Verification of Identity
I am a single, female OAP, running just one B&B room and a 2-person self-catering unit from my little cottage home in the countryside.
As a direct result of a robbery by a Booking.com customer in my home (and several other unpleasant experiences requiring the Police over the years) I discovered that the names and addresses given by guests are not always genuine.
So I decided to bring in a simple, basic security check: I looked on 192.com to see if the name and address given match a public listing for that postcode. Since this isn't always conclusive, I now send an automated message, asking guests to verify in advance of check-in by sending a copy of a recent utility or council tax bill to my email address (as it cannot be sent via the extranet inbox).
Most are happy to do so, some ignore the message primarily because - like everything else in the listing and greeting emails I send - they have not bothered to read it or think they can just do what they like. I may then have to remind them.
But just once, recently, I met a MONSTER. Booking fairly late and receiving my greeting email, she set about me aggressively. First she complained about my published check-in window and cancellation terms. Then she declined to provide the verification requested. Asked why, she bullied me about the "security of her personal data" and threatened me with the Data Protection Act. Er.......what about MY security?
I should explain that this barrage ran relentlessly, into tens of thousands of words, over a four day period, and involved personal abuse and reams of stuff cut and pasted from various other websites.
The fact was that there was NO obvious connection between the name and address she had given. When she admitted that her documents were in a previous surname, I checked that, too, and found her ER public listing ran out 9 years ago. She then sent me part of an ER "canvassing" enquiry, showing her previous surname and the address, but not the date. Oddly, her husband's name (which currently DOES appear on the public listing) did not appear on it beside hers. This could mean that it was not current as there was no date showing.
More importantly, ER is not security verification. A Council Tax account would be much better, as date, name and address all appear on the same page. But she would not (or could not) send me that.
She was raging and threatening the entire time and mentioned that she was going to give me a bad review - all before arriving. So I needed to get shot of her.
Somewhere back in the torrent, I had spotted that she was planning to bring in not just herself and her husband, but her son, too. The property is listed for two persons only, and I raised this point.
After 4 days of hell and just a day before check-in, she abruptly cancelled and I thought it was all over. But alas, she then began threatening me with "exposure" to the "authorities" and court action if I did not return her money and the cost of her alternative accommodation, etc., etc., ad infinitum.
What was her problem?
She was not who she said she was to Booking.com? Or she was hiding something else? Or she'd changed her mind having realised she could not put three people in a let limited to two, but would not admit it? Or she's just one of those people whose ego will not allow them to admit an error or see anything from another's point of view? Maybe all of these.
I have repeatedly asked Booking.com to allow me to introduce a line to my Small Print saying "Your host may require further verification of your name and address, in advance, for security purposes", which would make it conditional and enforceable. Hotels often do this at reception, but I'd rather get it over in advance to avoid problems on arrival.
So far, Booking.com have been unwilling to agree to this, which leaves me at risk of crime and really rather frightened.
Have any other hosts had a similar experience? Have you been able to find a solution?