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OK, I've got to know if I'm the only one who takes big issue with VRBO turning on Reviews? 99.9% of our guests enjoy their stays and have positive experience. And yes, I realize they can also post their positive comments on VRBO, but you can't force them and you can't keep hounding them either. I'm not a big fan of reviews anyway. Just took my Mom to a highly rated restaurant for Valentines that was not very good -- certainly not worthy of all those great reviews. My gut tells me it was friends of the owner that were responsible for the 5 stars
Having said that, there seems to be a very small group of people who will write a horrible review (usually in an attempt to get a refund or money back from the property owner). We like to call this the "BAD REVIEWS FOR REFUNDS" program. Unfortunately VRBO has bought into this whole "reviews are where it's at" mentality. Our viewers "demand" it -- well, what about the people putting money in your pocket?? Obviously VRBO's loyalty is to the masses and not the folks paying them. I am appalled that a company I pay thousands of dollars to annually is allowing ANYONE to slam my properties and my company, and all I get offered is an "opportunity" to "professionally" respond to their negative review.
I had a negative review steal linens and beach towels on their way out -- is it "professional" of me to address that they are both liars and thieves in my "rebuttal"? Sure, you can candy coat it, but a spade is a spade -- a bad guest is a bad guest. Oops wait . . . that's not true . . . VRBO loves these guys We will obviously never allow this group into any of our properties again, yet VRBO invites them in with open arms. Come . . . please let us know just how awful your experience was so we can share it with the world . . . it's total BS!!
I will unfortunately start researching other advertising opportunities. I work 7 days a week and love what I do. I can not and will not allow VRBO to be so frivilous with my livelihood. I really enjoyed being part of VRBO but am unwilling to hand over that kind of power to a company so uncaring to their paying subscribers. Negative reviews cost me more in business than VRBO is worth. Shame on you VRBO -- you are not a public forum and should not give any idiot looking for a refund the RIGHT to slam your paying Owners or the properties they work so hard to maintain and market.
Are there any other owners out there that feel the same way? I sure hope I am not alone . . . .
PS The VRBO Customer Service Rep I spoke with this morning said there was a chilled bottle of Vodka awaiting her at home . . . apparently it was already a long day at 10am in the morning . . . no doubt they are getting lots of calls from very unhappy PAYING customers Let the CS Reps take the heat -- the fat cats at VRBO don't have the #%$@ to speak with Owners.
I understand where you're coming from but don't have the same degree of anger that you do. I've been contemplating this same problem recently and am perplexed.
We have 18 reviews (we rated 5/5)and have received 2 reviews lately where we were rated a 2/5. Neither were done near the time of the guests stay. One was 9 months after they came. One of these came in just yesterday and the guest had visited us almost 3 years ago! Both reviews had straight up lies and/or other misrepresentations.
Both of my negative reviews were from guests with whom we had trouble during their stay. One left permanent damage to the house. So yes, it is not surprising they're seeking vengeance towards us and this Review system is the perfect forum for them to do it.
With the first poor review I gave a brief response ("read the rental agreement/contract before you sign"). and then shared the background of some of the details of that situation for those who desired more of an explanation.
When this one came in yesterday, I felt like if I actually responded to it I would appear less trustworthy and too much on the defense to future potential guests. Yes, she lied about the date, and most all of the other details but it's a catch 22 to respond. If I respond I'm defensive - if I don't, then I'm passively giving my admission that what she said is true.
I've sent an email to vrbo asking what to do and am awaiting a response from them. My understanding from the phone customer support person is that a homeowner can dispute a review to VRBO. I don't know what this process will be though.
I would love to hear what other homeowners do in response to low review scores when falsehoods are included in the review.
Hi Smiley, hope VRBO will help you! I have asked before but was told my only option was to respond to the negative review. You're right -- it is a Catch 22. You have to be so careful on your response, but can't just not respond either. I chose to Opt Out of reviews. Some are so sugary sweet, it makes you wonder if they were really written by a guest anyway
Good luck with VRBO!
No, you aren't alone. I totally agree and just hope that there are enough of us to cause them to reconsider their new policy. If being able to read reviews is important to their customers (actually I thought I was their customer) then they wont rent from me. That's pretty simple.
It is hard to get people to enter reviews without hounding them and when folks do that to me I find it irritating. I don't want to hound people about their vacation. I also feel like entering reviews from our guest book is suspect so I didn't ever do it. Now this leaves me with very few positive reviews and one really bad review carries a lot more weight so disabling the entire thing was my choice.
I'm trying not to rant about this but it is so incredibly irritating when WE ARE PAYING THEM!! Ok, I feel better now. But I will be cancelling my listing.
We too are totally not happy with the "no option out reviews". Here is what they told me recently - I think everyone who is not happy with the annoyance of "reviews by guests" should ask for a pro-rated amount back, if they cancel their VRBO listing due to this.
"They wrote: There are many reasons why we no longer allow members to opt out of reviews. Part of the decision was based on feedback we received from members. From a survey last September:
52% of the owners were not even aware they opted out
12% indicated that they had opted out b/c they did not see a need for the tool
8% expressed that they were cautious of reviews
- other concerns included home owners thought the reviews costed money so they opted out. "
VRBO offered me the following:
If I do not want to continue my subscription under their current terms, they will remove my listing from the site and issue us a prorated refund.
Which I think was nice of them, honestly.
I am still deciding what to do???
I just learned of this policy when asking if I could let my listing lapse, then sign up again so as to not have a negative review showing up (it happened a few years back). It's become obvious our property is best suited to retired couples and I will never again rent it to anyone under age 50 (Facebook is a good place to find out their age.) However, as the rep said could happen, if that young couple comes back for some reason and posts their negative review again, I will have to quit VRBO and like ga-cabin-owner find another way to advertise.
Here's another thing I'm wondering, just got an e-mail about a response on a "cleaning" post thread and the person writing said they are not a homeowner. Why are non-homeowners being allowed in our Home Owner Community??? Guess because of the reason above, I don't trust them to know our business concerns!
I agree with you ....VRBO is way out of line in forcing owners to not be able to opt out of reviews...negative or positive. I had a reviewer who was vindictive because he wrecked my condo and I deducted the costs from his security. He was clearly mentally ill and very unstable (as noted by his crazy emails and personal threats)....and since pyschiatric examinations are not part of the rental vetting process I had no idea in advance of the rental what I was going to end up with. In any case I let VRBO know that his review was packed with lies and that it was a fraud. I even offered proof of how crazy he was by sending them copies of his threatening emails and copies of my bills for repair along with photos of the detsroyed property. Instead VRBO decided to judge me ...because they posted the fraudulent review in spite of all the evidence I supplied them with. They were even arrogant enough to state that my evidence did not matter to them and that they did not review it. So in response to their arrogance I opted out of reviews.
Now I am being informed by VRBO that as of March 15th I can no longer opt out of reviews and that the original reviews that I opted out of by the crazy renter will be re-posted to my ad. The conditions of an original contract are binding so first of all VRBO is now in breach of contract because the conditions of my original contract were that I had the option of opting out of reviews. No party can change the terms of a contract once consideration has been accepted unless both parties agree to the changes. I have not agreed to this change. Secondly by willfully and knowingly publishing a negative review that they know is a lie - because I have informed them of such and because they have made no effort to vet out the truth..... they are guilty of negligence and slander. Furthermore they are devaluing the property that is being advertised not only for rental but possibly for sale in the future. The written web record of the property can be used by anyone later on in a devaluation when and if it is for sale. And on top of all that by publishing the false negative review against the wishes of the owner and without permission of the owner they can be found guilty of restraint of trade in a court of law. So they are sabotaging their own customers in so many ways!!! Hardly a good business strategy for staying in business. Are they trying to downsize ....because if so this is a great way to do it.
