The inn’s owners are out — why won’t they waive my cancellation penalty?

Here’s a case I’ve been mulling for a few days. It involves a highly-rated bed and breakfast, a loyal customer and an unwelcome change.

Should I get involved? I’m asking for your advice, as I do every Monday on this site.

Julie Barton has been a loyal guest at the Chanric Inn in California’s wine country for several years. She knew the proprietors well, so when it came time to select a place to stay after her wedding ceremony, she wanted to be with Ric and Channing, the Chanric’s innkeepers.

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“The primary reason I chose the Chanric was so that we could stay with the same innkeepers, as I knew them already, and I knew that we would have a pleasant experience for our small wedding weekend,” she says. “I went ahead and made the reservations online for myself and our friend who would be our attendant, and paid a deposit of $601 for both rooms in May.”

But that wasn’t meant to be. Before her July 21st wedding, Barton saw an announcement on Ric’s personal page that the inn had been sold and that he and Channing were moving on.

“I was surprised, but I sent him a congratulations and inquired about if we would be able to cancel our reservations, since they would no longer be the innkeepers,” says Barton. “Ric told me that I would have to speak with the new owners, but he thought we would be able to cancel our reservations subject to a $30 cancellation fee.”

Barton contacted the new owners and made her case. Had she known the inn would be under new ownership, she wouldn’t have made the reservation, she says.

“The only reason we were choosing to return to the Chanric was because of how awesome Ric and Channing were when I stayed there previously,” she says.

The new innkeepers concurred — she could cancel, but it would cost her. Here’s the email she received from them:

For your information the agreement for the sale of the Inn is end of January 2012, before your reservation.

Our policy regarding refund for cancelation more than 14 days before checking-in is a $30.00 fee. Please send us your exact address and we will send you a check.

If you want to change your reservation dates, it’s possible without penalty.

OK, so the Chanric isn’t keeping her entire deposit. But a $30 cancellation — for a total of $60 — is still a significant amount of money.

Barton is unhappy. She says there was no notice of the pending sale on the Chanric’s website or Facebook page.

“I had no way of knowing about the sale when I booked the rooms, which I did online,” she says. “I did not learn of the sale until Ric announced it on his personal Facebook page. To say that the agreement was signed in January as if I should know that is ludicrous.”

Barton has requested a refund, minus the fee. She also wrote back to the new owners, saying “you have lost us and our friends as guests permanently” and reminding them that she is “active” on TripAdvisor.

I consider those tactics to be less than effective when dealing with a business.

Barton wants me to go after the new owners to recover her $60. I don’t know if I should.

Here’s what makes me think she has a case: A significant part of the lodging experience is the interaction with the innkeepers. That’s what any reasonable person would conclude just from the inn’s name, which is a combination of the original owners’ names. Also, Barton says she wasn’t informed of the ownership change when she made her reservation. (Indeed, I couldn’t find the B&B’s cancellation terms on its site, either — it may want to publish a “terms and conditions” section somewhere online.)

Here’s what makes me think she might not have a case: It’s the same hotel. Her agreement is with the property, not with Ric and Channing. I’m not sure any court would find that the new owners are in breach of their contract.

The Chanric is simply under new ownership — that’s all. Right?

Well, kinda. When a hotel loses its flag or is reflagged — that’s hotel industry-speak for getting its franchise stripped — the status of future reservations is a matter of some debate. Do they remain with the hotel chain that pulled the flag? Do they stay with the resort? I’ve seen it go both ways in the past.

This one’s not as simple as it first appeared.

Update (4:30 p.m.): I’ve been in touch with Barton this afternoon, and she has clarified two issues: The terms of the sale did not allow for the sale to be announced prior to the deal being done, which is why she believes she wasn’t notified when she made her reservation. Also, she would describe herself as being “casual friends” with Ric and Channing, not close personal friends.

157 thoughts on “The inn’s owners are out — why won’t they waive my cancellation penalty?

    1. What if it were YOUR $60?   But in the grand scheme of a vacation that may cost someone say $10,000…what’s $600?

  1. So…the contract was made with the old owners (presumably).   Even if technically the new owners owned it at the time of reservation, the new owners CAN NOT impose new terms.

    No cancellation terms….so where do they get off “imposing” a cancellation fee.

    That alone is reason for mediating.  

      1. And did I miss it?  I don’t see the $30 as being a new T&C, i.e. something that the new management imposed.  The old manager even made reference to a possible $30 fee for cancellation, so it sounds like it may have been there all along. No reason to suspect anything fishy there.

        1. He made reference to a “possible fee”, meaning he wasn’t even sure. (that’s how I read it) It seems that the new owners put this fee in. Having also read that the fee isn’t disclosed, I would say that they have no business charging the fee. Also, it says the sale agreement was signed back in January. Was the sale completed when she made the reservations?

          I will also say that a B&B is more intimate than a normal hotel, so if there is a change in staff, that would impact the guets significantly, especially if they had built a relationship.

          i went to the B&B site and proceeded to go through the reservation screens until it started asking me for personal information. At no point until then was there any terms and conditions listed, which should be the case when you are being asked to select a room for x night based on x dollars.

          1.  I wonder, suppose the OP had a relationship with a staff member rather than the owner.  A manager perhaps.  Would she be entitled to a refund is that staff member had left?

            As far as the sale agreement, we’d need to see it to glean any information.

