VRBO HomeAway New "Service FEE" | Money Grab and Lies
Note: Recently, the HomeAway group was purchased by Expedia. In this article, I refer to HomeAway as the Parent company. This purchase by Expedia is probably part of the reason the Service Fee is being implemented.
I smell a skunk!
HomeAway has rolled out a new “service fee” much to the angst of both owners and renters alike.
This rollout of a fee has been implemented even though Brian Sharples, HomeAway’s CEO, said the following:
“We are going to be free to travelers…and we’re going to be letting everybody know when you come to our platform, you don’t pay a fee, and we think that’s a big deal.”
So what happened?
What happened is that they got greedy…that’s all there is to it.
The corporate heads are masking the new service fee by suggesting it will pay for 24 hour customer support for renters, renter protection and other BS things that weren’t broken to begin with.
In the meantime, owners who have paid thousands of dollars to list on HomeAway/VRBO’s platform are loosing business.
Will the Service Fee Get Repealed?
In short, I doubt it.
When this fee was implemented, I’ve read the corporate cheese heads penciled in a “dollar loss” figure they expected to lose as people left their service in search of a less draconian company.
That said, there are groups forming to discuss options including a private FaceBook group which has over 1000 members.
While groups of frustrated owners and vacationers continues to grow, there will indeed be a financial dent to HomeAway’s bottom line as we flee away.
If enough people stop using HomeAway’s services, they will fail or change business plans.
The Draconian & Failed Implementation of the Service Fee
Brian Sharples himself admitted to the failed communication when administering the service fee. In a long update, Brian spent two whole sentences [sarcasm] admitting he f’ed up saying this:
Despite our attempts at communicating this change in advance, we fell short of your expectations. I take full accountability to make sure we are better on this in the future.
Pretty telling that as this fee has effected thousands financially, he only wrote two sentences about his failure.
But that failed communication didn’t inhibit CEO Sharpie of HomeAway from continuing his money grab path.
The Iron Fist and Draconian Rollout:
1. Forcing Book it Now (BIN)
By the end of 2016, money hungry Sharples will be forcing owners to use BIN … Book It Now.
This means that all customers who use the HomeAway, or any of it’s sister sites platform will be required to book online via their processing system; There will be no way to avoid the 4-10% service fee if an owner continues to use HomeAway or any of it’s sister sites.
Forcing BINBook it Now also means the money hungry ass holes will pocked a portion of the 2.9% processing costs; This fee was just recently raised from 2.5% to the now 2.9%.
Of course Sharpie once again disguise this dirty money grab as a way to protect the renter….complete BS.
2. Verbiage in Property Description:
Next up is the control HomeAway/VRBO has implemented on it’s platform. They are restricting any kind of verbiage used trying to inform the renter that in order to avoid the fee, contact owner directly.
They are shutting down numerous listings that attempt to educate the renter.
Here is an example email I received from VRBO:
VRBO Customer Support <email@example.com>
We recently became aware that your listing contains messaging that indicates you are directing travelers to pay offline to avoid our online secure checkout system.
Keep in mind, you elected to implement online booking (OLB) on your listing for increased search placement, a reduced subscription fee and/or the ease of traveler payments.
Taking payments outside our reservation system means that travelers will no longer receive the benefit of the Book with Confidence Guarantee.
Since your listing is promoting unacceptable payment instructions per the terms and conditions below, we have deactivated your listing until the messaging in your listing has been removed.
I did NOT in, in any manner, accept OLB to get a “reduced subscription fee”. It’s disingenuous of HomeAway/VRBO to suggest it.
3. Forcing of Emails to Communicate
When the fee was initially implemented in late February 2016, owners could receive an inquiry and respond to customer requesting payment via a different processor to avoid the fee. i.e PayPal.
The owner would then use the HomeAway/VRBO platform’s calendar to “reserve” the days but remove the customers email in order to avoid the draconian and confusing emails HA/VRBO sends out.
Now, HA/VRBO requires an email for the booking so that they can do a couple things:
- Send draconian and confusing emails to the customer. Why is it confusing? Because in cases where payment was collected outside of VRBO/HA (check, cash, PayPal, etcetera), their system won’t recognize payment has been made that customer keeps receiving requests for payment.
