If you read back in my previous posts, I told you they would to it. Another VRBO scam has hit both travelers and owners alike. And I’m not talking about a VRBO scam where some shady individual is trying to steal your money with a fake property. I’m talking about the biggest VRBO scam of all, which is VRBO themselves. At the bottom of this post is the email I got from VRBO today. If you read back through my previous posts to this blog you’ll see I warned of this a couple of years ago. VRBO is taking over the vacation rental industry in a big, greedy way. They need to be stopped.
In this email some of my predictions of come to light. They are as follows:
- VRBO is further enforcing their greedy service fee – when VRBO announced the service fee last year they began taking a chunk of the travelers money through a bogus “service fee”. To date there has been a way around the service fee if you’re a smart traveler and contact the owner directly to make your reservation. Savvy travelers who contact owners directly have avoided the service fee because owners don’t typical do shit like that to people. Now, as per this email, VRBO is beginning to close the door on these savvy travelers by requiring that owners accept online booking or be removed from VRBO’s site. What this does is land more service fees into VRBO’s money sack from unsuspecting travelers. Also, in this same email, VRBO has removed the ability for the traveler and owner to communicate directly prior to booking. This leads me to my next prediction that has come to light.
- VRBO is now hiding email addresses and phone numbers – Yep, the sorry VRBO scam bastards have now removed your ability to communicate with owners and travelers. Years back VRBO was a great lead generation service. People who were interested in your property contacted you directly. It was between the owner and the traveler to work out a rental agreement. Since then VRBO has attempted miserably to migrate themselves into online reservations, collecting credit card numbers (that were hacked into and compromised), and guest hospitality. Now that VRBO hides email addresses and phone numbers I guess we’re supposed to work out some sort of reservation with a ghost? How ridiculous is that? I predicted it though. The whole move serves VRBO. It gives them power; it gives them control.
- VRBO invades the privacy of guests – Yeah I said it, and if you read the email below you’ll see VRBO said it too. VRBO is going to “enhance traveler profiles”. Who else sees right through this bullshit? What this means to me is VRBO is about to start collecting more data on travelers. Hey, it’s true that owners want to know their travelers, but VRBO is twisting this all around. To set the record straight, when owners said we want to know our travelers, what we meant is for VRBO to stop hiding information about travelers, like email address and phone numbers! VRBO knows damn well this is what we meant, but is trying to create an opportunity for themselves by twisting our words around. Given their shady history with hackers and con artists, the last people that need to be collecting data on ANYBODY is VRBO!
- Valueless Propositions – here we go with the insurance bullshit, again – VRBO likes to make people think they are safe and protected. A while back they started offering CSA Travel Protection which has been nothing but a total disaster. Take five minutes to research this and just about all you’ll find is negative reviews about the topic. As a matter of fact I’ve failed to know one person who has received a paid claim from CSA Travel Protection. So, if that wasn’t a big enough disaster, now VRBO takes another swing at gaining people’s trust with their “$1M liability insurance“. Tell me, what insurance company did VRBO find that would cover all these millions of listings on their site, each and every one of them, with $1M liablity insurance? I’ll tell you right now then answer is that they didn’t, or at least not in the sense that most people know insurance. In fact I’d love to read through the $1M liability insurance policy. I’ll bet it’s just full of draconian language in favor of the insurance company and VRBO.
Why am I mad about all these VRBO scams?
Because I miss how VRBO used to be. I want my old VRBO back.
Why don’t you just pull your listings off VRBO and quit?
Because I depend on my vacation rental properties as a source of income. I’ve invested a lot of time and money into them. VRBO has a huge following. Many of my bookings originate from VRBO.
What can be done about the VRBO scam?
I don’t know. VRBO needs to be replaced. I think in the short term I’m going to throw some support into HomeEscape.com. I don’t know much about them, but on the surface they seem to be the closest thing I’ve seen to what the old VRBO used to be like. I think owners should list their properties on HomeEscape too. I’m going to make myself look for vacation rentals on their site next time I travel. Too me it looks like the only thing HomeEsape is lacking is user engagement.
What else can be done?
- Express your disapproval of VRBO publicly and everywhere – Facebook, Twitter, at the local t-ball game, wherever. Use hashtags, use anything you can to shine a light on VRBO’s actions.
- Tell everybody about the greedy VRBO services fees.
- Tell people to stop at nothing to communicate directly with the owner. Resist VRBO’s messaging system.
- Demand to know the email addresses and phone numbers of the people you are in communication with.
- Don’t let VRBO collect information about you.
- Put as little information as possible about your guests into the VRBO reservation calendar. And by all means never put your guests’ phone number, email address, and mailing address into the VRBO calendar. This information is visible to VRBO, and they can use it to steal your customers.
- Diversify your listings. List your vacation rental on lots of other sites, even if they suck. They won’t suck if you would list your vacation rental on their site. The only thing many of these sites need is user engagement to be a viable competitor to VRBO. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had more options other than VRBO? Let’s help other sites compete with VRBO.
- Get a website for your vacation rental. Yeah, I know, you say websites are expensive. No they’re not. You don’t need a state of the art website to have a presence on the web. What matters about a website is what content is on it. It doesn’t matter how fancy it is. If the content isn’t good it is going to suck. The mistake people make is when they think their website has to be great from the start. Not true. All you need is a presence. Everybody having their own website for their vacation rental is probably one of VRBO’s worst fears. I could probably write a whole post about this in itself.
The list goes on and on I’m sure. How about adding some of your comments and suggestions below! I’d love to have a discussion about this with all of you!
How about adding some of your comments and suggestions about the VRBO scam below! I’d love to have a discussion about this with all of you!