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Non-refundable accomodation

There was another thread on here talking about someone who had to change their trip more than a month in advance and was out several thousand dollars due to having booked on Air BnB and they were only refunding part of the price. I didn't want to pile on that thread, but I have to ask why are people booking non-refundable rooms? I have never booked a place that has such a draconian policy that more than a month out you cannot cancel for free ... maybe a week or 72 hrs out, but many times I can cancel until 24 hours in advance. This seems to be a "feature" of sites mainly like VRBO, Air BnB etc, which if I recall the rhetoric correctly, were originally billed as a way for small owners to reach a wide audience, but seem to have morphed into very restrictive, expensive (often hundreds of $$ in cleaning fees) choices. So I have to ask, why are people using Air BnB or VRBO under these conditions? Its not like other options aren't available.

Posted by
10262 posts

I suspect there's a natural human tendency to think "oh my plans won't change." But after that way of thinking ends up costing you some real money, you're probably more careful.

Posted by
1509 posts

I tend not to book that way. Even my apartment rental in Paris only had a few hundred dollars as cancellation penalty, not the entire amount. I think the bigger issue is people fail to read terms when they book

Posted by
6176 posts

Actually I've noticed more and more restrictive policies on booking.com and hotels.com (or in cases where the money is taken at booking, even though it's refundable up to almost the last minute). I'm the opposite. I book a lot of non-refundables in cases of substantive cost savings. I can deal with the risk because I've only cancelled about once or twice in my life, so I don't need (or value) that much flexibility given my track record. It depends what the price differential is, but in my case, it's been pretty big. I just got burned on a (domestic) rental car because I didn't bite the non-refundable bullet soon enough and gambled too much that the price would head down. Everything is a trade-off and, for me, a lot of non-refundables are worth it solely for the cost savings (and it's a calculated risk, not a hunch - I know the downsides, and I'm cool with that).

On the other hand, I don't feel the need to book anything that requires a cash pre-payment via an expensive wire or cash payment of any kind. There are plenty of other credit card options, and credit cards have the best protections. I'm lucky in that I don't need a family apartment, and realize that cash payments are inevitable for some folks. Regrettably, there are some really neat, eccentric or unique apartments that are cash only that I just choose to gloss over.

Posted by
1072 posts

This is one reason I always encourage people to look at their life situation before booking way in advance. I understand the excitement but life can change in 6 months to a year and most flights/hotels don’t need that much advance booking.

I do book mostly non refundable, but it’s always less than two months in advance. I wouldn’t do it if I knew I had a shaky job situation, health conditions, or a family situation that might cause a last minute cancellation.

Posted by
16840 posts

I have to assume the impetus is either a perceived cost savings (which often appears to be real if you would otherwise need two separate hotel rooms; in other cases, I think it may depend on avoiding a good number of restaurant meals by the time you add in those annoying cleaning fees) or the desire to stay in one particular apartment due to some combination of appearance, features and location.

It's clear from posts on the forum that there are a lot of travelers who do (as someone wrote within the last few days) get excited about the particular lodgings they have booked. If they think they have found a unique gem, I can see why that sort of traveler would jump on it.

Posted by
1957 posts

More and more small establishments are getting more and more restrictive because the proportion of flaky people booking rooms is getting larger and larger. Some people reserve multiple places and plan to decide at the last minute where to stay. Some are reserving for the possibility of going somewhere instead of with the plan of going somewhere.

I've come to know the owner of the 4-room place where I stay in Berlin well, and once while I was there, three of her reservations for the following week canceled (through booking.org), leaving her with a nearly empty B&B for a week (and she had turned away people who wanted those dates). So, it makes sense that establishments want potential guests to have some skin in the reservation game.

For me, a reservation isn't made until I'm virtually certain I will stay there, particularly with family-run places in Europe (less so with chains in the US and in Europe, though it's rare I cancel those, too). I prefer to stay at places with generous cancellation policies, but I have made reservations at places where there was a substantial penalty for canceling the reservation, if it was a compelling place (like the two tourist farms in Slovenia where I will be staying in August/September). I will add that I stay at fairly inexpensive places, so I'm never go to lose a ton of money if something does come up, forcing me to cancel.