          2. I found the terms.  There were available on the same page where I was prompted for credit card info.

            “Terms and Conditions

            A deposit equal to the first night’s stay will be charged at time of booking. Reservations of more than three rooms travelling together will be charged a 50% deposit. We are an ideal destination for couples, but not for children under 16. A notice of 14 days cancellation is required, or 60 days if three or more rooms are reserved. A no-show will be charged for the full reservation. $30 per room cancellation fee. Massage appointments require 48 hours notice to cancel. Disturbing another guest’s visit will result in a charge equal to the full cost of their reservation.” Smoking is only permitted outside, away from other guests. Pets are permitted upon prior approval only.

    1.  I’m pretty sure the cancellation fee was there all along, even under the old owners; she just didn’t have to cancel before.  Read the story again.

  2. if you found out that your favorite bartender had left should you expect to get your entire deposit back?

    They are the owners but when you are there they are in the service industry much like any other person you see at a hotel/b&b, so maybe you should have gone and given it a try.

    check out tripadvisor looks like all of the reviews after the changeover are 5 *s except for one.

    1.  Yeah I think it’s a bit odd to assume that the new owners wouldn’t provide an equivalent experience, without even giving them a chance…

  3. Why are we discussing hotel re-branding issues?  If I read this correctly, the hotel was sold before the OP’s reservation.  Accordingly, she made the reservation with the new owners.  Thus there are no legal issues here or questions about who owns the reservation.

    To address the OPs specific problem,honestly, losing only ten percent of the deposit seems very reasonable when booking with a small establishment.

    The only question in my mind is do we consider it deceptive of the owners not to disclose that the Inn has changed ownership.  .  What is the industry standard when a B&B changes hands? I don’t do B&Bs so I have no idea.

  4. I think they handled her correctly.  A $30 cancellation fee for a B&B is not unusual and I personally would consider it lucky that was all I had to pay.  Just because she had warm fuzzies with the Ric and Channing and now she’s disappointed they won’t be there has nothing to do with the business at hand.  She rented a room at a property, now she wants to cancel, and there’s a fee.  To threaten that she would never stay there again seemed silly considering that she had no intentions on stay with the new owners in the first place, which is why she was seeking to cancel.  Sounds like she’s being a bridezilla. 🙂

  5. You have got to be kidding me! In the whole line of battles out there, this one doesn’t even deserve a second look. Move on with your lives.

    What sealed the deal for me was the part where the OP admitted to threatening the new owner with “We are active on TripAdvisor.” I can’t imagine a less convincing 1-star review that one saying “They charged us thirty dollars per room to cancel a reservation”

    Throw this one on the trash heap with the OP.

  6. Terrible pic…makes the place look like the “Psycho” house. Did the same photographer that did the infamous Time magazine cover of OJ take that shot? Seriously, go to their website and check Trip Advisor, cannot find an image that portrays the place worse than that pic! 

    1. It’s also not a generic photo of a B&B.  That’s an actual photo of the place, although many of the photos I’ve seen make it look considerably more welcoming.

  7. I was with the OP until her threat.  I do however think that Inn keepers changing is much more significant than a bar tender leaving.  The personality and service the Inn Keepers provide is very unique and very personalized.  New Inn Keepers may provide the same level of service, but it won’t be personalized in quite the same way as the OP built up a relationship with the prior owners over many years.  I also think that if no terms and conditions stating a cancellation fee were posted and nothing listed about the new owners when she made her reservation, than she has a case.  But in the grand scheme of things, it’s only $60.  Don’t let it ruin your wedding.

  8. how could she predict that the new owners wouldn’t be just as awesome as the previous ones? She should take this hit I’m afraid, it’s peanuts.

  9. I disagree with these and other similar pleas that might come on the same lines.

    This would be comparable for someone wanting to have cancellation fees for a limousine service contracted with a company because they preferred driver was fired.

    I would agree with the OP if, for instance, objective aspects of the service offered were changed, such as a pool that was closed, meals that were taken off the menu, a hotel previously not accepting young kids and now all-family friendly…

    However, in the OP situation I don’t think she has any reason for complaining. There is no indication that the hotel’s standard of service would be tuned down or lessened. To pill it up, the threats of “being no longer your friend or costumer” is ridiculous, since she has already stated her intentions of not going to the hotel because of change of management. Ditto for her “active” behavior on TripAdvisor.If she gets away with her request, then people could just simple start pushing the envelope with all excuses for cancelling, down to something like “the attractive and friendly female lifeguard at the beach has been replaced by an ugly middle-aged man and swimming while occasionally chatting with her was an integral part of my travel experience” (not that is is my case, just using as an example) or “the only reason I stayed in hotel xyz was to have dinners on the abc restaurant that featured jkl jazz band half a mile down the road, and now that the restaurant is closed I don’t see a reason to stay in the (unrelated) hotel”.

  10. Chris, I’m really not sure why you had the struggles on this one. She made a reservation with the property. The rooms are still available. The property is still willing to rent them. There have been no indications that the new owners have made any drastic changes that would change the complete character of the place. I might feel differently if the hotel was being completely changed or taken in a different direction but there’s nothing to suggest that.

    So there are new owners. Ok. Nothing says that the service and experience won’t be better. The cancellation policy is in place and its costing you $60 to find somewhere else.

    Bridezilla maybe?

    Move along .. there’s nothing to see here.

    1. I’ll throw this in, as well.  If the old owners were such amazing people who threw their hearts and souls into this place, there’s a pretty high probability that they sold to somebody they feel will do a comparable job.  Why not give them the chance to do so?  

  11. Yet another rip-off!
    She was lied to and now they want to keep her money.  She should get a 100% refund plus pay her extra as a penalty for making up a policy after she booked, and allowing her to book without telling her there is a new owner.

