Yes, it is true what you say about if a guest sends a request or message, you should reply. As you mentioned, we could have declined and then said later on if it was available. Likewise we could have given then the "non-answer" of subject to availability (which does not answer their request). Since they were arriving in two days and their departure date a few days after that, we decided to wait until they were here to answer that question personally and give them an answer as to whether we could honor their request or not.
The real issue, however, is that because we did not answer the request via the extranet, it remained as pending 4 days after the guest had checked out and was only removed after contacting customer support to have it removed. Having the option for No Reply Needed should also exist for REQUESTS and not only messages. This would eliminate the problem.
Also, how we choose to reply should be up to us and not dictated through booking.com. Most of our guests prefer the use of social media messaging (whatsapp, wechat, line, kakaotalk, etc). These apps are easier to use than replying via email for our guests who are traveling and we find that they read our replies and respond much quicker than via email. If they originally write a message via the extranet and we have contact via one of the other messaging apps with them, we will reply via the messaging apps.
We answer ALL of our guests messages and requests, just not all via the extranet. That is why there is a need to be able to mark both messages and requests as no reply needed.
There continues to be a bug in B.com concerning messages, specifically REQUESTS. When a guest sends a normal email message, there is an option to mark the message as No Reply Needed or to Reply. However, if a guest sends a REQUEST, this seems to be handled differently and does not have the same option of marking it as No Reply Needed.
We had a guest send two REQUESTS a few days before their arrival, one for check-in time and one for check-out time. As the check-in time fell within our posted and allowed check-in time, the REQUEST was automatically marked as CONFIRMED as we had set the parameter for automatic reply. However, the guest REQUEST for the check-out was later than our posted check-out time, thus an automatic reply as CONFIRMED was not generated. As we could not know if we could allow a late check-out based upon availability until later, we did not reply to the REQUEST and directly informed the guest regarding the check-out time situation once they were here.
However, 4 days after the guests have already checked out, the REQUEST for a later check-out time is still being displayed as pending on the extranet.
We have contacted customer service to alert them to this and have suggested the REQUESTS also be given the option of No Reply Needed just like regular emails.
I have been told by booking.com that since we make use of their Alternate Payment options that future bookers using AMEX would automatically be given the option of Alternate Payments where we would then receive a virtual credit card.
However, this last week we also received a booking from a Chinese national using AMEX. This was for our standard or refundable rates. Unlike previous bookings using AMEX, we were able to mark the credit card as invalid and contacted the guests to ask for a Visa or Mastercard or for them to make use of booking.com's alternate payment methods. The guest did not reply within 24 hours, so we were able to cancel the reservation. This, at least, is a step forwards in the right direction.
We have also received reservations with our standard or refundable rates where the bookers used the Alternate Payments method. One of our such bookings had the guest cancel within the allowed time frame and I assume that the guest had their payment refunded by booking.com. This is also good that guests can use the Alternate Payment methods and still have the flexibility to cancel without cost when necessary.
I do not know if those accommodation providers who do not make use of the Alternate Payment system have the same possibility to mark AMEX cards as invalid. It would be great if BDC allowed this.