13 Replies Latest reply: Mar 8, 2012 3:31 AM by manouche RSS

    Time to educate The Inquirer

    lrbaldwin Active Contributor

      I'm basically done with inquiries and screening.  Our summer is full, and we have a few spring and fall weeks booked.  Any more is just gravy, and we like to have the cottage to ourselves in the good weather in order to do our continual upgrading.  I answer all inquiries:  by phone if I like the looks of the inquiry, by email if I don't.  So here's my first educational response:


      "Thank you for your interest in our cottage In Duck.  Unfortunately, as is stated at the top of our listing, there are no more summer weeks available.  That is also made clear by our availability calendar.  In fact, the week in which you are interested was reserved in October of 2011 by a family that has vacationed at our cottage for two weeks every year since 2007.  In addition to that, our listing states that our Chatterbox Too can accommodate no more than 8 people, and your party consists of 9.  This is according to local law with respect to septic system size and number of bedrooms.  In addition to that, we personally feel that any more than 8 residents would be uncomfortably crowded.


      I am responding to your inquiry because I feel it is polite to respond to every inquiry.  My time is valuable to me as I am certain yours is to you, so I hope that this small piece of advice will be helpful to you as well as to other vacation rental owners:  Each vacation home is unique.  Some will just suit your needs, some will not, and a few will afford you and your family a memorable and comfortable vacation.  Your time would be well spent by carefully reading all information listed about a cottage that catches your eye.  Before submitting an inquiry, it would save everyone time and frustration if you would, at the very least, check the availability calendar and occupancy for each cottage.


      I hope this has not offended you.  That is not my intent. VRBO’s relatively new “scattergun” inquiry policy which allows prospective guests to simply hit the Submit button and send the same inquiry to many owners is very frustrating to us owners.  Over half of my inquiries have been for dates or other circumstances that would make our cottage obviously unsuitable for the inquirers and would never have been submitted had the inquirers simply read the information in the listing.


      I hope you find the perfect house and that you and your family have a wonderful vacation on the Outer Banks.


      Keep on Duckin’,

      Linda "


      Go ahead and beat me up for this, but I'm in the middle of prepping and filing tax returns for my mother, father-in-law, and myself, and I'm fed up with these ridiculous inquiries.  This inquirer will never ask about our cottage again, may tell her friends not to, but I don't care, don't need them.  I consider inquiries like this disrespectful.  I am a VR owner, I love my cottage, and I don't care to rent to people who don't even know what they're inquiring about.  Maybe the response above will save some other VR owner a little time and frustration.




        • Re: Time to educate The Inquirer
          Active Contributor

          Gee Linda, that's a bit harsh.  We can understand how frazzled you are (all those taxes!) and it is very irritating to receive inquiries for booked dates or the wrong number of guests.  Still, you will offend these people and for what?  How about just sending everyone a very brief email thanking them for their inquiry and saying the house is booked and letting it go at that?  Or, if you prefer, don't answer them at all.  Anything to keep your blood pressure down!


          BTW, congrats on booking your house so well.  We all wish we could say the same!

          • Re: Time to educate The Inquirer
            thaxterlane Premier Contributor

            I understand your frustration with irrelevant inquiries and your urge to "educate" the writer.


            But, I use a different approach when responding to potential guests that have overlooked the details (availability, pricing, number of bedrooms, etc). 


            I always thank the writer for their inquiry and their interest in my home and I stay positivie and welcoming in tone throughout the reply.


            I provide the writer with information about availability, even if it's off season and they have inquired about summer season availability.  I do, like you, tell the writer that my home books months in advance and they will need to contact me when my summer calendar is posted, the previous fall, to reserve.


            I have found some writers respond positively (and sometimes sheepishly) and follow-up the next, or in following, years.  There's clearly an allure to a house that is unavailable and I use that allure "stay with us and have a magical week, discover for yourself what our guests are enjoying. . .   ". 


            I suggest giving the writer the benefit of the doubt - they're likely rushing to find a week, have their own issues with limited time, and expect an owner to be much like a hotel - at their service. 


