The ethics of double booking

This next year (2013), I'm planning on taking some short-ish (4-6 nights) trips from my current residence in the Netherlands. Many of the destinations I'm interested in are very weather sensitive (mountain roads, coastal small towns etc). I'll reach all those places travelling by car I am therefore planning on adopting a strategy of booking multiple hotels so that I can wait until a date much closer to departure and then decide which vacation to take, which to cancel according to 10-day weather forecasts (which aren't perfect but can give a good idea of possible miserable weather). Of course I'm only keen on doing that for hotels I can book through Booking or Venere with free cancellation at least 3 days before check-in date. For instance, around Easter I'm planning on booking both a stay in Levanto (near the Cinque Terre), but also an alternative that will do with rain (Northern Austria). Booking. com doesn't have any prohibition in its terms of service for doing that. A colleague of mine with whom I shared my plan said this is "evil" against fellow travelers. I'm booking everything under my name, preferably on Booking, so I'm not hiding my intentions to the booking site. What do you think of ethical aspects of double booking? Is it really that bad what I intend to so?

Posted by Jim
Dallas, Texas, USA
495 posts

I'm enjoying this exchange, it gives me a better perspective of each of you. I see many frequent posters to this message board have weighed in.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7976 posts

Nothing bad at all. Unless you find something offensive about lying and screwing people. Hopefully, every place requires a full, non-refundable deposit.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8757 posts

Who gets an advantage, doing that? Only one person - that's Andre L. Who suffers? The hotel owner at the place that you cancel at the last minute who then has the added admin of trying to rent the room to another at short notice, probably losing money on double admin, possibly renting the room at a discount, possibly failing to rent it at all. Others who suffer are those fellow travelers who, searching for a room you will ultimately not use, find that the hotel is full or the room type is unavailable and have to look elsewhere. And finally, everybody else suffers who will want to travel there as the owners will wind up raising all their prices to counter the extra costs. Thanks, Andre, for raising the costs of my holidays. - = - Note, before you explode, that if only one person does this and it is rare the third consequence may not occur. If it becomes common it certainly will.

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
2608 posts

I will usually double book in the initial planning stages as different hotels get recommended to me and I see if they are available. But, that usually is only a matter of an hour or so of having two hotels booked for the same date. I immediately cancel the other one, or wait for a traveling companion to take a look, but I would not feel right having them held till the last minute (being a small business owner) and thinking they may not be able to book that room while I had two.

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2155 posts

Ethical issue? What? We're not talking about taking bribes, using political influence to get your unemployed brother-in-law appointed to a cushy government post, or using tests from human genome sequencing to abort un unborn child because it may have a genetic marker that you don't like. We're not even talking about letting the aliens from Area 51 live in the basement of the White House. As long as you intend to take a trip to one of those places on those dates, and as long as you adhere to the cancellation policies of the lodging and the policies of the booking site, there isn't an issue as far as I'm concerned. Having said that, you should cancel as early as you possibly can when you know what you're doing for sure. As for those small B&Bs not taking any info other than one's name, e-mail, and phone number (maybe address), I was also a little surprised when I ran into this for the first time in Europe this past year. Two places required nothing more, one place required a 20€ deposit via PayPal, and another requested (but didn't require) one night's payment via wire transfer. They do place a lot of trust, but they will also still try to collect according to their cancellation policy for no shows (would ask that you wire whatever amout is owed). I suppose one could simply ignore their requests, and maybe the owner would even send the matter to a collection agency if they had enough info. They would be expecting one in this case to do the honorable thing and adhere to the "contract" that was agreed upon when the room was reserved. Now, this can become a big ethical issue IMO should one decide not to pay when they have not lived up to their end of the bargain.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7828 posts

I often book a hotel ( many months in advance) and then continue looking at other choices, and I will cancel and rebook if I find something I like better.
I do not cancel a few days in advance, but usually at least a few weeks ( or even months) in advance. I travel during summer usually, and most places I stay are pretty busy and can easily rebook room with even a week or two notice. I haven't cut it that close, but I feel no guilt about it period. If hotel did not think it could handle it they would have a more restrictive cancellation policy , I have booked places with 24 hr free cancellation policies, which I think are pretty generous on their part, but they wouldn't do that if they felt it would endanger their business. If I was choosing a b@b or a private stay in a home I would be more careful to begin with . I myself might find waiting until 10 days before a bit of a close cut, but its not unethical . I do warn you to not forget to cancel, I did that once , but I did pay a one night penalty which I thought was more then fair.

