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30705 Views 96 Replies Latest reply: Jan 29, 2013 8:54 PM by riley RSS
melissa HomeAway Employee 16 posts since
Oct 21, 2010
Currently Being Moderated

Sep 21, 2012 10:34 AM

Preview the new Conversation system and give feedback

You might have heard, a big change is in the works. We are in the process of developing a more secure form of communications where both owners and travelers can be confident they are talking to each other. 

 

We have been listening to feedback and want to hear more from you.

 

Our goal is to fight phishing by designing a great solution for improved communications while minimizing the impact of the changes.  Phishing is serious threat to the internet and vacation rentals are a high ticket item attractive to thieves. It’s hard to understand real impact.  Until your email account has been phished, and travelers have been defrauded using your email account, phishing can seem like “someone else’s problem.”

 

While the purpose of these changes is to bring you improved security, you will benefit from:

    • Time Savings
    • Improved on-the-go access to inquiries and reservation tools
    • Easier access to conversation histories with guests
    • Guest profiles to help you vet guests up front

 

Click on the link below to walk through some of the screens are working on – by no means are these screens final and your input will help us improve them. We’d like to hear what you think so let us know what doesn’t make sense or what you would like to see done differently.

 

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/HASC2012

 

Thanks in advance!

Melissa

Director, Product Marketing

  • annanna Contributor 33 posts since
    Aug 11, 2012

    I understand what you are trying to accomplish but the the proposed system doesn't work for us. We have many properties. We advertise in many places. We reply personally to each inquiry email using pieces of carefully formatted and linked text and images. Our system involves using the built-in Autotext feature of Outlook. We use the email correspondence to build a file on the guest on our computers and in our control using the email correspondence. How will we use the Autotext function in your solution? How will your system preserve our careful formatting and embedded links in our Autotexts? How will we store the guest correspondence on our server where several of us can get at it?  You need to provide a means for us to opt out of your solution.

    • lisalovesitaly Contributor 42 posts since
      Aug 11, 2012

      I agree with the previous poster Annaanna. Large advertisers need to be able to opt-out of this system. I have dozens of listings. I cannot work with the new Conversation system. If you've been listening to the feedback from this discussion thread http://community.homeaway.com/thread/4590?start=0&tstart=0  with over 600 replies it is overwhelming against this new system.

      • annanna Contributor 33 posts since
        Aug 11, 2012
        Currently Being Moderated
        Sep 24, 2012 12:15 PM (in response to melissa)
        Re: Preview the new Conversation system and give feedback

        How do you support Microsoft Word/Outlook autotext? I just tried it in this screen and it didn't work.

          • lisalovesitaly Contributor 42 posts since
            Aug 11, 2012

            Melissa, I just looked at the Autotext in the Dashboard Setting. Are you kidding me? I'm sorry but it sounds like HA has an uninformed, inaccurate view of the reply process. The simplistic reply templates in Settings are woefully inadequate.

             

            We manage a large number of properties, a percentage of which we advertise on multiple sites including VRBO, as well as our own website. We have formatted, customized, rich text templates for each property and have hot-key settings to customize, with just a few keystrokes, each and every reply along with embedded links. A simple template might be fine for an owner with one property, but this is never going to cut it with your advertisers who have multiple listings or with property managers.

             

            That HA hadn't previously thought about rich text formating is just embarrassing. What decade are you in?

             

            Melissa, I invite you to contact me privately or give me your email and I'll give you a walk thru of the "real world" reply process and can explain to you the level of software, staffing and sophistication involved. Please invest more time to understand the front lines of this business before you take the ill-conceived Conversation system any further.

      • annanna Contributor 33 posts since
        Aug 11, 2012
        Currently Being Moderated
        Oct 11, 2012 12:17 PM (in response to melissa)
        Re: Preview the new Conversation system and give feedback

        We do not want this.

         

        We already have hundreds of carefully formatted replies stored in AutoCorrects and Autotexts that we use to reply to inquiries from many different sources. Our common denominator is our own system. We do not want to have to have a whole different world for your inquiries. We do not want to duplicate our existing system just for HA. We do not want you to force us to work within your system.

         

        We do not want you to store our conversations with our prospective guests.

         

        We do not want to go to your system to do our work..

         

        It is really simple, send us the inquiry with the information about the inquirer and their request in email. We will take it from there.

         

        We don't need you to manage our business.

         

        Work on what you do best, advertise.

        • annanna wrote:

           

          We do not want this.

           

          We already have hundreds of carefully formatted replies stored in AutoCorrects and Autotexts that we use to reply to inquiries from many different sources. Our common denominator is our own system. We do not want to have to have a whole different world for your inquiries. We do not want to duplicate our existing system just for HA. We do not want you to force us to work within your system.

           

          We do not want you to store our conversations with our prospective guests.

           

          We do not want to go to your system to do our work..

           

          It is really simple, send us the inquiry with the information about the inquirer and their request in email. We will take it from there.

           

          We don't need you to manage our business.

           

          Work on what you do best, advertise.

          Every one of your points is spot-on! And we agree with you totally .... HA, STOP trying to take over our business & our customers!!

           

           

          P.S. I'd vote in the poll, but it "thanks me" the moment I enter it ... wonder how many other people they are keeping from voting? Is it just people who complain about them or is there something else going on?

  • kiawahcottage Community All-Star 375 posts since
    Jan 1, 2011

    Hi Melissa,

     

    I just have one little VR that I have been managing for many years.  I already have a system in place that works for me.  I do not need or want HA to control my customers access to me or mine to them.  This just seems like such a bad idea.  HA is not my rental agent.  I went independent years ago.  I don't need you people telling me how to run this.

     

    If your "goal is to fight phishing by designing a great solution for improved communications while minimizing the impact of the changes"  you have toatally failed.

     

    1.  Maybe it "fights" phishing (maybe not), but HA / VRBO has already solved that.  If you enable it, VRBO texts you when you get an inquiry and HA can send the inquiry to another e-mail address (that is never used to respond, therefore can never be phished).  Make one, or both of these mandatory and the phishing problem is gone.

     

    2.Calling something "a great solution for improved communications" does not make it "a great solution for improved communications". That is called "sales speak".  It is not a "great solution" for anything.

     

    3.  The impact of this change is anything but "minimal".

     

    This may be attractive to new people just coming in but to the vast majority of your "seasoned" users it is absolutely horrendous, and it may not even prove to be a benefit to anybody. 

     

    Let me be clear, I do not like it at all.

     

    Paul

    • swlinphx Senior Contributor 2,191 posts since
      Aug 30, 2011

      Maybe it "fights" phishing (maybe not), but HA / VRBO has already solved that.  If you enable it, VRBO texts you when you get an inquiry and HA can send the inquiry to another e-mail address (that is never used to respond, therefore can never be phished).  Make one, or both of these mandatory and the phishing problem is gone.

      Paul, I hear what you're saying but as far as the quote above, not all of us use or pay extra for SMS texting on our cell phones or mobile devices and many of us rely on landlines still for business calls (or forward to cells when away).  Any solution that forces users to subscribe to SMS text services is not comprehensive or fair.

       

      As far as the second point, when you say HA can send the inquiry to another e-mail address are you saying that would be the only address they send it to and then you respond from another address?  That e-mail address you specify is still an outside e-mail address which can be hacked or password discovered (although maybe less likely if not used for outgoing mail).  When my password was once breached they logged into my ISP's mail server to reroute my e-mails then delete from server so I never knew they existed, and I'm not so sure that means they wouldn't have been able to discover the password to the one used for incoming only, but again it is probably less likely since not used for outgoing or listed as a contact for you anywhere else on the Web.

