Anyone experience this with a chargeback?

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Don Draper's picture
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Dealing with a very straight forward situation here.  Guest booked, then canceled with less than the required notice to receive return of her deposit.  In addition to the "checked box" of our policies when she made the online reservation, I also have an email from the guest stating she understands she is not due any return but asking to be an exception.  I was not able to rebook the room, so her deposit was not returned.

She filed a chargeback.  With the system we have, the initially charged amount PLUS a $25 fee from the processor was automatically taken from my bank account.  I was given time to rebut, and with my documentation I "won" the chargeback.  The initially charged amount was put back in my account, but I'm out the $25 fee.

Today I see ANOTHER chargeback from the same person, the same initial charge amount PLUS another $25 fee from the processor.  It now says it is in pre-arbitration and came with a very threatening letter about potential fees to me from the card issuer (Citibank, in this case) if I choose to pursue the issue.  Aside from obviously being steamed at the fees and my loss of time, I'm just wondering how many times this guest can keep challenging the same charge...i.e., how many "levels" there are to this.  Am waiting until a specialist in chargebacks comes in today and will ask them the same question, but wondered if anyone here had gone down this path before.

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Arks's picture
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It would be nice if Res Key could handle this for all their users at once, by building a real, secure, enforceable digital signature into the reservation system. It would help not just with the cancellation policy, but also charging the CC for other policies, like damages, smoking in the room, etc.

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Breakfast Diva's picture
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The problem really isn't with the website or the reservation system, it's with the credit card companies. They're the ones allowing the card holder to weasle out of it. They will always side with the card holder regarding charging for damages since they state in their agreements that it's not allowed.

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Interesting topic; we are going through this right now.  We have had a cancelation and a no-show in the last few months. We gave no refunds, and just like you, the guest filed a chargeback.  The first chargeback is default awarded.  If the merchant appeals and wins, the chargeback is returned to the merchant.  After that, the guest has an opportunity to take it to arbitration.  This is where we heard EXACTLY the same thing you did; that is, the guest will probably win and you, as loser, will have to pay the arbitration fees on top of 100% refund.  The message is "give it up"  It was almost the exact same verbiage you heard!  So, I am reading this post with a microscope.  The CC processor is telling us we have a weak case because we have no signature required on the cancelation policy.   We have a cancelation policy on the website, but no electronic signature is required. (We are in the process of changing this this week...) So... the question is, how does the airline industry deal with this problem?  Airlines are "NO REFUND" merchants.  How do they structure their customer purchase process to stand up in court or arbitration?  BTW, all our competition has the exact same cancelation policy, that is, no refunds (100% forfeiture of the entire reservation) if you cancel within 30 days of arrival or are a no show.  How are you guys dealing with this?

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tar4heel2 wrote:

So... the question is, how does the airline industry deal with this problem?  Airlines are "NO REFUND" merchants.  How do they structure their customer purchase process to stand up in court or arbitration?

Good question! I know we've discussed here before about how to get a proper "electronic signature" through our website, but I don't know if anybody ever did it.

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Arkansawyer wrote:

tar4heel2 wrote:

So... the question is, how does the airline industry deal with this problem?  Airlines are "NO REFUND" merchants.  How do they structure their customer purchase process to stand up in court or arbitration?

Good question! I know we've discussed here before about how to get a proper "electronic signature" through our website, but I don't know if anybody ever did it.

The CC companies have different policies for the hospitality industry.  As I think Maddie stated earlier in the thread, they are siding with the one that pays the most $ - with some interest rates @ 18% you want to keep that customer purchasing.  Some hotels have as little as a 1% fee so there is no contest if the chargeback issue is not CLEARLY the customers fault. 

Breakfast Diva's picture
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Arkansawyer wrote:

tar4heel2 wrote:

So... the question is, how does the airline industry deal with this problem?  Airlines are "NO REFUND" merchants.  How do they structure their customer purchase process to stand up in court or arbitration?

Good question! I know we've discussed here before about how to get a proper "electronic signature" through our website, but I don't know if anybody ever did it.

