We have personally been through some very traumatic circumstances from the result of guest reviews. This is a recent experience since running what is our second vacation rental property to a more aggressive NY clientele.
We are constantly told by the guests, HomeAway, and VRBO - “you have so many good reviews, one little negative one is not going to hurt you.” Actually - we have had a guest cancel an active invoice because of a bad review - so for the record - not true!
With the advent of “reviews” being so trendy at present - it seems that it is very clear everyone has their right to make a comment and the guests out there are exercising this right in what I see as a one sided attempt to permanently damage a properties reputation based on expectations, moods, or monetary concerns (feeling they paid too much for what they expected).
Here is what I find to be the problem. Guests have not read the descriptions clearly and have false expectations, guests have needs that are outside our capability of tending to, and guests lie and embellish. I had one guest write that my property is not safe for children when in fact he did not have any children (a very damaging speculation and false claim.)
I know that HomeAway loves their review system. That they feel very strongly that a reply to a review will settle the score, and that writing a response is good business practice. But really - seriously - I find myself perplexed at how to respond to blatant lies, speculation, and false claims. It honestly takes me hours and days to work on a strategy to handle these outlandish comments in a professional manner. It’s exhausting!
Then I realized why this system doesn’t work well. These guests have no accountability for any review they write. They remain anonymous - they have the freedom to write whatever they please - with no repercussions to the fact that they are ruining a small business with their false claims. I understand that HomeAway cannot chase claims back and forth - that is impossible. However, they cannot let these people crush the very businesses they helped build - HomeAway - you have to see what is happening here. I feel that if indeed we are building a community - then the community that needs to be built is one where (much like Air BnB - who I might add are just now learning how to “listen” to their clients) there is a community not only of renters, but of tenants too. I think John Doe will be a little less likely to make a damaging false claim if he held accountable and his “friends” or other renters on HomeAway see his behavior and have a chance to decline him as a guest by seeing this track record. These people just go on to rent to the next house in the area and frankly I wish I could warn my renting neighbors to watch out for the occasional sour (vindictive) grape we get.
I hope HomeAway hears us out and develops a new strategy.
In addition, I would love to hear how other hosts are handling these problems and any suggestions we can present to HomeAway as a group.