13 Oct When morals met money…
How do readers, am getting a few posts in to keep you all entertained whilst I am away…wonder if i can find an ‘auto publish’ feature one this blog? …. anyhow, this post is about my favouritist subject – Overbooking!
Now, someone said a while ago, in relation to one of my other posts and the poll running on my site about overbooking, that surely overbooking is not just a monetary situation but also a moral one… and it finally twigged, after all these years, just what it is that I have a problem with – the morality and ethicality of the scenario and the position this places, my staff, the guest, the hotel and the travel agent in; let alone the brand, my boss when they get the complaint, the customer service agent who deals with the call or the complaint email and sends it on, and finally… little menial me!
***ooohhhh… just found the auto-post function! so may well randomly have posts while I am away, hooray! Although someone will have to share the links on LinkedIn for me!? Please? ***
Okay, randomness over! The issue I have with overbooking is that it is so far reaching, and so impacting on many different things. Take a few examples I have seen:
Travel agents where they are set to ‘Do Not Outbook (DNO)’ because they have already been outbooked before and now all of their bookings must stay in the hotel ‘or else face the wrath of sales!’ – then the hotel is overbooked with nothing but this travel agent, and you have no choice but to outbook their guests…. bugger!
VIP’s who were booked in 6 months ago by sales, and are not guaranteed to arrive because now sales have forgotten whether they actually still need the room or not. So no-one knows whether or not we will actually have that no-show and we end up outbooking a guest to keep that VIP room, and then the VIP doesn’t turn up and you have an empty room!
In house events where every delegate is in-house and has a room, but then that last minute booking for 20 rooms is accepted, despite the fact that you were already overbooked. Then you have to contact the conferences and try to break the news that despite their booking being confirmed for the past 3 months, they have to travel elsewhere through snow, rain and howling winds to get to the other hotel, but don’t worry, we will still do your private dinner here at this hotel so you only have to make that treacherous journey 4 times in one day!
But these are all subsidiary issues to one thing – the moral implications of this practice. Take for example the view of your customer:
They booked 6 months ago and have a confirmation stating their reservation is guaranteed. They may even have been contacted by the hotel prior to arrival to enquire about room types required or even to get different card details for payment. They may also have contacted the hotel to confirm they will be arriving in the evening, then they turn up at 7pm to be told they do not have a room and are sent to another hotel!
Would you be happy?
The issue of morality applies to many aspects of a hotel –
What do you do about those people using drugs in their room? They are well within their rights as it is their choice what they do in the room considering they have paid for it, but then again, that is in your property and it is illegal… call police or not? On one side you have your ‘legal head’ on – you could be prosecuted if drugs are left in the room or people know you allowed it to happen. You experience the ‘ethics head’ where you know that these people buying the drugs are contributing to drug dealers and crime, and as one guest screamed at me once ‘think of the god damn children!’. And then you get your ‘business head’ which tells you that you could be alienating a guest who has paid a good rate and may have to give them a refund for the night and you could get scathing reviews and so on…
Then you have the issue of prostitution; this goes under the same sort of process as drugs really – turn a blind eye as it is the guests choice, or actually do something and report it and end up dealing with the aftermath and potentially a confrontation with god-knows-who.
You also get the problems of cancellation fees – policy and business says the rate is non-refundable and the money is yours, but the morality of the situation is the guests aunt Ethel who practically brought the guest up, has just passed away and everyone is travelling to outer Mongolia to bury her and that is why they cannot make the booking date, so your heart says refund the booking amount.
You also get the guest who wants you to just do them a favour and let them have a free this or that and your business policy says no, they have to pay but you know that the guest is a valuable client who pays full rate all the time and that they give you a lot of business, so your heart says give them the freebie.
The thing I have realised in this business is that you will always be in a moral dilemma from time to time – you either do ‘what is right by the customer’ or ‘what is right by the business’ and this is something that many people deal with daily, but never fully understand.
The moral dilemma of overbooking is what this post started with, and that is what I want to concentrate on here, after all, it is something that a hotel nearly always has to deal with from time to time. And there is a very clever trick that avoids the moral dilemma – segregation.
The department that decides about overbooking limits is segregated from the one that deals with it (in most larger hotels) – for example, one of my previous posts talks about (amongst other things) overbooking and how this is managed – but there is still a moral dilemma that can occur. The person who sits in the revenue office and dictates what days to overbook and by how many, is basing their decision on software, events, booked and guaranteed business and many other factors. The person on the front desk, who deals with the bookings and the guests, will be able to ‘feel’ whether overbooking will pay off.
Then comes a bit of a problem – who to out book and where to send them to? Every hotel that outbooks has a list of hotels they outbook to, starting with the closest or best and working their way down (so if you are the first hotel on this list, be happy!). This again is a moral issue – you have to decide the fate of peoples holidays – if it is a one night guest it may not be an issue, but what if they are attending a meeting in your hotel the following day? What if the guest is here for 7 days and you are only overbooked for 1 day?
Okay, I am going to stop writing, but the point I make here and through this post is that morals and money are two separate entities – the ‘business’ relies on figures and reports (who knows how any business survived before Excel?) and the ‘moral’ relies on ‘feeling’ and emotion, the empathy with the customer and the situation.
During my time in the industry, I have seen businesses that are immoral, and businesses that are moral, I can tell you know instantly who I preferred working for and who I preferred being a customer of. So is your hotel business, or is it moral, and can the two ever truly synthesise in to a ‘moral business’?