We changed our website. After the trauma of having to take the guests to small claims after CC denied us due to not having anything to prove they had read and agreed to our policies for phone reservations, we changed our website to create an electronic policy approval. It  was easy for us because we use intell-a-keeper (an Acorn product) and on the homepage there is a logo that says "reservation confirmation". When clicked, it takes you to another small window with boxes to type in your name and innkeeper passcode. There is also a 'submit' button. I had Acorn add text underneath the 'submit' button that states when they click the button, it means they have read and agree to our policies...I had them also add a link right there that takes them to our policies.

Once they click the 'submit' button, I receive an e-mail with their info and that it went through the system. This works great, but as I said, it was already in place on our website, I just needed to have text added.

Mostly what I do now though is just tell them that I'm not in my office and they need to make an online reservation. I will even help them on the phone make the online reservation if they need help.

For those who don't have a reservation tracking system on their website, I would imagine it woudn't be too difficult to add some sort of area where the guest would have to fill in a short form so that they have to approve your policies and an e-mail is sent to you.

Unfortunately, in this day and age, we need to cover our a**es more than ever.

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Arks's picture
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I'd say in most cases, at least in Arkansas, one's local court will tend to be supportive of local businesses ripped off by out-of-staters, within the law, of course.

Winning the judgment and getting paid by an out-of-stater may be two different things, though. If somebody from Illinois chooses to ignore the ruling of an Arkansas small claims court, what do you do about it? In fact, it's not easy to get locals to pay you if you win a judgment from small claims court!

Bring back debtors' prison! Bring back debtors' prison!

Breakfast Diva's picture
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Before I filed my case, I googled the guest's names. It's amazing what you can find out about them in this day and age of social media. With FB and Link-in it's very easy to find where they work most of the time. With a judgement, it's easy to garnish their wages.

By the way, the case I won was a phone reservation. Nobody clicked that they had read and agreed to our policy. The court wanted to know if our policies were published on our website. They had already testified they had found us from our website. Every time they would argue a point, the judge kept say "you broke the contract!"

I'm not advocating that everyone should file a case. Just that it's an option if you feel you have to. These people had really done us wrong and then made it personal. 90% of why we followed through with the court case was to teach them a lesson (it was the principle). We felt very vindicated afterward, but it did take something out of me.

Breakfast Diva's picture
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Your recourse is to file a small claims case. You WILL win. It is legally considered a contract. You would file it in your county. I had to do this with an out of state reservation. My judgement was for the entire length of their reservation. I was awarded approx $800, so it was worth it to me.

I just want everyone to know that it's not the end of the road if there's a chargeback. It's a pain, but depending on how much is owed, it might be worth it. If it were for just 1 night, I'd let it go.

Don Draper's picture
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Hi BD!  I remember your case, I am so glad to hear that you won!!!

And totally agree, if this were some package or something else I was out a ton of $$ on I would fight it, and I'm glad to know that is what the ruling would be based on, what the guest agreed to.  

I've decided to look at it this way:  Even out $200 (the original $150 deposit plus the $50 in fees), I'm probably still better off than if this jerk had come and stayed here...

Breakfast Diva's picture
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Hi DD. Glad to see you back! I'm so sorry some jerk has put you through this and the banks we shell out our hard earned money to are not there to support us.

Joey Camb's picture
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we would be dead in the water here due to the volume of business guests - most have a company card and are "required" to put all their expenses on it so the company can keep track - plus all businesses over a certain size (ie super tiny) are taxed on turnover so if anyone asks for cash they automatically assume you are diddling your taxes - and while Im not having a VAT inspection is a right pain in the bum - they go through all your receipts for the past 10 years - everything you've bought, everything you have taken money for - the whole 9 yards and they can stay as long as they like and you have to answer questions about stuff you did 5 years ago etc - right piggin pain!

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Kay Nein's picture
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I'm sorry that you are having to go through this.  But, I appreciate the information as I'm sure all of us are learning from your experience.  Sucks!

Don Draper's picture
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The dispute center through our cc processor was very helpful, esp considering how IRATE I was!  It basically comes down to the Visa/MC/Disc/Amex policies.  And even though I have my policies spelled out precisely, she told me it was too long, it all has to be on "one page".  Well, it IS on one web page, but when I printed it to sent in as my documentation it printed on 2 pages!  

