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A Chargeback Drama - Chasing the White Whale

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GoodScout

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Sometimes I fight too hard on chargebacks. I take them personally. And then rather than just throwing in the towel, I keep going. This is one of those stories. You have been warned.

Guest books on June 30 just as Covid restrictions are breaking up. Reserves our best suite for a three-night stay over the July 4th weekend. Books online, so has to click the checkbox that they agree to our cancellation policies and reads them. She can't book without agreeing.

Night of July 3rd we're waiting and waiting. Finally, at 9 PM I call her number. After I introduce myself she starts crying, saying "there's been a family emergency" and she can't come. "I emailed you.." (no she didn't) and "I understand if you have to charge me." (Boy I wish I recorded phone calls).

Next morning I try and charge her card for the full stay as our policy states and it's declined. Great. I have a vacant room over the weekend, but hey, it's Covid Year, so disappointment and financial loss is the theme song for 2020, right?

About a week later the charge comes up on my report. I try and charge the $850 bill again. Nothing. So I assume it's a debit card, so I start small. $100. Goes through. Another $200. It goes through. I go for $300 and it's declined. Hey, at least I got $300 of my $850 back. It's something.

Of course, a couple of weeks later I get the chargeback notices. You know the ones. "We need lots and lots of documentation and we mailed this so it would get to you 36 hours before our deadline for you to respond.
Screw you, Merchant Services, I'm responding. I nail them with so many documents, notes taken at the time of the call, proof that she had to agree to our terms, etc., that they have no choice. My $100 and $200 and re-re-reversed and given back to me.

So today I get another chargeback letter. "Who else could be contesting something?" I ask. Nope. Same lady. She's escalated it and told her bank to demand arbitration from Visa. I have to agree to a "potential minimum $500 Visa fee" to carry this on. So I'm gonna keep fighting. And I sent her this email tonight:

We received notice today that despite the initial ruling by Visa that you being charged a cancellation fee for your last-minute cancellation of your scheduled stay with us on July 29, 2020 was valid, you have chosen to continue the dispute.
This action will require additional time and resources from us, and as a result we will be submitting a bill for the ENTIRE amount due for your stay, in the total of $851.88, as allowed by our cancellation policy which you agreed to by checkbox when making your initial reservation on June 30, 2020. (Screenshot below).
We are perfectly willing to consider the matter settled with you dropping your dispute and accepting the charge for the $300 cancellation fee. If you choose to accept this, you will need to let us know via email or writing no later than midnight tomorrow, Sept. 29, 2020, that you are dropping your continued dispute. Failure to respond will indicate to us that you wish to proceed with arbitration, and we will submit a request that you be charged for the full amount.

I will appreciate your prompt response in writing to this matter.

So I'm gambling without even going to Vegas. Could pick up and extra $551.88, or could lose $800. Roll them dice!

View attachment SpotlessComposedCoral-mobile.mp4
 

Arks

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I'd likely do the same. Sometimes you've got to step up and do what you feel is right even if it's financially risky and a lot of trouble.

I feel lucky that every COVID cancellation I got, paid the cancellation fee without question. But I know some people feel entitled to use COVID to get everything in their favor. People always want it all 100% in their favor. You offered a reasonable compromise, to accept less than half of what you were entitled to, but no, they want it ALL. I wish you luck. No matter how it ends, you'll feel some comfort in knowing you did what you needed to do.
 

Morticia

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This is the year I gave up on charging anyone anything. Everyone has gotten 100% of their deposit back, last minute cancellations are no big deal, and I’m finding life less stressful. However, if someone lied to me and then tried to fight what they agreed to, I’d roll the dice, too.
 

gillumhouse

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Diva fought and won. May the Force be with you.
 

Roxanne Trees

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My chargeback came from folks who booked four nights through Expedia for two adults, zero kids, during ski season and showed up at 9pm with three boys under 11. I was full the first night (five in one room and the youngest peed!) but had a cancellation the second night. I made them rent the available room for the boys. I swiped their credit card for the extra charges and he signed. I had to do a 2nd seating each morning to save the other guests from the monstrous behavior at the breakfast table. Then they decide to leave a night early due to an AM flight. Okay, goodbye!
A couple of days later, they called to get their money back through Expedia. Expedia called me and I told them what went on and they backed me up. for the original booking amount.

