How I Ended Requests for Very Early Check-In

It used to be that the #1 most common question I got was along the lines of

My flight arrives at 5am. I know I’m going to be very tired and will want to sleep. Can I check in early?

Basically they are asking for a free night. And of course this often comes with a request for very late check-out. And of course it’s often a single-night booking that is also discounted because it’s a single-night gap on my calendar. So they want three nights for the price of one very discounted night.

Total waste of time. And then I added this to my automatic response to inquiries, and … poof! … these idiotic, time-wasting, never-going-to-book requests disappeared.

BAG STORAGE: if you need to store your bags before or after arrival, there is a retiree nearby who provides this service. He charges $20 (cash only) and will store a reasonable number of bags for an early arrival or late departure. Call Jesse at (561) 584-3558. He doesn’t email or text. Voice phone calls only.

Gas Cut Off!

There’s never a dull moment …

I got an email message from my property manager saying that the gas was cut off at four units. The gas company had found a leak. This was around 5pm. The soonest it would be back on would be the next day, in the afternoon. So about 24 hours.

I quickly sized up the calendar: who are the guests, how long are they staying, and how much of a relationship have I built up with them? As it turned out, there were

  • Dimitrii, from Russia, almost at the end of his 40-matthew stay
  • Randolph, almost at the end of a 10-day stay
  • Isabelle, just arrived for a 3-day stay

I swung into action trying to mitigate the situation. The gas got turned on yesterday afternoon, and Dimitrii and Matthew check out in a few hours. I guess I’ll find out in a few days if it worked. Here’s what I did:

Step 1: contact them immediately, tell them simply and directly what happened. A minimum of blah, blah, blah, just get straight to the point:


there has been a major emergency. There was a gas leak somewhere, and the gas company has notified us that they cut the gas. They said they should be able to get it back on tomorrow.

I understand that this is a serious inconvenience. Please let me know how you want to handle it. I see two possibilities: you can check out today, and I will give you a full refund for the remainder of your stay, or you can remain, and in this case I will give you a full refund for today and tomorrow.

I know this isn’t what you wanted to happen on your vacation, and I apologize for the situation.

I stated the problem, offered some options, and let them decide.

Step 2: And then I thought to myself, “I’m going to refund today and tomorrow anyways, so maybe I should just go ahead and do it now. If they decide to check out today, then I can refund the rest in a second transaction.

So I did it. Click, click, click, and two days refunded to all three guests.

Step 3: Sit tight, wait, hope the guests don’t freak out, and hope the gas company gets the gas back online tomorrow afternoon as promised.

A couple of hours later I got this response:

Thank you for the prompt notice and for handling it so professionally. I was in business meetings until late this afternoon and did not receive the message until this evening. So long as the house is safe (the gas is off) I’ll stay this evening and check out in the morning.

I am in town monthly and will absolutely book with you again if the unit is available! It has been a pleasant stay.

Thank you.


Meanwhile, Isabelle, who had just checked in, was less happy. She said she wanted to check out and get a full refund. Fine, I told her to cancel, and I would give her the refund. Ten minutes later, that was resolved. Fortunately, it seems that if a guest cancels, they can’t write a review.

Dimitrii wrote back to say that he was satisified with the refund. So now I’m just waiting to see what kind of reviews I get …

The Reviews

And here’s an update. Reviews from Randolph and Dmitrii …

This was a wonderful stay. The office desk and neighborhood close to downtown were just what I needed for my business trip and the amenities are great. Matthew was professional and responsive. I recommend this Airbnb and will be sure to book again.

Great calm place. Very close to I-95 and it gives great mobility – you can access to far point of Miami Beach for 30 min and any destination in Fort Lauderdale within 15 min. Although apartment has a lot of space. And you can be sure that if you will need anything – you will get immediate reaction. I never got it so fast before. So Matthew wish you to have guest 30 days/month )


I have a rule that I respond to every guest and explicitly recognize feedback (whether explicit or implicit), but I’m at a loss to respond to this:

Thanks for the experience
I will note rate low at all. But just needed to kno if there is a ghost in the house?

