"Dear Elise. The Artini Resort has notified us that you did not check in for your 25-night booking today. You've been marked as a no-show."
The day before the Bali retreat (that I was hosting) kicked off, I was casually checking my work email while feeling calm, prepped and ready to rock the next marathon of a week.
But this email stopped me in my easy-breezy, Bali tracks.
"Hmmm... I cancelled all my other hotel bookings. This email must be a mistake," I thought. "I'll just quickly check my business credit card – just to confirm."
A few minutes later, my zen-like state had shifted to a mild state of panic.
That was the pending transaction sitting on my business credit card.
No... no, no, NO.
(The denial set in.)
Then the flurry of emails were sent off ("This must be a mistake, right???") and my bank in Canada was called.
Then reality started to set in.
This was real. This was happening.
I HAD MADE A $5,563 BUSINESS MISTAKE.
6 years into running my own business and at the peak of feeling "I got this business thing down! 💪"... I had been brought back down to earth.
(Bali always has funny lessons up its sleeves for me... I hate them in the moment and only come to appreciate them after I leave.)
But surely a hotel couldn't charge an accidental booking IN FULL for 2 rooms and 25 nights... just for a day-of cancellation?
As it turns out, Booking.com totally allows this. 🙄
My mind raced to brainstorm any and all solutions.
The first order of business? Walk right over to the Artini hotel, speak to Mr. Steve, the manager, and use all the new negotiation techniques I had just picked up from Never Split the Difference, a book by Chris Voss (highly recommend, btw).
So the next morning, I dressed up in one of my nicest "please forgive me" outfits and took the "I'm a very apologetic tourist who made a stupid mistake" approach while keeping the "I will share this all over the internet including every review site possible" tactic in my back pocket.
I walked up to the reservation desk and asked to speak to Mr. Steve, the manager, as confidently as I could muster in that moment.
A few minutes (and a lime drink) later, I was greeted by a tall man with slicked-back hair and a red silk blazer.
Mr. Steve likes his finer things, I thought.
"Miss Elise, I reviewed Booking.com's policy and we have every right to keep the payment in full – without issuing any refund at all."
This was already off to a rocky start.
I felt a drop of sweat dribble down my right temple.
The panic, mixed in with the sweltering Bali humidity, was making the adrenaline pump and my skin cry from its pores.
Mr. Steve had just delivered the news: his hotel had every right to keep the $5,563 that was charged to my credit card for not cancelling my booking in time – according to booking.com’s "policy" 🙄.
The time had come to plead my case.
“Mr. Steve, I really appreciate you hearing me out. The thing is, right now I have a charge on my credit card for $5,563 which is equivalent to 58,470,885 rupiah. A huge fee for anyone living in any country.
I’ve spoken to my bank about my options and I don’t want to move this fee into a dispute case… I want to work with you and the hotel to mutually resolve this.
My goal is for us to come to a reasonable understanding (even if that means me paying a fee for 1 to 2 nights) and I’d be happy to share with my social media followers how great and understanding Artini was in this whole booking.com mixup.” < pleading smile >
Mr. Steve looked at me for a few seconds before finally saying, “Okay, Ms Elise. I will help you. It’s not fair for the hotel to charge you for all 25 nights. I will talk to my GM and let you know. Are you on WhatsApp?”
Phew. ✨ A glimmer of hope.
Mr. Steve and I exchanged digits and off I went, back to hosting my retreat in Bali, shelving this little issue for now and hoping that Mr. Steve would come back with some good news.
A few days later, I got this message in a WhatsApp chat:
“Hi Ms. Elise. After speaking with the GM, the best that the hotel can offer you is a 50% refund and a 50% credit for a future stay at the hotel.”
A $2,500 credit when I have no plans of coming back to Ubud anytime soon, I thought.
Nope, sorry. I’m not settling for that.
A few messages later, I had the GM’s name and number. I was going to keep climbing up this corporate ladder until I could speak to the ultimate decision maker.
...Turns out, that wasn’t the GM.
The GM kept talking about “the owner” — the mysterious owner whose name I never got.
Since I couldn’t meet the GM or the owner face to face, despite my many surprise visits to their hotel, I decided to write a lengthy email with a proposal of sorts: Artini only charges me for 1 to 2 nights and I, in turn, share their amazing hotel to my online followers in the most positive light possible, including a photoshoot at their hotel.
My proposal didn’t get an answer. It wasn’t even opened.
10 days after the charge showed up on my credit card, I was getting antsy. 😰
Artini had stopped responding. My phone calls went unanswered. I was about to leave Ubud for good and I still had no resolution.
I decided it was no more “good cop.” Time to bring out the “bad cop.”
I phoned up the GM on WhatsApp who declined my call and then messaged me to say he was in a meeting. He told me that Mr. Steve will make the final decision.
Ah, so Mr. Steve is the decision maker, after all.
A few stern, urgent texts to Mr. Steve later.... and I had a new offer from him: an 80% refund and a 20% credit.
Done. Sold. I agree. Let’s do it.
It's still a $1,000+ charge that I won't get back... but I'll sell that credit to someone who needs a few nights in Ubud. #fingerscrossed
A few days later, I signed into my online bank account and voila – a refund of $4,428 was there on my credit card.
Now this is the part where I go into the "lessons learned" but to be honest, I'm chalking this one up to being one of the many costs of doing business.
I *could* berate myself for missing the very important detail of cancelling my reso in time, but I'm giving myself grace on this one.
I had a lot going on.
International travel. Hosting a retreat. Internal business transitions. Client dynamics.
I spend all day, every day focused on the details. And I missed this big one. But it's okay.
I'm choosing to forgive myself here.
If Instagram is one of those "details" that you've been missing in your business... here's permission to give yourself some grace.
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