In The Trenches

What’s the problem?

Published on August 23, 2023 Back to blog

For the last 15 years or so, we’ve been renting our cabin in Maine via AirBnB. While we’ve had some minor issues, we find that AirBnB renters are generally very kind and respectful (one of the benefits of a 2-way rating system). If anything, it’s silly things that happen – like the time we got a call that the electrical box was buzzing, only for the electrician to discover that the game “Operation” fell off a shelf and the buzzer was going off. 🙂

With each guest, we reach out when they check in to make sure the house is in order, and let them know to reach out to us if they need anything or have questions. And, generally they do. (The most common question is “how do I use the TV remote?”). So, last week, when I saw a call come from a guest whose stay had ended two days earlier, I assumed they must have just left something at the house. Instead, to my surprise, they called to complain about a bunch of issues they had while they were there. Of course, I felt terrible that they experienced any issues as we want all of our guests to be happy. And, we very much appreciate knowing about the issues so we can resolve them. However, many of the things they noted could have been resolved when they there if they just told me about them. Which leaves me to the key lessons of this post: 

  1. We can’t fix what we don’t know about. I often share these words of wisdom with employees, but perhaps I need to be more clear about it with renters. If you don’t tell the person who has the ability to fix the problem about the problem, it is not very likely that it will get fixed.
  2. Complaining to one another only makes things worse.  When something isn’t right, our instinct is often to complain to other people – who then validate your frustration and cause it to become even worse. That’s a dangerous cycle.
  3. Don’t let the bad over-shadow the good.  When you get upset about something, it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. While many of the issues the renter noted were legitimate, they certainly did not outweigh all the positives aspects of the experience. As difficult as it may be, try to take a broader view of the situation (i.e., with work, relationships, clients, etc.).
  4. Some things are out of human control. There are bugs outside in Maine, especially in the backwoods after torrential downpours. I can appreciate how annoying they can be, but they are out of our control. It is not a valid reason for a refund.
  5. Know what to expect. Our AirBnB listing clearly states that we are on a part of a lake that gets weedy in mid-late Summer. On the positive side, it is great for fishing, provides amazing serenity (no loud boaters come by) and has access to a river where no one else ever goes (best ever kayaking!). But, you shouldn’t be surprised when your kids are not able to swim off the dock in August. The same idea goes with understanding expectations with work/office rules, client expectations, timelines, processes, etc.

Ultimately, candid feedback is always appreciated. And, because of that, we gave the renter a substantial refund on their stay and are addressing the issues so that future renters don’t experience the same things (aside from the Maine bugs and lake weeds). However, I hope that they (and everyone reading this post) will take these lessons to heart. When things are not going as planned/hoped, they can quickly become major frustrations. If/when that does happen, take a deep breath, review the points above and enjoy what you can. We only live once.

As always, I hope you enjoyed this post. Please feel free to share with others who you believe may find it of interest. And, I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments here.

Jeff Freedman
CEO/Managing Partner
Small Army | Finn Partners