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Gift Certificate: How would you handle it?

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Don Draper

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Had a guest purchase one of our gift certificates for a two night stay in June, 2007. Our certicates expire one year from date of purchase. The woman who purchased the GC booked the two night stay for she and her husband for October, 2007.
Last October the guests showed up to check in, very flustered because they had just received a call that her brother had had a stroke and they had to get on a plane to Phoenix, AZ. Our cancellation policy within 72 hours is that you are responsible for the full room charge, so it was within our "rights" to consider the GC as payment, but obviously because of the distressing circumstances, I told them to just go, they could keep the gift certificate and call to redeem it when things were settled down.
The woman calls two weeks ago (a full year later) to redeem the GC. I look up the number and tell her that it is expired as of June, 2008. She reminds me that I told her she could reuse it because of her brother being ill. I explain our policy for expired GC's is to honor them at 50% of the face value. She agrees and books a two night stay, understanding that she will have to pay for one, and have the other covered by her GC. Great, we are on the same page.
Or so I thought, until the woman's daughter called us in the middle of breakfast today to tell us everyone in the family's life story (after the stroke their was a death, an adoption of a Chinese baby, and a bout with breast cancer...I kid you not this went on for 15 minutes until I interrupted to ask what I could do for her)...she basically said she wondered if there was "anything we could do for her monther since it's been such a tough year".
I explained what we are doing in terms of honoring the GC and she got very angry that we wouldn't honor the full GC amount and hung up on me. Waiting for these folks to check in now, should be interesting!
 

EmptyNest

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Oh brother.. yes it is a hard luck story and it makes you wonder..but you have a business to run. If she agreed to what you both discussed. i would just leave it at that. Treat them just like any other guest when they arrrive and don't bring it up.
 

Morticia

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I think you are generous to offer 50% on an expired GC. OTOH, you did say she could redeem it at a later date (and you do not say that at that time you told her it would have to be by x date). Soooo, I would have redeemed it for the full amount. EXCEPT you are now being extorted into doing it. The idea that because you were not swayed by the trials and tribulations merited you a hang up means the story was just to get what she wanted and not to accept whatever the decision was and hope for the best.
Should you decide to change your mind (and I'm not advocating either way) I would NOT mention the phone call, the cancer, the death, the adoption, etc. I would say that I had realized I had not given her a 'use by' date and in all fairness, I would accept the GC as if it were not expired. (At face value, they pay the difference in the price of the room now.)
Altho, given how generous you have already been with the short notice cancellation to start with and because mom was perfectly ok with what you said, I'd deal with the guest in front of me rather than the tyrant on the phone.
 

JunieBJones (JBJ)

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I think after they check in the stress will be over and they will enjoy the stay and be grateful for the deal you gave them. We can always read more into stuff BEFORE they arrive.
Keep us posted. We know you will handle them well. I will, as I told another innkeeper after being corralled into too much table conversation this morning - pray that the food is great, and the bladders are small. (Keep pouring them coffee and shorten the life-long "too much information" conversation)
 

Don Draper

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Yes, this decision to honor the GC "at a later date" was definitely made when I was less exerienced and less wise! If it happened now the guest would be SOL, sob story or not. Lesson learned the hard way, like so many others!
The GC itself had an expiration date on it though, I don't understand how what I said made her think she could use it beyond the expiration date. I will NOT mention the daughter's phone call and will treat the guest as any other when they arrive (especially because she understood before she booked this month that the GC would only be honored at 50%).
 

Morticia

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Yes, this decision to honor the GC "at a later date" was definitely made when I was less exerienced and less wise! If it happened now the guest would be SOL, sob story or not. Lesson learned the hard way, like so many others!
The GC itself had an expiration date on it though, I don't understand how what I said made her think she could use it beyond the expiration date. I will NOT mention the daughter's phone call and will treat the guest as any other when they arrive (especially because she understood before she booked this month that the GC would only be honored at 50%)..
InnsiderInfo said:
Yes, this decision to honor the GC "at a later date" was definitely made when I was less exerienced and less wise! If it happened now the guest would be SOL, sob story or not. Lesson learned the hard way, like so many others!
The GC itself had an expiration date on it though, I don't understand how what I said made her think she could use it beyond the expiration date. I will NOT mention the daughter's phone call and will treat the guest as any other when they arrive (especially because she understood before she booked this month that the GC would only be honored at 50%).
Sorry, I misunderstood...I thought she was at the end of the GC when she cancelled the first time. Missed the dates you posted.
As to GC's in general and not this particular guest, we all have to make the decision as to whether or not accepting an expired GC is worth what might be considered 'good will' more than aggravation. We don't have an expiration date altho we received a few GC's written by the PO's that DID have an expiry on them. Yes, it's an accounting nightmare at times, but in the long run it is easier to just take them when they show up rather than argue about why they can't be redeemed 4 years later. (And this is why we now have a dollar value on them rather than 'One night in the Blue Room'.)
 