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
4765 posts

Easy question to answer. If it was your hotel or B&B, how would you feel about it? Always put yourself in the other persons shoes if you aren't sure if what you are planning to do is ethical, kind, etc. If you wouldn't want it done to you, then don't do it to someone else. I recently made 2 reservations where neither hotel asked for any kind of deposit, etc. One was in Munich, one in Stuttgart and I kept both of them, and will recommend both hotels to others. I find trusting behaviour like this refreshing, and it is a shame that others feel it is ok to ruin it.

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2155 posts

"If it was your hotel or B&B, how would you feel about it?" That's also an easy question to answer: I would not set forth any rules or agree to any booking site rules that would in any way have the potential to negatively impact my business. So, it all becomes part of the business of doing business. As others have said, the hotels and booking sites have set the rules. Work within the boundaries of the rules, and there shouldn't be an ethical dilemma. Fail to work within the rules, and pay whatever penalty is dictated by the rules. That's all fair. But you're right about the B&Bs that require no deposit or credit card...they're taking a risk that they have (so far anyway) determined to be acceptable to them. As long as one adheres to the cancellation policies of the B&B, I see this as no different than a larger hotel. The B&B wouldn't have policies (or shouldn't have anyway) that could harm their business.

Posted by Bruce
Whitefish, Montana
611 posts

By asking the question, you have doubts. Using 10 day weather forecast to decide which trip to take combined with three-day cancellation policies indicates decisions will be made in a fairly narrow window of time and as close as three days out. So why make reservations at all? The answer presumably is you are traveling at more popular times/locations and wish preferred accommodations. "What do you think of ethical aspects of double booking? Is it really that bad what I intend to so?" Given the above, it's not ethical and harms hotels and fellow travelers...you are the sole beneficiary.

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2155 posts

If Andre follows all the rules set by both the hotels and the booking sites, how EXACTLY does he harm hotels? And how EXACTLY does he harm other travelers? Other travelers have the same opportunity as Andre to search for and book available hotel rooms for a given date. If a room isn't available because Andre booked it, then it's simply not available and another lodging, maybe even one of those small B&Bs that really needs the business, may benefit from Andre's practice. BTW, pretty much everyone does something every day that benefits nobody but the person doing it. That doesn't make whatever it is they're doing somehow unethical simply because the thing they're doing doesn't benefit anyone else.

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

I don't know. I tend to choose hotels that offer really flexible cancellation policies (up to 24 hours ahead of time, usually) so I'm not out hundreds of bucks if I have to cancel at the last minute (nature of my husband's job makes this a constant possibility) I've never had to cancel, but I do feel like if the hotel is setting these policies (and even on Booking.com, there are both refundable up to 24 hours and non-refundable hotels available - sometimes both options at the same hotel with better deals offered to those who chose to book non-refundable rooms) then the hotel has taken into account the fact that people may potentially cancel at the last minute (less than a week out) for ANY reason and don't find it impedes their bottom line. All that said, it seems like there'd be a difference using Andre's strategy with a large hotel chain versus a small family-run place that is relying on you to keep your agreement to stay with them for their financial security.

Posted by Jeff
Bend, OR, United States
1145 posts

I have always agreed with the wise man who said, "Character/ethics is what you do when no one is looking." It's doing what is right, not just following established rules or law.

