For years Booking.com was openly hated by almost all apartments owners.
When in 2012 we still didn’t work with them, I toured Eastern Europe to meet my historical hosts and I was blown away by the anger they felt for Booking.com who had recently entered the vacation rentals market.
When I asked:
- “Since you hate them, why do you work with them at all?”.
They all replied:
- “Because they send many customers.”
- “But I hope they die soon” they often added.
The main reason was the lack of respect they felt for the way vacation rentals work, which is so different from the hotels.
The approach to cancellations was emblematic: free for the customers but extremely harmful to the owners.
A hotel can afford a free cancellation in a period in which there are some empty rooms.
But for apartments it can be really harmful: if a guest books an apartment and cancels a few days before, the apartment is likely to remain empty and the damage is hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of Euros.
Booking.com knew this, but apparently was not interested.
In any dispute between the customer and the host, in fact, the customer was always right.
Although, often, he was actually wrong.
When we started working with Booking.com, we soon realized why there was so much hatred.
We found ourselves in front of a giant with many heads where if you ask the same question to different people, you get different answers.
But there is, perhaps, some good news:
It seems that Booking.com has become good.
I mean, maybe.
Apparently the big shots instructed the employees to be more flexible with the hotels and apartments.
If they were only rumors I would not be here writing this article.
The fact is that we had some first hand experience and later got a semi-official confirmation from Booking.com itself.
There were in fact cases in which the “old” Booking.com would have punished us without mercy (for example charging us the commission), but have been understanding instead.
They realized that the situation was in part generated by their communications management, and “forgave” us.
One example is that of an American customer who had booked for the same day, but then could not be reached on the phone, did not read our email in which we were trying to organize the meeting and did not tell us at what time he was going to arrive.
Then, a few hours later, he went to the apartment and called Booking.com.
He was very angry because there was nobody at the apartment.
He declined to wait 30 minutes for the check-in person and canceled the reservation.
It was the customer’s fault who didn’t read the email (we sent it within minutes after booking) and gave an invalid phone number, and also Booking.com’s fault as they do not allow us to manage our own descriptions (it took us weeks to make them add a sentence explaining that check-in is not at the apartment).
A person of customer care told us that we should be present in front of the apartment all afternoon, which is absolutely absurd, revealing the underlying attitude is hard to die.
But then it was solved without penalty for us, which may seem obvious, but speaking of Booking.com, is short of a miracle.
In another case, we had forgotten to cancel a reservation (it was clearly a fake) and we were billed € 200.
An email to the sales representative solved the issue and the invoice was cancelled.
In the past they would not have been so reasonable.
In practice it seems that now you can work with them without the constant fear that if something goes wrong, no matter what, you’ll pay for it.
You can almost reason with them now.
Huge areas for improvement are still there and a long time will pass before we can call Booking.com vacation rental friendly.
I’m not saying that Booking.com has become easy to manage for vacation rentals hosts, it would be a lie.
But the new approach bodes well.