Dear customers, partners, and friends -
The global coronavirus pandemic is affecting all of us, both at home and at work, and the challenges we face are unprecedented. We wanted to provide you an update on the actions we’re taking at MyVR in these uncertain times.
As concern levels rose over the past month, we first turned to the safety and well-being of our team, taking preventative measures for the sake of reducing transmission of the virus in our communities as well as ensuring our continued availability for our customers through this crisis.
Several weeks ago, we shut down business travel at MyVR and encouraged all team members to work from home. Last week, we formally shut down offices and mandated all team members work from home for the foreseeable future. Our team is resilient and has adapted well to working remotely; we are all determined and focused on supporting you through this difficult period.
With these preventative measures in place, we turned focus to you, our customers. We are hearing from many of you at a more frequent pace, as you work through the challenges created by a decline in bookings and an increase in cancellations that have never been experienced before. We at MyVR are allocating more resources to help with this increase in customer requests with the goal of responding to your tickets as quickly and thoroughly as possible.
We also understand that many of you are grappling with some new and unique challenges, some requiring creative and bold solutions. We are starting this COVID-19 thread in our community forum in order to invite you all to share what you are seeing there with one another. We welcome you to seek help from the hundreds of property managers who use MyVR. We also hope that you will share some of your learnings and best practices from the past few weeks to help others navigate these unchartered waters.
We know many of you are experiencing pain, some quite significant. Candidly, we are, as well. We are here for you. We are hopeful that we can all work through this temporary but significant challenge together, support each other, and emerge stronger because of it.
If you have any questions or thoughts you want to share with us directly, please respond to this email - we want to help in any way we can.
We wish you all health and safety,
The MyVR Team
Will the commission paid to MyVR on now refunded reservations be refunded to us as PMs?
I am concerned that now not only are we losing rental revenue, but, also paying commissions on money that we have lost - please tell me this isn't true...
Hi Bob - I appreciate your question and totally understand the concern. We're candidly going to need a little time to answer this definitively. I will report back on this when we are able to do so.
Our terms and conditions state (and have always stated) that "we do not grant refunds... under any circumstances". In practice, we've been a bit more lenient than that. While we haven't given cash/credit card refunds for this, we often give an account credit back for the commission on the refunded booking for you to use against a future booking commission. Ideally we can do something similar here for you.
We are trying to get our arms around this current situation on a macro level, as our customers are. This particular item you are inquiring about is also complicated by many reservations being canceled without a full refund (e.g. PM's letting the traveler cancel but giving the traveler a credit for a stay next year). We are going to need some time to dig into this and figure out how to best handle it. There's obviously a lot to address right now, but I hope to have an answer by the end of the month and will report back when I do.
Thank you for your patience and continued support.
Thank you Jonathan. I realize that this is a lot to wrap our arms around, but, with VR channels providing full refunds with or without our permission and PM's following suit to maintain ranking and metrics on these VR channels, I would hope that MyVR would follow suit in this current pandemic situation and consider the PM's who use your platform as many of us struggle through cancellation after cancellation.
I understand the accounting logistics that this creates, but, to lose money on money that has been refunded and is no longer revenue due to this global situation is unfathomable.
Looking forward to your response.
@bob-jedrzejek We are all losing our commissions. MyVR should really step up to the plate on this one. We actually had no choice in the cancellations that came from Airbnb. Ethically, we also had no choice but to begin cancelling and refunding the others. You are going to continue to make plenty of money off of us when things are back to normal. There are a lot of property management softwares out there. Personally, I do not want to change but your decision on this will certainly inform my business decisions when the dust settles. You may want to think long term here.
I'll get back to everyone soon, as promised, but the information Chris posted here is inaccurate. Please, please, please do not spread misinformation. It's just not going to help anyone. I understand we're all stressed out and are all trying to survive this.
Unfortunately we have no control over what the channels do. In fact, we've been working behind the scenes with several of the channels arguing on your behalf and sharing data to help them see how their policy changes are impacting you all (and us) to the point of death to the businesses of many. We understand any steps you may need to take in regards to your Airbnb distribution given their policy changes and our team is here to help you through whatever changes you need to make.
These are very rough times for all of us, folks. This is unprecedented. Our team is here through these times to support you as best we can. I'll be back to this thread soon when I can come up for air.
I contacted Stripe to ask them what they were doing to contribute to the difficulties we all are facing. They had no action plan. Every company (even our own) should have a response and reach out to our customers before most of them reach out to us.
I asked Stripe to refund fees on credit card refunds for the 30-60 days. I was disappointed to learn that I had to submit to them a lot of projections as to what this hardship was going to cost me personally, and then they would research it and get back to me. I explained that we are already losing 100% of our revenue, but to have to pay expenses related to the lost revenue is a kick in the teeth. I'm hopeful that they will see clearly and meet my request. But I would suggest that each individual reach out to them as well to make the same request. It may be helpful to them to know what their customers expect from them.
FYI, we reached out to Stripe about a week ago asking them to consider a temporary policy where they would refund fees for all MyVR customers for the next 90 days.
