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The guests stole our coffee machine!

My name is Rex Brown. I live in Australia, on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria. I run two of my holiday rentals here on the coast, and another in inner Melbourne . They are all quite different, but they all run at high occupancy. They are the sandpit that I play in, running constant experiments about what works and what doesn’t.

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Our friends were amazed.  They had been renting their apartment on Airbnb for the last year for the times they were not using their apartment.  They were learning the hard way.
“The guests just took it, and it was an expensive coffee machine, outrageous!”  They had been stewing over it for days.

I tried the obvious.  “Well, did your cleaner tell you who took it?”  For me, that would not have been a problem with Lesley my cleaner for many years.  She had a good memory, and would have told me within minutes of arriving for a clean.  She would even tell me if a book had shifted on the bookshelf.
It turns out my friends had a ‘manager’ who used a variety of cleaners to clean for her.  No one knew when the coffee machine was stolen.  No problem, she told them, we’ll just claim it back from Airbnb.

That was two weeks ago, and they haven’t heard back.  Maybe Airbnb will just pay for a new machine, but I wouldn’t hold much hope.

What can you do in a situation like this?

Firstly, it reinforces the reality that primarily “It’s a cleaning business”.  A good, steady cleaner is like gold, worth paying a little more for if you can get one.

However, in an urban apartment where the rental is just a commodity and cleaning is also a commodity, cheap and changing cleaners are a reality.  You should expect some kind of trouble regularly. Factor in the costs.

You should definitely have a simple cleaning manual, mainly images of how you want each room presented.  Often it would help.

There are various apps you can get where the cleaner clicks through an extensive checklist.  Maybe they work, I don’t know, but they are another overhead to factor in for the app and for the extra cleaning time to tick the checklist.

Secondly, owners should remember to not leave out anything expensive that can be damaged or stolen.  Certainly don’t leave out any precious family momentos that can be damaged.
In this case it was probably easier to leave out the expensive coffee machine than locking it away and having to lug it out when the owners came back to use their apartment.

Insurance? Chances are it wouldn’t be covered, or the excess would eat into the amount you’d get back.

A lot of new Airbnb users are finding out the hard way a short term rental isn’t an easy path to the high returns they had optimistically hoped for.   They really need to do their sums and factor in realistic revenue, realistic costs and realistic overheads for things like damage and theft.  Many jump in, regret it and give up.

What would I do about the coffee machine? I’d just buy a cheap replacement and move on.

What would you do?

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3 Responses

  1. That’s pretty scandalous. In 10 years I don’t think we’ve had anything more than a Wii game stolen.

    They won’t get their money back from Unfairbnb unless they reported it prior to next guest checking in.

    It would get my goat though….but if they don’t know who stole it they are wasting their time….they won’t even get it through insurance.

  2. From Helen T in Exmouth Western Australia:

    I’m with you Rex. I have 35 different owners in 35 different houses, and I don’t know how many times I tell them NOT to put the $2000 + BBQ in at the rental, just put in the $200 flat plate cheapie from the hardware store. Costs you more to clean the expensive hooded job, than it does to replace a cheapie! Cleaners where I am are $55 an hour! Four hours of cleaning and you could purchase new!

    They eventually learn to listen to the pro’s!

  3. My answer is to advise Guests of my policies, location, contact details, history of the property etc in writing by email prior to their arrival. Most read it. It is a standard and detailed template that clarifies the facts of my terms and conditions of their visit, as friendly and helpful as possible. This works on most Guests. It includes Guests who use the white towels to remove makeup and chemical tans which leave a permanent stain and I have to replace the Sheridan towels which I have to drive to Melbourne to replace. Since I put a small sign in the bathroom that explains this and include free makeup removal pads, the problem almost completely stopped over night.

    One part of this Guests email for my self-contained accommodation includes:

    THINGS TO NOTE
    Prior to departure, please return the apartment to more-or-less how you found it with dishes cleaned, dried and returned to cupboards and rubbish put in the bins provided. The apartment is non-smoking and pets are not permitted. Excess noise, parties, events and additional guests staying overnight are not permitted. Excess WiFi use, excess cleaning, damage, loss and apartment items missing are charged to your account plus a 50% replacement and administration fee. Smoking inside the apartment attracts a $200.00 per day cleaning fee. There is provision for smokers in the attached private courtyard.

    Some Guests leave the accommodation so clean that you can hardly detect that someone stayed there. I have a 9.3 out of 10 ranking on Booking.com over the years. I do not charge them until two weeks prior to arrival date. Works for me.

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