Posted by
2812 posts

I've booked many times in Europe and Canada through AirBnB. I believe all of them had either "Flexible" or "Moderate" cancellation policies; full refund if cancelled more than 2 days (Flexible) or 5 days (Moderate) before the rental period. That seems pretty reasonable. The only nonrefundable bookings I ever make are houses through Gite de France. Full payment always has to be made before a month prior to the rental period, and I believe it's nonrefundable unless you take their cancellation insurance (which I never have). I'm certainly willing to take the risk.

Posted by
4445 posts

I’ve booked non-refundable rooms. Generally the scenarios are when I want to rent an apartment or when the non-refundable price is a lot cheaper than the refundable price. I don’t think there are too many apartments that let you cancel wirhout some penalty.

Yes, there is a risk that you might lose money. If you don’t want to take that risk then either buy trip insurance or book somewhere else.

Posted by
951 posts

One issue is that places that allow last-minute cancelation charge more for that. So the rate is higher if the flexibility is greater. Not always, and it literally pays to read the fine print (to note which cancelation policy your airbnb is following: flexible, moderate, strict...). But on Booking.com it costs more to get a "you can cancel 24 hours before" reservation. Depends on your tolerance for risk I suppose

Posted by
3991 posts

I don’t look at the cancellation policy when I book. I have never had to cancel a booked room, as yet. If I have booked flights somewhere months in advance, then I need a room and book as soon as I buy the flights. If I am booking last minute, a week or two ahead, then the cancellation policy shouldn’t be an issue. I have travel insurance if the holiday needs to be cancelled.

Posted by
3303 posts

I will only book a non-refundable stay if it is in the next few days and I am absolutely positive I will be there that day.

Most hotels do not charge a lower enough rate to make me take the gamble. $20 a night on a $200 room is just not enough to give up the flexibility of changing my plans if I am booking months in advance. I have found the non-refundable, pay in advance, hotel rooms that are ones I book using that option are usually a much higher discount being so close to the date as the hotels are trying to fill their empty rooms and make at least a little off the person staying there vs having the room empty and making nothing.

I have not used the Air BnB type bookings enough to know if the savings would be enough to chance.

Posted by
5719 posts

We only book non-refundable lodgings if we are getting trip insurance. We only buy insurance if part of the trip is a tour or cruise.
We had a beautiful AirBnB last fall in Italy that I booked ten months ahead. I could cancel up to seven days ahead for a full refund.

Posted by
16840 posts

The percentage savings does vary, and it's usually not worth it to me for the places I book well in advance. I seldom change an itinerary after I book a room, but it could happen. When I'm traveling flexibly and searching for rooms only 2 to 4 days ahead of time, I'm often not presented with more than one option at the time of booking. I agree that I have occasionally snagged really good deals at that point.

The Premier Inn chain in the UK is one that offers a substantial discount for non-refundable bookings if you make the commitment well in advance. I've seen it at around 30%, and that was less than a year ahead of time, so I guess it might go a bit higher.

Posted by
3377 posts

I book our entire family (grandparents through grandkids) at a large home in Washington state each year for a long weekend through an Airbnb type site, and it’s partially refundable.

But for Europe, I never use those types of sites. I always book hotels or the occasional apartment or B&B either through Booking or Expedia or the lodging’s website if it’s cheaper. When I first solidify an itinerary 8-9 months before the trip, I go through Booking & Expedia and select a refundable reservation at each town. Then during the next month I will do intensive research, pick the final location (& release earlier reservations if they no longer apply) and book either refundable or non-refundable based on price difference. Usually they end up being half of each during the trip. Personally, I think it’s extremely rude to small hotel owners to cancel a reservation during the last few critical months.

Posted by
2784 posts

I rarely book fully nonrefundable and the one time I did, I had to cancel 2 weeks ahead...but when I booked it, I was prepared to lose it; but I booked it as it was the cheapest option in the middle,of nowhere on a road trip. I needed a bed in that area to keep to plan.
I want quiet surroundings, a kitchen and seating for under $100 cdn. Rarely is that acheivable in a hotel, but definitely acheivable (balanced over the trip) via AirBnB. If you bother to take the time to read the rules and regs, you will see a business plan that works for me. I tried to book apartments in Spain via local apartment rental companies, but they charged more and all wanted money upfront prior to arrival and a damage deposit in cash of several hundred euro.
Airbnb does mean paying at booking but the money is not released to the renter until 24 hours after check in so there is that much time to fix problems or notify of discrepencies or issues. There are 3 levels of cancellation, as 'strict' is a full refund up to a month ahead or 50% within the month, then moderate is full refund within a week, and flexible is 1-2 days before. However, all cancellations forefeit the management costs. There is also an avenue to ask for more money back. I jave succeeded when had a valid reason and knew they had rented most of my nights cancelled. I onky asked for slightly less than je was going to recoup from reselling. So, you need to read it all. The reviews, the restrictions, look at google street view, email the owner, some are super hosts so have a reputation to uphold, gauge the certainty of the trip vs cancelling and then decide what works for you.
I actually like booking a place every paycheck or two as I can spread out the costs and don't suffer sticker shock upon my return home.

