We had to move guests

Level 9
Big Bear Lake, CA

We had to move guests

Hi fellow hosts,

Here’s a situation that I’d love your input on. We have 2 cabins in Big Bear and last Sunday, the water heater went out at one of them—the one where we had a back-to-back, so guests were set to check in. The guests checking OUT notified us that morning that there was no hot water, so we immediately called a plumber. They came out and said they’d have to replace the water heater, but couldn’t do it for several days. 
So, we immediately contacted the guests set to check in at 4PM that day and told them what was going on, apologizing profusely but explaining it was out of our control. We gave them three options: 1. Stay there without hot water (for a discounted rate), 2. Cancel the reservation, or 3. Stay at our other cabin, which fortunately was not booked. (And the rate is lower—it’s a bit smaller, not as close to the Village, and doesn’t have a  pool table. But it is nice, has 105 good reviews, a hot tub like the other one, etc—but in my haste to fix the situation, I didn’t really sell it like this, just said staying there was one of the options.)

Anyway, they chose option number 3 and our cleaners rushed to clean it and guests were still able to check in by 4PM—which they did, right on the dot. 

We checked in with them after they were settled, and apologized again that  they’d had to switch places. They didn’t respond (not that they had to) but we were really hoping they’d offer some encouraging words: say that the place was nice or that they understood, or they were glad we have another place…something. 

The rate was lower, so that was good for them, but we still worried they would be disappointed, so we offered them an additional free night. If they’d said their schedules wouldn’t permit it, we would’ve come up with a different compensation. But they accepted it saying it was kind of us. 
The whole thing was extremely stressful and we felt just terrible that they didn’t get to stay at the place they booked. 
They ended up NOT staying the extra night, leaving in the afternoon of the extra day/night because they said  their daughter got sick. 
My heart sank when I saw that as soon as they could, that day, they left us a review. I am assuming it is a bad review because they never gave us any reassurances that they were satisfied with our solution/with our efforts. I hope I am wrong and that they were okay with things and maybe just busy during their stay or didn’t feel the need to reassure us. But the fact that they left a review immediately after checking out concerns me. I haven’t left them a review yet (as whenever I fear a bad review I wait until the last possible minute to let it be public as I fear it will influence bookings).
Do you think we should’ve offered more/comped more for these guests? And if so, will giving them something now help the situation/possibly get them to change their review? (which they can do up to 14 days or up until we leave a review—but they may not know that) 


Or should we just expect a bad review and respond to it accordingly and hope future bookers understand? 

I think I blew it when I didn’t really sell the  cabin—I didn’t want to come across as trying to sell something, but I worry they were left with the perception that this place is substandard compared to the one they booked. 
Another issue: should I be honest in my review of them and say that it would’ve been nice if they’d had better communication/told us they understood or appreciated the situation? Or am I over-worrying and overthinking this whole thing?  Input?

13 Replies 13
Level 10
Victoria, Australia

David-and-Annie0,talk about catastrophizing . Nothing has happened so dont give yourself a heart attack or hide.Probably a gift of some type to compensate and meeting the guests personally to apologize or picking up the phone would have gone a long way to ameliorate a temporary difficulty. Sweating about it now because someone gave you a review is a serious waste of your time. Write your review and read theirs . You are supposed to be in charge . I am sure if all this wasted energy over 'what if ' indicates the level of energy you put into your listing then it will be fine , but honestly ,put the stress into speaking and communicating with the guest, find out the right way , during the time you are hosting. If I hear one more 'supposed host ' complain about guests they simply have not bothered to communicate with either before arrival ,at arrival ,or during the stay I will scream . Seriously step into the genuine hosting role , be the host , you obviously want to be. what is holding you back ?... H

Level 10
Stockholm County, Sweden

I'm sorry you ended up in this situation - what a nightmare to have something break down on the day of check-in!


Here's my input - trying to see it from the guests' point of view (hope you don't take this the wrong way):


- You were able to offer them somewhere else to stay, great! :-). You also offered them the options to cancel, and to stay without hot water.


- But when you think of it, they really did not have any real options. Going back home was probably not an option, finding somewhere else suitable with just a couple of hours' notice might have been difficult, and staying without hot water unacceptable (or at least very uncomfortable). So there really was only one option; the other cabin. Which I'm sure was great, too. I'm just saying they did not have many options.


- You offered them an extra night for free. Which they declined because it did not work for them, or they did not want to stay another night. Which I think would be the case for 95 % of guests. Either because they might have flights booked, or they need to be back/somewhere else at a certain date. 


- They paid full price (I think?) for the other cabin - lower price than for the one they booked, but lower for a reason (smaller, not as close to the village, no pool table - maybe the pool table was important?). You say "the rate was lower, so that was good for them". But it probably wasn't good for them. If they wanted the lower rate, they would probably have booked the other cabin from the start...


- So basically, they did not get to stay at the cabin they booked, and they received no compensation for this.


- Should they have told you if they were not happy with the offer of an extra night, and asked for another type of compensation? Absolutely. Me, I would have.


- But people are different. Maybe they were not comfortable asking for anything. Or maybe they just preferred to take what was offered, and sulk. And maybe they are now in contact with Airbnb to ask for a partial refund.


