13 Replies Latest reply: Jan 29, 2018 5:13 AM by sward6880 RSS

    Untruthful guests

    sward6880 Contributor

      Interested in the views of others on this before I decide how to play this :

       

      Guests called our management company several hours before they arrived to say "we hope the pool heat is on and the BBQ is there because the HA listing says they are included" :

       

      1.  The listing makes it crystal clear that pool heat if required is chargeable as is BBQ rental.  

      2.  We give detailed pre-arrival information and again offer guests of the option of pool heat and BBQ rental  - we prefer advance notice of pool heat as we switch it on the day before to ensure the pool is warm on arrival.

       

      We e mailed the guest, and our management company returned their call, to inform them accordingly. 

       

      E mail was returned by the guest ordering pool heat.    Invoice sent via our in house system and pool heat switched on.     We have a sensor in the pool equipment that gives us a minute by minute temperature reading  - by 11 a.m. next day the pool was nice and warm (high 80's) and the guests were clearly making good use of the spa as the readings peaked at over 100 degrees.

       

      On arrival the guest rang the management co emergency line to say the house was cold  (it was 68 inside and 40  outside) - management co explained how to adjust the HVAC thermostat.   House quickly warmed to 74 degrees  - HVAC is brand new and works well.  On being informed by the management company I adjusted the default settings remotely just in case and ensured they had plenty of flexibility.    We know from years of experience that guests have widely different comfort levels ( the record is a guest who wanted the home at a constant 82!)

       

      Guests departed a few days later  - pool heat not paid for.  

       

      Management Co sent me a photo of a broken dining chair saying it was not broken before.  They check all our rental homes after departure, for any damage, and before arrival to check the place is clean, the TVs all work, no lightbulbs out etc.   

       

      Sent guest a pool heat invoice reminder  - did not pay so I deducted the pool heat cost from the guests security deposit and told them about the broken chair which maintenance repaired and we did not charge for.

       

      Guest has now responded via the dashboard claiming :

       

      a)  The house was "cold and filthy". 

      b)  The pool was not heated  - it was "freezing"

      c)   The dining chair was broken when they got there  - their "proof" is "two boxes of spare dining chairs in the garage and a tube of wood glue" - these are spare chairs in storage relating to a different home and of a different style and color (bright red) to the broken one. 

       

      So we have guests who are happy to lie through their teeth.

       

      Last minute pool heat orders are very rare and we have always just switched it on and trusted the guest to pay knowing we have the security deposit fallback.

       

      Perhaps my mistake was to switch the pool heater before payment  - but as it takes several hours for 15,000 gallons of water to heat up we just put it on straight away.   This by the way is done remotely  - I can switch pool heat on and off via my iPhone / iPad.   As it turned out there was a fault with the timer so the pool heater was running 24/7 so it was warm enough to use first thing the following morning. 

       

      So .......

       

      1.  Do I stick to my guns and risk a bad review  - we have about 60 great reviews so even a single star will not damage the average much. 

      2.  Do I follow the "guest is always right" mantra, refund the pool heat deduction and apologise for the house being "cold and filthy" (untrue of course) and also refund their cleaning fee (surely not).

       

      As an aside :

       

      We don't include pool heat in our rental rates because :

       

      a) It would not be fair on those who do not use the pool  - our rentals are in Florida so the main attraction for many is Disney etc.

      b) Our rental rates would need to be higher and we would be less competitive

      c) It is standard practice in this area to have pool heat as an option not as an inclusion.

       

      And we rent grills in as this ensures the guests grill is clean  - the guest has a choice of three types to choose from. 

       

      Views appreciated.

        • Re: Untruthful guests
          feibus Senior Contributor

          Keep the documentation, charge them accordingly to your agreement with them (the documentation of emails can help you get a dishonest review taken down).  Don't worry about one bad review, remember that you get your say as well and can ding them and make it harder for them to rent from someone else.

          • Re: Untruthful guests
            scowol Active Contributor

            sward6880

             

            First, I'm so sorry to hear that you had terrible guests.  I second feibus suggestion.  In reading your post,  the character of these "guests" suggests that they would write a negative review regardless of whether you give them a full refund and apology.  Just expect that a bad review is forthcoming and do as Feibus suggests.  And rate them accordingly when you get the email to rate them.

             

            If helpful, I have two properties, each with swimming pools.  Four years ago, I had a guest call me upon arrival to complain about the pool not being heated.  They didn't pay.   After that episode, I now have a specific page on my rental agreement outlining the pool and spa system.  On that page, I have checkboxes in the rental agreement for pool heating.  The guest needs to check the box and initial next to their preference on the rental contract that they sign:  


            • Box 1: Pool Heating  (advises that the pool will be heated to 85F daily, and that the pool system runs from 7am -5pm daily. Overnight cooling by a few degrees is common.)
            • Box 2:   NO Pool Heating - Unheated. (this box advises that the pool will be unheated, and may be too cold for use)


            I also have an email template that I send to guests 2 weeks prior to their check-in date to reconfirm that they declined pool heating.  It may sound like overkill, but I enjoy the peace of mind that there's absolutely zero confusion that pool heating is not included at the base rates.  But the email is also a customer service to remind them.   Some guests had a change of mind, and forgot that they declined when they booked months before.  So it's makes everyone happy when the guest's expectations are met upon check-in.

             

            P.S.  Similarly in my marketplace, pool heating is extra. So I relate to your "as an aside" comment regarding the optional pool heating.  I've had to similarly "defend" my practice on here of charging for pool heat separately, which is typical.  Some guests don't swim.  Some guests won't be around to use it.  So it's not included in the base rate.  If I include it in the rate, my property would be immediately overpriced compared to my competition because none include heating.  Heating a large pool is expensive.

