Once more into the fray- cancellation polices

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Morticia

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After having numerous cancellations this summer along with the attendant cries of 'abuse' when we tell them they still owe us no matter why they are cancelling, I am looking for sure fire cancellation policies that have never been argued with. What do you do that works each and every time? Do you give a voucher for a stay at another time (do those vouchers get used), do you take a deposit at time of rez or one just as the rez gets to the 'cancel by' date? How do you handle this?
So, what do you do that causes you the least amount of grief with the guest or your innkeeping partner? All suggestions will be on the table as we reconsider how we do business in light of the defaulting credit cards and people cancelling as we are waiting for them to arrive.
 

EmptyNest

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We used to issue a GC and then charge their card. Most of the time they were used..but a very few were not.
If I were doing it today, No GC...I would be taking a one day deposit and charging their card right then and there. With clear wording in a confirmation that indeed their card has been charged. It will apply to their first night stay and if they cancel ...the FORFEIT the deposit.
 

JBloggs

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Just had a call from Winchester VA hospital. Guest is there with wife having an MRI. They are traveling/vacationing from FLA and to check in tonight. I told them if they are up to it we would like to have them stay on their home maybe this coming weekend or week. I didn't charge them. I thought about the GC and our guests yesterday with the flu tried to cancel the jet ski rental and were told where to go, they were not happy, as, he truly was ill.
So I guess the answer from me is we do or do not know what really is going on the other end of the line. We can be hardnosed since bad guests make us this way, or we can have some compassion and perhaps win the person over for next time. Unfortunately, yes it is a business, we have bills to pay, so we have to make the call on a one by one basis imo, it is a people business, and whenever you have people you have issues...it is human nature.
 

EmptyNest

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Just had a call from Winchester VA hospital. Guest is there with wife having an MRI. They are traveling/vacationing from FLA and to check in tonight. I told them if they are up to it we would like to have them stay on their home maybe this coming weekend or week. I didn't charge them. I thought about the GC and our guests yesterday with the flu tried to cancel the jet ski rental and were told where to go, they were not happy, as, he truly was ill.
So I guess the answer from me is we do or do not know what really is going on the other end of the line. We can be hardnosed since bad guests make us this way, or we can have some compassion and perhaps win the person over for next time. Unfortunately, yes it is a business, we have bills to pay, so we have to make the call on a one by one basis imo, it is a people business, and whenever you have people you have issues...it is human nature..
Yes, there are some extenuating circumstances and the innkeeper has the discretion to do what they want.
But in many cases, we know they are going to be a PITA and need to prepare for that. I now see no reason not to charge a deposit right up front. Then after that innkeeper can decide on a case by case basis if need be. Be hard nosed with your policies on the web site and in confirmation and then follow your gut is something arises.
 

Copperhead

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Just had a call from Winchester VA hospital. Guest is there with wife having an MRI. They are traveling/vacationing from FLA and to check in tonight. I told them if they are up to it we would like to have them stay on their home maybe this coming weekend or week. I didn't charge them. I thought about the GC and our guests yesterday with the flu tried to cancel the jet ski rental and were told where to go, they were not happy, as, he truly was ill.
So I guess the answer from me is we do or do not know what really is going on the other end of the line. We can be hardnosed since bad guests make us this way, or we can have some compassion and perhaps win the person over for next time. Unfortunately, yes it is a business, we have bills to pay, so we have to make the call on a one by one basis imo, it is a people business, and whenever you have people you have issues...it is human nature..
Joey Bloggs said:
Just had a call from Winchester VA hospital. Guest is there with wife having an MRI. They are traveling/vacationing from FLA and to check in tonight. I told them if they are up to it we would like to have them stay on their home maybe this coming weekend or week. I didn't charge them. I thought about the GC and our guests yesterday with the flu tried to cancel the jet ski rental and were told where to go, they were not happy, as, he truly was ill.
So I guess the answer from me is we do or do not know what really is going on the other end of the line. We can be hardnosed since bad guests make us this way, or we can have some compassion and perhaps win the person over for next time. Unfortunately, yes it is a business, we have bills to pay, so we have to make the call on a one by one basis imo, it is a people business, and whenever you have people you have issues...it is human nature.
These are situations you can deal with as a per need basis but this is not the way to manage your business up front. You need to have firm easy to understand policies in place... if a special case comes along and you feel you want to alter your policies for that guest, for those reasons by golly that is your prerogative, it is your business.
 

