Website bookings are common. We get dozens of them a day.
What, however, some people fail to realise, is that it is a third party. As in – you book with Website A, they send the booking to us, you stay, we ask Website A for payment, they pay us.
In short, you didn’t – and won’t – pay the hotel directly.
There are two main things which come up with website bookings.
The first, is those who want a copy of their tax invoice. Look, I understand that you need this for expense purposes, that’s great, but I can’t give you an invoice. You didn’t pay the hotel, we have no money for you, I can’t give you an invoice for something you didn’t pay us for. And with our new system, once the booking has been sent to accounts receivable, there is literally no way for me to generate an invoice that isn’t to the travel agent.
Yell at me as much as you want, the truth is you received this upon booking, if you have lost it or didn’t keep your email that is a reflection on your filing skills, not me being incompetent at my job.
The main reason we don’t issue tax invoices is that the website will almost always pay us a nett rate, and depending on the website can be quite a bit less than they paid to the agent. So, understandably, there are instructions not to disclose the rate to the guest. Sadly, this logic does not seem to reach all of our guests.
The other one that comes up? People wanting to cancel or amend their website bookings.
Again, the guest hasn’t paid any money to us. Yet, they keep calling us asking to cancel the booking. We will redirect them back to the agent – or at least attempt to.
Annoyingly, some guests refuse to do so. “Why do I have to call them? I’m staying with you!”
Yes, but you didn’t pay us. You paid them. Therefore, if you want your money back, you need to speak to them. I will happily provide you the number
that is on your confirmation letter. I will let you know who to speak with. But I can’t cancel the booking for you.
For starters, speaking from experience, it is a gigantic pain to cancel a guest’s booking through an agent as a hotelier – 9 times out of 10 they will insist on speaking with the guest anyway.
Secondly, I don’t always know what the particular cancellation policy on the booking is. And to be quite honest, I have enough arguments with the guests staying with us or who have booked directly with us about their cancellation policy, I’m not arguing on behalf of the agent. That’s their job.
And lastly, and most importantly – I can cancel your booking in our system. Very easily. But all that does is release the room. It doesn’t refund you. It doesn’t advise the agent. You can’t get your money back that way – because we don’t have it.
Please, for the love of god, do everyone a favour and speak to the agent if you’ve booked through them and have any issues related to the actual basics of your booking. It saves everyone a hell of a lot of time.
Every now and then, guests will advise us that they wish to travel incognito. This isn’t an odd request, and we have no problem accommodating this. Most of the time we will just leave a note, and amend the booking name to put asterisks in front of it, so it doesn’t come up on a search.
We don’t need a reason to flag a booking as this. And generally, guests won’t provide one.
Not this guest who checked in a few days ago with me. She mentioned that she needed to be marked as a silent guest. Sure, we can do that, no worries!
Then the guest starts to give me her life story about why she is travelling incognito. I don’t remember the exact specifics, but there is a family will dispute going on, and she is fighting with her family, and she is travelling around different hotels for the past two months but they keep finding her and she has to keep moving hotels.
As a side note, I’m pretty sure if they keep finding you at a number of different establishments, you’re not hiding your tracks as well as you think you are.
So I flag her booking, note it down, pass it onto the next shift. No worries, right?
Nope. I come in the next day, and she’s been moved. Initially I think she’s been “found” again, until my manager tells me what’s going on.
She called down in the morning, and told us that she could smell a gas in her room. And it was poisonous.
Okay, that’s a bit bizarre, given that we don’t actually have gas in any of the rooms, but okay – guests have room moved for less than that.
But then she continues. Apparently this “poisonous gas” has been following her from hotel to hotel.
Say what now? Not. Possible.
So we moved her, and there were no further complaints. Yet. Although to be honest, I’m expecting her to complain on departure that the gas has followed her to the new room. Five floors down. On the other side of the building. Down the other end of the hall.
Because, you know, gas stalks people like that.
I took a call recently at the desk. A gentleman is on the other end of the line. He doesn’t introduce himself, just demands to speak to the hotel manager.
Now, we get a ton of people calling and asking for the hotel manager. Understandably, we do try and screen the calls – not all of them actually require his attention. I ask this person what it’s regarding.
“I’m a business guest. A repeat customer.”
…Okay, then. I’m not actually sure where Bossman is, but I transfer it to his office anyway.
