If you call it a peacock, it better be a peacock

Are you the host who offers a peacock and then substitutes a wren?

Recent articles in the paper describe travelers who arrive at their Airbnb rental only to find it’s not available and the host is substituting a place that is way below their expectations. These renters have had difficulty getting a response from the owner of the property or the website, which is usually Airbnb. (Airbnb has been lucky to develop a brand that has become synonymous with the home-share or short-term rental industry. It was not, however, the first such website, and it is not always the most reliable way for travelers to book–but it’s usually the first place they look.)

First, if you are looking at this business as a long-term undertaking, you absolutely do not want to do this to any of your renters. It will be reflected in your reviews, and eventually it’s going to do some damage. At some point in time, however, almost ALL of us double-book, or have a crisis that puts our unit out of commission. A good host has a back-up plan for that event. It might mean losing a little money putting guests up in a nearby hotel for a night or two, or sending them to another rental.

We had a situation where the municipality dug up our entire street to put in sewer hook-ups — giving us less than an hour’s notice. The guests coming to our casita would have had to walk up the hill, dodging ditches and large holes carrying their suitcases, or throw the suitcases down a cliff and climb down themselves to get to our house. We found them a different casita to stay in, although they still wanted to come see our place.

Renters are getting wise to this scam and articles in the press are advising them to change their booking habits. Travel writers are giving the following suggestions: book through a Homeaway site (VRBO actually existed long before Airbnb); don’t use a site such as Craigslist; use a “curated” vacation rental agency; pay through the host website with a credit card; and–if they run into a problem–bail out immediately and contact the rental agency/website immediately.

What does this mean to hosts? List your place on one or two sites other than Airbnb. Be knowledgeable about sites’ policies for a “bait and switch” deal and, in the event of an emergency have a Plan B for renters that is equal to your Plan A. When you disappoint renters you are shooting yourself in the foot–promise a peacock, deliver a peacock!

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