The Dreaded Cancellation

(Tuesday, 03 July 2007) by Michele Cozzens

Fourth of July week is upon us, which means two things: non-stop fireworks and the grinding engines of rented jet skis churning up the waters of Squaw Lake. Both noises are equally annoying and drown out the peaceful music of our neighbors, the Birds. The good news about this week is that our resort is host to a family that’s been with us for some 13 years and we’ve come to know them, their children and grandchildren, as our Fourth of July family.

Each year we typically turn away 50-plus callers looking for accommodations for our nation’s birthday holiday. This is why it was a particularly sharp stab to the gut when on Friday morning I learned of a last minute cancellation in one of our cabins. Thankfully it was our least expensive cabin; however, a hit is a hit when you only have 14 weeks to make your income for the year. I went wild posting it on the Internet, using the front page of our website and resort association to which we belong. I sent out a mass e-mail to the association members indicating the cancellation. I'm happy to report my efforts paid off. We managed to rent the cabin to a young couple from Milwaukee looking for a last-minute escape. Whew!

Today, however, I’ve received a slew of e-mails from fellow resort owners advertising their cancellations for this month. One indicated three no-shows for this week. THIS WEEK—the most popular of the summer. Ugh! What is going on? One of our workers, a painting and staining expert who comes around whenever he’s in need of cash (knowing we’re always in need of a fresh coat of paint or stain), told me he once worked at a resort in New Mexico that charged guests full pop in advance for holiday weeks/weekends and had a no-refund policy. It was food for thought.

Ultimately, I wouldn’t feel right charging people for a stay they didn’t have. But “non-refundable deposit” means non-refundable deposit. I’ve always given guests the opportunity to reapply their deposits toward another stay, but after this second last-minute cancellation of the season, we’ve decided to rework our policy. Now we’ll only allow a reapplication of the deposit IF we’re able to rebook the cabin. And those who cancel less than two weeks in advance will forfeit the deposit entirely. I don’t want to go through another scramble like I did during the 24 hours of June 29-30.  The e-mail lashing I received from a too-little-too-late-to-get-the-available-cabin inquirer alone was worth the $150 deposit paid by the original potential guest. He insisted he “booked” the cabin when he called the first time to ask a few questions about the opening, when in actual fact, he asked us to “wait 10 minutes” while he spoke with his friends and said he would call back. We gave him half-an-hour before booking it with the next caller, who had a credit card in hand for the deposit. The first guy never called back. He did e-mail though. Boy, did he e-mail. It was just another case of people hearing only what they want to hear and accusing us of not knowing how to run our business. I’d bet a $150 deposit this dude has longer than 14 weeks to make enough money to stay afloat.

Whistle, light, pop! Another firework and I’m out.

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