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7554 Views 28 Replies Latest reply: Sep 6, 2012 6:49 PM by anja RSS
New Member 12 posts since
Aug 23, 2012
Currently Being Moderated

Aug 24, 2012 11:09 AM

How do I reply to a nasty review that is exaggerated/not true?

I apologize in advance for the length of this question but I thought it best to provide as much information as possible.


I rent either my whole property, or just the upstairs bedroom, bathroom and private deck (Treehouse) - in which case the renters "share" the rest of the property with me.  This is stated in my listing description.  70% of my rentals are for the whole house.  Treehouse renters are usually couples and arrive expecting to interact with me to some extent.  Some have become friends and/or repeat guests.  Treehouse rental is half the price of renting the whole house.


I recently had a guest who initially requested to rent the Treehouse.  In discussing the accommodations (by phone) she realized that it was just one bedroom, she wanted a second bedroom (for herself and her son) - but not the whole house.  I made an exception that I had done twice before and offered to stay in the Treehouse so that they could be in the two bedrooms downstairs.  She did not want to pay for the whole house.


After they arrived and I had explained a few things about the house I got the feeling she was expecting me to leave.  Somehow I brought up the fact that I was going out but would be in the Treehouse, upstairs.  She appeared surprised that "sharing" the house meant I was actually in contact with the guests.  I told her anecdotes about some of the fun interactions I have had with previous guests.


The next evening she said, " I knew you would be in the Treehouse, but I did not think we would see you." and asked if I would consider refunding their money so they could go to a hotel.  I told her that was not possible and from that point on I only saw them a few times, in passing.  I left on a trip three days before their rental ended, so they had the house to themselves at that point. 


My son arrived late at night ( from 6 months in China) and stayed over to bring me to the airport in the morning, pick up his car and head north to stay with friends.  He never saw them and they never saw him - but I had let them know he would be there, just in case their paths crossed.  Supposedly, a couple and child entered the front yard and took some pictures - so the renter lady decided (without any discussion) that this was my son, his wife and child, and decided to move to a hotel.  All very odd.  They said nothing to me beyond a text message that they had left the house and I could call my cleaners in.


A few days later I received an email threatening that if I did not send her the $1000 she spent for two nights in the Marriott she would write a horrible review.  I said I was sorry that the arrangements had not been what she expected - or I expected, for that matter - but did not feel I owed her any money, especially when she moved out after I left them the whole house (with no increase in cost, of course).


So she did write a nasty review, burying the real issue - sharing the house - under a list of other petty, personal taste or downright not true items.  VRBO has been of no help in answering my questions regarding this, so I am turning to the Community - having realized anyway that my fellow Owners will have better advice than some $10/hr VRBO website monitor who only knows how to answer questions with the closest-fitting pre-scripted answer.


You can see the review at vrbo244577.  I have created an item-by-item explanation/reply, but don't think that is the way to go for posting to the site.  If there is interest from the Community, I will post that here.  But like some others have said, that's more for venting.  I'd just like some guidelines on how long the reply should be, which issues are really significant - like the one about money which is completely made up.


Thanks much!

  • mlbmaine Active Contributor 908 posts since
    Mar 2, 2012

    I did not see the negative review that is the subject of your post on your property's listing.  It takes VRBO a few days to post guest reviews and I don't believe that it has been posted yet.  Unfortunatelly, no one can offer you any advice regarding to how to respond without seeing the review.

      • sage Community All-Star 966 posts since
        Jul 4, 2012

        I see it at


        Are you willing to give some refund to resolve the dispute, including removal of the review?  The guest asked for $1000 to compensate for 2 nights allegedly spent at the Marriott Hotel. That is an unreasonable request.  Was she in a penthouse suite and does that figure include the room service charges?  In looking at your rate information, I cannot tell how much she was paying per night.  How about refunding whatever amount she actually paid for the 2 nights she was not there if that would satisfy her and get rid of the review?

  • mlbmaine Active Contributor 908 posts since
    Mar 2, 2012

    This is very odd.  I was able to read the review by accessing Sage's link, but it is still not on the VRBO listing for the property.  (I just checked again.)  Does VRBO segregate reviews that are being challenged by an owner while they investigate?  Do you still have her e-mail that threatens that she will post a negative review if you didn't pay her $1,000 for the Marriott?  That sounds like extortion to me and perhaps if you sent a copy of that e-mail to VRBO they would remove the review under these circumstances.  It's worth a try.