We have had engagement from them on the topic, and have shared some information and estimates with them, but we do not have a decision from them yet. We expected to have one yesterday. We will keep trying - I just checked in with them again this morning.
If they DO approve this, I have to assume they won't go backwards and retroactively refund on prior cancellations (but am not sure), so I guess just keep this in mind if you have cancellations you're still needing to process. I'll update here as soon a I have an answer either way.
I like your advice to reach out to them and ask what they can do (you can mention MyVR). If I could be so bold for anyone who does, please remember when you do that there are humans on the other side who are likely going through very troubling times, as well.
and as a reminder, Stripe currently refunds their fees on Stripe accounts created before 9/14/17 but they recently sent out a notice saying this policy will cease as of 4/1/20. Accounts created on or after 9/14/17 have never refunded fees. Our request to Stripe was to refund fees for the next 90 days on both - regardless of creation date.
We have obviously pushed back w/ Stripe on this refund policy repeatedly in the past - both back when they made the change on new accounts and then recently when they announced the change to the legacy accounts. I wish we could have had an impact but they're obviously a massive company. Hopefully we can at least get some relief for MyVR users for the upcoming months when cancellations will be high.
Thanks @Jonathan-Murray for helping fight the good fight! Excellent advice about remembering that we're all human in this situation. I wish some of my guests had considered that before they called me. I honestly had people yell at me before I could even tell them I was overriding my cancelation policy to give them a full refund already. Everyone is frustrated, so a little LOVE goes a long way.
I heard back from my contact with Stripe and was told the following:
"There isn't anything we can do platform-wide, but we might be able to look into individual accounts. I'm really sorry we're not able to waive these fees across all of MyVR right now. Card network costs to process transactions have been increasing, so we unfortunately have to pass some of those costs on to users.
Can the users who are most concerned about fees on their refunds due to COVID-19 get in touch with us directly at https://support.stripe.com/contact/? We'd be happy to evaluate them and see if we're able to do anything." (bolding is mine)
I would encourage folks to try this and let others know here if they're successful.
Thanks Jenny. I shared the same feedback to Stripe.
Thank you Jonathon for following up with Stripe. Obviously, it is very disappointing to hear their reply. I hope MYVR can address the same question to us as customers in a more positive manner.
We are all in this together.
I am losing revenue and am willing to sacrifice that, but expect my business partners to step up and share.
This is very frustrating to me. I feel like I'm being kicked while I'm down. Sadly, on top of the fees, they've now notified me that they are also going to withhold 25% of my revenue for 28 days on a rolling basis because I had a high volume of refunds. This DESPITE the fact that they withdraw the total needed funds for these refunds from my checking on a DAILY basis and have had no insufficient funds. So now, they are withholding 25% of the small revenue I DO have for 28 days on top of keeping the fees. This makes no sense to me.
@Jonathan-Murray - THANK YOU for getting involved with higher management about this! I tried but basically got the following message:
"I understand the situation you're in right now however, I’m very sorry that, right now, we’re unable to release the reserve due to the ongoing risk of potential refunds and chargebacks in your industry. Due to this preventive measure, your customers will be able to get their refunds as expected, including any chargebacks that they initiate. We’ll continue to monitor what’s happening in the industry and will automatically remove this reserve as soon as we are able. You can review the reserve balance within your Dashboard at any time"
I would like to see a statement from them, as most other companies have issued, about what they are doing outside of the box to help ALL of their customers during this global crisis. While I appreciate that everyone is struggling during this time, most businesses are going outside of normal practices to help their customers and communities. It sounds like business as usual there. This is where companies choose to demonstrate whether they want to be a long term strategic business partner, or just a short term supplier.
I agree, Jenny. I would think that your high refund rate would be a good thing to them. You're doing the right thing and refunding people. It sounds from the message the Stripe rep sent you that your refund rate might have tripped their algorithm (because normally this would be concerning to them), but in light of COVID-19, that's exactly what they should want you to do.
Jenny knows this already but I've been working on this issue. My Stripe contact sent me this:
"Thanks for letting me know about your users who've gotten notifications of funds being held. We have some normal withholding measures on event and travel-related businesses due to risks of negative balances from refunds and disputes that are heightened right now due to this... We're digging into it right now to see if we can remove that from accounts on your platform or if there are any other accommodations we can make on that specifically. Can you send me the account ID's who are seeing that?"
If anyone else has this happen (a freeze on some % of your funds), please open a ticket with our support team and provide them with your Stripe ID and mention this post. We'll work with our Stripe contact to have them manually review each account. Note - this is specific to the issue (to request they refund your credit card fees on your refunded transactions per earlier in the thread, you should still contact Stripe support at the link I mentioned in my earlier post.
Thanks and good luck, everyone.
OK, I have some more info from Stripe on this. It sounds like ~5% of MyVR users are currently experiencing this, and it's tied to their Stripe account balances going negative.