    1.  You’re not serious, are you?  Where was she lied to?  And by the way, having a new owner is not a done deal until the papers are signed at closing.  If she was such great friends with the old owner, maybe she should have sent him a message on Facebook and stated that she was planning to spend very important time during her wedding at his property and given him the chance to say “hey, just a heads up – we may not be there because we’re under contract.”  I think this is just a bluff to try to bully a small business owner.

      1. I was thinking that if she was such good friends with the previous owners, why didn’t she know about their life-changing decision to sell the place?  I’m certain that the previous owners REAL friends knew about it ahead of the sale.  Just because Ric and Channing accepted a Facebook friend request for their establishment doesn’t make the OP a real-life friend. She was a customer they treated well, but clearly in the end she was just a client.

        And I bet that little burn is helping fuel this protest.

        1. I think you’re onto something.  I wonder if the update where she says they were just casual friends isn’t intended as a sort of barb?  (It certainly doesn’t do anything to help their case.)

          This sort of thing is extremely common and understandable.  Every time we deal with innkeepers, etc. it’s a special occasion where we remember things fondly. They’re our friends. But to them it’s an everyday job where they see countless other guests in between our stays. Our stay there was remarkable in our lives, but totally unremarkable in theirs.  

        1. Did you not bother to read the info y_p_w found on the B&B’s website? You and the OP seem to have something in common.

          1. Maybe if ou would have looked at the time stamps of when the messages were posted you would have seen that he didn’t respond until AFTER I posted. Apparently you have OP syndrome as well.

            As to the T&C, does it show WHEN they were put in place? ie, are these the ones that have been in place since 2006, or where they put in place upon actual transfer of the property? None of that is clear. Also, I’m not sure if the law would provide a customer to back out of an agreement should the business you signed the contract with not be in business anymore. (again, wondering on date of title transfer.)

          2. But the business didn’t go away; it was simply sold.They apparently seamlessly transitioned ownership with reservations being taken right through the entire sale process. The OP reserved a room at the inn, not with a specific innkeeper.

            From a legal standpoint, all they’d need to do is make sure they were consistent with policies so people who signed up under one set of policies were governed by those and not forced into any new policies enacted by the new owners. (But that’s the same process even if it’s the same ownership making changes to their own policies.) My reading of the letter suggested these cancellation fees had probably been in place under both owners, but the OP had just never cancelled in the past.

    2. What rip off?  She is cancelling during a high season weekend at $30 per room at a B & B in the wine county.  She is making such a fuss over $30 per room?  Interesting that she doesn’t bother to quote the cancellation policy at the time of her booking? 

  12. I voted “yes” even though the new innkeepers are absolutely within their rights to charge the cancellation fee.  Why “yes”?  Good customer service.  If they were a tad bit creative, they would have offered an additional night for free, then catered to the small wedding party or, for another time a, “No problem but we sure hope you try us sometime, a free night on us!”.  Word of mouth goes a long way…

  13. For all she knows, the new owners might be better than the old owners. This is a classical overreaction, and using words like “Demand” are not the proper approach. Pay the $60, or give the new owners a chance.

    1. Totally agree with you.  She had to try this B&B for a first time when she met Ric and Channing (assuming she didn’t know them previously).  While I’m sure she’ll miss the old owners, she has to stay somewhere and I assume it will still be in wine country.  Why not give the new owners a try?

  14. When the agreement to sell the inn was signed is not relevant, only when the new owners actually took over.  Apparently the actual change in ownership was not in January since the OP made the reservations in May and chatted with the former owners after then and nothing was said about the change until the internet posting of the sale on one of the owner’s sites.  

    Should the former owners have noted on the inn’s website that there were new owners when the agreement was signed in January?  I don’t know.  I’m sure there were many details to work out when selling a property like this and just signing an agreement to sell doesn’t mean the place was actually sold.

    I think the OP should have gone ahead with the plans to stay there.  After all she is familiar with the property and that had to be one of the reasons she chose it other than the owners.  Unless the new owners immediately went on a remodeling spree causing many of the amenities to be unavailable or changed the clientele they aimed to attract, I doubt there would be a major reduction is service or experience.

    1. Note the sale on the website? Good will and reservations are part of the sale value. No business in our country says” buy from me but let me tell you why you should consider purchasing from my competitor instead”. 

      1. Many businesses are happy to announce they are under new management either by hanging banners on their building or by noting it on their web site. This can cause new customers to try them out and former customers to try them again.

        1. There’s a certain negative connotation about the past ownership when a huge deal is made about it being under new ownership. It pretty much equates to a cry of “Give us another chance, the bad apples are gone now!”  Successful places tend to keep ownership changes on the down-low to avoid spooking the large customer base who was already happy.

    2. That’s not my reading. The post doesn’t say anything about directly contacting the former owners until she saw notice about it on his personal webste.  I’m also assuming that the reservations were made (or at least the deposit received) in May 2012 for a July 2012 date.  A reservation over one year in advance is unlikely.  I looked at the Inn’s website, and right now the latest one can book in advance is March 16, 2013  Ric’s personal webpage could very well have been updated around the time of the sale, but Julie didn’t look at it until after she made the reservation.

      My best estimate of the timeline would be the following:

      Jan 2012: The Chanric Inn is sold.

      May 2012: Julie makes her reservation with a $601 deposit.

      June (best guess) 2012: Julie checks out Ric’s personal webpage and sees the announcement of the sale.  She contact him via email or Facebook, gives her congrats, and inquires about her reservation.

      June-July 2012: Julie contacts Chris and asks him if he might mediate.

