56 Replies Latest reply: Nov 1, 2019 10:25 AM by u0999 RSS

    Another stupid A/B test or another "glitch"? Which is it this time?

    timthek Active Contributor

      Owners have started noticing that depending on browser and platform, the owner's name and profile photo are being 'hidden' by VRBO. For me,

       

      on Android mobile Chrome my Name becomes "owner" and my photo becomes my house photo.

      on Android mobile Chrome "incognito" my name and profile picture are normal.

      On PC Chrome my name and profile pic are normal.

      On PC Chrome incognito my name and profile pic are normal.

      On PC Firefox my name becomes "owner" and my photo becomes my house photo.

      On PC Firefox Private my name becomes "owner" and my photo becomes my house photo.



      So which inexcusable reason is it? Yet another daily glitch or another pointless A/B test on the way to attempting to completely erasing all traces of the human owners?

        • Re: Another stupid A/B test or another "glitch"? Which is it this time?
          twomoreyears Senior Contributor

          Yeah, I'm seeing it too.

           

          AirBnB leaves the name of the "Host" on the listing, so it seems odd that HA/Vrbo would consider taking it away.  Although  "Owner" is technically correct and better than "Manager" or "Partner", it's a step further towards de-personalizing the relationship.  Our business model is providing advice, help and service, not just a place to sleep, so this is a step in the wrong direction for us.

           

          I started to send an inquiry to one of the listings that says "Ask Owner a Question" and the name didn't come up there, either.  I'm so looking forward to my next inquiry, when the potential guest asking a question says "Owner,  I wish I could actually address you by name, but maybe you could answer my questions..."

           

          I really, really hope this is a glitch. 

            • Re: Another stupid A/B test or another "glitch"? Which is it this time?
              timthek Active Contributor

              They are trying to turn us into a commodity like hotel rooms. They don't want the guest talking to the owner....they want bookings. If there is a question they want people calling their 800 number not messaging the owner. They want owners OUT of the picture so they can fill rooms.  Soon your inquiries will come from "guest" and be addressed to "owner"....

               

              Hi Owner,

              My name is {redacted} and I was wondering how many stairs there are leading up to your unit? I called the 800 number but a person with a thick accent answered and couldn't answer my question. They just kept trying to get me to book now.

               

              Sincerely,

               

              Guest

                • Re: Another stupid A/B test or another "glitch"? Which is it this time?
                  u0999 Premier Contributor

                  Slowly but steadily direct bookings are growing. I get calls to my property GV number, texts, messages on FB messenger. About to add Skype to my website. Many people DO want to talk to the owner prior to the booking. See it as silver lining.

                   

                  Conversely, removing owner name will spur new influx of scammers. Now scammers can be found out by cross checking owner name across platforms. If they remove that, scammers will have a field day. They can claim anyone's property as being "theirs", post a fake CL listing using stolen VRBO photos and description (since vrbo does not allow to watermark photos) and scam scam scam.

              • Re: Another stupid A/B test or another "glitch"? Which is it this time?
                green_mango Active Contributor

                Oh you're correct!  My name has gone *poof* and where they previously encouraged a friendly photo to promote personal relations, now it's my lead photo. 

                 

                I'm guessing it's an attempt to quash leakage. 

                 

                Strange though, because when the service fee rolled out VRBO assured everyone that guests don't mind paying a service fee.  Sounds like they're not so confident in that statement anymore.

                • Re: Another stupid A/B test or another "glitch"? Which is it this time?
                  scowol Active Contributor

                  Just checked my listings. My name is gone and replaced by the name "Owner."  The picture of me is a picture of my property below the caption "Owner."  The owner is now non-human.  I'm truly exasperated by the mission to hide owners and motel-ize us. 

                  • Re: Another stupid A/B test or another "glitch"? Which is it this time?
                    ohst8er Premier Contributor

                    I cannot replicate this for my listing nor my area, so it must be some sort of A/B test.  Please do call CS about this, everyone that this is affecting! 

                    • Re: Another stupid A/B test or another "glitch"? Which is it this time?
                      casitacynthiasantafe Contributor

                      Yup, same for me too. When I log on in Safari, my photo and name flicker for a moment and then are replaced by "owner" and my house photo. Hey, VRBO, read my reviews and see how many mention me by name, expressing appreciation for my communication, help, thoughtfulness, etcetera. I am an asset, not a liability.

                      • Re: Another stupid A/B test or another "glitch"? Which is it this time?
                        gbpack5 New Member

                        I am now noticing the very same thing.  Our listing shows "owner" along with a photo of the listing.   It's very disappointing because my husband and I took the time to add our photo and write up our bio - including how we got started, what we love about the location and more to create a more personal connection with the potential guests and to help earn trust. The change makes it very cold and impersonal.