Also, I am using Webervations.  I sent in the page that they send you when the guest makes the reservation.  The processor said this isn't enough, they want to see the actual page that the guest filled out when they checked the box...impossible as I never see that screen, nor do I want to as it would show the entire cc number, which is supposedly against their OTHER regulations!!! 

Bottom line, I was happy she told me to let this go, as from what she was seeing I would have lost, and there were two more steps where I could have lost fees, and then had to pay additional fees when I lost.  All told, likely would have cost me ~$1000 (on a lousy $150 charge).

The other big item of note in the Visa agreement is that EVEN if you have alternate policies, and the guest agrees to them, the most you can ever charge for any cancellation or no show is ONE NIGHT.  I had never heard this either.

To say we are disheartened today is putting it very lightly...some days it feels like it's not even worth it to be open for business.

 

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UGH!

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Hillbilly's picture
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Perfect example of why we need more regulations to help us. This is not fare and wrong. I sure wish there was a way I could know about people like this. So I could decide if they could stay on my property.

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Ice
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Doesn't Reservation   Key run their credit card when they make the reservation?  ( think you have one of the credit card company that can "hook up with Reservation Key?  (mine isn't)

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Arks's picture
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It's always stacked in the cardholder's favor, isn't it.

At least most cardholders don't know this, just like you didn't. Most people are more decent than this particular non-guest. At least, most people used to be.

You still have the right to their deposit, you just can't get it through the charge card, which probably means you just can't get it.

Don Draper's picture
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Well I just had my mind blown.  In speaking with the chargeback specialist I learned that no matter what policies you have in effect or what the guest may have agreed to, Visa allows guests to cancel with 72 hours notice if they booked more than 72 hours in advance, and if they booked less than 72 hours in advance they have until 6 pm on day of arrival to cancel.  MC has a similar policy, and I'm sure Discover and Amex have their own versions.  In 7 years I had never heard this.  Amazing.

Madeleine's picture
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Don Draper wrote:

Well I just had my mind blown.  In speaking with the chargeback specialist I learned that no matter what policies you have in effect or what the guest may have agreed to, Visa allows guests to cancel with 72 hours notice if they booked more than 72 hours in advance, and if they booked less than 72 hours in advance they have until 6 pm on day of arrival to cancel.  MC has a similar policy, and I'm sure Discover and Amex have their own versions.  In 7 years I had never heard this.  Amazing.

If you have the opportunity to speak with them again ask if it is also true that we, the hotels, can tell a guest there are no rooms if they don't show up by 6 PM, regardless of a deposit being taken? If they allow hotels to overbook by 10% we should have the same privilege.

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Silverspoon's picture
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Makes me really thankful we only accept checks and cash.  After hearing all about the wonderful things you all have been saying about the on-line booking and credit card advantages I have been pondering the matter. This is the first real negative I have heard and it would frustrate the *ell out of me to have a big weekly reservation cancelled only to have a CC company tell me I can't keep the deposit!

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Arks's picture
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Silverspoon wrote:

Makes me really thankful we only accept checks and cash.

In my opinion, I would lose way more revenue by not taking CC than I would ever lose by the occasional chargeback. People want their reservation made, paid with a CC, and confirmed immediately so they can move on with their vacation plans. If I didn't take the CC a lot of them would just move on to somebody who does.

Hillbilly's picture
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Well said! I also hav a lot of people who book in the middle of the night. I do not want to take a reservation at 3am. I will let our reservation program do that!

Silverspoon's picture
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Like I said....I know all the advantages because most on the site love the on-line bookings and credit card deposit.  Just pointing out that there are also disadvantages that need to be considered as well.  Personally I do fine without the benefits of on-line reservations and CC deposits.  I don't need more business that I currently have and have had for 24 years.  But as a very small (3) B+B in a very popular tourist location my situation really can't be compared to most of yours.  

By the way Bob, I don't answer the phone after 9 PM and there are many small B+Bs in the area that also do not accept cards so I am not the only dinosaur.  Very occasionally someone will call and not book because they don't have the money and want to put the deposit on a CC.  But most who are considering our place have enough money to afford paying, not charging their stay. Just sayin'.

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