      1. The way I’m reading the story is that Ric announced on his personal Facebook page that he and Channing had sold the inn (after she had made her reservations, but before her July wedding).  When you post a comment on FB, it pops up on a feed so all your friends can see it.  So unless she missed it, when he first posted, she would have seen it same day or next day.  You don’t have to go to the person’s page to see their posts.

  15. She is being ridiculous. The new owners would love to have the chance to make a good impression on this renter, if given the chance. If it was so important, why didn’t she call and make her reservation. If I am friends w a host, I call to chat w them when making reservations. I hope wherever she stayed was worth this aggravation. Did she have a similar relationship w the B&B she eventually stayed at. If not, why not stay w the original B&B, at least you know the property.     

  16. The previous owners decided to move, and the new owners have the right to have guests too.  Julie Barton should give them a chance, as she might have liked the new owners just as well as the old ones.  That’s like me going to a service station and refusing to get my oil changed just because it may be under new ownership.  That’s not fair to the new owner, and I would want him/her to have the opportunity to earn my business fair and square.  Julie Barton wanted to cancel just because Ric and Channing sold the Inn.  Maybe they wanted to retire, but I bet the new owner(s) are just as good.  I wouldn’t want to meet a snob like Julie Barton.

  17. I voted no because on balance I don’t think this is a big deal.  B&B didn’t disclose cancellation fee perhaps and OP is acting like a 2-year-old.  I do think this is different than when a hotal changes owners.  When my favorite B&B was sold we gave it two tries with the new owners.  It was horrible – food no longer good, cleanliness standards lowered. We had been going there for 11 years at the same time every year.  We are looking for a new place.   

    1. So if I read your comment, it seems you agree that the OP wasn’t given the cancellation terms up front that showed the fees, and that perhaps the actual ownership changed hands after she made reservations, and that caretakers have a LOT to do with the place…. yet you voted no because it’s only $60? Can you send me $60? After all, it’s no big deal.

      1. LOL – Raven said the same thing much better than I did so I think I’m in good company on this one.  And yes, someone who can afford a $600 deposit should not be spending hours whining about $60 and threatening people.  And no, I will not send you $60. 

  18. Bridezilla needs to get a grip if she thinks all real estate transactions need to be cleared by her glorious self. If she really wants to cancel, eat the measly $60 and STFU.

    Mentioning she is “active” on trip advisor is akin to a four year old stomping their feet and screaming.

    Back away from this one, Chris.

    1. I thought of you on my flight last night.  I was seated behind a woman who had 2 emotional support dogs with her.  Two!  They kept getting loose and running around the plane.  Fortunately, she didn’t have two snakes.

      1. God, when are the airlines going to stop this abuse of “ESAs”?!? 

        If they were little yappy ankle-biting dogs, I would’ve FED ’em to the snake!

          1. Precisely. It’s how they game the system now. Kind of like the people at Di$ney World who tell the Guest Services CMs that their child is autistic/adhd/add to get the red passes.

            Those allow them to use the fast pass line all day…and since ADA says Di$ney cannot require proof…well…now you know why FP lines are looking longer these days.

          2.  what if my child is autistic?  Can he still get the pass?  I always bring proof when I go ask for the passes in case anyone asks –

            I hope you never have to deal with it – the lack of friends, the isolation, the wondering if you will have to be there to catch their entire lives – and the fear of what happens to them when you die – its the only ‘benefit’ we have in the world. . . and now you wanna snark that too?

          3. Never said it was a BAD thing, pal. Sheesh. I’m saying it is abused by those who DON’T need it. I am NOT snarking on people who geniunely need the help. I AM snarking on people who abuse the system…like 99% of the “ESA” people. A snake? Two unruly dogs? Yeah, those are “emotional support animals” …right.

            There are people who BRAG about how they scored those passes on various online bulletin boards and some folks who even sell them on Craigslist.

            If your child has a special need, they you should get the pass. If you’re just looking for a way to cut lines and don’t have a need…that’s where I have a problem.

            BTW, my nephew is autistic. I do know the troubles my sister faces so before you go into psycho defensive mode, read the bloody post.

  19. It sounds like the $30 fee was a per room fee, according to Ric and Channing and a $60 ding is correct. Also, losing a 2 room booking is an income hit for new owners. Sounds to me like the OP needs friends desparatly and she was “buying” a friendship of Ric and Channing by booking there. What if Ric and Channing had gone away that that weekend and left a friend or employee in charge? They were not obligated to be present. If they were all such close friends, they should have gotten a wedding invitiation. Otherwise, this is strictly a business transaction, and a cancel has a fee imposed. Ric and Channing are probably thrilled to be gone, and this kind of guest is a reason to sell. They probably suffered through all of her visits with gritted teeth.  Chris, leave this alone. Small business has enough problems. They did not need this publicity by a bridezilla with a threatening demeanor. 

  20. I believe the new owners would prevail in a court case as the reservation was made with Chanric Inn and not the previous owners.  In good faith, the new owners may want to do something like offer Julie a free night and reduce their rate accordingly.

  21. 60?!!!

    either A. she is so poor that 60 is allot. if that is the case she should have just gone to the Inn, because now she will have to find one closer to the date, possibly making it more expensive
     or B. she is a cheapskate.

    as for the “what if it was YOUR 60 dollars” i would never have canceled in the first place. the new owners might be great, and now she will never know.

