We’ve fielded a lot of questions lately about our hurricane cancellation policy, so I thought I’d write something up for everyone to read. Because even though this storm isn’t coming near Florida, hurricane season goes through November, which is still a long time away.
Our regular (non hurricane) cancellation policy is printed on our website here. Here is the quick version: when you book a room, you make a deposit equal to the first night’s stay to guarantee your reservation. If you cancel that room more than one week before your stay, it is simply a $35 booking fee, and we refund the rest of the deposit.
If you cancel less than 7 days before your stay, we retain the full deposit, unless we can re-rent the room. And we definitely try to re-rent it! If we do re-rent it, we again retain just the $35 booking fee.
(Please note: our cancellation policy is different if someone has rented a block of rooms, or if they are having a wedding, or if they are staying for a longer period. In those cases, we have a separate contract that details the policy for their particular stay).
Our cancellation policy is to protect us and help cover our costs. There are costs associated with every reservation–whether it’s the percentage the credit card company takes, or the cost of having staff to answer the phones. Those expenses occur immediately…whether the reservation is kept or cancelled. We pay a credit card fee to run the deposit, and then another fee to cancel the room!
In addition, we have a very perishable product–even raspberries have a longer shelf life than 24 hours! We have only one day to rent a room, and after that day has passed, we have lost the opportunity.
Special Circumstances When Hurricanes Hit
When Hurricane Matthew hit in 2016 and hurricane Irma in 2017, we needed a temporary cancellation policy. In both instances, we were closed for several weeks. Even if we hadn’t had any water damage, we would have been closed for at least a few days because the city turns off the electricity and the water in advance of the storm.
Of course, we did have water damage–our entire first floor was under several feet of water. We tried to communicate what was happening and what we were doing; it was difficult because we had no internet, no phones and no electric! I posted updates on this blog (I did have internet at my house), as well as on our Facebook account (whether you like Facebook or hate it, it is absolutely awesome during times of emergency). Once we got our phone lines back (they came back more slowly than the power in our case), we began calling guests and running refunds. It took a few days, because we couldn’t run our particular credit card machines without a phone line.
We talked a lot about what was the best way to handle our closure. We wanted to be fair to our guests, but not cripple us as we recovered. Here’s our solution: Our guests had the option to receive a full refund or apply the deposit to a future stay. Either way, there was no penalty. Although there wasn’t a penalty for either option, there was a benefit to planning a future stay–our love and gratitude! Guests who rescheduled their stays later in the year were life savers for us–allowing us to keep their deposit helped us buy materials to begin rebuilding. (It also let us buy pizza for our hungry crew every day. Shout out to Five Star Pizza who gave us a 10% discount throughout the storm clean up–we love you guys!)
Helping those Hit by Hurricanes
I truly hope that there isn’t a lot of damage in the Carolinas from this storm, but if there is, and you would like to help–make a reservation for a future stay. Wait until the phones are back–about 7 or 8 days–or make the reservation online. It will provide critical help to the hotel owner now, and you’ll have a great vacation to look forward to when everything is shiny and new again! If you want to help restaurants, purchase a gift card from them! You can give it to a loved one at Christmas, or you can use it yourself. Either way, you are helping that business in a very direct way.
When we reopened our rooms a few weeks after the storm, we went back to our regular cancellation policy.
One blessing of a storm is the kindness you find in unexpected places. Some of our first guests after the storm brought tools and boots with them, asking how they could help. We had total strangers stop by with food and water. And we got the nicest emails and letters and notes on social media. I tear up thinking about how nice people were! So for every one person trying to take advantage of the situation (and there are people who will do just that), there are 10 people who will impress you with their empathy and understanding.
Take care, Carolina neighbors, and remember that things are just things but people are EVERYTHING. Be safe!