       

      The problem is though, how many homeowners or managers are going to set up a separate e-mail address on their own and be sure to conduct business this way without being told, and then if they don't be held liable for not doing that?  I think HA/VRBO is trying to devise a solution that does not rely on the customer having to take all the security precautions on their own, but instead a system that secures everyone, regardless of whether they go through the steps to set what you describe up.

  • swlinphx Senior Contributor 2,191 posts since
    Aug 30, 2011

    One thing I didn't think of before submitting the survey questionnaire is that we do rely heavliy on text formatting (colored excerpts, italics, underscore and/or boldface).  I'm assuming that will not be available in the Dashboard Inbox, but even if it is, will that same formatting show when saved to our outside personal e-mail address too?

  • anja Senior Contributor 1,555 posts since
    Aug 9, 2011
    Currently Being Moderated
    Sep 21, 2012 11:42 PM (in response to melissa)
    Re: Preview the new Conversation system and give feedback

    Hi melissa,

    Thank you for the chance to comment on the proposals. I'm very interested in this feature....but I had one problem ...  when I used the link to start the survey, I managed to input the first 2 survey questions...using "next" to get to the next page.....but then the survey *ended*...."thanking me for my input". 

     

    I never got further....I never got to see the examples.  Can you send me a new survey link, please?   

      • anja Senior Contributor 1,555 posts since
        Aug 9, 2011

        Hi melissa!!

         

         

        Thank you for forwarding a 'new link' to me for the survey.  I'm afraid that I'm going to be a "pain"....because  I'm still having problems with the survey itself...I still haven't been able to view the Conversation System.

         

        I followed the directions to the "T":   I chose one of the 4 options for the first question;  I chose "next" to move on --- and I was then presented with the *index page* for HomeAway.com --and that's where I got stuck.

         

        I could not move on from the HA index page.  There was nothing to click on...nothing to choose....no message at the bottom of the page / no "Prev"...no "Next".  Zip. Nada.

         

        So, I'm not able to review the Conversation platform using that survey method.

         

        Maybe it's just a few of us that haven't been able to see it [?]...so many people "view" the Community threads and only a very few respond...but it's possible that many others can not complete the survey, too.  I'm really  interested in this topic, I participated in the Ambass. Conference Calls on the subject and I've been waiting with bated breath for the security system to be demoed for us.  I can't contribute to this thread, or any other, on the subject until I;'ve seen it. 

         

        I'm wondering if the demo could be uploaded on the Community site  somewhere, instead of using the Survey Monkey? 

        • anja Senior Contributor 1,555 posts since
          Aug 9, 2011
          Currently Being Moderated
          Sep 27, 2012 3:29 AM (in response to anja)
          Re: Preview the new Conversation system and give feedback

          Hi Melissa!!  Thank you so much for emailing me the screen shots!  It's nice to be able to view the product as it stands now....and to be able to make comments and suggestions.   I've made my observations and here are my questions, comments and concerns.

           

          ---  the demo shows us a traveller who created a profile and he uploaded his photo, etc. QuestionWhat if a traveller does not want to create a profile ---?--- some people will not. Can he still send an inquiry?  It is important that inquirers have the option to 'opt out' of creating profiles. I recall in the Ambassador Conf. call with Tom Hale, the Traveler Profile was "optional for everyone".  Is it still?

           

          ---  the email field:  I manage ALL correspondence in Outlook relying on Outlook features not only for rich text formatting but for archiving, and other features, like calendar and reminders, and I include links to my website's details, an MSWord attachment, and other links for information requested.  Everything is set up...and I've been in business for 7 years with no glitches...it's my system for keeps.   I create individual folders in Outlook for every person that I deal with... I keep all correspondence archived...and details are gleaned for my customer database. My customer database is the property of my business. I do not share my business's customer database with anyone.

           

          --- I do not rely on templates to communicate and wouldn't use that feature, but others might find it useful.  I see that there is a "custom" response, and that's a good feature, for me.  Overwhelming, my responses are customed and tailored to answer all the questions and many details that I need to include.  I don't find responding individually a task -- so, I don't need a tool to simplify responding to save me time.  I work from home...I have plenty of time and I enjoy the work.  I only use a template when I'm responding with "no availability".  So, I would not use the template feature provided. I see the value in it for others, however.

           

          --- Please correct me if I am wrong:  In the example shown (screen 2)  it appears that when an owner replies, the system is revealing the property's street address.   I do not reveal the exact address of my property until it becomes necessary, into the contract stage. That is *my* business's security policy.  Question: can we decide at which stage when to reveal our property's address? 

          This is important to protect privacy!   I've caught "people" on my property roaming around, peeking in windows to fill their curiousity.  I took my address off my own websites!   No one has the right to my property address until we have built the trust with each other and I decide *whether I want them to know* and that would be when I've decided to go ahead and offer them a contract.  But, it appears that, in the demo example, a street address is revealed to the traveller.  To make it even worse, you are not requiring the traveller to reveal his address to us, in return...in the inquiry formWhy not, if they get to know our address in a meer inquiry?  The unequal protection would be unacceptable for me --- and I would view it as a biased preference to *overly* service the traveller who uses the site for *free*...and *not adequately* servicing and protecting us...the "investors", ...that's us....the advertisers...the owners...we invest here.  I speak for myself, the HA secure communiation system would be violating my business's own security 'system' when it publishes my rental's address *before I decide to do so*.  I do not give HA that permission.

           

          --- Email notifications:   "With every response from you and your guests....there will be notifications with the thread of correspondence" . Sounds like my inbox is going to be flooded with notifications with repetitive thread content every time we email each other.  Between my prospects and I, before we even get to the contract state, there are often many emails. I'm not happy with a flood of HA notifications.  I presume the traveller is also getting the same flood of notifications.  How annoying.

           

          --- Personally, I do not need the on-the-go mobile access, but I understand that this is an important feature for many people, these days. I think I heard today that 9 our 10 Americans (I apologize for the US-centric data) owns some kind of a mobile, many are iphones, so that's a good feature offered for many. 

          However, in my location, my [amazing] lifestyle and business set up affords me what I consider to be my "personal freedom" to be less dependent upon mobiles or texting or aps.   For me, my cell phone is just a convenience.....I do not text!.....I do not use aps!.....my cell phone is not a business solution. 

           

          ----From what I gather, after logging in to capture the inquiry, owners can still "take the conversation" outside the HA environment, once we make the initial (first) contact with the inquirer and get their email....  Please confirm that nothing will prevent owners from taking the conversation outside...that is what Tom Hale said in the Ambassador Conference Call a few months backIs it still so? 

           

          Personally, I think before HA decides to launch this system, it should be 'openly' beta tested with several thousand users (travellers and property owners).

          • lisalovesitaly Contributor 42 posts since
            Aug 11, 2012
            Currently Being Moderated
            Sep 27, 2012 2:59 PM (in response to anja)
            Re: Preview the new Conversation system and give feedback

            Thank you Anja for the helpful analysis. I second all the same concerns as Anja and want to follow up on her point about revealing the property address. It is a huge security issue. If you publish the address before a booking is confirmed you expose owners and renters to very real dangers.