                        • Re: Another stupid A/B test or another "glitch"? Which is it this time?
                          casitacynthiasantafe Contributor

                          And if you really want to make your blood boil, go to your listing and ask questions through the automated chat feature. I tried two questions & got a grammatical error in one response and a factual error in another. I couldn't take any more and quit.

                           

                          Why can travellers ask questions of the dumb automated chat bot without logging in or signing up, but must log in or sign up to ask the owner a question?

                           

                          Is the automated chat feature new? Or did I just fail to notice it until now?

                            • Re: Another stupid A/B test or another "glitch"? Which is it this time?
                              wildiris Active Contributor

                              The "virtual assistant" has been on listings for several months - I can"t remember when I first saw it.  I think the graphics for it are terrible - too busy and amateurish.  I asked one question about my rental using the virtual assistant.  When I tried to ask a second question, I could not.  I just kept getting the flashing dots ........

                               

                              Another thing that bothers me about removing owners' names and photos is that property managers are being shown as "owners."  Grrrr.

                            • Re: Another stupid A/B test or another "glitch"? Which is it this time?
                              ha-moderator-amanda HomeAway Employee

                              Hi timthek and everyone, I can confirm that this is an A/B test on traveler traffic, so all partners are experiencing the test. This is a test to understand and measure the difference in how we should provide information on the Property Description Page to travelers, as we've received feedback from travelers that it can be confusing to see another individual or company's name on our site.

                               

                              We cannot communicate specific test timelines to advise when the test will end, but it's expected to run for a shorter period of time than others. You can still put your name or company name in the property description; however, be mindful of the verbiage used so it doesn't appear that you're encouraging travelers to search for you or your company on the internet with the intention of booking off-site. I know that most of you are aware to not encourage off-site bookings so I don't mean to sound like a broken record regarding that issue, but I have to make sure it's stated.

                               

                              I have forwarded this thread along to the appropriate teams so your feedback can be reviewed for consideration. Keep the constructive feedback coming, thank you!

                              • Re: Another stupid A/B test or another "glitch"? Which is it this time?
                                db.meyer Senior Contributor

                                ha-moderator-amanda  Your explanation for the removal of owner names is "as we've received feedback from travelers that it can be confusing to see another individual or company's name on our site."  Why would it be confusing to see the owner's name and profile on "their" property listing?  Is it because the phone number to call with questions is HA's rather than the owner's (as it should be) and the traveler is expecting to connect with the owner rather than HA's customer service when they have questions specific to the property/home?

                                • Re: Another stupid A/B test or another "glitch"? Which is it this time?
                                  gbpack5 New Member

                                  I'm thinking that the # of travelers who are confused by seeing the owner's name and photo displayed on each of their property listings has to be such a small percentage. Especially knowing they are searching a website called:  Vacation Rentals by Owner I would think the # of travelers that appreciate the information has to be so much greater, and the disadvantages of having it removed will far outweigh any clarification it provides.

                                   

                                  When I submitted my listings, it was encouraged during the process of building the listing to  " Tell your story"  "Allow travelers to get to know you as a vacation rental owner"  It was also encouraged to " showcase a photo of you and your family in front of your property" "or a photo of you doing something fun in your vacation rental city"   It was also asked that we submit a paragraph "about you"  & "why you chose the property"

                                   

                                  I would like to ask that the owner be allowed to decide for themselves if it should remain on their listings.  It is the owners who pay to have their listing published, and if the information does not violate any rules or regulations I don't believe it should be taken down without any notification or explanation but rather having the owners find out for themselves by chance that such an important part of their listing is gone.

                                  • Re: Another stupid A/B test or another "glitch"? Which is it this time?
                                    sfbritt New Member

                                    I always try to be diplomatic, but that explanation is insulting and completely ridiculous. We're the OWNERS, the "O" in your URL, and you just made us disappear.

                                     

                                    The pace of these ludicrous changes is picking up. As VRBO's share of our bookings shrinks -- quickly and dramatically -- changes like this will make it easier and easier for us to walk away when our subscription expires next year. 

                                    • Re: Another stupid A/B test or another "glitch"? Which is it this time?
                                      casitacynthiasantafe Contributor

                                      Dear Amanda--I appreciate you taking the time to post this response, but, like others here, I do not believe for a minute that people are confused by seeing the photographs and names of the actual owners of the places they wish to rent. They are invariably reassured when they make contact with the actual owner.

