Fair Screening Methods that Pay: A Controversial Hot Potato

September 29, 2006

Step up to the Secret Vacation Rental Screening Glass Little People-Move Along Quickly Now!

In my last post, I described what I personally believe is an unfair business practice in the vacation rental industry: guest cherry-picking by a secret screening process used by property owners to selectively & subjectively assess guests & their “worthiness”.

Don’t get me wrong-I think that owners, like all other business people, should, and have the right to qualify their customers.

I just think that the qualifying criteria should be public & transparent to make it fair and friendly for guests.

Otherwise guests feel like, well, little insignificant people who are expendable and just not good enough.

Qualifying, eligibility screening criteria that Owners don’t want to publish are either illegal, prejudicial, or simply based in the Owner’s desire to maximize their profit by choosing the BEST reservation among competing, qualified guests.

In the latter situation, the fairest tactic is first come first serve.

Today’s post will focus on the first step towards better AND more transparent screening as a means to a friendly reservation process & more bookings.

Fair & Consistent Screening Leads to More Bookings

If you have a fair screening process, then you shouldn’t have a problem with accepting instantly confirmed reservations with payment, from qualified guests.

Seamless reservations where people are deemed innocent until proven guilty, means more reservations from qualified guests.


The “secret screening” process is adversarial.

It assumes that everyone is guilty until proven innocent through the magnifying glass.

Who wants to do business with a vendor who is automatically suspicious, thus assuming that all of their prospective customers are guilty homebashers until proven otherwise?

Remember, people like to feel GOOD, not guilty.

When people feel good, their money will follow.

Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is

Before we go on any further with this post, it is probably a good idea to establish some street cred on this issue:

Am I just one of those pontificating arm chair hand wavers who like to tell other people what to do with nothing personally to lose?


My position and passion about this issue and how I think it is impeding direct rental opportunities cost our company tens of thousands of dollars….in the short term.

I so believe in the concept of a fair & transparent online business environnment for guests & Owners engaged in direct rentals that in Dec 2003, we stopped accepting new accounts that refused to accept live, instantly confirmed reservations.

In doing so, I sent hundreds of listings to my competitors with my best wishes.

Since then, reservations have grown exponentially. Word of mouth referrals have exploded.

At the same time, customer complaints have dropped, fraud has been eliminated and guests & owners are having a lot more fun than they used to.

Policies that Qualify & Pay: The First Step to Better, Fairer & More Consistent Screening

Policies are the first step to establishing fair and transparent screening.

Publish ALL of your screening policies.

To get you started, or even thinking about this issue, I have included a set of timeless, tried and proven successful policies that are currently in action on our personal property site, as well as being extensively used by nearly 700 owners who are currently doing live, instantly confirmed reservations.

I call them policies that pay, because many of our clients have the highest revenue grossing properties in their destinations.

These policies inspire confidence and allow guests to self-qualify themselves prior to booking.

They also empower the owner with the right to cancel a guest subsequent to booking, if upon calling the guest, they find that the guest does not meet a published eligibility criteria.

Everyone wins.

Instead of blocking ALL business, only the less than 1% of non-qualified booked guests are blocked.

Some of these policies are only relevant to ski resorts, however, if you think laterally, perhaps you could come up with your own weather guarantee! A future post will focus on the issue of weather guarantees.

Enjoy the policies-they are rock solid.

In my next post, I will review the other important & transparent screening methods you can use to qualify your guests.

Thanks for reading & have a great weekend!


Recommended Policies

Property Policy



Minimum Stay

See Rates table

Delivery of Instructions and Access Information

Will be sent after balance of payment is received

Door code will be emailed to you in your check-in package when you make your final payment.

Check-In Time

4 pm

Can arrange for early storage of luggage

Check-Out Time

10 am

Can arrange for storage of luggage after checkout


All payments are non-refundable unless your reservation can be replaced

Refunds for re-booked dates will be issued based on the rate at which the property was rebooked. All refunds will be subject to a 4% cancellation and refund fee to cover credit card expenses.


Absolutely NO Smoking


No Pets Allowed


Housekeeping is complimentary. The home will be cleaned every 6 days of your stay

Additional housekeeping is available at your expense. Please ask if you would like more information on this service

Maintenance Emergencies

A cell phone number will be provided in the unit. We have assistance 24/7.

Terms of Eviction

Any complaints will result in eviction by security service.