             

            To explain, we do not give out the property address until the booking is paid in full. If you give out the property address during the inquiry phase, there is the very real the risk of burglars who can create a gmail address and send inquiries just to obtain the address. This is much simpler than phishing. Just ask your local police officer. Now the door is open to the everday common criminal who doesn't need a very high level of sophistication to break in to a home and rob owners and renters blind. Once a burglar has the address and the avaiability calendar it is easy for them to decide the best time to break in.

             

            • They can easily case the property and choose to break in when the property is empty, pull up a moving van and empty a rental property of everything with no risk of anyone being around
            • They can break in and steal from renters when they are out-and-about sightseeing. Guests are often careless or distracted, leaving windows open, forgetting to use the safe or to bolt the door.
            • Vagrants move into a rental property and "live" in it when they can see it sits vacant for long periods. This happens often in resort towns with a high degree of seasonality when properites are vacant for months at at time.

             

            Matt and Melissa please advise how your security team analyzed this major security and safety issue for owners and renters?

          • anja Senior Contributor 1,555 posts since
            Aug 9, 2011
            Currently Being Moderated
            Oct 9, 2012 4:14 PM (in response to anja)
            Re: Preview the new Conversation system and give feedback

            To Owners: some expressed will to converse with inquirers outside the HA system.  So, now  I'm replying to myself to further one of my points (above), based on the response from melissa reply.....

             

            melissa wrote:

             

            [...]

            • Profiles - You are correct in that travelers never have to create a profile.  They don't have to create an account to initially inquire either. It's only after they have received your reply will they have to create an account to move the conversation further.

             

            It is I who changed the format in melissa's last sentence (bold, underline) to 'highlight' what seems to me an Owner would have to do when they write their first response to the inquiry... if they want the conversation to proceed "outside" HA:

             

            Owner logs in.  Owner reads inquiry.  Owner is interested in inquiry.  Owner writes first reply to inquiry....and:

            ---> Owner's first reply would need to "confirm availability"....but also explain that the Owner is now going to send  a follow up email with full details....that the inquirer could review and ***respond directly*** to the Owner's private email address ...without the inquirer having to "Create A HA Account".

             

            So, I envisage two Owner responses to be able to start a conversation *outside* HA's system if the Owner wants to 'take the conversation' outside.  And...if the traveler remains interested, they will wait for and answer the Owner's next email and avoid having to set up "An Account" to carry on the conversation.

             

            The first Owner reply will need to be crafted carefully...and sent timely... immediately....perhaps have a generic template for yourself that you can use for a quick reply.  

  • New Member 1 posts since
    Aug 22, 2012

    I have just one vacation rental but Homeaway and VRBO are not the only site that I advertise on, I have my own system to control bookings and enquiries and by Homeawy introducing this new system will mean that I will need to control two systems which will double my workload and I do not like the thought of applying for a booking and not knowing their phone number or email.

     

    I feel that Homeaway is trying to take over the control and I dont feel for me it will be to my advantage.

    • tsvr Contributor 220 posts since
      Feb 28, 2011

      It seems that this issue (see violet's comments), the concern that inquirers will go elsewhere if required to sign-up and what will happen when an owner can't access internet or HA is down again (Sandbox) or some part of it isn't working (again) are the biggest issues and of the most concern and problematic owners.

  • annanna Contributor 33 posts since
    Aug 11, 2012

    Dear Melissa:

     

    I tried to do the survey and chose "property manager" and the survey closed immediately. I believe that means that you will not lock property managers into this system. Please confirm.

     

    Thank you for requesting feedback.

  • New Member 3 posts since
    Sep 5, 2012

    Excellent feedback and I couldn't have said it better. I appreciate that Paul immediately picked up on the obvious.  Calling something "a great solution for improved communications" does not make it "a great solution for improved communications". HA is not our rental agent; we don't need you to track or store our enquiries in an HA-run archive. We want to control it ourselves.


    1. )    Solve the problem by making it absolutely clear on every single enquiry and on the website that guests should never, ever send Wires or Money Orders.  How hard is that? Instead you redefine the entire business with a complex system that creates a whole new set of problems -- for owners, property managers and guests. Invest your funds to educate the marketplace to not send wire payments or money orders, don't spend funds to build an enquiry system we don't want.

    2. )    If you haven't gotten the message, we'll put it more simply.  You're over-engineering  a solution by using a bazooka to kill a fly. Have techno-types taken over your marketing services company? For visitors who don't understand the following -- never pay via wire or money order -- there will always be a scammer who will find a work-around.

     

    1. And the bazooka doesn't work: It is impossible to format text:  Swlinphx -- you picked up on the most important issue in your 2nd post:  Each reply must be formatted individually and nothing is automated. We use over 100 automated formats to reply to queries, done easily in Word.  You cannot replicate it n the format HA is building.
    • Example: I started typing directly into this comment box. Added points and had to  re-number them manually. So I started over in a Word document which is easier to format and decided to paste afterwards.  All the points, 1 - 6, numbered correctly in Word.  Format was perfect; each point showed as 1.) - 6.) 
    • Look what happened when I pasted the comment into this box: the first 2 comments numbered correctly, 1.) and 2.). THEN it reverted to 1, 2 and 3 -- without the ')' sign.  The last 2 points simply went to " 1. " .  How would you like to answer/format/edit each and every reply wasting this much time?
    • Bullet points appeared in the middle of a paragraph, which I removed so the reader can understand the email.

     

    1. We must track inquiries within our existing system -- not an HA - controlled Inbox that is impossible to integrate and track.  Your current ‘analysis for owners’ demonstrates the point – in fifteen years, the analysis of inquiries produces a total of 2 data points: the number of queries and date. You can’t even remove duplicate inquiries to the same account. Please, no ‘great solutions’.

     

    1. HA: Appreciate you're putting this out to your paying clients. Read the earlier discussions about your decision to remove all watermarking logos without notifying owners. Removing watermarks is not ‘a great solution to improve our listings’. As Paul implied, we're not naive.  Clearly, it was the only way you could integrate VRBO and Homeaway in order to raise prices to $1000 per listing.  If your primary concern is security, this is a much bigger problem for owners. Scammers can take screen shots of every single owners listing on HA -- 400,000+ -- and create scam listings on Craig’s List.
    • swlinphx Senior Contributor 2,191 posts since
      Aug 30, 2011

      I agree (and said it many times over and over) about never being foolish enough to wire money as with Western Union.  That is how almost all phishing and owners scams have been perpetuated.  However, what is wrong with money orders?  They're deposited just like checks and can be tracked to a bank account once deposited.  Do you mean you are worried about them being cashed?  They still have to show ID to prove who they are to do that. Money orders and cashier's checks have been viable options for us in lieu of electronic payments which charge a processing fee.

      • lisalovesitaly Contributor 42 posts since
        Aug 11, 2012

        We too occasionally accept money orders, but only when there is ample time before the booking to ensure the money order is legit, not counterfeit. My understanding is that the problem with money orders is for renters. If a renter sends a money order to a scammer only to learn later that the propery listing is fake, they have absolutely no recourse. This is what can happen with fake Craigs List postings.

         

        Also, thank you Mauirentals for bringing up the sore point that HA has removed all the watermarks from our photos, making it even easier for scammers to copy our VRBO or HomeAway photos to create fake Craigs List postings.