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
3313 posts

The question was about the ethics of double-booking not just about the feasibility or possibility of double-booking. When you consider the ethics of action you look beyond mere legality to consider the impact of what you do on others and your community and the world that you live in. If you haven't thought about issues in this manner, check out The Ethicist in the NY Times. I think that what you propose is potentially harmful to a number of people as outlined in the other responses. Would you cancel your trip if you only made the one booking to Levanto and rain was forecast? Or would you go anyway? That might weigh into your thinking. Of course, with double-booking at a minimum at least one business is screwed. Aa Nigel said, if this becomes a business practice, all hotels will start requiring deposits or worse, they will overbook their hotels like the airlines do to insure that they fill their hotels. Or they will start requiring a minimum stay as they do in Edinburgh during the festival. So, another point to consider is whether or not this behavior will make traveling a less pleasant experience in the future. Sure, you've got a great situation this year, but if it rains in Levant this year and you cancel, what will your experience be next year? Is it unethical? Perhaps. Is it a nice thing to do to a small business with a small profit margin? Probably not. Pam

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
2508 posts

I've used booking.com extensively and have cancelled reservations 3 or 4 times, usually a month or more ahead. I've never double-booked, it's actually never occurred to me, and I find the idea unethical on several levels (which have been pointed out already). Like those Renaissance paintings that show a horse's behind in the foreground to demonstrate perspective, just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should. I agree with posters who point out that it's harder on a small B&B or hotel than it is on a large hotel. For all the armchair attorneys: One thing to note about booking.com: the hotel sets the cancellation policy, which varies from 24 hours' notice to 7 days' notice, to no cancellation refund (for the first night on lower-priced rooms). Let the double-booker beware.

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
4765 posts

Who here has claimed to have no flaws, James? Should we just completely give up trying to do the right things cause we can't do all of them right? Andre' is the one that asked and used the words ethical. My take is that if you have to ask about something like this, you probably already know the answer, but you are just looking for someone to tell you the answer you want to hear. The whole thing isn't about booking and then canceling, it is about doing it with an ulterior motive.

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2155 posts

James nailed it. It's hilarious to me that ethics, law, and even morality have somehow worked their way into discussions of a legitimate business transaction between a seller and a buyer, whereby all parties are working within the parameters of the rules set up by the sellers (hotels) themselves. And why question the ethics and morality of a single customer, Andre, anyway? Why not also question the ethics and morality of the hotel chains about, say, the environment and labor while you're at it? Are you okay with huge U.S. corporate hotel chains damaging the environment and killing off entire species to put resorts in the swamps and along the coastline in the Bahamas without the rigor of tough environmental laws like we have here? What about ignoring newer laws to protect the environment and people in Sri Lanka following the big tsunami and building huge resorts right on the beach in violation of the law? How about ignoring internationally-recognized worker rights and forcing temporarily disabled housekeepers to do heavy work in resorts in developing countries (and also in the U.S.)? Now, these are a few ideas that certainly should generate some interest among those of you with such passion regarding Andre's ethics. Some of the thought processes here are curious to say the least. BTW, what is Andre's "ulterior motive"? He hasn't concealed anything from this group as far as I can tell.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7828 posts

So, is this unethical. I bought two dresses for a fancy NYE do. I have them both at home, I wanted to see what each looked like with my shoes and jewerly etc.. I will wear one, and I will return one unworn, and I will return it before NYE( retailer will not take back Special Occaison dresses after NYE for obvious reasons like people who wear and return !) . In meantime, one of those dresses I am not going to wear is not in store, and someone could have boughten it and loved it and worn it.. I am operating exactly as store clerk suggested ( she said take them both and return one early as per rules) .. but store may lose out on the sale of that one dress. So if we apply the hotel concept to this , then both store clerk, store policy and me are all unethical.. really , how judgemental some people are..

