The “Copy-Paste” Inquiry

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Do you list your rental property at the various Vacation Rental sites out there? I do (at least the major ones) as part of my freelance work is to manage rental bookings and coordinate booking calendars for several villas scattered on the Greek islands and the Athens Riviera; I also happen to scan through all these email inquiries sent via those sites-and answer them.

Since I started doing this back in July 2009, season after season and year after year I noticed a steady increase in one of the most annoying forms of communication taking place via these sites. I am not sure if there is a nickname out there for it but let’s call it “the copy-paste inquiry”.

A copy-paste inquiry is when potential renters send the same inquiry over and over again to many property owners using the corresponding inquiry form available by the site.

Now don’t get me wrong. I fully understand when renters make sensible use of it during their visits to these sites. It is OK to send the same message more or less to a couple of different property owners, maybe three. But my sense is that it has gone way out of control. There are frequent cases where a specific complex of 8 villas on the island of Crete – part of my portfolio – gets 8 similar inquiries and they all come from the same renter. Ridiculous.

My immediate thoughts when I stumble upon such inquiries are: “oh Gosh here is another time-waster” or “another cheapie looking for a sucker to rent a property for peanuts, after enjoying an auction war taking place right before his feet” and other pleasant thoughts.

A rich work experience in the past in Product Marketing allows me to know almost for certain that this can be fixed – correction: not fixed, perfected – and rental sites can control the quality of incoming inquiries really well. This problem can be completely zapped. But I also understand the politics involved: the lasting impression in the owner’s mind at the season’s end has to be one of receiving many inquiries through the site; this is what owners will ultimately remember: the quantity not the quality. By filtering out copy-paste inquiries as part of their continuous improvement upon their service, the difference (or ‘reduction’) in the total number of inquiries for a specific property may be substantial.

All I am asking here is to be able to a) be informed correctly and b) be allowed to control by myself what ‘correctly’ means and apply it to my incoming stream of inquiries:

– a great piece of intel. would be to know how many other inquiries a potential renter sent in the region where my property lists before actually sending me an inquiry-just for the duration of this particular visit of his or hers to the rental site. At least I would be able to identify the spammer myself and decide not to answer the inquiry, or mark it as ‘copy-paste’ and let the site know and exclude it from counting towards my average response rate

– a ‘settings’ panel somewhere on my accounts dashboard would be nice. Let me decide what I feel I should keep and keep out of incoming inquiries, by defining it myself.

For example, the rental listing site can easily detect whether an inquiry message has been sent over to owners in the same or a different region, from the same renter more than once, or twice, or xyz times, I don’t know, as a copy-paste.

I want to be able to define this, and hence split my incoming inquiries to:

1. ‘genuine’

2. those marked as ‘this message has already been sent x times by the same renter to other owners like you’, but allowing me to define the number of times: that x there. I want to identify and answer inquiries from renters who sent it, say, once or twice before me, as being ‘genuine’ and define all others who sent a copy-paste inquiry more than 2 times as spammers, resulting to some form of penalty (kicked out, or jammed or zapped or something else).

I also want the renter who sends ‘copy-paste inquiries’ to be aware that I protect myself, having a filter like this set on my listing, by indicating it with a special thumbnail icon right on my listing “copy-paste protection enabled”. This should act as a good repellent to those who use this kind of practice, and gradually reduce it hopefully eliminating it in the near future.

Kostas Papachatzis