IT’S ANOTHER BOOKING.COM SPECIAL
….BE AWARE GUESTS ARE CLAIMING NOT TO RECEIVE NOTICE OF CANCELLATION?
In our technology-based new world, we assume that everything will just become faster and better. We could be wrong, based on some recent BedPosts comments. First, one member posted –
“We have had a run of B.com bookings with cards not working (now taking 1st night in advance). Whilst some get in touch with new card details quickly we have had 4 in two weeks that only get in touch after cancellation. “Why has my booking been cancelled?” They have all denied receiving the warning re failed card. This sounded like a normal complaint about B.com guests until another posted –
“I think that it is possible they genuinely didn’t receive any mail from B.com. Last weekend we had one where we had marked it as invalid, and 48 hours later cancelled it, only for the guest to still turn up expecting a room. When I showed him on my system it was cancelled, he went into his emails to check and hadn’t had a single email from them (so wasn’t even aware he had entered invalid card details)”.
Then someone else added – “My estimate is that about 5% of our emails ‘get lost’. It is becoming a major pain. I think the problem is that spam filters are now ‘super’ sensitive and almost anything triggers. Hotmail/Outlook accounts are particularly difficult to get a message to. In fact we now almost assume that a hotmail address will not receive our e-mails!”
….A BAD START TO THE YEAR FOR ONE MEMBER!
One member has single-handedly had as many problems with guests and/or agencies (well, B.com) this year to date as most members might have in a full year or more. In April, she posted in a discussion about offering room-only options with B.com alongside her normal B&B offering –
“The results are mixed. It often does tend to attract the ‘wrong’ sort as per the ones who do not read what they have booked. I email everyone to tell them they have booked room-only and they can upgrade to breakfast when they arrive. Most read it but a few don’t. We had two rooms booked at the basic room-only rate arriving last week. It led to a perfect storm of selfish guests and a very unhappy lady who left us an extremely bad review. She complained, among other things, that she had not been shown the breakfast room even though she said she didn’t want breakfast. It does drive bookings though, I have pulled the offer at the moment and bookings have now dropped off again.”
Earlier in April she’d had this to report –
“We just had a stinker from a woman who booked on B.com, room-only basis. She said she had to leave early for a yoga class so I assumed that was why she booked room only, though I did email her to say she could upgrade to breakfast. She complained she had not been shown around or where the breakfast room is. We were in the room both mornings and it is hard to miss if you stand in the hall, which she would have had to do to leave the house. She had several gripes including the fact she was kept awake by guests in the next room who were making a noise until 1am. The male member of the noisy pair of guests managed to damage the vertical blind in our breakfast room by trying to pull it apart like a pair of curtains. The guest in the room below her seemed to have been smoking so another complaint there. There was a very faint whiff but she was OTT by claiming her clothes smelt. The season has only just started!”
Then on 2nd April – “We have a couple of B.com rooms coming in today. Or we thought we did. I just got this email. The expectation being, I think, that I will waive the charge. It is hard to know whether it is genuine or not, and what to do. I suppose I could offer them another night at another time. ‘I am writing on behalf of my in laws who are booked to stay tonight. I am a nurse and when I came to see them this morning xxx is quite unwell. I’ve sent her with xxx to A&E. Given how she is at the moment they won’t be able to make it tonight. She is quite upset and wanted to let you know. I realise this is late notice but is there anything you can do for them in this instance. I’ve given you my number as they are at hospital and they probably won’t be contactable. I appreciate you taking the time to consider. Kind Regards'”
Okay, this last problem cannot be laid at B.com’s door. However, at the end of March she’d had this –
“We had one chap book our non-refundable rate, no breakfast. He utterly failed to read anything. He didn’t realise it was room only so he wanted a breakfast upgrade. Then he left an angry message on B.com saying his account had gone overdrawn because he hadn’t read that the cost of the entire booking is pre-payable at any time. I usually take it at the time of booking. I am really looking forward to his stay.”
On the lighter side, also at the end of March – “We had a VERY early arrival today. A year too early! A very nice Australian couple booked for two nights but selected 2018. Initial panic stations as we were not expecting any arrivals today. Fortunately, we did have one room left for tomorrow night so we were able to take them. They have cancelled their booking so we now have a two night commission free booking.”
In early March, before B.com non-guests prompted her to start taking non-refundable deposits –
“We seem to have been getting quite a few bookings from China lately, mostly with a Shanghai addresses and, of course, they cancel after presumably getting their travel visa. I am beginning to wonder if we are on a list for companies who help the Chinese to apply for visas. The latest one was yesterday, two double rooms for two nights in October. The address seemed strange so I used Google. The result ‘No 1188 Ziyue Road, Coca-cola
shanghai China’ which turns out is the address of Coca-Cola in Shanghai. It seems an unlikely destination for representatives of Coca-Cola so I await the inevitable cancellation. A cancellation fee looks like a good idea at the moment to weed out the time-wasters.”
