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Booking com - the adventure continues...

 
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AngloDutch



Joined: 11 Jul 2014
Posts: 722
Location: Netherlands

PostPosted: Thu Jan 21, 2021 1:44 pm    Post subject: Booking com - the adventure continues... Reply with quote

After going months without any bookings from BC last year, we finally worked out that all our rates (normally loaded until the end of the following year) had disappeared. After loading everything again, including all the different rate plans with their numerous different conditions/discounts, we thought we were all set after many hours of tedious work.

Then the same thing happened again, all our rates disappeared. The second time that it occurred, we had just gone into their extranet system to again modify our maximum guest capacity, as there had been yet another Dutch government press conference informing us that further social distancing restrictions were to be implemented due to COVID.

Was there therefore somehow a link to the rates disappearing and our modification of the guest capacity?

We called their Partner support line and was told that what we had discovered was in fact correct - when you modify your guest capacity, you automatically lose all your rate plans. Great, very unhelpful in these times when also BC does not allow any switching off of automatic booking confirmation (unlike ABB and VR, where all booking requests are now subject to our approval before confirmation).

BC provided us last Autumn with several bookings from small groups which at the time were permitted, and unlike many other larger group bookings from other sources, they all went ahead. So, we thought it worth while to stick with them as BC were really the only site giving us bookings.

We decided to just keep our capacity at its original ‘ten’ and, with advice from their support line, we clicked every COVID-related option in their extranet and inputted free-format text in English, Dutch and German saying that we can only currently accommodate one single household or a maximum of two adults. Children under the age of thirteen years are accepted, unlimited up to our maximum capacity.

We have gone through a test run of our own property on their site and all kinds of warnings show that prospective guests must be aware of current Dutch governmental restrictions concerning group sizes and that it is the guests’ responsibility to make sure that they are adhering to the current rules when booking and also during their stay. So, we thought we had covered ourselves and that we would again just get bookings from small groups (what now is actually no more than a single household permitted).

Our village is in a well-known tourist area here and the police and appointed ‘COVID marshals’ are often to be seen driving up and down looking for infringers. Our property can be seen from the main road, including the entrances. Having a group of adults together at a door would result in an instant fine of €95 for each adult and €4,000 for the organizers/owners of accommodations if, on checking, if was to be seen that there was more than a single household staying at an accommodation.

Last week, we received the first booking of 2021 from BC. A booking for four adults and a child for a few days over Valentine’s Day. So, it could be a group that we are currently unable to accept. Unfortunately, the guests had entered an incorrect phone number (too many digits) and their address was incomplete. We tried to message them asking to advise their group makeup, but they didn’t reply.

Several days later we called BC’s partner support to ask what to do. It is impossible for us to cancel the booking unless the guests’ payment has not been received or unless we are cancelling on behalf of the guests themselves. BC support informed us that they will message the guests to ask them to get in contact with us. But we were still not able to contact the guests.
After searching, we found the guests on Facebook (same exact surname and place – not a common name and very small village) and contacted them via Messenger. Still no answer.

Then, finally we received a call from the guests to say that they have been replying to all emails from BC, actually sending us a copy of one of their replies to BC. We then noticed that the guests had been replying to BC’s ‘no reply’ email address….
But, we were thankful that we now had their correct phone number and asked them if they were travelling as one single household. They said that they are two households in total. As they had booked using a fully flexible rate, there were two options – come with just one household or cancel the reservation. They assured us that only two adults and one child would now turn up. Problem solved we thought. But it was only the beginning of much more stress to come…

At the beginning of this week, a second booking came through. Ten adults for the middle of this March. The guests had obviously ignored all the onscreen warnings and booked using a non-refundable rate. We tried to contact the Partner Support, but they were too busy, so we got through to General Support. We asked them at what point could we cancel the booking, due to non-adherence to the COVID restrictions. The answer was that it was the guests responsibility to follow the rules and that we should just refuse them when they turn up at the accommodation. As they had selected a non-refundable rate, it was basically the guests’ problem.

Like many LMH’ers, we have suffered enormously since last March. We have now had more than 30 cancellations in total. Many of those bookings were through ABB where the guests will never of course rebook (and who left cancellation right up to the last minute, so preventing smaller groups from booking the dates). Our idea is that every booking that comes through now during these uncertain times can be accepted eventually, as long as the guests are willing to rebook.

So, we stated to BC that we were willing to allow the guests to rebook to another date, with any rate increase to be covered by the guests. We asked BC to advise the guests to rebook to AT LEAST the end of 2021, but better to 2022.

We then received a confirmation from BC that the guests had rebooked to the end of April - 6 weeks later! BC also asked what the rate difference would be, so that they could collect if from the guests. We messaged BC with the details immediately. Unfortunately the agent who saw our message did not read it properly and had to come back to us again, asking a question which we had already answered in our previous reply.
This delay allowed other guests to book those same dates in their system two days later. We had a duplicate booking.

