Exceptions to cancellation policies?

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notAgrandma's picture
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I'm sure this question has been asked before, but how often (if ever) do you make exceptions to your cancellation policies? I know we've all had guests with a sudden deaths in the family, though the frequency of these deathly cancellations is quite alarming. I've heard everything from "my spouse isn't feeling well" to "we're having car trouble". 

I'm asking about exceptions because this morning, I received a cancellation from a guest who already rescheduled her original reservation once before. She asked about our cancellation policy when she rescheduled. I waived our rescheduling fee but explained to her that since she's scheduled a 90-minute couples' massage, we need 14 days notice to cancel. I contacted her at the 18-day mark via email (no reply but I can see she read it 3 times), then called her at the 15-day mark. She said on the phone that they were definitely coming. 

This morning, the guest cancelled due to a family emergency. She was sobbing, so there could truly be an emergency. She said they had concert tickets and are so upset that they can't make it. I recommended that perhaps she could sell the tickets on StubHub, and she seemed to be surprised at my suggestion. She then asked how much I was going to refund. Her reservation is 1 week away. 

Any thoughts and suggestions would be much appreciated.

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Roxanne Trees's picture
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I just had a cancellation for this weekend due to the flu (She did sound pretty miserable) so I allowed her to move the reservation to another date, but no refund. If she tries to cancel or move the reservation again, she's toast! No more chances.

Like many of you, I take it case by case. Two weeks ago a couple was already on the road headed this way and the fire department called them and said one of their rental houses was on fire and they needed to turn around and come back. That would be really creative if they made that one up! I let them reschedule since I wasn't full.

 

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Arks's picture
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I had one tonight. I take a one-night deposit when they make the reservation. A guy with a one-night reservation for 2 days from now wrote, "with regret, I must cancel this reservation."

I wrote back that he is past the one-week notice I require to give a refund (less $25 service fee) but if I can rent the room on such short notice, I'll issue a refund.

He wrote back, protesting that he didn't understand the cancellation policy, saying he'll be in real trouble if I charge more than the $25 service fee.

I wrote back with a copy of the policy he agreed to when he reserved, and asked him this question: if he had cancelled in time, 5 days ago, and I had tried to keep the full deposit, would he not be DEMANDING that I follow my written policy and give him a full refund, less the service fee?

He hasn't written back, but OF COURSE he would expect me to follow the policy when it's in his favor, and of course he wants me to break the policy when I'm the one being hurt.

I'll sit back now and wait for the charge-back from Visa.

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notAgrandma's picture
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" if he had cancelled in time, 5 days ago, and I had tried to keep the full deposit, would he not be DEMANDING that I follow my written policy and give him a full refund, less the service fee?

He hasn't written back, but OF COURSE he would expect me to follow the policy when it's in his favor, and of course he wants me to break the policy when I'm the one being hurt."

Excellent point! I never thought of it that way. The innkeepers' mantra is "guests don't read". However, I'm fairly certain guests who cancel will scour all correspondence and our web pages to determine if they're "in the right" when they cancel. When they find out they're the ones breaking the contract, then they expect innkeepers to be lenient. I am going to use your extremely valid point next time a guest wants me to break our policy.

Arks's picture
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notAgrandma wrote:

When they find out they're the ones breaking the contract, then they expect innkeepers to be lenient. I am going to use your extremely valid point next time a guest wants me to break our policy.

I'd never thought of it that way, either, until last night when it just dawned on me.  They expect us to honor the policy when it's in their favor, and expect us to forget the rules when it's NOT in their favor. People ALWAYS want it all their way. 

notAgrandma's picture
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Thank you everyone for your thoughtful advice. This is always such a difficult situation for me because 99% of the time, the guest gets angry and starts berating me. In this particular situation, I decided to issue a gift certificate for the full amount paid. I set an expiration date of 12/31/18 and told her it was transferrable. I also offered to split the gift certificate in half if she'd like to give her family or friends a gift if she's unable to use it. Hopefully something positive comes out of this situation.

Highlands John's picture
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notAgrandma wrote:

 This is always such a difficult situation for me because 99% of the time, the guest gets angry and starts berating me.