Posted by Ron
Ron-in-Rome... now RPT in Atlanta!
1743 posts

An interesting subject... Over the years I have booked and arranged many, many hotel rooms for folks. And when I am working with them, I do not allow double-booking. That's because I have developed personal relationships with representatives at that hotel – or I want to! If I was to constantly/consistently cancel just before the policy deadline... the benefits, upgrades, and amenities I can sometimes get for folks would rapidly disappear. In our relationships, it's a matter of trust. I value the service they provide – they value my clients showing up! To that end, hotels and airlines always seem to overbook. How many times have you been bumped on a flight?" Or had to "be walked" at a hotel? Fortunately, due to the hotel relationships I have built, no one I have worked with had to be shuffled off to a "different" location. But it does happen and way too often. Why? Because hotels and airlines KNOW there is a set amount of people that WILL cancel at the last minute and then that room/seat goes unused. That's lost revenue for them. So they overbook to compensate for that percentage of people who will cancel. And sometimes EVERYONE shows up! Then why do hotels/B&B's have such "flexible" cancellation policies? Well, that's simple – competition! Everyone is trying to find a way to ATTRACT new customers. I prefer to work with places that want to KEEP customers. And yet, it is far more challenging for smaller venues who are trying to build their business. I once spent a few days in Florence with a husband and wife team as they struggled to pay the bills for their 8-room hotel. Every day was a struggle and a last-minute cancellation brought tears and frustration to a couple trying to build their dream. Sadly they lost their business after three years of day-to-day financial challenges.

Posted by Ron
Ron-in-Rome... now RPT in Atlanta!
1743 posts

Who gets hurt the most? Well, the smaller, family run B&B with limited rooms, limited funds, and bills to pay. And eventually ... the customer, as service standards decline due to reduced labor costs, the inability to maintain or upgrade a facility, hotels closing so less competition, etc. Living in Italy, many of my "agreements" with locals I met were simply a handshake. I NEVER had a written lease at any apartment during my entire stay in Italy. We simply agreed this would be the path we would take. I gave them a deposit and trusted they would return it. They trusted I would not "skip-out" without notice or steal all the furniture in the apartment. Too bad the days of those agreements – that level of trust - seem to be gone. Is it right to take advantage of the flexible cancellation rules and double, triple, even quadruple book? (Hey, I once had a lady call me who had SIX hotels in the same city for the same period... I told I would not work with her until she cancelled all of them - today!) I suppose this is done for convenience, for cost, and for some - a sense of entitlement? Expect costs to continue to increase and services to decrease... After five years in Europe (this time) I've been back in the States for less than 5 months. I've been appalled as I've seen/read about multiple shootings of children, movie-goers, and firefighters, talk of a financial cliff, and a general sense of apathy in (and about) Congress .... Why are we surprised when the attitude seems to be... " We're just taking the rules as far as we can." When did we start letting rules determine our personal ethics/morality? You reap what you sow... I guess I'm just old fashioned - I miss the days of the handshake with my "friends" in Italy...

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7828 posts

Ron I think we all agree that smaller family run places and B@Bs in particular one should take extra care. Many do not have good cancellation policies anyways ( and now we know why). I think if a hotel is big enough to be on a booking agency site its more likely to be able to reboook a room with a few weeks notice,, not perhaps a few days, I would hope/think someone cancelling on such short notice had a good reason to do so.

Posted by Ron
Ron-in-Rome... now RPT in Atlanta!
1743 posts

I agree Pat - and I'm not against cancelling a reservation - things do happen. I've had to call a few hotels and cancel reservations. I guess I'm against double and triple booking and then cancelling "for convenience." The intent is different... With the introduction of the internet now many smaller hotels/B&B's are working through booking.com, venere.com, hotels.com, or other third-party vendors. They have no choice if they want to be "searchable" and discovered. And believe me, talking to them, they are conflicted by the cancellation policies. It's a new world for them. But what choice do they have? The internet is the booking method of choice for most travelers today. The result, for them, is decreased profits as they have to pay those third-party vendors a percentage of each sale. Their margins get less and for many of them, only the opportunity for more-rooms-sold offsets the declining margin-per-sale-issue. And since they make less per room, they may be inclined to raise prices - if their market will bear the increase. Thus, with less-earnings-per-room, a cancellation at the last minute becomes even a bigger issue... It's very frustrating for some of the struggling accommodations.

Posted by Carroll
Pittsburgh, PA, USA
1349 posts

I was going to say exactly what Jo said. Put yourself in the place of the hotel owner and make your decision that way.

