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How to identify your happiest Booking.com guests

You look at your review score right?  Maybe, but as I recently discovered, it can be as much about the reviews you DON'T get.
 
We have a regular business guest that stays with us virtually every week and, until recently, always books through Booking.com.
 
She likes staying with us because of the convenience and consistency we offer her, the fact that we're so attentive...Oh and the towels, she really loves the nice thick towels 😄
 
Anyway, she leaves us a 10/10 review every time, which is great.  At least I thought it was, until we got this absolute gem of an email from booking.com, basically claiming that she's a fake guest and we're leaving fake reviews for her:
 
 
Low and behold when I checked, they've removed all but two of her reviews (why they left those two I don't know - she's either real or she isn't!) and now every time she stays, they remove her latest review from our page.  And they've actually threatened to close us down if she ever has another good stay with us, basically. 
 
The kind of questions that spring to mind here are:
 
1.  Why would we have numerous conversations with ourselves via the Extranet?  Maybe we would, if we were being really thorough at pretending to be someone else
 
2.  Why would they not just call her and very easily verify that she's a real person?  Wouldn't that be more professional than to falsely accuse an operator of review fraud, especially if you "value your business relationship" with that operator?
 
3.  This guest pays online every time through Booking.com.  Playing devil's advocate here, why, if we were making fake bookings, would we do this?  Surely we would just pretend that we took payment via our own payment merchant, rather than pay a few hundred pounds for a measely fake review (when our score even without that review is in the high 9s)?!
 
These are all questions I sadly don't have the answers to, despite having asked them repeatedly in a series of around 20 emails and Extranet messages, all of which have been ignored.  Sadly we are currently without an account manager as well, as she wisely did a runner from Booking.com at the start of the year.
 
It's become a running joke in our office.  In fact it's now our number 1 OTA success metric:  "Number of reviews removed for being too good" 😄
 
In all seriousness, I have no idea what they're thinking.  You would think they would want happy guests leaving good reviews and staying again and again.  But apparently in Booking.com world, it's grounds for dismissal.  This is a company whose marketing department spends something like $4M dollars a DAY on Google advertising alone, while their reviews team is single-handedly undoing that by actively campaigning against customer retention. 
 
Our only option to protect our business was to have a word with the guest and explain the situation.  She now books direct for all her future stays.  So now we don't have to worry about being closed down, and I guess Booking.com no longer has to worry about all that pesky commission from our happiest guest.  I can only assume that's what they wanted here, even if I cannot claim to understand it!
 
I'm not sure what the moral is here; maybe keep your guests happy...just not TOO happy 😄
5 Replies

8
Leandri Klopper

Hi there Adam Williams ,

I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post! You have a way with words, thank you for sharing!

I've heard many many horror stories about Booking.com and "the hammer" that they enjoy putting down every now and then. Personally I have corrected several Invoicing mistakes made by Booking.com by begrudgingly pressing that "Dispute" button (and don't think the thought of just leaving it and paying the incorrectly charged commission with money I will need to earn out on the street didn't cross my mind...) because then I receive a Snotty "It's hammer time" email telling me that they will assist me this time but I must get my stuff in order.

When it comes to their rules, they enjoy sending those emails. I wouldn't be surprised if they probably have a recruitment company who specifically looks for people who like searching for things to put the hammer to (I'm now stuck on this metaphor...) so that Booking.com can hire them. And those people are the ones who finds something like this and instead of investigating, SLAMS it down with an Email made from fire and brimstone!

The moral is, don't lose your account manager.... Because he/she becomes your shield.

... I'm gonna stop now before I write an Epic film taking place in the Gladiator arenas with characters and props who's names sound vaguely like Booking.com.

Thanks for the share and best of luck! Let us know what happens.

7 months ago
2
Adam Williams

Thank you! Yes I completely agree - without an account manager it's hopeless getting any decent level of customer service sadly.

The irony is that last year, we had a bad review from someone who was annoyed because their bike got stolen near our property (down the street... because they left it unlocked in a busy city centre). Obviously your bike going missing is grounds to criticise the cleanliness and comfort of a nearby building, so we got 2.5/10 across the board.

But of course in that instance, Booking.com refused to remove it, despite it being blatently defamatory.

Ah well, time to check some invoices - thanks for the reminder!

7 months ago
7
Katerinka12

Hi Adam,

Your problem is that reviews are coming from the same IP address and gadget (every gadget has MAC address, it's unique). In addition to that your browser is identified. That's why it became suspicious for the system, which gave alarm to the Booking staff.

Also, loyal guests usually pay directly to the host. Another alarm for Booking.

What's important now is that your listing will not get closed. Write a meaningful message to Booking. Attach screenshots with your conversation with the guest. Ask Booking to contact her directly (with her permission).

7 months ago
7
pibomarco

This was an automated message. It's a tool to "scare" or basicly to prevent wrongdoings.
Those were created because obvious some users/hosts were and still are exploting the system.

Last year I received:

Dear Partner,
Our systems automatically detect unusual activity and in some cases prompt us to investigate further. We are reaching out to you as we have recently detected a high amount of reservations where commission payment was avoided.
We strive to provide a consistently excellent level of service to our shared guests and therefore rely on you to accurately inform us of the status of all reservations that we bring to you. We strongly advise you to take the necessary steps. If applicable, please raise awareness among your staff and inform them about the possible implications.
This letter serves as a final warning. We will continue to closely monitor all reservation-related activity at your property. If further unwanted behavior is detected, your listing on Booking.com may be closed.

Partner Behavior Team"

Take into consideration that this is a huge company with huge amount of hosts + users and it's difficult to treat each case individualy in such a big scale. I mean I was frsutrated with BDC too, but after ten years working with them and other OTA's you are able to see a bigger picture. Not just looking from our point of view.
The same goes for the review "issues".

7 months ago
2
Adam Williams

@Katerinka12: Same IP address - Yes, she could have quite easily left a review or even just logged on to the booking.com app using the WiFi at one of our apartments, which obviously myself or any staff have also accessed many times.

Same MAC address - not a chance, since we have never had access to any of her devices. Again, maybe the router's MAC but only for the reason above.

Cookies in browser etc - also not a chance, not knowing this person's login details nor having any reason to.

Unfortunately I've provided the info you suggested to Booking.com many times now and they refuse to even respond, let alone followup. I have given up trying to reason with them now :)

@pibomarco: I do understand that they're a massive company and don't expect them to treat EVERY case individually. However, if it has, in their eyes, reached the stage of account closure then yes, I would expect the courtesy of a response, even having worked with them for several years myself now.

7 months ago