I am going to be contacting the Texas AG about web fraud and the complicity of VRBO in web fraud because they have been notified that the review is false and they are deliberately collaborating with the reviewer by publishing the false words anyway. I am also going to be contacting personal injury attorneys in Texas to determine if we have a class action based upon the following causes of action: breach of contract, negligence, restraint of trade, slander and the purposeful devaluation of a property....that may along with it carry statutory damages as well as punitive damages against the company because of the deliberate nature of their act. Anyone who would like to write to me directly and privately to discuss any of the above may do so at the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for listening.....and there definitely is a case here....maybe more than one.
Message was edited by: Jane E. Rosen
Message was edited by: Jane E. Rosen
Add my name to the list: Billy Davis email@example.com
I have been with VRBO since long before the current ownership. The prior owners were people who rented a home, just like us. The new ownership is callous and only wants to promote itself; not us. I currently have one review which list the address of my property which they will not review, and another that while positive has erroneous info which has an adverse effect on my rentals. Twice in the last five years I have been extorted by guests who wanted money from me due to no fault of my own. One was due to weather. I am looking hard for another site to break away from this VRBO and it's other companies all together. They have already created a false advertising issue by allowing realtors to compete directly with us under the the "by owner" banner.
Time for class action to protect our rights as provided by law. It should be noted that the TOS with the sites cannot supercede state or federal law.
Thank you, Jane, for stating the case so clearly. It's true, I wouldn't like to have to leave VRBO, as their ratio of inquiries is at least 5 to 1, even over HomeAway. I'll e-mail information to be added to your list. --jaclyn
Apparently, the new policy is already hitting the web blogs!
See:www.jamesmendelson.com - Tell this guy how you as homeowners feel about the "no option to opt out" - he is an advocate and is very pleased that VRBO changed their policy. He mentions how pleased FORBES is as well.
Heck, just type in VRBO new policy - in google!
We are furious. This is so unfair. We pay top dollar for Management, contact guests whilst they are staying in our home and deal with any problems immediately. We spend very large sums of money to keep our home in very good condition and repair. Despite this we had the most horrific review 5 weeks after the guests had stayed, and following two further bookings with no complaints whatsoever. We even had a guest wanting to know where we bought our furniture so she could get it herself. The complaint was immediately investigated and found to be totally false but the guests responsible refused to communicate in any way about their "issues". We were not able to remove the complaint so we had no option but to take off all reviews. Whatever we say in response to this, I am certain it is going to have a very detrimental affect on our rentals. WHO ARE VRBO REPRESENTING EXACTLY. We are restricted in what we can say and do, but it appears that guests can say what they like and VRBO are allowing them to do so with no way of knowing whether they are telling the truth or not. We are currently reviewing our options...........watch this space.
I agree 100% with the OP. The vast majority of our guests are extremely happy. But when we get one that isn't happy the go about flame throwing on every internet avenue. This seems to be typical now with most posts. I've noticed that the posts on Trip Advisor have taken a HUGE dip in our area, I think that should tell VRBO that this is a dying trend.
I advertised on VRBO because I could opt out of reviews. I own two properties, one of which has been renting for 7 years. I have had complaints, which I thank the renter for pointing out and take care of immediately, if possible, while the renter is still there so they can benefit from the resolution. I do not mind reasonable people who express reasonable expectionations. However, when advertising on Homeaway, I had a family group who were scam artists of a high caliber who stayed for a week, ruined my home to the point of my having to suspend rental of my home for a week until repairs could be done, and then they posted a libelous and extremely damaging review on Homeaway. I sent pictures of the damage and bills to Homeaway,and requested that the review be removed as I would be taking the tenants to court. Their response was "You can respond to the review, but we cannot remove it". My only solution: Cancel my advertising on Homeaway, change to VRBO where I could opt out of reviews, and create my own website where I post reviews (good and not so good) from my Guestbook. Now VRBO has forced me to accept reviews, libelous or not, because they were bought by HOMEAWAY. By the way, went to small claims court, received a damage award.
I am a big fan of reviews but I fully agree that it should be optional for the owner to participate in the service or not. Additionally, Home Away and it subsites should have some sort of process that libelous reviews should be removed if found to be inaccurate or malicious My reviews for the most 95% are 5 star and I work incredibly hard to keep them so. A review that is less than glowing when it offers incite to an area that could be improved is welcomed and appreciated when it is valid. However owners have too much riding on the rental of their property to be not to have recourse when they may be the target of a fraudulent reviewer.
This problem could escalate to where non guests review properties for the purpose of discrediting the competition... i.e. management companies going after true VRBOs.
This issue could get really ugly.
HomeAway has forgotten who they work for! Remember the old saw "You dance with the one that brung ya!" Well HomeAway management sure has.
When the HomeAway companies start charging a fee to vr renters to access our inventory than, they can solicit reviews.
I welcome reviews by my guests! Out of some 100 guest reviews there was only one that was really outragiously "off the wall". I left it in the on-site guest book but didn't post it on my websites. Other guests have had fun writing margin notes & comments on the crazy review! However, I made that choice...not some bored HomeAway clerk! That my beef....my property, my bought and paid for ad...my website!
I've already taken steps to wean my company away from HomeAway owned sunscription sites.
I couldn’t agree more. I’ve let one listing expire, and am letting my others expire as well. It makes no sense to continue to feed the hand that bites. VRBO/HomeAway is the gorilla, but if Owners would stop renewing their listings, they might get the message. Doubt it, though. They are not into listening to the people paying them. I started a while ago to refocus money spent on VRBO to other areas. It makes more sense than giving it to these guys when they allow disgruntled guests to impact my income. I am a simple person, but feel that when I invest in something, it should be an asset rather than a liability.
OK, please don’t hate me but I gotta say it. Some VRBO shoppers are great, but a lot of them are just plain cheap – they want a champagne cabin for the price of a beer. They’re pretty much all price shoppers and will pit one VRBO property against the other in a price battle to negotiate what they want to pay. I’ve had to walk away after investing a lot of time and energy in shoppers because at the end of the day, if someone is that cheap, do you really want them in your home anyway? I realize it’s part of the job, but I also grow weary many times from dealing with the average VRBO shopper. And to give them the power to impact my future rentals, with the endorsement of VRBO???? I think not. I’d rather invest in attracting a quality shopper vs price shopper any day! A shopper who starts the conversation with “What a beautiful place” and not “What’s the best deal I can get?” That’s what I’m talking about, Willis!!
Hi Smiley, that’s difficult if you’ve got one property, and that’s where VRBO/HA flexes their muscle. We have six cabins we own and friends have asked us to take on their properties as well, so I have a website that I am investing $$ in to optimize and grow organically (meaning not spending a fortune on Google Adwords or pay-per-click advertising).
I think one of the best ways in today’s social media craziness is to get a business Facebook page set up for your cabin, and market it to relevant groups. Research other Facebook pages that have relevance and “like” them. Facebook pages have a thumbs up “like” button. We have a lot of wineries, restaurants, fly fishing, zip lines, horseback riding, shopping, etc. and we have searched Facebook for their business pages and clicked the “like” button for those pages that have relevance to staying in a cabin. Whenever you update your Facebook page with anything (could be reduced rate to get a rental into your place for the weekend), it will send your Facebook message to all those sites that you “like” and to anyone else who also “likes” them. You can get a lot of visibility by doing this. I am learning a lot about Facebook (and may not have it completely understood yet), but it’s a very powerful tool and can give you web visibility. It also provides you with your own site where web browsers can scour your page and give you some placement power on the web. It’s not an overnight cure, but if you take the time to do it and update your site frequently the web crawlers will come back for new information. The more you update, the more the crawlers will come back for new information and updates, and the more steam you gain – and control. I believe Facebook is powerful enough that you might be able to cut loose from VRBO at some point. Some businesses don’t even maintain websites anymore – just a Facebook and social media pages. It’s powerful enough to have made Mark Zuckerberg the youngest billionaire in US, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. VRBO is pretty old school – their search stinks and I hear it all the time from frustrated shoppers. At least it’s worth a shot. I use Mainstreet Host to help me create a business Facebook page and they did a great job. I have seen less dependence on VRBO, and a higher quality customer visiting my site.