The chalet is is a designated quiet area, noise complaints will result in your immediate eviction

Courtesy Hold Reservations

Reservations are not held without payment. Please confirm your reservation by clicking Reserve Now

Our site takes live reservations 24hrs/day/7 days/week, therefore, we operate on a first come/first serve basis.

Resort Information

Useful summary & resources are automatically provided electronically at the time of booking!

Guest Stay Contract

when you book online, you are agreeing to our terms and conditions

Delayed Arrivals

We are not responsible for late arrivals.

No refunds will be issued.

Maximum Sleeping Capacity

14 people

Long Term Stays

contact owner for details

Minimum Age Requirement

There must be minimum 2 adults of at least 25 years of age or older to take responsibility for the group.

Late Reservation Payments

Late payments will result in automatic cancellations.

You can rebook if your dates are still available. Refunds will be issued in concordance of my cancellation policy.

Property Damage

Guest agrees to authorize damage charges up to $500 upon departure in the event of property damage

The damage deposit will be taken from your credit card after your holiday and an invoice will be provided


We are not responsible for any injuries to tennants while they are on my property or anywhere else in Big White.

Reservation Changes

Reservations may be changed in compliance with our cancellation policy.

You may lengthen your reservation if availability permits. If you would like to shorten your reservation, please note that your deposit calculated on the orignial amount is non-refundable; if you have already paid the balance, then your balance is similarly non-refundable. If you have not paid the balance,then it will be re-adjusted to reflect your shortened reservation.

Reservation Guarantee

Property Sale/Damage-We relocate you to a comparable property. If there are any rate increases associated with the move, we will contribute up to $100 CAD per night towards rate equalization.

If we fail to successfully relocate you, you will receive a full refund. Travel insurance is recommended to protect yourself against any unexpected events involving your lodging, flights or vacation-related products

Excessive Noise

This is a Quiet area. There is zero tolerance for any excessive noise. Any complaints will result in eviction.

My Web Site Guarantee

I guarantee that I will honour all rates posted on my web site at the time that your reservation request is submitted.

If any amenity changes after you have confirmed your booking with payment, I will notify you in advance and give you an opportunity to cancel with a full refund.

Refusal of Business

We have the right to cancel your reservation if you have violated any of eligibility criteria or policies now, or in the past

We have the right to refuse your businsess based on non-compliance with these policies.

Missing Items

Guests authorize a credit card charge for missing items as per my stated damage deposit policies.

Policy Last Updated

June 6th 2006

Arrival Days

Bookings less than 8 nights must arrive on Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays. Bookings greater than 8 nights-arrive any day you want!

Bookings less than 8 nights will be cancelled if they do not meet with arrival day requirements

Noise Restrictions

Excessive noise from the hot tub area is not permitted after 11 pm. Occupants may be evicted subsequent to noise complaints and will be charged for damages resulting from the noise complaints.

The outdoor hot tub area can be used after 11 pm, but please engage only in quiet conversation after 11 pm out of respect for our neighboring families.

Snow Guarantee

We will refund 50% of your nightly rate for every day that greater than 65% of the lifts are closed .

Valid Jan 1-April 1 only. Guests must notify us the day the lifts are closed so that we can confirm it independently. If we cannot confirm lift closure, you will not receive a refund.

Rental Accommodation Zoning

My property is legally zoned for either short term or long term rental accommodation use

Are You Good Enough to Rent My Home ?

September 12, 2006

Hmm…Which Juicy Cherry Should I Pick?

Have you ever submitted an application to become a business’s paying customer, even though the market is flooded with similar products where no application is necessary?

Have you ever spent 2-5 painstaking days as a “potential customer candidate”, waiting in hope that your application is approved and you are deemed worthy of giving the business thousands of dollars?

In an industry flooded with choice and brimming with companies willing to spend millions of dollars just to get your valued attention, most lodging businesses would be flattered by your glance and would bend over backwards to make a sale as easy & enjoyable for you as possible.

Paradoxically, a large amount of owners doing direct vacation rentals get away with what I think is one of the most caustic and insulting business practices on the Internet within the vacation rental industry:

Customer Cherry-Picking

What is Customer Cherry-Picking in the Vacation Rental Industry?

It is when you clearly meet the owner’s published customer eligibility criteria, you are willing to agree to published terms and conditions as a condition of your booking, the dates you want are advertised as available and you have the money to pay. As a final hurdle, you must also go through a secret screening process known only to the owner, before you are allowed to book their home.

The secret screening process involves unpublished and subjective guest and reservation profiling practices intended to maximize the owner’s outcome, but that the owner is unwilling to publish in their ads or on their web site.

