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This is the first inquiry I have had in a week and this is what I get. Thank you so much Homeaway for making VRBO ridiculous. SPAMMED AGAIN.
Inquiry Detail " 9 night $130.00 per night total $1170.00 + tax cleaning -- please email only if you are interested in this offer -- I know the area extremely well -- I rented a house for 9 weeks in 2008 near the Hyatt." Really am I interested in your offer? NOOOOOOOO.
I've had similar offers.
This is getting out of hand. VRBO / HA -- Please listen to us owners and do some due dilligence on the inquries.
Having owners weed through obvious poor quality requests like the one above and, also, those "fire and forget" requests that guests send to multiple owners without even looking at our calendars or reading our listings is killing us.
Many of us are professionals with full-time jobs -- we have paid you to get us quality inquiries that have a reasonable expectation of converting to a booking. HA / VRBO - please do your job.
Managing a successful rental program can be very time consuming and weeding out cold leads is just part of the process. This is one of many reasons to place the property in the hands of a quality rental management company.
>>weeding out cold leads is just part of the process.
Absolutely untrue. This was almost never required before HA / VRBO implemented their new "feature" to allow guests to easily 'fire-and-forget' a bunch of inquiries without even reading the ads or lookign at the calendar. It is also something that is easily automated by HA / VRBO and, therefore, requires only a high-school-intern to do the database programming one-time for the benefit of everyone on all of HA / VRBO.
>>This is one of many reasons to place the property in the hands of a quality rental management company.
There may be many good reasons to place a property in the hands of a quality rental management company; but this need not be one of them.
Vacation Rentals are the latest buzz in travel because a TON of money is pouring into the space. This is no longer a "cottage" industry (pun intended) and with growth comes change. Get used to dealing with the GENERAL public because they now know about us. You just have to take the good with the bad and stay positive because your next inquiry may be a great one!
PS: Hire a local partner to help YOU manage your property.
BTW, I do have an excellent management company because I am 2500 miles away from my condo. I supplement them with VRBO, HA and Flipkey. My point is that the inquiries really have become quite silly for me due to all the changes that are being made.
Thanks for your reply; however, I'm hoping that this topic doesn't degrade into an advertisement for property managers. In fact, the original issue brought to light in this thread has absolutely nothing to do with property management, property management companies, the changing face of direct vacation rentals or even dealing with the general populace.
Believe you me, I have been dealing with the general populace for years with my vacation rental and very successfully at that and that is definitely not what this thread is about.
We do NOT need to "take the good with the bad". We are paying VRBO / HomeAway to offer us good service and the second-rate inquiries (that are akin to SPAM in many of our opinions) has nothing to do with guests. It is entirely, fully, 100% a manifestation of how HomeAway/VRBO have chosen to run their web site.
In fact shame on us as owners and property managers if we do not STRIVE FOR and/or DEMAND something better for both us and our guests. Our involvement and feedback is what will make this industry excellent and give it long-term credibility. Simply acquiescing to the disfunctional status quo is unacceptable in my opinion.
This practice of allowing guests to send multiple inquiries to owners without even looking at our listing serves no one. It wastes guests' time as they send inquiries to owners whose property is booked, does not meet their travel criteria, etc. It wastes owners' time as we receive low-quality inquiries that have no possibility to convert to bookings.
Similarly, the practice of offering guests a list of properties that do not meet any specific criteria as alternatives to the property that they just inquired about serves no one either.
How to achieve the same thing but make it useful? Improve the HA / VRBO search capabilities -- again, any high-school intern with basic web and SQL skills (i.e. all of them) could do this modification to the web site in probably about two weeks. Oh, and while the grade 11 student does that, they could also update the site to check my calendar to make sure the property is actually available for the dates requested.
Honestly, this is not asking too much of VRBO / HA -- and the benefit to all will be immediate and significant.
That would be an unacceptable reply to a guest from someone in the service industry - I would never be so curt and rude.
Plus, you underestimate the time required to manage all the SPAM.
Simple fact is that this problem can be easily resolved by HA / VRBO.
First the email from this guy is extremeley rude "only contact me if your interested in my offer". Second I was not available for his entire stay. He probably sent this off to 10 different people without even looking at our advertisement or checking the dates on my calendar. This really has nothing do with a management company. This has to do with HA making it easy for people like this guy to SPAM 10 people and wasting their time. Kristin
Mike, I wasn't blaming HA for this guys rude behavior. Don't be silly. When I used to use VRBO to rent a property, I did my research. I never once sent out mulitiple inquiries. Once I found the property and it was available I emailed them, and only them. What I am suggesting is that this guy and many others like him aren't really interested in my property. They haven't bothered to check anything about my availability, they are just shooting off a bunch of inquiries. HA has made that easy.
Even when I think I have a great prospect, I dont hear back from them. I even follow up to make sure they received my email. Nothing. No response. When I am lucky to get someone to respond, they say, "which property is yours"
This is my experience and maybe not your experience.
It wasn't always like this Mike.
Mike>> BTW travelers can search by dates and sort results by bedroom
Mike>> size and occupancy but choose not to, how do you change that?
