? The guest will just continue lying about the number of kids they are bringing. Looking at their profile, they use Air a lot. (And looking at the past places they have booked, this isn’t the first time they’ve done it, as they have more people in their family than the guest limit on some places.)


#20

I’m not sure that I follow the logic. It would seem to me that putting something like that in the listing title would attract bargain hunters? I’m also wondering if it’s the bargain hunters who sneak in extra people - trying to keep costs down and get something for nothing.


#21

Well, if I was someone shopping for a house to book, especially if I was new to AirBnB and not familiar with all their added fees, finding a listing that had less added fees than others would appeal to me. I think everyone enjoys saving money.

My house price is not a bargain listing. It’s competitive with others in my area. (And there are some aspects of my old house that do put me at a disadvantage to competitors, so I need to find any edge I can.) Others in my area charge anywhere from $20-150 for a cleaning fee, so I have the advantage over those listings. I do charge an extra guest fee, but that doesn’t show in the list of added fees. It’s just calculated into the per night cost.


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