I’ve done some soul searching as of late in regards to bad renters, missed expectations, misrepresented bookings, etc and I have some ideas that I’ve started putting in place in my own space.
I’ve already shared the story of my last BIG disaster - it was a booking for the music video “I wanna kiss Bob Dylan” by tom Hanks’ wife, Rita Wilson. Lovely, lovely woman, but the renters were complete slime.
They booked my space for a ‘ten person’ shoot and the director told me that the shoot would primarily be in my bedroom and that the main area would only be used as a ‘waiting room’ for ‘social distancing’.
She completely and utterly and totally lied.
That morning I was having some issues with my security cameras; the camera in one room wasn’t working at all and the other cameras kept freezing and I realized at some point that I was looking at a static image.
So I rebooted the entire mesh router system and when it came back, I nearly screamed, as EVERY PIECE OF FURNITURE AND WALL DECOR had been put completely out of place. Every plant, every rug, everything. It looked like moving day out there.
They moved so quickly and quietly that I had zero idea what was going on while my cameras were down. They used my entire home to make all sorts of different sets and while the end result was beautiful, this was in direct violation of my house rules and not how I intended my home to be used.
They ended up breaking half of my plants, a couple of sofas with custom made covers and a couple of smaller items went missing. They also ended up bringing over thirty people (I didn’t realize how many people were there until much later).
They used Thimble insurance, which is FAKE INSURANCE (they never processed the claim and stopped replying to my emails when they realized that my evidence and I have reported them to the California Insurance Board) and we ended up having to get reimbursed after Peerspace filed a case with Fairclaims on our behalf.
My point here is that what I did wrong was that I didn’t run out the room cussing and screaming like I should have. This is my home - why in the world did I bother to be reasonable with them after being blatantly lied to?
My recommendation to every host is to treat the situation the exact same way as if any other guest were in your home. What would you do if the UPS driver was standing on your furniture or brought in a dozen people? You’d kick them out and give them an earful. That is exactly what you should do with guests.
There was another booking in which a guest had a model stand on a tiny little fragile pink couch (disallowed by my house rules) and the couch slid and she cracked her head on the highly polished concrete floor.
The guests were actually going to continue with the shoot (without even checking for a concussion) and I came out and scolded them like I’d scold my four year old and kicked them all out.
Here’s the thing: If a guest breaks your rules and you throw them out, Peerspace WILL STILL PAY YOU as long as you have evidence, preferably in the form of video camera footage. They will even remove unfair reviews that guests leave out of retaliation and I cannot stress how utterly awesome that is and what a relief that is.
BUT! If you let the booking happen anyways, you might be in trouble.
For larger shoots, you need to take a more active role in the hosting and remain on set with the crew at all times. This is a mistake I made, as I am relatively paranoid about COVID and try to remain in a different room while watching my security cameras. Oversee the use of your space, moving of your items, etc. For this extra effort, the guests should be charged a site rep fee. I offered this to a guest for the very first time last night and I felt good about it.
If anything is going to be moved or altered, take a $500-$1000 damage deposit via Venmo and refund it within 48 hours after the booking. Write up an agreement and have them sign. If you take nothing else away from my rambling post, it should be this. If something is broken by a guest, then you need to get paid immediately. We have other bookings and other things to do and should not bear a hardship in the interim.
Don’t be afraid to kick people out. I allowed the shoot for Rita to continue against my better judgment, only because they had already trashed my place and it seemed at first that they were handling everything with care (later when time got tight is when they got sloppy), but I should have thrown them out after making them put EVERY piece back the way it was. When I talked to them, the psycho that booked us was so convincing when she told me that I approved all of their changes that even I would have believed her if I didn’t have video evidence.
CHANGES THAT I THINK WOULD BE VERY WELCOME TO THE PLATFORM
- Peerspace needs to attract a higher level of clientele. I don’t mind amateur and semi amateur shooters at all, because I know how to talk to people, but there’s this weird ‘gray area’ now where people book massive shoots and lie about the amount of time needed, like about the amount of people they’re bringing, don’t get insurance, don’t get permits, etc. That’s the dangerous part. We need two tiers of renters, from amateur to semi pro, to pro. The ‘pro’ tier should require Peerspace to handle obtaining insurance paperwork, a call sheet and a filming permit. Peerspace takes a 15% cut from the renter and from the host and it is entirely fair to have them pick up the ball to vet the guests as a value added service.
The benefit to the renter for being in the ‘pro’ tier would be a reduced hourly rate.
Peerspace has done an amazing job for me removing bullish fake reviews that guests leave out of revenge if I charge them overtime, or damages, or have to ask them to leave. An AMAZING job. But the thing is, eventually a fake negative review is going to slip in eventually, because guests have an unlimited amount of time with which to leave a review, whereas my camera footage eventually gets overwritten. The day will come when a guest leaves me an unfair review and I will not have the evidence with which to exonerate myself. The statute of limitations for leaving a review needs to be shortened to no more than 2 weeks.
We need a referral service for security and site reps. Sometimes, a host may need a little help getting unruly (or let’s face it, a little scary) guests out of their home. Along those same lines, we need tutorials to train hosts how to speak to guests, templates for house rules, setting up a good security camera system, things like that. Things are nowhere near as busy and big as they were pre-pandemic, but our hopes are that events and off-sites will eventually make a full return, as well as larger scale productions. With those things returning, more hosts will come back and new hosts will arrive. Imagine the good will generated if there is a whole learning series waiting for them? Back in the days of the chapter leader program (which I was lucky enough to be a part of), I had suggested towards the end to change the events to online events, as fewer and fewer people were showing up. I’d love to see that made into a reality!