OK it becomes clearer now inasmuch as I'm starting to piece together all the bits of this puzzle.
I reviewed my channel manager tutorials regarding their interaction with booking.com. It appears that (according to them and they are usually pretty accurate) that there are 4 methods of payout with BdC: Guest pays establishment with card, guest pays cash, Virtual Card and "Payments by Booking.com".
They differentiate between Virtual Card and "Payments by Booking.com". This is where my confusion obviously lies. I do have the Virtual Card option, but in my case I also have the capability for guests to pay using their own credit cards. And I can't find "Payments by booking.com" on my extranet. So on the one hand it isn't clear whether I do belong to "Payments by booking.com".
However, on the other hand, it seems that one cannot belong to "risk free reservations" without belonging to "Payments by booking.com" .
If indeed I belong to "Payments by booking.com" then all I need to confirm with the call centre is that I can use that virtual card to effect payment and then all is resolved.
Clear as mud on BdC documentation/FAQs :-).
I think I at least now know what to ask the BdC call centre. Asking the right questions definitely helps.
Thanks for your patience everyone, helping me solve this mystery.
Thanks for taking the time to reply. I appreciate that, I truly do. However, I think I'm still not being clear. I am not asking about cancelled bookings under this program. I understand what happens if a guest cancels during the free cancellation period.
I am asking about non-cancelled bookings. It seems that the first time I can effect payment for a non-cancelled booking is after the free cancellation period lapses ie in the 4 days prior to arrival date.
In which case, do I use the BdC virtual card (seems not, from the info provided in the booking)? Or do I use the guest's own card, which is obviously not an assured payment as it could fail (and often does)?
If there is an issue with payment of a non-cancelled booking which I will only realize at some point in the 4 days prior to arrival, does BdC guarantee this guest payment? Or am I out of pocket completely?
To add to my points above, it is obviously on a case by case basis. It is a dilemma sometimes. With a potential amazing long low season booking, I may then consider calling / whatsapping the guest to get some kind of personal feeling about it. And perhaps follow up and check with them when they claim they will be able to pay. The dilemma is that if it is a nice long booking over low season and you cancel whilst waiting for them to pay, someone else might book a 2 day stay in the middle of their dates and then you could end up losing a long booking that could possibly have converted at a later date. You need to learn how to gauge guests and trust your gut feel.
I cancel immediately. I am not interested in pursuing bookings that offer additional headache. I used to try and accommodate these guests in the past by waiting for them to get their act together and sort out their payment. 99.9999999% of the time, it was a waste of time. So now I just have hard and fast policies and I stick to them. I find it hard to do because I want to believe the best of people despite evidence to the contrary.
What I do say though is this:
"Hi Jane, Thanks so much for booking with us. We look forward to welcoming you. I see that there was a problem with your payment, so could I ask you to resolve it right away? Booking.com requires me to flag the payment problem so you may see a notification in this regard. In the meantime, I'm holding the room for you for 24 hours to allow you to sort this glitch out. After that the accommodation will be further secured by the successful deposit payment".
Then I flag the card as invalid. 24 hours later when the guest hasn't paid, I then say this:
"Hi Jane, I see that you didn't get an opportunity yet to make the deposit payment. We unfortunately can't hold the room longer due to our booking policies, however we'd still love to accommodate you if possible. I suggest that when you are ready to do the deposit payment, please just re-confirm availability and we can then definitely take your booking. We hope to hear from you soon and have a lovely day."
Then I click cancel. That way if the potential guest gets their act together in the future, you can still hopefully convert them to a booking having been very nice to them about it. Nice but firm. Any guest who cannot respond in a positive way to this correspondence is unlikely to be worth any further time.
You're touching on a point that I was trying to get answers for from the call centre yesterday and no one could definitively help/advise.
I currently have my first risk free reservation which is still in the free cancellation period. I saw that BdC created a virtual card when this booking was made.
Questions relating to NON CANCELLING guests whose payment I can now only collect in the 4 days leading up to arrival (ie after the free cancellation period lapses):
(1) Is the virtual card created by BdC on booking, purely and only to cover a cancellation scenario? Or is it also intended for use to effect guest payment after the free cancellation period lapses?
