Archive for the ‘Listings’ Category

Renewal of development on the listings sites

One of my objectives in doing the web applications courses was to provide the knowledge to let me do a bit of a revamp of the various accommodation listings sites that I run.

Whilst it’s early days, this weeks session provided an increasingly necessary minor improvement in the data entry form for the site. As with seemingly most HTML code, that minor change in the code will provide a substantial improvement in the look and feel of the website. So far, I’ve only been able to apply it to the more recent coding but I’ll be retrofitting it to the remainder in due course.

That’s probably going to be how the course changes the overall look and feel flow from the computing courses initially… minor changes in code with big improvements for the users of the sites.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Do people actually read what they’re typing?

You’d think that when they were placing an advert for their holiday property they’d at least read what country it was in, wouldn’t you?

Surprisingly, an increasing number of people these days don’t seem to read anything before they click. For example, this morning I’d a submission to our holiday listings site for a property. Snag was that it was listed as a “for sale” property rather than a holiday one, as being in the French language when it was in English and as not being in France. It seems doubtful that they actually read what they were typing for that one.

To get the process as clean as possible, the main input form for the properties contains information about what should be in every section and yet even there it’s frequently ignored. For instance, whilst we’ve a section that’s for use in sending comments or additional information to me and isn’t published, I very often find that it contains essential information about the property.

Maybe now you’ll understand why some of the large listings sites have adverts that are in very dodgy English!

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Letting people drop off the listings

One of the things that I’d not really allowed for when I started the listings sites was that people would want to drop their listing.

For a normal site that charges a lot of cash each year you’d expect that people wouldn’t always renew, but when I started the site was completely free so why would anyone drop their listing? Whilst only one has dropped off in the sense of not wanting their listing at all, quite a number have dropped out through having either sold their property or simply stopped offering holiday accommodation.

This year the turnover is so high that I’m finally getting around to implementing a facility for people to suspend their listing themselves and I’ve also started to send out verification e-mails to check that those on the site are still in the business.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

How much do you trust an accommodation listings site?

Running an accommodation listings site is a peculiar type of business. Whilst in most businesses, you’d have contact with your customers be it in person, by phone or via e-mail in this business the guests of your customers are also your customers, or at least indirectly. It’s very much a business that’s involved in establishing connections between your customers and the guests that they may have.

In the early days, you’ll know the various owners that list with you quite well but as the business grows that connection tends to get lost. Those original owners that listed with you will disappear into the sea of new ones. So, for example, whilst most of my original 20 or so owners are still around (some have sold their places and dropped out, others have simply retired), they’re obviously overwhelmed by the more than 700 that have signed up since those early days.

Now the problem with that is that the whole process obviously becomes much less personal and more automated and one question that springs to mind after a while is: how do you know that these are legit places?

Well, actually, it doesn’t spring to mind with many places which is the problem. The vast majority of listings sites basically accept all entries that are thrown at them and yet one assumes that at least some of them are bogus. Where it’s a greater problem obviously is with those sites that offer either free or extended trial periods yet few of them appear to apply the checks that you’d expect, even to the extent of not bothering to verify that the properties are still in business now and again.

Whilst not wanting to pester the owners all the time, OurInns at least verifies the continued existence of them several times per year and has started on an owner verification programme too.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

So how DO you know it’s a scam?

One of the hassles of running any kind of holiday accommodation is that after a while you start to get regular scam e-mails.

The problem is that, in most cases, there is no foolproof way of separating them out from real enquiries. For example, some of the ways that people use are:

  1. Bad grammar. Sadly, even the grammar of native English speakers isn’t always the best and that’s particularly the case when they’re sending out a series of enquiry e-mails.
  2. It’s from a hotmail, yahoo or gmail account. Many genuine enquirers use such accounts so this is a particularly bad way of separating them out.
  3. It’s been trapped in your spam filter. A surprisingly high number of normal e-mails are trapped too so this is far from ideal.

In fact the only really sure ways of determining that it is a scam is that it’s from someone who has sent hundreds of similar e-mails or if it’s from Nigeria (nearly all scams originate there). Unfortunately, it’s only your listing service that can tell you that and most don’t bother to highlight the country of origin of enquiries. One notable exception is OurInns which automatically blocks anyone from sending “hundreds” of e-mails and also includes a scam checking facility so that you can tell whether or not the e-mail was sent from Nigeria.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.