VRBO Host cancelled stay because he forgot to raise rates

57 Replies

A friend made a reservation on VRBO for Thanksgiving. The host had a 5-day minimum set and non-holiday pricing in place. (Friend didn't realize it was non-holiday pricing.)

Host sends friend a cancellation notice, and when pressed, responds with "I was traveling overseas, and didn't realize I hadn't set holiday pricing or minimums."

From a traveler standpoint, this is a dirtbag move. It isn't MY fault you forgot to change pricing, and now I have nowhere to stay, I've probably already made airline reservations that will have to be canceled at my expense because YOU forgot to increase your prices, etc. 

While I imagine it sucks to miss out on increased revenue, I feel that these online portals should have a consumer protection policy in place to prevent things like this from happening. 

What is a fair solution to both parties?

@Mindy Jensen

On the one hand, yes, this is a compleat dirtbag move. The short-term rental portals should do more. But as the world is filled with dirtbags, it's usually much wiser not to compulsively look for an incredible deal that looks too good to be true on VRBO and Airbnb months in advance and book it. When you target outliers in anything, phenomena related to outliers tend to occur in your life.

It's not just VRBO and Airbnb. It's practically every seller on every internet portal. I've seen stuff selling for prices I couldn't believe on Amazon, ordered it, only to find that it was a misprice and the seller was backing out of the sale. This stuff tends to happen in the internet world.

The VRBO Host should make good on the price as advertised at the time of purchase.
The Host should be ashamed of themselves. I would expect some more courtesy... especially around the Holiday Season.

How long after reserving/how close to the travel dates did the host cancel?  This situation LITERALLY happened to me on the host side two days ago, someone booking for Labor Day weekend 2020.  

The way the calendars work is you set how far in advance people can book (I have 1 year) and that's also how far in advance you can set your prices.  I try to be especially mindful about this around holidays, for this very reason.  However, in the case of Labor day, it occurs several days later next year than it does this year, I've been traveling, and facts of life are I don't have the time or inclination to update my future pricing one day at a time to stay on top of it.

In my particular instance, I got a reservation for September 5-7, 2020.  At first I didn't notice the year and thought "This is weird, aren't we past the 5th yet?" and then I realized it was for next year.  I looked at my calendar, realized it was 2 days on Labor Day weekend, and *immediately* messaged the guest explaining what had happened and that for that weekend there's a 3 day minimum and the rates are X.  I was happy to adjust her reservation accordingly, but if she didn't care to do that, she was welcome to cancel with my apologies.  Maybe 15 minutes had elapsed from her booking.

Sucky thing to do?  Well yeah, I don't like doing that and if it had happened further down the line/closer to her stay, I probably wouldn't have done it.  But it's also sucky for me to be expected to honor my lowest price on a holiday weekend when someone's literally booked it the moment the dates come available, 12 months in advance.  

Currently, the penalties for cancelling a guest without good cause (like an urgent repair/mechanical issue) involve stripping you of any Superhost/Premier Partner status you may have (for a year, with AirBNB - which is a Big Deal to me) and dinging your search ranking. If you cancel a guest on AirBNB, they will block your calendar and not allow you to book those dates with another guest, to discourage things like this.  I'm not sure what the policy is on VRBO.

Anyway, my perspective is that there's multiple angles to look at and depending on the circumstances, better/worse ways to handle this issue.  I'd hope that my situation gets some grace given my particular circumstances.  Your friend's may be different, and I'm sorry this happened to him.  There are already consequences in place for hosts who cancel on guests, though I could see a world where depending on how much time has elapsed since the reservation/how close in time the reservation is, there could be a financial element as well (like a reverse cancellation policy).  And of course, there should always be contingencies in the event of an unforeseeable issue where the host has to cancel due to urgent repair, etc.

@John Underwood

What if you forgot to set the price and received an inquiry? Would you still honor the price or decline and raise your rate?