As BC was handling the rebooking of the first guests, we expected them to rebook the guests immediately to the new dates and then wait on any rate (re)confirmation and receiving the extra funds from the guests. But they did not do that. What is blatantly obvious is that the person at BC handing the rebooking just moved the first guests’ dates over without checking whether the dates were still available. So, we now had two reservations from BC, both now arriving on the same dates. Also, this second booking was for seven adults and three children. Again, not possible to accommodate currently and also, extremely unlikely that they will be able to stay here in a little over three months’ time. COVID would have to disappear for that to happen.

So, a mess has turned into a complete mess.

Over the last few days we have spoken with several BC agents, just about all from General Reservations, because the Partner support is too busy. One of the agents actually escalated through to a manager. The reply from the manager was that BC would seek alternative accommodation for the second group that booked the availability through their system. They would handle this as a ‘partner overbooking’ with any rate difference to be billed to us. We had to hear this via the support agent, as it was not possible to speak to the manager directly.

Not really looking forward to being billed maybe hundreds of Euros so that these guests could rebook to a different accommodation (which may or may not go ahead, depending on COVID, depending on the other owners adhering to the restrictions), we stated to the BC agent that either of these two groups could rebook to another period, without any increase in rate, and that we would also throw in a decent welcome pack in order to solve this problem (a problem as we have mentioned, that was created due to the fact that the BC agent handling the original rebooking did not check our live availability. We have our 5-bedroomed accommodation listed as ‘1 room’ under their ‘rates/calendar’, so how is it possible that their system can create a duplicate booking in the first place!?)

Today, after receiving an email from BC that the last reservation would be re-accommodated at a similar holiday home to ours and that we would definitely be liable for the difference in the rate, we decided to contact both groups of guests ourselves. No phone contact with the second party that booked.

The first party (who we had allowed to rebook from their original dates in March, although we were under no obligation to do so) became very angry when we spoke to them this morning.
They said that the rebooking had been confirmed to them and that we should contact the other party and ask them to rebook.
We explained to them that we were under no obligation to even rebook them to April and that we had allowed this (on a restricted rate) in order to help them out. We said that one of the two parties had to accept that they couldn’t stay, unless they all wanted to turn up together….so, they are now considering changing their booking to the first weekend in May but they need time to get an answer from all ten adults in their group.

So, hopefully, the first group will agree and BC can rebook them, after we close those dates on our BC listing first, and then, ultimately, they will still be cancelled sometime before their arrival in May, due to us having to tell them that they are in breach of the COVID regulations….

Problems almost now solved (please guests!) and we have just got off the phone with BC support yet again, explaining everything to yet another agent, but who stated that there was no mention of what we had discussed with the other agent yesterday in either of the two bookings' notes history (that is, allow either of these groups to rebook at no extra cost plus receive an extensive welcome pack for free). It was obvious that BC had not attempted to offer our solution to either guests and that BC had just gone for the easy solution – rebook the last guests to another accommodation and subtract any rate difference for the re-accommodation from our next payout.

We are not out of the woods yet, but hopefully the tree line is in sight. We have been busy with just BC for most of the last two weeks. As soon as this current problem will be solved (probably due to mainly our actions), another problem will will no doubt come along. And it will no doubt be BC-related.

So, if you are thinking of looking at listing on BC, be aware of what you are up against. These examples – our last three bookings with them – show how much work is involved in sorting out the mess that some of their guests can create and how much real ‘support’ this company can and is willing to give you.
If mistakes are made, it’s the guests' or the partners’ fault, and never theirs. You have to really think whether BC are worth getting involved with.
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Cymraes



Joined: 07 Jul 2015
Posts: 518
Location: North Wales

PostPosted: Sat Jan 23, 2021 12:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I closed my calendar on b.com for this very reason back in March

It was obvious right from the start that the instant booking would cause problems for us (Wales - local lockdowns, same day lockdowns, a couple of days at least to get council permission to accept keyworker guests etc etc). I never trusted that they would be 100% on our side if we had to cancel a booking due to the Welsh Govt following it's policy of "must do things differently from England". A foreign based entity is not going to understand the intricacies of our partially devolved system.

I minimise as much of B.com's input as I can as a matter of course anyway. I take payments myself and I've disabled their virtual credit card and various other initiatives that they offer. This gives me a little wriggle room.
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AngloDutch



Joined: 11 Jul 2014
Posts: 722
Location: Netherlands

PostPosted: Sun Jan 24, 2021 10:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

[quote="Cymraes"]I closed my calendar on b.com for this very reason back in March

It was obvious right from the start that the instant booking would cause problems for us



Yes, unbelievable that BC is still allowing guests to just book and get automatic confirmations and then not allowing hosts to cancel when the guests are in breach of government restrictions.

