My hosts for a two night home exchange stay in Bali just disappeared after agreeing to the swap. This was a home exchange I booked through LoveHomeSwap using points. It was a mistake booking; I actually only needed the place for one day. I’ve written about this mistake already, which you can read about here. But the short version is, I decided to keep the booking as it seemed like a nice place, and really it is a hassle for people to host guests for just one night. Anyway, it was only costing me a few hundred of the thousands of points I’ve earned on the LoveHomeSwap network.
There are a few other relevant facts here: 1. I actually only needed a place from 9am to 10pm one day. I didn’t even need to stay overnight. 2. Hotels are super cheap in Bali, and some even offer day rates (presumably because long layovers are common).
The backstory of my unresponsive host
Since I didn’t really need this booking I didn’t put much thought into it after we’d both agreed to the swap. Normally I would be much more communicative and make sure we had all the details discussed well in advance. Four days before my layover in Bali I realized I hadn’t heard from my hosts yet. So I checked the exchange agreement and noticed they hadn’t even entered the address of their place. I sent a message asking them to please provide me with details for my stay.
Two days prior to my booking I reached out to LoveHomeSwap via their email help address asking if they could assist me. I got no response from my hosts but the LHS support person wrote back quickly with a very nice and apologetic note. He let me know he had already tried calling the hosts, and he also sent me a link to a list of alternative places that might work as a swap.
I wasn’t optimistic that at the last minute I was going to find a backup swap. Especially for only one day as many of these places are vacation homes and it’s a hassle to open up your home for someone for such a short time. Anyway, with limited and slow internet access, I wasn’t going to spend hours of my trip on what I assessed to be a nearly impossible task. Better to just book a cheap hotel for the day.
What did LoveHomeSwap do?
Where I think this gets interesting is with the response from LoveHomeSwap. I don’t think they owe me anything more than what they did to fix the situation. After all home exchange is ultimately a peer-to-peer arrangement. It’s between me and my swap partner. I chose not to purchase insurance (which LHS calls Swap Protection) with this swap. I can’t find anything about insurance on the LoveHomeSwap website except the page I linked to in my post, so perhaps they’ve stopped offering it. But if it’s still available, swap protection is not worth the cost for this exchange. Last I investigated, it cost $79. That’s more than the cost of a very nice hotel for the day in Bali.
I asked my support person what would be done to address this problem with my delinquent hosts. I hoped their account would be suspended, at least until they provide a reasonable explanation for what happened. After all, I don’t want them doing this to other guests in the future. Here’s what he said: “I have still not heard back from them myself, I will keep on trying to get in contact with them so I can speak to them and investigate this matter further. I will make a note of their account and closely monitor them to make sure this does not happen again.”
What should LoveHomeSwap do?
The way I see it, the home exchange network we belong to is providing us with the technical platform and some basic guidance to set up our swaps, but it’s not their responsibility to make sure people don’t flake. Networks can put into place some safeguards though. For instance, the ability to leave reviews (and encouraging people to provide reviews), data on people’s response rates to inquiries, and other things help members assess the reliability of a swap partner.
But I think when someone breaks an agreement without any notification, this should be grounds for immediate suspension of their account. Maybe they have a good excuse, and that’s fine, their account can easily be reinstated. But I don’t see how “closely monitor[ing] them” is going to “make sure this does not happen again.” As a further data point, the day before my swap was scheduled to start I noticed that my unresponsive hosts’ profile showed that they had last logged in to the platform that day. This makes me much less sympathetic to the possibility that there is a good explanation for their silence.