Posted by Rebecca
Nashville, TN, USA
645 posts

Getting out my popcorn and diet soda. Triple like button, for Nigel, Jo, and Ron. I would never cancel my reservation at a family run B&B at the last minute. If I could cancel giving them 10 days or more notice, I would do that if an honest change of plans, illness, etc. came up. I would consider how difficult it may be for them to fill that room if I had had it reserved for two months and then canceled. Even if you follow their rules for cancellation, on short notice, it's a dirty trick to double book and cancel at the last minute. However, I agree with Michael amd James that it is a business transaction, and I have no problem canceling with a large chain, such as Marriott or Hilton, because I know that room is available immediately to others, via their website and other internet booking sites. It's two different things. Comparing apples to oranges. One is a large corporation, which cannot be hurt financially by your cancellation. The other (family run B&B's) can be ruined by people repeatedly canceling at the last minute. Not ethical to do something that you know hurts another person just for your convenience or on a whim. Think of all the people, dozens maybe, who called the B&B wanting your spot the week before you canceled on short notice. The innkeeper has already lost their booking because you were taking up a space you never intended to use. How is that fair to either innkeeper or other tourists needing a place to stay? I do not double book in the first place. I have a typed itinerary, with hotels/B&B's scheduled, and have researched the best deals and locations to death before I make my reservations. If your plans change, do the right thing. If canceling a reservation at a B&B or small hotel, abide by their cancellation policies, yes, but also give them as much notice as soon as possible so they can fill the spot.

Posted by Miranda
Central Indiana, USA
79 posts

Team Michael, pat, amd James. If cancelling reservations within the confines of their policy is enough to drive a place out of business, they're doing something else wrong.

Posted by Nancy
Corvallis OR
969 posts

Well, here we go again. I really like to stay out of these arguments but sometimes I just need to put my 2 cents in. My vote goes to whoever thinks it is not unethical as long as you follow the rules set by the hotels/B&Bs and the booking websites. I don't see the issue. What's the difference between double booking on purpose and having to cancel one hotel and book another because you changed your itinerary or the days you wanted the hotel for? Whatever the reason the hotel room was booked and then canceled and if it's done according to their requirements and if penalties are paid if not done properly the results are the same. I've never actually double booked but I have canceled because of change of plans or just because I later found a better deal at another hotel. I did it within their timeframe for cancelation so never felt guilty about it.

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
2508 posts

The difference between cancelling for a reason and double-booking is intent. Thanks, Ron, for your perspective. As for the double-dress for NYE, it's not the same thing - the dress goes back into inventory regardless of when it's returned, and will probably be sold at a discounted price later, or sold to a reseller. There is likely no "later" for a room that gets cancelled at the last minute.

Posted by Kia
Toronto, ON, Canada
112 posts

I've double booked hotel rooms right now I have two hotel rooms booked in Miami for the same night, because I haven't decided which one I want (downtown or near the airport). I don't think it's unethical, because I know that the room I release will be available to be rebooked immediately. While it's not available to other travelers now, it will be available to someone looking for a last-minute spot......in fact, I'm pretty sure the room will get used, regardless of when I cancel and make it available again. Perhaps it's different with major hotels (chains) in major cities, where there is a good likelihood that the room will be used, as opposed to a small independent place in an out-of-the-way location, where there will be fewer people looking to stay there on short notice?

Posted by Bruce
Whitefish, Montana
611 posts

Don't forget the example given was Easter holiday and cancellation as close as three days out.

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2155 posts

Well, then. In the context of pregnancy and hotel rooms, perhaps the working term should be "immoral" instead of "unethical". I mean, who doesn't want to get all "immoral" with one's lover in a favorite hotel or B&B? In fact, I would never cancel a hotel room if I knew I had a shot at some immorality that night. Hell, we could even move and use both rooms. Nobody cancels, and everyone benefits, including the hotel owner. Sounds like a great compromise to me, and, hopefully, nobody gets pregnant.