Posted by
2766 posts

I have gone to Europe for 16 of the last 18 years and have never had to cancel a booking - knock on wood. I do not book any lodging that requires full payment in advance as some Air B&B locations do. I also book B&Bs that allow me to pay my bill in two days so that I can get local currency from a local ATM after arrival in two daily withdrawals. After reading these posts I will now pay more attention to their cancellation policies.

Posted by
2865 posts

I have twice booked non-refundable hotel rooms, thinking, “nothing will change in our plans.” First time, after my niece’s wedding in Baltimore, we were to fly to Madrid out of Dulles. My husband forgot his passport, and Hurricane Irene barreled through the area that weekend. It was 3 days before our son-in-law could fedex the passport and we could get seats on another flight out. Bye-bye Madrid time and bye-bye money paid to hotel.
I guess I’m a slow learner, because I did another non-refundable reservation for one night in Casablanca at the end of our upcoming tour, again thinking nothing could happen to change our plan.*. The airline canceled our connecting flight from cdg, (only for the day we booked). Given the choices of paying for a second night at the hotel, or arising at the crack of dawn to make a much earlier flight and paying for our own transport to the airport, or just taking the hit on the prepaid booking, we chose the last. If I’m ever tempted to do non-refundable reservations again, I promised my husband that he can hit me upside the head and chant, “remember, remember,” until I do.
Bottom line is stuff happens that you can’t even imagine.

*it’s actually more complicated due to my error, but I’ll spare everyone the details.
Note: I’m not completely obtuse. When it came time to reserve a vacation house on vrbo for a family reunion in June, I didn’t even give a second thought to those that didn’t have a reasonable cancellation policy. There is so much availability, that I can’t see accepting some of the strictures that posters have been complaining about.

Posted by
3141 posts

In what way are non-refundable accommodations considered a tourist scam? Hotels like airlines & auto rentals offer non refundable pricing at a discount to those who seek the cost savings. What part of choosing non-refundable lodging means being scammed as a tourist? I don't understand.

Posted by
2865 posts

Continental is, of course, correct. There is no scamming involved in offering a lower rate that is non-refundable. When I posted my reply, I picked up the topic from the forum home page; and therefore, didn’t realize what the category was. I thought the discussion was about the drawbacks of booking non-refundable accommodations.

Posted by
1347 posts

What part of choosing non-refundable lodging means being scammed as a
tourist

Corporations have beaten people down and corrupted the meaning of language to the point where blatantly ripping people off is now considered "providing choices." Didn't used to be lodging was non-refundable. Then you could get some piddly discount for paying in advance, but at least there was some theoretical advantage to the consumer. But now, it is common practice especially on VBRO and Air BnB to simply make most properties non-refundable, period. But that's not a scam, its just the free market providing choices. Just like the $4.5 billion airlines made charging "providing the choice" to bring baggage on board and "providing the choice" to eat or starve on a five hour flight is also not a scam. Or the $30-50 a day "resort fee" many places in Hawaii charge on top of $400/night room rates. Also not a scam.

Posted by
3141 posts

It's sincerely sad it when I encounter Stockholm Syndrome in the real
world. Corporations have beaten people down and corrupted the meaning
of language to the point where blatantly ripping people off is now
considered "providing choices."

Ok....if you really believe what you wrote above, then the big bad wolf of business is indeed out to scam you. Otherwise, when one accepts voluntarily a strict set of conditions that are made in writing in order to obtain a cost savings in hotel accommodations, airfare, car rental, etc., then you agree to those conditions. With the exception of car rentals, that's how we travel.

