As I reported recently, the home exchange network Love Home Swap changed their pricing model recently. But I only learned about this after some back and forth with their sales team about my own membership renewal.
A “Special” Offer
When my renewal came up this year I was offered a special discount price of $216 per year if I pay in advance for two years. Otherwise it would be $240.
We’d love to reward your loyalty as a Love Home Swap member and ensure that you continue to get the best from us.
Currently your membership will renew for the next year at $240. However, we would like to offer you an exclusive 2 year offer where you will receive a 20% discount on your second year. So, rather than paying $480 for 2 years, you only pay $432.
I found this offer odd considering the publicly advertised rate of $132 per year (see below). Not to mention my “special discount” is almost $100 more than the next most expensive network. And Love Home Swap is quite a bit smaller (~10,000 listings), and offers no insurance or other special services for this price.
The New Pricing Model Pitch
When I wrote back to point out that my “discount price” was a lot more expensive than the advertised price on the website I got this reply:
Last year, we launched a new subscription model to test with some of our new members. As a small but smart business, we are always looking for ways to improve our product and ensure a great experience for all members. We often run product tests to ensure we are providing the best platform for swapping.
We changed the structure of the membership model so that the barrier for entry was smaller and the Points system became an opt-in benefit of the membership with a service fee in place per Points trip. This can range from $69 to $129, dependent on the length of your Points trip. Direct swaps require no additional fee per trip.
We have seen a lot of success with this test so far and gradually we will be making this our go-to model.
Currently, you are on our original subscription model which is an ‘all-inclusive’ model, allowing you to swap unlimited times, without additional fees when spending Points. This is why your overall membership fee appears higher.
I then got a call from this same sales person who tried to explain to me how great this new pricing model is. My first question was: when do new people learn that they have to pay to use the points aspect of the website? I couldn’t find this information anywhere pre-payment. He finally admitted that the information about it is only visible to people who activate a new membership and create a profile.
My sales contact insisted that this hiding of the added fees is for the good of the members. Specifically benefiting members who don’t want to use points at all. But, he assured me, once you join, if you decide to look into points, it is clear that you have to pay for this option. That’s actually not true, as I discovered when trying to chase down this information. But I’ve already written about that.
Their Final Offer $162 – My Counter Offer $0
After I made clear that I’m not interested in a pricing model that requires me to pay for each swap in addition to paying an annual fee, the sales rep told me he could offer me an even lower price of $162 to stay on my all-in plan. That’s what they offered me last year, so basically a renewal at the same rate. Not a terrible offer, if you’re starting with a price of $240. But I’m comparing across the industry and finding the LHS pricing quite high.
After learning the details of this new pricing system from Love Home Swap I decided it was time to make a break from this network. I can’t justify giving my money to a program that is so aggressively deceiving its members. And so I turned the conversation around and instead offered to accept a free membership with Love Home Swap. This would allow LHS to retain me as a member and ensure that I would continue to do swaps on their network. For them this constitutes free advertising on ShareTraveler since I write about all my exchanges. I figure I’ve driven quite a few people to sign up with them over the years. By canceling my membership I’ll be ending any coverage of their network beyond the things I glean from regular updates of my reviews and industry news.
I have to admit, my emails got a bit snarky at this point. But in part that was due to the odd responses I was getting from my sales rep who didn’t seem to be reading my messages. I don’t think they’ve been trained to think outside the box. Their goal is to get people to pay for membership. My offer to accept a free membership returned another message again offering me $162/year without reference to my offer.
For the record, I published my exposure of the new Love Home Swap pricing scam while negotiating for a free membership. I’m certainly not offering to change my writing in exchange for payment. But I do accept free memberships because this helps me use and investigate the platforms that I write about.
It is not surprising to me to see how badly LHS treated your well founded complaint. I have yet to be told I could have to pay for exchanges in addition to the annual fee but if it happens I will certainly join your revolt.
I spent many exchanges including speaking to senior executives totally without their caring about giving away free nights for money (lending in their terminology) when our nights are not theirs to give away or lend.
If they try to implement that policy I hope people will move to Homeexchange where the numbers are increasing and I think getting more homes on one platform as long they keep to reasonable pricing the easier it is to find a place.
Although HE are even worse for giving away free nights through ponts which are ex not theirs to give away.