Sitters, let's stand against sitters who cancel!

Couldn’t agree more. Sitters who cancel not only do a great disservice to the hosts/pets but to the community as a whole. THS really should sit up and take this very seriously as it will tarnish the reputation of the site very quickly.

THS seem intent on focussing on the 5 application limit (which I do think contributes to this problem - apply quickly for a sit, accept it and then have second thoughts) and the over-lapping sits issue which they appear to have taken on board as being a major issue when, as far as I can see, it was/is a very limited number of cases which should have been addressed individually.

My hunch is that cancellations by sitters is a bigger problem than over-lapping sits. However since THS appear reluctant to share actual data about issues such as this it is very hard to know for sure.

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While I agree that cancelling a confirmed sit is wrong, I don’t think the problem, in percentage terms, is as big as we think.

It is definitely not happening “ALL THE TIME” and it is really important to be careful of the words we use when discussing this topic.

If I were a new home host thinking about joining THS, reading this post would completely put me off joining.

No matter what sector you are in, there will always be a percentage of negative experiences. THS is continually growing its membership. Now that there are 200,000 members, it stands to reason that the number of negative experiences should be double what it was a short time ago when there were 100,000 members.

This forum and other Facebook groups exaggerate the reality of the issue as people will rush to the internet to report negativity, people rarely think to mention positivity.

In a perfect world, no cancellations should ever take place, that is never going to be a reality so the question has to be how many cancellations compared to successful bookings is acceptable, and Is that figure growing or dropping?

It would be helpful if we knew the actual figures - we don’t. That is the problem and not knowing can easily cause wildly inacurate knee-jerk reactionary comments such as “It’s happening all the time”

Huge events get cancelled, dental appointments, trains, flights, weddings, life-saving operations…it goes on.

Unfortunately, we have to accept that Petsitters and petsitting are not immune.

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Ok @Colin, so I edited my “ALL THE TIME” wording to “a lot”. :rofl:

One could make a very rough estimate based on the extra cost of Premium membership, where “sit cancellation protection” is included. That costs $90 extra for a sitter, $60 extra for HO.

Maximum compensation is $1500.

This is for cancellations less than two weeks before the start of the sit.

My estimate would then be about 5 % last-minute cancellations. That is on the same level as sick days etc.

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As long as the TH forum allows it, you are certainly free to use whatever words you want. For me, to describe human beings, parasites is not one I would choose, but you do you.

I gave Airbnb as an example of course. There are many, many others. But, as an example, on Airbnb, if you look at their site, it lists a rating score below the listing. TH does not do this. Sure, a pet owner can award the number of stars, but it does not give a number score and it does not include a rating category for cancellations. If TH had something similar to Airbnb AND added a category for cancellations, then that would reduce their score.

The same should be true for pet owners. I have been advocating to be able to score pet owners by category as pet sitters are, and have their scores listed. There are other companies who do this, like Uber. I don’t know how their formulas work, but I believe that you are penalized for cancelling a ride. Surely there many sites that TH can use as a guide, and if there are the numbers you are reporting, then they probably already are.

As I said, I’m not advocating for doing nothing. If TH implements a new rating system where sitters who cancelled are penalized and owners who offer sits with issues are as well, then the system will police itself, because low scores will likely not get sits or sitters.

@ J0e If there is a cancellation on airbnb instead of a reviews Airbnb place a notification.

“The host cancelled the reservation X days before commencement”.

I assume it’s the same for a traveller. Something like this would deter people from frivolous cancellations as seeing a few of these for either a sitter r host would make them very undesirable. I have no way of knowing if the person who has cancelled on me (a week before I travel) has done this before.

@pietkuip

My guess would be far less than 5%… more like 1% or less

THS recently confirmed that in 2023 there were 3.5 million nights of sitting completed, let’s say the average sit is 14 nights. That would make 250,000 sits annually

5% of that would be 12,000 last-minute cancellations annually- 230 a week. If it were that many, this forum would melt down with complaints.

