Blog Category: General
Bookerville has been asked many times in recent years to integrate with other payment processors besides PayPal. The context of this question needs to be understood: there are many alternatives to PayPal, and the best of these are true credit card merchant accounts. But for those who either cannot or do not want to go that route, then what they mean by "PayPal alternatives" is really other "lightweight" payment processors like Stripe, Square, Venmo, etc.
True Credit Card Merchant Accounts
Why are credit card merchant accounts better? The top reason is costs: they are usually significantly less expensive than PayPal and PayPal-like alternatives. Their exchange rates for foreign currencies are usually less expensive as well. So depending on your situation, it could be that a merchant account is really your very best solution.
Merchant accounts are more involving to set up though, because they need to tie in to your bank account, they will run a credit check on your business, etc. and there is generally more red tape to get it done. You will also need to choose an Online Payment Gateway that will be used to interface with Bookerville.
All of this takes time, whereas most businesses can set up a PayPal account in five minutes. Some merchant accounts also have either fixed fees per month (in addtion to the rates they charge for each transaction) and/or minimum volumes per month, etc. Generally, merchant accounts are more attractive for larger businesses.
If you want to explore merchant accounts, Bookerville very strongly recommends either The Lynnbrook Group
(for businesses with 10 or more properties), or NDMS
for smaller businesses.
PayPal Alternatives: Which One?
Bookerville has been integrated with PayPal since the beginning, so it has always been, and will continue to be an option for anyone who wants it. But we have since been asked for alternatives, and so now we are considering rolling up our sleeves and doing just that.
Since developing integrations with payment processors is so expensive, we really only want to choose one alternative, at this time. So we are asking for community feedback to determine the best one to start looking at.
Popular candidates we have heard property managers ask about:
If you have any interest in this, we ask you to participate so we can gauge not only overall interest, but also which alternatives will please the most businesses.
Feel free to chime in with other thoughts on this topic here, including "voting" for one of the three listed above, or offering other suggestions.
LauraJoule, September 28, 2022:
Fervalerio, September 28, 2022:
In Mexico we do not have many options, Stripe could be other choice besides Paypal
, September 28, 2022:
Patricia Dalton, September 28, 2022:
My 1st choice would be Venmo, but Stripe is not a bad option either and Square would still be a better alternative to Lynnbrook for me, because I've only got 2 vacation rentals and while I can see myself adding a 3rd, I can't imagine I'll ever have more than 5.
John Amato, September 28, 2022:
For anyone looking for the new and better features of the BridgePay gateway, but are too small to qualify for Lynnbrook, we encourage you to take a look at National Discount Merchant Services (NDMS):
Inflation and the Vacation Rental Industry
July 13, 2022, by John Amato
By now, I trust most of you have realized that inflation has been on fire for several months now, and as of this morning, June's Consumer Price Index (CPI) exposes that it's gotten even higher, at 9.1%. There now appears to be mixed concensus among experts about how much longer this inflationary period will be.
High Prices Probably Here To Stay
If history teaches us anything about economies, it's that inflation really doesn't ever reverse: these new high prices are very likely here to stay. The Federal Reserve's monetary policy and interest rate hikes can really only hope to slow the prices from rising much further.
Assuming the Fed's efforts prevail, then prices will simply "stabilize", which is a bit of a euphemism for "remain at that high level."
How Does It Impact The Vacation Rental Industry?
Bookerville has certainly watched vacation rental rates rise by considerable amounts the past couple of years, but it looks segmented and mostly it has not caught up with other categories. This might sound like unpleasant news for property managers at first blush, but the silver lining is that it likely means there is more room to raise rates higher.
If you haven't raised your rates at all, or only by small percentages over the past year or two, you are probably leaving significant money on the table, so to speak.
Should I Raise My Vacation Rental Rates?
Bookerville highly encourages property managers to watch these trends closely, now more than ever. Be diligent about this: watch what your competitors are doing, both at the local and national levels. If your rates have not risen by as much as surrounding or comparable properties, it's probably time to catch up.
Remember: if everyone else is rasing their rates and you are not, then you are effectively losing income. Why should you and/or your owners earn less than the new going rates? Explore the trends, discover what other businesses are doing, and experiment with raising your rates.