Sometimes you have to wait 2-5 days to know whether or not you are good enough to be a customer with a confirmed reservation.

Guests hate it because cherry-picking adds insult to injury in a world flooded with advertising focused on magnifying their supposed inadequacies.

It is another hurdle to overcome in proving their worth in the world.
It also wastes their time and just seems intuitively unfair to not know the rules of the game upfront.

How do we know?

Numbers don’t lie:

Our own vacation rental business numbers suggest that given the choice between being screened through a secret process, versus being cherished and welcomed through a transparent and instant booking process, that guests choose being cherished by a factor of 10.

Are you suprised that people prefer to feel wanted & welcomed?

Cherry Picking is One of the Owner Direct Vacation Rental Industry’s Biggest Business Barriers

Instantly confirmed reservations are now the travel industry standard.

Owners doing owner direct rentals would enjoy better results if they stomped out insidious and insulting cherry picking practices that limit their market of prospective guests.

As our prospective guests’ available time and tolerance for wasting time shrinks while their vacation rental choices increase, less and less of them will be willing to subject themselves to the time-sucking secret cherry picking process.

The number of owner direct rental supply is growing, but not in proportion to the number of guests interested in grinding through the cherry-picking and convoluted reservation process.

I predict a looming crisis in the owner direct vacation rental industry within the next 5 years.

High quality lodging supply is surging, nightly rates are dropping & are becoming more competitive with owner-direct rentals, and the travel industry is quickly merging with the the entertainment, sport & health business categories.

How can independent owners keep up and remain competitive when their own niche supply is growing faster than demand?

Start by Stomping out Cherry Picking!

Making it easier to book owner direct rentals by allowing instantly confirmed reservations within the scope of each owner’s business rules is an important solution that would help owners keep up with the mainstream travel industry.

Unfortunately, very few owners will embrace this idea, and instead choose to live in the shadow of their unfounded fears about instantly confirmed bookings.

We know that the alternative is to bask in the joy and money spewing from cherished guests who feel like their business is truly welcome and wanted, and all screening processes are published.


We operate the only live booking owner direct vacation rental search engines in the world.

How Can You Lessen the Insult of Cherry Picking to Guests if You Can’t Stomach Live Bookings?

If you can’t accept the idea of not screening your guests, then at least make your cherry-picking process fair and public by publishing it on your site.

Remember-if you are screening guests by practices and rules that you are uncomfortable publishing on your web site, then those rules are cryptic and likely unfair.

Your guests know it, and deep down, so do you.

In my next post, I will share with you some great policies that we have developed, tweeked and tested over the last 14 years that have alleviated the taste of sour cherries for guests, increased reservations and that have ultimately given nearly 700 owners the confidence to try live and instantly confirmed reservations.

Until next time!


How to Get Noticed when You Can’t Outscream Everyone Else…

September 7, 2006

easy button

Have you ever had a day when:

  • You go to the can, and there is no toilet paper.
  • You try to wash your hands and there is no soap left.
  • You dry your hands and your towel rail is loose, reminding you of a job on your long list of house jobs.
  • On the way out the door, you notice the finger prints on the walls that you still have not managed to clean up
  • You get stuck in traffic on the way to the bank & as you saunter up to the machine, 20 other people dash in line ahead of you.
  • You finally arrive to the office, but your internet connection is down, and once it is back up again, your print job jams.

Have you ever uttered this silent prayer: “Please God, let just one thing be easy for me today.”

It is precisely on days like this when your vacation rental customers crave a vacation.


Because they crave “EASY” & want to escape stuff that gets in their way or that reminds them of their shortcomings.

This basic human need is so powerful that Staples has turned it into a brilliant marketing campaign.

Get Noticed Above the Vacation Rental Business Blathering

Diffuse the barriers between you and prospective guests.

In taking a vacation, Guests are trying to escape everything that is “hard” in their lives.

Paradoxically, finding and booking a vacation rental is usually just another necessary aggranoying hardship that they must endure to escape to Easy Street, where they can forget about their problems and nothing is difficult.

Make it so easy to do business with you that you are a refreshing and suprising relief in their difficult world.

Not only will you get the booking, but you will eventually become an interesting vacation-related story.

They call it chit chat. You call it free marketing.

5 Ways to Plant an Easy Button on your Vacation Rental Business at the Prospect Stage

1-Never make a prospect call you for more details, especially about prices. It’s just too hard.

