Guests Blacklist? Good in Theory But Difficult in Practice

Given the serious problems that can be caused to hosts’ property and their businesses by bad guests, and the fact that many hosts feel they dont’ get enough information about guests on Airbnb or other platforms in order to properly screen guests, some hosts have attempted to work together to form a “guests’ blacklist” which would identify bad guests, who’ve caused serious problems, and help protect hosts from them.

What is a “bad guest”, some will wonder, and is a blacklist even legal?

Many may not realize it, but hotels already maintain blacklists for bad guests.  See here for a description of that:

http://www.nbcnews.com/id/25243594/ns/travel-travel_tips/t/hotels-upgrade-their-no-stay-lists/#.XUYixogvzIU

In the eyes of the hotel, a “bad guest” is not just one who trashes the room or causes damage to the property.  It could also be the “chronic complainer”, which many Airbnb hosts themselves have met:

the chronic complainers often get banned permanently. These are the freebie-lovers who, on every visit, have some sort of problem for which they demand comps. After a while, this type of guest begins to cost a hotel more money than they bring in. The hotel staff must either refuse to give them any more comps, or must refuse to provide them any more service. Often, the latter is easier.

And now, blacklisted guests have even more to worry about, as hotels are beginning to share their blacklists.

Get in trouble at a Hilton in Miami, for example, and you may find it hard to get a reservation at a Holiday Inn in Seattle. That’s because extensive databases of individual hotels’ blacklists are being systematically centralized.

There is nothing illegal about creating such a list of bad guests.
So, it would seem logical that short term rental hosts could band together like hotels and create a blacklist, too.

But let’s look more closely at this and we can start to see some of the problems involved.

First, hotels are relatively standardized from one to another, and they are run by experienced management.  It is easy to imagine that what one hotel would consider bad guest behavior, would be a view shared by most hotels.  The hotelier does not live in the hotel, or have his personal comic book collection there, or his child in the room next to the guest.  So there is a bit more objectivity with regard to a bad guest, as the boundaries are different.  hilton

Also, I’d imagine that any guest blacklist a group of hotels creates, is a professional document with entries in alphabetical order, which provides sufficient info to uniquely identify a guest who may have the same name as many others in the nation.  One article on this matter indicates that the method of identifying the guest is one that uses their address and phone number.

This article gives examples of what hotels may agree constitutes a bad guest worthy of blacklisting:

https://www.welcomeanywhere.com/deal-blacklisted-hotel-guests/

Basically these things
(1) Guest did major damage to the property
(2) Guest assaulted someone on the property
(3) Guest verbally abused or threatened staff
(4) Guest had continual complaints and/or wanted “comps” or free services/add-ons.
Sometimes this one too:
(5) Guest caused problems while intoxicated or drunk, and/or engaged in illegal behavior or violated important hotel rules.

Some hotel blacklists include http://guestscan.co.uk/ and a couple others were mentioned here but I didn’t find them: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/travel/are-you-on-the-bad-guest-list/article1241039/

So, as to the first issue, of standardization: this is something hotels have, but it’s less common among short term rental hosts.  Hosts have very different types of listings — from large luxury homes, to small cottages, to a room in their house or a camper in their driveway.  Because of the standardization of hotels, hotel guests tend to have more reasonable expectations about what they will find when booking a stay.  In fact, if you visit the host community groups often, you’ll know that one of the most common complaints hosts have about guests, is that the guest did not have appropriate expectations.  They thought they were booking a hotel stay, when in fact they were booking a stay in a private home.  Airbnb treehouse with lights cr

Sometimes the star ratings that Airbnb guests give, are based wholly on their own failure to understand what they were booking, so that in essence they are punishing the host for their failure to read or take in the info the host has provided.  But hosts are actually more vulnerable to bad ratings than hotels are, since as we all know, many 1, 2 and 3 star hotels exist and do a fine business, because there’s no giant corporate overseer sending them emails and threatening them if they don’t get higher ratings, as occurs with some short term rental hosts.

Thus we begin to see how short term rental hosts may have different issues than hotels have, and thus some different rationale for blacklisting a guest.