….OTHER MEMBERS’ ANALYSIS AND COMMENTS ON BOOKING.COM
As ever, postings continue about B.com and their ever-tightening grip. One thoughtful analysis went thus –
“I don’t think it is as simple as greed, I just think that they have expanded so they are so large that they have to have a one size fits all website, and as such the needs of the smaller establishments aren’t taken into account; nor am I sure they can be. For instance, check in times are a hassle to most of us – a guest who announces they will be arriving at “x” o’clock might be helpful to some, a cause of irritation to others (as it falls outside their posted times), or an irrelevance to the large places with lots of staff who have 24/7 operations. After all if B.com get millions of bookings per year as they claim, why should they take notice or care about someone that provides them with 100 per year (I don’t agree with this I hasten to add, but it is the big business attitude to us minnows)?Their “one size fits all” website is a cause of frustration, as is their lack of customer service towards ourselves, but the danger is if they start to have tailored sites for different markets then they may find that guests wanting the hotel experience would ignore the guest house/B&B market/web site and we could end up suffering a drop in bookings. Their business model of market domination works and will I fear be with us for years to come. Likewise their customer services have been outgrown by their business and now you just seem to get a call centre who can only react in a certain way depending on what answer they get off the computer screen when they type in their perception of your problem; I have found if I call out of hours and get transferred to a US operator the standard of assistance seems to be so much better. I can still remember at the start of things how you actually had a ‘manager’ you could e-mail and speak to; then just an office; now the much hated Customer Services! The invalid cards issue they are trying to address with the “prepay and we will pass it on to the B&B via a virtual card” method, I don’t like this as it gives B.com too much control over my money – how long will it be before B.com decide to allow a guest to cancel and get their money back or give them a reduction due to special circumstances and we have no say in the matter (after all they already seem to be slewed towards the guest)?”
Further comments included –
“B.com is increasingly encouraging clients to book even if they’re not sure that they will travel. For that, it employs dozens of booking accelerators that pressure clients with a message such as ‘book now or you’ll lose the room.'”
“I think B.con deserve all the bad press they get. They deliberately confuse and obscure. They could make things clear for the guest, if they wanted to. I think one day, the way they mislead bookers will be their undoing. It makes no business sense to me to alienate both the guests and the accommodation providers.”
Perhaps you should be wary of ‘Genius Bookers’, the B.com guest incentive where regular bookers are expected to get a perk or discount as in the experience of this forum member –
“I am slightly tentative with these. When we were signed up to this (thought it was a good idea at the time), we had a young couple who stayed three nights at a reduced rate anyway as it was out of season, then they got a further 10% off the final price. They ate us out of house and home, wanted two options from our ‘choose one’ cooked option. Between the two of them, they drank all our good quality fruit juices (large bottle each every day). These guests really did take the **** Actually left a bitter sweet taste in the mouth.”
“The unfortunate thing is that the distinction between us and B.com is blurred in the guests mind and all this confusion can have a negative impact on the guests experience and they can apportion blame to us. It just gets the start of our relationship off to a poor start.”
Finally, one member copied a guest posting from a US site, complaintsboard.com –
“Never use booking com. The website is designed to defraud and mislead. I pressed on the reserve button to hold a room for a weeks stay, however, it immediately took my money and they have subsequently refused to refund me. Since this happened I have discovered the internet is littered with people who have been defrauded in the same way. Booking.com is a disingenuous organisation designed to defraud and mislead, beware and stay away!”
The subject of B.com misleading guests to get a booking, particularly by concealing important information, has been talked about a lot of late (over 400 posts in the last two months). BedPosts Club is looking at the issue and we would welcome comments from people who feel that they have been affected. Next month I’ll report on other issues, including the best advice on what guest toiletries, according to our members, you should aspire to provide for your guests – and the possible pitfalls of doing so.
Join in the conversation on BedPosts, the free forum for all small accommodation providers and have the opportunity of free advertising, free availability listing and commission free bookings at www.bedposts.uk
Roy McGregor, on behalf of BedPosts Forum and BedPosts Business Club
Postscript: In our own B&B we used UK-based Active Hotels before they were taken over by Booking.com. We continued with B.com but became disillusioned with their business practises a few years ago and no longer use them. We recognize that many B&B’s rely heavily on OTA’s and especially Booking.com but we would advise caution. As in the financial world you are advised not to put all your eggs in one basket. Ensure that your business comes from a variety of sources and do have a look at the possibilities offered by BedPosts.