Bookerville also encourages property managers to look into price manager services like PriceLabs, Beyond Pricing, Amadeus, and AirDNA to name a few. And although most of these services are expensive, they all assert that they pay for themselves very quickly, then subsequently start raising your revenue substantially thereafter. Some even offer warranties to back this up. Now more than ever, especially because of the unprecendented high inflation we are currently experiencing, looking into a price manager might be a great way to make sure you are maximizing your revenue.
Bookerville also has an API
that is ready to be used by any price manager, and PriceLabs has already integrated with it. So this can be completely automated with your Bookerville account, and the updated rates will also automatically flow to any listing sites you are using if you are using one of our Channel Manager
Penny (Dime?) For Your Thoughts...
Moreso than perhaps most of our other posts, we are keenly interested in hearing your feedback on this topic. Feel free to chime in with your own observations, predictions, experiences.
John Amato, July 18, 2022:
kblair2010, July 20, 2022:
We have raised our rates significantly here in Hawaii.
Understanding Your Rental Guardian Integration
May 31, 2022, by John Amato
What You Need To Know
You've gone through the process of signing up with Rental Guardian, and Bookerville has set up your products for damage protection and/or cancelation insurance. What's next?
How Bookerville Notifies Rental Guardian
There are two groups of Rental Guardian products: damage protection products and trip cancelation products. Bookerville treats these differently because of the cancelation policies of each group.
For damage protection products, Bookerville waits until 3 days before the guests' arrival date to attempt to send ("post") it to Rental Guardian. This is because bookings can change - get canceled, move dates, move to other properties, etc. - during the time leading up to the arrival date, and so there's not much point in sending the damage protection products to Rental Guardian until closer to the arrival date.
For trip cancelation insurance products, Bookerville posts these the same day (that night) that the booking is created. This is because guests may cancel immediately after purchasing, and so Rental Guardian needs to know about these purchases right away.
Every night, Bookerville looks for Rental Guardian products in your account that are ready to be sent to Rental Guardian. Most of these are sent without any issues, but occasionally it will fail for some reason. The most common reasons Bookerville is unable to successfully post Rental Guardian products to them are:
- Missing/incomplete/incorrect property data
- Missing/incomplete/incorrect guest data
- The product cannot be canceled because it is now past the cancelation date
When this happens, Bookerville sends you (not the guests) an email showing what happened, and the reason Rental Guardian gave for the failure. Sometimes it's obvious and an easy fix: missing guest data? Just go enter it. Other times the reason Rental Guardian returns to us for the failure is incomprehensible, and you will need to contact your Rental Guardian account representative to find out how to handle it.
Bookerville Tries Six Times
Bookerville will make six (6) consecutive attempts, one per night, to post Rental Guardian products that are scheduled to be sent. This is because in the cases where it's easy to correct (missing guest data), you can correct it and simply wait for the next night's attempt.
After the 6th failure (for the same product), Bookerville will make no more attempts to post it, and you will need to handle it manually in your Rental Guardian dashboard. Bookerville expresses this in the emails it sends to you each night.
Manage By Exception
Rental Guardian provides a valuable service that can be lucrative for the property manager, and also simplifies running your vacation rental business. Bookerville's integration makes it even easier, with the occasional exception that has to be handled.
As always, if confused just email us and we are happy to help.
Embeddable Widgets and 3rd-Party iFrames
February 27, 2021, by John Amato
Bookerville provides many popular "widgets" that you can plop into any of your web-pages using a technique called iFrames. You can view all of these widgets here: Embeddable Widgets
The most popular of these is the Public Booking Calendar, but the Multi-Property Search, Public Master Calendar, rate tables, inquiry forms, and others are also very widely used by many property managers.
What Are 3rd-Party iFrames?
We are going to have to get a little technical here to explain this. iFrames have been around since at least the late 1990's. It's a simple way to automatically create a small box on your webpage that shows the content of another website.
This is very helpful for things like the Bookerville Public Booking Calendar for your property(ies). You plop in a simple iFrame tag into your webpages's HTML code, and the Bookerville Public Booking Calendar for that property appears right in that box in your webpage. And since Bookerville lets you choose custom accent colors, you can make this blend in pretty nicely into your page.
Widgets embedded as iFrames are much, much simpler and easier to install into your webpages than the alternative, which is hiring a professional web developer to build you a custom website (or modify your existing one) to make use of Bookerville's API. Embeddable widgets using iFrames are a much easier and much less expensive solution.