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@Colin Then the Premium insurance is a big profit maker (I had suspected that).

@Colin with all due respect, you are just guessing that number. Only a very small percentage of members use this forum. I don’t think anyone knows the true number of last minute cancellations, including THS themselves.

What do you mean by this?

A sitter can’t apply for another sit at the same time as the one they have booked due to the restriction of the website so how could that happen?

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@Chrissie

I did say "My guess would be "

The number of members of this forum had nothing to do with my guesstimate.

The 3.5 million nights sitting that I used as a base line for the guess was taken from a ‘fact’ published in the 2023 THS annual roundup

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I agree that trying to identify ‘flaky’ sitters and removing them from the site is a good idea. But I think this subject speaks to one of the most important things people need to realize about THS–it is merely a platform to introduce sitters and HO’s, and I think most HO’s realize that. They are not an agency personally facilitating these matches. Us sitters are not their employees.

They can do ID and background checks for those who join but there is nothing special about a sitter here as opposed to one on another site, and again, I think most HOs realize that.

I respect the fact they try to implement policies that help make them a bit more than a matching platform, and improve the experience for both sitters and HOs alike, such as membership services, insurance or not allowing for overlapping dates–which I am sure was implemented in part as a way to reduce cancellations since most people probably won’t risk fully cancelling a sit just to apply to another one they may not get–but at the end of the day, they really can’t be anything more than an introductory platform.

Any time they have inserted themselves more into this process, the outcome has never been liked by sitters–application limits, not being able to book overlapping dates,etc.–so I don’t think you would want them getting more involved in this respect as well, save for cases of people that clearly have a pattern of cancelling or have openly admitted to a flimsy reason that the HO can submit as ‘proof’ to THS.

Let’s say for example, they decided to note the number of cancellations on a sitter’s profile: If you ended up needing emergency surgery and had 10 short term sits booked over the next month, you probably wouldn’t be happy with those 10 cancellations being noted on your profile. It would create a very inaccurate impression of you as a sitter.

I had to cancel a sit once because my mother was diagnosed with cancer and needed major surgery. In this scenario, should I have been required to submit her medical records to a house sitting site? In the decade I have been sitting, I have had to cancel sits maybe a handful of times, and it was always because of illness in the family.

Again, if THS can clearly identify sitters with a pattern of cancelling or the HO can prove through communications the sitter had a flaky reason, then by all means I think they should be removed from the site. But anything like having to provide documentation, THS 'investigating a case’etc…is probably not realistic and I don’t think it would be a good idea. There is risk involved in everything in life, including being or using a house sitter. There are no perfect systems anywhere, including the ‘ecosystem’ of housesitting.

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Good points @KC1102 !

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You have my vote! Absolute commitment is needed on both sides.

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I think this is a ‘be careful what you wish for’ situation. We’ve already seen that when THS implements policies to address perceived issues those policies make things worse for everyone, not better. While I agree that sitters cancelling without a valid reason is an issue, we have to keep in mind that the forum only includes a tiny fraction of THS membership. I firmly believe that the vast majority of sits take place without issue. We don’t have any data concerning the percentage of cancelled sits or how many of those are without a valid reason, but it is likely extremely small.

Sure, THS could start tracking cancelled sits. Of course, they would need to change the software so that sitters could initiate the cancellation. They could also put something that shows when people cancel on their profile. However, I think that would hurt good sitters who cancel for a valid reason. The bad sitters will just go elsewhere. This would also have to work both ways. Hosts cancel for no reason too. I’ve had three cancellations in the past year and one sit shortened by a full week. One of those had a valid reason, the other three just changed their plans. These were all hosts with reviews, but they could be cancelling on a regular basis for all I know.

If you start investigating cancellations, that puts members in the position of having to provide documentation to THS. If I ever had to cancel it would, of course, be for a valid reason. If I’m dealing with a health issue or a death in the family, I would absolutely not provide any of this information to someone at THS. I would walk away from THS the second they asked me to provide my medical records.

