Monday, November 28, 2011

Cancellation Policy

Cancellations can be a vexing and emotional issue in the accommodation industry and accommodation providers will often be at pains to disclose the terms of engagement and clearly explain the consequences if a guest happens to break a reservation agreement.

If an accommodation provider accepts a reservation for the exclusive occupation of a guest and that guest either "No Shows" or cancels at the last minute then that room is generally unable to be re-sold. A room night is a time sensitive commodity and an unoccupied room that has been held in good faith for exclusive occupation represents a loss for the accommodation provider.

A customer that makes a reservation will impose an opportunity cost to the accommodation provider if they are unable to carry out their side of the contract. This loss is recoverable by the accommodation provider from the customer. Likewise, if a guest turns up and the accommodation provider is unable to provide a room as agreed, then there are also consequences and the cost to put things right is the motel/hotel's responsibility.

It is important for any business to have clear and concise terms of trade, however smaller business owners that do not rely upon robotic front line staff can quickly think on their feet and make customer friendly amendments according to the situation. Compared to hotels, motels are generally very good at doing this as they realise that in some circumstances it may be appropriate to waive rigid terms and conditions to keep the peace and maintain relationships.  

A recent story was  reported in the media about the shabby way the Cliffs Hotel Blackpool treated an allegedly terminally-ill cancer inflicted customer that needed to cancel a reservation due to illness. The full story can be read HERE, however if we are to believe the story as it was reported by the media, then the hotel is at fault for blindly following procedure and losing sight of human empathy, the context of the situation and the harsh consequences of trial by media.

Without the customer's full health circumstances clearly revealed, it may have been acceptable for the hotel to initially withhold the room prepayment due to a late cancellation according to the terms and conditions of the reservation. However, after the media became involved and the customer's circumstances were fully explained, the hotel foolishly chose to stick to their guns and hang on to the customer's £218. Amusingly the hotel's spokesperson was described as a "Revenue Manager" to qualify their decision to the media with a comment: "We are just sticking to our policy with our terms and conditions."

The final insult to injury was when the hotel's final gesture was to offer their hapless terminally ill "customer" a £50 per room discount (for a maximum of two rooms) on a future booking.

Something that goes with the territory of being an accommodation provider is accepting that you will never win every battle. It is a hard to take it on the chin and take the odd loss every now and again when dealing with the frailties of human nature - even if you clearly disclose reasonable conditions of trade. If you make a mistake, front-up immediately and make it right - even if it was not your mistake.

In the immortal words of Kenny Rogers "You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em". In would appear that the Cliffs Hotel Blackpool may have played it wrong on this occasion and are paying a harsh price by weathering a perfect media storm.

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