About 5 minutes later, Bossman actually walks into reception to speak to me. We get a bit busy and he starts taking phone calls. The same person calls back. Again demands the hotel manager. Bossman doesn’t like it too much when people demand for him, especially when they don’t even say who they are or what they want. So Bossman takes down his details to “pass on”, and actually manages to get the name of the guest. Let’s call him Bob Smith.
Now, Bossman got stuck with a whole bunch of meetings that day, so didn’t get a chance to call Bob back. And given that Bob won’t say what this is about, it’s hard to tell where this falls on the legitimate urgency scale.
Bob calls the next day and speaks to one of the other duty managers. I’m standing next to him, and hear the other end of the conversation. Which is a long one, because apparently Bob has gone off on a rant. My colleague keeps trying to talk, and gets cut off. In the end, we give him Bossman’s email address to “air his complaints”.
I ask my colleague what was up with Bob. Apparently, Bob is upset about his room that he stayed in last week. He’s not happy with it. For the record, he stayed in one of our Standard Rooms.
My colleague explained to him the difference between our rooms. The reason he stayed in the Standard Room is, once again, because he was booked into one of these rooms. And again, at no point during his stay did he complain to us about his room and that he was dissatisfied.
Most of the time when we get these calls, particularly if they are corporate guests, and they kick up a huge fuss, we offer to upgrade them for free to the next room type either on their current stay (if we’re aware of the issue) or for their future stay. This does come with a proviso, that they do need to realise that in the future that they will need to book the correct room type. So, my colleague offers this to Bob.
Apparently this is not enough. Bob feels that he should get two free nights as compensation.
Yeah, that’s never going to happen. For starters, Bob has stayed one time with us. Ever. Certainly not the regular guest he claimed he was. Secondly, we don’t give out free nights just for this. Free upgrades, maybe, but not free nights. Lastly, and we can never emphasise this enough, you are not entitled to compensation when we give you the room you have booked.
I’m not sure if he ever did email Bossman. But when I called Bossman to ask if he’d returned the call (“Oh… shit! I forgot!”) and to let him know exactly what the ‘complaint’ was, Bossman started cracking up with laughter. So it’s fairly safe to say he’s not getting anything as a freebie.
A little hint, guys: Hotels have records of previous stays. We can tell exactly how many times you’ve stayed – two times since we’ve been open in 2005 does not make you a regular guest.
Yesterday, I had the delight of dealing with a previous guest via email. This guest, plain and simple, did not understand what the hotel was telling him, despite being explained multiple times by multiple staff members. I am somewhat amused about how many times I have explained this to the guest, who just plain does not get it. So for your amusement and reading pleasure, I bring you a copy of the email trail.
My specific hotel – as well as all other hotels in our company – takes a $100 pre-authorisation on a credit card upon arrival. This is not a charge, however it does freeze the funds and so they are unavailable whilst this hold is in place. In most online banking statements it can appear as a debit – however we are very clear in advising that this is a pending authorisation. This hold will automatically release, generally within 3-5 business days, although some debit Visa/Mastercards can take longer. The longest I’ve heard, however, is 10 business days, and that’s with smaller credit unions. We do have the option of faxing the individual bank requesting the urgent release, most of the time this has about a 4 hour turnaround.
Also of note is that, if we have not charged the guest during their stay, and the hold has been released, there will be no record of the authorisation on their account. Given that, y’know, it’s not a charge. Guests will not see a debit and then a credit. There will just be no transaction. Most people after we explain this, understand.
And it’s on the registration card, the legal document, they sign on arrival.
Not this guest.
We received this email from a guest last Thursday. My colleague, also a duty manager, responded initially, however he was not working yesterday and I started responding halfway through.
To whom it may concern,
My name is [Guest Name], and I stayed at your hotel from the 14th April–>16 April 2012 and the reception indicated to me that I will be receiving my bond of $100 within 5 business days. I have called three times in the past weeks and everytime the person on reception said they will email my bank in regards to the matter. I Still have not recieved my bond and I am not happy! It has been more than two weeks. If there is no response or action taken immediately, I certainly will be speaking to a higher manager and taking the matter further.
Not an uncommon email, although three weeks after the stay is unusual given that it should be released, regardless of us contacting the bank or not. My colleague responds:
Please accept our sincere apologies, I think I was the one who spoke to you before regarding your bond.