  • New Member 4 posts since
    Sep 24, 2012

    This is a disaster. HomeAway do you really think people want to create a profile and give out their personal information? Renters shop multiple sites and look at potentially dozens, if not hundreds, of properties before making a decision, they don't just shop on VRBO and HomeAway. I have been advertising on VRBO for over 10 years, have many listings, and have dealt with thousands of guests. Most people will not want to give out a bunch of personal information or upload a photo so that they can make a simple inquire about a property. They guard their personal information just as we do. Do you really think they are going to create a profile saying "I'm Mike and I'm planning a trip to Vegas without my wife, meeting up with my girlfriend." or "I'm Suzanne, recently divorced and am coming with my girlfriends to Miami to party and hook up with hot guys" or "I'm a cancer survivor, celebrating 5 years of clean check up since being diagnosed." These are actual client stories. Do you really think most people will be willing to come up with such personal details in your Conversation System? And as someone who handles hundreds of inquires each week from a wide variety of sites that I advertise on, do you think we really want this level of detail? Quite frankly, as long as they pay and don't damage the property, I don't want or need to know their personal business. This isn't Match.com.

     

    This is a huge deterrant to bookings, they will go to other sites where the process is simpler. You have waaaay over-engineered this, and are creating a monster. The reason VRBO became so popular is because of its simplicity. You have completely messed up that formula. You've added so many features, subscription levels, reservation manager, gizmos and doo-das that your subscribers can't keep pace with the changes. You have confused us endlessly. We no longer know what the terms are since you change them all the time, what it costs, or how to stay in the listing position we originally subscribed to. Have you completely lost sight of your customers and your business model?  Do you plan to take control of our communications with our rentors so that you can mine the data and sell it?

     

    I want absolutely no part of this new system. It is completely off base. You just need to tell people over and over, DON'T WIRE MONEY. Integrate this message into every communication, that solves the scammer problem.

  • tsvr Contributor 220 posts since
    Feb 28, 2011

    Are there any plans to add invoicing for paying by check to Reservation Manger. Not all of us accept credit cards or only accept them for last minute rentals. I would like to be able o use RM for invoicing and not just replying to inquiries or sending quotes.

  • hotnachocheese Contributor 40 posts since
    Apr 25, 2012

    Epic fail.  What traveler wants to create an account to book, so they can receive your spam. 

  • luftman Contributor 34 posts since
    Sep 25, 2012
    Currently Being Moderated
    Sep 25, 2012 11:03 AM (in response to melissa)
    Re: Preview the new Conversation system and give feedback

    I don't have much to add as I agree with mostly every post here - I haven't read 1 post that is in favor of this new procedure.

     

    "Nuff said.

  • luftman Contributor 34 posts since
    Sep 25, 2012
    Currently Being Moderated
    Sep 25, 2012 11:07 AM (in response to melissa)
    Re: Preview the new Conversation system and give feedback

    Melissa, add me to the list of folks who cannot access the survey. I also get the " thank you for playing" msg.

     

    Thx, Pat 

  • info@stayattremblant.com Active Contributor 543 posts since
    Aug 25, 2011
    Currently Being Moderated
    Sep 25, 2012 11:49 AM (in response to melissa)
    Re: Preview the new Conversation system and give feedback

    This proposed system will absolutely not work for me.  I can't add anything more than has already been said better than I could, above.  So, I'll steal the main points that I'm also passionate about:

    annanna wrote:

     

    We advertise in many places. We reply personally to each inquiry email using pieces of carefully formatted and linked text and images. Our system involves using the built-in Autotext feature of Outlook.

    I agree.  This is exactly what I do.  Additionally, I have been using my e-mail for over 7 years to track all my rentals and all the communications for them.  I have built up a valuable and easily searchable database.  The HA proposal will break this.  I have no interest in re-learning how to do all of this with HA proprietary system.

     

    kiawahcottage wrote:

     

    I do not need or want HA to control my customers access to me or mine to them.  This just seems like such a bad idea.  HA is not my rental agent.  I went independent years ago.  I don't need you people telling me how to run this.

    Agree.  HA, stay out of my business.  I do not need your tools that will make my business process more cumbersome.

     

    kiawahcottage wrote:

     

    Calling something "a great solution for improved communications" does not make it "a great solution for improved communications". That is called "sales speak".  It is not a "great solution" for anything.

    This proposal is "The Emperor's New Clothes" in modern form.  It's obvious that it's a bad idea.  Everyone knows it's a bad idea.  But since "The Emperor" (aka HA) has told us that it's a good idea and justified it using the fear of phishing, property vandalism (see the survey), identity spoofing (see the survey) some people are afraid to speak out against it.   This is a solution without a real problem.  The sooner we owners recognize that, the sooner we can gavanize our collective support against it.   What are the true HA/VRBO motivations behind this?

     

    They claim: Time Savings?

    • No way -- now I have to log in, learn and use their system, be subject to their site downtimes (yes, it happens often).  I also have to wait to get access to a web-enabled device.  When travelling, which is often, I don't have one.

    They claim: Improved on-the-go access to inquiries and reservation tools

    • What?  Better than e-mail that is ubiquitous?  Not a chance.  Not all of us can afford fancy always-connected web-enabled devices.

    They claim: Easier access to conversation histories with guests

    • What?  It doesn't integrate with my other advertisers.  I can't keep all transactions in a single place (email) and search it like a database anymore.  What will really happen is the exact opposite of what they claim.  This is so obvious that it hurts that they think we're so stupid as to buy this obvious fallacy.

    They claim: Guest profiles to help you vet guests up front

    • First, I assert that a very (very) [very] small percentage of guests will fill out a guest profile with sufficient information to assist us to 'vet' guests up front.  Next, for those who do, why would I trust the data they fill in on HA any more than the data I get from them in e-mail?  I simply don't believe there is any gain here.

     

    kiawahcottage wrote:

    The impact of this change is anything but "minimal".

     

    violet3012 wrote:

    I have my own system to control bookings and enquiries and by Homeawy introducing this new system will mean that I will need to control two systems which will double my workload

     

    mauirentals wrote:

    We must track inquiries within our existing system -- not an HA - controlled Inbox that is impossible to integrate and track.

    Agree.  This is a fundamental change to our business models.  It is not cohesive in any way with our other advertisers.  It's a one off and we'll need to develop new business models just to shoe-horn it into our daily business transactions.  This will cost us time -- time is a very valuable commodity in our busy lives.  Costing me time is less forgivable than costing me money.

     

    melissa wrote:

    We understand how important 24/7 access to the Dashboard will be and we are committed to making sure it is available.

    But... but, Melissa.  These are empty words.  The survey for this very issue has been broken for 2 days.  There's currently a problem with rates, a few weeks ago the system was down for several days and owners couldn't log on to our dashboards.  I currently have a ticket with HA support because my owner picture disappeared from my listing.   If HA can run issue-free for one year, then maybe you can back up this committment but, as things stand, this statement has no credibility.

     

    mauirentals wrote:

    You're over-engineering  a solution by using a bazooka to kill a fly [...] and the bazooka doesn't work.

    Agree.  For much discussion on this issue (some of it disjoint -- but the above point is also made there), see: http://community.homeaway.com/thread/4590

     

    hotnachocheese wrote:

    Epic fail.  What traveler wants to create an account to book, so they can receive your spam.

    Succinct and to the point.  

    EPIC Fail, Indeed.


    Summary:

    • bad for my guests
    • bad for me
    • bad for HA/VRBO business

     

    Conclusion:

    • HA/VRBO -- Please go back to the drawing board on this one please.  Start with a clear problem statement, a list of requirements and a list of constraints.  Share it with us owners -- your paying customres.  We can help you to design a system that will meet the goals in problem statement and that will satisfy our requirements and stay within any constraints.