            A response template makes it simple to reply to these last minute inquiries.  It doesn't need to have much detail other than thanking the writer, stating your home is fully booked, asking about flexibility to consider the off season (refer them to your calendar), and remind them to be certain to contact you by ___ to secure a week next summer.  And, my  standard closing phrase:  "I look forward to hearing from you."


            A polite response to a foolish inquiry.


            As much as I want to point out the issues to writers who inquire last minute, without checking availablity, pricing, house location, details - I recall the times I have done similiarly silly things and think about how I would want to be treated. 


            And, my last thought, do you think anyone is reading beyond "there are no more summer weeks available" which appears in your second sentence?  I imagine not . . . .

              • Re: Time to educate The Inquirer
                lrbaldwin Active Contributor

                Well, I guess it just made me feel better to vent.  In the whole scheme of things, it won't make any difference.  That's not something I make a habit of doing.


                Now, about that "summer is booked", maybe I can just switch the wording to something like "Look for spring and fall weeks available in Apr, May, Sept, and Oct."


                Thanks for the heads up on that.



                  • Re: Time to educate The Inquirer
                    Senior Contributor

                    I feel for you and understand perfectly your need to vent!  I get annoyed with these inquiries also.  I assume that the peope submitting them are casting a very broad net - they don't want to take the time to check the calendars on each property and just send out many e-mails.  (VRBO makes it very easy for them to do so.)  I further assume that they don't really take a good look at a listing unless they hear back from an owner that it is available.


                    However, I agree with everything that thaxterlane said.  I provide a short, polite response that goes something like this:  "Thank you for your interest in XXXXX.  The cottage is completely booked for the month of August.  There are some weeks still available in June and July.  If your dates are flexible, you can check the calendar that I have posted on my VRBO listing for available weeks.  Sincerely,"


                    It's short, it's polite, and I have provided what I hope is a gentle reminder that they should look at the calendar first!

                      • Re: Time to educate The Inquirer
                        lrbaldwin Active Contributor

                        I know that you are all right!  And I usually don't behave this way.  My excuse, and I'm sticking to it , is that anybody who doesn't care enough about the my cottage to read about it thoroughly wouldn't care enough to care for it, and even more than that, trying to cram 9 people in a small house indicates that they are looking for a cheap vacation.  We don't do cheap vacations, try to keep our rent just a bit higher than the competition.  Even if I had another week available, I wouldn't have been interested in their business.


                        That said, I promise I won't do it again. Thanks for setting me straight.



                          • Re: Time to educate The Inquirer
                            Senior Contributor

                            Once again, I agree with thaxterlane's response about being polite and setting a good tone for all owners.  My listing clearly indicates that it "sleeps 4."   I actually have beds for 6 people but limit the occupancy to 4.  It is a small 3-bedroom cottage and two of the bedrooms have built-in bunkbeds without rails.  I don't want anyone, even an adult, sleeping in the top bunks.  I'm worried that they will fall out of bed and get hurt.  I also don't want the additional wear and tear on the cottage, the well, and the septic system.


                            I receive inquiries all the time from people who haven't paid attention to the occupancy number on my listing.  I believe that I am getting more such inquiries this year than in previous years.  I suspect it is because of VRBO's new policy of having other listings pop-up after a potential renter has submitted an inquiry.  Even if the inquiry was submitted for a home that "sleeps 10," they may get a pop-up for a home that only sleeps 4.  I also share your view, however, that these may be people who don't mind stuffing 6 or 8 people in my little cottage to save money.  I don't want that type of renter either.  I would rather have the cottage be vacant than rent to larger parties.


                            When I receive an inquiry for a party that is larger than 4 people, I respond with the following type of response:  "Thank you for your interest in XXXX.  I note from your inquiry that you are looking for a rental for 5 people.  The occupancy of our cottage is limited to 4 people.  There are many other cottages for rent in ____________ and I am sure that you will find one that you will love.  Sincerely, ...."

                        • Re: Time to educate The Inquirer
                          thaxterlane Premier Contributor

                          I completely understand the need to vent.  No disagreement with the frustration and annoyance these inquiries bring.


                          But, I do believe each owner represents our community of owners and that we each do our part to create a positive impression for potential renters.


                          It's a lofty goal; always being pleasant and polite, especially when having a difficult or stressful day(s).


