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Service fee avoidance - great app for those looking for direct owner contact

#1
Have a look at this! https://staysavr.com/ I have tested it as a guest. It is quite magical! You know how the big sites are hiding the owner information from you? All you get is a first name and a scrambled email address unless they are part of a dying breed who have managed to hang onto this information on the site (but probably only until mid-2018 on the Homeaway sites) by being grandfathered in as those who do not take direct bookings through the site and paying a hefty 'ransom' subscription price for the privilege.

You install this on your computer (a matter of seconds and BTW it doesn't work with Safari) and it means that you don't have a giant (aka Expedia) standing between you and the rental of your dreams. Of course, you need to be able to trust that the owner is all that he/she purports to be. These sites have been playing on the not completely unfounded fears of the guest that they are going to be scammed. But scammers represent a tiny proportion of the market. Project fear has meant that people are willing to pay up to 12% (they are testing out raising it from previous high of 9%) extra on Homeaway thinking Homeaway/VRBO/Owner's Direct etc. are going to cover them in the event of a place not existing. The reality (see sites like Trust Pilot for Owner's Direct) is, allegedly, somewhat different. They advise you that you have to claim through your credit card (well, you were probably going to do that anyway, or use your travel insurance). And if you arrive in the middle of rural France, for example with a couple of toddlers at 11 pm at night, only to find the advertised house does not exist, is the person on the helpline in India or the Philippines really going to be able to find you a similar rental property, just like that, possibly in a high, fully booked season?? That is what they appear to "guarantee", at least for the first three nights.

This app is is two fold in its use. It gives you direct contact details through revealing a phone number and a name (and also a website and email address if the owner has installed the app as well). I think a name and phone number are crucial to checking out whether a place is legitimate. No genuine owner is going to object to a phone call to ask for more details/get an email contact address to proceed, without the middle man taking a slice of the cake.

Also, by booking direct, you avoid paying large and useless (in my humble opinion!) service fee.
 

Roz

500+ Posts
#2
Great find, Felicity -- thanks for posting. It doesn't put up the owner info on every listing, but from a random check on homeaway, it did pop up on quite a few. I wonder how it finds that info, since those sites want to hide it.
 
#3
I gather it is very new Roz so I think they must have some strange glitches as I have only signed up as a guest, not as an owner and although my two listings on VRBO are identical in form (subscription, and still allowed to communicate so I put my telephone number in the body of the text which hasn't yet been banned), on one my details show up and on the other they don't. The mysteries of technology. Somehow they have managed to override the Homeaway button and insert their button and telephone numbers where previously there was none or a telephone number for Homeaway. They will have found the telephone number and details in the source code - that which Homeaway has hidden for some time. In fact, if you have the time you can trawl through the source code on a listing and find it all, buried deep.
 
#4
This gets even better! I find that it reveals the details of some (not all) of the hotels and apartments on booking.com.

Mostly, as a guest, I go searching for the hotel details to book direct but this makes it so much easier. The details, if they appear, come up in a grey box to the right of the hotel name on booking.com. It only seems to work on some (so far)....

Although these sites (Expedia's hotel sites are also included in this app I think) don't appear to charge you a fee for booking, in reality you are paying to use the site because the hotel price is often more, booking through them. I often find too that the price on the mega giant listing site does not include breakfast and you get more or less the same deal on the room, direct with the hotel but with breakfast included, so what first seems cheaper, is actually more expensive than booking direct.

Also, I have noticed that you get more of a welcome at the hotel desk if you have booked direct with them. I often wonder if my special request for a bath not a shower has gone through the third party (mostly not!) but if I have had a conversation directly with hotel, I am listened to more.
 
#5
Very interesting!

I took a look and found this address at the bottom of the webpage:

Tf: +58 424 1662959 redBlanco Asociados 79, Maracaibo 4005, Zulia, Venezuela

When I try to find online references/reviews, there are few. One domain search site believed the server to be in Canada, while another said it was in California.

Do you know of anyone who has successfully used StaySavr -- booked, traveled, and reviewed?
 