            • Re: Untruthful guests
              Active Contributor

              So sorry you are dealing with this.  You definitely have crooks on your hands.  They sound like the type to do a chargeback if they don't get their way.  I hope they didn't pay by credit card.

               

              Here is an attorney's blog about defrauding an innkeeper in the state of Florida.  Not sure if it would apply in your situation. Defrauding an Innkeeper in Florida

              • Re: Untruthful guests
                treeguy Contributor

                I would definitely keep whatever portion of the damage deposit you deem fair.  When you rate them rate them as undesirable.  If they even give you a review there are a number of ways to politely counter any false claims or negative assertions.  Just be nice and state the evidence. Something like " I am so sorry the pool was not heated to your liking.  Our sensors indicated a pool temp of X, which most guests find very comfortable."  You could handle the chair thing the same way by nicely pointing out that the chairs they found in the storage shed are for a different property and have nothing to do with the damaged chair at this property.   

                At a minimum ding them on the owner survey as 'not liked' and definitely 'not loved'. 

                • Re: Untruthful guests
                  sunnycs CommunityAmbassador

                  I agree with feibus.  They sounded like trouble before they arrived...   as in they were aware of the extra charges and had no intention of paying.  Reading between the lines on their statement, it appears clear they have no qualms about being dishonest:

                  Guests called our management company several hours before they arrived to say "we hope the pool heat is on and the BBQ is there because the HA listing says they are included"


                  At least I read it that way.  Saying these items are "included" sounds like the guests aren't expecting to pay for them.  I also see their delay in clarifying whether the amenites will be available as further evidence of potential problem guests.  Also is the fact that, other than the initial complaint about the house being cold (which appears to have been dealt with expeditiously), they didn't complain until you withheld funds from their security deposit (obviously in retaliation). 


                  Sorry you're having to deal with this.  I had a similar experience with a crummy guest last year and the ensuing 2* review was unpleasant, but it wasn't detrimental to my business.  My reply and my other 70+ 4-5* reviews seem to have deflected any negativity from it.

                   

                  You appear to have an excellent system in place with your rentals and management company, so the only thing I might suggest is to be sure you have wording in place in your rental agreement to address such issues (and I add that this is really directed more toward new owners here that may find it helpful): 

                  We advertise in good faith within the limits set by the listing sites we use.  Guest agrees that this agreement is binding in the case of a conflict with the advertised information.  Just in case they claim the listing says so and so, when in reality they have misread, or as in your case - they're jockeying to avoid the additional charges.   

                  • Re: Untruthful guests
                    Senior Contributor

                    I would have my attorney draft a strong letter to this untruthful ‘guest’ spelling out the facts (as you laid out) and to inform them that a false and retaliatory negative review would be met with a lawsuit to pursue your remedy under the law.

                    People like this need to be shown they cannot bully their way through life.

                    • Re: Untruthful guests
                      georgygirl1955 Senior Contributor

                      How much money are we dealing with in this conflict? 

                        • Re: Untruthful guests
                          sward6880 Contributor

                          Hi georgygirl1955  - hope all is good with you.    The amount was tiny  - just over $100.    But for me it was not the dough, it was the principle.    We rarely get guests who are plain untruthful - I saw no reason to let them away with it.     

                          They posted a 1* review  - long, rambling, inarticulate  - this home has another 56 reviews 5* and 4*,  so I don't see this as being particularly harmful. 

                          Which actually raised a question or two :

                          1.  Their review was posted immediately and before I submitted a guest review.    I do wish we could post some text and not just *s.  

                          2.  I thought reviews of up to 3* were subject to a delay (7 days?)  - to give the host the opportunity of further discussion with the guest in the hope that the guest might modify or remove their review.  

                            • Re: Untruthful guests
                              georgygirl1955 Senior Contributor

                              All Good....thanks for asking. There are legislative "pressures" going on in our area that make the future unsteady, but we are holding on and trying to zig zag through whatever comes. It is tiring dealing with everything in this industry all the time. It used to be so easy.

                              The past year has been really challenging in many ways.....increased competition, pricing, site changes, etc.

                              I had a calendar block failure last night and which created a 30 minute double booking across sites, and I had to cancel a group who just booked....so I lost my SH status last night. I still can't figure out how it occured...but it did. Not a good time to lose a SH status. One more irritation that a 30 minute human mistake creates a year long punishment.

                              The guest / owner review system, in my opinion, is flawed on all sites. 

                              And when the star rating concept was implemented by HA then the time delay was removed. it would not matter if you submitted your star rating before or after they submitted their lousy review.

                              I think you are stuck. It won't hurt your bookings,  as you know, especially since it shows the guest as a bit crazy, but it is very very annoying and upsetting.

                              I am sorry. I would have done the same as you. That is why you hold a deposit.

                              I think it is wrong to allow a guest review once a deposit is withheld....it holds an owner hostage and the resulting lousy review is inevitable.

                              If you or your mgt company has any threats in writing from this guest, perhaps the right to review can be challenged.

                              I would be sure to post an owner response .....a  mature, thoughtful response for future guests. Not to the group who wrote the review, but to clarify for future guests your procedures, and methods and to reestablish your professionalism.

                              Sorry.

                                • Re: Untruthful guests
                                  sward6880 Contributor

                                  Thanks for your well considered response  - I just logged in to the dashboard as a consequence and re wrote my response to the lousy review.  As you suggested its now addressed to future guests and not to the crazy gang!

                                  Sorry to hear about the double booking  - however careful you are the law of large numbers means its going to happen on the (very) odd occasion.

                                  Looking forward to hearing about the 2018 summit venues  - might be an opportunity to bend a few ears about the reviews system as it currently operates.