Guests, VRBO Homeaway Doesn’t Know Jack Squat about Your Reservation

Ski Silverthorne Lodges in Silverthorne Colorado

Ski Silverthorne Lodges in Silverthorne Colorado

Last night I’ve invited my folks over for dinner. Just as we’re sitting down to enjoy our time together I hear my phone upstairs start blowing up with phone calls and text messages. I try to ignore it just thinking I’ll get to it when we’re finished with dinner. Then next thing you know my wife’s phone starts blowing up too! My wife and I looked at each other and knew this could mean only one thing. The only place where we list both of our phone numbers is for our vacation rental guests! I headed upstairs and sure enough it was my guest scheduled to check into Ski Silverthorne Lodge #1 for the evening.

I called him back to see what’s up and he told me that he didn’t have the code for the lock to give himself access to the property. I said, “sure you do it’s in your rental agreement in the first paragraph”. He said he didn’t have his rental agreement but was instead using VRBO’s app. I said, “What the heck are you using a VRBO app for to access my property? I’m not giving VRBO access to the property. I’m giving YOU access to the property.” To make a long story short, I gave the guest the access code to the property and at last he was able to start enjoying his vacation.

If you look through my blogs over the past year or so you’ll see I’ve been talking myself blue in the face to both guests and fellow owners. Owners, VRBO is using your real estate investment to steal your customers. Guests, VRBO is putting an illusion of convenience and security before you to make you think you’re doing business with them, and when you follow their path you are in fact doing business with VRBO. I know the pattern because I’ve been in this internet/ecommerce business since it began back in 1994. I’ve watched as greed factories like Amazon brainwashed folks into thinking they’re better priced, more reliable and more secure. Amazon has gotten away with monopolizing the online marketplace, and VRBO is trying to do the same thing with the vacation rental industry.

Guests, do business with the owner, not VRBO

  • VRBO is a lead generation service yet lately they’ve been trying to act more like a travel agency.
  • VRBO and Homeaway’s payment processing service has been hacked before, and peoples’ credit card information has been compromised. I know this for a fact because I still have the emails from their processing affiliate saying so. VRBO is a lead generation service. They are not a bank, they are not visa/mastercard, they are not Paypal. I would never give my credit card information to VRBO, nor would I recommend anybody else to do so. Do business with the owner. Your financial purchase is guaranteed by your credit card, paypal, etc. Stop letting VRBO brainwash you into thinking they are secure and safe.
  • When you book through VRBO / Homeaway they’re snatching a service fee from you! Look in your reservation history if you’re booked through VRBO before. You’ll see a line item in there that says ‘service fee’. This is where they took a fee from you right off the top. Call the owner directly and pay the owner directly. This way you can avoid the service fee.
  • VRBO / Homeaway have an app that you can download on your phone. For what!? What do we need an app for? Folks, it’s not complicated, and there’s no need for an app. Well, I take that back. It can be extremely complicated if you’re like my guest who was trying to give himself access to my property with VRBO’s app. All you need is your rental agreement and the owner’s contact information. Call or text the owner. Make it easy. Don’t complicate things by putting some useless app on your phone.
  • There’s no better way to achieve a higher level of comfort than by talking directly with the owner. Do you like discounts? There’s no better way increase your chances of discounts than to establish a trust relationship with an owner where you like staying at his place, and he likes having you there.
  • Stop shopping for vacation rentals on just VRBO/Homeaway. Have you tried other places? and are loaded with them. The biggest gold mine of vacation rental information is from individual owner websites. Try using search engines. Search for Silverthorne vacation rentals and you’ll see right there on the first page. We’re just a mom and pop website, but I assure you we’ll serve the hell out of you when you call. You won’t be on hold, and we will know the answer to every last one of your questions! When searching for vacation rentals on search engines make sure to go to pages 2,3,4,5, etc in the results. Get to the owners and small operators. Big companies (I call them greed factories) like Kayak, expedia, vrbo, tripadvisor, etc have hogged up all of the space on page 1. For example, if you search for Silverthore lodging on google and go to page 2 there is a link for I happen to know the woman that owns this company, and she manages a handful of rentals. If you call her you’re sure to get some kick-ass service, but you wouldn’t have found her if you hadn’t clicked to page 2!
  • Guests, you want safety, security, convenience, and discounts. You can have all that by establishing relationships with owners, not by giving credit card information to a known hacker-infested site or downloading a silly app.

Owners, VRBO is using your real estate investment to steal your customers

Owners, some of you may remember how VRBO used to be back in the day when they knew their duty was lead generation. A potential guest would express interest in your property by filling out a form on VRBO. Then VRBO sent you an email giving you the guests’ name and contact information. From there you contacted the guests and handled the rest. Payment was usually handled by the guest sending you a check or a Paypal payment. Many of you had your own credit card processing ability. This is the situation sellers have on their hands now, and here are ways sellers have got to stand together and stop it:

