We're Leaving Tomorrow... NOT!

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Generic's picture
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Trying to catch the guest on their way out to settle the bill, etc... and they say "we can take care of it tomorrow, when we check out."

Uhm... no... you aren't booked in here tonight!

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cloudbedsna's picture
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Your post made me curious, do you keep credit card information (in a PCI compliant format of course) in the event charges need to be applied after the fact? 

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Generic's picture
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Yes, but you do realize that you don't legally have a right to charge a guest's credit card after the fact, according to the terms and conditions of the CC processing companies. MC, V and AX all specifically forbid you from charging a guest without explicit permission. It's in the manual.

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Interesting... did not know this. 

Another reason to take payment at check in.  BUT I don't think they are speaking about charges for services rendered on a reservation which was made, and agreed.  

Generic's picture
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Copperhead, you are correct, you can charge what was agreed for the reservation. What the merchant agreement doesn't allow is to charge for damages on the card.

What you need to do is discuss with the client and get them to agree to the charges, generally to avoid prosecution. "You did $500 worth of damage to the room, can we process this on your credit card, or would you prefer we call the police?"

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THIS!

Arks's picture
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Copperhead wrote:

Interesting... did not know this. 

Another reason to take payment at check in.  BUT I don't think they are speaking about charges for services rendered on a reservation which was made, and agreed.  

I'd say it's wise for innkeepers to include in their reservation policy something like "By making a reservation with us, the guest agrees that we reserve the right to make a charge to the guest’s credit card for any damages to our property caused by the guest".

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Generic's picture
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You can write anything you want... but your merchant agreement says otherwise.

cloudbedsna's picture
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If money's owed for services rendered and provided such language is included in your payment guarantee/statement, charges can be assessed post-departure. In fact most every hotel in the world keeps payment details securely "on file" in case of theft, damage or folio charges that weren't assessed when a guest is on-property, i.e., if it's found a guest was smoking in a room, a fee will typically be assessed after the fact, once housekeeping discovers it. Happens all the time, and yes, it's completely legal to keep payment information provided it's in a compliant format. 

Generic's picture
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Read your merchant agreement. It specifically says that you can't. Doesn't matter what you write on the bill, contract, etc. Your merchant agreement says that you can't bill a client without permission.

I know hotels and B&Bs do it all the time... but it's forbidden and specifically laid out in your merchant agreement and you will LOSE the chargeback... 100% of the time.

cloudbedsna's picture
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I don't mean to be a contrarian, but banks generally back up hotels provided they have the "we reserve the right to make a charge to the guest’s credit card" language in their guest billing agreement. You are absolutely correct, though, that hotels/inns/b&bs may not place unauthorized charges on a guest's tab, i.e.,  the hotel has to inform the guest when charges are being applied, but if a hotel has a policy in which they may bill for damages (or items left unpaid on a guest folio), they are within their rights to do so. Uncollected damages can go to collections and most guests don't want their credit ruined over a broken lamp,  pet damage, "missing" towels, etc. I understand in some cases guests push back against these charges. Reputable banks will insist on a claim process for chargebacks,  and more often hotels usually win these claims because they usually have supporting documentation (photos of damage, guest signatures on agreements, etc.)

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cloudbedsna wrote:

more often hotels usually win these claims because they usually have supporting documentation (photos of damage, guest signatures on agreements, etc.)

One other thought on hotels "winning" this sort of dispute (thinking of a friend that manages two large chain hotels in town, his company has hotels in other cities as well, and they fly the flags of respected national chains). I'm sure that company has legal assistance, staff, standing, and a recognition that isn't available to me as a mom and pop operator with a few rooms outside of town, as the little guys we are not seen in the same light as the big guys.

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Generic's picture
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Nope. You are in a dream world. It's damn clear in all the merchant agreements. From the Visa Acceptance Guide for the Lodging industry....

"Delayed or amended charges may not include loss, theft or damage."

You need a guest's approval to process. I've had this discussion a number of times. Most people don't read the guidelines. There are even specific guidelines for what you need to write on the receipt for a deposit. And rules on how quickly you have to send a receipt for a deposit. There is no one out there that will protect your business except for YOU. Read your damn merchant agreement!

JimBoone's picture
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Generic wrote:

Read your merchant agreement. It specifically says that you can't. Doesn't matter what you write on the bill, contract, etc. Your merchant agreement says that you can't bill a client without permission.