     

    Peter.

  • hotnachocheese Contributor 40 posts since
    Apr 25, 2012

    This system is going to be great, and up 24/7/365, but bear with us while we try to get you a working link to the survey.

     

    HA isnt listening. 

  • riley Contributor 26 posts since
    Sep 25, 2012

    While I have been a VRBO/HA client for 15 months, this is the first time I felt I had to throw my 2 cents into the pot.

     

    I agree with all of the above comments. 

     

    1) I tried to take the survey and got bumped out after the first screen.

    2) I manage my replies, reservations, etc. off line.  I looked into using Reservation Manager; however, it was too basic.  I feel I need to provide inquires with much more information upfront to avoid misunderstandings.

    3) I am your client.  I do not want my vendor to manage MY clients.  That makes no sense.

    4) With all the concerned feedback you are receiving, you really do need to go back to the drawing board and start over.  If HomeAway continues working like it has over the past six weeks, at some point you will crash and burn as your customers (us) will get tired of you trying to push things onto us that we don't want.

     

    As a retired executive from a service provider enviornment, I strongly recommend senior management at HA needs to sit down and think about what they're doing.  They need to sit down and read the feedback from this community.  Whenever I do, my stress level increases.  Not a good thing to do to your customers.

    • swlinphx Senior Contributor 2,191 posts since
      Aug 30, 2011
      Currently Being Moderated
      Sep 30, 2012 6:12 AM (in response to riley)
      Re: Preview the new Conversation system and give feedback

      I looked into using Reservation Manager; however, it was too basic.  I feel I need to provide inquires with much more information upfront to avoid misunderstandings.

       

      Riley, may I ask you to specify what features are "too basic" in your opinion so I can better understand your issues using Reservation Manager?

      • riley Contributor 26 posts since
        Sep 25, 2012

        Hi Swlinphx,

         

        We have a condo/hotel unit at a resort in Fort Lauderdale.  Since many people think we may have a full condo (with a kitchen) and there are several other "rules" our guests are subjected to, when we reply to each inquiry we send a pretty long email, along with 3 page attachment.  While most of this information is included in our listing, we find that many of our inquiries really haven't studied the "small print".

         

        Our goal is to make sure that future guests know exactly what they are renting at the first contact point.  I tried to make all our information work, using Reservation Manager.  However, due to limitations, I just felt that our current system was much better.

         

        And, honestly, after reading more and more of the information provided in the community, I really prefer not to having Homeaway send emails to my guests, as I like a more personal approach.  And, after 15 months of renting  (and almost 120 renters), my system is working great!  So, even if RM made their inquiry response more robust, if I cannot "opt out" of them communicating with my customers, I probably won't consider using it.

         

        Let me know if you have any other questions.

         

        Riley

  • New Member 1 posts since
    Sep 25, 2012

    I only have one property...but I am still VERY against this new system.  How is it that everyone else on the internet can figure out the security thing but VRBO/HA cannot?

     

    Count me as a strong vote AGAINST.

  • info@stayattremblant.com Active Contributor 543 posts since
    Aug 25, 2011

    For it or against it?

    Take the poll  <-- click (I believe that you need to be logged in to vote)

  • hankd Contributor 80 posts since
    Nov 2, 2011

    Melissa, Once we have taken the Survey, we can not go back and look at the "Conversation System".

     

    I would really like to, especially in view of some of the comments here and elsewhere.

     

    Would you set up a link to the description of the system, without the ability to answer survey questions?

     

    You might get some additional constructive comments here that people didn't think of while taking the survey.

     

    Hank

  • New Member 3 posts since
    Sep 5, 2012

    Melissa and Matt

    Appreciate you've asked for your clients' input, but the facts speak for themselves.  You haven't even been able to make the survey work.

     

    I've never posted before because I feel like Natchocheese:

    This system is going to be great, and up 24/7/365, but bear with us while we try to get you a working link to the survey. HA isnt listening. 

     

    The feedback is overwhelming. No 'New and Improved' from HA.

    • Make the security message more visible on HA. 
    • No Wire Payments.
    • Call the Manager. 
    • Period.

     

    Incredibly impressed by the input of owners above   Hope we can meet one day and share ideas.

    • swlinphx Senior Contributor 2,191 posts since
      Aug 30, 2011

      I'd like Melissa or any other rep to comment on what exactly the most common phishing problems entail.  Are they almost always money wires?  Are they all people who don't call before paying?  If not, what other ways has this been an issue?


      If those are the only things that have been an issue however, it certainly isn't hard to make it a known fact to follow those two simple rules.  It's sort of like telling people not to put your name and address on your keychain with your keys (in case you lose them) or keep money or valuables on the front seat of your parked car while unattended, or not to carry your wallet & passport in your back pocket while a tourist in a foreign country.  Eventually, they become such common sense things that if people don't do them they only have themselves to blame.

       

      Can anyone provide examples of other fraud that could be an issue even without money wiring and even when the phone number on an official listing is called first?

  • swiss-house Contributor 260 posts since
    Jul 6, 2011

    Some of the HA responses above imply that we will be able to see and use the inquirer's email address and phone number once we log in. 

     

    But other replies say that you can only see it AFTER you have composed a response in their system and sent it - which sort of defeats the purpose, doesn't it?

     

    Thankfully, at least one HA message (in reply to annanna's 9/28 message) seems to say that an owner can access the inquirer's email address (and phone number I would assume) as soon as they log on.  If that's the case, then perhaps we're getting close to something workable.

     

    If the process flow were something like this:

     

    1) Receive an email from HA that you have a new inquiry, with a link to your HA / VRBO dashboard.  Click the link.

    2) If you are already logged in and haven't timed out, you go straight to a page with the inquiry.  If you're not logged in, you must log in and are then taken to the inquiry.

       2a) You are now in a "safe" place, in HA's protected website with higher-than-email security, that only YOU have access to.  Unlike email which is supposedly easy to spoof or phish into, this HA system is hard to crack

    3) Here's the good part:  Since you are in a safe place, HomeAway should now let you see the inquirer's contact info. You are you, their security confirms it.  You can safely see anything about your account and by extension anything about your renters.  The inquiry should display the prospect's email address and phone number.
       In fact, they should go one step further -

       3a) If you click on the inquirer's email address, it should be a "mailto" link, with the inquirer's email address, a subject, and the content of their inquiry (same as what we currently receive in a notification email) in the body.  The HTML format for this is:

    [code]<a href="mailto:potentialrenter@yahoo.com?subject=Your%20rental%20inquiry&body=Dear%20Guestname%13Thank%20you%20for%20blah%20blah%20blah" >potentialrenter@yahoo.com</a>[/code]

      The mailto link automatically opens your email client of choice where you can do all the things you currently do with Outlook, Thunderbird, or whatever floats your boat.

       3b) Alternately, you can use the new conversation system to handle all the communication with the end user.

     

    This solution DOES require one additional step before you can reply to an inquiry - you must go to HA to access the contact info. 

     

    But it does mean that no phisher can get access to new inquiries without somehow hacking into your HA account - something HA says they feel confident will be very difficult to do.

     

    I challenge HomeAway - what part of this solution DOESN'T work?

     

    TC

     

    (edited to correct mis-numbered steps)

    • swlinphx Senior Contributor 2,191 posts since
      Aug 30, 2011

      I agree -- it would be good to have final clarification if we see the owner's information once we log in or only after sending the first reply.  It's also good to allow that link to take us back to our e-mail client of choice (or if nothing else copy & paste their address into it) and keep our dialogue and correspondence history in our own personal e-mail client. I still would like to know the answer to my previous post above though.