  22. How is title to the property held? If it was personally by Rick and Channing and run as a sole propiretorship then she WAS doing business personally with Rick and Channing, and has a point,

    1. Joe I don’t think the legal structure is a factor in this case. For example my business is incorporated but the legal structure is for liability and tax purposes. My clients do business with me not a corporate name. 

      1.  true – but in your case you can sell the corporation – if the inn and the business were held in the name of a corporation then legally [and that what I am talking – not practically or common sense wise] she is doing business with the corporation – but if it was held personally – then she is doing business with the people.   That can be a LEGAL distinction – if you get sued for doing something – your defense attorney would likely move to dismiss you from all counts unrelated to negligence because the clients are legally doing business with a separate legal entity – they can always sue you for negligence – but it is a little bit harder to win.

        1. No argument with what you’re saying. It does go back to my 1st comment that the OP should ask Ric & Channing for the $60.

        2.  @comanchepilot:disqus

          I’m not sure I agree with that assessment. A sole proprietorship may present some interesting challenges in a sale, but you can sell, the goodwill, assets, name, etc.  You can inherit it.

          But in any event, as long as the contract is transferable, then all of this is a merely a distraction.

          1.  Why does this matter when it was made clear that the booking was made AFTER the sale, with the new owners the only party involved?  She just didn’t REALIZE she was dealing with new owners until later.

  23. While in her mind she did it because of the owners, in fact she made a reservation to stay at a specifi place.  There was no guarantee that the ownership would not change.  That often happens in business.
    I see nothing to mediate.

  24. She lost me with “I’m active on TripAdvisor.”  So what?  This kind of claim where someone thinks they have so much clout that it gives them a sense of entitlement is really off-putting and actually comes off as defensive.

    Aside from that, despite her personal relationship with Rick and Channing, she was doing business with their business.  Even if the business was their personal property and not held as a corporation or limited liability organization of whatever type, she needs to understand that once the business changed hands, the new owners are not required to uphold the old terms simply because she was “friends” with the former owners.

    1. Jennifer,
      By your own arguement, if the business is not required to uphold the previously set terms, then she should be entitled to a full refund because the contract at that point in time becomes null and void.

      I agree that the woman should refrain from the pointless rethoric because it serves absolutely no purpose other then to tick people off…

      1. I disagree. If the new owners are not required to uphold the previously set terms, then their own policies become effective. So, assuming the new owners aren’t required to uphold the previously set terms, which depends on the terms of the sale, once they became the new owners, they could offer or withhold a refund as per their own policies. If she wants more than whatever they offer her, she needs to pursue the former owners for it-not the new ones.

  25. I voted “yes”, not because I think the OP deserves the $60 back, but because I think the new owners need a good talking to as to what constitutes good customer service and how to maintain former guests. I think for the 1st year of transistion waivers and favors need to be made to former guests who may be hesitant about the change.

    1. But how can the inn owners “maintain former guests” when the entire basis of the refund is predicated on the OP not wanting to stay there because of the new owners?

    2. My guess is they are continuing the cancellation policy of the contract she made, that is noticeably absent from her letter to Chris.  Her comment that she was quoted $30 to cancel isn’t clear if he was referring to both rooms or just to hers.  All this for $30, not $60 as that was what she was expecting to lose.

  26. If she’s watching Ric’s page, it’s almost more a problem with Ric personally that he never mentioned it. If he sold his Inn in January and never said anything about it on his FaceBook page it’s almost like he was trying to keep it quiet. And .. Ric and Channing were strangers when Barton went there the first time – maybe she’d be just as happy with the new owners if she gave them a chance…

    1. With all due respect, the local papers has many stories about the problem Chanric was having with the Calistoga City Council. I have to ask this question rather crudely – are people that stupid to rely on Facebook for almost all information? The 2 owners put up the house for sale last SEP/OCT 2011. That’s about 6-7 months before the OP made a reservation.

      1. “are people that stupid to rely on Facebook for almost all information? ”
        Yes, they are.  I have personal experience with one such person.  Otherwise a very bright person, but has no awareness of anything non-FB.

        1. Never liked Facebook and Twitter. I prefer real social networking like talking to people or writing letters in email form. Not much into texting either, but can have a lengthy discussion over instant messaging like gtalk.

          I do have some sympathy for the OP. I read that Ric is a good chef and that alone is a damn good reason to have him as a host. There is or was something more to Chanric than just a bed and a breakfast fron dunkin donuts. I suppose the guests were pampered and advised where to visit around the area. After all Ric was not just a chef but was also the president of Calistoga Chamber of Commerce.

  27. I wasn’t sure which way to go with this one since there are valid points on both sides.  But then… Bridezilla reared her ugly head with:

     “you have lost us and our friends as guests permanently” and reminding them that she is “active” on TripAdvisor. 

    Really?  THIS is the hill the OP is choosing to die on?  With everything else that can go wrong in one’s world, the one that upsets the OP like this is an inn changing hands?  And it’s not like the OP cancelled for something awful like the wedding being called off or a loved one dying.  I think the new owners might have been more understanding of that.  Instead, what they get is, “It’s not me, it’s you.  But we can still be friends” line.

    The OP was fine with the $30 cancellation fee per reservation when the old owners told her about it but when the new owners tell her this, she blows up and demands her $60.  Sounds more to me like her feelings were hurt that the former owners “broke up with her” and didn’t give her enough warning it was coming.

    I’m now firmly in the camp of, “I wouldn’t touch this with a 10-foot pole”.

  28. If Ric and Channing are such good friends she should ask them for the sixty bucks.

    This B&B may be better run by the new owners but the OP is not willing to find out. This is jaust another example of entitlement at its finest. Run Chris Run. 