Truthfully never put it to the test, but registration sheet has the line above the signature that that says " I accept that my credit card may be charged $XX" for violating smoking or pets, etc., so yes I do have their signature giving permission, of course correct credit card folks don't back up the merchant, but for most it does help act as a deterrent 

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cloudbedsna wrote:

If money's owed for services rendered and provided such language is included in your payment guarantee/statement, charges can be assessed post-departure. In fact most every hotel in the world keeps payment details securely "on file" in case of theft, damage or folio charges that weren't assessed when a guest is on-property, i.e., if it's found a guest was smoking in a room, a fee will typically be assessed after the fact, once housekeeping discovers it. Happens all the time, and yes, it's completely legal to keep payment information provided it's in a compliant format. 

However, a guest chargeback will have the money right back out of the B&B account as you cannot charge for damages without a guest signature. And, if the guest has a good enough story, tough on the hotel collecting the damages. Check the data in the credit card agreement. Perhaps different in the UK than in the US.

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JimBoone's picture
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I suppose I have it easier since we don't sell anything extra to the cost of the room, but when a guest arrives they pay and then get the room key, no checkout needed, as a hotel guest I always hated standing in line a second time. As to an additional night, it's yours when you have paid, until then it's up for grabs.  I like people and it know it is just how I am, but I probably wouldn't sleep worrying about when someone was going to settle up.

Morticia's picture
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We also do 'pay at the door' for the same reason. Originally, it was because our credit card machine was so noisy it was disruptive during breakfast.

Even with Square I don't have time to go get the Square, the paperwork, etc while trying to serve breakfast. Easier for us this way. And, we're all about easier for us!

cloudbedsna's picture
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Does your property management system automatically charge the guest, or is that a manual process for you?

ChrisandShelley's picture
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When we first started, we just had the credit card machine, but we kept getting cancellations without a means to process a cancellation fee. We invested the $500 set up fee with Shift 4 (gateway service for Rezstream) and now we process cards through the property management system.

Best thing we have ever done and money well spent.

The system automatically charges a $25 deposit when they book online. We can collect the one night stay penalty for no-shows/cancellations within 7 days (per policy) much easier (rare). When they check in, we can ask if they want us to process the card on file (usually yes) and email them a receipt (usually yes as well). Easy peasy and fast.

For our reservation service, we process the total balance on the day of check in and email them a receipt. Occasionally someone needs to change a card or they would like to pay in cash, so they stop by and take care of it. Still easy.

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JimBoone's picture
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cloudbedsna wrote:

Does your property management system automatically charge the guest, or is that a manual process for you?

For us the reservation system requires a small/tiny deposit (my choice) when the reservation is made, it is not refundable if they cancel, so small enough as to not deter a reservation, large enough so that folks don't play games. When a guest arrives to check in I could tell the system to charge the balance of the reservation, however my preference is to hold the card and process it on the desk machine with a chip reader to show that the card was present, by using in this manner it doesn't matter if the guest chooses a different card at check in or if they should choose to pay the balance in cash, either way I just show the payment added in the system.

Generic's picture
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We try to, but it depend on arrival time, self check-in, etc. But even if they had, I bet they would have tried it anyway.

JimBoone's picture
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You just get that vibe about some folks that makes us uneasy.

We do have those few that I have left a key hidden for a late hour check-in, usually a repeat guest or multi day person, but with the instruction, come see me before you head out in the morning to officially sign in.

Arks's picture
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I had one a couple of weeks ago who, 3 days in a row, contacted me right before check out time and said, "I want to stay one more day."

I was fine with it the first two days. Happy to have the business. But the third time, I told her no, even though the room was vacant that night. I'd had enough of the uncertainty, and had already rescheduled the housekeeper twice about cleaning that room. 

Sometimes we're just too independent for our own good, but I don't like uncertainty!

Morticia's picture
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We've had guests say they'll let us know in the afternoon if they want another night. Um, that's a little late.

Morticia's picture
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What some people will try!

cloudbedsna's picture
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Morticia wrote:

What some people will try!

 

Totally agree! I've worked at some of the country's "first class" resorts and it always amazed me what my guests would try -- and oftentimes get away with (oh, and steal: furniture from a luxury suite? artwork that wasn't fastened down? one-of-a kind patio cushions? yes indeed, all of it and more). surprise

I'm rarely surprised any more what people will try, though reading through some of the posts here have certainly raised my eyebrows more than once! 

Lee2014's picture
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  Today is tomorrow here in Canada.  So your total is....! wink  (It might work at a bustling hotel with different workers but a B&B... Nope!)

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