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
3313 posts

Andre, my sister and I think that you should just not worry about the rain and go to Italy. If it rains, just eat and drink more wine; it's Italy, after all so you could probably spend over three hours per meal. Pam

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
11276 posts

How would you feel if you had a booking in a European town, particularly if it were at a time when rooms are hard to find at the last minute, and the property wrote to you that someone already at the hotel had asked to stay longer, so they were cancelling your reservation? Or, what if they wrote that the were full and getting lots or request from people who would pay more, so they were raising the rate, if you still wanted to stay there? In the above cases, you would probably say, "but we had an agreement". Under law, a contract is only binding if both parties give "consideration" - you, that you will show up and pay the agreed price, and them, that you will have a room at that price. If you believe that you can cancel at the last minute, then you should not be upset if they give away your reservation at the last minute. In the case where you pay a premium for a cancellable reservation, or a cancellable reservation is part of the offer, that's is part of the contract. In over 100 nights in or near Germany, I have only once cancelled a booking. Ironically, that was through a "booking website", not one like booking dot com, but one that was captive of the town's tourism office. It was 2½ months before my trip time and the cancellation policy was clearly stated - free cancellation up to 60 days before the date, penalties afterwards. It was for a town a few km from where I wanted to stay but I had not been able to find a vacancy in the preferred town. After agreeing to the site cancellation policy and giving my CC#, I kept looking for a place in the preferred town, and when I found one, I cancelled the first reservation, still outside the free cancellation period of the contract.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7976 posts

Two incidents, a couple of years apart: A few years back, during the winter of the big snow, I was making a run from Dunkerque to Perigueux. The storm I'd been fighting from Snowdonia to the Midlands caught me again as I was leaving Dunkerque, stopped for a bit in the Paris basin, and then picked up again until well past Limoges. Knowing it'd be late as hell before the day was done and not wanting to dork around looking for a place to stay, I called the Perigueux Etap. The gal took my name and cc number but said her electronics were acting up and it would be a while before she could ram it into the computer, but they didn't expect to get full up, anyway. (Etap and F1, the cheapos of mega-Accor, go unattended early in the evening, but if you stick your cc in the kiosk outside the lobby what spits out is a slip with the door combination, a room assignement, and a combination to the room. Alternatively you can get a room from scratch when the place is unattened in the same manner.) Well, I showed up, the place was locked, and when I tried to use the cc it said they were full up. No frigging room - - until a guy came around the corner in the lobby, opened the door, and asked me

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7976 posts

if my name matched the one on the scrap of paper the day gal had left him. He must have sat around on his butt for three hours past quitting time so some dumb cluck that thought he had a reservation would have a place to sleep. A few weeks ago the Ullapool ferry was three hours late pulling out and the Minch was lumpy. I should have gotten to Stornoway about eight-thirty, but it was well after midnight. My resevation consisted of a phone call that gave my dates and name, nothing else. The place was closed and I was about to curl up in the car, but decided to poke around back. The acutely pregnant gal was waiting up for me in her robe (she'd heard about the ferry). It was a couple of days before we crossed paths again when she had her recipt book handy do I could pay. How in the blue blazes can you cancel reservations when there are people like that around??

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7976 posts

Now, in an effort to keep harmony, I'm hosting a New Year's dinner. All respondents are welcome. I'll set up two tables with assigned seating. Please don't feel offended if you're told to sit at the table with paper plates and plastic forks while others get to eat with the best china and good silver - - it gets expensive to replace that stuff and some of it's been in the family for years.

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
2608 posts

I want to sit at the table with the china & silver... and I won't cancel (except in case of emergency...in which case I will try and call:)) but, I could be happy with paper plates and plastic too...

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7828 posts

Heck is someone else is cooking I will sit at the table with a trough down the center!

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
4765 posts

I can be there Ed, and you can put me at the "kids table" with the paper plates if you like.

Posted by Karen
Fort Wayne, IN, USA
1521 posts

I'll be at the kids table with Jo, and I'll even sit on the bean bag chair if necessary. Someone will need to help me up. This is so exciting-our chance to meet Ed, and also the woman who puts up with Ed!

Posted by Ian
Marseille
105 posts

Personally I don't think it's right to book a service that you know in advance that you will not use, as is the case of a hotel double-booking for the same night. I can understand that a holiday is an investment in time and money, and that you would want to take precautions against bad weather during that time, however personally I wouldn't do it that way. I don't work in the hotel industry, but I work in a job in which cancellations and last-minute changes are part and parcel of it and I accept that, even though it is annoying. I would get more annoyed though if some of those cancellations were due to somebody booking just to cover all bases rather than genuinely needing that particular service but circumstances getting in the way.

