Do you have a breakage policy? if a guest admits to breaking something in your listing, do you have a certain cost under which you let it go vs request payment?
How do you approach breakage with a guest who has not admitted it up front? How often do you have to replace certain breakable items (glasses/dishware for example?)
Hi @Laura2592 I have had few breakages and nothing expensive...yet.
Are you thinking of something particular? I think I'd let a mug or glass go but not something like a lamp. One guest put butter on her toast and THEN put it in the toaster...fused the leccy but easily fixed. I hadn't realised not everyone understands the vertical toaster!
I had guests who didn't understand the concept of a 50 year old wood stove. They didn't start the fire in the firecompartment, they started it in the reservoire where You fill in water to head it up. They called me and said the stove would cause „smoke in the room“. I went there and yes, the room was filled with smoke. That was my mistake of course, bc I hadn't provided an owners manual for the stove.
This really is more a discussion about appropriate pricing. I know, as a traveler, that I really hate feeling nickel-and-dimed. $8 for the WiFi. Extra towels? $9.00. Telephone, etc. etc. People, psychologically, know that things aren’t “free,” but when you price well enough to cover what you need, so you’re not tacking on a bunch of natty little charges, you please people more.
So, assume that people are going to break things. Assume that they’re going to stain towels. Go on to sites like Amazon, and Wayfair, and figure out about what your replacement costs for this and that are. There are things that are more likely breakable, too, like lamps. What can you do to pick ones that are the right price, but more defensible? We got rid of a glass bulb lamp in our casita, and put in a lovely painted starfish made from cement. Nothing is going through that one.
We also use white, easy-to-bleach, easy to replace hotel grade towels from Amazon. Wayfair has a commercial side, that, if you apply for it, will show you things that are more hotel-worthy that will reduce damages a bit.
When you have an idea of what your possible “shrinkage” is, over the year, which you can always adjust, take that number, divide it by the number of days a year that you rent, or hope to rent, and that is the additional money that needs to go on to the rates to cover your costs, beyond what you hope to take out in profits, or to pay things like the mortgage.
Also good to have a chat with your accountant. Many of the operational costs of an Airbnb business, including wear and tear, can be deductible business expenses, if you do it in a way that meets the tax code. If it comes back to you, in the form of a tax refund, that, too can make you feel more comfortable.
Honestly, I even think it can be written off as good will. Graciousness improves guest experiences, gets positive feedback, improves your ability to earn better daily rates, and lowers stress levels a bunch. If someone does major damage? Different story.
How much of your day/life needs to be ruined by a stained $10.00 Amazon basics towel?
Yes. Whether you do it for fun, or you do it for profit, it’s still a business. It’s regulated that way. It’s taxed that way, and your guests see it as such. I know a lot of people rent out a spare room, or even a couch, and that’s cool.
If you give someone a private space in your home, though, and we use the baseline experience of people staying in hotels, or whole house VRs, when left to their own devices, stuff is going to get broken, stained, or damaged.
Some people are super conscientious, but others don’t have the same regard for places that they stay at. How tidily people live varies a whole lot. When they’re on the go for business, running late to meetings, etc. they cut a few corners. It’s especially true, though, when they’re on vacation, in a place where they’re out to have a good time. Heavy use of anything that adults use to relax usually puts a bit of good judgement on holiday, too. Kids are tactile. Sometimes they bang on stuff in imaginary journeys.
We allow dogs, and birds. Cats, especially as they generally don’t travel well, can do too much damage. Even a well-behaved dog, with a pretty good owner, can leave a lot more work for us. The bottom of the couch, where they rub, gets stained, and/or full of dog hair. Pillow covers, even on decorative couches, have to be washable. We wash them, and then still have to take a pet-hair grade lint roller to them to get some dog hair out. (Jack Russell terriers are particularly tough.).
Our space rents out about 80% of the year, if we’re not having COVID or a century-old house issue. We’re working on compiling better numbers, but we lose at least a table lamp, a couple of floor mats, and a dozen towels a year. We had some breakage to fans with vintage glass lights under them. Pretty, not very defensible. So we found some stylish ones more in keeping with the room theme that don’t have so many breakables.
We have some little wood carvings from Mexico: Alebrije. They used to get damaged, or taken, all of the time. We put a little “Buy Me” card on the table, explaining them, encouraging guests to take one home. The merch sheet in our guest guide, with the prices does the same thing. We’ve never sold one, but we’ve never had one broken again, either. A more fun way of warning people to be careful with delicate stuff!
When you have little kids, you pad corners, and childproof wall sockets. Vacationers/travelers are not a whole lot different. It’s good to look at what you put into their spaces to make it fun, elegant, whatever, but things that you can replace. If you budget appropriately, both you, and your guests, don’t have to clash, and stress, over things.
