Nursing A Dealing-With-Customers Hangover

, , , , | Working | June 17, 2021

During the health crisis, I receive a request through [Booking Platform] to book my house for one person, for three nights.

Booker: “Hi. We would like to book your lovely accommodation for one of our Filipino nurses coming over on Monday for three nights. She is coming over for some training at [nearby location]. Let me know if it is available!”

This is unusual because, normally, the guest makes the booking themselves.

Me: “Hi. Can you ask the nurse to make the booking directly?”

Booker: “She is already very stressed about the training. Normally, we book on their behalf.”

Me: “I’m going to need more details about how this works, please.”

She explains that she works for a recruitment agency. They hire nurses in the Philippines and hire them to hospitals in the UK. Seems legitimate.

Me: “Thank you. I need to speak to the nurse directly to vet her.”

Booker: “She is called [Guest]; you can reach her on [number]. She flew in yesterday from Manila.”

I phone her. She confirms the details of her stay and is grateful for somewhere within walking distance. A nurse travelling on work seems low risk, so I authorise the booking.

Then, I do more research. I discover that this is called a “third-party booking” and, in short, it is inviting a lot of trouble. It’s against the booking platform’s rules, for good reason. Neither party is protected. If she sets my house on fire, tough. If I kick her out at 3:00 am, tough luck for her.  

However, there seems to be a way to increase my protection: amend the booking to list the additional guests, so it says, “[Booker] and [Guest]”. Since this should be easy to do, I backtrack on the already confirmed booking. Meanwhile, I get a text.

Guest: “I’m bringing my husband, too.”

Me: “The booking is only for one person.”

Guest: “But I’ve read your profile! You have two guest bedrooms. I need him to show me where shops are. Also, I told [Recruitment Agency] I would bring my husband.”

Me: “Right, but I charge extra for additional guests. Anyway, these details need to be included in the original booking. I am also not responsible for communication between you and [Recruitment Agency].”

Guest: “I’ll pay you the extra in cash.”

Me: “Payment has to go through [Booking Platform] to protect both parties. I will amend the booking now to list you and your partner and send it to [Booker] to approve.”

Guest: “But [Booker] is on annual leave!”

Why on earth would someone start a project like this right before they go on leave?

Me: “There will be someone covering for her in the office. I will sort it out quickly and let you know. Just text me when you’re coming, so I can meet you at my house and let you in, okay?”

I amend the booking and send it [Booker] to be approved. There is no reply. I message her on a separate app and state that I won’t let the guest check in unless the amendments are approved. She finally gives me the email address of a director at [Recruitment Agency] based in the Philippines. The director is a doctor and has an MBA. I ask her to contact me immediately. At 2:00 am, my phone rings.

Me: “I need the booking amended for two reasons. First, so the actual guests are listed on the booking. Second, to include my extra fee for [Guest’s Husband] for three nights.”

Director: “I don’t understand what the problem is. We’ve booked thousands of nurses like this and had no problem.”

Me: “That is not how [Booking Platform] works; the guest has to make the booking. In any case, you agreed to those terms when you set up an [Booking Platform] account. It will literally take you twenty seconds to approve this.”

Director: “This higher fee is going to screw up my accounting books! Questions are going to be asked about this. Can’t you just take it in cash? And [Guest’s Husband] is only coming for the first night.”

Me: “Fine, I’ll take it cash and send you a new booking amendment for the same price, with the guests listed.”

I send a new booking, which she finally approves.

Director: “I still don’t see what the problem is!”

Me: “There is no way I’m letting an uninsured guest into my house. It’s pretty important that you understand this, because it affects every single host who you deal with. Would you like me to put it in an email?”

Director: “Yes, please.”

I email her and explain how [Booking Platform] works: the guest makes the booking and lists everyone in their party, only those people are insured, and third-party bookings are bad for the guest and the host. I felt disrespected when they asked me to host an uninsured guest. It’s also really confusing for me. I need a consistent point of contact, and bookings shouldn’t be made the day before someone goes on annual leave.

Finally, check-in day comes. [Guest] doesn’t arrive. She doesn’t contact me or reply to my many calls and messages. In my years of hosting, this has never happened. By 21:00, I’m concerned for her safety. A young, female migrant worker who has just arrived in my country seems like a vulnerable person. I know she is probably sitting in a hotel room somewhere, but I would rather overreact than take the chance that she has come to harm. I call the police and report her missing.

The next morning, I receive an email.

Director: “Please call off the police. [Guest] is safe at training. She is commuting from elsewhere, instead. Since she hasn’t availed of the booking, please refund us in full.”

You have got to be kidding. I am furious.

Me: “Do you mean to say that I spent the entire weekend cleaning my home and waited all of yesterday for [Guest]? She could not find ten seconds to tell me she wasn’t coming? Here is my policy on refunds: cancellation up to five days before check-in. You are one day after check-in, so you are not eligible for a refund. In any case, I am not a hotel. You cannot expect to no-show at a [Booking Platform] accommodation and still get a refund, especially where the house is shared with the host. You’ve been disrespectful to me from the get-go and your attitude has been appalling. Never contact me again.”

I have since amended my house rules. I do not reply to requests for third-party bookings. Any unauthorised overnight guests will result in everyone being removed from the property and the booking cancelled. I learned a hard lesson about reading the warning signs early on.

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