PS: Same with Twitter ( you can have all your facebook updates feed over to twitter and start following a bunch of relevant tweeters too). It’s a new world and it takes some time to get used to it, but it does allow you to be in charge of your own destiny to a certain degree.
PPS Is there any social media experts out there who can offer advice?
Also, you may want to check out 1st Choice Vacation Rentals – they don’t force you to use Guest Comments and have been around a while. Say they have over 20K visitors daily. Here’s their link and a comment about Testimonials:
Property Reviews - 1st Choice has added a feature to allow guests to rate and make comments about your vacation rental. You can choose whether to include this feature on your page when you log into the Edit Listing page. You can also clear out the reviews at any time. Testimonials of former guests on your vacation rental page are great sales tools.
I’ve also heard Craig’s List generates lots of bookings. I haven’t tried it myself, but have heard that from others. Just watch out for barterers – they are everywhere on Craig’s List.
Also, check out this link to an interview on MSNBC about fake reviews. Very interesting. A hotel owner openly admits writing fake positive reviews for his hotel, and submitting scathing reviews for his competition. Apparently (and appallingly) there are also businesses that exist to create fake email addresses in order to generate “glowing” reviews for their paying clients, and scathing reviews for their client’s competition. Unbelievable.
So I am not sure I understand this. I thought VRBO was just changing the policy that allows owners to opt out of reviews.
Are you saying they are changing the policy that says if there is a negative review it has to be posted? That owners can no longer veto it so it doesn't get published?
If that is the case, I don't love it but that is what tripadvisor and flipkey do and using those sites you just have to realize there are always going to be people who complain , and to just look at the overall rating or the majority.
If a site allows owners to veto negative reviews, then what good are reviews anyway--won't prospective tenants discount them and not trust even the good reviews?
You are correct sjde- I believe on all counts. VRBO is not permitting owners to opt out so everything coming from a reviewer gets posted- the good and the bad. And I agree that it has the potential to make a more balanced, informative platform for prospective guests.
As I see it, the main concern is VRBO's lack of discretion in regards to the truth or untruth of these reviews as often they seem to be generated by folks who made a mess of the house and didn't receive a full refund of their Damage Deposits. Even when homeowners have submitted documentation of the situation, VRBO refuses to take the review off.
My other dissatisfaction of the current Review Rules is that the Homeowner's Response cannot include include symbols or upper case emphasis. So a poor reviewer can rip you to shreds littering their expose' with "quick glance" message assistance (ie. capitals and symbols) and the reader doesn't need to read the entire piece. The Homeowner is conciderably more limited in their effort to provide the reader with that same "quick glance" message. Just look at my message here.....What catches your eye the most, immediately, is my upper case use of VRBO. My lower case info just kind of runs into a blurr.....
You are correct. VRBO is changing the policy that allowed owners to opt out of all reviews. The current system is that owners either get to have reviews, both positive and negative, or they can opt out of all reviews and thereby none will show up.
We, the property owners, are VRBOs customers, so it would be a fairer treatment of us to allow us to decide on each of our properties if we want reviews to show up or if we want to opt out. Why would someone want to opt out? Here are some reasons:
1) The system is biased towards negative reviews. Most renters who have a positive experience will not spend their time to review. One of my properties falls into this category. It is going into its third year of renting and has no reviews, but it has repeat guests every year.
However, renters who have a negative experience are likely to write a review. Therefore if a negative review comes on the property mentioned above, I will opt out of reviews. I do not feel one person with a negative experience should be allowed to outweigh all those who had positive experiences but did not write reviews.
As owners, many of us do not have the time or desire to go out and solicit positive reviews. Those of you who do, will have the advantage over us, but I’m willing to live with my choice as I do not like being asked to participate in surveys or reviews, so will not ask others to do that.
2) Reviews can be exageratedly negative on a very subjective issue. If the experience is totally subjective, there is nothing the owner can say or do that will overcome the negative feelings people will get from reading a scathing review. If that is the only review received, for example the first review on a newly listed property, the owner has no choice but to opt out of the review system or they will have zero chance to realize any income from their property. This happened with another of my listings. No tenant has since mentioned the issue the first renters felt so strongly about and this property also has return renters as it goes into it’s third year. I believe it is more honest to allow an owner to opt out of reviews than to encourage them to go in and game the system, which is what I understand some people do.
3) False or extortive reviews are not uncommon. If you have to withhold a large part of a deposit or sue the tenants for extreme damage, you might find this to be happening to you. VRBO and HomeAway do not have policies in place to keep false or extortive reviews from being accepted. I haven’t had this happen to me, but I certainly see how it could and would like to protect owners in some way.
Regarding your statement about renters possibly discounting the reviews if there is a way for owners to avoid negative reviews, I don’t see this as being an issue when the owner has opted totally out of reviews. The owner cannot selectively choose which reviews will not show up; if opting out, no reviews show up. The situation will then be similar to a property that has either not received any reviews or is a newly listed property. In either case, the tenant has the sole obligation of deciding for themselves whether they want a property or not. There are many ways in which a tenant can check out an owner and a property to be sure they feel comfortable with their decision.
If you have never had a problem with reviews, you are probably both a skillful landlord and a lucky person and you will have an advantage over those of us who do not choose to have reviews. However, since the above type of things do happen, it seems to some of us that VRBO should be more concerned about their customers (the owners) than they are being by changing this policy and harming our ability to conduct business.
So I don't understand how this is different from the old policy.
My sister recently looked at vrbo homes and when she saw one that had opted out of reviews she was very leery she told me.
The new policy is much different from the old policy. What I'm asking
for is that the old policy be kept, which allows reviews to be "opted
out of". If your sister does not want to rent a place that has no
reviews, then she doesn't have to do that, she can move on to the next
one. I was trying to explain why it might be good to keep the "opt-
out" option but apparently failed to convince you of that, so it
sounds like we'll just agree to disagree.
I do not believe you are a landlord using VRBO. In fact, I beleive sseveral of these commnets have been posted by staff of VRBO or Home Away.
I currently have a 100% positive rating but have been extorted twice. Both times the complaints stemmed from something aside from my unit. Heck, one time the complaint stemmed from their friends not showing up to meet them and they wanted to go home. Now that I think about it, there were two from 5 years ago where one person complained about there being bugs in WV(seriously) and the other because I did not get the football game they wanted to see. The other from this year was because...sit down for this...the woman felt the stairs were not safe for her one year old to stay up stairs by her self. I was like "ya think"? I should note this are my total complaints over a 5 year period and only two demanded money to keep my reviews clean. But how many does it take?
There is no way this could be viewed as good from an owner stand point. It is not a workable solution.
BTW, for those people who feel the need to interject on a home owners conversation, you should know this particular conversation left this forum and became an e-mail chain long ago.
My aforementioned plan is moving right along.
Well in fairness to the other people who it has happened to, perhaps your comments are far less than objective? You see, I do have a 100% rating. I also beleive some of those complaining on here should rightfully receive bad feedback. However, opting out makes this the choice of the renter. In addition, the feedback should not be posted without the owners discretion. I have two feedbacks that describe my location. One places my unit almost 2 miles away from where it actaully is. May not sound like a big deal but at a ski resort it matters. The otehr lists my actual address so the entire world knows where an empty vacation rental sits unguarded. VRBO has still not acted upon this even though they have been contacted repeatedly.
The bottom line is now is the time for a competitor. I personally have saved every single inquiry I have ever received, rented or not. I will contact them all with my new plan. VRBO pays the bills for this company. It was started grassroots before they sold the site to the current owner. Obviously it is possible to start in a new direction and succeed.
It is definitely time for homeowners to have options in addition to the monopoly that HA/vrbo currently have. Best wishes to those who are trying to expand their opportunities beyond HA. For many of us, myself included, I think we're a little stumped what to do or where to go. A big thank you to ga_cabin_owner, I feel so inept in this regard. An off-forum support in this endeavor, to expand marketing beyond HA, would perhaps be very helpful. I feel uncomfortable having all my eggs in one basket...
