Well, it was bound to happen. I have often felt that tripadvisor reviews are a double-edge sword; an Innkeeper’s dream and nightmare. I have been fortunate in all these years to have wonderful reviews. I did have one bad review written some time ago and was successful in getting the guest to remove it. Her review was based on conversations between her husband and me. He did not accurately report back to her and said things that were not said. She was kind enough to remove it and it was quite the victory. I don’t imagine I will be that fortunate twice.
The issue for me with tripadvisor is that there is no one monitoring whether a review, good or bad is justified. It would be a horrific task. With so many wonderful reviews, one bad one certainly doesn’t spoil the whole bunch. Guests can tell what is valid and what is not. It’s actually good to have a bad one because then they believe the good ones more. What does hurt one’s business is the ranking. One bad review can drop your ranking significantly and it takes possibly hundreds to bring it back up. I guess I will find out. I have long thought that tripadvisor should have a mediation committee whose job isn’t to sensor reviews (free speech and all), but to determine if the complaint should affect the ranking. Here’s why…
This is the review I received this morning.
“Although the property looks lovely and it may be, the management is difficult just to be difficult. I recently booked at room her thinking that it was the Acorn Inn near my daughter’s college. When the hotel called to ask me a question about my stay I realized that this was not the hotel near my daughters college and asked to cancel my reservations for the end of August and mid October. The woman said yes but there would be a cancellation fee. I asked why, when it was 3 months in advance not two days or even 2 weeks. She responded that it was in their rules and regulations and that I should have read it. Wow. I am unimpressed.”
This guest made not one, but two reservations, one for August and one for October. She booked them several days apart, three weeks ago. The first reservation was filled out beautifully, but the second one was missing key pieces of information. So, I gave her a call to make sure I had what I needed to fully accommodate them. I began by saying who I was and that I was from the 1795 Acorn Inn in Bristol, Canandaigua. She said she didn’t book with me. She booked in Elan (that may or may not be right but that was what I understood). I did not know what she was referencing but I said I had two reservations for her at the 1795 Acorn Inn in Bristol, Canandaigua. She chuckled and said she was taking her daughter to college in Virginia and that she would have to cancel. To which I replied something to the effect, “Well it’s a good thing I called you so you can make reservations at the other Acorn Inn. I am sure they are filling up fast and you will want to make your reservations.” I then reminded her that we have a $25 cancellation fee. She didn’t feel she needed to pay the cancellation fee because it was a mistake! And that she was cancelling way in advance. When I said that she agreed to our policies when making the reservation, she went off and finally said, “Well, it your business. You decide how you want to run it.” I said I am sorry she made a mistake and that I would send her confirmation of her cancellation.
When I hung up the phone, my heart was pounding hard. I thought I about issuing a refund but then I would have paid credit card processing charges, $15 per refund. So, because of her mistake I was going to pay? I thought no, can’t be. Our policies are in place to ensure fair and equal treatment to all our guests. Period. Do I bend them? Yes, sometimes… in dire circumstances and when it is respectfully requested of me. I do not usually issue a refund, but will give credit toward a future stay. Have a refunded guests because I was afraid of the consequences? Yes. You know that nightmare I mentioned previously? I was terrified of it and am tired of of being scared. If I issued this guest a refund it would be out of fear. Who wants to live that way? Not me.
This guest made two reservations at this establishment. She received two confirmation emails with pertinent information, including our address. And, she received two receipt emails with the $25 Cancellation Fee and again our address. There is a drop down from our menus of frequently asked questions. There is another drop down of our policies. And finally, when making the reservation, she checked off two boxes that she had read our terms and conditions and our cancellation policy. One cannot proceed unless that box is checked.
We have a 14-day or 30-day cancellation policy. At that time, your credit card gets billed in full and the room is no longer refundable. Could you image if she would have been charged and then found out she booked at the wrong place? So many things to be thankful for here, but I get a bad review.
Of course, there are always multiple ways to handle things. There is your way and others’ way. Had someone called me and I then discovered my mistake, I would have been thankful that this mistake was caught. I perhaps would have asked if there was anything that could be done about the cancellation fee. I would have known there was one. My expectation would have been that I would have to pay for my error. It was my responsibility so my expectation would be low but I could be pleasantly surprised. One never knows.
A few weeks ago I went on vacation. I transferred money from checking account A to checking account B. I double checked. While on vacation, I got a voicemail from the bank. I called them back as soon as a could to find out that there wasn’t enough money in my account to satisfy my withdrawal from the IRS for 2016 taxes. I couldn’t figure out why because I had transferred funds. I was fortunate enough that I could have someone transfer some money into the account until I could find out what happened. When I returned and saw my bank statement, I had mistakenly transferred from checking account B to checking account A. Oops. I had three insufficient funds charges totaling $111. And, a $33 late fee from the IRS. Do you think the bank or the IRS will waive these fees because I made a mistake? We all know that answer.
Now, back to this review… I feel as if I am being bullied. This guest didn’t like that she was charged a cancellation fee, to which she agreed to and is a direct consequence of her mistake. So, in retaliation she has written a bad review in an attempt to impact my livelihood by harming the reputation of this business. When I mentioned earlier about tripadvisor being an Innkeeper’s dream and nightmare… well, we do somewhat live in fear (terror) of the nightmare, some more than others. Perhaps this is a good thing… the fear is already lessened and lifted.
What is left for me to do? First I will write a management response to the review. I will professionally state our policies. Tripadvisor has very strict guidelines about what you can and cannot say. And, you cannot reach anyone to discuss. Of course when it’s time to pay… you hear from them. I cannot link to my blog but hopefully I can mention it. I don’t want to discourage those looking for the perfect vacation spot on tripadvisor by bogging them down with unnecessary details. My blog my opportunity for that and hopefully I have the right to free speech as well.
What I would also like to do is ask that perhaps some of my guests will consider writing a review on tripadvisor.com to help counter the negative review. If you have stayed here, great. If you have already written a review, can you write two? Don’t worry if you haven’t stayed here. Apparently you don’t need to have stayed maybe just have a conversation with me. I can be reached at (585) 330-8234. I will also be posting a link on facebook and hopefully my fans will come to the rescue.
I am looking into starting a newsletter soon and can certainly ask previous guests, not on facebook, to write a review. I will do my best to bury this review and have to work harder to get the ranking back.
It just makes me sad that there are people in this world who have to hurt other people in this way. I just cannot imagine doing that to someone. Life must be pretty painful to hurt someone to feel good. And, there is a whole lot worst out there. It’s a difficult world we live in and I am not alone in wondering what it is coming to. Please take the high road. The view is better from up there. And, believe that most people are good. Treat everyone with kindness and respect. Let’s start there.
The silver lining in all this because I have to move on with my day with some positivity, guests that used to come every year and feel like family called this morning and are coming today to spend three nights. They temporarily moved away two years ago and are in the process of moving back. They are homeless but are coming home to the 1795 Acorn Inn. I cannot wait to see them and that fills me with joy. There is a huge hug waiting for them and I know they will reciprocate. All’s good.