  29. @joe

    I don’t think so.  A sole proprietorship can be sold just as easily as any other business model.  In some cases the contracts are transferable, in some cases not. Usually the more personal the services the less transferable the contracts.

    1.  All I’m saying Carver is that if it was a sole proprietorship she has a better argument – and you cannot sell a sole proprietorship – you can sell the ASSETS of the sole proprietorship . . .  completely different – those assets may include inchoate agreements and good will but the business itself is not sold. . . 

  30. She booked two rooms online.  What were the rules of the rate booked at that time? Did she print, copy them or write them down for future reference?   She is cancelling two rooms, so was the original owners quote  $30 per room or a flat $30?  This isn’t exactly clear in the article. 

    Also, she isn’t talking about $60, she is complaining about an additional $30 to cancel from what she expected.  For a B & B in Napa, on a busy summer weekend,this is pretty reasonable and she needs to have this pointed out to her.

      1. Yes, I know.  But she seemed to think that she was only going to be charge $30. So did she think it was a flat fee not a per room fee?

        1. Who knows what she thought.  She also thought that booking at an inn entitled her to the innkeeper.  By the way I’m reading her logic, if these owners had bought a new inn down the road, she’d have expected to have her stay rolled directly over to the new property.

  31. I have to strongly disagree with those who say the OP should give the place a chance.  This is her wedding.  Why take chances?  The new owners may be awesome, they may not.  The OP wanted a specific experience and she was willing to pay for it.  Nothing wrong with that.

    Based on the various analogies posted, I don’t think that we are appreciating the for the OP, a major component of the experience was the interaction with the former owners.  There is history and relationship there.that spans years.

    So I can easily understand why the OP isn’t interested in going there.  A culinary comparison would be with the term comfort food.  If a particular dish qualifies as comfort food for you, no different version can elicit the same emotion response, no matter how awesome.  Think of the movie Ratatouille.

    In this case, the Inn with the former owners was the OPs version of comfort food.  I’m not surprises she cancelled.

    That being said, she still doesn’t deserve the $60 back and the new owners are probably better off not having her as a guest.

  32. A B&B is more than a hotel. It’s an experience. She paid for the experience. The owners should have told her they were selling, maybe they are the ones who should absorb the extra paperwork charge.

      1. Would be nice if they do. But of course, they’re not “materially” obligated to. (at least not yet…)


  33. I voted “yes”, although not because the OP was “friends” with the old owner. In a small B&B the owners are critical to the experience. According the email from the new owners the sale occurred in January, with transfer of ownership scheduled for July. The website NOW says that it is under new ownership, so clearly the new owners recognize that it is significant information.

    I think that the pending change should have appeared on front page after the papers were signed, as it does now the change has happened, but it should at least have appeared on the reservations page for reservations being made after the changeover. Also, there is STILL no mention of a cancellation fee.

  34. Thirty bucks amount to two drinks and a tip.  Tell ’em to “roll with the punches,”  There are larger outrages in the travel area to occupy your time. 

  35. They lost her business anyway since the reason she cancelled was due to the ownership change.  What is she going to do now?  Go to some other place where she doesn’t know the owners?

    Why not give the new people a chance, instead of cancelling on the basis of the previous owners selling.   Also, she did cause the new owners at least $60 in time and trouble.  There’s no reason to waive the cancellation fee.   Grow up.

  36. She booked the hotel, she got the hotel.  $60 fee isn’t that bad, and you were right when you said she booked a stay at the B&B – she didn’t book a stay with that couple.  Don’t think she really has a legit complaint – and the threatening tactics don’t earn her any brownie points either. 

  37. I thought this claim ridiculous … until the part about not being able to find the cancellation policy on the lodging’s website.  If they don’t publish or convey the information at the time of booking, they cannot collect a fee.  Doesn’t matter WHY the cancellation was made.

    1. Two things on this:
      One- if a cancel fee isn’t shown during the booking process, how stupid is the booker to not call about this BEFORE making a payment?

      Two-the cancel policy shows up when you go to put in your credit card.  It actually should be more accessible IMHO than at this step.

  38. Why not give the new owners a chance?  She may find that she will enjoy the experience just as much with the previous owners.  To stay at a place just because the owners were great and not giving the new ones a chance is not fair. Plus, the TripAdvisor comment is just childish – now you are “threatening” the new owners into giving you your money back. I would just take the loss and move on.  No need to mediate – the OP is proving that she cannot be an adult and play by the rules unless she agrees with the outcome.

  39. How about the inn giving them a $60.00 gift certificate towards a future stay?  Maybe she would like the new owners even better than the last ones.  You would think they might offer that to make someone happy.

  40. I think she is lucky getting any refund at all, cancelling a very nice and very pricey B&B so close to the date they were arriving.

    And who is to say that the previous owners were not just putting on their game face for their customers, and behind closed doors they worship Satan?

    I’m just sayin’, they had a job to do and maybe they did it so well, she thought they were best buds.

  41. Apparently she did not know the proprietors well enough. As early as October 2011, the Chanric Inn was put up for sale.

    I suppose the 2 owners got sick and tired of dealing with the the Calistoga city council. They tried to get a permit to expand the B&B but were given a hard time (neighbors objected to the noise and traffic). Also the city planned to require B&Bs to install fire sprinklers. Part of the former owners’ plan was to ask the council for approval to convert the owners/operators unit to a rental – meaning the hosts would stay off-premises. The OP would have probably complained about missing hosts at night had this been approved.