We are also signed up to BC's 'Risk-Free Reservation' programme (where BC offers easy cancellations T&Cs with a full refund on some of our bookings, overriding our restrictive cancellation, but covering the cancellation costs if BC is unable to find any replacement guests for those dates).
We have also now removed all unrestricted rate plans from our BC listing. So, if any new bookings come in with full refund up to arrival date, then we know that BC is covering the cancellation risk. Although, we're yet to see if their programme works out as easy as they promise!

The second group of guests have now cancelled and have been reallocated to another accommodation by BC. BC have now waived their commission which we would have otherwise have had to pay on the overbooking cancellation. As to the rate difference on the alternative accommodation, one of their agents thought that the rebooking amount was less than originally paid for our accommodation, but we have had no confirmation of this and can find no details in our 'Finance' section of their extranet.

So, still a lot of uncertainty if we are facing any penalty there for BC's mistakes.
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Cymraes



Joined: 07 Jul 2015
Posts: 518
Location: North Wales

PostPosted: Sun Jan 24, 2021 10:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've opted out of that too as I'm sure they'll be a catch in the small print somewhere. There always is with B.com! They are also very good at making it very hard to find the small print.

I have a vague suspicion that if they manage to re-let one night of a cancelled week they'll wriggle out of paying compensation for the 6 other cancelled nights but I can't find anything to support or deny this. There have got to be terms and conditions but I can't find them.

I was caught by their free commission for 5 booking if you refer someone - not exactly no. It's capped at a fairly low figure so I got only 1 " commission free" booking rather than the 5 I'd been led to believe I would get.

I do use them on occasion but I am well aware that I'm supping with the devil so I use a long spoon!
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Pengman



Joined: 22 Apr 2019
Posts: 73
Location: Portland, Dorset UK

PostPosted: Thu Feb 11, 2021 5:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

And now Booking.com have completely ridden roughahod over cancellation deposit policies by scrapping most of them. Also from 17th May 2021, deposit policies must match cancellation policies, so if your cancellation policy is a 50% refund prior to (say) 7 days prior to check in, you can only charge 50% when you accept the booking and not charge the balance until 7 days before the booking. But the booking system I use (Eviivo) advise me that Booking.com will take that 50% when the guest books but not take any further payment from them - so how am I gonna get paid the 50% balance? All as clear as mud to me at present and quite worrying that big tech like Booking.com can be allowed to weild so much power.
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Cymraes



Joined: 07 Jul 2015
Posts: 518
Location: North Wales

PostPosted: Fri Feb 12, 2021 11:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Pengman wrote:
And now Booking.com have completely ridden roughahod over cancellation deposit policies by scrapping most of them. Also from 17th May 2021, deposit policies must match cancellation policies, so if your cancellation policy is a 50% refund prior to (say) 7 days prior to check in, you can only charge 50% when you accept the booking and not charge the balance until 7 days before the booking. But the booking system I use (Eviivo) advise me that Booking.com will take that 50% when the guest books but not take any further payment from them - so how am I gonna get paid the 50% balance? All as clear as mud to me at present and quite worrying that big tech like Booking.com can be allowed to weild so much power.


Yes I wasn't pleased either but I only offer non refundable rates and generally only release last minute rates on booking.com which my own terms and conditions require full payment to reserve so in practice won't make any difference.

I take all payments myself anyway and just pay their commission invoices.
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Cymraes



Joined: 07 Jul 2015
Posts: 518
Location: North Wales

PostPosted: Fri Feb 12, 2021 11:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cymraes wrote:
Pengman wrote:
And now Booking.com have completely ridden roughahod over cancellation deposit policies by scrapping most of them. Also from 17th May 2021, deposit policies must match cancellation policies, so if your cancellation policy is a 50% refund prior to (say) 7 days prior to check in, you can only charge 50% when you accept the booking and not charge the balance until 7 days before the booking. But the booking system I use (Eviivo) advise me that Booking.com will take that 50% when the guest books but not take any further payment from them - so how am I gonna get paid the 50% balance? All as clear as mud to me at present and quite worrying that big tech like Booking.com can be allowed to weild so much power.


Yes I wasn't pleased either but I only offer non refundable rates and generally only release last minute rates on booking.com which my own terms and conditions require full payment to reserve so in practice won't make any difference to me.

I take all payments myself anyway and just pay their commission invoices.
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zebedee



Joined: 12 Sep 2014
Posts: 1239
Location: yorkshire dales

PostPosted: Fri Feb 12, 2021 2:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cymraes said

Quote:
Yes I wasn't pleased either but I only offer non refundable rates


What do you mean by non refundable rates please?
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