- Or maybe, just maybe, they were perfectly happy with the other cabin. And they were just not the very communicative type, or too busy to communicate. (I had a guest like that this weekend.)


It is what it is, they wrote a review, and you have no idea what they wrote, as you don't know if they were happy or not.


Here's what I would do:


- Send them a message, saying you are sorry for the way things turned out, but it was out of your hands...


- ...and you hope they were still able to enjoy their stay, even if it was not in the cabin they booked


- As they were not able to utilize the extra night you offered, you would instead like to offer them a refund for one night


If they accept, and if it is correct that they can change their review until you post yours (?), then try to find a good way of letting them know this option exists, without being too obvious. You want them to feel you are doing this mainly for them, not for the review. 


And if they don't reply, and/or if the review is still bad, then you can at least mention when you comment on their review (which you should), that you offered this compensation.


Good luck!



Level 9
Big Bear Lake, CA

Thank you—I appreciate your input and am inclined to do what you suggest—reach out to them and offer to comp a night. But, what if they take us up on it AND still leave the bad review/don’t change their review…

And it is possible they left a good review to begin with…maybe? But what do you think the chances of that are? The fact that they did it so quickly suggests it’s going to be bad, right? And how could I phrase it, asking them to change their review…? For all they know, they may think we can read their review already (if they don’t know the ins and outs of Airbnb) and may think we’re offering to comp them a night because of the bad review they wrote. 
I don’t know what to do. Wish now that we’d just comped them a night to begin with. 
How can I now possibly mitigate this bad situation? Honestly, I was hoping they just wouldn’t leave a review…but since they did…I’m stuck agonizing here. We work so hard to be good hosts and I hate to get dinged over something we just couldn’t control. 

Level 10
Stockholm County, Sweden

@David-and-Annie0 : Sorry, I missed your reply to my post. How did it go, has their review been posted yet, and did you reach out to them before it was? 

Level 10
Swannanoa, NC

@David-and-Annie0   Unless they were hosting a billiards tournament, EITHER cabin would be marvelous to stay in.  I am glad that you were able to accommodate them, and they should be pleased that you offered a fair exchange...and did not leave them standing around without a place to stay.

Level 9
Big Bear Lake, CA

I really hope they see it that way, but they haven’t given us any indication that they do…

@David-and-Annie0. It is very clear that you are a conscientious host who cares about their guests wellbeing. Unless you were unhappy about the state they left the cabin I'd do a fairly neutrally worded review (but mark down for communication). Then if they say anything negative, you can reply accordingly.


Hosting reminds me of Aesop's tale of The Old Man, The Boy and The Donkey.  😉

Level 9
Big Bear Lake, CA

Haha! Thank you—something to keep in mind: we just can’t please everyone! We do our best, though, and it can be so stressful!

@David-and-Annie0 Just put me in the type A, stressy host category until I learn better 😉

You literally gave them every opportunity to do whatever they wanted. They didn't have to stay. They chose to. You went above and beyond. 

If they leave you a bad review, that is a reflection of them, not you.

I would definitely mention THEIR lack of communication in your review. Don't give their behavior a pass because of a misfortune.

Hopefully they acknowledged your efforts with a good review.

If the review isn't good, I'd respond along the lines of:

"We are sorry things did not work as planned when the hot water heater failed before you arrived. Obviously this was not intentional and beyond our control. We did everything within our power to help you enjoy your vacation including finding a new accommodation for you. It makes us sad that we could not make you happy."


Level 9
Big Bear Lake, CA

Thank you—yes! I feel we did the very best we could and it was so incredibly stressful. Ruined several days for us, and them not communicating any positivity added to our stress. And it made me second guess the way we were handling it. Maybe we should’ve comped them a night? Or their whole stay? Maybe they expected that and that’s why they didn’t offer reassuring words? That seemed like too much, though. I mean, we still have expenses—the heat, utilities, cleaning crew, spa maintenance…but maybe they expected more $ credit thrown to them? Should we have given them a bit more?

Level 10
Placencia, Belize

Yes maybe you are over worrying and overthinking the situation.


First if a water heater goes, it goes and that is out of your control. We all live in a physical world and are dependent on mechanical things and on the people that could fix them. The guest have a home (unless they live in a simple cave) so they know that as well as a host who is not expected to be a fortune teller or magician.


You gave them an alternative, thank God there was an alternative. It should stand on its own merit without apology, the fact it is 'lesser' than the one they booked shouldn't change its stand-alone value, since it is being offer at a lower price.


~IF~ they turn out to be passive aggressive types that want to make a big deal out of the whole affair, then that's life, but because you were so conscientious and fair-minded you do have a great opportunity to come across very well to future potential guests no matter what they write. Just make sure you do write a review so you could response to theirs.


The fact you didn't over sell the cabin has no bearing, and I won't mention their introvert nature since that is a guess, though it added to your anxiety, understandably. 


Good luck. 🙂



Level 9
Big Bear Lake, CA

Thank you for reading my post and for your thoughtful response. Makes sense, and helps calm me down a bit. 

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