Communications, Expectations and Resolutions

You get a text… Ohh, excitement. But nope. It isn’t a reservation, not even an inquiry from a potential guest from Airbnb. It’s a photo from your cleaner of…what in the world…is…that? I mean, it looks like your sofa cushion, and I’m not talking about the little decorative pillow but the big part of the sofa. And what is on it? You know your day just got interesting, and not in a good way. Yes, this week’s episode it's all about Communications, Expectations, and Resolutions.

Even Repeat Guests:

You and your cleaner are both perplexed, trying to figure what in the world happened in your place with your last guest. And no, if you are just tuning in, you’re not listening to a crime podcast. Ahh, the life of a host. At least, we can’t complain that the life of a host is a dull one, right? You take a big breath and you start thinking…

Darn it. They had a party…

  • Last time, they were great guests. That’s why you gave them an early check-in…
  • You go back to the photo. Is that a wet stain?

Your cleaner tells you the wet spot smells like urine…in a sofa cushion? Sounds like they brought a dog, and you don’t allow pets. You can probably rule out that had a baby. I mean, your house isn’t family friendly and they were six guys (the movie is “Three Men and a Baby,” not six). First, a party. Now, you’re sure they brought a dog.

If only you had a video camera, but with so many entrances to your place…where to place one? And which one is the best? Your next guest is arriving in two days, so you have a bit of time to figure out what in the world to do with this mystery stain and what to do about it.

But do you call the guest? Do you submit a claim? For a wet spot? Yes, dear hosts. That’s the question that inspired today’s episode.

This Vacation Rental is Unique:

Let’s go back to the beginning. The Airbnb belongs to a friend who has a seasonal listing. His season is short, barely over a month, but his place is high end. Not to be mysterious like the stain. His home sleeps up to 10 people, and he charges $900 a night during the high season, which runs for about 6 weeks.

After his high season is over, he rents to long-term guests. Yes, it’s a very particular short-term rental, but remember, you work your business the best way possible.

In a nutshell, everything needs to in top shape during his high season. His guests normally book reservations during the weekends from Thursday until Sunday or Monday morning. In this case, there were six guys for a weekend (and as I mentioned before, they were repeat guests so he didn’t think they were a problem).

You know my own alarm bells would be going off with six guys staying at my place, especially if you listened to Episode 49: How to Prevent Problem Guests and Fraud with Michael McKay.

But back to the dreaded message from the cleaner. Thankfully, my friend has a good team who caught the damage and contacted him right away. Like I mentioned in Episode 32: How To Successfully Process A Security Claim With Airbnb when submitting a claim time is of the essence. And the clock starts ticking as soon as your guests leave the house.

Communication:

There was a big, wet spot on a sofa cushion, and the cleaner said it smelled like urine. That’s a good cleaner if you ask me, and a good cleaner is hard to find (certainly one who will get up close and personal enough to be smelling strange spots…

The cleaning person sort of cleaned it, but then what? My friend was upset and didn’t know what to do? He swore that a dog had been in his house. I’m a bit more of the mind that until you talk to the guest and get the facts, you don’t know what is going on and shouldn’t jump to any extreme conclusions. So my suggestion was, ask the guest but on the platform with a very simple message…something along the lines of:

“My cleaner found a wet spot on the cushion, and we want to treat it properly. Can you let us know what it is? Since it smells like urine, but we want to make sure.”

With this kind of message, you’re starting a conversation without it being too confrontational and allowing the guest to let you know what actually happened. In addition, if you have a claim, Airbnb will be reading your communication with your guest. Don’t do it via text or phone call. Stay on the platform.

Well, in this case, the guest came back with, If you need to replace the sofa let me know the cost and I will cover it. My friend and I were both like… What??? A guest is admitting guilt in writing? He is not responding aggressively at all. Ok, cool. Grateful. No fuss or muss.

Resolution:

My friend was happy with the outcome, but still…we were crazy curious It’s a mystery stain. It did not make any sense. He was sure it was a dog, and he never wanted to rent to this guest again. Right.

End of story? Ohh no. The plot thickens. It gets better. This was also a sofa bed. My friend had guests arriving in a few days, and the cushion on the bed was soaked through with this. mysterious substance.

Now, he decided to call the guest. After the phone call, the guest agreed to pay for an air mattress because the new sofa wasn’t going to arrive on time. Yes, the sofa was ruined. But you want to know what happened.

The original guest, the one who booked the house, had left early and left his friends in the house. No problem, right?

Well, one of five fellas who was left behind had a bit too much to drink. This person fell asleep on the sofa, urinated on himself, covered the sofa with a blanket, and didn’t tell anyone.

Everyone was pissed at him. Pun totally intended. So, it wasn’t a dog. Well, it was sort of a dog…of a friend. And someone that you will not want to vacation with again. The person who booked the place ended up paying for the sofa, the air mattress and even sent my friend money for a dinner. I believe my friend owes me that dinner. Hmmm.

