House Rules: When a homeowner says 'help yourself' to their kitchen, what do they mean?

@emmieo Wow! I am so sorry to hear about your terrible experience. That is just awful- a complete abuse. And I would hope a very rare occurance. I cannot imagine, as a sitter myself, what would make a fellow sitter think that this is in any way OK. I sincerely hope you reported them to THS. They should have their membership immediately cancelled. I think you were extremely unlucky with that Sit but I hope it won’t put you off having future (much more lovely) sitters in future.


@Lokstar Thank you for your reply. When we open our home to complete strangers, we can only hope and trust that they will respect the accommodations and amenities. This couple have been the only ones who were abusive…a rare occurrence indeed.
I reported this experience with THS but to my knowledge nothing was done.
I know there are excellent HS’s out there. I have read their stories on this forum. We just happened to get “unlucky” this time.


@emmieo I am so sorry you had to go through this. We are horrified at what you wrote, not only about the food, but also the other damage. It is definitely not okay to raid owners’ freezers and pantries and, in all honesty, one would assume when you say: “help yourself to anything” it will be taken within reason or at least replaced. But you learned! Be specific! Apparently, reason differs from person to person.

Also, I hope you left an honest review. Not scathing. Just polite but honest.


So sorry to read of this awful experience. I am aghast. Before reading the full extent of their mayhem and damage to your home, my reaction to their eating you out of house and home was that they did not comply with the unwritten rule that you replace anything you use. And that you tread lightly in someone else’s home.

These people should have been thrown off the site. I hope that has happened.

If THS allowed you to contact prior HO, this probably could have been avoided. You have my sincere sympathy.


@emmieo Did you leave a review citing – as kindly as possible – some of what you experienced with these sitters? Just so it conveys that there was a problem…and helps future HOs to ask these sitters why you gave them only x number of stars, or whatever.


This is always open to interpretation. On my last sit, they told me to eat whatever I wanted and specifically included their pantry. I generally take them at their word about perishables but this time I was confused. They had many unused containers of deli items (chicken salad, spinach dip, etc). I didn’t feel right opening unopened items and I am always a little leery about deli items and expiration dates so I didn’t eat anything like that. It was the HO’s first time using TH so there’s the possibility they purposely bought the stuff for me. Trader Joe’s was within walking distance of the home, so to me, it was just easier to go buy the things I like to eat. I make it a point to never use ALL of something without replacing it. If shopping hadn’t been so easy, I would have asked for clarification about the refrigerated items.

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Going back a few years, the Welcome message at the start of the Welcome Guide used to read “please help yourself to anything you need” and I’m sure many owners just skimmed over that without realising what could actually happen and without THS realising what consequences there could be too. However, that is now no longer included in that message.

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@KenandMary1998 @mars @botvot I wrote a review stating some of our experience. I shared my review with THS. They assured me it was acceptable and not harsh and to go ahead and publish it so future HO’s would be aware. Immediately after publishing it, the sitters wrote a very hostile and untruthful response. THS communicated with us that the sitters requested that we remove our review and in turn they would remove their feedback. I refused. The sitters continued to send me nasty text messages and emails until I finally had to block them.

This entire experience was extremely upsetting to us and I certainly feel let down by THS.

@temba Thanks for the info. I have learned to triple check my Welcome Guide for the correct wording. I do believe in clarification/making sure/what do you mean by “help yourself”, etc.


Again, I am so sorry this happened to you. The entire incident and the lack of support is appalIing. I commend you for standing firm and leaving your truthful review up! I don’t feel THS should have asked you to remove it. They are, in effect, condoning the present state of the review system which does not help the customers but does help the company.

I wonder how THS investigates these things? I guess it would be smart for a HO to take “before” pictures wth date stamps of their home before turning it over to a sitter, to include pictures of the cupboard, refrigerator and freezer and the rooms and to make sure there is a trail of correspondence.

In your earlier posting you stated that the sitters lived rent-free. Since you had no pets, you were absolutely right. These sitters were more like squatters.

I would also like to know what the grounds are for removal of a sitter from the site. Is this published anywhere?


Especially with all the new sitters coming on board due to THS marketing, looks like HOs should take “before” pics for their/our protection.

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I am so sorry you had to go through this miserable experience and hope we can all learn from it. Interpretation is everything. Now, I will no longer make “wooly” statements and everything will be clear and concise. I think I may go as far as writing down everything agreed in a message on THS message system so there is a hard record. Sounds extreme but I’d hate to end up in this sort of confrontation.
For the record, as sitters we do use up stuff in the fridge. If we use anything from the store cupboard we replace it with some hilarious results I may add. Finding exact replacements is a long and arduous process. One of our sits this summer expressly asked us to eat out of their freezer as there was more arriving when they got back. All home reared fresh meat and it was delicious. I still salivate when thinking about the beef joint we had roasted.
Hope your next experience is wonderful and don’t give up on us all.


@emmieo What a hideous experience! Of course everyone reading this thread (and particularly HO/PPs) now want to know who the perpetrators were. However, as it isn’t as simple as just publishing their details, perhaps you would be so good as to add your profile link and thus any interested parties can investigate for themselves!