I did send a fax to your bank which I believe is [Bank], it is strange that the bank have still not actioned my fax.
Please accept my apology and I will contact the bank right now.
This particular bank is normally pretty fast at cancelling pre-authorisations when we send faxes, which is a bit odd. Nothing more, until the guest emails again yesterday:
I am absoultely disgusted by your service, it has been more than 4 weeks since I have stayed there and i still have not received my $100 bond. I would definately not recommend anyone to stay at your hotel. I expect my bond to be back into my account or i will be taking the matter further.
Okay, seriously now. This is a local bank. There is no way that the authorisation would still be on hold. At all. So I respond, and try to clarify.
Please be advised that you will not see a debit and then subsequent credit of the amount but the initial authorisation will disappear completely from your account. Could you please advise what the transaction specifies if it is still listed when you look at your account?
At this point, I’m attempting to get him to check his account and see if there are actually any transactions from the hotel in the first place.
Sorry I don’t quite understand what you are trying to say. There is not debit to my account yet??
…and I don’t understand your email, either.
Can you please advise if your bank statement is showing any transactions posted from our hotel?
People, before accusing us of charging you, please look at your statements.
Please be advised that there are no transactions by the hotel.
There we have it. I (incorrectly) assume that with my final email, this is sorted.
If this is the case, then there are no funds being held by the hotel and the bond has automatically released back to your card.
Should you have any further queries please do not hesitate to contact us.
Done and dusted, right?
I don’t understand there is no refund back into my account
Are you actually kidding me right now?! It’s a good thing I was in the office when I read that email, because a couple of choice words popped out. I attempt to explain. Again.
You will not see a refund as nothing was charged to your card.
The hotel pre-authorisation is just a temporary hold of the funds and releases automatically, as stated previously you will not see a debit (charge) of $100 and a credit (refund) of $100 to your account – the authorisation will release within 3-5 business days of when the card is first swiped and, as nothing was charged by the hotel on departure, will disappear from your statement.
As you have stated previously, there are no transactions by the hotel on your account, as such there are no monies owed back to the card as nothing was charged.
If you have any further queries regarding this I would suggest you contact your bank as they may be able to clarify their individual processes.
Long story short, it would appear that the guest can’t keep track of his money, is expecting $100 to appear in his account, when in reality he’s just spent it.I swear, if I look at my emails the next day and see that he still doesn’t understand?
I’m bloody charging his credit card $100 and refunding it $100 so that he gets his precious refund.
UPDATE: I came the next day and checked the emails, a single line response of “thank you I understand now”. I’m not sure if the millionth explanation finally got through to him, or he called the bank, but either way, thank god!
Ever since I started with my current hotel chain, I’d been told that they were changing our system over to another one. I started almost 4 years ago. And admittedly it is needed, the system we have in place has so many quirks and throws a number of errors for no reason resulting in many pulling their hair out.
The new system is finally here, and it’s being installed on Monday night. We are all having freak outs. Because yes, it’s been rolled out across most of the other hotels already. But we still feel ridiculously under prepared.
All hotel staff have had training. 2 days. This is not nearly enough time to teach us a brand new system. There’s a ton of stuff they haven’t taught me, because logic appears to be that they will only teach the hotel and front office managers, who can teach the duty managers.
I have a list of stuff I don’t know, and need to know. It’s going to be chaos.
Oh, head office are going to be on the desk 24/7 through the roll out to assist… These are staff who don’t know everything about our property so I’m doubtful about how much they can help.
The next four days for me look like this:
Day 1: Go through every guest who is due to depart on the end of the month. Anyone who has a balance, send letters up to the rooms asking them to come and settle their account by tomorrow night. Finish doing end of month preparation. Begin charging the guests who are long stays.
Day 2: Make sure everyone checking out the next day has a zero balance. I’ve been told that we have no choice, they have to pay. How the hell I am going to manage this feat, I have no clue. Go through arrival paperwork for the next day and make sure we have all the paperwork, everything saved, in preparation for the system going down after month end. Finish checking month end reports.
