When “very good” is not good enough

Over the last few months I have read with much interest the many posts and comments regarding the review system, and I have started pondering as of why in the THS world 4* reviews (that are classified as “very good”) aren’t good enough.

If we broaden the conversation, in life we encounter many instances where “very good” is indeed… very good!

  • 4 out of 5 is 80%.
  • A four-star hotel is a pretty nice hotel.
  • Four stars could be equated to a A- in school.
  • If I read a review of a business that’s been given 4 out of 5 stars, I can feel fairly confident that I’ll receive top service and product.

So my question to the community is this: why is “very good” not enough in the house and pet sitting world? As quite a few people have mentioned, we are all a bit jaded by the fact that everyone feels obligated to leave 5*. So in a way the 5 stars almost lose their significance.

Just like in life we may encounter teachers that grade their students’ papers low and we don’t necessarily make much of it, shouldn’t we all start to be a bit more realistic in our reviewing?

Is it only fear of retaliation that makes us wax lyrical about our experience? Or possibly the fear that future HO’s (or sitters) will not choose us for a sit if they see that we review conservatively?


@Peonie19 I think this is an excellent question! I am sure that you will get lots of member’s contributions here, but I would like to put my experience as a sitter on the platform.

We are super proud of all of our reviews as we know as sitters we work super hard to get them, but I agree that the norm has fallen into the 5-star category and that as you and others have previously mentioned makes them almost lose their significance.

So what we are most proud of are the actual comments that owners take the time to write, things like finding the house super clean, the pets were really happy and content when the owners returned, we would definitely have them back etc is what we value in the reviews.

We also look for things like that in feedback - sitters would repeat sit, the house was very clean, great communication with the owners and adored the pets etc.

We actually saw a listing with 5-star feedback but the content was just okay - the sitter highlighted a few things in the content that would not work for us and so even though it was 5-star we decided not to apply. We really appreciate the sitter for being clear and fair in the feedback and it wasn’t bad, it actually would have worked for many sitters, just not us.
I also try and make the content of our feedback clear if anything did not work or if there could be any improvements. For example, we are not super early risers so tend to add the times the pet wakes in the feedback - 5 am starts suit many but just not for me!

I am looking forward to the new review system that THS is working on and all that it entails when it is launched.

It would be interesting to know what other members value in the reviews/feedback and how they see 4 stars or lower.


Thanks for asking, @Peonie19. In today’s world, especially in person-to-person transactions, 5 stars is the default. It means “nothing went wrong, and it would be rude to go lower than the default.” You see it in eBay, Amazon, Yelp, Airbnb, whatever. Amongst an older crowd, that may not be the case, but with the younger crowd, I feel it is. I’m not sure how we got here, but I feel that’s where we are.

It reminds me of tipping. Tipping used to be optional in restaurants. Technically, it usually is. But practically, the default is to tip unless something went wrong.


That’s a great observation: as soon as there’s some personal interaction it’s harder to go lower than what the other party expects.

I just wish people were more open to nuances. I guess those could be expressed in the worded part of the review.

Yes! I often dine out and a meal might be very nice, the staff friendly, tasty food, ambience nice. And I guess it gets a 5-star because nothing went wrong and it was pretty nice! Until you have a fantastic meal, you know what I’m talking about! Then you realise - yes, that is very much worth 5-stars! So I agree, it’s engrained.

I often find it weird reading reviews of shops or restaurants that seem to rave about a place, only to award it 4-stars.

Anyway, I’ve said it before, but I would much rather have a system with a few categories where you can rate each category, and then the system calculates an overall score based on the various figures in each category, so we might end up with a 4.75 or a 4.95 - see, then you can’t blame any one person for a specific score.


You make some very good points @Peonie19 and it’s rare for sitters to receive less than 5 stars. All my reviews have been 5 stars except one (not on this platform) which became 4 and a half because the owner marked garden care as 4 stars! She hadn’t even asked me to care for her garden, apart from water a bush which I did, and yet I did do some other garden care! Bizarre! So I was quite upset about that, as it spoilt my record!
So I entirely agree with you.
As you may or may not know the review system here is being….reviewed, apparently we should hear something soon….
I think it would be better not to have stars at all just the comments


I personally think the star system is not very useful. To me, the main issue really isn’t that people don’t review honestly. I know this is a problem, but like many issues presented on a forum, which tend to attract people expressing negative experiences rather than positive ones, I don’t think it is deeply pervasive.

It is like rating ride share app drivers–so long as everything went to plan and they didn’t do anything egregiously bad, you will give them 5 stars. It really isn’t indicative of extraordinary service. Though I do believe that many sitters probably do provide extraordinary service–my husband and I have been sitting for about 10 years and have over 60 reviews here. We do an excellent job and often go above and beyond in many ways. We have definitely earned those 5 stars! But again, I don’t think that element of the review helps much.

I think the written feedback is sufficient.


This year I bought 2 pretzels at a stall in a shopping center and the teenager taking my order wasn’t happy with me because I left a $1 tip. I’m hating this entitlement mentality. I thought I was being generous tipping when she rang up the cash register and handed me the pretzels


Yes, same. I feel a mandatory tip is asked everywhere these days…in restaurants I understand because the pay is below living wage and people need to pay for health insurance in the U.S. but it shouldn’t be mandatory when you’re just buying a cup of coffee, or a pretzel; but even here when I first started using THS someone said they would do the favor of looking after my pet if I left them a nice review and a decent tip (I’m serious).

