A Napier townhouse rental owner who took on Booking.com over delayed payments has won a bonus payment and an apology from the accommodation booking giant.
Booking.com is part of the $182 billion Booking Holdings, the biggest travel firm in the world by market value. Now it has paid out $1500 and said sorry to Gail Kirkham, owner of Maison Blue, which offers luxury accommodation for up to four guests.
Kirkham said she was pleased to get the payment and grateful for the apology signed by the company’s chief executive, Glen Fogel, who last year was paid just over $50 million. The company has 28 million accommodation partners worldwide but it is unknown how many were hit by the payments glitch.
She said the online travel agent (OTA) was a great way of getting business but it was difficult to deal with. Amsterdam-based Booking.com which takes money in through its site, takes a cut, typically of between 10 per cent and 20 per cent and then pays the accommodation provider.
Earlier this year, Kirkham was kept waiting for weeks for back payments of thousands of dollars. The problem was also reported throughout Europe and Britain and the company said then that payments were delayed as a result of “planned system maintenance”.
In its promotion to accommodation providers, Booking.com says “bringing peace of mind to our partners is a top priority” but she said contacting the company had been a trial. She had spent hours waiting to speak to operators in the booking giant’s call centres around the world.
Kirkham has since received the “Dear Partner”letter from Fogel in which he said he was “deeply sorry” for the impact on businesses of finance and payment systems maintenance and the resulting delay in payments.
“Despite having planned carefully and notified you, our partners, in advance that we would be carrying out this work, a number of unforeseen problems occurred,” he said.
“This meant payments to some of our partners were disrupted. We know that for some of you who were affected, this had an impact on your businesses, as well as on your professional and personal lives. For this, I am deeply sorry.”
He said the delays in receiving payment that some of its partners experienced were longer than anticipated.
“This is not the level of service we would ever want to deliver to our partners. I fully understand that my personal apology doesn’t change the impact we’ve had on your business. However, I wanted to acknowledge that we’ve caused difficulties for you and apologise for doing so,” Fogel said.
The company said it would “work to learn from this situation and improve”.
“I am personally committed to ensuring that we deliver better levels of service to you in the future.”
A Booking.com spokesman said he could not go into detail about the number of New Zealand businesses affected.
“We are providing compensation to partners which were delayed 21 days or more after the delays caused by our financial systems upgrade. The exact amount of compensation for each partner will be determined by the amount owed and the length of delay experienced.”
Kirkham says she’s relieved there’s been some resolution to the saga.
“I like rattling the cage every so often because sometimes people groan and don’t do anything about it. If you don’t raise awareness everyone gets all bitter and twisted.”
Grant Bradley has been working at the Herald since 1993. He is the Business Herald’s deputy editor and covers aviation and tourism.