                                       

                                      Last December, I received a word-of-mouth inquiry about renting my condo. I was booked, but sent the traveller a list of all the owners in my complex who do rent, and also suggested that she do a search on VRBO under the complex name (El Corazon de Santa Fe), as I knew that about five units are listed there. Here is her response:

                                       

                                      Thanks for your quick reply, Cynthia. I appreciate your suggestion; however, that’s why I’m reaching out directly to owners. I am finding too many fraudsters on vrbo.com and homeaway.com.  Vrbo/Homeaway customer support is absent when it comes to intervening with so called “property management”.....


                                      This lady falls into my target demographic: baby boomer couples, and they are drifting away from VRBO/HomeAway. They are savvy, discerning, experienced, and often affluent. They have choices. The post-Expedia changes turn them off. The advertising doesn't target them. (Santa Fe is not a family vacation destination; it's a place for foodies, shoppers, aficionados of art, history, culture, and wilderness. All the VRBO/HomeAway advertising I've seen targets big, sprawling families around pools and BBQs.)


                                      I continue to list on VRBO/HomeAway, and I continue to receive valuable bookings from the company. But more and more of my bookings are coming from elsewhere, including all of my month-long or more bookings. Pre-Expedia, I got several month-long bookings through the platform every year. Post-Expedia: none. Gone is the ability to easily showcase my monthly rates. Gone is the ability to add a "special offer" targeting seniors (these worked very well for me). Of course, the service fee on a month-long booking is outrageous.


                                      I wonder what the next insult from this company will be.


                                      PS (edit): I have NEVER violated the terms of service and taken a booking off the platform. But here I was, trying to direct a traveller ONTO the platform, and she didn't want to go there because of the ways in which the company has devolved.



                                      • Re: Another stupid A/B test or another "glitch"? Which is it this time?
                                        scowol Active Contributor

                                        With the open invitation by the moderator to provide constructive feedback on this topic, I'd like to take the opportunity.   While the explanation provided that some travelers are confused seeing names of owners, the response also included an unrelated reminder to not post verbiage that could be used to have travelers search the Internet for the owner and book offline.  With the unrelated reminder, I think it's reasonable to say that the main purpose for this is to further efforts to eliminate offline bookings.

                                         

                                        I fully accept that HA/Vrbo are now 100% booking platforms and no longer advertising platforms.  I understand that many others still don't like this, and I respect that.  But I also recognize the Vrbo is not going to reverse course and go back to just being an advertising site.  So thus I've accepted this transition, and thus I understand the product managers' objective to prevent offline bookings.  But while this type of change can seemingly help meet this objective, the product managers need to recognize that this is a destructive "solution" that creates bigger problems.   The other postings on this thread outline those problems, so I won't detail them here.

                                         

                                        I recognize that some owners or PMs could be (or are) using the Owner's profile to use verbiage to promote an Internet search for the property.  I think there's a simple solution to search the existing HA/Vrbo listing database for that type of verbiage and address it on a case-by-case basis.   So, absolutely, if a listing has an owner's profile verbiage that includes something like "ACME Vacation Rentals Direct", that should be addressed and corrected.

                                         

                                        So my request is to allow the "good" owners (those who have a track record of accepting bookings and converting inquiries into bookings online) to continue with letting us provide our name and photo. There's tons of metrics already captured to identify the majority of owners who are in compliance and bring in lots of bookings and service fee revenue for HA/Expedia/Vrbo.  So use those data metrics to identify, reward and recognize the good owners.  If there's still worry, allow the good owners to minimally provide their first name and photo.  But completely stripping this information is drastic and overkill, and is a draconian solution that adversely affects everyone for an issue that is likely only representative of 1% of the listings.  Please don't punish the vast majority of your good owners to address a small minority of "bad actors."  This A/B test is like carpet bombing when a surgical strike would solve the problem.

                                         

                                        For other owners reading this, please recognize that my suggestions are to try to find a middle-ground solution vs. the current drastic A/B test.  I think that we need to work together to address HA's concerns and speak up in a constructive manner.  I hope that by doing so, the minds behind this test will be receptive.

                                         

                                        Thank you.

                                          • Re: Another stupid A/B test or another "glitch"? Which is it this time?
                                            green_mango Active Contributor

                                            Minor note - the moderator didn't say not to post names - she said not to encourage travelers to book off-line.  She clarified that we *can* post our names in our listing and I am currently editing to make sure my name is in there ("You can still put your name or company name in the property description") - as I totally agree that removing our names & photos isn't good business and the "less confusing" for travelers is an insulting explanation from VRBO as they can't possibly think we'd really believe that.

                                            • Re: Another stupid A/B test or another "glitch"? Which is it this time?
                                              timthek Active Contributor

                                              What has HA done in the last 3 years to make you think that they have ANY interest in what we have to say....that they have taken any of the suggestions owners have made....or that they are motivated by anything short of getting more bookings?