I agree on the instant booking, you should have to eat your mistake. Just curious what others would do in this case on an inquiry.

Originally posted by @Dan Bunker :

@John Underwood

What if you forgot to set the price and received an inquiry? Would you still honor the price or decline and raise your rate?

I agree on the instant booking, you should have to eat your mistake. Just curious what others would do in this case on an inquiry.

I would honor instant bookings. I would likely fix price for inquiries, but let let the people know what happened.

 

If its booked, owner should honor price.  An email to VRBO might help.  When that did not work, Id email the host and request that they pay for the airline tickets that were booked as part of this. (Even if there were not any)

@John Underwood and @Julie McCoy the big hitters already replied; their word is worth gold. I'll just add that this host will never make it. If you go canceling guests for ANY reason your rankings will drop dramatically. The platforms won't send you bookings. If it were Airnbnb they would be stripped of any chance of superhost. 

If I were to make this mistake, and I do about twice a year because the calendar opened up a new holiday and I wasn't paying attention, I would not even point it out the guest. "Oh you should have paid more but we're going to let it slide" I mean really what is that going to accomplish? It's just kind of slimy.

@Mindy Jensen   Your friend is better off -they'd likely run into more negative effects due to a poor host. 

Stepping over dollars to pick up dimes.

This is gonna probably hurt them in the long run but hey.... at least they’ll get 200 extra bucks for the weekend when they raise their rates!

I pretty much keep my rates the same 24/7/365.  But if I were to make some sort of mistake, I would honor the listed price.  And actually, my vacancies go up around holidays.  Thanksgiving until the first part of January is pretty slow for me, which is good.  That's the best time of the year to go duck hunting.

Completely unacceptable. VRBO should be correcting this for you at the very least.

I had an AirBnb host cancel on me while I was traveling to a real estate networking event. I was furious, because I was already in town! They cancelled at 3:00, day of, while I was at the conference! AirBnb got me into a nicer place for the same price I originally paid. If they had not, that was going to be the end of me using AirBnb.

Very kind of @Mindy Jensen to, unprompted, take my first world problem here to BP.

I'm the friend in question here. I'll post my experience here not as a whine about my specific situation, but for a larger discussion about hosting conduct in the short term rental world.

Here are the details:

- Our extended family is traveling together for a Thanksgiving reunion. 8 adults and 3 children. Short term rentals are ideal for families in our situation because we can all stay together at the same property. Also, because of the size of our group, properties that can accomodate us all can be tough to find. 

- We booked the reservation on August 8, 2019 for 5 nights (Nov. 26 to Dec. 1) for $700 a night. We paid a $1,754 deposit (which was refunded in full when the reservation was cancelled.)

- Our reservation was cancelled 30 days later on Sept. 6. I immediately reached out to the host about the reason for the cancellation and received the following response:

"Hi Neil

I am very sorry, I was travelling overseas and I didn't adjust the price for the Holidays. For Christmas/New year, we have a 7 days min stay and $900/night.

My Apologies"

- I responded that I am a short term rental owner myself and that I had been in his situation, forgetting to update my calendar for a big weekend and that the cancellation put us in quite a bind this late into the booking season for Thanksgiving and that "...cancelling the guests reservation was certainly ONE way to handle it."

- He responded "Can u do 7 nights?"

- I have already complained to VRBO customer service and tagged them in a Twitter complaint. Their response was "Very sorry for the inconvenience, book another place."

Originally posted by @Mindy Jensen :

A friend made a reservation on VRBO for Thanksgiving. The host had a 5-day minimum set and non-holiday pricing in place. (Friend didn't realize it was non-holiday pricing.)

Host sends friend a cancellation notice, and when pressed, responds with "I was traveling overseas, and didn't realize I hadn't set holiday pricing or minimums."