Joey Camb

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Having just had one of these cancel 24 hours (we have a 48 hour policy which round here is considered pretty liberal) but I slapped her on the wrist saying when she came gosh I was able to re-sell so we won't have to charge you isn't that good? as they never think and I wanted her to be a better canceller next time. She did have a proper reason as a forklift fell on her son's hand so he was missing his own son's passing out parade. People argue with everything but I think we have less trouble cos ours is quite liberal to start with. However we say if you don't cancell and just don't turn up then we charge the full wack to frighten them.
 

Country Girl

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We have a fairly strict (10 day) cancellation policy and we really stick to it. I keep a wait-list and I do try to rebook the room if a guest cancels. However, unless it's weather related or something that seems justified I don't refund the deposit.
 

JBloggs

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48 hours is way way nice and I hope they appreciate it.
 

Morticia

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Essentially what I'm hearing is get the deposit and then do a case by case determination.
So, deposit at time of booking (not something I want to do because we have guests who book a year in advance) or deposit when the cancellation period kicks in?
And one option of offering a voucher for a later stay. (Which is what my last minute cancel yesterday told me was the proper way to handle her cancellation.) Actually, I think that was the straw. Being told how to run my business after being told I shouldn't charge at all because I wasn't full and after being told she knew she would probably cancel but she wanted to be sure she had the room just in case.
 

One Day

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BS..........I've been charged from big hotels for cancelations........if it is in their list of policies.........then I have no recourse........it's just that simple
 

Joey Camb

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Essentially what I'm hearing is get the deposit and then do a case by case determination.
So, deposit at time of booking (not something I want to do because we have guests who book a year in advance) or deposit when the cancellation period kicks in?
And one option of offering a voucher for a later stay. (Which is what my last minute cancel yesterday told me was the proper way to handle her cancellation.) Actually, I think that was the straw. Being told how to run my business after being told I shouldn't charge at all because I wasn't full and after being told she knew she would probably cancel but she wanted to be sure she had the room just in case..
People like that should get over themselves and the cheek to say oh I was only holding the room just in case well then she should have cancelled properly shouldn't she? and read the policies carefully! and how does she know that you weren't full because you had to turn away a two room booking because you only had one left (if you see what I mean)? What a complete poo head charge her cos you don't want her back!
 

EmptyNest

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Essentially what I'm hearing is get the deposit and then do a case by case determination.
So, deposit at time of booking (not something I want to do because we have guests who book a year in advance) or deposit when the cancellation period kicks in?
And one option of offering a voucher for a later stay. (Which is what my last minute cancel yesterday told me was the proper way to handle her cancellation.) Actually, I think that was the straw. Being told how to run my business after being told I shouldn't charge at all because I wasn't full and after being told she knew she would probably cancel but she wanted to be sure she had the room just in case..
Oh these PITA's....what nerve....I'd say charge them the deposit right up front and do it for everyone Even if it is a year out. That is their committement to you and yours to them.
 

Samster

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Essentially what I'm hearing is get the deposit and then do a case by case determination.
So, deposit at time of booking (not something I want to do because we have guests who book a year in advance) or deposit when the cancellation period kicks in?
And one option of offering a voucher for a later stay. (Which is what my last minute cancel yesterday told me was the proper way to handle her cancellation.) Actually, I think that was the straw. Being told how to run my business after being told I shouldn't charge at all because I wasn't full and after being told she knew she would probably cancel but she wanted to be sure she had the room just in case..
Oh, good grief! It's a moot point whether you were full or not! She had no way of knowing how many people that you had to turn away that wanted the room that she held! And cancelling on the same day usually carries a charge for ANY lodging establishment unless you have some frequent business stay arrangement with them.

And I was the Queen of NIce when it came to cancelling reservations........ :)
 

muirford

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Essentially what I'm hearing is get the deposit and then do a case by case determination.
So, deposit at time of booking (not something I want to do because we have guests who book a year in advance) or deposit when the cancellation period kicks in?
And one option of offering a voucher for a later stay. (Which is what my last minute cancel yesterday told me was the proper way to handle her cancellation.) Actually, I think that was the straw. Being told how to run my business after being told I shouldn't charge at all because I wasn't full and after being told she knew she would probably cancel but she wanted to be sure she had the room just in case..
Morticia said:
Being told how to run my business after being told I shouldn't charge at all because I wasn't full and after being told she knew she would probably cancel but she wanted to be sure she had the room just in case.
Now that's a person who's name should be listed on GuestAdvisor.com. How much trouble can we really get in if we start a blog that lists PITAs and policy-ignorers publicly? TA does it, so it seems turnabout should be fair play. I know there's a subscription service that hotels can use for frequent abusers of policies and facilities.
 

