An Aside on Emails and Hostels

Hey guys,

I know what you’re thinking. It’s not Tuesday, when I usually post (or Wednesday, when I’m behind), but there’s a good reason for it. Maybe. Depends on if you think a small rant is a worthwhile post, I suppose :P.

For those of you who don’t know what my day-to-day job entails… well, it really entails a lot of things, but one of those things is that I write a lot of emails to customers.  I’ve written over 1000 emails in the past year. So I’ve become pretty sensitive to how emails sound, and I have my own (very opinionated) idea on how a good email reply should be written. Which is all fine and good… but what does this have to do with travel?

I recently wrote some nearly-identical emails to several hostels in Christchurch, since that’s my next stop, wondering about availability and any weekly rates and/or winter specials for a range of dates spanning 2 weeks. One thing that I’ve learned is that websites often don’t have the current or correct rates, and sometimes there are “hidden” specials going on which aren’t advertised, so I’ve been planning ahead and asking before I book anything. NZ is currently in the middle of winter, so a good chunk of hostels have special rates in an effort to fill their rooms– why not ask?

I’m not gonna mention the names of these hostels, but here are two replies which I received in response to my inquiry:

Hostel #1:

“Thank you for your email!
We do currently have a bed in a shared room available for your requested dates. Please see our weekly rates below:
<they included a chart here>

To make a booking you can email or telephone our staff on <number omitted>. Your credit card number (Visa or MasterCard), expiry date on the card and your approximate time of arrival are requested. When sending an email we would recommend sending these details in two separate emails for security reasons.
Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any further questions, we would love to have you stay!
Warm Regards, <name omitted>”

Hostel #2:

“Sure.Buy 6 nights & get the 7th free. We may have a bed available in our longterm house which is $20 per day, but wont know until the time you arrive.
To make a reservation, please reply with arrival time & credit card number.
Thanks – <name omitted>”

What a difference! You can guess which hostel just lost my business.

For starters, the second email just came off badly– it was abrupt, and didn’t answer all of my questions. The first thing I thought of was, “are they going to be like that when I get there?” Next question was “how many more emails am I going to have to write in order to get all the info I need?” Not a good first impression to make. That aside, it also sounds like they won’t know if they can accommodate my full range of dates until I actually arrive, which is bad. I guess that works for people who arrive in town and then sort out their accommodation, but doesn’t work for people who plan in advance. I’m confused too on what I’d be making a reservation for, if they aren’t currently sure about availability? Maybe they have space available in their non-long-term house, but just didn’t mention it? Too many unanswered questions, too much unhelpfulness. Next!

Hostel staff are busy people, and from my experience, they really do try to run their hostels as well as possible. I can understand if the staff member replying to my email was short on time and maybe didn’t have time for pleasantries. But at least if one is replying to a potential lodger, one should make it clear if (a) they have space at all for the dates given, and (b) in which room types, no? Very strange. But moot now. Wording matters, especially when trying to gain customers!

A note about the requests for credit card info in those emails – this seems to be normal, as not all hostels have online booking systems. I obviously don’t send my details in emails though.

Rant over. Back to my normal posting schedule on Tuesday!



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