    Folks listen up. Small businesses have to pay good money to use a reservation system hooked up online or through a GDS. They also pay merchant fees to use a credit card company. If you cancel your reservation and get all your money back, then who would pay for the transaction costs you caused. You don’t expect the paying guests to subsidize your change of plans. So it’s only decent you pay a fair amount for your cancelled reservation.

      1. I have to disagree with you on this Tony.  From what you provided links to and knowing how Calisotga guards their growth very carefully, the former owners had to know this going in.  Calistoga is extremely charming, as I am sure you know having lived over in the valley.  The former owners didn’t have a permit for the 7th room, were given permission to use it, then wanted an 8th room and offsite management.   Foothill Drive is also Hwy 128 with mixed use parcels, and many are private residences.  I get the concern the locals had, as we have had similar changes to local ordiances recently because of vacation rentals not getting permits that added noise and traffic. 

        1. I guess you are right, Bodega. I am in a similar situation. In “New England”, we do have narrow roads that have the traffic only known for highways. I live near the border of Connecticut and New York. Before 9AM when everyone and their brother is driving down from the Westchester to work here in the Stamford area (think hedge funds and financial institutions). There is a steady stream of traffic and I cannot easily get out of my driveway. The pattern is repeated in the reverse direction about 5PM.

          But I have began to understand why people make their homes their place of business. It is so difficult to find a job, or, people do not want to work for big companies. I am not surprised that zoning laws are often violated. My concern is that people have to make a living and many would like to make their home a business.

          1. I remember my first visit to Sandwich, MA out on the Cape. A lot of people worked from their home and had their shingles out advertising.  I thought it was great.  But I also understand the increase in traffic if your business brings people to your place of business when your home is in a residential area.  A dairy across from us had a new owner who wanted a wine tasting room as he was converting the pasture to grapes.  That wasn’t permitted thankgoondness.   

          2. When I lived there, the “good” grapes were concentrated only at Napa. Since then, everytime I read y’alls news, looks like the whole damn coast is now a vineyard. Where are all these grapes going? Not raisins.

          3. No not raisins!  Who would have ever thought that midstate would be wine growing region.  Yes, the whole coast is one huge vineyard and there doesn’t seem to be a glut yet. 

  42. Generally when one buys a business one assumes all of the contractual liabilities of the prior owner. 

    If the deal hadn’t closed at the time the reservation was made, then the new owners should honor whatever cancellation policy/fees the prior owners had established.

    If the reservation was made after the deal closed, then guests must comply with the new owner’s cancellation policy and fees, as long as they were disclosed.

    However, as a matter of goodwill, if I were the new owners of this inn, I would have offered the guest a discount on the existing reservation for being a loyal, past customer of the inn (and to encourage the guest to meet the new owners), or a full-refund if the guest really didn’t want to come to stay since the prior owners had departed.

    As a matter of curiosity, I checked Websites for several B&Bs in the Napa Valley, including this one. Many do not display cancellation policies/fees on the Website, although I did find of range of 7-30 days notice of cancellation, and fees in the $15-$25/room among those who did.

    Last fall, I stayed in Yountville (about half-way up the Napa Valley) on Friday/Saturday nights in order to attend a wedding. That B&B didn’t list its cancellation information online, but did include it in the confirmation e-mail.  It was $15/room if cancellation was made 7 days in advance, one full night’s room rate if cancelled within 7 days, and 30 days and $25/room if one reserved more than one room.

    I wouldn’t mediate this case myself.

    1. Very good research. Thanks for providing some comparison information. Looks like the cancellation fee is reasonable.

  43. this is insane. It might be a really quiet news day.

    Most hotels these days offer absolutely no refund at all, unless you pay the ficticious rack rate, which these days is mostly used as a number to offer, a so called discount off.

    Burton get a life.

    If we was running the place you wouldn’t have got a cent back.

    1. Where?

      The large majority of chain hotels and motels I’ve visited have generous cancellation policies unless it’s a prepaid rate.  It’s the independents and B&Bs that typically have cancellation penalties and 72 hour/7 day/14 day cancellation notices with possible penalties.

      It’s typical that a cancellation policy is that one can still cancel up to 3 PM to 6 PM on the day of the first night’s stay without penalty.  I’ve seen such a policy even with special rates such as auto club or corporate discounts.

  44. So Christopher, my question is: how often do you abide by the poll in determining whether to mediate, and of those, how often does the poll actually change your mind and/or first instincts?

  45. We have a policy, unchanged with the change of owners. We apply it, especially with people without valid reason and  with bad faith. The amount retained is just for covering our credit card costs.
    our Inn offers the same level of services, with new improvements e.g. complementary Nespresso coffees

      1. Jeanne. Chanric was sold to Queribus LLC and that LLC has 2 listed managing members: Jean Marc Dollard and Joel Haddad. The situation is probably similar to Channing and Ric’s partnership. I think Joel and Jean are (originally) ranchers from Paraguay, although they may be French. That said, I wouldn’t mind them being a host for a grand steak dinner.

        However, one thing I have to say is that Nespresso does not cut it for me. Since whenever, I had been roasting my own (green) coffee beans and if the same Joel Haddad is the listed owner of an SF coffee shop named Morning Due Cafe then he probably knows that Nespresso is not really “gourmet”. Nothing to be proud about.

        Added: I really think the OP was expecting that Ric would be her host. After all it was a wedding.
        And the name of Joel and Jeans Ranch in Paraguay is Quebracho. Now that’s the place I might be interested in visiting.
        Note they also breed Charolais, a very tasty beef from France (Burgundy region).