Also, on a side note, I was perusing vrbo listings, just for fun, and found many reviews that were submitted by the guest then resubmitted, 2-3-4 times by the owner, inflating their number of reviews by 2or 3 times the actual number. Just another example of vrbo not filtering for accuracy.
Would be hard to beat VRBO for activity!
Here's a comparison of VRBO and HomeAway for one lakefront property, in the same two-year period (very short-season weekly rental):
VRBO had 24,000 hits, 180 inquiries, maybe 20 bookings;
HomeAway had 4,000 hits, 64 inquiries, maybe 4 bookings.
It might look like HomeAway gets a higher percentage of inquiries based on so many fewer hits, but since most of the bookings came from VRBO, theirs turn out to be the higher quality inquiries. (Love those statistics!)
No question about the number and quality of replies from the VRBO version of HomeAway's sites.
I had both VRBO and HA running listings at the same time. I was on Home Away's main site for a year and got fewer inquiries and only one or two bookings. I spoke with the sales agent who redirected my HA listing to VacationRentals. The result has been a lot more inquiries and a better ratio of bookings.
The issue, however, is of customer care, and by customer I mean the VRBO-OWNER's who pay for the listing. Our concerns are not being addressed. Here the company seems not to be concerned about our opinions. Yes, for now, they deliver a good results from the some of their products, but if they don't hear us out, we owners are a resourceful lot and we will find other marketing avenues that will work just as well. Free market will fill the void with competitive sites.
Results for the home owner are dependent on FAIR reviews. As abuses in the system by both malilious reviewers and competition from non owners increase on HA sites, our booking will go down and we will go elsewhere.
In regards to your note about multiple entries same guest. I have noticed too there are a few cases of multiple entries out there. One i found had five entries same guest. Most Owners, however have had what happen to me. I gently, but aggressively, seek online comments. Guests are quick to write in "in-home" guest books but slow for the on-line ones. After asking for an on line review and waiting a couple of weeks I entered word for word the guest book review. Then a month later the online review appears. Presto... two reviews unintentionally, and guest what, you can't even get Home Away to remove a favorable duplicate review.
Also, I noticed a couple of multiple reviews for the same group visit but different guest's family members leaving their own review. I think this is probably OK as long as it is not excessive.
Smiley, thanks for the posts.
I had no idea repeated or duplicate reviews could be unintentionally posted on our sites. I assumed if it was word for word, the HA person/staff would watch out for duplicates and take /leave out the redundant review.
It's unfortunate that you as a homeowner can't take out your hand typed review from your physical guestbook that you posted online. It made me suspicious of the homeowner for what looked like intentionally inflating their review numbers.
I apologize if I offended anyone out there who has had this unintentionally happen to their listings.
I apologize, I may not have been clear. There may be a system for remove completely duplicate reviews having the exact same wording. I am not sure one way or another. I made an owner entry from the hand written guest book and it is much different from the on line verbiage made by the guest themselves at a later date. I'll have to go back and look, but it may not even be real apparent that entries are reviews for the same guest's stay unless the viewer is specifically looking for duplicate entries, intentional or not.
I don't think anyone is offended. Those that are are more than likely guilty abusers who think that deception is justified by profit. In the end they will be proven wrong. The discussion here is enlightening and a greatly informative exchange of ideas. All the entries have been great.
Thanks to all again.
Thanks for the clarification Diver. I don't think anyone would be "throwing stones" for the situation you've described.
What I had read was the same review, word for word, submitted by the renter and then resubmitted by the owner, word for word again, on later dates with perhaps months between the owner's re-submissions. Crazy. Because the date of stay was the same when a person chose to "View all Reviews" these duplicate submissions all showed up listed in a stack on top of one another so it was easily identifiable as copies. It just looks -suspicious? -poorly edited by the owner?- which leads to the appearance of inattentiveness to their listing site (or by extension- their property???.....)
For those of us who are presently still with HA/vrbo there seems to be room for internal improvement of the review system in addition to the "Opt Out" option many would like to see re-implemented. Too bad HA/vrbo doesn't seem interested in these improvements that could help the homeowners and the potential guests.
This whole issue reminds me of what we are going through with yelp.com with our family-owned business. Granted, we don't advertise on that, but people post reviews--much more readily I think than for vacation rentals, and there's nothing you can do about ones you feel are unfair, except send a response.
I have managed my own rentals for 8 years. Ive used vrbo for about 6 yrs. I have never focused on reviews. I dont even remember opting in or out. I just looked at my vrbo admin page and I noticed that I can invite guests to review my property or add guests comments myself.
I am not sure how vrbo knows that inquiries turn into renters but for me I do not store any email addresses in my ad site calendars. I block out the dates without details about the reservation.
I had heard that vrbo sends review solicitation based on the email addresses you have entered in your calendar.
Not sure if this is true, but for me I havent had any problems. I get plenty of inquiries without reviews, so Im not convinced that reviews increase your bookings....maybe if your property doesnt sell itself, or your a diamond in a rough.....
I have contemplated starting a vacation rental ad site for owners only!
As for the moment,
start investing in the other choices you have. Some are;
I advertise on all of these and although they do not bring me as much traffic as vrbo, I hope and encourage them to do so!
Again, I do advertise on flipley and dont include any emails of reservations on my calendar. Unless flipkey sends reviews to all the inquriers of my property then im not sure how they know who rents my place and who doesnt. I have no reviews on my flipkey ad.
HA/vrbo doesn't solicit any reviews(from any source as far as I know) for a homeowner so I am not aware that a homeowner is vulnerable if they include emails or any additional info in their personal reservation calendar. I don't include email info because it would be redundant for my own bookkeeping method. They also have "No obligation" to discern if a submitted review was actually made by a real renter or not. Hypothetically, anyone could submit a review on any property. The only safeguard against this occurring is that a homeowner can dispute the renter review in which case HA/vrbo may send an email to the renter asking that they send proof of their stay in your home. I recently went through something similar to this when a renter submitted a review years after the stay and stated the wrong date of their stay. I disputed the date, an email was sent to the renter, and the renter changed the date on their review. Had the renter chosen not to make the change (somewhat voluntarily) I'm not sure how hard vrbo would have pushed them for proof of the date of their stay- but that is the stated policy/procedure of vrbo. I'm leaning towards thinking the incorrect dates would have remained online indefinately.
I own and manage 3 vacation rentals in a tourist town but I also rent other properties around the world a number of times per year. We stayed at an apartment in a resort town last year and I left an "average" review. She deserved a bad review but I made it better than what it should have been.
The owner was furious and her was response was a total lie. She actually stated in her response that I had canceled and never even came to the property and was trying to swindle her. She claimed she refunded me also.
Well, she then told VRBO that I never stayed at the property. VRBO contacted me and wanted proof that I had stayed there. So, I emailed my canceled check with the vrbo # on it, all the e-mail correspondence, the instructions for check in and the key code she send me. They had the nerve to tell me that wasn't proof enough that I stayed there and they pulled the review off.
I was forced to send vrbo a picture of my husband laying in the bed to prove that we stayed there. I'm sure someone got a chuckle from my embarrassment.
I am removing my 7 listings from VRBO one by one starting today, I've been with them for more than 5 years. alway had great guest but recently I got one person want part of their money back or write bad review, it is so truth of : "BAD REVIEWS FOR REFUNDS"
I prefer find else where to put all my 7 listings now and I am telling every other owner about it. I think many owners just give those **** their refund back to avoid bad review but I am not going to do that. if every owners remove their listings from VRBO, then their will think twice about what they doing to people.
VRBO's new policy is so unfair to the property owners. What is to stop a disgruntled tenant who after losing their deposit, due to damages they did to the home, to retaliate by leaving a bad review? And there is nothing the homeowner can do about it. Oh yes, VRBO tells us we can respond to the review and "turn the whole thing around".... Sure you can. I for one do not want reviews at all on my site. My journal I keep in the home for them to leave us notes, (all very good reviews) is all the affirmation I need that I am keeping my tenants happy. If a potential tenant does not want to rent my home because i have opted out of having reviews... so be it. VRBO needs to go back to the old policy and remember who built their company to what it is today, the property owners, not the tenants. Without us, you would have nothing to advertise and no income whatsoever.