I struggle with reviews here as well for the same reasons everyone’s mentioned. I feel like we’ve been programmed to give people 5 stars the same way we feel obligated to give 2o%+ tips for okay service.

Looking forward to see what they come up with next in THS.


I think honest, less than stellar reviews – whether stars or words – is challenging because the sitter / pet parent-host are in a relationship, even if temporary. It goes both ways. Our mutual feedback pertains to things that are at the core of our identities – our home, our beloved pets, our pride in caring for precious pets, our sense of cleanliness and personal manners, etc.

As a sitter I also worry that if I give feedback to a host that is even a little bit critical, no matter how reasonable, another host will see it and not pick me as their sitter.

Frankly it is hard for me to give critical reviews on Ebay, Airbnb, Etsy, Lyft etc. Perhaps more so because that feedback will affect a person’s livelihood. I think Yelp is different because it is more anonymous due to the number of customers, so people feel free to be (overly) critical there. (Although I have never given a critical review there, I have done so on Trip Advisor.)

I am interested to see what TH comes up with in a revamp because I think this is a tough one to solve.

On a related note, I think it is interesting that sitters give “feedback to” hosts but hosts give “reviews about” sitters. That says a lot right there about where our roles and power stand in the relationship. One of us is a commodity, the other has purchased something. Just mulling that over.


@Peonie19 I AGREE! As a HO and a sitter we felt obligated to give a 5 star review. We go to alot of work to provide an extremely clean home to our sitters and to always leave a HO’s home very clean. Now a couple of years into THS, I am finding that we are the exception.

The pets are never the issue, we are experienced enough to handle just about anything with the pets. However, we do expect a clean house and good communication from the HO. So, going forward I just can’t hand out a 5 star to a HO who either didn’t communicate well or that handed over a house filled with dust.

1 Like

Sounds like it wasn’t recent, but I’d have reported that behavior to the owner or manager. I was a restaurant server, and made my living from tips, and am understanding of the issues. But that is ridiculous. I’d have taken it back. Yesterday, I had breakfast in a diner. I paid in cash. Check was $14.20. I had a $20. She asked if I “needed change on that.” Uh, yeah. So what does she do? Brings back a $5 and coins. No, I’m not leaving you $5 on $14. I’m a good tipper; I’m not that generous.

1 Like

Really good point.
Maybe keep the reviews but not the stars?


Compliment publicly.
Criticize privately.

There should be a public review field AND a private area for constructive criticism and/or other comments you wouldn’t want the whole world to see, just the other individual.

to a homeowner:
I was not expecting Poochy to wake up at 5:30 am and bark until I fed her. It was not for potty as she wouldn’t go outside. She stomps on her bowl until you put food in it. Please mention this in your listing so future sitters will know that a very early feeding time is expected.

to a sitter:
I noticed you did take out the trash in the kitchen, but you left full wastebaskets in the bathroom and in the office. Perhaps add the wastebaskets in other rooms to your cleaning list for the next time you sit.


I think we should rate out of 10. It is easier to rate a 9/10 than 4/5


The idea of private feedback makes sense in terms of helping pet parents and sitters alike to improve. But, it doesn’t solve one of the issues I hear about repeatedly–“warning” others on the platform about things they should know. For example, Pet Parents would like to know through honest reviews when a sitter isn’t up to Snuffy (hee hee) and sitters would like to know from public feedback when something isn’t quite right (e.g. the house looks nothing like the pictures).

I’m not sure if TH will be able to address that functionality, but it has been asked for.


Your comment made me think of something else: how the rating system works on a language learning app I’m very familiar with.

At the end of the lesson, you rate your teacher using the stars, then choose from a list of words to describe them and your experience overall (punctual, professional, responsive, good materials, effective, etc.), and to finish it off, you write a review too.

The main difference from how the THS review system works is that the rating from a student gets pooled with the ones from all of the other students—the teacher ends up receiving a comprehensive rating and not many individual ones.

So, yes, the stars are still used, but in a very different manner. Given the advantage of anonymity, I bet that the users feel more comfortable rating lower when/if needed.

** edited for clarity


In the retail world, if/when I do leave a review, I rarely leave a 5* review. 5 stars means it was perfect and there is no room for improvement. If it was an exceptional product/service, I will leave a 4* rating with a glowing, detailed review. Sometimes a manager will reply to my review asking what they can do to earn that 5th star. I explain as above. If everyone gets 5 stars, to me, that means there’s no room for improvement or nothing to improve upon. If we are always working to be our best selves, we should always be improving and there is no top.


So, if 5 is an unattainable goal, then 4 is the new 5? I am trying to get my head around that one. :slight_smile: Just goes to show, we all think differently and numbers mean nothing at the end of the day. Cheers!


It would be helpful to have a guide as to what constitutes a 5 star sit .
Is it a “perfect “ sit or a very nice sit ?

I personally don’t expect perfection but have been happy to give 5stars for great sits that I am confident other sitters would enjoy. I would deduct a star for things like a dirty house or challenging pet behaviour not disclosed prior to a sit .

One area that I think both sitters and Home owners should be able to comment on / deduct stars is cancellations .

With the current system there is no review or feedback at all when either sitter or homeowner cancels .

I do hope that this is changed in the new long awaited review system that we have been told is coming sometime this year.