    • swiss-house Contributor 260 posts since
      Jul 6, 2011

      Based on this message http://community.homeaway.com/message/34796#34796 dated this afternoon (10/2), owners WILL be able to see a propsect's email and phone number as soon as they bring up the inquiry.

       

      I don't know if they will code it as a Linkto so it launches the owner's local email client, but at least we've  gotten a conclusive answer to the issue of being able to access guest contact info in the HA dashboard without having to use any part of the new Conversation System.

       

      Personally, it's a compromise I can live with, with two conditions:

       

      1) I am able to remain logged in (via a cookie typically) for at least 48 hours so I don't have to enter my credentials for each inquiry

      2) The system has to be 110% reliable.  Redundant servers, with multiple backbones and routers.  A separate QA sandbox with strong version control and a minimal-impact update and implementation process.  Short of a major hacker Denial of Service attack, the system (hardware and software) must have a 7X24X365 99.5% up-time SLA (Service Level Agreement)  This is what all the Public Offering investment cash is typically supposed to be used for, so it needs to be part of the total service offering.

       

      Make it as reliable as Gmail, and I'll probably even use the new communication system for the whole process.

      • info@stayattremblant.com Active Contributor 543 posts since
        Aug 25, 2011

        swiss-house wrote:

         

        Based on this message http://community.homeaway.com/message/34796#34796 dated this afternoon (10/2), owners WILL be able to see a propsect's email and phone number as soon as they bring up the inquiry.

         

        Personally, it's a compromise I can live with, with two conditions:

        This is NOT a compromise that I can live with.  I do not have access to be able to log on to the HA / VRBO during the day but I DO have access to e-mail.  I have been running the business like this for over 6 years. 

         

        This proposed change will make VRBO / HA useless to me because I won't be able to reply in a timely mannter (which is probably the single biggest factor in scoring a rental...)

         

        Peter.

        • swiss-house Contributor 260 posts since
          Jul 6, 2011

          Peter -

           

          From previous conversations on the topic I know you're uncomfortable leaving a browser session open when not in use, particularly when mobile.  But from everything you've described, you do leave your email client open, right?  I mean, if not, you'd have to log into email every time an inquiry comes in (or even to check?) to review and reply to inquiries with the current system.

           

          So - if HA were to have a mobile APP, on IOS or Android, that let you see the inquiry contact info as has been described above, I have to believe that would solve your process concern.  The concern to date has been browser history and cookies, but with a native app, that isn't an issue.  Once you see the inquiry contact info in the native app, you can then switch over to your email client and proceed using your traditional email workflow.

           

          In fact, it would be really cool if the Android app could fire off a notification when an inquiry comes in (I guess IOS supports notifications too now) so you can associate a specific tone and quickly swipe up your notification history to see what had come in.

           

          Right now there is a rudimentary IOS HomeAway owner app, and an Android version is supposedly on the way.

           

          Come on, we all have processes that we've grown accustomed to, that we've built our work processes around, and we know work well for us.  But new traffic lights get installed along our commute route, bosses re-assign us to new projects, and kids sign up for music lessons on the same night we always go out with our buds to the sports bar.  And so we adapt.  Sometimes we end up better off, sometimes it really does end up making things a PITA.  Regardless, we deal with it. 

           

          I'd invoke a Spock-ism, but I might get my lights punched out...

           

          TC

          • swlinphx Senior Contributor 2,191 posts since
            Aug 30, 2011

            TC, you do make a good point too.  I think there is a balance between objecting to undesirable changes and voicing that opinion and merely being opposed to any change in the way you do business ever.  We are forced to adapt to changes in so many things in our lives on a regular basis.  Some of the changes I was initially apprehensive about (Reservation Manager) I quite like now, though there is a small list of things they need to correct or tweak for practicality sake.

             

            That said, changing the way one receives and responds to inquiries is a big step and I do understand all the concern, contention and discussion.  It will be interesting to see where this all leads.

          • info@stayattremblant.com Active Contributor 543 posts since
            Aug 25, 2011

            No TC / Swiss House,

             

            You are entirely incorrect in your interpretation of my objection to this proposed system and the way I -- and obviously the majority of owners -- use online systems.  As I've stated in response to this same misinterpretation in a previous thread, thread: I am not change adverse, I am bad change adverse.  This proposal is a bqd idea for all of the reasons that have been outlined above and below.

             

            No amount of Apps for android or IOS or browser cookies are going to band-aid this bad idea.  It is a fundamental game changer to the way we do business.  The impact for many of us if this is implemented will be huge and it is NOT for "the good of the many" as I imagine you are implying by your Spock quote.  The real-world costs to the majority will far outweigh the minor phishing threat (which this system will unlikely solve anyway).

             

            P

  • New Member 1 posts since
    Oct 2, 2012

    My opinion is if you make travelers create a profile there will be less people using this site.  Anyone thought about that? The likelihood if getting an inquiry when it is a casual process is significantly higher than it would be if someone has to become a member.

     

    Going to be very interesting using this very heavy site from my blackberry in the airport.

     

    This has all kinds of possibilities. You could eventually charge travelers to join. Creating another income stream. You could let travelers opt out of revealing their Email addresses.

     

    Hopefully this was just a pilot suggestion of a not so good idea.

    • swiss-house Contributor 260 posts since
      Jul 6, 2011
      Currently Being Moderated
      Oct 3, 2012 11:33 AM (in response to loup31)
      Re: Preview the new Conversation system and give feedback

      Per Melissa's 9/28 post: http://community.homeaway.com/message/34830#34460

       

      Profiles - You are correct in that travelers never have to create a profile.  They don't have to create an account to initially inquire either. It's only after they have received your reply will they have to create an account to move the conversation further.

       

      So - I don't think we have to worry about casual surfers not being able to initiate an inquiry and start an interaction.  But it does raise the question - what will it be like on the renter's side of things if a Homeowner starts to use the built in Conversation System?

       

      Per the description above, if a homeowner uses the built in system, some sort of reply will go back to the inquirer (presumably with a quote), but the inquirer will not be able to see it until they create at least a basic a HomeAway account?  Or they may be able to see the quote, but they can't do a follow up with me answering any questions I may have asked (How large is your dog?) or even tell me that they want to go ahead and book - but they can't send that message back to me without setting up a HA user ID?

       

      Oh boy.

       

      I thought my 10-1 inquiry to booking ratio was bad now.  I'm sure you guys have read all the http://www.internetretailer.com articles about what contributes to shopping cart abandonment, right? 

       

      Oh boy.

       

      Come on - at least allow potential renters can respond back via the cloaked HomeAway forwarding email address with their followups and requests via email - without having to create a HA account...

       

      And just to let you know that I'm trying to be objective here - This summer I bit the bullet and started using the current HA quote response system for all my quote and responses, even though I hate the tiny text box and lack of text formatting, and can't stand the 2000 character maximum, and all other sorts of weaknesses.  I wanted to be able to speak objectively about what it's like actually using it.  So I'm not just flying off the handle about something I haven't actually tried. I was actually willing to give the new conversations system a go, until I realized that many prospective renters wouldn't be able to respond back to me.