Answer all of the questions in your ads or on your personal web site (more about that in upcoming posts) People use the internet to save time and to do independent research, without a pesky salesperson. If consumers really wanted to talk to a sales person, they would be using a travel agent.

2-Publish complete policies that are fair.

Worrying about what the terms & conditions “might be” is just too hard & stressful.

Transparently lay out all of the terms & eligibility criteria on your web site.

The best policies should evaporate all of their fears and instill confidence. (more about policies and guarantees coming soon!)

3-Get professional photos & publish them.

Reading descriptive content and trying to imagine what your place looks like is just too hard.

Booking a gorgeous looking property is an easy no brainer.

4-Autorespond to inquiries….

…….because waiting around for a response from you, or wondering if you received their inquiry is just too hard.

Your autoresponse should set an expectation of when they will hear back from you and confirm that you received their inquiry.

5-Accept payment by credit cards….

…because wondering if the property really exists, or going to the bank for a bank draft that they have to mail to you, or trying to figure out how to free up thousands of dollars of cash, is too hard.

If you are not accepting credit card payments, then you should be offering a discount for cheque or bank draft payments to compensate for a customer’s time and anxiety.

Wrap Up

Remember- you are in the business of helping people escape from the exhausting annoyances of their everyday lives. They want to get to a place where they can rest, renew and rejoice with loved ones.

Stop being just another thing that drips on their forehead and be the one that helps remove the barriers standing between them and their goal.
That in itself is so extraordinary these days that you will start some great, free, buzzilicious marketing.

Staples is doing it-so can you!

Thanks for trading your time to read this blog-

Until soon!

What Kind of Chatter Do People Hear?

September 1, 2006


Our world bloats with information and bulges with fast ways to get it.

Is it making our lives easier, or are we just working harder than we used to better authenticate advertiser claims BEFORE we buy something?

I think consumers are deafened by advertising and drowning in information.

The quick new research & product verification shortcut is word of mouth.

A True Story in a Suprising Place

The other day I went into Future Shop to buy an iPod.

The 20-something intelligent-looking guy next to me was also studying  mp3 players. The sales manager sauntered up him but was promptly bounced off to another customer.

Then then my fellow shopper did an extraordinary thing.

He whipped out his cell phone & called his friend for an mp3 player recommendation.

Within minutes, he plucked the most expensive option from the shelf & marched right to the cash register without looking back. 

He neither questioned his friend’s opinion nor read the box he picked up, even though it was the most expensive one.

What does this Mean for your Vacation Rental Business?

Word of mouth will blossom or wilt your vacation rental business within 12 months.

Cell phones, emails, forums & chat groups are guns that can kill your business.

This customer filtered out all advertising, the unlimited number online stores & the bounty of Internet research resources in his buying decision. He took a shrewd shortcut down the path of least resistance and got a recommendation for an unbiased person he trusted. 

As the weight of information overload grinds us into the ground and advertisers dull our senses with persistent background noises, we humans are crafting new filtering mechanisms.

Word of mouth from a trusted source is the easiest way to turn off all the other marketing & information noise in our life

What are you doing to make your vacation rental ads shine & word of mouth your biggest advertising investment?

Don’t underestimate the power of chatterboxes-their news sprays fast, far & wide.

Chatterbox tips are coming soon!

The Tale of the $1800 per Night August Ski Vacation & the Kind of Customer you Should Avoid….

August 29, 2006

Would you pay $1800 per night for a 2 bedroom condo for a ski vacation in August?

One of my clients actually tried to make it look like he did by editting legitimate ski vacation dates down to a single night in August.

Why would he do something like that?

To keep his calendar clear for lucrative ski week dates so that he could re-sell bookings gained from our site, to other companies and individuals not listed on our accommodation directory.

He was cheating every paying owner and supplier on our web site and falsely advertising dates for rent that were not really for rent by him, just other people to whom he was referring business.

The guests were not harmed-since they were being legitimately booked into similar properties.

The victims were our other paying owner-clients, and of course, the company.
If you are wondering if he has a toothy grin and big shiny reflective sunglasses to hide his shifty eyes, you are right.

I am not very proud about having such a client, so we parted ways on Friday after learning all that we needed to know to quickly & automatically detect his brand of fraud on our site.

We gave him a full refund and politely referred him to our competitors, who do not care about things like false advertising or the baiting and switching of innocent customers. We assured him that he would be much happier.

We think that our own customers will be happier as well.