(2) If the virtual card is only to handle a cancellation payout in the risk free reservation program, then I assume I must obviously still deal with the guest directly for payment after the free cancellation period, using the guest's OWN card / other means. I need this point confirmed either way. BdC was not able to confirm this in the 90 mins I spent on the phone to them yesterday.
From the vague/unclear information on the booking itself, it would appear that after the cancellation period expires, the guest payment will have to be effected between me and the guest directly and not with the virtual card BdC created. But again, I am not sure because no one could clarify this definitively at the call centre, and the FAQ/risk free reservation info doesn't make this clear.
If I cannot use the BdC virtual card to effect guest payment, (and must get payment directly from the guest) and then the guest doesn't pay or their payment fails, then I am stuck without payment, right before arrival date. I will have no time to make an alternative arrangement.
BdC risk free reservation does not seem to offer guarantees under these circumstances (guest non payment 0 to 4 days before arrival). As such I have to therefore assume the usual applies: I have the right as the establishment, to cancel the booking as per my ordinary cancellation policies.
In this situation I will be 100% out of pocket (no deposit/no payment/nothing). This is not a risk free scenario for me at all. It would be a particularly awful scenario if it happened for a booking of 3 weeks in my highest revenue generating room at peak season. Payment failure is my most common problem by far, it is far far more frequent than guest cancellation.
BdC has not been able to clarify whether they will cover me for this scenario (guest payment fails). As such I'm lead to believe that they won't.
Bottom Line: In the case of a non-cancelling guest on a risk free reservation, is BdC also guaranteeing the non-cancelling guest payment or are they not guaranteeing the non-cancelling guest payment?
If BdC are not guaranteeing this, and I run into issues with the guest payment, then 0 to 4 days prior to arrival is an awful time to find out the guest has payment issues, as I then will likely be 100% out of pocket. This would be terrible for a peak season booking of long duration.
Still hoping to find out the answers up front without having to actually test the scenario by actually letting it happen. :-)
The payments by BdC isn't available on my menu system. A brief search online indicates that this option isn't available everywhere yet. @M Adamopoulou: I understand the concept of being paid out if a guest CANCELS. This is not my concern. My concern is if a guest does NOT cancel and then the payment fails in the short window of time during the 4 days preceding their arrival. Guest payments fail a lot in South Africa. Imagine a guest books my most expensive apartment for 3 weeks over peak season (ie when I would make my most revenue). It is a no risk reservation. They do not cancel. 4 days before arrival, the free cancellation period expires, I then try and charge the guest and their payment fails. Then what? I am about 100% sure booking.com will tell me "Oh, you are allowed to then cancel this booking after 24 hours of the guest not updating their card details. Please mark the card as invalid on the extranet". This is completely and utterly useless as I am then out of pocket for a massive booking with almost no time to find a replacement, which will then be my problem. It is that gap between the cancellation period expiry and arrival that is the problem. It means that a guest can effectively not pay, something I will only discover very close to arrival date, walk away and I am out of pocket. The way I have been operating thus far is to collect all payments well in advance of arrival date, so that if a guest doesn't pay, I have ample time to cancel and find a replacement. That option seems to be unavailable with risk free reservations.
Ah OK I understand. I think where I am getting confused, is that I don't seem to be able to find the option for BdC to do the payments. I have not found the "Payments by BdC" option (as per your screenshot above) on any menu item in the extranet. I do have virtual card payments enabled, but it appears guests can choose to either use virtual cards or their own credit card and the payment is made through the payment gateway I use, which is linked with my channel manager. There isn't a menu option where I can select for BdC to handle the entire payment for each and every booking.
Thanks for that information. Have you experienced any scenario ever at your establishment where the guest still needed to pay after the free cancellation period ended? The message on my booking sheet says "after the free cancellation period, it is up to the establishment to get the money from the guest" (or similar, I'm paraphrasing). Yet I only have non-refundable policies on my system and I also have payment by BdC enabled. This is why I'm confused and concerned.