Any recourse for nonpayment?

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12/16/2017

My first post. I've had my inn for just a year now. So I got a reservation through Booking for a one night stay. The guy ended up paying in cash. In the morning, he told me that he was so "taken" by our little town that he wanted to stay another 10 days. Although it is our policy that guests prepay for their stay when checking in, I made an exception for him. His "story" was that his debit card had been compromised and he was waiting for a new one in the mail. Besides... he was very "likable" and my instinct told me he was was on the "up and up." 

(As I write this out, I feel pretty foolish for finding myself in this situation, but here I am soo... Smiling Anyway, he hasn't been around much. (Has friends in the area). But he has kept in touch about the status of his card. Phone service is spotty in this area, so we've been exchanging emails. He is supposed to check out tomorrow. I can tell he is not  in his room tonight and probably won't be before check out time tomorrow morning at 11am. 

It has finally dawned on this newbie that he probably does not intend to fork over the $1000 that he owes me now. He has left some things in his room. Including a credit card on the nightstand. (My housekeeper mentioned this.) So here's my question... When 11am rolls around, and I allowed to remove his possessions and hold them as leverage for some kind of payment? I don't feel inclined to try and charge that card in his room. That feels illegal.

Mostly I just want the key back and have the opportunity to ask him for payment face to face. 

Where do i stand? My inn is in CA if that makes a difference. 

Thanks!

Hillbilly's picture
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Easy, small claims court! Done. As soon as they have been served papers they will probably pay up. For under $100 ( you can ask for this back) you can file and have them served.

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Thanks all, for your empathy! I felt particularly pathetic when i wrote that last night, having made a whole $75  for a day's work plus operating expenses. Today I changed around a bunch of locks and realized my "loss" was mostly in my head. Actually, it was a very valuable lesson. And an inexpensive one at that, considering this is the slow season.

And the phone rang off the hook today! Smiling

I enjoyed that article, Generic. Very similar MO. Did I mention I practically INSISTED that he borrow my bicycle to get around? Ha! Glad it had a flat and I couldn't be bothered to find my pump

Oh! And I do have surveillance footage of him now that you mention. Will track in down on the machine. What do i do with it? Police? I guess local motels might appreciate a copy, huh?

 

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Innsanity claws wrote:

Thanks all, for your empathy! I felt particularly pathetic when i wrote that last night, having made a whole $75  for a day's work plus operating expenses. Today I changed around a bunch of locks and realized my "loss" was mostly in my head. Actually, it was a very valuable lesson. And an inexpensive one at that, considering this is the slow season.

And the phone rang off the hook today! Smiling

 

 

Great attitude!

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Innsanity claws wrote:

Oh! And I do have surveillance footage of him. Will track in down on the machine. What do i do with it? Police? I guess local motels might appreciate a copy, huh?

I expect we'd all like to see folks like that get their just due, but odds are you're just making work for yourself and adding to the time lost.

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Generic's picture
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Take the photo to the cops. And there is a service called GuestChek that keeps a national DNR list.

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11/21/2017

So are you all saying you require payment up front or are you saying if someone is staying more than a day that you demand payment prior to their last day?

Arks's picture
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MNVineyardBB wrote:

So are you all saying you require payment up front or are you saying if someone is staying more than a day that you demand payment prior to their last day?

My own policy is that I take the first night as a deposit to make the reservation, then charge the remaining balance the day they arrive. The deposit, with a $25 cancellation fee, makes sure they are serious about wanting the reservation, and makes sure the card works.

On longer stays, over a week, I charge it a week at a time, always up front. First week on arrival, second week at end of first week, etc.

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I generally ask for payment for their whole stay when they are checking in. If they extend their stay, they then pay for those upcoming days. This guy played me. He knew the card was bad and that I would probably buy his story about it being compromised and having to wait for a new one.

gillumhouse's picture
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Just ask foranother card. Most people will have at least 2 cards. I even have 2 which comes in handy when one does get compromized - as happens all too often (I am not a big believer in using credit cards but one must have them in today's world).

Morticia's picture
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Can the guest get back in the building after checkout time? If yes, change the locks asap.

If he doesn't return to pick up his stuff you can clear the room and hold his property. If the credit card is still there I'd call my processor to see if it's stolen.

You could try to extend the stay on booking, but I bet the card he used to make the rez is bad. Which leaves you owing booking 15% on however many days the stay is and no way to collect any money. (A good reason to take a deposit - it validates the card. Booking is notorious for bad credit cards.)

Basically, you said it all in the phrase 'I didn't follow my policies...'. We all do it, and we all regret it.

I'm having the worst luck today trying to respond - stuff I've written gets erased.

You can call the police and tell them what happened. If you have any info about the car tell them that. I'd give the guest one more chance to give you a valid card number. However, he can always say he didn't stay for a week as his reservation only states one night. Always best to get the guest to agree to the full stay, with signature.

notAgrandma's picture
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I'm so sorry to hear that this happened to you. It's not illegal to charge your grifter guest's credit card for his stay, but it's highly probable that the charge will either be declined or he will issue a chargeback if you didn't get his signature. I wonder if perhaps you have recourse through Booking, even if he extended his stay beyond the initial day. Whenever I'm reconciling reservations, there's the ability to change the amount due. Perhaps contact Booking and see if they can help?

Friends of mine had this happen to them after 13 years of innkeeping. They agreed upon cash payment when the reservation was placed and the guests kept extending their stay. After the 5th day passed without payment, the innkeepers told the guests that they needed to pay up. The guests said they needed to go to the bank to withdraw money. The innkeepers wisely said that 1 guest had to stay behind and the other guest had until 5pm to come back with cash or they'd call the police. Of course, the guest's friend never returned with cash and the remaining guest was taken away in handcuffs. The innkeepers pressed charges for "theft by deception". 

Unfortunately, this situation took a turn for the worst. While the innkeepers were able to recover their money, the guest maliciously called every organization in the books to shred the reputation of these innkeepers. "Anonymous" tips were called in to the fire department stating that the B&B did not meet fire codes, so the inn had to be re-inspected (it passed). The city health department was also called. The mayor's office received an anonymous tip that the inn didn't have a license (also untrue). The city assessor's office received a tip that the inn should be paying commercial real estate taxes. This last one had statewide repercussions and every inn became subject to commercial real estate taxes, doubling some inns' taxes and forcing several to close. 

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JimBoone's picture
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Innsanity claws wrote:

I made an exception for him he was very "likable" and my instinct told me he was was on the "up and up." 

Don't beat yourself up, just consider it part of the cost of your education. Can't speak for all, but I think his grandpa stayed with us 25 years ago, been there, done that. We are in this business because we enjoy people, at times it is difficult to walk the fence between being nice and caring about guests and being business like and taking care of ourselves, in 25 years or so you will look back and laugh at the adventures of your early days.

Too short for a novel and too long for a post, but I could put together a short story of fun tales in our early years if anyone was interested.

Generic's picture
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A rag of a newspaper, but http://ottawasun.com/2017/10/04/b-b-gone-how-alleged-scammers-met-their-match-in-an-orleans-proprietress/wcm/2d6498c1-7459-47cc-885d-293fccd2bae6

The first most important thing to have is a picture. I have a camera at entry.

Arks's picture
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05/22/2010

Ouch! Sorry. That hurts to hear. I'd never have let it go on that far. He's obviously getting money somewhere to eat and spend time with friends. After a couple of days I'd have told him, if he can't work out payment he'd have to leave. I hate it that you've apparently lost so much. I can't think of any recourse other than talking to the police about his theft of your services.

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