From a traveler standpoint, this is a dirtbag move. It isn't MY fault you forgot to change pricing, and now I have nowhere to stay, I've probably already made airline reservations that will have to be canceled at my expense because YOU forgot to increase your prices, etc. 

While I imagine it sucks to miss out on increased revenue, I feel that these online portals should have a consumer protection policy in place to prevent things like this from happening. 

What is a fair solution to both parties?

For me it would depend on how much time had elapsed. Thanksgiving can generate triple the usual revenue, so it can be a big deal. I usually let it go but one time something similar did happen to me like @Julie McCoy described and I did call the guest 10 minutes later and asked them to cancel and re-book. If they had booked flights I would have honored it.

As far as "consumer protection policies" the major listing sites already favor the guest over the host, and the penalties for a host cancelling are harsh as described by others, so that serves as pretty good protection against cancellations all by itself.

Originally posted by @Russell Brazil :

If its booked, owner should honor price.  An email to VRBO might help.  When that did not work, Id email the host and request that they pay for the airline tickets that were booked as part of this. (Even if there were not any)

@Russell Brazil Are you saying you'd ask the host for airline ticket reimbursement that you never made?  Two wrongs don't make a right, sir...

Originally posted by @Julie McCoy :

How long after reserving/how close to the travel dates did the host cancel?  This situation LITERALLY happened to me on the host side two days ago, someone booking for Labor Day weekend 2020.  

The way the calendars work is you set how far in advance people can book (I have 1 year) and that's also how far in advance you can set your prices.  I try to be especially mindful about this around holidays, for this very reason.  However, in the case of Labor day, it occurs several days later next year than it does this year, I've been traveling, and facts of life are I don't have the time or inclination to update my future pricing one day at a time to stay on top of it.

In my particular instance, I got a reservation for September 5-7, 2020.  At first I didn't notice the year and thought "This is weird, aren't we past the 5th yet?" and then I realized it was for next year.  I looked at my calendar, realized it was 2 days on Labor Day weekend, and *immediately* messaged the guest explaining what had happened and that for that weekend there's a 3 day minimum and the rates are X.  I was happy to adjust her reservation accordingly, but if she didn't care to do that, she was welcome to cancel with my apologies.  Maybe 15 minutes had elapsed from her booking.

Sucky thing to do?  Well yeah, I don't like doing that and if it had happened further down the line/closer to her stay, I probably wouldn't have done it.  But it's also sucky for me to be expected to honor my lowest price on a holiday weekend when someone's literally booked it the moment the dates come available, 12 months in advance.  

Currently, the penalties for cancelling a guest without good cause (like an urgent repair/mechanical issue) involve stripping you of any Superhost/Premier Partner status you may have (for a year, with AirBNB - which is a Big Deal to me) and dinging your search ranking. If you cancel a guest on AirBNB, they will block your calendar and not allow you to book those dates with another guest, to discourage things like this.  I'm not sure what the policy is on VRBO.

Anyway, my perspective is that there's multiple angles to look at and depending on the circumstances, better/worse ways to handle this issue.  I'd hope that my situation gets some grace given my particular circumstances.  Your friend's may be different, and I'm sorry this happened to him.  There are already consequences in place for hosts who cancel on guests, though I could see a world where depending on how much time has elapsed since the reservation/how close in time the reservation is, there could be a financial element as well (like a reverse cancellation policy).  And of course, there should always be contingencies in the event of an unforeseeable issue where the host has to cancel due to urgent repair, etc.

The host waited a MONTH before cancelling. And yeah, while your cancellation was a bit of a bummer, waiting 15 minutes to  cancel a reservation one year in advance for a minor holiday is, in my mind, totally different. We're now in September, for a MAJOR holiday two months away. 

I'm glad to hear AirBnB has a policy that won't let you rebook. 