#6
Not booked or travelled but I know it is OK. I have a technical son who knows about these things. It is not a hack or anything. It merely a browser extension which picks up the information that is already there, but hidden. Just right click and go to inspect on any Homeaway page and you will see everything there, albeit a pain to read. But phone numbers and email addresses are already in there on most of the listings (I think that info might be missing on some of the new listings) if you have the patience to find them. And don't worry about the Venezuela, Canada, California thing. I can understand that someone might be reluctant to download something that is not easily traceable. People who don't want to be discovered (and be destroyed by Expedia) have to lay trails like that. It is completely safe to use.
 

Roz

500+ Posts
#7
I was trying to find the VRBO listing for an apartment in Paris we rented a few years ago. It wasn't there, so I emailed the owner. She replied:

VRBO is becoming too professional for us -- expecting hotel-like service from us (24h response time on the website etc., charging 15% service fees to renters for no reason, etc. ). We only rent it out occasionally and this model didn't work for us anymore, so we took it off the listings.​

However, she did say she would still rent to people she knew -- so there's an excellent reason to save the email info from rentals you have liked. Just because you can't find it online any more doesn't necessarily mean it's not being rented. I'm going to post a review here of the apartment when I have time, so I can put the owner's direct email on it.
 
#8
"Also, by booking direct, you avoid paying large and useless (in my humble opinion!) service fee."

It's a pity that the CMA isn't investigating the holiday rental booking sites, with special reference to the traveller service fees which they didn't seem to need not so long ago:

Travelmole - Competition watchdog to investigate hotel booking sites October 27, 2017
http://www.travelmole.com/news_feature.php?news_id=2029503

Competition officials have launched an investigation today into whether hotel booking sites are misleading customers and breaking consumer law.

The Competition and Markets Authority wants to examine whether hotels are ranked according to a customer's search or if other factors are at play, such as the level of commission a hotel pays the site.

The investigation will also look at the use of pressure selling to see if sites are rushing customers into making a booking by telling them how many rooms are left or how many other people are looking at the same property. It is also concerned that sites are creating a false impression of availability.

Discount claims will also be under the spotlight, as the CMA wants to know if sites are wrongly basing discounts on higher prices that were only available for a brief period, or are not relevant to the customer's search criteria.

Finally, the investigation will look at hidden charges and whether customers are faced with unexpected fees, such as taxes or booking fees, at a later stage in the booking ...


Travelmole - Independent operators welcome probe into hotel booking sites November 1, 2017
http://www.travelmole.com/news_feature.php?news_id=2029573&c=setreg&region=2

AITO has welcomed an investigation by the Competition & Markets Authority into the trading practices of hotel booking sites.

The CMA announced last week that it would look into whether such sites are misleading customers and breaking consumer law.

AITO chairman Derek Moore said: "Such online hotel booking sites, largely controlled by American interests, have seen exponential growth over the last five years.

"They now control virtually the entire market in hotel reservations - it is estimated that 80% of all hotel bookings in Europe are made through these sites.

"It seems that many online brands across Europe are in fact now owned by just two or three of the main US-controlled players."

Expedia owns Hotels.com, Trivago.com, Venere.com, HomeAway.com and Travelocity.com, while~the Priceline group owns Booking.com, Kayak.com, Agoda.com, OwnersDirect.com and Cheapflights.com. TripAdvisor owns HolidayLettings.

"AITO looks forward to the CMA conducting a full investigation into their interrelated behaviour and will be submitting its members' views on how their big-company trading practices affect both SMEs and consumers," added Moore.

However, he was critical of how long it has taken for the CMA to act, adding: "This investigation should, of course, have been instigated several years ago, before these online reservation sites had gained such a high level of control over the market. There seemingly isn't a shack in the hotel world that is not featured by them ...

Competition and Markets Authority - CMA launches consumer law investigation into hotel booking sites 27 October 2017
https://www.gov.uk/government/news/cma-launches-consumer-law-investigation-into-hotel-booking-sites
 
#9
It's a pity that the CMA isn't investigating the holiday rental booking sites, with special reference to the traveller service fees which they didn't seem to need not so long ago:
I saw this a couple of months ago and sent off the questionnaire and it is my understanding, from the acknowledgement I received, that all OTA's (online travel agents), which term covers holiday rental sites listing self catering establishments and B and Bs, are included. The submissions/objections had to be in by December 15th so let's hope something will come out of this next year.
 