There is no reason to change that. Guests should be able to search how they see fit. In fact, HA/VRBO should enhance the search to allow guests to enter even more criteria to assist them in narrowing down on their ideal vacation rental.
When I am a potential guest, I like to see all of the properties in my target area (that meet specific criteria such as # of guests, price, internet availability, etc.), compare prices and check availability. Often my travel dates have some flexibility -- so there are sometimes good reasons not to search based on specific dates.
However, when it comes time to make an inquiry, HA / VRBO should respect the time of both guests and owners by doing some simple information gathering from the guest and doing some automated checking (such as confirming availability during guests' travel dates).
To answer your other question "Is that HA's fault? [that a guest was rude]", I would say that they share the responsibility, yes. They have enabled guests to make these type of fire-and-forget inquiries and that begets the type of behaviour we are seeing. It certainly was not difficult to foresee that potential guests would act in such a manner when provided with such capabilities by HA / VRBO.
It's time for VRBO / HA to take some ownership of these issues.
I think I agree with you drrental. I used to be a stickler - replying to each and every inane inquiry. Now, I figure, it they don't care enough to read the advertisement, which includes nearly every answer they could want; if they don't bother to find out I rent only solid weeks in the high season and not 2-3 days; then they must not really be interested in my property. Sometimes I do respond, sometimes not. It depends on if I want to and have the time.
Up until last week I responded to every inqury figuring that maybe someone might bookmark our website for a future stay. With the post from our SCAM victim and article about the VRBO/HomeAway internet Scam I am no longer feeling comfortable responding to anyone unless they are sending in an inquiry that is specific to my own property. I posted a warning to travelers on all my listing sites over the weekend and told travelers for security and protection reasons I am only responding to inquires that mention my specific property. I am actually pretty surprised travelers are actually reading my warning and have called and sent me back emails telling me how appreciative they are that I have alerted them to the danger. It has been a really long time since I have seen inquires in the message field referring to me by my first name and telling me they are responding with my property description.
You know, I never thought about that perspective until I read your post. I think I read the same post about the horrible scam experience a guest had after someone hacked into a HA/VRBO owner's mailbox. Do you know if HA/VRBO has taken any steps to prevent that from happening again? I find it absolutely astonishing that until about 2010, we were all just happily chuggin' along. Now we have all of these "improvements" , and we're seeing scams, spam, just an extraordinary amount of crap....this is progress??! I've lost the sense of confidence I had in VRBO, my potential guests, the whole thing.
Marym actually right after I hit the send button the phone rang. It was a traveler calling to confirm my telephone number on one of my listings. On the warning message that I posted on my vRBO/HomeAway listings I have given specific instructions which says to call me. The traveler gave me kudos for posting the warning about the VRBO Internet Scam on my listing. She had not heard of this and could not find anything about it on the site. I gave her the Washington Post article and said that members received an alert from HomeAway management last week in a general community update. She asked if it was safe to send an inquiry and I told her my preference would be to stay away from sending any inquires through the VRBO website to just click “Like” on our Facebook page as it would be safer.
Hi Marym & Vacationlady,
I hadn't heard of a VRBO scam in the past but with some searching, I located what looks like the thread you are referring to: http://community.homeaway.com/message/13115
While this scam obviously has affected some owners, we must be carful not to allow this to spread FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) into the industry. As mentioned in the thread by an IT expert, phishing scams affect less than 1% of users and some simple dilligence will protect you fully from exposure.
I must say that, as a guest, I would react negatively to a posting that warns of scams and directs me as a guest to circumvent the HA inquiry process. This would raise alarm bells as this is exactly the type of tactic real phishers will use to gain access to a person's information.
While I'm not one to support HA / VRBO in general, I do agree that the security of an owner's e-mail account is the responsibility of the owner and is entirely beyond the control of HA / VRBO. Having said that, this also does not exonerate HA of their responsibility to communicate such scams to owners in a timely and effective manner so that we can ensure we have not fallen victim.
I would also argue that Facebook is far less safe than using VRBO. The number of people who have access to your personal information on Facebook would, I think, surprise you.
Finally, just a comment on the original topic of this thread -- I see that there is some feedback from owners that we should simply ignore, delete, not respond to, etc.. inquiries that don't mention our properties specifically or that we suspect are bulk inquiries.
However, wouldn't you agree that the best solution would be not to get them in the first place? This can be rectified by HA / VRBO with some simple programming.
If I ignored inquiries that don't mention my property specificaly or was able to set up my site to not get these inqiries, I wouldn't have half my first time tenants-all very good tenants. As to Facebook, I can't think of a less safe way to conduct VR property rentals?
I had one inquiry that didn't have a phone number or a name, just the email and dates. It really looked like a bogus inquiry but I responded to it anyway because you never know. Through the forms, I sent that it was available and sent a quote (this doesn't take but a minute). Lo and Behold, an actual person wrote back with a question! Then even more surprisingly, they booked with us! So I am glad that I didn't assume it was a scam. I try to treat all inquiries equally unless they are for a month long from overseas for a year in advance - those usually seem to be scams and we choose not to participate with that anymore. I don't see how anyone can hack into your email just by you responding to them unless you click on a link of some sort, so never click on any links that don't come from trusted sources. We haven't had any problems yet, thank goodness!