What!!! If you've not already done so you need to make your policies water-tight. When guests book they have to tick a box that says they've read and agree with our T's&C's. That clearly states our cancellation policy and recommends they make sure they have adequate travel insurance.

If they argue then you point out that they ticked the box and they simply claim from their insurance.

 

On occasion I will refund/not charge if I am able to re-let the room, but like others have said, depends on my mood and they way the guests approach me. Your rules, you can break if you wish. 

People who are allowed to carry a deposit over to another booking when they cancel are invariably a PITA and will cancel again.

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notAgrandma's picture
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Highlands John wrote:

What!!! If you've not already done so you need to make your policies water-tight. When guests book they have to tick a box that says they've read and agree with our T's&C's. That clearly states our cancellation policy and recommends they make sure they have adequate travel insurance.

Yes, our guests must also check a box online stating they agree to our policies. In between the box and the "Make Reservation" button, there's a very brief paragraph entitled "CANCELLATION POLICY" in bold, all caps that states 14 days for refund, less than 14 days = full payment.

In the past 6 years, I've had 8 cancellations & 1 no-show. February was unprecedented. I had 5 cancellations & 1 no-show in the past 26 days -- ALL within our 14 day policy. One cancellation was a repeat guest so I didn't charge, 1 guy was fairly nice so I only charged our cancellation fee, 1 was the distraught lady I issued a GC, 1 was a total jerk so he was charged full amount, 1 cancelled a nonrefundable res thru Expedia so another full charge, and the no-show had a bad cc.

Morticia's picture
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Ouch! That is an impressive number of cancellations for one month!

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this is oportune as its now snowing here - not much just a scrap but everyone goes bananas!

Silverspoon's picture
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Ask her if she purchased trip insurance, as I am sure you must recommend someplace on your web site.  Then...well it depends on if you think you can resell the room and how much anxiety you will experience if you don't.  You are a business, remember....even though we all aim to please.

I might split the difference and give  partial refund if I'm in a generous mood.  Otherwise, stick to your written policy.

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PhineasSwann's picture
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Nothing brings dead grandmas back to life more than telling a guest they'll forfeit the entire cost of their stay.

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Highlands John's picture
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smileyyes

Morticia's picture
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Hate to say it depends on my mood and how the guest approaches the cancellation, but it does matter.

I remember having a serious conversation on the phone with a guest whose child had allergy issues. We prepped for that kid, then they no showed and the card was declined. I felt used.

We've had guests call from a hotel in town to say they were sick and couldn't come.

Then again, I've let guests out because they were pleasant on the phone.

However, not on a reschedule. You've already lost one weekend's revenue on this one. I'd tell her that. And the masseuse is out the money for both times as well.

JimBoone's picture
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Morticia wrote:

Hate to say it depends on my mood and how the guest approaches the cancellation, but it does matter.

Then again, I've let guests out because they were pleasant on the phone.

Much does depend on the attitude of the guest, but also does it cost me money. Short notice on a sell out weekend then I need to rent the room to someone else before I can refund or not, on a quiet time when there are other empty rooms then not so strict. 

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Generic's picture
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And then there was the guest who are a royal PITA at arrival. I let them out of the reservation simply because they would have ruined everyone else's weekend, including our own. Karma sent a nice young couple in their place and everyone had a great time.... well, except her husband.... but there was nothing we could do to save him.

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TheBeachHouse's picture
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We are pretty flexible in our cancellation policy.   Case by case.  I'd keep a $25 fee for my trouble and let her go on her way.  Because it's winter.   If this were summer, we'd be out the money and would be more strict.

We do not double dip.   If we fill the room after a late cancellation, we will refund all but the $25 fee.

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gillumhouse's picture
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Did she say what the emergency was? I assume since she scheduled a couples massage that it was more than 1 night with a concert also. Due to the fact she is a reschedule to start with (sounds perhaps the norm for her), I do not know if I would refund anything. You did due diligence and have the proof to back up and chargeback attempt that she WAS TOTALLY aware of the cancel policy. I am soooo getting tired of people who think it is OK to take our money from us because we are small - do they think we can afford it more than the hotel chain that would charge them in a heartbeat?

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