#10
I've just read the CMA press release in greater detail, and it says: "Hotel booking sites include sites that offer accommodation in hotels, B&Bs and hostels."

This appears to exclude 'holiday rental sites'. However, I'm sorely tempted to write to the CMA in any case - I've just paid a 50% deposit via the advertising web site for a property rental in Sicily, where the property owner tells me that they get paid when we arrive (June).

It also begs a question about the duplication of the scope of the service fee with pre-existing travel insurance cover and credit card protection.

It seems as though a pseudo-banking/insurance service has been placed between the end customer and the property owner, primarily for the benefit of the intermediary.
 
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#11
However, I'm sorely tempted to write to the CMA in any case - I've just paid a 50% deposit via the advertising web site for a property rental in Sicily, where the property owner tells me that they get paid when we arrive (June).
Definitely worth doing. I hate these sites as an owner as well as as a guest. They just squeeze money at both ends for doing b......r all. And all under the pretence they are making your money safe. Their guarantees, when it comes to the crunch, are allegedly useless. Just try googling Homeaway, service fee and complaints together. See the trustpilot reviews, particularly the UK version ( they pile in fake 5 star ones from Austin dwellers on the dot com site when it is look8ng bad) It is an eye opener!
 
#12
I've written to the CMA, citing personal examples where: a) the intermediary has been seeking 100% and 50% deposits, several months in advance, and, b) examples of 11-14% service fees with invoices that don't reconcile with the service fees shown in the corresponding booking confirmations (in 2 instances).
 
#13
CMA have since replied:

"I have sent your correspondence to the Online Hotel Booking team who will review the information you have provided and consider it in relation to the work they are doing ... What you have sent us will help us consider whether we should make more detailed enquiries."
 
#14
Belatedly spotted this great new innovation ...

Airbnb users can now pay 50 percent deposit to secure a booking
Travelmole - Published on Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Airbnb is rolling out a new payment option allowing users to spread the cost of paying for rentals.

Instead of the current 100% cost payable upfront, customers in most cases can pay 50% and then pay the 50% balance before arrival.

Airbnb hopes the 'Pay Less Up Front' option will encourage customers to splash a little more cash on more expensive rentals.

The option is eligible for bookings made at least 14 days before check-in and which have a value of $250 or more.

During a test phase Airbnb said 40% of users chose to take advantage of 'Pay Less Up Front' and many opted for more expensive rentals.

There were also more bookings with longer lead times.

Airbnb recently made another significant change to the way customers can pay for bookings by allowing groups to split costs between up to 16 people.

And this:

Airbnb trials bookings with no guest fees
Travelmole - Published on Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Airbnb is running a pilot program to see what happens if it removes guest fees from a listing.

It is testing the new model with a small number of hosts.

Instead of the usual double fee - for host and for guest - there will only be a host fee of 12%.

It is believed Airbnb wants to see if removing the guest fee leads to increased bookings.

A spokesman for the homeshare giant told PhocusWire it was constantly testing new and different ways to help hosts accommodate more guests.

"This small, temporary, and voluntary pilot is one of the many experiments we are running as we try to learn more about how we can best serve our community," the spokesman said.
 
#15
re. the new testing with no guest fees. You can bet your life this is only going to work in AirbnB's favour if their pilot is deemed successful! They really do not care who pays what, just what their bottom line is, as regards turnover. The only thing which will happen (and, on average, change nothing at the guest end) is that the owners will now add on 12% at their end as their total rental fee (thus it becomes hidden) and the guest will be none the wiser (unless they are savvy enough to go looking for the property elsewhere). Since the percentage is fixed at 12% (but, I am guessing, they will creep this up as they see what their competitors are getting away with), this has to be a good thing for some listings which currently incur an even larger percentage fee.....and of course a bad thing for those which incur a smaller one.

I foresee chaos at the guest end with the split payments (between up to 16 people). Can you imagine trying to get 16 people to deal with the payments at the same time?
 

Roz

500+ Posts
#18
It will be interesting to see if the Home Escape site takes off. Right now it seems to have very few properties, but it could be a good option if they can attract more homeowners.
 

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