I had no idea that VRBO turned that horrible review feature on and that we cannot turn it off. Had a renter use the VRBO review process as a way of trying to strong-arm us for a refund. The VRBO review people would not let me post the person’s name so I could warn other homeowners to stay away from renting to these people. They also would not allow me to post the website address for the Bad Vacation Renter listing site where homeowners can look up the names of bad renters before they rent to them. Have been with VRBO since 2001 they have clearly forgotten that Homeowners pay the bills and this is how they keep the lights on. I have nine vacation homes pay VRBO over $600 per property a year = $5850 and have just turned the auto-renew off. Maybe when they start to see a huge drop in revenue next year they will get the message that homeowners want the option to turn Reviews OFF!
The problem is that HomeAway refuses to validate and police or otherwise protect property owners from extortionist threats from former guests demanding refunds that happen all the time in this business - I also just turmned off the auto renew feature after such a bad review resulting from a failed attempt at extortion and HomeAway refused to protect me - Go figure!
I also turned off the auto renew feature. I do not remember them informing us that they were going to instigate that feature - kinda sneaky of them. Glad I found it, so that I can choose not to renew if I so desire, rather than dealing with them after the fact, should I choose to cancel the listing. I cannot imagine what a hassle that would be.
That said, we have had a string of really bad guests this year. One (party of 6) even smashed one of the tiles on the kitchen counter and another did not take their dog outside to relieve itself and just put a diaper on the carpet. So we returned their security deposit(s) due to this whole review process - just can't take the chance. But now we have changed our policy not to allow dogs and are now limiting the number of people to 4, rather than 6. Hopefully it will limit the number of party animals. I am so down about the vacation rental business and particularly dealing with those that find us on VRBO. Seriously thinking about getting out.
By no longer allowing us to Opt out of reviews they gave me reason to look elsewhere. Have been with them since 2001 and every year I just automatically renew with them and if other listing sites would call I would tell them sorry I only list with VRBO or Homeaway. What a fool I was to do this!
I just discovered a new site everyone check this out www.Airbnb.com it is great I think they could eventually surpass VRBO and Homeaway (I only pray Homeaway does not gobble this company up). We have got to keep them away from this new company. I have been reading HomeAway is planning on going public so once this happens it will not be so easy for them to buy up companies as I truly feel they have created a monolopy in this market segment.
Airbnb does not charge the homeowner a fee to list your property, the renter pays a small processing fee for every booking. Totally different than VRBO/Homeaway they handle the processing of the reservation for you and to make a renter feel more comfortable that they have not been scammed the funds are deposited directly into your bank account 24 hours after the renter has arrived. I was a little apprehensive with my first booking but can vouch for the fact that everything went really smoothly.
If you have a Face book account you can link it to your listing. They support reviews but what I like about the way they handle reviews is no stupid star rating system that gets posted on the top of your listing site. I also like the feeling that I have not paid for this listing so if I get a bad review so what I did not pay for it anyway. If someone treats my home like dirt and tries to use the review process for unethical means it does not bother me so as much because I never paid for the listing site and can just repost a new listing with them.
I am just so thrilled to have found another option. It has not been a feeling that these corporate people at Homeaway have bought up so many listing companies that we all feel trapped into having to use them. Since they no longer seem to want to listen to the customer our only way to make them listen is to move our business elsewhere.
Well put. I have put together a list of sites for owners to consider supporting. You can view this list on my blog at http://www.myvrms.com/blog
I would also consider a new player in the advertising arena, dwellable.com
It's free to list. The founders created urbanspoon, and they know Internet business. I've interviewed them and they are worth investing in.
Sent from my iPhone
We had a bad renter and we witheld the damage deposit, because we refused to refund the deposit in total, she wrote a bad review saying she was sincerely disappointed with the rental and lying saying we had not contacted her which we proved we had. Under the terms of our vacation rental contract we were enitrely within our rights to withold the deposit of $250.
it was obvious she only posted the review to try to coerce us into refunding the deposit.
VRBO posted the review on both VRBO and home and away despite the renter having no association with home and away.
Despite sending evidence of her coercion VRBO say there is not enough evidence and have refused to remove the review. let this be a warning home owners,. if you dare to withhold a damage deposit- you risk the person decimating your business . VRBO merely say to counteract the review with more positive ones. Why should I have to do that on a paid Advert? I thought I was paying for an ad that would bring me business?
Surely as a paying advertiser I should not be subjected to bad renters writing whatever they wish?
I shall be placing my advertising buisness elsewhere.
Barbara, we all feel for you... this review system that VRBO/HomeAway has imposed on all of us is ridiculous and quite frankly the time we have to spend in dealing with these reviews is truly upsetting. The offsetting of a negative with a positive review is very unfair. Most good renters do not want to be dealing with writing reviews. Quite frankly I have given up with even trying to get renters to write a review. When I asked one of my renters if they would write a review they asked me how much of a discount would I be willing to give them to do this. Another renter said to me " forget it....your home is already hard to find availability why on earth would I want to write a review and end up with more completion for it". I was out to lunch with a friend last week and she could see how upset I was about the bad review we received. My friend also rents out her home and advertises on VRBO and Homeaway. She said what are you getting so upset about…the entire system is a joke. You are just not playing the system right. All you have to do is get all your friends to write a good review about your home. It is actually pretty funny when you think about it..
I am new to this group. But as I understand it, anyone can review the comments posted here, even renters – so beware!
That said, my husband and I have had a listing on VRBO for many years. We chose to op out of reviews when there was a choice. Frankly now that there is no choice, I will cancel my listing when I am blackmailed by a guest as I think that is so unfair and cause for legal action. Unfortunately we can thank our elected officials for allowing online freedom of speech. Sites like VRBO and TripAdvisor are protected from getting sued.
I agree with what others have said. The paying advertiser should call the shots, not the renter or the site. The paying advertiser should be able to op out – they are paying to be on the site, for crying out loud. Unfortunately they are now also paying to be abused. If they don’t have reviews, they may suffer the consequences, but that should be their choice., not the site’s choice. I think the reason VRBO made the change was because of TripAdvisor and FlipKey, their biggest competitor. I believe they thought that if TA and FlipKey offer a no “opt-out” feature, then so can they.
But TripAdvisor is different. You can get posted on TripAdvisor like it or not, and free of charge! Yes, you can pay to have a listing on TripAdvisor and their sister company FlipKey, but you don’t have to pay to have a listing to be blackmailed with a bad review on TA. You can be blackmailed on TA without paying to be blackmailed, yet on VBRO you pay to be blackmailed – seems unfair. Why would someone advertise on a site that can ruin his or her business? I certainly would not knowingly choose to advertise on such a site.
As for a security deposit, it is a no-brainer that you can no longer choose to not refund the security deposit, even though your rental was trashed. Those days are gone forever, because of the review process. So you take the security deposit, hoping that it will make your renter think twice about trashing your place, but that is the only reason. They now have the right to ignore your policies and trash your place – plain and simple. Thank you VRBO!
I think your best defense is to interview each and every potential renter. You need to find out if you can meet their expectations. And if you smell something funny, you just tell them that you cannot meet their expectations and recommend another rental. Reading people is an art. I cannot tell you how many people we have turned away, because we think the fit is not right.
Your second best strategy is what I call “pay-back-time” when someone wants to rent once again – you can say, so sorry, but we cannot meet your expectations! And you send them to another site and wish them luck! It is such a good feeling to say NO when you know it will upset someone that has done you wrong.
Bottom line, I refuse to solicit reviews – just don’t have the time. I don’t like it when someone asks me to post a review - I hate it! Besides, we are constantly getting told by our guests that they want to keep our place a secret and all to themselves, so why would they want to post a good review knowing that would make it more difficult for them to get a reservation again and again?