Don Draper

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Essentially what I'm hearing is get the deposit and then do a case by case determination.
So, deposit at time of booking (not something I want to do because we have guests who book a year in advance) or deposit when the cancellation period kicks in?
And one option of offering a voucher for a later stay. (Which is what my last minute cancel yesterday told me was the proper way to handle her cancellation.) Actually, I think that was the straw. Being told how to run my business after being told I shouldn't charge at all because I wasn't full and after being told she knew she would probably cancel but she wanted to be sure she had the room just in case..
Morticia said:
Being told how to run my business after being told I shouldn't charge at all because I wasn't full and after being told she knew she would probably cancel but she wanted to be sure she had the room just in case.
Now that's a person who's name should be listed on GuestAdvisor.com. How much trouble can we really get in if we start a blog that lists PITAs and policy-ignorers publicly? TA does it, so it seems turnabout should be fair play. I know there's a subscription service that hotels can use for frequent abusers of policies and facilities.
.
There is such a thing for restaurants, something like rottenguest.com or the like. I whole heartedly agree, turnabout SHOULD be fair play.
Mort, our cancellation policies are exceedingly strict. 14 days out you lose your deposit, 7 days out you're responsible for the entire stay (both unless we are able to rebook, in which case you get your deposit back less a $25 handling fee). And we DO try to rebook and are usually able to, even at our hardship (taking a single Friday and Saturday night to fill in when we would normally have a 2 night minimum). Do we lost some bookings because of these policies? Definitely. Will this make us change them? No. We are busy enough with the type of guest we want here. I don't want someone who's booking with me "just in case" they can't get anything else. That is the height of rudeness as far as I'm concerned. We get people to book here who really want to stay HERE, not just in the area.
We do get a LOT of repeat visitors though, often one year in advance (the whole "sign me up for next year" thing as they check out this year). At first we didn't take deposits for them, but we got burned more than once. So we started a new policy, we take the reservation when you leave this year, and then we will contact you during January of the following year to see if you are still coming and take a deposit at that time. It's worked beautifully...it weeded out those who might have been prone to cancel on us by taking advantage of an "old friendship".
 

Proud Texan

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We used to issue a GC and then charge their card. Most of the time they were used..but a very few were not.
If I were doing it today, No GC...I would be taking a one day deposit and charging their card right then and there. With clear wording in a confirmation that indeed their card has been charged. It will apply to their first night stay and if they cancel ...the FORFEIT the deposit..
catlady said:
We used to issue a GC and then charge their card. Most of the time they were used..but a very few were not.
If I were doing it today, No GC...I would be taking a one day deposit and charging their card right then and there. With clear wording in a confirmation that indeed their card has been charged. It will apply to their first night stay and if they cancel ...the FORFEIT the deposit.
So, do you pay the higher fee for processing the card without swiping it?
I manually key the number into the machine to VERIFY the transaction. I don't charge the card until the guest checks out, when I then swipe the card.
If there is a cancellation, then I have to bite the bullet and pay the higher processing fee for not having the card present. So far, I think most guest assume their credit card was charged when they made the reservation. I don't know why they think we're any different from the rest of the world. Even large hotels swipe your card even if you have made your reservation online.
 

Don Draper

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We used to issue a GC and then charge their card. Most of the time they were used..but a very few were not.
If I were doing it today, No GC...I would be taking a one day deposit and charging their card right then and there. With clear wording in a confirmation that indeed their card has been charged. It will apply to their first night stay and if they cancel ...the FORFEIT the deposit..
catlady said:
We used to issue a GC and then charge their card. Most of the time they were used..but a very few were not.
If I were doing it today, No GC...I would be taking a one day deposit and charging their card right then and there. With clear wording in a confirmation that indeed their card has been charged. It will apply to their first night stay and if they cancel ...the FORFEIT the deposit.
So, do you pay the higher fee for processing the card without swiping it?
I manually key the number into the machine to VERIFY the transaction. I don't charge the card until the guest checks out, when I then swipe the card.
If there is a cancellation, then I have to bite the bullet and pay the higher processing fee for not having the card present. So far, I think most guest assume their credit card was charged when they made the reservation. I don't know why they think we're any different from the rest of the world. Even large hotels swipe your card even if you have made your reservation online.
.
Negotiate with your cc processor...the difference between our keyed rate and swiped rate is .2%, the difference has gotten much smaller than it used to be.
 