This would have been a helpful discussion of the pros and cons of nonrefundable lodging accommodations if there weren't paranoia from the OP when he/she mentions Stockholm Syndrome. Wow!!

Posted by
1347 posts

We crossed posts, I removed the stockholm reference, it was over the top. That said, two comments. First, I wasn't the one who started banging the drum on the "scam" aspect of this. To me, it is just so obvious that this is a scam that that is why it was in this category. Second, posters on this site spend huge, huge amounts of times on FORO ... fear of getting ripped off ... whether it is pickpockets, ring scams, tickets blah blah blah. Yet there are scams that are taking far more money out of travelers' pockets every day than any pickpocket and it's just accepted without comment, even defended, as your post shows. So yes, that is Stockholm Syndrome, defined as "feelings of trust or affection felt in many cases of kidnapping or hostage-taking by a victim toward a captor" which is the only way I can personally understand normal, everyday people that feel the need to write in and vigorously defend corporations' rapacious, predatory and creatively-ever-expanding policies for taking our money. But you are right, that was not the purpose of this post.

Posted by
12103 posts

When I book through booking.com or with the hotel/Pension directly, either by phone or its website, I always take the non-refundable rate. This is done normally 2-3 months in advance, sometimes even 4 months out...depending. I do not use Air B&B or apts...not an option. In Germany one does not cancel for free.

In 2013 I had a family emergency, called up the Pension in Berlin to tell the proprietor of this emergency and that I needed to cancel the reservation I had made over the phone from SF. My arrival there would have been two weeks away, basically told her I would not be showing up in two weeks. She let it go.

While there in 2016, I brought up this cancellation topic which she did remember from 2013, I offered to pay her at least the first night of my no-show as compensation. She would have none of it. We talked about how hotel cancellations are handled in the USA in contrast to the way it is done in Germany, which in 2016 I was aware of as it pertains to legality, etc.

Posted by
2292 posts

I have booked non refundable rooms occasionally. I tend to plan a trip and be set in my itinerary so the savings make sense. If I pay for a flight it’s non-refundable so I’m going to go unless there’s a major problem. So since I know I’m going on the trip (barring emergency), why not save some money by getting a room with a stricter policy if I really like the place, I’m sure about that location, and the savings is large?

The main risk for me of cancelling would only be if I had to cancel the trip for some emergency. I always have trip cancellation insurance for that, which would cover the room cost. I had to use it once for a illness that made us unable to travel - the costs were refunded.

Posted by
3991 posts

These days in Europe (not sure about elsewhere ), people have got used to getting cheaper rail tickets, air fares etc at a low price in exchange for no flexibility. Take EasyJet - I always buy the cheaper non-changeable air fare. You can pay 4 or 5 times the rate for flexibility, but most don’t, unless you are flying business and therefore not personally picking up the tab. Rail fares in England are cheapest if you travel on a certain timed train.

It’s the same with accommodation. If you book the Premier Inn chain, you can have a non refundable cheaper rate or pay more for flexibility. It’s the individual’s choice in all these scenarios which to take or whether to pick something different. It’s not a scam.

I rent a place in Portugal regularly. The owner uses a man to do the handovers, whom she pays. His fee is the same if you are there for a week or a month. It therefore makes sense to charge a separate cleaning fee, otherwise if it were included in the nightly rate, this would penalise shorter term renters. The cleaning fee is nothing compared to the hidden fee that Airbnb take. I just look at the overall cost then take it or leave it.

I have stopped using Airbnb where possible, as they are usually far more expensive than VRBO or Trip Advisor for the same property, but on the whole, they give an element of payment protection, so long as you book something with plenty reviews that have been operating for some time.

Posted by
342 posts

As someone who owns a vacation rental at a holiday-type destination, I can tell you that in 9 years, only twice have we had no-shows who lost any money at all due to our cancellation policy. In one case, the traveler developed an ear condition that would not allow her to fly. She did not complain about not being able to use her reservation. That's life. In the other case, a traveler mentioned that she was coming to run in a marathon. Although she claimed she was canceling because her travel companion got sick, it was clear to me that she had gotten the date for the marathon wrong and reserved for the wrong time period. She had travel insurance and tried to collect on it. I don't know if she succeeded.

But the low number of losing cases with our strict cancellation policy seems to indicate that it's not a problem for the vast majority of traveling families to our location.