The iFrames you use to do this are called 3rd-party iFrames because they point to a different domain-name (bookerville.com) than the domain of your website.
So What's The Problem?
Over the past four years or so, the various browsers have started looking at 3rd-party iFrames as a security issue. I have still not read anything at all that really adequately explains the supposed security issues of 3rd-party iFrames, but there is a lot of material out there that asserts this to be true.
Because of this, browsers (Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Edge, and if you must, Internet Explorer) have been gradually making it harder and harder to effectively use 3rd-party iFrames. In fact, Chrome was the first to completely shut it down with the version that started rolling out about a year ago (early 2020).
The symptom of this is that the widget will still display
ok when you first view your webpage, but upon trying to interact with it, you'll soon get the dreaded "session timeout" errors, and you can't make any progress.
Because of this, we started advising our clients to link
to the various widgets instead of trying to embed them, because the link approach is not having any problems at all.
Then Why And How Are iFrames Back?
I don't know why - perhaps because of so many complaints from various organizations using 3rd-party iFrames legitimately? - but modern browsers are now allowing 3rd-party iFrames. As long as certain special "headers" are present in the content of the 3rd-party serving domain (bookerville.com, in this case), they will permit those 3rd-party iFrames to work as intended.
So we began investigating and testing this around May of 2020. It was very difficult and involving; the documentation on this is very cryptic, very vague. It also required migrating to newer versions of our technology stack, which in turn caused several other significant issues that had to be discovered through testing, developed around, and tested again. It has been a long, tedious, frustrating, and very expensive process.
But the fruits of this effort have shown that 3rd-party iFrames are indeed working again, even on the newest of the major browsers.
What Does This Mean For Me?
Most of you will probably not be affected at all. If you were one of the groups that switched your Bookerville widgets to be links instead of embedded iFrames, then you may wish to experiment with converting them back to embedded iFrames, if you prefer that solution. We advise that you try it with only one or two properties, test it thoroughly, and even then let that test property prove that it works well for a variety of guests for a few weeks before switching all your properties back to embedded iFrames.
When testing: it's always best to test your widgets when positively signed out of your Bookerville account. This ensures that you are most-closely mimicking the same experience of an anonymous guest to your website.
Will iFrames Work Forever Now?
That is the big question isn't it? We sure hope so - but this contentious technology has gone back and forth over the years, with various browser brands choosing to not support them, only to reverse their stance a year later, etc. It's been a frustrating situation for a long time.
What Bookerville is still recommending to clients is to just link
to these widgets instead of embedding them. Links are a much more reliable way of achieving integration: the various widgets look and work their best when they are running in their own, stand-alone page, and links provide that ideal context for them. Also, by not embedding them into your page you will be immune to the fickle tantrums of the browser gods in the future.
As always, contact us if you need help, or have questions/concerns about any of this.
Minimum Days Between Bookings
May 19, 2020, by John Amato
COVID-19 Vacation Rental Features
We sure hope that everyone is staying healthy. And though COVID-19 sure seems to be trying to wreck this Summer, Bookerville has introduced new features to alleviate and help with the impact.
Minimum Days Between Bookings
Some areas are now doing a "soft open" for vacation rentals. This is good news for businesses, but also presents some challenges. Some locations are requiring a minimum number of days between bookings, so that any COVID-19 present on surfaces will die before the next guests arrive.
Bookerville has implemented a new optional setting to force a minimum number of days between bookings. On the Bookerville internal booking system, this is enforced when guests choose dates on the Public Booking Calendar. It can be found in the Property Setup page:
Channel Managers, Listing Sites
Bookerville is also vending this new setting now on our Property Details API feed. For those of you using the Bookerville API directly, the name of the new field is <MinDaysBetweenBookings>. We have asked both Channel Managers whether listing sites are supporting this feature, but it appears that so far, they are not.
To alleviate this, we are offering a new option for your iCal feeds as well as the Bookerville Availability API that the Channel Managers read. These new options will automatically "pad" bookings on either side with enough days to cover your minimum-days-between-bookings setting.
You can control whether this setting will cause your iCal feeds to "pad" days around each booking to reflect this in the availability that listing sites see. It will do the same thing to the Availability API if you (or a Channel Manager you're with) are using that. This should prevent guests from booking on those sites too close to existing bookings.