Three months later, I get notice that they are contesting the $600 they charged directly for the extra room saying that the charge was "Unauthorized"!
We provided documentation to the credit card company that I physically had the card in my possession for the charge, photos of them and their plates coming through the security gate, his signature on the charge agreement and their complimentary comments in the guest book. Many hours of back and forth with the credit card company and then they sided with the shysters anyway. 🤬 🤯 Pure theft! The credit card company always sides with the card holder. They stayed here, ate my food and had my husband shuttle them to the ski parking lot since they neglected to rent a four-wheel drive vehicle. (At least my husband got paid since he insisted on cash each time he got into the car with them.) Then they say it was unauthorized? Hindsight: I should have sent them packing the first night when they showed up with the three little pigs and kept the entire amount.

That was the last straw. I quit allowing any children at my place. The guy was a chiropractor in Florida so I wrote him a nice little review: "Before you let this guy put his hands on you let me tell you what he did...". At least I felt better. Grrr!

I now collect 100% at the time of booking and nobody has ever complained. It saves a step at check-in and if they cancel last minute I have my money.

I will say that 99% of my guests are a treasure and I find myself wishing they would move in next door.

😉
I hope you win your case.
 

Breakfast Diva

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As GuillumHouse mentioned, I won. But my win was not from the credit card company. After I went through the chargeback with the credit card company and they won the challenge I didn't do the appeal since I thought it would be useless), it was a matter of principle that I kept fighting. The credit card companies almost always side on the card holder. I took them to small claims court. They lived in the neighboring state and it was approximately a 3 hour drive for them on a workday. Bonus! I was thrilled to inconvenience them.

Not only did I win, but the judge ripped them a new one. Another bonus!

As innkeepers, we often think that the credit card company is the final stage. Well, it's definitely not. When it's a close call, I can look the other way. But when it's so egregious, it's time to fight! Not only did I much more than what I had offered them in a compromise, but I got all my charges, court fees and some other fee that I was due. I knew where they worked because of Facebook so I knew where I could garnish wages, but fortunately, they sent me a check which didn't bounce,

GoodScout, I would council you to forget about the credit card company and file a claim in small claims court. The guest would need to come to your county to fight it and often, it's not worth their time because they will more than likely lose. If they don't show, you win.

Good luck!
 

Arks

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I now collect 100% at the time of booking and nobody has ever complained. It saves a step at check-in and if they cancel last minute I have my money.
Just dreaming, but can you imagine how nice it would be to only accept cash. Not checks. Cash. Wow, what a dreamer I am.
 

Roxanne Trees

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As GuillumHouse mentioned, I won. But my win was not from the credit card company. After I went through the chargeback with the credit card company and they won the challenge I didn't do the appeal since I thought it would be useless), it was a matter of principle that I kept fighting. The credit card companies almost always side on the card holder. I took them to small claims court. They lived in the neighboring state and it was approximately a 3 hour drive for them on a workday. Bonus! I was thrilled to inconvenience them.

Not only did I win, but the judge ripped them a new one. Another bonus!

As innkeepers, we often think that the credit card company is the final stage. Well, it's definitely not. When it's a close call, I can look the other way. But when it's so egregious, it's time to fight! Not only did I much more than what I had offered them in a compromise, but I got all my charges, court fees and some other fee that I was due. I knew where they worked because of Facebook so I knew where I could garnish wages, but fortunately, they sent me a check which didn't bounce,

GoodScout, I would council you to forget about the credit card company and file a claim in small claims court. The guest would need to come to your county to fight it and often, it's not worth their time because they will more than likely lose. If they don't show, you win.

Good luck!
You are awesome!
 

gaelstorm

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Just dreaming, but can you imagine how nice it would be to only accept cash. Not checks. Cash. Wow, what a dreamer I am.
Cash only is the way I do business now. Making the amount even in dollars and cents avoids the pain of making change. They can always visit an ATM locally. I do not have book online so no problems there. I will (when I reopen) continue this way, however using cards over the phone will have to happen for reservations. If I cancel Merchant Services I could just write down the number and make them think I will run it. I wouldn't mind checks from my many times repeat customers as long as they are in advance enough to clear before up. showing up. I am liking the idea of full payment in advance. That would eliminate those place holder people who cancel at the last minute. I do however have a ton of walk in customers last minute and then am able to charge more because there may not be another room available for over 60 or more miles. I know of a place that only takes walk ins which solves a lot of problems. And allows for cash only to work. Just think no more commissions. Saves me at least 4 percent overall in addition to booking.com fees of what 25 percent these days. If I did that I would be giving away my entire profit margin. i realize how lucky I am to be able to operate this way. Being very close to a major national park on a major scenic drive doesn't hurt either.
 

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