- HA/VRBO is pushing their “Mobile Hospitality Manager.” This hospitality manager is content provided by the owner. What this means is that not only is draconian HomeAway charging the bull-shit service fee and requiring BIN by 2017, they are forcing the owner to provide content for their SEO (Search Engine Optimization) purposes! HomeAway discussed the greed for content saying that it benefits the renter by providing them more detailed property information! Ugh. As in my case, I provide more detailed property information for renters on my own website…the content is mine and easily accessible to renters.
Also, customers who communicate with an owner about a potential rental are receiving deceptive warnings telling guests not to communicate directly with owner and that in doing so, will remove protection by HomeAway.
4. HomeAway and VRBO “Best Match”
Another oppressive move by HomeAway is their Best Match algorithm.
This algo has features that if you that notice if you are booking outside of using HomeAway’s payment processor. And if it catches the, your listing will be penalized and not show up in the results for people searching for rental properties.
Sharpies exact quote:
“To incentivize our owners to adopt online booking, we have increasingly been favoring online bookable properties in our sort algorithms. It is no secret to any of our owners that a higher position in sort leads to more bookings. We are also rewarding listings in sort when they have higher conversion rates”
Piss off Brian
Imagine being a property owner who has taken great strides in developing a trusting relationship with people who rent your property.
Because of your efforts, many of the same renters return year after year and pay you directly to rent your property…they trust you!
In this case, per the new money scamming HomeAway/VRBO methodologies, the property owner WILL BE PENALIZED by booking the property outside of HomeAway/VRBO’s platform…that’s complete horse sh!t.
The property owner’s rental won’t do well by HomeAway’s “Best Match” algo and the propery will begin falling in property search results.
How dare HomeAway to push that if you pay outside their platform, you won’t be protected as a renter and then penalize the homeowner!
What owners are saying about the fee
Owners are fed up.
We spent massive amounts of money subscribing for a service/platform provided by HomeAway. Then suddenly, and with expressed acknowledgment of poor communication, executives at HomeAway decided to make “meaningful” changes mid subscription; Bait and Switch.
Vacation property owners are searching for, and listing, their properties with other vendors.
Now, with multiple platforms being used, we are spending far too much time trying to keep our calendars in sync between platforms, finding new payment processors, scrambling to bring in revenue for properties which before late February, rented without delay; We are losing business and, among other things, is what the lawsuit against HomeAway is about. [Be sure to checkout Ivan’s VRBKNOW website]
Lawsuit Against HomeAway
Bad ratings and bad Social Media
VRBO and HomeAway was once a great company. I get it… An Austin based company got offered a ridiculous amount of money from Expedia and so they sold (as an entrepreneur and investor I would’ve most like sold too) but the frustrating part of this whole thing is how Expedia is now running the company. They were supposed to make better and take it to higher levels but that’s not the case.
I once had a genuine, professional, great customer service representatives on the phone who’s helped myself and my customers for several years. I can’t tell you how many terrible experiences I’ve had on the phone of the last two weeks.
Frustrated VRBO user on Facebook
As a renter, I used your service specifically because you didn’t charge me a service fee (unlike Aribnb for instance). Since you decided to double dip (yes, I’m aware you charge the owners annual fees to list their properties), I’m now switching to other platforms…
Barbara of Hoover, AL on March 2, 2016
I noticed two days ago that when one of my repeat customers attempted to book a week at my vacation rental, she was charged a $218 service fee, which was actually taken out of the proceeds of her deposit paid to me. When I called VRBO about this, they could not explain this fee. They told me that they had notified me in prior emails beginning in November, 2015, but I could not find the emails that notified me of the additional fee. They would not re-send these notices to me. They could not explain how the percentages could range from 4% of the rental fee up to 9% of the rental fee. [read full reviews here]
The list of complaints and low ratings goes on and on…
What to do now?
Let your pocketbook do the walking!
Start moving away from HomeAway and it’s sister sites by getting the word out about alternative platforms. STOP thinking there are no other options…take charge!
Because HomeAway has become such a staple in this vacation home industry, it’s going to take time for the shift…but it will happen.
As for me, I intend to let my VRBO subscription term end and not re-subscribe.
At present, I am building this website and have also listed theCondo on the following sites:
Get posting & let people know what alternatives are available to list and rent vacation properties.