Lessons Learned:

Originally, my friend was upset, thinking the guest who booked knew what happened, that he did it maliciously, and that he had even brought a dog into the house.

The reality was totally different.

In this particular case, my friend was really lucky that the guest agreed to pay for everything. My friends' words and I quote… Never underestimate the damage a guest can do.

And always check your beds, look under your furniture and check for damages as quickly as possible before the wet spot dries and seemingly disappears unnoticed. My friend does agree that he needs a video doorbell. I personally have a Ring doorbell, and I love it.

While I was on my last trip, I was able to communicate with my guest via the video doorbell. I pay a minimal monthly fee to keep the video feed on the cloud. You can view what I use on thehostingjourney.com slash essentials

If my friend had a video camera, he would have known if they had brought a dog. He also would have seen his guest leave early (not that there's anything wrong with that), but guests of our guests can do damage, like in this case, without the original person who booked your space knowing.

I know in The Hosting Journey Facebook Group people talk about the advantage of installing video cameras. Do note that if you have any recording device you have to disclaim them in your description and on your listing.

While I was on my last trip, I was able to communicate with my guest via the video doorbell. I pay a minimal monthly fee to keep the video feed on the cloud. If my friend had a video camera, he would have known if they had brought a dog. He also would have seen his guest leave early (not that there's anything wrong with that), but guests of our guests can do damage, like in this case, without the original person who booked your space knowing.

I know in The Hosting Journey Facebook Group people talk about the advantage of installing video cameras. Do note that if you have any recording device you have to disclaim them in your description and on your listing.

New Guests… New Mystery…

Ok, so the first mystery worked out really well for my friend. Now let me tell you about something that just happened to me (ahh, the lessons we continue to learn).

I recently had lovely guests. Nice people, not the best communicators. Is that just something that’s going on nowadays with guests? It’s like pulling teeth, but I do have a self-check-in process and communication templates as I said before.

These were two friends, I thought they were going to be a couple, again lack of communication, so when they arrived I scrambled and made the sofa bed. No problem. She was here for work and a wedding, and he was here for vacation and the wedding. He and I totally bonded. I gave him tons of information about things to do in NY. Believe me, he was using my house manual like nobody's business. But also picking my brain. It wasn’t his first time in NY, so he wanted to go beyond the tourist stuff. This time he was doing Brooklyn from Coney Island, Dumbo, to Williamsburg.

Lovely folks and I thought everything was fine until I read her review. The review was ok, but in accuracy portion, there was a message where the guest stated: “I didn’t know I was sharing the space with other guests. “

This was a guest sharing space with me, in my private space. This information is clearly stated in my listing description, which reads:

“Shared home – I'll be your roommate during your trip, I work from home, and there is no private bathroom. But the duplex has two bathrooms. Between you have your own private entrance and your own living room you get plenty of privacy.”

I had no idea what she was talking about. Was it me? Did she not know she was sharing the space with me? My home is a two-family house. There is a second apartment, Was she talking about my guests in their private apartment who NEVER, EVER come to our space. Why? I have no idea.

You do know that if you get a “how you can improve” message in any review category it means you didn’t get 5 stars in that category, right? So I was curious and wanted to know…what in the world, woman?

To Question or Not To Question?

I thought about it, and I decided to send her an email. No, this wasn’t a review that the public will read, but I always want to make sure that I’m clear on my description, photos, and captions. And clearly, there was some miscommunication.

Well, she thought we were sharing with the other guests…why? I have no clue, and she really didn’t clarify. And believe me, I kept asking because I wanted to make sure I fixed it for the next guest. She admitted that she misunderstood but still did not share what information contributed to her misunderstanding.

Now, I’m even more careful and clear when I do a tour with my guests so there is no confusion. And I’m about to add a photo of myself as part of my listing, saying, “I’m your ONLY roommate.” If you, dear hosts, have any ideas on how to make this clearer, let me know.

The same way I asked this guest to clarify their review, whenever I get an inquiry that sounds like the guest might be confused. I make sure that I reiterate information that probably they missed. For example, the guest might think it’s a private apartment when it’s my share space. In my email back to them I’m very clear to say, “nope, sorry this is a shared space and even a shared bathroom.”

I believe communication is essential with our guests. I have an entire episode about the importance of transparency. I know from experience that misunderstandings happen. Clearly. It’s very easy to create an entirely fictional story about what happened when the reality is something totally different.

It happens from both sides of the hosting coin: host and guest.

As hosts, we have to remember that guests are coming to our homes. In addition to welcoming them, we have to make sure that we’re clear and concise in our communication. And in moments of confusion, it’s ok to go back to the source and get the correct answer.

Your Host,

Evelyn

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PS: Want more…

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