       

      BTW - on the topic of renter accounts and profiles: I know that about 1/5 of my inquiries have  actually created HA profiles.  More interestingly, about 50% of my actual bookings have them - presumably because the ones who have nothing to hide want me to know they are a safe bet to rent to.  So when I see an inquiry with a profile I have a higher confidence level that it might actually become a booking.  So I'm not against the idea of creating a profile system for renters.

       

      But that leaves half of my renters who didn't want to create a profile or account.  And I don't want to lose that 50% by requiring them to create an account, even a skeleton account, just to complete a business deal to rent my place. 

       

      Email, even through a HA proxy, needs to remain an option.

  • New Member 1 posts since
    Sep 30, 2012

    I've been following this discussion with interest. I've never before posted on a HomeAway forum, but have been advertising on VRBO since it began. I appreciate the opportunity to preview the Conversation System and contribute input. Here is why I am strongly opposed to a HomeAway-controlled inquiry system and feel compelled to come forward with my story after over fifteen years of being a VRBO/HA customer. 

    • · We were the victims of a VRBO Phishing scam in November, 2011. It’s a long story and HA readily admitted their handling of the case was a comedy of errors. To quote an HA executive, it was "A textbook of how not to handle security issues in the future". They are on the right track to be taking this seriously, but we have serious concerns about the proposed solutions.
    • · In our specific case, HA suspended all of our listings without notifying or warning us of the potential security breach.  3 days later and by accident, we discovered that our listings had been suspended.   We emailed and called Austin HQ for another 3 days, trying to get answers – listings remain suspended. On day 6, someone from HomeAway Trust & Security called us back and only then informed us of what had happened.
    • · 6 days had been lost. During that time the scammers posed as Homeaway (all emails were counterfeited to look like Homeaway emails) and were able to receive wire payments from several renters. They stole thousands of dollars from people who thought they were dealing with Homeaway, including a bogus Homeaway rental agreement.  Since HA suspended our access to our dashboard and since we were unaware of the security breach – we were unable warn the people who had inquired.
    • · It did not occur to HA to check the inquiries over the previous week and warn inquirers themselves.  They finally did so on day 6, at our suggestion. Had HA informed us of the problem immediately, the thefts could have been prevented.

     

    How it Happened: 

    • · Owners received authentic-looking phishing emails, purportedly from ‘Homeaway’ security or customer service (perfect logos, colors, text and invisible links). Emails say that for security reasons, owners should log off and log back into their HA accounts – using the link provided
    • · Owners clicked on link and were diverted to a fake, perfectly counterfeit HA website.
    • · Scammers captured the log-in info.  Scammers logged into owners VRBO account; hijacked inquiries.
    • · In 100% of the cases for us and others we spoke with, scammers asked the renters to wire payment. Several people, who thought they were dealing directly with Homeaway, unfortunately wired funds during the critical 6 days in which HA had suspended our account without notice.
    • · As soon as HA told us, we advised HA to immediately email the people who had inquired over the critical week.  However it was done in ‘ready, fire, aim’ fashion -- HA sent emails to every single person who had ever inquired about our properties for the previous decade.  Over a thousand people received a warning email from Homeaway about our listings -- when less than 20 inquiries had been affected. 
    • · We received dozens of panicked phone calls and emails from renters – most of whom had taken their vacation years before but thought their credit card information had been compromised.  As paying clients, what kind of impression about the lack of security at HomeAway do you think this advertised to thousands of your potential renters?
    • · To add insult to injury, HA subsequently turned this serious security issue into a marketing opportunity. They began to post warning statements on their site, upselling their Payments Manager system: How to protect yourself and your rental payment:


    Pay through ReservationManager™ from HomeAway

      • The most secure way to pay
      • Your payment is guaranteed up to $10,000


    • ·The ad neglected to mention the obvious -- any credit card payment, whether via a property manager's processor or Homeaway's -- are equally secure. We chose not to pay for Reservation Manager because fees are higher than our bank's, but guests misinterpreted HA's ad to mean they should only pay through Reservation Manager.  We strongly protested to HA management again, saying guests had become afraid to book unless we paid for HA’s Reservation Manager.


    It is difficult to express how upset we were over HA's handling of our case and how much it cost us in lost time, reputation and income. It was Homeaway’s brand which the renters relied on & which the scammers targeted, but when we needed help, HA made it clear it was our problem to resolve.

    Realizing this, we took immediate action.  We hired an internet security expert who implemented the highest security access across all of our accounts and dashboards. With constant training and monitoring, this is the only way to move forward for our company and for all owners.

    We still advertise on HA but have diverted a portion of advertising budget to other vehicles where we have more control.

     

    1. )    The security process will become more complicated, but it absolutely does not change the risk. If an unwary owner provides their secure information to a counterfeit site, no amount of authentication will prevent access to your HA account.  Just like online banking phishing scams, if you mistakenly fill in your security details on the scammer’s site they can access your bank account.

     

              Two-way authentication between renter and owner becomes irrelevant.  The scammer has already gotten into your           secure account and has hijacked your inquiries. You may respond – ‘So check your queries on the secure board, as Tom Hale suggested here: How to Fight Phishing (http://community.homeaway.com/blogs/homeaway-insights/2012/04/25/phighting-phishingIf you list on vrbo.com or homeaway.com - log into your dashboard to check your inquiries to make sure you (and not a phisher) are receiving your inquiries.

    Tom, and Homeaway management, didn’t you get it? The scammers were way ahead of you! If you had checked our case last November, you’d have seen that the scammers sent duplicate fake queries to our VRBO account, with the exact customer names, dates and wording as the hijacked inquiries! We sent all of this information to HA Trust & Security. Only the reply address was changed, so we unknowingly responded to the scammers, not the real renters.  If someone hacks into the account, the owner won’t know anything until angry customers wire funds only to realize afterwards that they’ve been duped.

    You say authenticate, like a Facebok profile.  The scammers had a bank account in the name of Elena M....  They found someone with the same name on Facebook and told the renters they were the same person.  The Elena M on Facebook wasn't the scammer and was shocked to hear what had happened..

     

    2.)   Increased training is a good thing and can be executed today. But HA is promising complex online email features that even Microsoft struggles with and which online email accounts such as Gmail can't solve.  HA, you’re serving a business where quality email formatting, tracking, in-text attachments, rich text, 24/7 access  are critical for us owners.  With all due respect, you know nothing about formatting text and you're not going to solve problems that experts can't. I composed this email in a Word document and used your special formatting option to paste it. It completely messed up all the fonts, numbering and text.  I've wasted 30 minutes correcting it.  Impossible to clean it up completely.  Please, no email solutions.

     

    3.)   If HA wants to fight fraud why aren’t they addressing a more serious security issue for owners, which we’ve read about here: http://community.homeaway.com/message/34240#34240 Without notification, HA removed the watermark logos from the listing photographs, which we again discovered by accident. The watermarks are a big deterrent to scammers who put up fake Craigs List. A scammer took a screen shot of our VRBO photos and posted them as a fake listing on Craig’s List.  HA’s response was embarrassing –  ‘we removed them to make your listings look nicer’.  Oh, and yes, ‘you cannot right-click and copy the picture’ -- forgetting about screen shots. If the situation wasn’t so damaging to owners, we would have laughed.  As a previous poster commented, it was the only way to upsell the price increase for the VRBO/HA combined program. HA says it is ‘working on a universal watermark’ but has not given any timeframe for implementation. In the meantime scammers have easy pickings of all of our photos.