Just my two cents…
A few words: CLASS ACTION LAW SUIT on this REVIEW POLICY THING. It's just plain WRONG.
ps vrconnection dot com is the most amazing website...allows you to manage all of your contracts, send them out from their website, keeps track of all cash flow, shows you when a customer has VIEWED the contract, ACCEPTED the CONTRACT etc...It's just amazing, however...it does not get as many inquiries as VRBO.
Homeaway receives 1/5 the amount on inquiries as VRBO.
Re: Class action lawsuit…it is my understanding that class action lawsuits have been tried relative to other sites.. I do not know about VRBO or the HomeAway group of sites. As many of you know HomeAway is the mother company of VRBO and many other sites. It might even be considered a monopoly - such as when Microsoft lost their battle relative to Anti-trust issues.
That said, hosts sites, such as VRBO and TripAdvisor, are protected by law from being sued – online freedom of speech – a bill passed by congress. Type into your search engine “YELP wins defamation case” and read about it. However, this is continually being tested and will likely end up in the Supreme Court eventually. Craigslist is dealing with no control over who and what is being posted and people have lost their lives over some ads posted on Craigslist. Thus, Craigslist has had to rethink security and privacy issues to keep the bad players out of the game. Banks constantly have to deal with identity theft issues and so they are constantly changing access to their sites by adding increased security. Just about every online site has had to deal with problems in order to keep their customers happy. So one might think HomeAway, the parent company of VRBO, would want to keep their customers happy to minimize the possibly that someone could lose their business over a bad review. Right now, all they can tell you is if you don’t like the mandatory review feature, you can cancel your listing and advertise somewhere else. Problem is that HomeAway monopolizes all the other top sites unless you go with destination-type sites. Unfortunately, vrconnection has virtually no presence when it comes to search engines.
The fact is, reviews are here to stay. They have been around for decades in one form or another (like in Consumer Reports) and many users like reviews and that is great if you want to participate in the review process. The problem arises when you don’t want to participate and are forced to do so in order to bury one bad apple that might have fallen from the tree. But the worse part is that you pay for the privilege of being abused.
Confused - please clarify.
As a new member and not having yet subscribed to H/A or VRBO, I am confused about the new opting out provision. At first I thought that "opting out" was opting out of individual reviews, i.e. if you didn't like the review you could opt out of it. But the more I read, it appears that if you subscribe to H/W or VRBO, you have no choice but to accept the reviews - all of them. Is that correct?
Also, for those of you with websites, couldn't the reviews be posted there if the renters chose to write one? And how effective would that be?
VRBO used to allow someone with a listing to opt out of having to accept reviews - both the good and the bad reviews. That is no longer an option. Any guest can post a review and most likely guests that have been dissatisfied with their stay for whatever reason, will threaten to post a bad review unless you refund their money. Thus, if you have a listing on VRBO you have to play the game if you want to stay in business. You have to spend the time soliciting positive reviews to counter any negative review that might come your way. Unfortunately in this day and age some unscrupulous people know how to get their money back and will threaten you with a bad review so that they can have a free stay. Or if damage is done they will expect to get their entire security deposit refunded or you can expect a bad review. They know how to play the game, so you need to play the game as well by soliciting positive reviews in addition to posting a management response to the negative review. This is also the case with such sites as TripAdvisor. Except with TA you don't pay for this abuse unless you are on one of their spin-off sites like FlipKey. The way I understand it, you cannot be removed from TA other than through an act of God. Or you can sue the poster and if you win, the bad review might then be removed. This is probably what you would need to do with VRBO as well.
The issue here, is why VRBO took away the opt out option. Why would anyone in their right mind, pay to be abused. And I can guarantee, that no matter how many positive reviews you get, you cannot please everyone all the time and a bad review is inevitable.
My property is in Barbados. I recently had a guest submit a review that was 1 out of 5 stars. The guest complained that I told them that bringing meat from the USA to Barbados was illegal. That they did it anyway and had no problems with customs. She then demanded I provide her with a BBQ grill, I do not offer a BBQ grill and do not offer it on my list of amenities. She then went out and bought a portable grill, put it on one of the out door plastic tables and hot charcoal fell and melted holes in the table. I asked her to take the BBQ grill to the beach but not use it on our property. She was furious, started to pick on everything. In her review she even states that she is upset with me that I told her bringing meat to Barbados was illegal. I wrote VRBO twice to explain that if a guest writes about problems with the property, service etc. I can accept it and use it to improve but is it fair that they can give me 1 star because I won't let them light a portable grill on my property? You know that both times I wrote VRBO, I only received a form letter? They didn't even respond to my specific questions. Is that service?
Like rlordsaid, I have opted out from automatic renewal and looking at other advertising alternatives now.
Unfortunately it is obvious that VBRO will not reinstate the "opt out" option. Therefore it would be good if we could suggest some alternatives to them to help those of us that have been abused by the review process through threats, lies, etc. For instance, if they would let us start over with a fresh start - maybe once a year allow us to delete the entire listing and start over with a new name, property ID # and even new photos. We would likely lose our seniority placement and payment to date in doing so, but it might be worth it. Does anyone have any other alternatives given the fact that reviews are not going away?
I would also like to say that I have never had a bad review or a good review - I do not solicit reviews. But it does not take a rocket scientist to know that I will be faced with a bad review sometime in the future. However, I screen all potential guests very carefully and will discourage them from booking if I smell a rat. I just tell them that I cannot meet their expectations. And I no longer keep a security deposit or part of a security deposit to pay for damages, and I have had damages. Many years ago when they had the "opt out" option I was threatened after I kept part of a security deposit. So I still live in fear that person will find the listing and post a bad review even though it would be 5 to 6 years old. BTW, I also think that one of the VRBO rules should be that the stay has to be current and someone cannot post if their stay was over a year ago. This would help those that used to "opt out" and live in fear of an old guest-from-hell finding them on VRBO.
The most obviously way VRBO can help is to listen to us, but they simply will not listen. They monopolize all the top vacation-home rental sites, so unless one has a lot of repeat business, the choices for advertising to bring in new business to continue renting, are slim to none. We are all being held hostage by VRBO. Seems unfair...
Have run into more problems with the reviews being turned on. If you advertise on VRBO and also on HomeAway and have your calendar linked you are going to be in for a double whammy! If you happen to get a bad review on one site it is also going to show up on both sites. So the advertising dollar you spent on HomeAway just got trashed by the bad review that was posted on the VRBO site. I called because I was shocked this could even happen and finally got them to agree to take the links off between the two listing sites. I was considering the new Rental Management Software they are trying to pitch and decided that if they can make a change to the calendar without disclosing this properly it is far too dangerous to use any of the integration tools they are offering. They already have far too much influence over my business.
All of these issues have given me reason to question how much business I am going to give to them in the future. I would automatically renew with them and cannot believe I would blow off other listing sites when they would offer me a free listing. I honestly felt a sense of loyalty and felt good about giving all my business to the HomeAway “Empire” what on earth was I thinking? I have nine listings with them times two that makes 18 listings. Several of my properties are coming up for renewal next month so I have decided to drop HomeAway and reduce the VRBO listing from the max photos to bare bones so that my repeat guests can still find us. I am now moving towards using other listing sites. I spent most of yesterday posting more of my properties on www.Airbnb.com .
I agree that we need to prepare a list of other advertising options and use this community site to tell each other which one is building momentum to wean us away from VRBO and HomeAway. I was a very loyal customer to them and look what loyalty has gotten me…advertising dollars that I might as well put I the trash can. HomeAway has achieved their goal as they have a Monopoly in this market segment. We need another major listing site to counter balance HomeAway/VRBO. So think hard before you give them any more of your hard earned advertising dollar as every dollar we give them is making them more powerful. They took the Opt out of Reviews away from us without in my opinion being upfront and giving us a proper warning before we paid for our listings. I certainly was not given a disclosure warning they would tie both of my listings together using the calendar option.