    I would like to know what other owners think about my next suggestion.  If VRBO won't remove the review and posts it to the listing, what about mentioning the guest's extortion attempt in your response (without actually calling it extortion)?  Something along the lines of briefly stating that there was a misunderstanding on the part of the guest that she would be sharing the house with you while you were in town (you can reference that she evidently did not read that part of your description).  You should state that you are very sorry about the misunderstanding and regret that she did not enjoy her vacation.  I would then state that this guest moved to a hotel after you and your son had both gone out-of-town and she had the entire property to herself.  Quote the language from her e-mail stating that if you didn't pay for her hotel, she would post a negative review of the property.  (Make sure it is an exact quote so that she can't say that you libeled her.)  I would then ask potential renters to read the other reviews of the property and come to their own conclusions about the property.  

    • msdebj Senior Contributor 1,358 posts since
      May 25, 2011

      That is just flat out scary! A  Delay time when someone  clued in enough can see the review and others can't. Wonder what the lag time is for an owner to post a reponse? Anyone know?


      Pam, that said, if I may offer my opinion here.


      I don't think you did anything wrong. But, I can see how your listing could be  a bit confusing to today's "average" traveler. (Many of them don't really read anything other than price & maybe # of guests allowed)


      Do you have an email conversation that states you will be on the property? If so, I missed that. If so, that should help you.


      They coud have been sharing the home with anyone, if I'm reading this right.  I'd think they'd be happy to know it was you- the owner~! Do you always have your guests share a common area of your place - kitchen, for example?.


      I'm baffled as to this new "privacy" issue that keeps popping up.  Do people really think that when they enter our homes they have left the planet and are untouchable? 


      I'll wait to see their review, but if it's as bad as you say it is, I think you have every right to respond!!  $1000.00 for 2 nights? PLEASE!  That's just beyond me!


      Hang in there!


        • sage Community All-Star 966 posts since
          Jul 4, 2012

          It's MY freaking house.

          Is it?  I mean during the period of the rental to the guest?  In general I think a vacation rental guest is entitled to, and will, think of the residence for the duration of their stay in similar terms as would a tenant with a one year lease.  Local laws may differ on this point.  If the guest will not have exclusive use without intrusions by the owner (except with proper notice and for reasons permitted by the applicable laws) the conditions need to be very carefully and fully spelled out in the rental agreement.  It may be that, through sharing of some of the facilities in the residence, the guest is in the position of boarder or roomer rather than tenant; if so, a written agreement outlining the sharing arrangement is essential.


          I will go back to the question asked in my first posting.  Would you be willing to try to resolve the dispute with a refund of some amount less than $1000?  I feel that getting the guest to withdraw the review would be much better for you than any response you might post could be.

        • anja Senior Contributor 1,557 posts since
          Aug 9, 2011

          Hi pamela.salisbury...


          I'm sorry that this went so wrong.   I read your other (good) reviews and feel awful for you about this one ... it's so sad that this happened to both of you, actually. You are both unhappy.  I just don't understand what seems to be the "common mindset" of people to "attack"  in public....instead of negotiating to some resolution. This person is not sensitive to the fact that the deal she got with you was "special" and that is not the usual way that you run the business.  So, she's giving the wrong impression, in the review....even if you did come into the  main House where she was renting. She left that part out....the special arrangement. That, in itself, is unfair....UNLESS she misunderstood! 


          Your choices:  either address the misrepresentations in her "review" as exaggerated or untrue  -or-  communicate with the woman and work out a fair and reasonable "settlement" in return for her to remove that review -- in short, make her another deal!


          Which one would you find it easier to live with?  You need to come out on top of this, by any and all means.  In my view, either choice could work for you as long as you handle your "Owner Response" VERY WELL --- you need to be addressing your "future guests" who will judge you by how you respond to this awful criticism of you by this one individual.


          There are earlier threads on this subject of handling bad reviews, how to respond, and others that are easy to find when you "Search For Answers", above at the top of the page.   On the other hand, if you settle with her, the review goes away even though you're out of pocket and out of sorts over having given in.


          I don't like the "extortion" aspect if this [was this by email..?].  I also do not like that she did not discuss with you (again) before actually "checking out" and into an expensive hotel. (After the first night, you refused a refund...though --- so she was miffed and probably didn't think it worth talking to you further}. I think that if you knew just how uncomfortable she felt in your home, you would probably have offered to "move out"....but it seems that she didn't give you a chance to remedy this before leaving ...but rather took matters into her own hands and split for the hotel. That was wrong of her, in my opinion --- people need to "TALK" before they act. [That's just me....I'm for connecting with each other coming to resolution.]