                          But I believe a pleasant experience for even the most foolish writer may lead to a future rental (my home, your home, or someone else's home) and bring them into our community's client base.


                          I worked in retail briefly and found it challenging to remain giving and gracious to clients throughout the day (I had to motivate myself on a day to day basis, a week was just too much to ponder . . . ).   The rental process is much the same, in my opinion.  We have a product and potential clients  ask for service in a variety of ways.  Some are uninformed.  Some are demanding. Some are rude.  My goal is to convert the writer into an informed, reasonable, and paying client.  A negative experience will simply drive them away.


                          I hope your stress eases and you are able to get some time for yourself. 

                            • Re: Time to educate The Inquirer
                              Senior Contributor

                              I too have been inundated with inquiries for dates already booked (I've talked about this on another thread). I do try to answer most, if they have provided some VERY basic information, like their NAME ( at least a first name) and phone number.  Having a canned response I can cut and paste makes it easier.


                              As for educating people new to renting VR homes -- I'm all for it. When I have a good lead I'm chasing I always ask if they've rented a VR home from a private owner or not. If they haven't I email them a " Tips for Guests New to Renting Vacation Homes" along with our rental application/agreement. 


                              It outlines the benefits of staying in our home vs. a hotel or property mangaed by a large RE company. AND includes what they can expect, or NOT expect to have provided. 


                              I've started  this this season and have had quite a few positive reponses thanking me.  There seem to be a lot of new clients renting VR homes these days, but many don't have a clue what it entails.  I may have lost a few 1 - 2 week rentals because we don't provide maid or laundry service (W/D  are in the home), but  I'd prefer them to know what they are getting before we both waste time.



                                • Re: Time to educate The Inquirer
                                  Senior Contributor

                                  Debj, the "Tips for Guests New to Renting Vacation Homes" sounds like a good idea.  Is this something that you have drafted yourself, or is it a document for owners to download from the VRBO website?

                                    • Re: Time to educate The Inquirer
                                      Senior Contributor

                                      Something I put together myself- specific to our home. I list what we provide and don't, what they need to bring, explain that our caretaker will be on property to do yard work, trash removal & when. Here is the heading/intro:

                                      Tips for Guests New to Renting Vacation Homes

                                      We’ve put together a few tips and guidelines for our guests who are new to renting vacation homes owned by private owners. We think once you’ve enjoyed staying in a home, as opposed to a hotel, you’ll never go back to those tiny little rooms. But, it is good to know the differences and what to expect (or NOT to expect). 

                                      You’ll be staying in our family’s home  so please treat it as you would your own. Our home is in a residential neighborhood so please be respectful of the neighbors.

                                      Our Welcome Book on the entry hall table has a lot of information.  It has directions to grocers, seafood markets, medical care, places to dine, things to do, etc. We hope you’ll find it useful!


                                      I then bullet details.



                                  • Re: Time to educate The Inquirer

                                    thaxterlane - thanks for "taking the high road" on this.  I sympathize and agree with many of Linda's frustrations.  I believe that this stems from the personal investment we Owners make in our homes (nothing against Property Managers, but it really is not the same ballgame).


                                    It used to be much easier - and enjoyable - to communicate with "real guests", instead of having to deal with the barrage of "non-inquiries" generated by the new automated system.  Still, it's not wise to respond to any inquiry in a non-professional manner, since you never know what it might lead to - be it a booking, a derogatory blast on somebody's FaceBook account that would have the same effect as a guest's negative review, or just bad karma.  It's difficult to remain positive when the low number of bookings vs. the high volume of "non-inquiries" has a negative effect on your wallet.  Apparently, this is the direction the vacation rental game is headed.  Perhaps HA/VRBO will get the bugs worked out, perhaps they will decide to listen to their original customers (us) instead of concentrating on what their marketing research tells them is best.  Then, too, perhaps pigs will fly!


                                    Personally, I have finally had enough of the nonsense since the new changes took effect.  I decided not to renew my listing, and will rent through other venues.  I'm sorry to leave the "Original VRBO Family", but don't wish to share in the new company's growing pains.  Good luck to all - et bon courage!