I am upset with the fact that yes they may have legal grounds to make changes but ethically I feel they did not give us proper disclosure. This is my take on what happened….HomeAway executives clearly knew if they disclosed the fact that they were taking our ability to opt out of reviews they were going to lose revenue this year. If they are planning to go public then they cannot afford to have any revenue decline. I think they needed to show investors that they also have a review process similar to Trip Advisor and Flipkey so they strategically kept disclosure to us low key so that revenue would not be effected this year. If they plan to go public they surely will have to disclose that revenue may be on a decline next year due to so many unhappy customers.
We are cancelling our VRBO immediately if they print the review our tenant is threatening to write - he is harrassing us because we kept a 200 cleaning deposit - our cleaners had to bring in extra people to clean our rental and he left urine stains on the mattress and gouges on the wall as well!!! Your letter is excellent - I am so mad I could spit nails.
Many of us are experiencing the same problems. Sign up to Bad Vacation Renter they are a listing service for bad vacation renters. I also just found Guest Checker they support the hotel industry but vacation homeowners can also use the site to search for problem guests. I like this site because problem guests are blacklisted from renting a hotel room. Members must agree to post that at any time during, before, or after your stay with us your information may be shared with these websites. We must also agree to notify them by email or postal mail if we have reported them as a problem renter.
Once you sign up try and use these two sites as leverage to stop them from posting a bad review.
Is there any update on whether we are going after VRBO over this issue? I just got slammed after 5 years by a guest who destroyed some property in my unit, complained about everything from a dirty potholder to leaves on my outside deck. I gave her some refund hoping this would go away but she took the money and slammed me also. VRBO basically took the same approach that I can respond. Please, one bad rating can kill your chances of renting out the property. I cancelled my membership and asked for a prorated refund since this policy changed after we signed up but they refused. Any suggestions?
I am so glad to find this forum. We have been with VRBO for apporox 10 years, have 12 listings and would love to leave over this stupid policy regarding reviews. I can see from other postings that renters are using the review site as a blackmail chip...".If you don't give me money back" then guess what they do. Potential renters don't realize that the bad/crooked renters amount to approx. 1% of total renters BUT seeing one bad review turns them away. That is losing us business in a direct way and VRBO does not care one bit as far as I can see. We have had two renters after staying at our one of our properties over a year ago suddenly without warning decide to post a negative review?
The first one vrbo allowed, the second we are fighting. Both times never heard one word of complaint while they were at the property. This last one, (stayed in September 2010) and after she left she emailed wanting money back because she felt our home was not clean and we of course refused and told her had she mentioned it in one of our conversation we would have immediately had the cleaning company come back out. Today ( a year later) she submits a review and actually states that she cannot believe all of our the positive reviews and "the owners must be getting their friends to post good reviews for them". She stayed in our home for a week; we spoke with her on the phone several times and she never once complained. NOW that is slander I suppose and told vrbo that if they actually post that our attorney will be in contact with them! I saw that one poster thinks that this is tied to vrbo going public and if so we can all probably forget them changing this policy. I have suggested to VRBO over and over how about giving owners a chance to post negative reviews of renters? So far no response. VRBO is too big now that they are under the Home Away wing and don't seem to understand that OWNERS PAY THEM NOT THE FRIGGING RENTERS! The only way to get back I guess is to sue, which will take a while and all the time the crazy renters will keep losing us business or cancel and leave. To the poster above when I asked about canceling after seeing how the reviews went, I was told that they absolutely would pro-rate the remainder of the years' unused fee for our listings.
Getting back at them by leaving without a comparable rental site to post our homes hurts us more than them I suppose and THEY know it.
I feel your pain. The only one you can sue is the person that posted the bad review and you will need to prove that they lied. You cannot sue VRBO - they are protected - freedom of online speech.
Second recourse is to cancel your listing - sad, but really all you can do. VRBO is more concerned with fake positive reviews than untrue negative reviews.
bottie32 says>>You cannot sue VRBO - they are protected - freedom of online speech.
This doesn't sound right. Do you have a citation &/or precedence that we can refer to?
It was a bill that congress passed several years ago, protecting freedom of speech online relative to the host site. I will try to find the number of the bill and post it. I believe it is CDA Section 230 . The following link might help explain the law.
But you CAN go after the reviewer - it was done successfully with a review on YELP.
Thanks for the link. It appears to give online publishers immunity. Too bad as it appears to enable companies like HA from doing traditional due-dilligence and emboldens them to come up with heavy-handed review policies.
However, I don't live in the U.S. so I very much doubt I'm bound by a bill the Congress passed. I think given that HA publishes internationally and has international customers will complicate the matter significantly.
Note: I've not had a negative experience with reviews so far... but I'll admit that I would support any and all efforts of owners to regain control of the reviews. At minimum, unsubstantiated negative reviews -- especially if contested by the owner -- should be removed.
We are avid VRBO renters. This subject is a two edged sword for the property owner and the renter. As renters, we take the risk of sending our money to strangers and have faith we'll have the room we paid for. I tend to base part of my decision to book on reviews and I count on honesty. Dirty laundry should be aired in private and bad reviews should have a resolution process between owner and renter, not the public. We really don't want to be party to a back and forth "he said she said" when looking for our future vacation spot.... My husband and I have talked about a rating system. We always leave a place as clean or many times cleaner than we found it and I would never tell an owner that. We get that eveyone is not like us. We don't go on vacation to look for negatives or let it ruin our time together. Abuses can happen in all walks of life. I've read the journals left by the owner for the guest and although 99% of the comments are positive, some of the negatives ones are just nuts. Lets focus on the 99% of the people you deal with who are great guests. Don't limit the pictures to save money as one owner suggested. I want to see what I'm paying for and five pics generally don't cut it.
Renters like you are what all of us crave. However, many of us ( owners) have only one home we manage and make available. We love to focus on the positive, but one very bad reveiw can really damage us .
Just so you know, the number of photos we post on our VRBO site depends on our advertising budgets. 5= $300, 12 to 18 can cost as much as $900 or more. You might find that many owners are willing to send you more pictures when you send a serious request. I have youtube videos that I send to serious inquiries, and it benefits my renters because I can keep my advertising costs down.
Many happy VRBO rentings to you!
We have several rental properties and we too have had Guests post bad reviews after some portion of their security deposit was withheld. We are being held hostage to absorb the costs of damge done by renters. Regardless of what they say, one negative review can cut your business by 90%.
I am developing a new site to allow us, the owner to review guests. If you are interested please check it out at www.donotrentlist.com.
This could be the forum to hold guests accountable.
I am an Owner and I checked the box for Owner when I tried to join. I filled in all the fields that were relevant to the Owner....but when I hit the submit, I got a message stating that I need to complete the "highlighted" field.....and the "highlighted" field was one for the guest ...not the Owner. I tried again, from the beginning...same result. I could not sign up as Owner without filling in a "comment" field for guest. So, something is not working. I do appreciate your website and I will join it....when the sign up is working.
I did the same as Anja and macky7441. I even tried to put a ? in the the field for the renter and I couldn't sign up either. So you will need to let us know when you have it all working. Would love to join as well.
Thanks so much
We now include the following wording in our rental agreement. If a renter violates this, he/she is in breach of the contract.
The owners prefer not to participate in the online review process, and do not solicit any reviews. Therefore, the Renter (including anyone in renter’s party) agrees not to write any reviews, make any statements, written or verbal, or cause or encourage others to make any statements, written or verbal, of homeowner or rental accommodations without written approval of homeowner. The Renter acknowledges and agrees that this approval process extends to statements, written or verbal, made to anyone, including but not limited to, the news media, various online review sites & competitors.
Just a couple probs with the form. I wanted to join, but it makes me
upload a file? It will not let me join without doing this first? I am a
owner.. so what am I suppose to upload?
I love the site!