Day 3: I am not here for this part. My two direct managers have to process end of month. Roll the system as we do each month. But the kicker? Once the old system has finished this month, we lose our system. Until the next day. I am no psychic, despite what my customers think at times, but I’m already predicting this will end in absolute disaster. We are without the system for a good 12 hours. And while we have done it before its generally been 2-3 hours at most. I’m paranoid that someone will be checked into an occupied, or dirty room, or want to move rooms and all I will have is a bunch of paper reports telling me what’s going on.
To top it off, I’m working with Newbie who has never worked when our system is down, and my Crazy coworker who is soon to be related to me – who has a stress out the second something goes wrong.
Day 4: The new system will in theory be in place. Someone has to go through and update all of the paperwork from the day before in the system. They all need to be checked into the system from the day before. The entire staff will struggle with a brand new system.
While I do agree the new system has its strong points, it seems to have unnecessarily complicated some of the basic actions. What we could do in one step appears to require 3-5 steps just to do the same thing.
It’s going to be fun.
I don’t smoke myself, but I understand the needs of those of my guests who do. Sadly, not all of our guests respect our non-smoking room policy, and either don’t choose to ask about options for smokers, or ask and then disregard what we tell them.
Let me preface this by saying that we have two options for smokers; on the top floor of the hotel there is two open balconies where guests can smoke*. We also have a large number of rooms with balconies, and while you can’t smoke in the rooms, guests are welcome to smoke on the balconies provided they try to prevent smoke from entering the room themselves.
*Related – guests, for the love of god, put your cigarette out before putting the butt in the bin, I’m sick of going up to the floor, smelling smoke, and having to race to isolate the fire alarms on the floor and try and find a room where I can get water to put out the small fire that was close to starting.
In my time in the industry, I’ve come across people who smoke in their rooms anyway. Some hide it. Most don’t. Sadly, despite having a non-smoking policy set out in the registration document they sign, it’s near impossible to prove that it is the current guest unless we catch them in the act, and then charge them.
To the ones who think they’re hiding it, but aren’t, here is a list of reasons we know you’re smoking in the room.
- For starters, cigarette smoke. If my colleague, a heavy smoker, can go up to the room and say there’s a strong smell? You’ve been caught.
- Covering the smoke detector with a plastic bag. Our housekeeping staff get confused by this, and alert us.
- Further to that, a little tip – you’re not that smart by removing the entire smoke detector. It’s linked to a fire panel. That panel makes a loud-ass noise when there’s a fault, or an alarm. Removing the smoke detector causes a fault. And don’t try and tell me that it was like that when you entered the room – my system says you checked in at 14.08 and the fault happened at 17.32. Busted.
- Running the exhaust fan. Trust me. We know.
- If you leave your cigarette butts in the bin, in the sink, in the glasses, in the toilet, or all of the above? It’s a pretty big clue that you’re smoking in the room. Especially when we find ash everywhere.
- When the guest next door complains they walked past and smelt smoke? Sends up a warning signal.
It’s somewhat hilarious watching guests try and deny it, particularly those when the proof is right in front of us. I don’t care if you can do it in your home country, buddy, in my hotel it’s against the rules.
Luckily, thanks to the power of an Ozone machine, we can neutralise the odours, so we rarely do need to charge guests for this. We will, however blacklist at times.
Also because if there is a dispute regarding the charge, it’s a bit hard to send a smoke smell to a bank as proof of the charge.
A couple of days ago my colleague picks up a call. Places it on hold and tells me it’s for me. Sure, whatever.
I answer the phone. “Yes, this is Susan Meyers, and I expect you’ve been briefed of the whole story, so I need a room for [whatever dates]”
Back up. Briefed of what now?
Susan explains, apparently she is trying to book, and wants a certain rate, and reservations wouldn’t give it to her, so instead of escalating it within their department they transfer it to me. Awesome, thanks guys!
Apparently Susan has been a loyal customer and stayed in a Family Suite for the last 5 years over a particular sporting event – one of our peak periods where the rooms are at ridiculous rates. My system tells me that she’s stayed twice, not five times, but that is presently irrelevant.
The rate she is after is not only cheaper than our website by over $100 per night – but it’s cheaper than the lowest room we have available. Sorry lady. Not happening.
I explain this to her. In a variety of ways. She still complains. Look, I’m sorry you got such a great rate, you honestly shouldn’t have, we can’t charge you now for your previous bookings but we sure as hell can charge you the correct rate going forward.