Moral of the Story:

When a customer robs you and your other paying patrons blind and laughs in the general direction of your signed agreement, it is time to slice them off. In fact, every day that you don’t, just causes them to laugh at you even harder. You & your stupidity become the crown jewel in their cocktail party bragging crown.

If they whine about how they are being unfairly treated and complain bitterly about who crappy you are, don’t burn too much time lamenting the decay of human integrity and your business, especially when they are rolling in thousands of dollars per month generated by your service.

Just get rid of them.

If you don’t have the guts to do it, you may not have enough respect for your other customers to have a business in the first place.

Focus instead on your current amazing customers, who will thank you for having and living up to fair and transparent standards that protect innocent people.

Its so rare these days, that maybe your business will start standing out in the crowd.

Business success comes with hard lessons.

The ones I find the toughest to swallow are how little value people place on their own souls.

How to Identify Customers Like this One

I have had other cheating customers like this.

They all have a few things in common:

  • They complain regularly every time to you implement something to automatically detect fraud. For example, this guy was really upset when we made it more difficult for owners to apply hidden fees to their rates.
  • They complain bitterly about your service and company, even though they are raking in gobs of cash. Actually, this is how we discovered him-we were trying to figure out how we could make him happy, when we noticed these unusual patterns on his account.
  • Every time they contact you, they are abusive and caustic.
  • Despite their unhappiness, they keep renewing their service with you year after year.
  • Every time you offer them a full refund so that they can try someone else’s “better” service, they refuse your generous offer.

Please do me a favour and learn a valuable lesson from this post: you can’t make some customers happy, irrespective of what you do. In fact, if you try too hard to do it, you could be really hurting the majority of your other amazing clients who really value your service.

Take care and see you on the entrepreurial sine wave!

What can Starbucks Teach Us about Vacation Rentals & Small Business?

August 23, 2006

Starbuck’s doesn’t have the best coffee in the world anymore-especially after they changed their machines to be more automated-and likely more profitable!

I am lucky. I live within walking distance to 5 excellent brewhouses.

So why do I keep walking to Starbucks and standing in line, when I don’t have to?

I never gave it much thought until I went into Starbucks the other day and ordered my usual Grande Soy Latte.

I casually commented to the barrista that the soy latte I had a few days earlier tasted like water.

To my shock, I instantly had a no-questions asked, and no-hassles required, free drink coupon in my hand, as well as a big apology for the different soy milk they tried using.

I wasn’t expecting anything, and they exceeded my expectations.

Now I am telling all of my friends and family about this suprising gesture from a company who didn’t have to do anything to keep my business.

So, was it a wise business move or a brilliant marketing coup for Starbucks?

Was my free drink the cost of keep my business or generating new business through work of mouth?

Has anyone ever noticed that Starbucks never needs to advertise?

My cup of coffee to make a bad situation right was the cheapest advertising you could buy.

What is the Vacation Rental Business Lesson?

You can leverage the Starbucks loyalty and word-of-mouth effect in your own business by:

1-Having policies that inspire confidence and trust in your prospective customers. When they trust you and know what to expect, they will buy from you.

2-Owning a problem and pro-actively making things right with a no questions asked or hassles-required process, as soon as you know that something has gone wrong. You can turn a bad situation into a marketing coup with relatively little effort. Most guests just want an awknowledgement and a token of your regret. Don’t dither over a few bucks, when a future referal or repeat rental is at stake. It doesn’t take much to make a customer happy and to get them talking to their friends and family about how great you are. Turn your business slip into a happy customer and lots of free advertising.

3-Be consistent in your business process and property operations so that your guests aways know what to expect from you and your property. That makes it harder for them to go elsewhere, they don’t know what to expect. Make it impossible for them to make a switch by being excellent in every respect.

Your business will thrive.

Stay tuned for another amazing story about word of mouth marketing tomorrow!

Learning Something from a Plaid Company

August 22, 2006

One of the worst online shopping experiences I have ever had was on PBS.org.

I persevered through a gruesome process, multiple annoying pop-ups and a massive Verified by VISA hassle, it because I really wanted the DVD (BBC’s production of Bleak House). I also really believe in PBS’s concept.

To make matters worse, it took 48 hours to get a confirmation that the order went through. The status of my order was not confirmed in my account info for 2 days. I had to call them, just to make sure everything was ok.

Surprisingly, the product arrived in time.

Today I received a surprising note from PBS thanking me for my order last month.. and..gasp!..offering me a 15% discount on my next purchase as token of their thanks!

What did I do?

Read the rest of this entry »


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