STUFF HAPPENS. If you’re a host, your place that you share has to be of a good quality, or people won’t write good reviews, which gets you more guests, and/or come back. Airbnb, like any other stay, is experiential. That includes how you handle normal breakage. You can price it up, and stress less, or go to war with your guests. Which is the better experience?
Yes @Brian1613 , "When you have little kids, you pad corners, and childproof wall sockets. Vacationers/travelers are not a whole lot different." I absolutely look at my Airbnb cottage as a place to be baby-proofed / guest-proofed. My 1940s era cottage is pretty eclectic and therefore most items are easily replaced with a trip to a local thrift store (one of my favorite hobbies) or a stroll through Ebay. No one really cares if the dishes match as long as everything is super clean! This has really let everyone relax a bit--hosts and guests alike. So far everyone has let me know of breakage and some have even gone out and purchased replacement items during their stay, including an electric eye for the stove--okay that one I would have charged for :)... but they beat me to it!
@Laura2592 If we are talking about dishes and cups/glasses, I don't do anything. I work replacing those items into my price. If I can make it 6 months without having to go out and buy another 18 piece wine glass set, I consider that a win. Maybe people will message me to let me know they broke a cup and I always appreciate them giving me a heads up. Those are the guests I like to praise in the review. The others, I just let it go.
Agreed. Guest told us they broke one of our mugs, early in the game. We popped another one into their towel exchange, the next morning. When they left, they put $20 into an envelope for the breakage. That gets them a great review. 😁
@Laura2592 If a guest calls and says "I broke a glass" I thank them for the information and let it go. I had a guest call about a broken lamp; they offered to leave a check for X dollars and I agreed, even when the cost of the lamp was more than they offered. I wrote off the difference. If housekeeping discovers the breakage I will often "let it go" without contacting the guest. I do not recommend charging guests for damages until those damages exceed a certain amount. I have set my damage tolerance level at an amount that is generally equivalent to a nights net profit. You will have to look at your income and expenses to determine what your tolerance level is.
Certain things you build into your "cost of doing business" equation. Cups, glasses, plates, coffee pots, toasters, sheets, towels are all things that easily break, go missing or are damaged beyond further guest use. Everything that is broken, is repaired or that you need to replace to continue renting your accommodation can be written off on the Schedule E or C on US taxes. Just keep really good records. I also buy duplicates or replacements when on sale. That way when 2 plates go missing, a wine glass is broken, or several towels are used to wash the dog or car tires, housekeeping can pull from the stockpile. Realize that items that have lasted for multiple years in your own household may last 10 seconds when used by a renter/guest. It is an amazing facet of this business.
I usually don't charge guests anything when they inform me of damages of things that commonly get broken (e.g., dishware). I do charge guests actual replacement costs for things that they lose or damage when the item was taken off premises. When a guest says nothing, and I discover missing or broken items after checkout, they are charged a "finder's replacement fee". I order the item online, choose next day delivery, and the guest is charged for all shipping costs to St. Lucia, and any customs and duty fees.
We started offering some of the more common breakables, like little figurines, and our saucers/mugs as merchandise/souvenirs, with our VR’s “Epic” brand on them. We put the price of them into the guest book that we ship both as an eBook (PDF) and in the house book.
You don’t have to “brand” something either. Go to an art show, or some local ceramicist, and buy something cool from them that you like, but maybe commission them to make about 2x-3x what you’d need for a few years. Nice way to showcase a local artisan’s work too!
Breakage/shrinkage went down 95%. Dandy when we sell ‘em as souvenirs. When people know that something has a value, in a friendly, nice way, they tend to avoid breaking it.
They also know the price, when it gets broken. We’ve had a guest or two leave us some money, based on the price in the book, without having to hunt them down for it.
For the ones that don’t, merchandise sold has a value. We can, like any other merchant, take a small write off for the loss of the goods sold.
We do it with umbrellas, pens, and other stuff that used to disappear. All stopped. We price buying more customised gear into our rate, too. It’s part of the excellent experience.
One other thing that you can do is run your phone, on video, through the room, before and after each stay, before you clean up. You can always refer to it, with the guest, when you find something more major that’s broken, or “borrowed.”
It’s a positive way to extend the experience, and mutually lower frustration with breakage/shrinkage. 😎
Laura, I have only had one breakage that was not accidental. These things happen, I don't hassle the guest, they feel bad enough anyway and as @Brian1613 said in some instances the guest sends the replacement cost after the stay.
The thing we have to realise as hosts , things will get broken and we need to allow for that in our listing amount. In most instances it is far cheaper to just cover the cost of the damage than hit the guest with a damage claim and get a revenge review.
My policy is, I look after future business, than get my knickers in a knot over past business!