Posted by Carroll
Pittsburgh, PA, USA
1349 posts

Count me in, Ed. I want to sit at whichever table you are sitting at. (Or at which you are sitting?)

Posted by Randy
Minneapolis, MN, USA
1508 posts

If you double book, you are lying. There are plenty of ways to sugar-coat it, but it doesn't change the basic morality. The fact that the system allows it is irrelevant. Just do the right thing. You already know what that is. It's not like you don't have other options. Life is full of choices. Don't be a !@#$%^

Posted by Keith
United Kingdom
683 posts

Double booking is certainly not unethical, it is probably not immoral, and I do not think it evil (a much overused word, what should we call real evil when it happens?). However double booking is caddish and you should not do it.

Posted by Elaine
Columbia, SC
746 posts

Maybe we can wrap this one up - double booking is not illegal, not unethical, probably not immoral, and not evil. It is, however, not politically correct.

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
3313 posts

Nope, I still think it's unethical. Not illegal, but particularly when dealing with small,family run businesses as described above it's unethical in my book. An interesting question might be whether or not there is a difference in the ethics when you're dealing with Mom and Pop businesses vs World Corporate Business such as Hilton or Sheraton or other large hoteliers. And does it matter if it's a franchise such as you have with Best Western Hotels in the US? I suspect that the Ethicist would say that there is no difference. Pam

Posted by Andre L.
Tilburg, Netherlands
2176 posts

Looks like I got a lot of feedback. First, I want to state that I wrote the question in honesty. I'm neither a "lawbook-only" person whose only restraint is the law or contracts, but I'm also not a person losing sense of what are business transactions. I've (single) booked hotels and then cancelled numerous times, as my short vacations are sometimes unpredictable (pending on my girlfriend's erratic work schedule). I then cancel whenever I know I won't make it. Also, I've never been a no-show in a hotel except in a handful circumstances where the reservation was only for one night anyway (always because of being too tired to keep driving another two hundred miles after traffic problems) - so they got my money and less housekeeping to do. Something I do often is to make a first reservation that can be cancelled without fees, then, later, if some more attractive non-refundable fare appears, I cancel the first one and book again. Now, as a general discussion on the issue, I was thinking something on this line in case I book and then cancel: - if hotel is not fully booked, in all likelihood I didn't preclude anyone else making a reservation - if it is peak time and the hotel is fully booked, it is very likely that it will get a replacement reservation in case I cancel 3-4 days before arrival date

Posted by Connie
Everett, WA
827 posts

Here is a thought: Does Booking.com encourage double booking and cancellation by the way they do business? When I was planning my 2012, I booked several rooms through them because I felt I might lose out if I did not. Their web site said things like "only 2 rooms left" " 3 others are looking at this room" "You can cancel up to the day before". All these are designed to make the person "bite" now and think later. It worked for me, I grabbed the room before it was gone and then did my research on the hotel. Upon looking into a couple of these places, I realized they would not work for me at all. (some because of reviews on Trip Advisor, another because I found something closer to the city center) I canceled them within a couple of days and months before the trip (all my bookings were in place and not changed 6 months in advance), so I am sure the hotels were fine. However, I did not feel bad about it, since it appeared to me that that was how you play the game on Booking.com.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7828 posts

Very good points Connie,and yes I do think some places do that "only one room left" and "cancel anytime" thing to get people to book impulsively .So tough on them, since I find that "one room left at this price" thing very annoying,, as I do find the " this hotel last booked 3 minutes ago " crappola.. I think there is absolutely nothing wrong with double booking as long as a fair amount of time is allowed to cancel, as I said. I may double book in March for a July room but I cancel one usually by April,, and sorry Randy, please tell me how the hotel is going under cause they only have 3 months to rebook. Baloney. Also a room that is cancelled doesn't make a difference if it was going to be empty anyways , not everyone travels peak season, so hotel having a room booked does not mean they are missing out on another booking, that would only apply if they are FULL and have to turn people away.