For us, if we allowed people to cancel a couple of days before a 16-day booking with no penalty, we would not have a viable rental business. Most people book 3-6 months in advance, and it's hard for us to recoup a booking even 30 days out.

Obviously, the situation is much different with hotels where people often book last-minute and the property has a whole lot of rooms for spreading the risk.

Why would people book rentals with draconian cancellation policies? Because they get much more space than with a hotel room, more amenities and much lower prices. It's a fair trade-off for both sides.

Posted by
1166 posts

I think it's reasonable to consider your life situation when booking far in advance. For example, my parents are in their mid-80s and fragile, so you never know. Health, loss of job, or some other serious downturn in one's financial situation could necessitate cancelling a trip.

The reason we stay at VRBO is to have a lot more room for a lot less money. We got six nights in Paris at a perfect location in Marais for $850. Cleaning fee was only $50 and it was a 10 minute walk to Notre Dame and the Left Bank. In late May we're staying in Southwark for 8 nights, $1100 for a lot of space. Yes, it's a 30 minute commute to town--a self-imposed time limit we set--but for us an acceptable trade-off. More than 30 minutes, probably not.

Heck, I could wait to book one week in advance and then my dad, heaven forbid, could take a tumble down the stairs.

Why Air BnB or VRBO? Because we tired of cramped European hotel rooms and have had nothing but success with other options.

A flight we booked over 6 months in advance is $900 cheaper (for two) that it is now, 2.5 months away. We start looking a year in advance. If it works keep doing it until it doesn't work.

Posted by
2784 posts

I think the OP complaint is more about apartment rentals as AirBnB and VRBO come up regularly. I don't think they have done their research, however. The 2 companies do not work the same. VRBO allows the renter to list the payment rules and some areas are partial to 'pay before arrival', which gives no out for the rentee. I previously outline the levels of cancellation for AirBnB. Apartment rental companies may have their own rules, both for cancellation and pre payment. Resorts in 'the boonies' often have strict cancellation fees as food and staff need to be calculated differently than in the cities. I am not a fan of 'resort fees' as I rarely utilize the added services. But as these are sometimes from outside providerd it may be the fees are to recoup the efforts to maintain making tje services available....but my flipside says it is a scam.
If people complain about these costs and practices, or enquire whether it is 'right', remember we are only getting one side of the story and whatever fscts they choose to give. Often bad reviews are people not having read the fine print or researching before purchase. It is easier to dash off a bad review in the heat of the moment than to word a positive one.
Ultimately in cities there is a wide cross section of choices. Some people do suffer fron a 'Stockholm Syndrome' in the minds of people with opposing feelings, but that is human nature. Others would say that is the fault of advertising. There are clearly markets for the lemmings of the world, the hotel users, the apartment users, and those that travel diy and those that want tours. Thankfully we have choices.

Posted by
1166 posts

I think the lesson here is one needs to do their homework with all aspects of a trip, from travel to lodging to scheduling and so forth.

There will always be risk involved as with anything in life. Again, you could wait one week before your trip to book flights and rooms, and then something could happen two days prior to departure to throw your perfect plans into disarray.

Assess risk vs reward.

Posted by
485 posts

I think that the posters that complain about Airbnb etc never or gloss over the cancellation penalties. They need to be read it in detail and ask questions if they need further clarification. These rentals are a different animal than hotels, they have a cancellable vs. non-cancellable rates. Heck even the airlines have a fully refundable fares for additional $$$$.

Posted by
694 posts

This seems to me very similar to "wear a money belt or not". I am a grown up and can make decisions for myself. Not everyone has to agree with my decison or do it the way I do it. I always book the pay in advance, non-refundable room rate. In my calculation, I have saved enough money to cover a future change in plans. So far, I have not lost any money doing this. It is a gamble either way. Pick red or black and spin the wheel.

Posted by
3283 posts

I tend not to book non-refundable accommodations, however, I've never wanted or needed to cancel a reservation I've made. I'm not so much bothered by businesses that have non-refundable pricing as long as its clearly stated. I am annoyed by add ons. Resort fees are especially annoying. Isn't the use of facilities supposed to be included in a room rate? And on occasion, everything in the resort fee was something I didn't care about, yet there is no way to opt out. I'm slightly annoyed by cleaning fees. Isn't providing a clean room part of a rate? However, if I think about it as a fixed cost for a rental regardless of time frame, it does make some sense. I have looked at AirBnB and VRBO, but have used them very infrequently. We tend to not stay at places very long. When I look, a rate that seems reasonable will pop up, but once fees and cleaning is added in, they are often not very appealing.