I think we need to keep in mind that THS is not an organization providing housesitters or pet care. It’s essentially a matching service and from what I’ve seen so far, when THS tries to implement policies to be more than that, it does not go well.

The reality is that there is a very small percentage of both bad sitters and bad HOs. With a membership of this size that’s unavoidable. I think THS could do a much better job of investigating those people and removing them from the site. But I don’t trust THS to implement policies that will address this issue without hurting the vast majority of members who are wonderful sitters and HOs.

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Shouting at people rarely solves problems.

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And breathe……
Totally agree. Their new policy is supposed to help this situation. Being unable to apply for sits in dates you have already got a sit for (wow that’s a tongue twister) but it’s obviously not doing what they thought it would. People are still cancelling with no good reason.
Good reasons for cancelling, in my opinion are
Death
Severe illness or injury
Natural disaster
Plague, earthquakes or volcanic eruptions.

Not
I can’t be bothered
I can’t afford the trip now as I bought a new play station
My mothers uncles next door neighbours friends dog is better looking than yous
My big toe hurts
……I could go on for hours.

Well said. Keep up the good work

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I had a sit this past summer that i almost canceled. My husband’s father had a stroke. We were sitting for friends in Atlanta, so my husband left and drove to Charlotte. I had lots of friends volunteer to finish my sit in Atlanta. But we had a THS sit starting that next week. I contacted the pet parent right away and told her the situation and suggested she find someone else as we weren’t sure what was going to happen. She couldnt find anyone. My father-in-law died the day before that sit began. I did the sit (3 days) and then attended the funeral on the one day off i had between that sit and the next.

So, would my father-in-law might die have been a legitimate excuse? Certainly not for insurance, i think. I think their are probably lots of reasons people might cancel that wouldn’t be insurance worthy but might be legitimate.

This isnt to say i dont understand or agree with your frustration. Every time i read about a bad sitter it upsets me. Cancelations, bad sitters, all this hurts all sitters. And it doesnt even matter the petcentages - especially with bad sitters who neglect pets. It is horrifying to think that any pet would ever be neglected.

I think THS should do more to weed out bad sitters (and homeowners). I hope that they are not merely looking at percentages and deciding that a certain amount of bad experiences is acceptable. These are pets lives. No percent should be acceptable.

This is a really good point…personally, I think ad minimum, allowing for more transparency and visibility into what’s happening would be very helpful.

The big issue I have is that I cannot see how many times someone has cancelled in either direction as well as the reasoning so you don’t know if they’re reliable.

Personally, I don’t think there would be a huge need to patrol if it were possible to all sys users to see:

  1. A cancellation has happened
  2. The reason for the cancellation (with potentially an other option or ability for notes to be added)
  3. Who initiated the cancellation
  4. When did the cancellation happen (i.e. how much lead time was there before the sit?)

From there, HS/HOs would be able to decide for themselves how they’d like to progress and they could also.

An approach like this would mean there wouldn’t be a need for extensive intervention, it wouldn’t require an additional rating system. It’s just providing people with more context that they can use to evaluate the other party.

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I wouldn’t want it to be the ‘AirBnB way’ with a blanket message because it won’t tell you if the cancellation was for good or bad reason!

E.g. years ago I had a sit lined up in London and then my father unexpectedly passed away… I did make it to the sit albeit a few days late. Had that not been possible, I might have had to cancel.

Two years later, I have a sit lined up in London and… my mother passes away!! I did make it to the sit, again, although yes, once again late, but if the sit would have started sooner I would have had to cancel. And I would not want that to be held against me!!

Als as @systaran says, be careful what you wish for!! THS has shown a tendency to introduce ‘draconian measures’ (to use a word from the Covid times) that affect many trustworthy sitters & HOs in order to address issues that could also have been addressed in a more ‘benign’ manner.

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