Improving Performance for Sitters and Hosts

After waiting as eagerly as anyone for the new blind review system, I don’t think this was the “fix” many of us were hoping for. The culture still continues to be 5-stars is the norm for sitters AND petparent/hosts. Anything less sends people to the forums with hurt feelings and outrage.

There are many reasons for this. I recently got reamed more or less (not on this forum) when I was struggling with what to say or not say publicly when something went wrong on a recent sit. Sitters continue to feel that even mild public criticism will cause them to lose opportunities, and hosts just feel hurt and appreciative when told their pets weren’t 100% as described, or the house was cluttered. When presented publicly, there is a sense sometimes of “taking sides” rather than hearing someone out.

Some of this is the culture here. But I think a lot of this is due to the fact that housesitting is intimate. You are putting yourself in other’s space and living there as a sitter. As a host, you’re welcoming a stranger into your home and hoping for the best. There are going to be a lot of “feelings” on both sides about judgement and appreciation. No sitter wants to hear that they gave the dog too many or too few treats. No host wants to a public mention of their thread sheets and towels. And frankly if a host is very nice to me, I’m not going to mention that the house is cluttered (my tolerance is high) even though I know this information that some sitters might need to know. And if the sitters missed something on my pets’ behavior that they should have seen, I’m probably not going to blame them if they feel sorry about it and it won’t happen again – even though it could have been serious and it’s probably information other petparents would want to know.

Yet, if THS is going to scale up (and it certainly wants to) then there needs to be more uniformity of expectations being met. Things have to go great for both parties a higher percentage of the time. So since we can’t constitutionally write the reviews we need to write, maybe – hear me out – there is another way to monitor quality.

What if sitters and hosts each received a form with a lot to check off and some space for comments after each sit. What if this didn’t even get seen by a human unless there was some big dangerous issue, but the data was collected and at the end of 12 monts OR a certain number of sits/listings, the person got a report that gave scores for stuff like for hosts it would have a “home condition” score for example. And there might be some anonymous short comment snippets like: “Unpacked moving boxes in hallways” for example. Or: “Used a lot of cooking staples, didn’t even leave us milk for coffee!”

I get that some hosts may only have one or two sitters a year so it might feel obvious who is saying what. The same is true for sitters. I’m not suggesting this as a replacement for reviews. But as an additional rubric so that for instance if a sitter is consistently not doing as a good a job as they think on “communication” they’ll get a report stating that or an owner not doing as good a job on “home clean on sitter’s arrival” will know.

I think this system could also be used when people first start. Maybe after the third or fifth user experience whether as a sitter or a host.

What do people think?


Disadvantage of averaging is that it gets difficult to discount a review that was negative because of personal issues. As it is now, especially the responses to reviews can be very revealing.

I think that THS should show missing reviews in both user interfaces, and also for sitters. (And I am saying this having two missing reviews myself.)

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Agree it’s a tough to have reviews play such an important role when they are subjective. Many of us also look to reviews for places to visit, books to read, restaurants to try, things to buy, etc. The stakes are higher here.

I’m not sure if this is good idea or not, or how the laws in each country could apply, but to me, successful matches are the key to a good experience on THS. With very limited information available to each party and everyone using their own criteria, maybe THS will do something similar to what I’m guessing a dating match site does. Ask members to complete a questionnaire with lots of questions about our likes and dislikes, our views on cleanliness, animal care preferences, etc. That data is compiled behind the scenes and when sitters apply to a sit or a host invites them, they get a score of how successful their match may be based on this information. People can still move forward, but they may choose not to as well.

There are better ideas out there, but perhaps we will see technology play a greater role in helping us choose better matches as the company grows.


A well written synopsis. Unfortunately review systems are fraught with problems. I’m an ex food judge, restaurant reviewer and airbnb super host. As a restaurant reviewer we struggled for years to fine tune our rating system and even then it wasn’t perfect. I actually think the current THS review system isn’t too bad. What needs to happen is educating both the hosts and the sitters about their responsibility to future hosts/sitters to offer an impartial and unemotional review of their experience. I see “newby” hosts and sitters struggling with this every day.


The current review system is solid from my POV. But many people aren’t comfortable with reviewing honestly and factually.


I think that whilst a few members might enjoy this level of review many members would be put off by this and see it as onerous ( paperwork ) and therefore wouldn’t undertake it at all -

Creating a worse situation than now .

Also members ( sitters and hosts ) may feel stressed about the level of scrutiny that was to occur post sit making the sit feel more like an exam to be passed than a mutually beneficial exchange.

I thoroughly read previous reviews and when I write a review I am thinking about what the next potential sitter needs to know , not about what the owner would like to hear ( although they are not necessarily mutually exclusive especially when it’s been a good sit - which the majority have been )


Fair enough. And I think when everything goes great the review system works. But more I’m more convinced that by not mentioning stuff in reviews out of politeness and gratitude and sometimes not wanting to be confrontational, and not offering private feedback, both sitters and hosts may be doing things that aren’t great. The host who has consistently great reviews might get the one sitter who devastes them with a review mentioning the clutter and it feels like it’s coming from left field. The sitter who thinks they’re doing an excellent job, will suddenly be called out for giving the dog too many treats and the homeowner livid at the weight gain.

So what’s the solution when both sitters and hosts don’t feel they can rely 100% on the reviews?

That would not be devastating at all.

There is no ideal solution. No reviews are ever entirely trustworthy, whether on THS or elsewhere, but they’re better than nothing. And people can get better at reading between lines with reviews and get better at asking Qs and get better at passing up sits or sitters with red flags.

Personally, I pay close attention to red flags and would rather risk missing out on good sits because of false negatives than risking bad sits because of false positives.

Sitting via THS is a lifestyle choice. It’s not a life requirement. And there are other ways to travel. Or staycation.

And for hosts, they have various options: Hire someone, get friends or family to help, take their pets on vacation, staycation, or so on.

Plus, whether a sitter or host, always have a backup plan. Personally, I wouldn’t accept any sit where I couldn’t afford that. That’s because I have no intention of being trapped into a terrible sit.

IMO, more sitters should put up with less crap. That’s because terrible hosts who get leeway end up feeling emboldened to continue or increase their crappy behavior. If they realize that their sitter won’t be trapped and could leave, with the hosts scrambling for alternative care, they’d be less likely to try crap. Or they couldn’t get sitters and would quit THS.


BTW, personally, I will give bad ratings and describe why factually, as needed.

To me, if I have to cover for poor hosts, I’d rather not sit. But I don’t think it needs to come to that. I trust good hosts to consider bad reviews in context. Like if I get an outlier bad review, any host who doesn’t take that into consideration is irrational, IMO, and I’d be ahead if irrational hosts avoided me as a sitter.

I think the current system is a big improvement, but it hasn’t even been a year, and there are a lot of members who still don’t know about the blind reviews (based on posts here and elsewhere where people are concerned about a retaliatory review), and it will take a while for the culture to shift from “5 star is the ONLY good review” to a more nuanced approach. But people approach any type of review differently - it’s impossible to make everyone choose ratings the same way.