You think it will never happen to you... until it does. The dreaded Double Booking.
I pride myself on being detail-oriented. After all, my passion for "the details" is the whole reason I started The Distinguished Guest in the first place! But, like all vacation rental owners (and humans) I made a mistake.
I did not sync all of my calendars. (Specifically, I failed to sync iCal both ways with my Kauai vacation rental website. First lesson: triple-check that all of your calendars are correctly synched!)
The moment I realized I double booked guests at my Kauai condo, I had to first go through my "heart attack moment." You know the feeling: pulse racing, cold sweats, pure panic. I stared at the calendar for a minute in denial, hoping I was reading wrong.
But I was not.
I thought about the second guest to book, Joyce, who was coming to Kauai with her husband and daughter, and about how she had no idea that the place she booked for her upcoming trip - just 10 days away at that point - wasn't available, after all.
I had screwed up. Big time.
After my faux heart attack passed, though, "damage control" kicked in.
When you double book (and many of us will at some point), first forgive yourself. It happens. And actually, if you're in-demand enough to be booked twice for the same week, it says great things about your rental. (How's that for spin?!)
The true test is how you handle it. There are two gifts you must give to your double-booked guests. A Sincere Apology and a Workable Solution. If you leave out one of these two, your double booking mistake could turn into a disaster.
Present a Workable Solution
Likely, you're going to be the one who has to tell your guest that you made a mistake. This is perhaps the hardest part.
But before you send that groveling email, you must first try to get your guest into new accommodations.
The absolute worst thing to do is to alert the guest of your mistake, apologize and then say, "Let me know if there's anything I can do to help."
No...your help is a given! It's up to you to make this right.
Luckily for me, I know a lot of vacation rental owners and managers on Kauai, so I contacted my trusted friend Christine at Coldwell Banker, Bali Hai Realty. With Christine's help I was able to find a vacation rental that was available during the same time as Joyce's family's upcoming stay.
But here's the important part: The place was totally remodeled and stunning inside. It was, dare I say, even better than my condo. Nihilani 9B
If you double book, do everything in your power to give your guests an upgrade. It's what hotels do, after all, when they make a mistake. The downside, of course, is that I had to eat the difference in the nightly rate between the other place and my own. But it was worth it.
Christine and I worked out a plan that I would present to the guest: I would totally refund her stay then help her book a new place for that exact amount. The difference - $500 total in this case - would be my responsibility.
Send a Sincere Apology
Now I had to face my fear and tell the guest what happened.
The second most important part of Double Booking Damage Control is to make sure your email is heartfelt and genuine, and that it includes a sincere apology!
I wrote to Joyce explaining the situation (without going into TOO much detail about what happened with the calendars - guests don't really want to hear a bunch of excuses) and offering my alternative solution along with a reassurance that "I picked it because it is a place I would stay, and I think it is beautiful."
Then I wrote, I am so sorry. Believe me, I am beating myself up about this.
And her response (which was better than I could have dreamed):
No worries, please don't beat yourself up. I looked at the other place and sent it to my daughter. Were open to trying it. Thank you-honestly, it was sweet of you to locate a replacement. We appreciate it. What a blessing.
Now, of course, you can't predict or control how your guests react to the news that they have been double booked. Joyce happened to be a kind, understanding person, But even if the guest is a huge jerk, you can rest a bit easier knowing you handled it fairly and to the best of your ability.
Joyce was agreeable to the new location, and booked the condo across the street.
From there, Christine and I made sure that Joyce and her family would arrive to fresh flowers and an apology note from me. I checked in with her the day before her arrival and then two days later.
To my relief and joy, I received this response back after my second check-in email:
My daughter and I love the place. It's perfect and even decorated with all the items I've chosen for my own home. We feel so comfortable and at peace. My husband will arrive in a couple days, so it's quite magical to spend time just relaxing with my daughter. Again, we appreciate all that you have done to arrange and welcome us. You are truly delightful!
In the end, my Double Booking Nightmare worked out better than a dream. Sure, it cost me... but guess what? This hard, expensive, and pride-altering lesson will ensure that a double booking never happens again.
Do you have a double booking story? How did you resolve it? Please share your experience in the comments below.