Cancellation policies - how strict?

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notAgrandma's picture
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We have a 14-day cancellation policy for "regular" reservations and a 30-day for holidays, special events, and group bookings. I know innkeepers have heard it all when it comes to reasons guests cancel - personal illness, death in the family, travel issues, job loss, and even "scheduling conflicts". How strict are you about sticking to your cancellation policy? Do you make any exceptions? Perhaps provide a refund in the form of a gift certificates during extenuating circumstances?

I struggle with this because I want to be compassionate, but I've also been lied to numerous times. Hotels have nonrefundable special rates, but regular bookings usually have up to 24 hours before arrival to cancel. Airline tickets are nonrefundable. Concert and sporting event tickets are nonrefundable. Why are innkeepers often expected to be the exception?

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Skamokawa's picture
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Three day.  Strict.  In season I can usually rebook.  On Air BnB 5 day.  They call it moderate.  And they deal with the excuses. 

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Highlands John's picture
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They don't like it when you tell them they'll be charged, do they?

These people who just decided to cancel the day before because they'd changed their itinerary emailed to say they "understood" they'd just loose their deposit. Don't care what you "understood" it's very clear in our T's&C's.

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TheBeachHouse's picture
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We are not strict, but we are also not pushovers.   Had a guy cancel Saturday night thru Xpedia.  They called us to try to get us to wave the fee.  No way.   Not only is it a Saturday in August, but it is the most popular Saturday all summer after the 4th of July.   Fireworks and a downtown lobster bake!   They never confirmed the cancellation after we said 'no.'   So we were unable to open up the room.   Heck, yeah, he pays!  

6 rooms, 2 months of summer.   Yes, we are strict.   In January, whatever.  Bad weather?  No problem.  Change of plans?  Not an issue.   But in summer, strict.

We left him a self check-in note.  He did not show up. 

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Highlands John's picture
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How many people have a line in their cancellation policy which says "We recommend you ensure you have adequate travel insurance to cover you for any unplanned losses".

That way if they argue you can just tell them to claim on their insurance.

Arks's picture
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05/22/2010

Highlands John wrote:

How many people have a line in their cancellation policy which says "We recommend you ensure you have adequate travel insurance to cover you for any unplanned losses".

I've always had that. I suggest they check this one.

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notAgrandma's picture
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My most recent cancellation was for 3 nights over Labor Day weekend. The reservation is not for Fri-Mon, which I could easily rebook. It was placed back in May for Sun-Wed. Of course, someone else has since booked a single Saturday night in that room, so now I'm stuck with lousy availability that no one wants. The guest says they need to cancel because they were notified of a job lay-off. I replied that we have a 30-day cancellation policy, but given the extenuating circumstances, I would refund her for any days that we are able to rebook. At this time, I've only collected our $75 nonrefundable deposit. It's likely that I won't be able to rebook the room and I won't be able to charge this person for their cancellation. <sigh>

JimBoone's picture
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12/18/2014

We take a non refundable $10 charge when a room is reserved, really only started that last year when we began online bookings with the thought that it would prove that the credit card was valid and it does cut down on folks who just want to hold a room "in case" they decide to make a trip. Beyond that initial deposit cancellation period is 3 days or a week on a few special occasions such as October. 

Most times we take one night bookings although guests have to call if that one night is a Saturday. October and a few special events we require Friday & Saturday, most times it works okay, but have been caught as you were when a guest was staying a longer period that split a weekend in October. Happens to all of us, but sometimes not worth letting it spoil you day when folks don't follow through.

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Arks's picture
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05/22/2010

Cancellations over a week from arrival date get their deposit back, less a $25 service charge which I've never waived.

Cancellations a week or less before arrival lose the first 2 nights (or 1 if they only booked one), unless I can rebook it. I've waived that a couple of times, but am generally firm about it, and with good reason. In order to hold that room for them, I've often turned down others who would have booked the room. I kept my end of the bargain. The one who breaks the agreement is the one who should pay for doing that.

Skamokawa's picture
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Arks wrote:

 The one who breaks the agreement is the one who should pay for doing that.

Yep

Highlands John's picture
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Arks wrote:

 In order to hold that room for them, I've often turned down others who would have booked the room. I kept my end of the bargain. The one who breaks the agreement is the one who should pay for doing that.

I think you are absolutely spot on there, it's that bit that most people don't get.

OnTheShore's picture
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08/28/2011

We take a 25% downpayment to confirm a reservation, which is non-refundable (from the get-go) unless we succeed in renting the cottage to someone else. But the 25% deposit is the only thing they are on the hook for, if they cancel and we do not rebook, we have no way to charge them the balance on their reservation since we don't hold their credit card information.

We will make exceptions in certain cases at our discretion, for example a returning guest who was going to stay for three weeks but had to cancel the third week in order to receive some cancer treatment -- we'll apply her whole downpayment to the first two weeks and not hold her responsible for the third week (which we've already rented part of it to someone else anyway).

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PhineasSwann's picture
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09/25/2012

30 days. Period. 

If you're a direct book guest, and you have to cancel within 30 days, I'll usually offer you a gift certificate for the amount, minus a 10% cancellation fee.

I may be missing some bookings, but I rarely get cancellations.

Plus, it's amazing how many dead grandmas come back to life when guests learn they have to pay the full amount whether they come or not.

 

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Highlands John's picture
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We take a £20 per room per night non-refundable deposit and I'm pretty strict about that being non-refundable, although I did relinquish recently when someone booked a room two months ahead at 12:00 and then cancelled it at 17:00 when they realised how far of their proposed route we are.

For a cancellation we state that the full amount is charged if cancelled within 5 days of arrival, if we are not able to let the room. If it's off-season and chances are I've not lost a booking, ie. other rooms are available I'd probably let them off if I didn't think they were just taking the Mick. When it's peak like now which is the busiest two weeks of the year, I had a cancellation this morning for tomorrow because they've changed their itinerary, hell yes.

 

Generic's picture
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02/24/2011

I have a 7 day cancellation policy, but with booking from B or X, there are two rates, one is non-refundable and the other has a non-refundable deposit. When it comes to the non-refundable, it usually depends on how far out you contact me and my view on my chances of rebooking.

Though, this year I had someone ask for compassion at 2AM in the morning and I instinctively said no... they cancelled and it was non-refundable. But I will sometimes negotiate to give them partial refund if they will cancel quickly and I have a chance at rebooking a good part of it.

For direct guests, I often give a gift certificate with no value that they can use for up to a year. I specifically mention that it cannot be used to pay cancellation fees. I also don't tie it to the same amount... EVER. Because if you give it for the same amount they can claim it has a dollar value. So, we often give them 90% of the amount to the nearest $5. So if the total was $146.99, we would give them $130. No cash value. Non-refundable. Expires if not used within 1 year.

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