Posted by
3377 posts

Not to veer too far off topic, but I usually purchase a couple of expensive tickets for events or concerts on-line a few months before our vacation. Those are always non-refundable and cost the same as a hotel night. I lump all of those into the same category of “willing risk”.

Posted by
16840 posts

I buy the minimum ahead of time. I don't usually have my act together well enough to take advantage of super deals on advance-purchase rail tickets, but those are obviously prudent purchases even with a risk of total loss if the trip is canceled; they are just so much cheaper than full-fare tickets. The same is often true of budget-airline flights within Europe.

I haven't had issues on any of my many European trips except for a missed hotel night when a bus failed to show up and a missed Cotswalds Tour when I ate deep-fried bar snacks for dinner the night before. Don't do that!

Here in the US I very nearly lost $2000+ in January when I became ill 6 days before departure. The event ticket ($900) wasn't refundable. The hotel room could have been canceled a few days in advance, but I wasn't going to stiff my roommate by expecting her to pay 100% of 6 nights' costs in our convenient-but-very-expensive hotel. And I probably would have recovered only about $200 in credits from the airfare. But I was lucky and woke up on the day of departure feeling fine, though not very energetic. I had a lot more money on the line with that trip (and I take a trip like it every year, though with a somewhat less expensive hotel) than I have when I go to Europe, yet somehow I have never considered buying trip insurance for those January trips. Perhaps I need to rethink that.

Posted by
12103 posts

In Germany are 4 star hotels offering in the summer, ie peak season from ca mid-Juli to the end of August rates equivalent to that of a two star hotel. For senior rates it could be even lower. It depends on the hotel itself and how far in advance of your arrival you are booking with them. It is more effective to book directly using the hotel website than through booking.com. I've done both.

The rate offered, which I've done numerous times, cannot be cancelled, non-refundable, no exchange, etc, the terms spell this out, (Keine Stornierung, kein Umtausch, nicht erstattungsfähig, etc) Obviously, the earlier you book, say 4-5 months in advance, the better the chance of getting the cheapest rate, say 68-72 Euro for a single in a 4 star hotel. Choosing that rate you do lock yourself in.

Posted by
2092 posts

I used to book non-refundable hotels--cheaper rate so very alluring--until I ended up needing a sudden surgery (thankfully a benign hemangioma, but of course there were concerns it could be cancer); suddenly my 2 week trip to Amsterdam and Budapest was iffy, though I did indeed make it. Now it just makes sense to book refundable accomodations.

Posted by
3141 posts

We crossed posts, I removed the stockholm reference, it was over the
top.

Fair enough. You blew my mind with that one! Actually, I thought it was pretty funny. :-)

That said, two comments. First, I wasn't the one who started banging
the drum on the "scam" aspect of this. To me, it is just so obvious
that this is a scam that that is why it was in this category.

When travelers agree to the written stipulations of non-refundable lodging in order to get substantial cost savings, there is no scam at all. It's a risk/reward situation. For me, the savings (the reward) must be wonderful to justify the risk.

Second, posters on this site spend huge, huge amounts of times on FORO
... fear of getting ripped off ... whether it is pickpockets, ring
scams, tickets blah blah blah. Yet there are scams that are taking far
more money out of travelers' pockets every day than any pickpocket and
it's just accepted without comment, even defended, as your post shows.

My post illustrates that when travelers accept the written stipulations of non-refundable lodging, specifically no cancellations or else you lose ALL of the prepaid amount, it's all there in black and white as it is for car rentals. Nothing is hidden; hence no scam. It's an agreement. That's why I never do non-refundable car rentals as there are always last-minute deals and Idon't want to get locked in and pay in advance. There is no benefit to prepaying; there is no reward IMHO to it.

So yes, that is Stockholm Syndrome, defined as "feelings of trust or
affection felt in many cases of kidnapping or hostage-taking by a
victim toward a captor" which is the only way I can personally
understand normal, everyday people that feel the need to write in and
vigorously defend corporations' rapacious, predatory and
creatively-ever-expanding policies for taking our money. But you are
right, that was not the purpose of this post.