JBloggs

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No Mort, what I meant was case by case is up to us to determine should it come to that, but to be careful not to do the "Okay someone stole a dollar in class today so everyone is going to pay! The entire class is being kept back after school!" I would hate to have reservations driven away before they book for being too harsh on the policies.
You can state in a couple lines some very firm guidelines for guests. It is liek the notes thing. You run the risk of offending more guests by all the notes everywhere, and the main abusers of the system will work it either way ANYWAY.
 

Don Draper

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No Mort, what I meant was case by case is up to us to determine should it come to that, but to be careful not to do the "Okay someone stole a dollar in class today so everyone is going to pay! The entire class is being kept back after school!" I would hate to have reservations driven away before they book for being too harsh on the policies.
You can state in a couple lines some very firm guidelines for guests. It is liek the notes thing. You run the risk of offending more guests by all the notes everywhere, and the main abusers of the system will work it either way ANYWAY..
You know our situation is a bit unique here, but the cancellation policies aren't meant to be punitive, but just to emphasize that it is competitive to stay here...we have only X number of rooms and if we are holding one for you, you are darn tootin' going to be financially responsible for it if you cancel within the stated time frame. We of course can always make an exception, we will sometimes do during less busy times if we were not full anyway.
 

Breakfast Diva

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Essentially what I'm hearing is get the deposit and then do a case by case determination.
So, deposit at time of booking (not something I want to do because we have guests who book a year in advance) or deposit when the cancellation period kicks in?
And one option of offering a voucher for a later stay. (Which is what my last minute cancel yesterday told me was the proper way to handle her cancellation.) Actually, I think that was the straw. Being told how to run my business after being told I shouldn't charge at all because I wasn't full and after being told she knew she would probably cancel but she wanted to be sure she had the room just in case..
Morticia said:
Being told how to run my business after being told I shouldn't charge at all because I wasn't full and after being told she knew she would probably cancel but she wanted to be sure she had the room just in case.
Now that's a person who's name should be listed on GuestAdvisor.com. How much trouble can we really get in if we start a blog that lists PITAs and policy-ignorers publicly? TA does it, so it seems turnabout should be fair play. I know there's a subscription service that hotels can use for frequent abusers of policies and facilities.
.
There is such a thing for restaurants, something like rottenguest.com or the like. I whole heartedly agree, turnabout SHOULD be fair play.
Mort, our cancellation policies are exceedingly strict. 14 days out you lose your deposit, 7 days out you're responsible for the entire stay (both unless we are able to rebook, in which case you get your deposit back less a $25 handling fee). And we DO try to rebook and are usually able to, even at our hardship (taking a single Friday and Saturday night to fill in when we would normally have a 2 night minimum). Do we lost some bookings because of these policies? Definitely. Will this make us change them? No. We are busy enough with the type of guest we want here. I don't want someone who's booking with me "just in case" they can't get anything else. That is the height of rudeness as far as I'm concerned. We get people to book here who really want to stay HERE, not just in the area.
We do get a LOT of repeat visitors though, often one year in advance (the whole "sign me up for next year" thing as they check out this year). At first we didn't take deposits for them, but we got burned more than once. So we started a new policy, we take the reservation when you leave this year, and then we will contact you during January of the following year to see if you are still coming and take a deposit at that time. It's worked beautifully...it weeded out those who might have been prone to cancel on us by taking advantage of an "old friendship".
.
Like Rupert, we are very strict with our policies. We charge a deposit the day the reservations comes. We charge a $25 cancellation fee and if they cancel within 10 days of arrival, they get charged for their entire reservation. Also, there are no early departures...they will be charged. We also have fine tuned our wording of our cancellation policy so there is no wiggle room. We even state that "our cancellation policy is strictly enforced". The cancellation policy is on the website, on the online booking, and on their confirmation letter. We do not give GC for cancellations...if you do that you're still out the money because that room could have been rented by someone else when they do show up for their stay.
This summer has been the worst in 10 years for cancellations and for credit cards that are declined. We have 3 situations where people have said they would dispute it with their credit card company this summer alone. I politely tell them that is their option. In 10 years we have never even had the credit card company contact us for a dispute because they see our cancellation policy and it's very clear. I have heard from one guest who tried to dispute the charge that their credit card company wouldn't even accept their dispute after reading our policy.
We are not heartless....just last week we let someone out of a 3 night reservation because their mother took a turn for the worse 1 day before their arrival. But at that point it's our choice.
It's very difficult emotionally to really stick to your guns about your policy, but it gets easier over time. After awhile it feels good to stick up for yourself!
 
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