When your Stripe account balance does negative, their system gets worried in that situation because they have to initiate a draw from your bank account and it slows down their ability to send the refund to the consumer (traveller). Usually, they just net it out from the funds you have coming in, but I am guessing that the slow down in bookings at the same time is causing the Stripe account balances to go negative. I imagine they are also concerned the funds might not be there, though he didn't say that. Across their entire platform, they probably have a lot of risk with that right now given a likely spike in negative account balances.
Their advice is for us is to warn our users about going negative in their Stripe balance due to an increase in refunds or chargebacks. They are going to launch a tool this week that allows users to make it easy for users to fund their Stripe account before running refunds to ensure they don't go negative. Currently you can do it by wiring them money, but the new tool likely makes it easier.
Here is the last email to me on this from our contact at Stripe:
*"Funding negative balances on accounts in US, CA, GB, and AU generally happens automatically via bank account debits. Since we aren't able to debit bank accounts in other countries, we can either take funds out of future payments, or users can wire us funds to cover the balance. General info on that in the link below, and I can also send over wire info for users who run into negative balances or who want to avoid a negative balance by sending us funds before processing a large volume of refunds if that's helpful. We're going to be releasing a new option for users to top up accounts from the Dashboard this coming week to eligible users, so your connected accounts should keep an eye out for that as well
Unfortunately we can't exempt these accounts from balance reserves, and we may have to include more accounts in the future depending on what happens. We know MyVR and other businesses in this industry are hit particularly hard by the pandemic -- we've been tracking an increase in refunds and chargebacks across the industry. A reserve ensures there's enough to cover refunds and chargebacks, which means your users' customers can continue to get their refunds on time rather than having to wait until the account is funded if the balance goes too far negative. We're keeping a close eye on this, and we'll proactively remove the reserves as soon as we can."*
@fonda-mueller I am confused by your comments - are they to me or MyVR? We have had no problem doing the right thing in this case, all we were asking is what is the position for MyVR on the commissions paid on the refunds being returned to our guests. I can imagine what MyVR is going thru as a company, as all of us are going thru some serious business challenges - but, in the end, we all need to work together to resolve this. Hang tough, stay well!
Just saw this VRMIntel article which I thought might be helpful to many of you as you navigate how to handle the spike in cancellation requests - particularly those of you who also have a relationship to maintain with homeowners on the other side:
It speaks to property managers having success with offering future credits in lieu of a refund (and there's a sample message in there to use with guests for those who are interested). What other things have people tried to slow down the bleeding and how have they worked?
I asked Stripe if they could provide a little more clarity around the accounts that got a partial freeze and why. I just got back the below email. Hope it helps for anyone trying to avoid this (or get out of it).
I think the takeaway is that maintaining a positive balance in Stripe is a key factor, but perhaps not a 100% guarantee in itself. And in addition to replenishing/pre-funding the account manually before issuing refunds (as previously mentioned in this thread), you can also turn your account to manual payouts, so as to keep funds in there to cover refunds/chargebacks so that Stripe deems you as lower risk of going negative.
Of course, happy to provide as much info as I can to help. Let me try to clarify the questions you've posed.
First I want to clarify how the reserves work. These are rolling 28-day 25% reserves, not a full balance freeze, meaning that on a given transaction, 75% of the balance is paid out immediately, and 25% is withheld for 28 days. These are based on an account-specific determination of the risk of a negative balance to ensure the account continues to have enough funds to cover future refunds or chargebacks so that customers can receive their funds as quickly as possible. This is determined primarily by our risk model, which means there isn't one specific thing causing the reserves nor a defined list of actions an account can take to definitively avoid this.
Taking a look at [accounts impacted by the freeze], the negative balance and large number of refunds were likely contributing factors to us setting a reserve, but probably not the only ones. Reserves can be placed on accounts that the model deems at risk even if they haven't had negative balances or large volumes of refunds or chargebacks. On the other hand, an account may also go slightly negative without triggering a reserve, depending on the other factors at play. Right now the hospitality/travel industry is being particularly hit by refunds and chargebacks, so we're ending up putting reserves on more accounts in that industry.
While I can't say for sure that it will prevent a reserve being placed on an account, avoiding a negative balance will definitely reduce the likelihood of it. Accounts can do this by prefunding before processing a large number of refunds as discussed and by switching to manual payouts so that balances are by default kept in the account until the user actively removes them.
Does this help give a better sense of how these reserves work and when and why they're implemented? Again, I want to stress that we're continually monitoring accounts with reserves to remove it as soon as we can.
@jenny-oest Hi Jenny. I wanted to let you know that I reached out to Stripe about this and experienced the same thing you did. They asked for quite a bit of information on lost revenue - which I took the time to gather.
The good news is, they did refund me the fees TO DATE for refunds I have and have said they will continue to for all virus related refunds.
As for a negative balance in my Stripe account, you must have allot more rentals then I do. I was told as long as there is a positive balance in the bank account my Stripe account is connected to, refunds will be delayed a few days but no problems.
I am disappointed that MYVR has not stepped up as well.
Thanks for all the help and support you have provided me.