Posted by Keith
United Kingdom
683 posts

Pat, if you claim it does not matter because you book so far in advance then why do you need to book so early when your holiday plans are so vague? Why not wait until you know where you wish to visit? I still think double booking as you do it is not unethical, but it is caddish (and obnoxious) behaviour.

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
2608 posts

This has gone way off topic... the OP said waiting till the weather report came out before cancelling, not months in advance... two totally different scenarios.

Posted by Connie
Everett, WA
827 posts

It is true that what Andre is doing is a little different than what I have done. However, my point is that some of the booking web sites have to take some responsibility for the mind set that "we can always cancel". They are pushing that idea through their business practices. Please don't get me wrong, I like booking.com and am not trying to criticize them. I think their business model is that "yes, we will lose some after they book, but we keep the majority once they make the booking" (The old "spaghetti on the wall" idea-more sticks than falls off) The problem is that this bleeds over into the smaller B&B's and hotels that are hurt by last minute cancellations. (Or receive criticism for not letting people cancel at the last minute..I have read some of those complaints on Trip Advisor!) Ultimately the industry sets the standards. If they said once you book it is set in cement, it would change my travel planning. I have stayed at places that have those rules in place, and I am very careful before booking them. Here in the States, more and more hotel chains are offering 2 prices: one for if you want to be able to cancel, and a cheaper one that does not allow for cancellation. While I don't use a lot of chain hotels in Europe, I do know that the Accor chain (Etap, Ibis, Mecure, etc) uses that policy at some of their units. My point was that the industry is partly responsible for double booking and its consequences. (but I am not insensitive to the fact that they are at the mercy of what consumers want.) When I have had to cancel, at the last minute it has always been for a legitimate reason (illness, etc). Therefore, I like a friendly cancellation policy and I do have some concerns that what Andre does could force change in the industry.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7828 posts

Keith what I do is neigther caddish or whatever , and it has nothing to do with vague plans, my dates are usually set 6 months in advance. I most frequently travel to Paris ( but of course visit other places) and I usually stay in smaller hotels. Some do not open their booking till closer in, and some offer special rates for some dates. I will find a hotel I like ( often one i have already stayed at before) book it say in jan-feb( for June , July or August dates) but then perhaps notice a month later another hotel I like or wish to try has opened up a good rate ,, so I book it and cancel the other one. No one is hurt by this move. Keith I often do long stays, and I come from west coast of Canada(airfare $$)so,, I need to watch my money, and if I am doing 14-28 days at least in a hotel i have to get rates I can live with. I am careful of the cancellation policies and one of the reasons I can do longer visits, and still stay in places I am happy with is that I do months of research, planning and comparing.

Posted by Keith
United Kingdom
683 posts

Pat - fair points, I was a bit intemperate in my last posting, so apologies.

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
3313 posts

This is when I wish there was a like button here. Nicely said Keith and nicely defended Pat. ; )

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7828 posts

Thanks Pam, i think we all basically agree on most things, double booking and calling it off at last minute is not so nice , especially to smaller establisments, but there are circumstances that make a no harm no foul situation..
and I think Keith is just a gentleman at heart and can't help being nice.

Posted by Daniel
Ocean Shores, Wa, USA
71 posts

Speaking as tourist business owner(non lodging): In this day and age, all businesses run with a certain amount of risk. The risk level in a tourism business may be a bit more pronounced....there can be so many variables, economy, war, weather, hurricanes, volcanos, consumer confidence etc. I would wager that most of the tourism businesses who are involved with booking.com know the risks (Most) and if not, shame on them. There are no quarantees in owning a business, I often liken it to playing the slots in Vegas. As a business owner, large or small, you weigh the risks, go with your gut feeling, work hard and believe in what you do....and hope and pray for the best.... During our last trip to Ireland, I booked 3 lodgings on booking.com and in all 3 instances the rate was a little high, but one I could live with. In 2 instances, I ran into rates that were much better (3 months out) and cancelled. On the third one, I intended to do more research, but got lazy, and didn't, so used that booking and it turned out fine. That being said, as a tourism business owner, a double booking held until 3 days or less before the intended use...would bother my conscience! knowing how hard it is to make a living in this industry!
Dan