Please note: this new exploratory feature may not work with 3rd-parties reading your availability data, and there are two things to be aware of:
1) If there are existing (future) bookings that are already closer together than your minimum-days-between-bookings setting, the system cannot (will not) go change those bookings. You will have to manually deal with those existing bookings.
2) It's possible that due to the placement of existing bookings on your calendar, if you make this minimum-days-between-bookings setting, it could cause iCal feeds (and/or the Availability API) to express overlapping bookings. This could confuse groups reading that availability data, so if you use this new feature, be sure to monitor it carefully, and work with your partners to make them aware of what you're doing and why.
Unearned Revenue Report
Bookerville also has provided a new report called "Unearned Revenue", which shows payments received for future-arriving bookings. This can be helpful for potential relief and/or insurance claims, as well as identifying your potential liability for refund requests, etc.
Bookerville is paying close attention to the COVID-19 crisis, and making sure we are doing everything possible to help our partners through this unprecedented event. If you have ideas for improvements, or feedback on the features we have implemented so far, please let us know.
pch, January 2, 2021:
Hello John. Happy New Year! I hope covid has not sidelined you or any of your group. How to I utilize the new "padding" option in the ical? What I am finding is that with airbnb the following is happening: airbnb allows me to buffer reservations, "block" the calendar automatically one day before and one day after. However, these days, and days I block (on airbnb) for maintenance are not being "read" by Bookerville. I worked with airbnb support this evening and they think, after some testing, that the issue is on the Bookerville side. SO - two things. How can I implement the "padding" on the Bookerville ical AND is there a known issue whereby Bookerville is not accepting airbnb "padding" days? What I have done so far: deleted Bookerville calendar on airbnb and and updated the ical on both sides, re-synched both sides. None of the airbnb "padding" days carry over to Bookerville. Airbnb said to reach out to you and see if the issue is on the Bookerville side. Do you want this issue here or in a bug report? Pam
John Amato, January 3, 2021:
Hi Pam - couple things here I want to make sure you (and anyone else reading this public page) understand:
1) The feature Bookerville has implemented is that you can tell Bookerville to pad extra days on both ends of each booking, so that even though a booking might be Saturday-to-Saturday, Bookerville will express it in the iCal feeds as Friday-to-Sunday. It will appear to anything reading the Bookerville iCal feed as a single booking that spans those 9 nights (instead of the actual 7 nights). Does this make sense?
Also - in order to turn that on, you must check this box:
2) The next part of what you're saying above, sounds like you've also turned on a similar feature inside your AirBnB dashboard, do I have that right? If so, then do you know if theirs works the same way Bookerville's does? Do they just express each booking as having an extra day on each end?
pch, January 3, 2021:
Hi John. 1) I found the setting you are talking about. If I select that to pad on the Bookerville side will it then send that to airbnb via ical?
2) Yes, I have turned this on in Airbnb. It blocks, on the airbnb calendar the day before and after a booking. A booking for January 5-7 would show the booking as a stand alone entry and then on either side of that booking it shows "prep" time and blocks the days either side of the actual booking. What is not happening is those days blocked in airbnb are not coming into Bookerville when I synch.
Also, if I block a day in airbnb for maintenance it does not come into Bookerville. I have not tried the reverse, block on the Bookerville side and have it read onto the airbnb calendar.
I know a channel manager might help with this but last I checked (exhaustively with two of them I believe) while they look great, they are not a good fit for a "mom and pop" single listing such as ours.
John Amato, January 4, 2021:
Ok. So yes, when you check that box, Bookerville starts including those padded days on each side of each booking, in the iCal feeds (as well as Bookerville's Availability API, if others are using that).
As for the padded days not making it into Bookerville: is AirBnB publishing these in their iCal feeds? You can bring up one of their iCal feeds by just pasting the URL into a browser, have a look at the start and end dates they are showing there...
pch, January 4, 2021:
I checked that box and synched calendars. In Bookerville it did not then pad existing imported reservations. I looked at each ical feed in a browser. The Airbnb is exporting padded days and blocked maintenance days but Bookerville is not importing them from Airbnb. Bookerville is exporting padded days to my Airbnb calendar. BUT Bookerville calendar is not showing any of these padded days. For example for a reservation right now in Airbnb a guest cannot book the night of January 14 but in Bookerville a guest could. For blocked days for maintenance (blocked on Airbnb calendar) A guest cannot book January 5 or 6 but if a guest uses my public Bookerville calendar, they can book those days. Now that I think about it this started happening last fall but I simply went in to Bookerville and physically "booked by owner" days either side of my imported Airbnb reservations after we had some back to back reservations made from the Bookerville side, not knowing what else to do.