Susan is still not convinced. And then starts going on about how the rooms really aren’t up to standard any way. Well, for starters, we are going through a full refurbishment. Secondly, nobody is forcing you to stay.
Susan now mentions that back when her husband had a company, they used to put people up at the hotel. If they stayed often enough they would have a contract specifying the peak dates. And if they didn’t, then they weren’t huge clients we had to suck up to. Either way, sorry, no cheap rate. She decides she will speak to her husband to see what he will do. I feel obliged to inform her that no matter who calls, we are not extending the rate to them.
I get asked if there is anyone higher. I check with my direct manager, who says hell no. I pass this on, slightly edited, to Susan. She wants to know who will give her the rate. I tell her nobody. Susan is not happy with this. That’s too bad for Susan.
In the end she didn’t even bother booking, claiming she could find it cheaper online. Perhaps she was looking at ImaginaryRoomsThatDontExist.com?
I notated the crap out of her previous booking. On last inspection, she’d tried this on two other people who also said no.
Lady. Stop calling. We are not changing our minds.
Every now and then, we will get guests who request that we do not tell anyone that they are staying at the hotel. Sometimes we get the reason, sometimes we don’t – either way, it doesn’t matter to us, we have to respect the guest’s wishes.
A couple of weeks back, I come in to the morning shift, to get an… interesting… handover from my night staff.
There had been a domestic disturbance – honestly, these are more common than you’d think – and the cops were called. But in this case, the hotel didn’t call them – this particular couple were fighting amongst themselves, and the female called the cops. Screaming took place, and the police took the male guest away. We still don’t know the full details, except that they were travelling together and staying in the same room.
Now, the room was booked under the male guest’s name, for the sake of this story, Mr Smith. The female didn’t wish to continue to stay with him, and wanted to stay somewhere else.
So she ended up booking another room. In the same damn hotel.
She asked us not to tell Mr Smith where she was staying. Okay, fine, we’ll do that. But, if she happens to run into him in the lift? There is not a damn thing that we can do about it. Thankfully, this never happened, or if it did, neither of them made a scene.
Later that afternoon Mr Smith came to the reception to ask about the female, and whether she was okay. We advised him that we couldn’t pass any details of her, and were unsure as to her whereabouts. To his credit, he didn’t press the issue, and genuinely seemed to want to make sure that she was okay. During this conversation, he also told us that supposedly this girl was his girlfriend, and the incident occurred because she was drunk. To be honest, at this point we didn’t really care which story was correct, as long as it didn’t result in further scenes.
The guests were both due to check out of their individual rooms on the same day. Again, I came in on the morning shift to get a handover from the night guys – the female had been trying to confirm her flight back home (domestic, then connecting to an international flight), and she was getting conflicting information – the airline said it was cancelled, but then her mother, back home, called and was told it was still scheduled. She wanted us to call the airline to confirm her flight.
Now, apart from the fact that the airline will not discuss the details of a passenger if we are not them – we logged onto the airline website to find out it was cancelled. Also checked with the airport website it was flying out of – flight cancelled. Logged into her online booking – flight cancelled. At this point, we are 100% certain that her connecting international flight? Was cancelled.
We called the guest to let her know, she came down to reception, and refused to believe us. Lady, it does not affect me whether you listen to me or not, sadly my powers do not extend so far as to forcing the airlines to fly an 18 hour international flight just for one person.
And then the kicker. When we finally convince her that yes, the flight is cancelled? She asks if she can call up to speak to Mr Smith. Yes, the same person that we are not meant to advise of her whereabouts.
My colleague accidentally gave her a weird look, whereupon she answered, ‘Oh, I’m allowed to call him, he just can’t call me.’
She left the hotel separately, he came down to check out later. I honestly have no idea if those two worked things out, or what happened to their flight.
But, seriously. If you’re trying to avoid someone, it’s generally not the brightest idea to stay in the same hotel as them after you’ve called the police on them. Just saying.
A couple of weeks ago I came into work to do an afternoon shift. The morning shift let me know that for some reason 218 had no hot water in their apartment, and maintenance couldn’t fix it. A plumber was being sent out, who came in sometime during the day.
All was fixed. Or so we thought.
Because that evening, the guest called down. Why yes, they did have hot water – but now they had no cold water in their apartment.
