So - why reserve your vacation dates through a small vacation rental business like ours and not through one of the big travel websites that have 1000s of listings from all over the world?
There are many reasons why but we're just going to touch on a couple we feel are important.
One big one is: we DON'T charge travelers a service fee just to book their vacations with us. The only "service fee" we'd add to your rental costs would be 3% and only then IF you use MasterCard or VISA. That fee helps us cover what the credit card companies charge us, and for the use of a virtual terminal system. We never require our guests to use credit cards so we can 'make money' off of the transaction. We gladly accept personal checks, money orders and/or cashier's checks if that's what the traveler wants to use. If a traveler asks us if we'd prefer they use a charge card or send a check, we'd tell them, "please send a check." In fact, a personal check is required as a pet damage deposit if you're visiting us with a beloved K9 (or two, or three.)
Some of the large travel sites are hitting travelers with a "service fee" that's as much as 11% of their total rental costs just to book through them. THEN they're turning around and charging the rental home owners an additional 3% "charge card service fee."
So what's wrong with that? A bunch of things. If you pride yourself on being open and transparent in your own business dealings - and your interactions with everyday people - then it will probably offend you, as it does us, that many travelers don't realize the big travel websites are charging two different service fees.
We understand it's convenient to automatically book through a big travel website. We understand - in some cases - the traveler wants to use a credit card we can't process. But, we also understand the majority of travelers today do tons of research, make lots of calls, and read reviews carefully before they're ready to tap into a rental listing and send out a reservation request. And they certainly don't want to be automatically charged when all they want to do is find out more about the rental property they're looking at.
What else is going on 'behind the scenes?' Glad you asked. It's more than both the traveler and the rental home owner being hit up with service fees that may not be clearly disclosed. It's the deliberate, steady erosion of communication between the traveler and the rental home owner or manager that is truly crippling. Some of the big vacation rental sites have recently decided it's in the best interest of the traveler if their email address, and the home owner's, isn't disclosed until money is exchanged. They also no longer allow the home owner to display his or her website address or have a link to it embedded in their listing. Sure, a few comments & questions can be exchanged without the traveler getting charged - if both the property owner and traveler are real careful about the buttons they click. And those buttons are a little tricky to use.
And then there's the 24 hour time limit set by some of the travel websites. That deadline gives the traveler and the home owner only 24 hours to exchange information with each other before for the home owner has to either confirm or reject the reservation request. Along the way the home owner gets warned: take too long to confirm or reject a request and your 'stats' might be hurt by not responding fast enough. Heck, your listing might be cancelled.
Why are we talking about this on our own website? Why are we running the chance of being boycotted by the big boys in the travel arena?
We believe in the full disclosure of fees. We believe in exchanging as much information as possible with potential guests BEFORE we take a penny from them. We believe many small businesses like ours are going to face even harder challenges in the years ahead. We believe our ability to talk about ourselves and our rental homes in detail before a traveler commits to spend money will be limited more and more.
But, you know what? We also believe many 'customers' are smarter than big business gives them credit for. That - surprise - how they're being treated, how they're being 'handled,' and how they're allowed to communicate with anyone and everyone they do business with is important to them. We believe they want to know what they're getting for their money before they spend it.
We love what we do. We've made life-long friends over the last 13 years. We've had countless memorable experiences with K9s and their humans. We wouldn't trade a minute of it. We'll keep working at getting better at what we do in the year ahead.
Thanks for listening. We hope our observations give you something to think about as you search for a good vacation site. We hope you decide to stay with us. But, if you decide to head someplace else, we truly hope everyone you come in contact with treats you with the respect and honesty you deserve.