          If you do choose to settle, you should not pay any funds until she asks VRBO to remove her review --- and it is off the site!   She will have to trust that you will refund her and do so in the quickest possible manner. (If she paid by credit card, she can always reverse the charges...get all her money back...and you are stuck with the bad review and a financial loss.)


          What I understood was that, she didn't want to pay the higher rate for The House but she wanted two bedrooms...and you offered to move to The Treehouse so she could have the two bedrooms in The House (one of them being your own bedroom) she got the use of the bigger, main house without paying the higher "house rate".   (A special arrangement...I see that as a special "discount")  But, she complains that you state one price than change it {what did she mean by that?}


          If I understood that right, she seemed to have not understood the specifics of "the deal" that included your presence & sharing the main house facilities.    In fact, it seems that your guest somehow didn't even grasp that you would be in attached Treehouse unit at all. How can that be?  Did your rental agreement state the "special" arrangement....because it's something that you said you tried successfully a couple of times, before. But, if it's "special", do you have a "special" rental agreement for those times --- that specifically explains what "sharing space" means?


          I am {only} assuming that the other guests who had positive experiences rented the *entire property* -- and you were not there -- I don't recall anyone mentioning your presence in those reviews.   So, there seemed to be a failure to communicate between the both of you, before she reserved.


          In my opinion, there is "special consideration" needed when renting a home that the owner is actually living in -- especially during the rented period.   If I understand correctly, if someone rents the Tree House, you might be living in the Main House  -and- if someone rents the Main House, you might be living in the Tree House ----and---- people can also rent the entire Property alone.  The personal items and personal taste in art, etc., is another consideration that some people will not like but others will embrace -- as long as they know, again in the listing, that this is the owner's personal home, I see no big problem.  But, the rental condition must be understood.,,and accepted..


          What we do know is that "Guests say the darnest things"!


          Advertising needs to be VERY clear, and accurately describe the "shared" living arrangements, under any circumstances that sharing may occur.      I know that there is ample opportunity to clarify that detail in the followup contact.   I do believe that you probably explained everything to her and that you did not mislead her, at all!   I understand the "deal" you gave her....but she didn't.   I am sensitive to this situation. I too live on my property -- but not in the same house I'm renting out.  My home is next door -- privacy for all is factored into my property layout.  There are no shared facilities with my guests.  My ad states that my property is 'Owner Managed' and that I live next door, that I meet/greet/orient -- and hand over the keys -- and no other contact unless the guest approaches me for assistance...or for a chat!    I include this info again in the "offers" that I send for their decision...and a third time in the rental agreement. It's not overkill --- there are many people who do not read everything thoroughly --- and I've had a few such people tell me that they didn't realize I lived next door when I answered their pre-arrival questions about "check in details". They still came and had a ball, but my point is that sometimes we have to hit them over the head with our "special" rental conditions.


          I consider an owner living so near to be a "special rental condition" that needs to be highlighted --- and that people need to agree to, in advance of booking.....some people will object and not choose us because of this.   I don't mind because the reason I "highlight" my near presence is so prospects can make an informed decision about renting  -or not-  and then I get the guests that are agreeable.   I have no idea how many guests pass my offer up based on my presence.  I never bothered to chase up people who didn't book to ask if that was the reason -- because I'm not interested to know.  I'm content to know that my guests look forward to our meeting and their stay.


          If you've decided to "respond", did you want to give the Community here a chance to take a peek at your *draft* Owner Response?   Maybe it will help you -- and others reading this post.


          Dealing with the "bad review" is a big issue for everyone.  I do believe that you acted with sincerity and reached  out to this guest to provide accommodation she needed, e.g. two bedrooms. The rest of the story is a misunderstanding and the ending seems to be a vicious revenge that she wants to have for you, in  public.

          You have to fix that, some way, so you come  out on top, in the eyes of your prospects who will go straight to that bad review to read what went wrong...and most importantly how the Owner handled it --- because they will project themselves into the shoes of that "guest"....dealing with you, when they book.   

          • anja Senior Contributor 1,557 posts since
            Aug 9, 2011

            For me it "stings" to see that bad review posted with  [wow]  NO owner response to clarify, explain, refute.  The guest got the last (and only) word in public.  