My friends n i we’re experiencing the same feeling a child ghost lives there possibly??

Doors would close, things fall…we all saw orbs

Suggestions on how to reply are welcome, because I’m at a loss.

This just in: a former tenant saw this post and wrote me these suggestions:

There were ghosts at the place where I stayed for 5 Years. It’s best to just talk to them and level with them and tell them to leave you alone. The mutual respect thing goes far, and the “live and let live” compromise is super easy after having the talk.

Get 5 Stars When Nothing Goes Right

Sometimes things just don’t go right. But often you can still have a happy guest and get a 5-star review. I have to admit, there has been more than one occasion when everything just went wrong. Here is a recent example:

A guest from Germany makes a booking in August for four nights in December in my apartment in Fort Lauderdale. He tells me that he will have his 22-month baby with him. That’s okay, because I have a crib in every unit, and this unit has a high chair.

The evening of his arrival I get this message:

Hallo Matthew we successfully checked in but there was no 2nd key on the kitchen table so we only have one key able to return. We found an empty child seat box but no seat for little child.

So we have two problems: no high chair, and no second key. Plus, it is late at night. I’m reluctant to call the cleaning lady or the property manager for non-emergency issues. But the key is to be proactive and respond quickly. Within minutes I respond with this:

The key is probably on the instruction book. I know there was a high chair somewhere, I bought it myself. Let me investigate. Did you look in the two closets and under the bed?

He quickly finds the key, but reports back that the high chair is nowhere to be found. So I contact the cleaning lady and find out that she put it in the locked storage room.

Kimberly says it is in the storage room. Is it okay if she gets it out tomorrow, or do you need it tonight?

He is okay with tomorrow. So everything seems okay. But then, on the third night of his stay, he sends this:

Hallo Matthew sorry to write you so late or early in Europa but It seems like we are not alone in the apparent here…. i have to say you that I just killed two cockroaches in the apartment… one fully grown on the stove and one in the bathroom. I am very angry at the moment not knowing what else to say…

And he attaches a picture of a smashed bug on the stove top! Well, what can I say? We keep the units as clean as we can, but we can’t control what food guests leave out during their stays. We also exterminate monthly. We literally drench the apartments in insecticide. But we’re in Florida, and this is an older building just two steps up from ground level.

Again, it’s late at night, and I’m reluctant to call out the cavalry for bugs that are already dead. But I respond immediately, and this conversation ensues:

Me: I am very sorry to hear this. Would you like me to send the exterminator in the morning?

Guest: Hallo we cannot stay here with child after extermination that’s no option with little child. Poison, treated surfaces… kids will be in contact with the chemicals

Me: What do you recommend?

Guest: Hallo we think about changing to hotel and refund apartment

This is not good! This is an unhappy guest, and I know a bad review is coming. The best I can hope for is that he won’t leave a review. Often when a guest threatens to leave, the best option is to call their bluff:

What you saw are almost certainly Palmetto Bugs. I’m sorry you saw them. Florida is a semi-tropical environment, and you are right at ground level. So there are inevitably some bugs.

If you want to move to a hotel, I will refund the remainder of your stay.

And then I didn’t hear anything more from him. Imagine my surprise when he left this review with five stars in all categories!

Nice apartment in a central location, Matthew answered us quickly and competently and questions / suggestions were all answered immediately or the next morning and implemented. (Translated from German)

I think the keys are:

  • Respond very quickly. I manage to respond to almost all emails within minutes. It takes a certain kind of personality to be always on and always responsive. Airbnb isn’t for everyone, but for me this comes very naturally.
  • Actually fix problems. Guests are paying for a service, and they expect quality. They are very understanding when there are problems, but only so long as you respond quicky.
  • Simple, direct communication. I don’t think guests care about lengthy (and frankly phony) apologies and polite phrases. You’ll notice above that I only apologized once. That’s not because I’m stingy with apologies or can’t admit that something went wrong. It’s simply because I was focused on the solution.