swirt

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Just checking, are you sure the woman who purchased the gift certificate and the woman redeeming it are the same person. Seems odd that someone would get themself a gift certificate. Is it possible the annoyed daughter purchased it?
If it weren't for the cancellation the first time around, I would extend it without question. A year is a short span of time. I have extended several of ours (before we stopped offering them) because there were times when people went to try to use the gift certificate and only then realized that we book up several months in advance and had no openings for them. Throwing in the cancellation though makes it more complicated. At this point it is not about doing what is right (because there is no clear right or wrong now), it is about doing what will eat at you the least.
 

Don Draper

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It was definitely the woman herself who purchased the GC, as a gift for her husband she said when she purchased it. The daughter said she called because she was talking to the mother recently who was upset at losing half the GC.
I take responsibility here for telling her she could redeem the GC "at a later time". I made the (wrong) assumption that she would understand it still had to be used within the time frame on the GC.
When we do a dollar amount on a GC, we do not expire them. When the person specifically asks for "the Jones Room for two nights" we do expire them in one calendar year, because our rates do change.
At this point I feel like it's lose/lose...I'm upset that the daughter is upset with us (just waiting for the nasty TA review to go up), and obviously the mother is still upset as well because she's talking to the daughter about it.
I'd love to just not do GC's at all, they always involve some hassle, but we do sell a fair number of them for the holidays and that helps us get through the winter.
 

seashanty

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is there a state law about gc's where you are?
some don't allow you to enforce an expiration date. seems unfair, but true.
 

YellowSocks

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I'm with Swirt... you've got to do what eats at you the least.
When in October was the 2007 rez? Are they remotely near a year from their initial cancellation?
=)
Kk.
 

Don Draper

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I'm with Swirt... you've got to do what eats at you the least.
When in October was the 2007 rez? Are they remotely near a year from their initial cancellation?
=)
Kk..
The initial cancellation was for October 14/15 2007. They are booked tonight and tomorrow night.
 

Don Draper

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is there a state law about gc's where you are?
some don't allow you to enforce an expiration date. seems unfair, but true..
You cannot expire them unless they are part of a special promotion. If it was just a question of an expired GC, I would just honor it. It's the fact that she cancelled with no notice for the first reservation last October, so really the GC should have been used as payment for those two nights because they were not resold.
 

IronGate

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I'm with Swirt... you've got to do what eats at you the least.
When in October was the 2007 rez? Are they remotely near a year from their initial cancellation?
=)
Kk..
The initial cancellation was for October 14/15 2007. They are booked tonight and tomorrow night.
.
If you get any hassle, could you maybe honor 100% of last year's rate, and have them pay the rate increase?
 

agoodman

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It was definitely the woman herself who purchased the GC, as a gift for her husband she said when she purchased it. The daughter said she called because she was talking to the mother recently who was upset at losing half the GC.
I take responsibility here for telling her she could redeem the GC "at a later time". I made the (wrong) assumption that she would understand it still had to be used within the time frame on the GC.
When we do a dollar amount on a GC, we do not expire them. When the person specifically asks for "the Jones Room for two nights" we do expire them in one calendar year, because our rates do change.
At this point I feel like it's lose/lose...I'm upset that the daughter is upset with us (just waiting for the nasty TA review to go up), and obviously the mother is still upset as well because she's talking to the daughter about it.
I'd love to just not do GC's at all, they always involve some hassle, but we do sell a fair number of them for the holidays and that helps us get through the winter..
kill them with kindness ...
 