            I hope the two parties are negotiating to have this bad review removed (by the guest) coming to  a payment settlement...either cash or even to give the guest a "do-over" stay at a furture date ...if she'd want to come back.  I do hope that this owner can get that review  taken  down or "modified" by the guest. 

            [There have already been  a couple of prospects who have checked off that "it was helpful" to they will  not be making a reservation.]  That gross misunderstanding, which is what I believe it was, should not be permitted to affect future loss of business.  {The house is nice, the owner is nice --- attributed by others who dealt with her. I feel bad for her.  This was a gross misunderstanding .....or the guest is very insincere herself = lying about what she agreed to).


            I'm still not certain whether the "special" arrangement was reiterated in an email or rental agreement {they spoke by phone}.....but this case  is an example of what could be "misunderstood", or how  guests could have a "selective memory" over what was discussed and agreed to.....if everything is not stated in a follow up ---written!  


            The phone is a convenience for checking on validity of ownership, screening of guests, etc....but best to get everything "discussed" down in written form to get it "documented" for those times when "selective memory" makes an entrance.  


            I think owners should comment on every review ...but especially the ones when a guest mentions something negative.

      • mlbmaine Active Contributor 908 posts since
        Mar 2, 2012

        I think that your response will be more effective if it is shorter.  Your target audience are potential renters, and you want to make a very favorable impression.  I'm not sure if a potential renter will take the time to read through your entire response.  I have the following suggestions to shorten your response:


        "I am very sorry that this renter did not enjoy her stay.  Each VRBO rental is unique.  This property is my home and I offer two options for renting.  The first option is that a renter can rent the entire property for total privacy and I stay elsewhere.  The second option is that a renter can rent only the "Treehouse" and share the rest of the house (kitchen and laundry facilities, etc.) with me.  This renter and I shared the property for [fill in the number] days before I went on a trip out of town.  After I left town, the renter decided to move to a hotel.  She sent me an e-mail that stated, "[insert quote from e-mail about reimbursement or bad review.]"  I decided not to pay this renter in exchange for a good review.  Whether I am in the house or not, everyone is my guest and I make every effort to have their stay live up to their expectations."

  • victoriam Contributor 96 posts since
    Aug 9, 2012

    I just looked at your listing - looks like a cute place!  The bad review does show up first, but with 11 other good reviews, I don't think it is a big problem.   My main suggestion would be to simplify and edit your listing to make it very clear in the first few sentances what you are offering.  Something like:  "Two options - Rent private artist treehouse OR share the main home with the owner.  Enjoy your own private bedroom and bath while sharing the kitchen, patio etc. with the owner."


    As is, people get lost right away in your "slightly wild" garden etc.   Remember potential guests are probably looking at a dozen listings and want to cut to the essential details.  You don't need so much description with good photos.


    My vacation apt. requires entering through the house where I live, so I make that clear right away  (#141712)


    And I would seriously consider the feedback from other guests about your art.

  • New Member 5 posts since
    Sep 3, 2011

    I just read your response and I think it is right on - calm and reasonable. Getting the bad review removed would be great but I think the negativity and the lack of reason on the part of the renter comes through in her comments. I think the best thing you can do immediately is to get more reviews, so that the negative review drops down on the list. Right now, it sort of hits you in the face.


    Take care- Pam 147530

  • kjm New Member 12 posts since
    Sep 6, 2012

    We have been VRBO users for over 10 years, and subsequently HomeAway withr a couple of properties. We have been fortunate that to date that we have never received a poor review. But there for the grace of of god go we.

    I agree your response was good and calm - but perhaps a little long.


    What I am most disapointed in is that VRBO and HomeAway have taken away the owners option to accept or deny a review. It used to be the reviews were sent to the owners and we had the choice of accepting. We are getting more and more concerned about how much owner control is being taken over by the Web site and we are not happy. We agree the web sites have added many features over the past few years and many are good but VRBO used to work just fine 10 years ago when it really was a service to HOMEOWNERS. We dont get any more renters now than we did then despite all the new bells and whistles on the sites. We are filled back to back throughout the winter and summer seasons with a good smackering in the fall.

    So having all the bells and whistles have cost us a lot more in fees and have continually taken more and more control away from us, the homewoner and paying customer base for VRBO and HOmeAway

    Anyone else feeling that these sites have forgotten about us - their customers and have taken more and more control away. We would love to hear from other homeowners who feel the same way


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