If this situation is as rare as the moderator has stated it is, then I don’t see any reason to implement any sort of ‘system’ to deal with the issue. I suspect anything done would likely just cause problems in various forms.
If the site does track cancellations carefully as stated, then it seems they are able to identify potentially problematic sitters and they can deal with them how they see fit.
How would you really be able to prove a ‘justified’ cancellation over one that isn’t? How much personal information would a sitter be required to divulge to a housesitting site? When I cancelled a sit a few years ago --that happened to not be from THS–because my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer and needed us to come back to help her with treatment, would I need to submit her medical records?
While on the surface, blocking a sitter who cancels from booking similar dates may seem like a good idea, that really isn’t an appropriate response either .
I am a full time sitter with no permanent residence. If I needed to cancel scheduled sits because a family member in my home state of NJ needed help after recovering from a medical procedure for example, I would first look for sits in the area before resorting to an expensive rental. With this rule I would be prohibited from doing so. While an example like mine is probably rare, it just illustrates how a lot of these solutions are not practical.
I appreciate that THS does its best to really create a good experience for both sides, and they do a lot of things that other housesitting sites do not do–the size of its membership, many of the features it offers, and its ‘dominance’ do make it different than these other sites in many ways.
But even with all these ‘extras,’ at the end of the day it is nothing more than a platform to connect people looking for a service with those willing to provide it. Both sitters and homeowners need to recognize this and manage expectations accordingly.
They can do identity checks and background checks to give HO’s some peace of mind, but ultimately, they cannot truly vouch for anyone who joins the site. They are not an agency personally vetting members and directly facilitating the matches. It really isn’t a ‘community’ of any kind.
They can do things like monitor cancellations and other problematic behaviors of members, and remove them from the platform. They can suggest that HO’s do certain things to prepare the home. They can state all sorts of rules and policies.
But the end of the day, there is very little they can directly do about cancellations on either end, dirty houses, and various ‘breaches’ of policy that are well-meaning but ultimately cannot really be ‘enforced’ in any meaningful way.
There are numerous reasons why a HO may need to cancel their trip, and while this can certainly pose a number of challenges for the sitter, the onus is on us to have back up plans, to accept this reality and be flexible. We have to accept this may result in lost money or the need to spend money we didn’t anticipate spending. THS really can’t do much about this.
There is risk in everything, and HO and sitters alike must accept this. It’s unfortunate if a HO books a flaky sitter who will end up cancelling or a sitter who does a bad job. It is unfortunate if a sitter finds themselves in a situation that is very different than what was presented to them, or unsuitable living conditions.
But these sorts of experiences are great learning opportunities and usually help both sides minimize the chances of having them again.
But I really think most of the time it works out well all around, and the vast majority of sits go well. I believe the vast majority of houses are in perfectly livable condition. As stated above, cancellations by sitters are pretty rare. Most sits turn out to be as expected, and many ‘problems’ are generally of a smaller nature.
I imagine cancellations by HO’s are pretty rare too–having done over 60 unique sits on THS since 2014, several repeats as well as sits booked on other sites, I have had maybe 3 or 4 get cancelled.
Forums like this are great in many ways, but like any other forum, they tend to be frequented by a small percentage of a particular community, and many of the topics and experiences shared are skewed towards the negative. This obviously creates the impression that certain problems and bad experiences are more common than they actually are.
Again, THS is great and I am so grateful for all the opportunities it has afforded me over the years. I think sometimes people expect too much of the site, and want those who run it to play a role in the process they really can’t play and probably shouldn’t in many instances.