So you DO believe it's Stockholm Syndrome!! Then why did you delete it? Stick to your guns! LOL My response? Nope! Labeling those who accept the risk/reward of substantial cost savings as modern-day Patty Hearst's is incorrect hyperbole yet very funny.

Posted by
929 posts

I don’t use Airbnb anymore because of the passport issue. In fairness to VRBO, in all cases I’ve checked into recently I was given up to a certain date for a full refund of any deposit, in some cases up to a month before. I look for family owned properties, in small towns or villages, so their bottom line is hit hard if I cancel at the last minute. In France or Germany, I usually end up renting through an advertisement on the local tourist board website. A couple of times I’ve never had to pay single euro until I show up, which shows a lot of trust/faith on their part.

I wouldn’t call it a scam, more of a gouge when it applies to airline practices. The bogus ‘save money by not bringing checked luggage’, for example. The base price never went down for people with carry on bags only, people with checked luggage just ended up paying more. When gas prices tanked over the last few months of the previous year, there was no general decrease in airfares. And why is Air Iceland so expensive nowadays? Methinks they are getting too big for their wooly breeches.

Posted by
1347 posts

What frustrates me is people arguing from the best case-scenario for travelers, as if the playing field is fair. For major hotels, for now, for the most part, things are kind of fair, because big hotels know the majority of their customers are business / loyalty travelers and they don't want to antagonize them. There is often a refundable rate, and a non-refundable rate which actually does benefit consumers who absolutely know they are going. That's literally the only positive thing I can say.

Because the vast majority of these non-refundable prices are not "choices." With Air BnB and VRBO these rates are totally dominant in many areas. As are the cleaning charges. There are many properties where you simply can't book there without the non-refundable clause. As the small business owner above said (in not so many words), she essentially doesn't care ... she is happy that ALL risk is on you and not her. She will likely see you once (or even better - never) and take your money and never have another interaction with you. After all, she's doing you a favor renting you a room for some crazy amount of money, how dare the two people in many years who had emergencies expect any consideration from her. And guess what? Like good little brainwashed captives, they didn't.

And of course not only is the risk on you the consumer, there is no sense of obligation ... if you are a no show then the seat/car/room ("which we had to make non-refundable to protect ourselves") gets sold to someone else (usually at a higher price, last minute and all). In fact in many cases you may show up and the seat/room/car has been sold to someone else anyway ... and funny how it works, they try to hide it in corporate language but in reality it's based on ticket price and status ... a shorthand for saying we decided to sell this commodity again for a higher price, to someone more important than you.

The story is the same everywhere. Plane tickets used to be changeable, refundable, then they slowly morphed into not. Same process is now taking place with rental cars. And here's how that will go: First - today, it's a choice, pay in advance, get a better rate. Next will be reservations which go to non-refundable 72 hours in advance. Then, at some point you will book and see "this location is experiencing high demand, in order to ensure the best possible service for customers, your reservation is non-refundable." Always couched as a "service to the consumer," of course. Then, it will be the airline model - all reservations are non-refundable. And then of course we will get the people writing in defending it all.

None of this is meant to serve the customer, all it is meant to rip you off. The world's largest biggest pickpocketing scam, ring scam, petition scam, ZTL scam and overpriced meal rolled into one meta scam and perpetrated multiple times a day on your vacation.

Posted by
14 posts

From the rental side it's this. Let's give an example. If I have a property that goes for $10K per week that holds 15 people in season, then I need to fill it every week in season. That's because out of season it sits for weeks with nobody in it. What happens is this. It gets rented and a week before the renters are to show up, they cancel because of some horrible reason (it's never because they changed their mind but always a massive problem). So, now I have to return $9500. That place that was going to give me $10K in income is giving me zero. That $500 doesn't cover it. If you change the rules (which is in the contract and take a massive 5 minutes to read) to that you lose $9500 if you cancel within 30 days of the rental, you'd be amazed how much fuller your rental becomes.

What I and other have fund is they rent 5 different places and then watch the weather. If one of the five has great weather, they go there and shaft the other four. Those renters are left with $9.5K out of their pocket because they will never rent the place out. Plus you know the cancelers know this as they will never rent from you the next season.

It's all in the contract. If you don't like it, then don't sign and go elsewhere. It's that simple.