I have similar language in our contract. I tell guests that we consider our rental with them to be a private matter and that only owner is permitted to input content to travel sites. I ask for feedback of any type and tell them that I will clear it with them prior to adding their review to our website. I know there's some feeling that owner entered comments aren't as "good" or "true" as guest entered comments....oh well, that's the way I'm doing it. PS: I'm hoping you've checked your spelling in your contract - it's "breach"...;-)
Honestly, it is an opinion of your guest. You can't legally stop anyone from reviewing and sharing their comments. If I saw that clause in a contract.. It would stop me from renting, as I would already think the property was bad!
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You might want to go read the article on msnbc about this very topic. A dentist tried to do this same thing in their contract about not being able to write bad reveiws about the dentist. She is now being sued.
You might want to first see if this is legal before you find yourself spending unecessary money defending your contract.
You know, I don't know whether it's this post or not (there are SO MANY about the displeasure over reviews in some fashion or another...), but because of my position on entering my own comments, I'm not displeased at all that guests appear not to be taking the extra steps to set up an account or whatever with HA/VRBO, and thus aren't entering comments anymore. I do feel for owners who did like this feature and relied upon great comments. It appears that HA/VRBO will not respond to the concerns in any fashion...
You make a great point! We may not have to be so worried about possible negative reviews if the guests have as much trouble getting in to enter reviews as several of mine have. I think it's worked just as well for me to enter the positive comments from their e-mails, so I've started asking them permission to use those comments and not suggesting they try to do a review.
I'm certain that some types of negative reviews could kill 100% of business, no matter how the owner responds, so am considering putting the "do not say anything about the property" clause into my agreements. Wonder if it would actually defer unhappy people from posting anything or if they would all bet on the legal fees being so high for us that they would just go ahead and say whatever negative thing they were threatening . . .
We have a previous guest that booked on our cabins and paid half of the total to reserve it. 29 days before their arrival they call to cancel because they couldn't make it. If it is within 30 days of check-in we can't refund them anything but I was nice and decided to give them a 25% refund which I told them was about $100, no problem they said. The guest wanted to take the 25% as credit for a future stay so I told them to call me or email when they decide on their dates and I would send them a quote with the 25% credit included.
When I sent their quote they were furious because they decided to take 25% of the total amount instead of what they already paid then use the cancellation policy guidelines on our faqs page to try and shake me down for more money. They felt that their refund should have been closer to $300 because that was 25% of their total. At this point I thought you know what I am going to refund your money and be done with it. Then the calls began and the emails. Unfortunately the emails have no threats what so ever but the phone calls..I don't even pick up anymore.
We've already been hit with one bad review because a guest broke our TV so we kept the $100 deposit, the guests then wrote a horrible review in retaliation, this guest even went so far as to say in an email: ...[return my deposit] or I will take matters into my own hands. After providing VRBO/HA aka Nadia with all of our correspondence she concluded that the guest just wants their deposit back and since the words "I will right a bad review if your don't pay" weren't evident, there was nothing VRBO could do, the review stayed.
I decided to take a preemptive strike, I emailed VRBO to let them know what was happening. I got a long canned response back telling me that I'm basically SOL unless this person in an email states “I will write a bad review if you don't pay me”. So I decided to share my knowledge with the community encase this happened to anyone else.
Yes the same exact situation happened to me and yes "Nadia" the deliberator of the alleged revenge did the same thing to me. The renter did quite a bid of damage to my condo. I took photos and sent the renter the actual paid bills for the repairs that were deducted from his security deposit. He sent email after email demanding that i refund the monies for the repairs otherwise he will do "what he has to do" and that I learned was to post a false negative review. The review was so outrageously false that I had to cancel my VRBO contract to protect my business. When I spoke to Nadia and shared the false emails with her she also used the lame excuse that if the threats did not have the exact wording....."if you do not refund the entire security deposit I will post a negative review" she would not consider taking down the review. I even went as far as speaking with Carl Shepherd the CFO for VRBO/HA and he stated that if there is a threat of ANY KIND that he would take down the false negative review. I then emailed him the emails from my renter reflecting the threats and he too refused to take down the false review as promised. Hyperbole all the way with no substance. The gatekeepers at VRBO/HA are clearly in bad faith and do not mean what they say. Furthermore Mr. Shepherd alleged that the Wall Street tycoons that are going to fund his IPO have insisted that if all reviews are not posted that the IPO would not fly.....so there it is....follow the money ....and truth and integrity go out the window.
Maybe I will get in trouble for this maybe they will just remove the post but I will like to show you all how easy it is to alter an email without anyone knowing. An email is basically just a document, if you drag it on to your desktop (or save it on to your desktop) then right click it and choose Open with..then choose a text editor (ie wordpad, ms word, wordperfect) any is fine. When it opens scroll down, the giberish at the top are the headers, this is what VRBO/HA aka Nadia takes as an “authentic” email. As long as that stuff is there, they will consider it “real”. Anyway, scroll down past the headers (giberish) and eventually you will find the meat of the message, where you can change anything, add, delete, whatever you want. When your done, all you have to do is hit file (or round button at the top for ms office) Save As...then make sure at the end of the email title, it says .eml. Word may try to change it to .doc or .txt, but you can remove that make sure the end is .eml. Once you saved it, open an email to VRBO/HA aka Nadia, attach the .eml you just saved and done. You can do this to any email and I would be happy to help anyone with troubleshooting or better instructions.
Also VRBO/HA doesn't seem to care if reviews are real so why not just start making some up. VRBO/HA can't know it's you posting your reviews. So make an email address, go to Mcdonalds wifi and post away. Of course I would never do this, wink wink, nudge nudge, but if I did, I would know that the only thing VRBO/HA could see if my IP address, which is basically like your “street” address online. The only thing they know is which IP address a review is coming from so as long as your noting submitting a ton of reviews from the same Internet connect (ip address) VRBO can never know. So head down to wifi hotspots or wherever you can, you can also look into Proxy serviers which are so easy to use once you start. They basically “hide” your real address by routing you through another. So if you wanted to use a proxy server you can do this from the comfort of your own home and VRBO/HA aka Nadia will never know. VRBO/HA definetly sides with the guest no matter what so we need to protect our businesses, I'm happy to answer any questions or help anyone out.
I appreciated your informative email below. Would you mind sending me your private email address as I do have some questions regarding your email and would prefer to email you directly. Thanks...I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I feel your pain as something similar happened to me on one of my listings. About six months into one of my HomeAway listings a guest wrote a very unfair review and my inquires came to a screeching halt. I posted all the positive comments from our guest book and we even had two positive 5 star reviews written about us but this did not help to overcome that one bad review. It was a totally vindictive review and many of things they stated were not true. What is worse is it has become a time sync in having to explain all the nonsense that was written and I just could not turn inquires into bookings on this one listing. Whereas my Flipkey and VRBO listings were doing fine. As a last ditch effort I tried the last month of the listing period to move up from basic to Gold to see if this would help and absolutely nothing.
It was time to renew this listing last week….I almost did out of pure impulse but HA customer service made it so difficult to move back to basic from gold that it gave me time to think about it. I said to myself…do you have a screw loose…why on earth are you renewing a listing with a bad review ? So this listing is going into the dead file…If I do decide to renew I will have to start all over again with a brand new listing…but for now I figured I can just do without HomeAway.
Since Carl Shepherd is the CFO for both companies HA and VRBO.....you all might want to write to him directly at the following email address and voice your concerns about their erroneous policies:
Carl Shepherd <email@example.com>
Not that it will make a difference but why not try? Please share his response with the rest of us if you get one.
You should not renew your listing with these people. They are in bad faith and have a terrible business model. We must all ban together and find new travel websites that are reputable to redirect our business to. Please email me your personal email address for future reference as I am collecting as many email addresses from disgruntled owners as possible and if we have enough harmed owners we might be able to pursue legal action. I will also notify all owners of new websites that might work for them. I would suggest that you repost your ad to Flip Key or VRBO but it is unclear if VRBO shares their data base with HA and if your false review will post under VRBO. I have heard conflicting stories about this possibility. Please email me your email address to firstname.lastname@example.org so that we can add your name and email to our list.
Thanks for your comments.