I can see both sides. Breaking your lease, for instance, is not a cool thing to do. But there is a process for it, and if you are willing to take the penalties, you can do it. Same thing in this instance. The host's revenue trumped their empathy for the guest. The host cancelled within a time range that was allowed and was willing to face the consequences from the platform and the guest. I'm not familiar with VRBO, but on Airbnb, it works both ways, though--the guest could have cancelled a month later and accepted the penalties leaving the HOST high and dry with their property off the market for so long. I have never done this to a guest, but I know someone who has.

Both VRBO/HomeAway and AirBnB have policies in place that will "penalize" a host for cancelling a reservation in a situation like this. Both have a top host moniker, Super Host for AirBnB, Premiere Partner for VRBO/HomeAway. A host will lose these marketing monikers if they cancel a reservation without good cause. AirBnB goes a step futher, not allowing the host to rebook the dates. 

I had something similar happen to me with AirBnB last year. I had booked a place for my family vacation and had paid the deposit and about 3 weeks from my vacation, the host cancelled the booking, stating they had a "family emergency." I told them I was very sorry to hear that and I hoped everything was okay and then I saw the place pop back up as available at a higher rate. I was pretty upset but I ended up finding a better place for cheaper and closer to the ocean so it worked out in the end for me but just not a good way to do business.

@Mindy Jensen Typically the homeowner will lie and make up a better excuse to cancel the reservation like "I have family staying there that weekend and I forgot" or " we are selling the house" when the real reason is they know they can get more money for said weekend. 

I have had 4 hosts cancel within a month of my trips the last 2 years using those websites and they always ask me to cancel so it doesn't hurt their rating. Imagine the nerve?

@Mindy Jensen I know if you as a host cancel

On Airbnb that prevents you from being a super host for one year. I think what the host did is fair. There is no way in hell the guest would willingly pay more if asked - in fact the guest would be saying “it’s not fair he wants me to pay more”. So the host cancelled the reservation (with plenty of advance notice we are

In early September) and the host will accept any penalties from the platform. Sucks for the guests who thought they were getting an awesome deal but there is plenty of time to rebook elsewhere so I don’t see what the issue is...

@Laura Velli

Also I am a super host on Airbnb. Cancelling on a guest is pretty much the worst thing a host can do. If you cancel on Airbnb they punish you through their algorithms etc pushing your listing to the bottom etc maybe this host didn’t care or doesn’t realize the platform will penalize him..

Originally posted by @Mindy Jensen :

The host waited a MONTH before cancelling. And yeah, while your cancellation was a bit of a bummer, waiting 15 minutes to  cancel a reservation one year in advance for a minor holiday is, in my mind, totally different. We're now in September, for a MAJOR holiday two months away. 

I'm glad to hear AirBnB has a policy that won't let you rebook. 

Yeah, that's definitely a crappy thing to do to your friend - under similar circumstances, I'd have let it ride and just taken the financial hit.  If I can't have been bothered to update major holiday prices by three months before the actual holiday, that's 100% my bad.  (re: your friend's host's excuse of traveling overseas, they've got internet overseas too, dude)  

I think AirBNB's policy of not letting you rebook cancelled dates is a fair one; after all, if you can't host Person A, why should circumstances be any different for Person B?  

Best wishes for your friend getting a better place to celebrate Thanksgiving, and for their former host not getting any bookings in their stead!

Originally posted by @Laura V. :

@Mindy Jensen I know if you as a host cancel

On Airbnb that prevents you from being a super host for one year. I think what the host did is fair. There is no way in hell the guest would willingly pay more if asked - in fact the guest would be saying “it’s not fair he wants me to pay more”. So the host cancelled the reservation (with plenty of advance notice we are

In early September) and the host will accept any penalties from the platform. Sucks for the guests who thought they were getting an awesome deal but there is plenty of time to rebook elsewhere so I don’t see what the issue is...

This is for the week of Thanksgiving, which is an in-demand week. The host canceled one month after the reservation was accepted. There isn't that much time to rebook - two months before a major holiday - and they have a large party so finding a property is already difficult.