There is also much more room for rule violation and causing offense to a host, as well as ambiguity and potential for mistakes and confusion, when the guest is staying in the host’s private home, particularly in the hosts’ primary residence, alongside their family, where the host lives their life and has their belongings.  As in the story I told about the Airbnb host whose guest told Airbnb she had an unsecured pistol on the premises, which turned out to be a rubber toy, there can be potentially serious problems created if either guest or host make a mistake about a complaint which leads to serious consequences.  The host in that story ended up terminated by Airbnb, who seemed unwilling to believe her side of the story.  However, a similar situation could have hypothetically occurred with an Airbnb guest…imagine a host thought he saw a gun in the guests’ room and it turned out to be a rubber toy or halloween prop, or gift chocolate in the shape of a pistol.  What if that host erroneously blacklisted the guest over the gun shaped chocolate?

Apart from the fact that guests in private homes results in more complicated situations, hosts lack the standardization found in hoteliers, about what upsets them.  What some hosts find blacklist-worthy, other hosts would find petty and trite and would be upset about a host who wanted to blacklist over such issues.  Again I think these differences can be somewhat owing to the fact that since the guest is in the hosts’ private property, not at a hotel,  there is much more potential in the host to take things overly personally, to be overly reactive to some situations, to misunderstand something they see, to be hasty in their judgments.  They have more invested than the hotelier, after all.  They are more vulnerable than the hotelier in many ways.

Another area where hosts lack the standardization found in hotels, is probably the area of most concern: it’s all too easy to become a short term rental host these days, and that means some people do it by just clicking a few buttons of their computer, without knowing what the heck they are doing.  Imagine a host who knows virtually nothing about the business he or she is in, deciding to blacklist someone based on an issue that may have turned out to be a misunderstanding on the guest’s part.  Various nincompoopery could arise with hosts with little or no experience.

Finally, I feel like I’m saying this for the umpteenth time, but please, hosts, stop trying to do everything on Facebook!!  When the original Airbnb host community groups were phased out, most all hosts who went offsite, went to Facebook, to set up a variety of host community groups, including a group for hosts interested in creating a guest blacklist.  This in my opinion is definitely an enterprise that doesn’t belong on Facebook.  A blacklist does not belong on Social Media…it should be, in my opinion, a standalone website, not something on gabby social media.  I dont’ think you can successfully mix chat and socializing, with running a blacklist function…even barring all the other hurdles and obstacles and difficulties getting in the way.

A group that tries to mix social chat and posts with general hosting questions, as well as “venting” posts about bad guests, alongside “real” blacklist posts, is going to run into a lot of confusion.  To begin with, the setup of Facebook is entirely wrong for any kind of organized list function.  You can’t just post things on the discussion timeline and expect that to be any real contribution to the host community in terms of searchable and findable material.  For a real blacklist, a form of organization is needed…something curated, and organized alphabetically or by some other means so that people can actually find what they are looking for rather than having to comb through pages of material.  This should be something more professional than a document attached to a Facebook group, and more curated.  The problem with documents attached to Facebook groups, is that even as you allow members to add content to those, members could also potentially delete content, and remove other’s entries.  A blacklist which is accessible to thousands of members to edit, is a horrible mess waiting to happen. Mess

To be done right, this would need to be done by a small crew, who would process submissions that they received from the host community, and vet each submission to ensure that it was “blacklist worthy” and reflected a host who experienced a sufficiently serious problem with a guest.

Finally, again to distinguish the context in which hosts are situated, compared to hotels, it’s not at all clear that it’s even permissible for hosts to post either publicly, or semi-publicly, in closed groups, and mention identifying details (eg full name, profile #, address, phone number) of any “bad guest.”  Airbnb in its TOS states that users may not post reviews of users (guests or hosts) on other websites, and in fact at least one guest apparently had his Airbnb account terminated because he posted a review of his host on Google.  Hoteliers are under no such obligation of course when taking direct bookings.  But when taking bookings from Airbnb we have to follow their rules and reading those conservatively, I think it is risky to make a post that could be interpreted as a “review”, anywhere online in which you state identifying details about an Airbnb guest (full name, profile # etc).

The point has been often made, and made well, that hosts do not feel adequately protected by Airbnb, either in terms of being given enough information to screen their guests, or in terms of getting help if they have a bad guest situation arise, or afterward, in terms of getting reimbursed for damages if they have a guest causing much damage to their property.   So it’s understandable that hosts might think that having access to a blacklist would protect them better.   There might be some protection found there, but I am inclined to think that at least on Airbnb, honest reviews are a better protection.  After all, if a guest was problematic for a previous host, wouldn’t there be a review by that host which is available to read and obtain that information?

All in all, I think the idea of a short term rental guest blacklist is an idea worth considering for any value it might have, but I also think it’s a more complicated idea than most hosts may realize.

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