    1. It’s a reasonable policy. 

      This Bridezilla has too much time on her hands to worry about a $60 cancelation fee when she won’t even give you a chance.

  46. I do not think you should mediate.  People should understand that in the business world, ownership of the business can change at any time.  It is not incumbent on the original or new owners to advise or seek the approval of prepaid or any other customers.  This happens all the time.  If the OP and her party had stayed at the inn and had not received the accommodation or service she had contracted or paid for, then she would have a case.  As it stands she is cancelling for personal reasons.  She did not give the new owners a chance.  They have been very reasonable in offering to refund her deposit less the cancellation fee.  They owe her nothing more.

    1. You know when my airline ticket activity is low. I stare at the screen with little to do. Too hot to leave and go anywhere. We’re burning here.

  47. When a business is sold, though, you’re getting the customer base as part of the deal. I could see why the new owners wouldn’t want the old ones to go telling everyone that they’re leaving… and why the old owners wouldn’t want to screw with the sale by doing so.

    1. Customers can not be guaranteed You can sell a customer list, good will but you cannt force anyone to continue to do business with the new owners. It is very bad business to try to conceal the change of ownership in such a small, personal operation if you want to keep the customer base. Just saying. . .

  48. Chris:  I rethought my “yes” answer. While the innkeepers could have not made the extra charge (just in the interest of “goodwil”) I think she is being petty.  She will never stay there again but will probably write a lot of negative stuff about the new owners she has not met. What is the big deal about the old owners?  She is on a honeymoon!  Most honeymooners that I know want to be ALONE.  So, Chris.  No need to moderate this one.  I would firmly say LET THIS ONE GO and glad to see other posters agreed with that!!!!

  49. As do I.  Someone named “Joel Haddad” posted and his post leads me to believe that he’s either the new owner or manager.  His poor command of English makes me think of Motel 6 franchisees.  (Sorry to stereotype, but can’t help making the mental connection.)  The relationship between B&B host and guest makes the difference between a motel stay and a B&B stay.  I would have canceled, too.  (Cancelled, for you non-American English speakers.)  But I guess I would have accepted the cancellation fee as the cost of my decision.

      1. You know, I debated posting it, thinking that someone might think it was somehow racist or nationalistic.  I’m sorry you took it that way.  I did not post it in that spirit.  It was originally intended to be a reply to @TonyA_says:disqus ‘s comment stream: 

        “I do have some sympathy for the OP. I read that Ric is a good chef and that alone is a damn good reason to have him as a host. There is or was something more to Chanric than just a bed and a breakfast fron dunkin donuts. I suppose the guests were pampered and advised where to visit around the area. After all Ric was not just a chef but was also the president of Calistoga Chamber of Commerce.When I stay at a B&B, it’s for the interaction with the owners, not for the conveniences in the rooms.”

        When I stay at a B&B, it is exactly because of the things that Tony mentions, above.  It isn’t because of the coffee maker in the room.  All but one B&B we’ve stayed at provided great coffee or espresso at breakfast and through the day – didn’t need it in the room.  I want to be able to interact with the owner(s) and get local recommendations or suggestions based on our interaction.  I’ve never been able to do that with someone of another language/culture with whom I cannot communicate.  I question Mr. Haddad’s knowledge of the B&B business (he should know amenities are important in motels, not so much in B&Bs) and ability to communicate effectively because of his post.  He may make a great motel manager, but not a B&B manager, and thus my comment. 

        I will apologize for the “Motel 6 franchisee” crack, but not for the rest of the post. 

        1. Don’t think you need to apologize for anything. Most people search out excellent Bed and Breakfasts for the reasons you just said. Yes you need to DISCRIMINATE to find a good B&B. They are not there for just a room like on Motel 6. IMO real B&Bs offer a unique experience. A lot has to do with the hosts (real people who live there with you). Unfortunately, today we have the rent-a-roomers lumped in with B&Bs.

          If one read this article having in mind that the OP wanted a RIC-performed experience and she was not going to get it (because he left), then her complaint makes sense. Ric is a chef and local chamber of commerce executive. The new owners seems to be ranchers from Paraguay. I think people can easily see the difference.

  50. Folks listen up. Small businesses have to pay good money to use a reservation system hooked up online or through a GDS. They also pay merchant fees to use a credit card company. If you cancel your reservation and get all your money back, then who would pay for the transaction costs you caused. You don’t expect the paying guests to subsidize your change of plans. So it’s only decent you pay a fair amount for your cancelled reservation.

    He he. That’s the part some small businesses wish to explain, but are afraid of potentially alienating those who don’t know – much more care – details like that except to get results.

    Thank you for saying that part. Someone had to.

  51. $60?  I spent more than that on cocktails before dinner last week.  Christ you’ve done more damage wasting our time for $60 buck.

  52. I don’t think the $$ amount is egregious, however, I can see her point.  If I were to book at a Marriott and before my stay the same property becomes a Best Western, I believe that I would be entitled to my entire deposit back.

  53. If having the original owners there was so important then she should have called them before she made the reservation to confirm. Even B&B owners go on vacation. No joy here.

  54. I would think if Julie Barton should have call and made the reservation personally by phone and given a credit card and known verbally what the cancellation policy was then. If she were speaking with Ric he should have been able to tell her he was planning on selling if he got a buyer. If it had been sold, he should have been at liberty to say so. If he took the money he was acting as manager for the new owners, but it would have been sneaky for him to not mention the new ownership.
    Online bookings do have some drawbacks.
    $60 cancellation fee of course if done within the time period should be paid if that is the rule under the new management. Julie’s faault for not communicating with her casual friend personally.

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