Dealing with Cranky Guests as a Vacation Rental Owner


It’s inevitable. At some point in your career, you’re going to encounter cranky guests. Here’s how to make the best out of an uncomfortable situation.

First, they may be cranky for a reason. Power out and no water for 8 hours? Yep, there’s a reason they are unhappy. Having a plan is always a great way to start before a crisis comes up.

But, what if this is a personality thing? Some people actually love to be miserable...and let everyone know about it.


Sometimes, you can get a hint of it in your early correspondence…did they give you a big clue about how picky they can be?...

~Did they ask if you had long stem wine glasses instead of stemless because the wine tastes different?

~Did they ask if you had quick drying standard size hand towels?

~Did they ask you if a dog has EVER been there, otherwise, they will be miserable? (I’m highly allergic to cats, so I can sympathize.) Often, you can’t guarantee that there have been no dogs, as people often sneak them in.

If you think that’s bad, listen to this personal story:

One guest asked me to fully decorate for Christmas, including buying and dressing the tree, putting decorations everywhere, and gave me a grocery list as they would be arriving late at night. 

This was 6 days before Christmas. PLENTY of time to decorate themselves. 

I wrote back with my magic phrase,

“I’m not sure our home will meet your expectations, and I am happy to give you a full refund. We want everyone to have a 5* experience.”

The guests now have 2 choices: 

  1. Cancel; or 
  2. convince you that they are the perfect guests. 

It works like a charm. In fact, 90% of people I use this sentence on end up staying and being model guests.

When something happens during their stay, do your best to fix it - quickly and correctly. Then, use the second magic phrase,

“What can I do to make this better for you?” 

You are putting them in control of a situation where they likely feel out of control. 

Part of the art of negotiation is that whoever is asking for something will ask for less if they go first. So, by letting them go first, they might say, “Oh, that’s okay, we are fine!” Whereas if you went first, you might offer them a free night. 

Now, back to the cranky guest, they will likely ask to have their entire stay refunded for something little - like dust bunnies under the bed. If they are mid-stay, offer to let them check out and find another place, and you will refund the rest of their stay. 

Usually, they will straighten up and NOT want to change places mid-stay, unless they are genuinely upset about something. 

That’s the key here. We are sorting out the cranky guests that can’t be pleased anywhere from the guests who are having a legitimate issue. This will sort out who is who.


WARNING - What you are about to read is RARE! Do not let yourself get paranoid about the very few bad apples that are out there!


Now - again very rare - but terrible to encounter is the guest who makes up things to get a free vacation. They do it over and over again. Your best route is to get them out of your house as fast as possible, while making it seem like they are making the decision. They love control.

The best thing to do with them is involve the OTA (Online Travel Agency - like Airbnb or Vrbo) if they booked through one, then offer them a FULL refund if they get out by that day at 5 PM (or other, reasonable timeframe). The cost of a negative review and blatant lies on your reviews far outweigh getting the funds from these travelers. 

PRO-LEVEL TIP: If you have used an OTA, be sure to keep all communication on their messaging platform. 

Airbnb will not accept what transpired in a phone call or text message because they can’t verify it. If they are pros at this, they will try to ONLY communicate with you off-platform. Ignore anything that comes in that way, and respond via the app.

P.S. Don't miss the Masterclass coming up that teaches ways to really please your guests so they spread the word and come back for more!


Grab this 4-part mini series that provide amazing marketing tips to increase bookings, WOW your guests, and keep them coming back!