Whenever someone books my B&B, it triggers a series of things that I do.
Send an acknowledgement message. Organise cleaner. Arrange check-in. Get paid.
After a while, this can get a little repetitive for me. I risk falling into the trap of going through the motions like an impassioned machine. I want to avoid this, obviously.
To counter this I constantly remind myself that bookings aren't just entries in my calendar consisting of dates, requirements, and dollar figures.
There are real people behind every booking. People who are celebrating an anniversary. Or keen to pamper their loved ones. Or desperate for a break.
Whatever reason they have for travelling, it must be dear to them. That's why they spend their hard-earned money to stay at my B&B.
Treating guests well comes naturally with this mindset.
I recently saw social media posts from guests who were treated terribly by their hosts. I was horrified by what they were subjected to. I guess this is what happens when hosts forget that guests are real people. They become cold and unsympathetic.
Below are 5 things that a host should never do, not only because they're harmful and disrespectful toward guests, but also because they're bad for business long-term:
1. Cancelling a guest's booking - I'm sure the vast majority of hosts don't do this. But still, I cannot for the life of me understand why some hosts think it is OK to cancel their guest's booking.
Many host-initiated cancellations reek of greed, stemming from double booking or wanting a more profitable replacement booking.
It is unfair to throw off our guest's travel plans just because we want to make a few more bucks.
Three years ago I accidentally messed up my pricing and massively underpriced some of the most sought after dates on my calendar (Easter).
A lucky fellow found those vacant dates and paid very little for them. I stood to lose approximately $1,000. His stay was 7 months away. I still didn't cancel his booking.
2. Obnoxious house rules - Some unethical hosts impose rules that are so ridiculous that I couldn't help but laugh.
One guest was asked to wash his towels and bedding just before checking out. Another was asked to mow the lawn. Yet another was asked to assemble a piece of furniture!
Whether we want to admit it or not, Airbnb hosts compete with hotels. We should aim to provide the same level of convenience as hotels, whenever possible.
My house rules are just general courtesy stuff. Keep noises down at night. Don't park illegally. That sort of thing.
3. Surprise fees - It is confusing to see different prices on different screens when making a booking. Airbnb is partly to blame for this, showing one screen with only the base price and another with extra fees added.
This also makes guests feel like a victim of bait-and-switch. I can understand why many find this infuriating.
I take the matter into my own hands and set all extra fees to 0, even the cleaning fee. I simply build cleaning into my nightly rate.
This reduces Airbnb's "ability" to display my price in a confusing manner.
We should remind ourselves that we compete with hotels. Hotels don't slap guests with a gazillion extra fees. Why should guests stay with us if we treat them worse than a hotel?
Having no extra fees also benefits us hosts. I firmly believe this. I believe that a separate cleaning fee incentivises guests to act less responsibly in terms of cleanliness, because they've "paid for someone to clean up after them".
4. Unfair post-stay charges - I've had guests take home my kitchen utensils, break my decorations, damage my TV, even leave a hole in the wall. I've had it all.
But I'm trigger shy when it comes to charging my guests after they've left.
Like I said earlier, guests are real people with feelings. To be slapped with extra fees at the end of a vacation would be so maddening.
A vacation should leave you recharged, not angry. Feeling upset would defeat the whole purpose of having a vacation in the first place!
Of all the incidents above, only one guest paid to reimburse my loss. Even then it was only partial. I didn't think it was fair to ask for a full reimbursement.
For the other incidents, I just absorbed the cost. It's part of running a business. I took it on the chin.
You may be thinking, we can't let our guests get away with breaking stuff, can we? Doesn't this get expensive?
You would think so, but not really (see the closing section below.)
5. Hidden cameras - That this needs to be mentioned is very embarrassing.
Malicious so-called hosts who put hidden cameras inside their property ruin things for everyone.
They ruin their guests' private enjoyment. They also ruin the reputation of other hosts and Airbnb.
I encourage all hosts to stay away from the above transgressions, even if it's for selfish reasons.
For instance, hosts who cancel a guest's booking will incur severe penalties and almost definitely impair their ability to earn a good income.
Besides, you'll find that your kindness to guests will be rewarded.
This happened to me:
The two-year-old son of a recent guest smashed a beautiful art decoration in my B&B, but I chose to not make a big deal out of it.
Wanting the family to enjoy their stay worry-free, I told them that I wouldn't charge for the damage.
I guess this must've really impressed them. Not long after they checked out, they re-booked to stay at my B&B again for a lengthy New Year's holiday.
This covered the cost of replacing the art piece that their son broke, and more.