John Amato, January 4, 2021:
Ok - lots going on here, and I think we will need to move this to email because it's getting complex. After we figure out these myriad issues, we can update this blog thread for the benefit of others. Emailing you now...
"From" Address and Bookerville Email Delivery
November 12, 2018, by John Amato
How Bookerville Sends Email
Bookerville has no choice but to default to sending out emails with a "From" address of email@example.com, because the emails are in fact being sent from the Bookerville email servers. One of the first things spam filters look at is where (what ip address) the email came from, and then they do a reverse DNS lookup
to see what domain that ip address belongs to. Of course, for Bookerville it's going to come back as bookerville.com, as it should.
If we place your
email address in the "From" address and send it from Bookerville, it has an extremely
high chance of getting rejected as spam, because the "From" address must be the domain that the email is sent from.
The Almighty "From" Address
So we instead place "firstname.lastname@example.org" as the "From" address, and then place your email address in the "Reply-To" address. For most modern email clients, this will cause replies to be automatically drafted to go to your
email address, but sometimes this doesn't happen: we do in fact get some correspondence that clearly is meant for the property manager, and then we have to reply to them and make sure they send it to you.
This also still causes some email systems to flag it as spam because they don't even really like it when the "Reply-To" address is a domain other than the one the email originated from.
Sender Policy Framework (SPF) Records
The real solution is to put your
email as the "From" address. But in order to do that, you must grant bookerville.com permission to send email on behalf of your domain. This is done with something called Sender Policy Framework (SPF)
records. These are simple records that your domain-name provider sets up, and these SPF records are visible to the Internet. Mail servers will look up your SPF records and see that you've granted Bookerville permission to send email on behalf of your domain, and then let your emails through, even though the "From" address isn't the same domain as the one sending the email.
Clear As Mud?
In short: we are asking everyone to please go through the steps to establish SPF records to grant bookerville.com permission to send email on behalf of your domain, so that we can reduce rejected email, and also reduce the number of emails we are having to manually re-direct back to you. Everyone wins, including the confused guests!
How Do I Do It?
To setup the proper SPF records to do this, you are going to have to work with your email/website and/or DNS provider, because it's different for all of them. Usually this is the same group, like GoDaddy, Network Solutions, HostGator, Enom, DreamHost, Namecheap, etc. Or you may be using Yahoo, Web.com, WordPress, or other services that combine domain-name, email, and web-hosting all in one package (this is very popular). They will need to work with you to setup your SPF records. Tell them you want to set up SPF records to grant bookerville.com permission to send email on behalf of your domain.
They should know what to do, but feel free to loop us in wherever we can be helpful.
If you don't have your own domain name, or even if you do but you're not using it for your email address, then it really is time to fix that. It's not at all difficult to set up an email address for your domain name, and you can ask your hosting group for help with that.
If you don't have your own domain, create one. This can be fun, and honestly it will only legitimize your business further and provide you with a more professional image.
Once the proper SPF records have been set up, please contact us so that we can switch your account to start using your own email address as the "From" in all your Bookerville-generated email.
Here are some other articles which go into some more detail:Adding SPF records, GoDaddy HelpSender Policy Framework (SPF) - WikipediaEmail Spam and SPF RecordsSetting up SPF Records With GoDaddy
mjcorn0115, January 9, 2019:
Netywork solutions says you have to provide me the SPF record
John Amato, January 9, 2019:
mjcorn0115: they are wrong, but we don't mind figuring it out with you. Please email me (email@example.com), as you won't want the contents displayed on this public page (for security reasons).
Chris Nagle, May 23, 2019:
I want to reply to my guests, not myself. When I receive an email I have to look up their email address. Also I do not receive emailed payment receipts from Lynnbrook, I check the Merchant Box to have them sent to me. Can you help me with this?
John Amato, May 23, 2019:
Hi Chris - the first issue I don't understand, and the second one is either your email system is marking them as spam, or Lynnbrook needs to look into it and see what's happening. Email me so we can discuss the first issue.