Don Draper

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I'm with Swirt... you've got to do what eats at you the least.
When in October was the 2007 rez? Are they remotely near a year from their initial cancellation?
=)
Kk..
The initial cancellation was for October 14/15 2007. They are booked tonight and tomorrow night.
.
If you get any hassle, could you maybe honor 100% of last year's rate, and have them pay the rate increase?
.
The problem is (and it is MY problem and one I need to deal with), is that if they give me any hassle I will totally cave. I'm just not a fighter (as you've seen, I'm a behind-the-scenes seether instead!)...I can't be confrontational. DH, on the other hand, has no problem with being confrontational. He's out painting the garden shed so he gets to avoid the check-ins today...I should trade him!
I have a feeling there will be no drama...the woman who actually bought and is redeeming the GC understood what the terms were and she agreed to them (and they are in writing in her confirmation)...it's just the phone call upset me today.
 

agoodman

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I'm with Swirt... you've got to do what eats at you the least.
When in October was the 2007 rez? Are they remotely near a year from their initial cancellation?
=)
Kk..
The initial cancellation was for October 14/15 2007. They are booked tonight and tomorrow night.
.
If you get any hassle, could you maybe honor 100% of last year's rate, and have them pay the rate increase?
.
The problem is (and it is MY problem and one I need to deal with), is that if they give me any hassle I will totally cave. I'm just not a fighter (as you've seen, I'm a behind-the-scenes seether instead!)...I can't be confrontational. DH, on the other hand, has no problem with being confrontational. He's out painting the garden shed so he gets to avoid the check-ins today...I should trade him!
I have a feeling there will be no drama...the woman who actually bought and is redeeming the GC understood what the terms were and she agreed to them (and they are in writing in her confirmation)...it's just the phone call upset me today.
.
and if you cave, write it off to experience and goodwill, I have realized I just can't let mysetf get upset about these things :)
 

Morticia

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I'm with Swirt... you've got to do what eats at you the least.
When in October was the 2007 rez? Are they remotely near a year from their initial cancellation?
=)
Kk..
The initial cancellation was for October 14/15 2007. They are booked tonight and tomorrow night.
.
If you get any hassle, could you maybe honor 100% of last year's rate, and have them pay the rate increase?
.
The problem is (and it is MY problem and one I need to deal with), is that if they give me any hassle I will totally cave. I'm just not a fighter (as you've seen, I'm a behind-the-scenes seether instead!)...I can't be confrontational. DH, on the other hand, has no problem with being confrontational. He's out painting the garden shed so he gets to avoid the check-ins today...I should trade him!
I have a feeling there will be no drama...the woman who actually bought and is redeeming the GC understood what the terms were and she agreed to them (and they are in writing in her confirmation)...it's just the phone call upset me today.
.
Don't borrow trouble. But if there is a review that is less than stellar, the bunch here will help you write the mgmt response...
 

agoodman

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ah yes we live and learn, next time we will all remember to re-issue our GC's based on the agreement we have come to with them
I had a similar .. when I bought this B&B the former owners did not tell me they had issued any GC's - although there were only 2, one included a full dinner for 2.
I called former owners, they first denied it (I had to fax them a coy) and then they agreed to pay for the dinner and I would eat the cost of the room. Never save one red penny from them .......
Then on my first certificates I never kept a copy .. MY BAD. AH WELL we live and learn
 

Don Draper

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Ok, clearly the Universe is trying to tell me something here, I'm just not sure what the message is:
Doorbell rings, a different check-in is here (NOT the GC woman)...I go into the spiel yada, yada...they pull out a GC! They did NOT tell us they would be using a GC so now I have to refund their deposit (they booked online despite the HUGE WARNING IN LARGE LETTERS THAT SAYS YOU MUST PHONE TO BOOK IF YOU ARE USING A GC!)
We take a 50% deposit on all reservations, but when someone books with a GC we don't take a deposit, just take the cc number...it clearly says on our Webervations page that if you are redeeming a GC you MUST phone to book (because otherwise on a normal Webervations we take the deposit, and if they are using a GC then when they arrive we'd have to refund the deposit, and then we have fees for both of those transactions).
Long and short of it, I just had to refund $75.00 to this guy who couldn't be bothered to stand still for 3 minutes while I checked him in...kept interrupting, asking questions and then not listening to answers, touching everything in sight, jumped into the cookie jar while I was still checking them in....yikes.
According to my own policies I should have not let him use the GC but of course I couldn't do that...I did say "You are supposed to call when you are redeeming a GC, we didn't know you would be using one" and his wife said "Oh, I thought we should have called but he did it online."
 

JunieBJones (JBJ)

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I learned from a very wise innkeeper a long time ago, is it worth the hassle and stress? If you can say YES, then stick to your guns.
I had a terrible week two weeks ago with last minute cancellations and no shows and nobody wanted to pay. (They were third party bookings, a DR through an agency, a guest of our local college and then the couple who called from another state at 4pm). I was determined if it was the last thing I ever did, to get the $ from those people, which I did successfully. But it took much effort. I was not going to let them walk all over me.
But I have had people pull stunts last minute that I was already frazzled and just let it ride away. Saved ME a lot in the end. I wanted it over with and out of my hair.
 
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