                                               

                                              I am not their partner. They have shown no interest or effort in finding out my opinions. They have acted unilaterally in EVERYTHING they have done for the last 3 years. They have not "worked with owners" on ANYTHING. I don't expect that to change and I think trying to suggest a compromise to a brick wall is a waste of time.

                                            • Re: Another stupid A/B test or another "glitch"? Which is it this time?
                                              u0999 Premier Contributor

                                              Ok the drive to "hotelize" VRs has been ongoing for quite a while. I see WHY they want to do it (streamline operations, supposedly friction-less bookings), that may be a great idea in theory, but not all theories are applicable in real life.

                                               

                                              I can see where "hotelizing" can be successful if we talk about an are with high concentration of very similar units distinguishable maybe only by furniture and carpet color (Think dense condo developments that share same amenities and floor plans) and deciding factor will be availability.  I also have an impression that vrbo thinks that their generic "guest" is 2 people renting last moment and only care about availability,click, book, done.

                                               

                                              What made VR "industry" unique is having unique (or somewhat unique) VRs, and thus hosting different types of guests ( be it large multi gen families or older couples or snowbirds - there can be vast differences between how these groups inquire and transact). And that's where vrbo's efforts to "hotelize" will, IMO, backfire spectacularly. A snowbird renting for 3 months would WANT to talk to actual owner before committing quite a bit of money. Obscuring owner will create MORE, not less friction in their booking process. In my case, I have 3 mountain cabins, all different plans and although they tend to cater to families and groups, I can see some differences between who books a 3 bd vs 5 bd. That is where I see guests needing to talk to me - they won't book without assurances and 1st hand explanation about the roads, local advice etc. The effort to obscure and remove me (the Owner) out of the picture will just make these people to seek my properties elsewhere (and they already do).

                                               

                                              When other industries are moving toward "experience" and "customization" and "just for you" (think cars, movie packages, food etc), vrbo seems to be moving in the direction of "motel-6ization for all".

                                               

                                              P.S. I think this may be also to obscure large PM companies. Right now a lot of them have so so reviews and guest can usually eaily tell whether property is managed by individual owner or PM. And choose accordingly. Just a thought.

                                              • Re: Another stupid A/B test or another "glitch"? Which is it this time?
                                                hmmmm Senior Contributor

                                                So at the top of your description, perhaps, say, "Hi, I am .....and welcome to the...... Please email me with any questions after reading our descriptions.
                                                We welcome them and look forward to having you come stay?

                                                 

                                                Who knows but its a try to keep it more personal.

                                                 

                                                These programmers I think forget its your property, your liability, your work and your choice.....when they create the changes.

                                                  • Re: Another stupid A/B test or another "glitch"? Which is it this time?
                                                    martyp Contributor

                                                    The booking growth of 2% does not surprise me. What does surprise me is that although the bookings went up by only 2%, the gross revenue went up by 17%.  I would like to see why that is.

                                                     

                                                    Based on my own anecdotal evidence, that 2% figure does not surprise me.  Prior to 2016, 100% of my bookings went through VRBO.  When I received a direct booking request, I directed them to my VRBO pages for booking & payment. ... Why wouldn't I?  My booking was managed, my one and only calendar was updated, and the credit card payment was processed. 

                                                     

                                                    1.  After the 2016 VRBO surcharge, I gave the direct booking requests the option of paying me through the PayPal credit processor or through the VRBO booking platform.  Not one single renter chose VRBO.  2018 was the first year that my revenue outside of VRBO exceeded my VRBO revenue.

                                                     

                                                    2. My relatives used to use VRBO exclusively for booking  their vacation rentals ... not any more.

                                                     

                                                    3. We have been considering buying a vacation rental condo on the Florida gulf coast.  The sales agent provided us with a side by side comparison of VRBO vs a local booking company.  The choice was obvious ... the local booking company was, by far,  the best choice.  A friend who owns a rental condo unit in that same condo had a choice of VRBO or that local company and they chose the local booking company.

                                                     

                                                    4. When I recently took my own vacation recently, I did not even consider looking at VRBO. Why would I? Instead, I searched for direct bookings.  It takes a bit more work, but it sure beats having to pay the VRBO surcharge (... none of my VRBO guests have ever used VRBO's "book with confidence" service)

                                                     

                                                    VRBO is obviously still a significant player, but the one thing that VRBO has failed to realize is the significant importance of customer loyalty. When I say "customer" I mean BOTH the travelers AND the owners who pay for their web pages.  Both sets of customers, are utilizing sources outside of VRBO.

                                                     

                                                    I really want VRBO to learn, to change, and to grow.  Since, VRBO still provides me with significant bookings and revenue, I will continue to use  VRBO for my listing & booking.  It's a situation where, once you shake hands with the devil, it is hard to let go.