Monthly Archives: May 2012

Nag me as many times as you want, you still didn’t pay me…

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.

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One of our guests is being stalked. By gas?

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.

 

One night does not make you a regular guest.

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.

I don’t know how many times I can explain this to you.

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.

Thankyou

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.

 thankyou

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!