     

    Previous posters have spoken clearly and intelligently and here is the message to Homeaway: 

    Do 3 Things:

    1. All scams ask customers to wire money; everything else is too complicated. Like previous posters said:  make it clear, over and over again to pay via credit card if possible.  If not, call the owner before wiring any money.
    2. Educate owners and often: never, ever open an email from HA or any company asking the client to ‘open this link.
    3. Put some kind of logo on the pictures so thieves don’t steal the photos with screen shots and create more scams

     

    We have been big supporters of Homeaway for many years and continue to be. Given our experiences over the past year, we do not trust a new online email system which promises perfect autotexts, professional formatting, in-text attachments, 24/7 access. Regretfully,  we have experienced HomeAway’s stumbles on phishing incidents and watched them create a security issue by removing security logos on pictures without thinking twice.  The bottom line is the new secure access is just as vulnerable to human error as before. Educate Owners. Educate Customers. Period.

  • maui-vacation-rental New Member 10 posts since
    Jun 18, 2012

    I use third party software that consolidates all of my calendars from multiple listings sites including those outside of the Homeaway network and receives inquiries on my behalf, automatically checks my calendar and sends responses with quotes to the guest for me. This is a huge time savings for me.

     

    The software is dependent on having the guests email address in order to send them a response on my behalf. It sounds like without having an email address in the original notification this new "Conversation System" I will no longer be able to use the auto-responder software and I'll be forced to use your system for handling inquiries. Is that correct?

  • Contributor 188 posts since
    Aug 30, 2012

    I am SO glad I have other ways of getting potential guests.  If I am forced to use this I will not renew.  There is no GOOD reason that we are not directly emailed despite what some have claimed.  This is such a bad idea for so many reasons.  I get a decent amout of business form HA/VRBO & Vacation Rentals, but I feel like this crosses the line for me.  Like stated above you are advertising avenue for me, nothing more, nothing less.  If you want to be something else, that is your call and your business, but not what I signed up for. 

  • melissa wrote:

     

    You might have heard, a big change is in the works. We are in the process of developing a more secure form of communications where both owners and travelers can be confident they are talking to each other. 

    ....

    We have been listening to feedback and want to hear more from you.

    Click on the link below to walk through some of the screens are working on – by no means are these screens final and your input will help us improve them. We’d like to hear what you think so let us know what doesn’t make sense or what you would like to see done differently.

     

    https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/HASC2012

     

    Thanks in advance!

    Melissa

    Director, Product Marketing

    Every time I click on the survey link, I immediately get the message "Thank you for completing our survey!" and it never gets me to the actual survey. I have not previously completed this survey, so it is not a duplication problem.

     

    Does anyone else have this problem? I am starting to wonder if I am being eliminated due to being critical of their system.

  • New Member 1 posts since
    Oct 11, 2012

    I want a simple system such as E-Mail which is a one on one conversation.  I do not want to further complicate the communication between myself and a prospective renter.  Don't fix what is not broke!  I am not interested in your proposal.

    Thorsten Cook

    South Sound Villa

    Virgin Gorda BVI

  • New Member 1 posts since
    Jul 23, 2012
    Currently Being Moderated
    Oct 12, 2012 10:23 AM (in response to melissa)
    Re: Preview the new Conversation system and give feedback

    If this system can be made to exchange / share / synch with Google Gmail (professional or personal) then I might be fine with this, but otherwise, I am strongly against forcing communications to occur within this proposed system.

  • New Member 1 posts since
    Oct 25, 2012

    While I appreciate the idea of combatting phishing, I do not at all like the idea of having correspondence going through any websites, with exception of initial contact by inquirer.

     

    I have my own system in place and have enough knowledge to know when there is a scam attempt.

     

    The only way I could endorse this new change is if it were completely voluntary and not obligatory.

     

    All I am interested in having is my listing with telephone number and a method to send an email to me. That is all.

     

    If this new initiative were to become mandatory, I would have to seriously consider removing my listing.

     

    Thank you for your attention.

  • New Member 3 posts since
    Sep 5, 2012

    Based on our experience, we agree with the overwhelming majority: we neither need nor want an HA-sponsored platform to download and respond to queries. HA can't manage their current platform reliably, just look at the recent debacle with the structured rates, trying to dictate to us how to price our properties so that they can sell their Reservation Manager product. We don't want HA further inserting themselves into the marketing of our properties. Sorry HA, your replies are not credible.

     

    Here's another important problem that hasn’t yet been raised:  The new platform means owners’ replies to guest enquiries have a much higher chance of going into the guest's spam folder. Here is why:  Currently, a guest fills out an enquiry on HA or VRBO: one copy is sent to your email account and the other appears in your HA/VRBO dashboard. The owner hits Reply, answers the enquiry and hits Send.  This email --  a reply to sender -- is regarded as a safer transmission and generally reaches the Guest’s Inbox.

     

    New Platform:  most of us have made it clear that we need to control our emails, replies, data and bookings. HA has told us we can copy or forward the emails and reply from our own accounts.  The problem is this:  when you copy the enquiry into a new email account in order to reply, there is no record of an enquiry, and depending on the security filter, it will be viewed as spam.  The risk increases substantially when you include links, photos or attachments in your reply.

       

     

    The guest doesn’t reply and you assume they rented elsewhere – never realizing the guest never received your answer saying your property was available. Clearly, HA has not considered this issue. Our booking rate on VRBO dropped from 10% a few years ago to 2.5% today. The new conversation platform will cause it drop even further because renters won’t receive our replies.

     

  • riley Contributor 26 posts since
    Sep 25, 2012

    Possible scam......

     

    Have any of you received emails from: Kevin at travelfurnish@reservationmarketplace.com ?

     

    For the past month or so, I've been receiving emails (on 2 of my accounts that are tied to HA and VRBO) that look like the following...  They obviously don't seem to know anything about my property, so I haven't responded. 

     

    In doing some research today, I think they are tied into a company (with a different name) that scammed a lot of vacation renters with a bait and switch (taking contracts for a property, then saying not available and offering a much lower end unit in exchange (at the same rate)......)

     

    I'm thinking their company name must be a new one they're using, as hard to find anything on the net...

    ____________________________________________

     

    "Good Afternoon! Would you like to accept this reservation? Its for 4 guests, looking for a three bedroom house in Ft. Lauderdale.The reservation dates are Feb 7 - Feb 25. If you would like to accept this reservation please reply with pictures, the address and your cell phone number. I look forward to working with you.

    Kevin from TravelGroup

    Reservation ID: MPA5331712
    Similar to: South Gordon
    Bedrooms: 3
    Check in: 2/7/2013
    Check out: 2/25/2013
    Number of nights: 18
    Number of guests: 4
    Property Type: Fort Lauderdale Water Front Private Home Heated Pool Patio BBQ Parking Walk to the Beach, Shops and Restaurants Las Olas
    First Payment: $1,596.43
    Final Payment: $2,660.73
    Total Net You Collect: $4,257.16"

    • riley Contributor 26 posts since
      Sep 25, 2012
      Currently Being Moderated
      Jan 29, 2013 8:54 PM (in response to riley)
      Re: Preview the new Conversation system and give feedback

      One other thing....  In doing some research, I think the above is associated with a group called Travelfurnish.com out of Miami.  Some of the feedback mentions a person named "Kevin" and I also saw a "registration form" that looked very similar to the info I received about from Kevin at TravelGroup.....

       

      Based on what I read, at least last year, "Travelfurnish" had posted some listings on VRBO/HA, which meant some trusting vacationers booked with them and were terribly dissapointed....

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