VRS205 – Do You Say No to VRBO? With Annie Switzer

Just 18 months ago, Annie Switzer was, in her words, a model VRBO user. She complied with everything they required including online booking. For that she was rewarded with being one of the first to have traveler fees attached to her rental quotes. Resistance was futile, she explains, as her arguments posted on the Home Away community were removed, along with those of other owners in the same boat.

Around that time, April Salter, owner of a Tallahassee PR company was feeling the same pinch and launched the Facebook group, Say No to VRBO!

At first the group became the hotbed of complaints against the major OTAs and their practices, but has since matured into a strongly supportive group of professional vacation home owners who collectively see their independence being eroded, and strive to make changes. These range from creating regional listing sites to encouraging members to launch their own websites and pursue direct bookings.

Annie has been a moderator of the group since its inception and works hard to maintain the civility that many groups lose after growth into thousands of members. In this episode she shares how the group has evolved along with some of the hot button issues that fire up emotions from time to time. She also talks about her involvement with the Association of Vacation Rental Operators and Affiliates (AVROA) and why she feels that having a common voice is what independent owners in the industry need.

Annie shares:

  • How she got into the rental business and why she chose Delaware and Maryland as her locations
  • Why she still uses VRBO in spite of the issues surrounding the changes
  • How changes in the industry have impacted her business
  • The evolution of the Facebook group
  • The biggest hot-button topic
  • Why she is involved with AVROA and her views on the future of the Association

Links mentioned in this episode:

Say No To VRBO (Facebook Page)

Say No To VRBO (Facebook Group)



Vacation Soup

Terry Whyte

Thank you Heather.

Matt Elder

Great having different points of view and how people are responding to changes in the industry (and what isn’t tolerated).

Nancy Robertson McAleer

Great to hear Annie’s voice after following her Facebook Group for some time now. Thank you


Annie & April had a good thing going, until their “Say No…” Facebook group became “Bash HomeAway/VRBO and Anyone Who Still Uses Them”. Bashing HomeAway became more important than the truth, as known lies were being spread in the interest of self-promotion of those with their own website-building businesses there, such as Alan Egan. I was a top contributor but decided to leave the group because it had a political agenda with pitchfork mob mentality, which to them was more important than the truth. The sad thing is I had so many private messages to me that expressed the same feeling, and a poll I had posted just before leaving (which they quickly shut down) showed the vast majority — even in that group — still had to use HomeAway/VRBO, while many others there simultaneously denigrated and alienated those who did.

    mary hill



      You’re probably not part of the group if you don’t know me. And that paranoid concept of a “mole” would only apply to me if it refers to someone who doesn’t want inaccurate information spread for the sake of bashing, and who puts the truth ahead of hating HomeAway (ironically, I was the #1 contributor out of 35,000 on the HomeAway Community forums for a long time until I left due to being stifled for talking negatively against HomeAway). However, I will always support the truth (not creating hysteria or panic with false information) or bashing other users like myself who, despite listing with ten other websites, still get the majority of their bookings from HomeAway. The philosophy of many in the group was to do this, which I can’t abide by.

      They recently spread a preposterous rumor that HomeAway was going to charge 10% for bookings one made off competitive websites or even blocking off dates for maintenance or other needs. As ludicrous as this was (and after being shown to be false) many kept spreading the lie causing undue panic and confusion. That to me is NOT helpful. I used the group for learning and providing valuable tips and info, but when it degenerated into falsehoods, denigration and alienation of those who must still use HomeAway, that is no longer the least bit helpful — at least not in my opinion.

        Pat Luftman

        “They” didn’t spread rumors about the 10%. HA stupidly sent out an email to some folks announcing that 10% charge for PMs. Given the history that HA has of implementing policies w/o reasonable announcements sent some folks into a panic thinking that non-PM owners would also be charged the fee. HA has lost credibility by its own actions.


          Because someone who knew they were in a very unique situation (being not only a property manager but agreeing to use HomeAway’s interface integrated with PM software) made the regrettable decision to post a long copy of the letter they received, it caused undue panic in me and many others. Yes, of course if you are using software intertwined with theirs then try to skirt their system violating your agreement they are going to call you on it — we’ve known that was HomeAway’s intention for the past couple years now. But, that is nowhere NEAR the concept of the preposterous idea that they could charge you for using other services or for blocking off your own property. Yet, even though that was the case and even AFTER it was made clear and proven that what was posted was a completely separate issue, some members kept deliberately perpetuating that lie to scare others while many went into undue panic asking about this over and over with understandable trepidation — the thread went on for pages and pages. It served many user’s purpose there of spreading anything negative (even blatant lies) for the sake of bashing HomeAway (and furthering their own business offerings) — even if it meant causing so many members anxiety and needless worry.

          The group did a similar thing with HomeEscape when they made an initial regrettable policy announcement then sort of back-pedaled a bit. The group took the one shard of truth then stretched it to spread more falsehoods and cause panic which reverberated among the group. Though I had gone straight to the execs of HomeEscape for the truth it did’t matter; the group was blinded by their pitchfork mentality. They wanted to hear and believe the horrors over the truth. Not only does this mentality not HELP, but it causes distress, wastes time, and makes running a vacation rental business harder in tumultuous waters that are already increasingly more and more difficult to navigate on their own. I certainly don’t need a Greek chorus warning me that the sky is falling every other day to make my job easier.

          But again, since the ultimate group think was not to impart factual information or to help one another nearly as much as it is to bash and vent, the truth became a secondary notion and constant casualty of the members’ collective fervor. It became toxic.

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