Given that I don’t actually have any idea where the main pipes are located, we end up having to move the guest to another room. I email our maintenance manager to let him know, and at 9:30pm on Friday he lets me know a plumber is coming out ASAP.
There is a bit of confusion – wait, do you mean now? Eventually we work out that this is for Saturday morning.
I come into work the next day, and the plumber still hasn’t been in. Apparently he has been held up fixing a sewer pipe, I don’t even know.
Shortly afterwards, our maintenance officer pops into work, 3 year old daughter in tow, as he’s left something in the office. I make an offhand comment about how 218 now has the reverse problem, and he decides that it’s a problem with the main valve being turned off, and since he’s here he may as well fix it.
So, he proceeds to go and fix the water. Did I mention the main valve is on the roof of the building? I still don’t know who he offloaded his daughter to do when he was doing this.
All fixed. Until about a week and a half later.
I come in for my morning shift, and there’s a note saying that the guest in 218 has a problem with their dishwasher. Reportably it’s not running, and nothing is getting cleaned.
Pop up to the room to have a look, and yes, definitely a problem. It runs for about 3 minutes and then gives a few outraged beeps, an angry red light, and shuts itself off. Rinse (or not) and repeat when I try again.
Then I remember that this was the room the plumber had issues with. I decide to check under the sink, and what do you know – the water to the dishwasher is turned off.
Not surprisingly, when I turn it on and try the cycle again, water begins to flow.
I wonder if this means that I can bill the company for my plumber “skills”?
Quite possibly one of the oddest ‘arguments’ I have had with a guest, to date.
A gentleman came in at about 11am on Saturday morning to check into the hotel. As the room wasn’t ready, he stored luggage, and went off to do his own thing, and said he would come back in later to check in.
Come Sunday morning, and I am clearing up some of the paperwork on the desk, and notice that his welcome letter is still sitting there. Now, this isn’t uncommon – sometimes when guests come back we create their keys but for whatever reason the welcome letter is omitted. Assuming that the gentleman has come back, I throw it out.
And, at about 7.30am, a gentleman comes into reception. He came in a bit earlier, he says, to drop off bags. He is here for the next couple of nights, and is wanting to check in and collect his keys.
Initially we think that he’s another one of our delightful early arrivals but upon inspection of his passport, this is the gentleman that the stray paperwork belonged to.
Not a problem, I print off another copy, create the keys, and confirm with the guest that as per our system, he is departing tomorrow – the 19th.
“No, that’s not right, I’m staying with you for two nights.”
I check the paperwork. Yes, arrival Saturday 17 and departure on Monday 19.
“Yeah, see, two nights I’m staying with you.”
Sir, today is the 18th.
“No, mate, that’s not right, today is the 17th, it’s St Paddy’s Day.”
Sir, that was yesterday. Today is the 18th. It is Sunday.
“No way, it’s Saturday.”
My colleague, who initially dealt with him – on Saturday – steps in to advise him that no, he really did come in almost an entire 24 hours ago, on Saturday, but today is now Sunday.
Guest still appears confused but eventually concedes the point.
Until I go with him to collect the luggage from our store room, where he begins the whole thing again.
“You really scared me, I thought my booking was wrong, I’m staying for two nights aren’t I?”
Yes sir, your booking was for two nights, however one of those nights has passed. It is Sunday.
“No way, it’s St Patrick’s Day, it’s the 17th, what are you talking about?”
Sir. I am 100% positive that Today. Is. Sunday.
“Oh, well, it’s not really Sunday yet is it?”
Sir, it has been Sunday for 8 hours already. It is well and truly Sunday.
“Yeah, but it’s not, it’s all good.”
At this point I give up trying to prove what day it is, and direct the guest to the lifts.
Throughout the whole conversation he appeared to be quite heavily under the influence. I can only guess that he went out to celebrate St Patrick’s Day, and somewhere in the process lost an entire day. I’ve had guests come in confused about the time – thinking it’s 10am when in fact it is 3pm – but never arguing that adamantly that the date is different. Hopefully he got some sleep and wakes up more orientated to the correct date.
Otherwise, it’s going to be a fun conversation on the 19th when we are waiting for him to check out and he tries to argue what date it is again. I believe I may have to employ the use of visual aids, in the form of a newspaper, to make my point.