Posted by
1347 posts

What I and other have fund is they rent 5 different places and then
watch the weather. If one of the five has great weather, they go there
and shaft the other four.

And of course this is complete nonsense. How do I know? Because 1) it reeks of self-pity 2) you would have no way of knowing this as nobody doing this would tell you and 3) the appeal to the bandwagon fallacy ("everyone I talk to says ..." ya right)

Posted by
4445 posts

None of this is meant to serve the customer, all it is meant to rip you off. The world's largest biggest pickpocketing scam, ring scam, petition scam, ZTL scam and overpriced meal rolled into one meta scam and perpetrated multiple times a day on your vacation.

I guess I just have a different definition of “scam”. As long as the terms are clear upfront, I don’t consider a non-refundable rate to be a scam. I agree that it would be ideal if all rates were fully-refundable at the lowest price, but that seems totally unrealistic. For better or worse, the internet has made it too easy for people to make multiple reservations and cancel at the last minute.

I do choose not to book certain places when I don’t like the terms. For example, I won’t wire money to secure an apartment or pay a large damage deposit. I will pay in advance if I have committed to a plan and the option is fair for me financially. The hotel that I typically stay at in London has a non-refundable rate that is 25% cheaper than the refundable rate. I’ll take the savings over flexibility based on the low probability that I will cancel. I’ve never had to cancel a hotel room that I’ve booked for personal travel. One day I will probably need to cancel and will forfeit my payment, but if I add up all the savings from choosing the less flexible rates over the years, I will still probably come out ahead.

Posted by
342 posts

As long as the terms are clear upfront, I don’t consider a non-refundable rate to be a scam.

I agree with this. People are free to accept the terms offered, or not. If they prefer easy cancellation, they should book a hotel. Vacation rentals can't stay in business with the same terms that hotels can offer. They offer other advantages, so consumers need to decide on the tradeoffs that are acceptable to them.

And I truly don't understand why the original poster is so worked up about other people's free and well-informed choices.

Posted by
3283 posts

I wonder if people are annoyed, I know I am, when it seems that there are certain "products", where the seller has all the power, and for the buyer, its take it or leave it. I don't think its a scam at all, especially when details are clearly laid out, but when a seller can dictate what may feel like unreasonable terms and buyer just has to either accept or decline it can be frustrating and you feel like maybe your patronage isn't especially valued. The seller will just be able to sell to someone else. My husband's comment in those situations is usually, "It is what it is"

Posted by
12103 posts

In my talking about this issue of canceling reservations pertaining to small hotels and Pensionen, the proprietor of the Berlin Pension said that in Germany you don't cancel without cost, regardless of how many days prior to the reserved arrival.

These small places you reserve over the phone, they don't ask for a credit card to hold your reservation, (even now) they just take your word that you will show up as you say you will. Every small hotel or Pension where I have stayed in Germany over the years has been exactly like that. In the past, 20-40 years ago, you could expect they didn't accept a credit card anyway.

I asked the proprietor if she has experienced people, having reserved, and then simply not showing up, no notification, nothing, "und bei Nichtanreisenden?" Absolutely,... that is part of the experience in running the Pension.

Posted by
12103 posts

I'm willing to pay this non-refundable prepay rate offered by a hotel, say for a week's stay, because it is the cheapest rate when you book 3-4 months or even five in advance. In that way it's completely justified, likewise for the plane ticket.

Posted by
398 posts

I So I have to ask, why are people using Air BnB or VRBO under these conditions? Its not like other options aren't available.

Yes, I agree it is crazy. In fact when I stay at a hotel I never pay the cheaper non-refundable price. I always pay the more expensive refundable price. However, I do stay at Airbnb. Why? Because we’re a family of four and it’s just so much cheaper. Most places in Europe we would have to book 2 hotel rooms because most are for 2 people or a maximum 3.
Even the Rick Steve’s modestly priced room are expensive if you always have to book 2. I keep reading that hostels are great for families but for 4 people it’s not a bargain.

With Airbnb i’ve been able to get really gorgeous, spacious apartments in great locations for a great price. This allows us to spend 30+ days traveling in peak season.

We’ve been timeshare owners for almost 20 years and we’re use to booking accommodations 9-12 months in advance.

When I rent out my timeshare my policy is no refunds. It’s really hard to re-rent my unit. So if someone cancels I have to pay $1000 for a unit I didn’t get to use.