  • VRBO have began strongly encouraging guests to book through their website by brainwashing them into thinking it’s somehow more safe and secure. VRBO has done this to such extremes that they have painted a picture that booking directly with the owner is not safe and secure. I think VRBO did this on purpose because it is to VRBO’s advantage for the traveler not to trust the owner. I do not appreciate VRBO stripping owners’ credibility like this. Many have us have spent years building up our reputations to show we are safe and secure then VRBO comes along to suggest we are not. Most people are falling for this hook, line, and sinker without realizing that booking directly through VRBO/Homeaway is not safe and it is not secure! Why? Because there’s no way it’s more safe and secure than paypal or an owner’s private credit card machine. What’s more? VRBO have began reducing your ratings if you don’t accept their online booking. What a sham, and I call upon all owners and guests to disregard VRBO’s rating system. Read the reviews from guests and pay no attention to VRBO. VRBO’s rating system is geared towards punishing owners that rather concentrate on their guests’ good experience.
  • I get a kick out of reading comments from owners that are angry at VRBO who say, “I will not be renewing my listing because of VRBO’s new greedy policies”. I mean come on! Yes you are going to renew your listing, and the reason you are (and vrbo knows you are) is because you’ve been putting all of your eggs into VRBO’s basket since you started.
    1. This leads me to my next point. Move your eggs out of VRBO’s basket. Build a website for your vacation rental. Spend the money to get a good website. If you don’t have a good web knowledge then have a website built on a WordPress platform so you can easily manage it. Believe me it’ll be worth the $1000-4000 you spend on a website and the $50/month hosting. Why do I know this? Because I own this website, and I can tell you it kicks VRBO’s ass when it comes to vacation rentals in Summit County Colorado. Call me at (318) 272-0951, and can help you in this area.
    2. Keep listings of your vacation rental on other websites. I’m not talking about just any vacation rental website because most of them don’t get enough traffic for you to get a substantial amount of bookings. In fact if you do this you’re going to waste a lot of time and probably come crawling back to VRBO. I’m talking about other sites like Craigslist and Ebay where customers are actually looking for vacation rental homes. Need an example? Look at this Orange Beach condo rental on ebay. As of this writing I’ve booked it 76 times through ebay (not counting the people that called the number on the listing and booked directly). Scroll to the bottom, and as of this writing you’ll see the listing has been viewed over 30,000 times!! Has your vrbo listing been viewed 30,000 times for the entire time you’ve had it? Probably not. Take a look at this listing for Ski Silverthorne Lodge 2 on Ebay. We’ve had multiple sales and over 5,000 page views. VRBO would faint if they knew how many vacation rental inquiries I’ve booked through phone calls from ebay. VRBO would pass out and stop breathing if they knew how many bookings I’ve made from! Get yourself a website and list on other sites. If you can’t do it hire some to do it for you – it’ll be money well spend. It’ll be the swift kick in the ass you’ve been wanting to give VRBO for a long time!
  • VRBO spoofs traveler contact information unless you message the traveler through VRBO’s messaging platform. I’m telling you right now you better go through your entire booking calendar as well as your inbox and harvest every single name, phone number, and email address you can find. Put it in a safe place like a personal spreadsheet so that VRBO cannot take it from you. I predict that in the future VRBO is going to start withholding traveler information from the owner completely. This is going to be a sad day, but given their obnoxious behavior over the past year or so I strongly feel it’s coming. (update August 2017: VRBO now hides the guests’ information from the owners. Dirty bastards!)
  • Stop letting VRBO steal your brand and your customers. Customers need to know you as “John Smith with the beautiful beach condo in Myrtle Beach”, not as VRBO listing #183993. When you get an email from a vrbo inquiry log onto VRBO’s website and copy the travelers email address. Then go back to your email and reply to the customer’s email address from your email address. When you do this the guest receives an email from you and not vrbo. Now, as you may already know vrbo rates you on how quick you respond to customers. You can’t keep your ratings up if you don’t respond through VRBO’s messaging system. So here’s the workaround for that. Log onto VRBO’s messaging system and say something like, “Dear Guest, I sent you an email directly from my email address. For safety, security, and confidentiality I prefer to communication directly with you rather than through third party messaging systems like this one on VRBO.” This puts you in the driver’s seat because you are a hell of a lot better at keeping information safe and secure than VRBO is! And that’s not even the best of it. When you send an email directly to your customer it’s building your brand, not VRBO. It affirms that you are at the helm, you are the person that this guest is doing business with, not VRBO. VRBO is little more to you than a rickety calendar where you organize your bookings and get leads. It’s your real estate investment and your customer, not VRBO’s. Don’t be lured into laziness and the illusion of convenience that VRBO is bestowing upon you. VRBO is stealing your brand and your customers right in front of your wide open eyes. Stop them. I tell all of my guests, “I am the owner of this property, not VRBO. You are doing business with only me and not VRBO. I am affiliated in no way with VRBO other than they are my lead generation service. All information pertaining the property is guaranteed only when it comes directly from me. VRBO cannot extend any guarantee to you because they are not the owner of this property.”
  • The last thing I want to talk about is booking online through VRBO. My understanding is that VRBO is going to start requiring all owners accept online bookings. I am also going to venture to say that in the near future VRBO is going to stop allowing other payment sources like Paypal, check, and credit card unless done directly through their site.

This is all I’ve got for now. The war rages on for who’s gonna be on top. I sure hate to see all of us owner/operates get consumed and controlled by some website that we’ve all come to depend on for income. Prepare now, and do the things I’ve said above. You’ll be happy you did if you depend on your vacation rental for income.

What do you think? Did I get it right? Do I have it all wrong? Let me know by commenting below!