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I booked through booking.com about 2 months ago, made a prepayment and everything. The place I booked has free cancellation up until 2 weeks prior.

Now, the host has e-mailed me offering me a discount on the payment if I cancel the booking? The host says that the booking will still be mine and it will still be reserved for me, they just want me to cancel it. The host also states that it is not mandatory, it’s just an offer.

Of course, this sounds so dodgy. I’ve already made a prepayment, so there’s no way I’m going to cancel it and trust the host?

Why is the host offering me this? It’s so strange.

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    Following this with interest I have never heard anything like it in 30 years of traveling, maybe the host want to avoid paying the fee to booking.com ? – Matt Douhan Jul 20 at 23:07
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    You’re also risking that they don’t hold the booking for you but offer it to someone willing to pay more. Generally, where financial matters are concerned, if it sounds too good to be true it usually is. – Traveller Jul 20 at 23:20
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    @MattDouhan trying to bypass your employer by taking cash directly from the customer without a contract and receipt is quite commonplace in certain cultures. Cheating on booking.com in the same way is a logical step. – IMil Jul 22 at 1:13
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    I think you should report them and cancel your reservation trough booking i'm sure you can find a trusty host. Think this way if you do what the host is asking you'll end up in his hands he can give you a bad room or something you have no way to contest through booking, on the other hand if you refuse and go on with the reservation on booking you are starting your trip with someone dodgy to whom you already denied something. I rather start fresh new with another host from that put me in that position. – Teker Jul 22 at 7:22
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    @Teker It doesn't really matter if you can't contest through booking, in my experience they can't refund the money to you if the hotel itself doesn't authorize it. I booked a hotel through booking.com, when we got there it was dirty and bed bug infested, so we moved rooms, this room had the same problem except the light in the bathroom also didn't work. We didn't stay, spent maybe 2 hours on the phone with booking.com, they told me that the hotel wouldn't refund my money so there was nothing they could do. Had to eat the cost of the hotel we didn't stay at, and the one that we did stay at. – GrumpyCrouton Jul 22 at 15:09
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Part of the host's contract with booking.com is that booking.com will take a commission fee of 10-25% out of each booking made through them.

So if you cancel your booking.com reservation and pay the host directly, the host will get the full amount of your payment, instead of just 75-90% of it, and booking.com gets cut out of the deal. The discount they're offering is a sort of kickback so that you get a piece of the savings also.

However, this sort of thing is undoubtedly forbidden by the host's contract with booking.com, so basically they are asking you to help them defraud booking.com. If booking.com finds out about this, they'll probably cancel the host's account, and maybe sue them if they've been doing it a lot. I don't know whether you yourself would be at any legal risk as well, but it certainly doesn't seem like a very good idea to me.

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    If the host is willing to break their contract with booking.com, there is no reason to trust them to keep a deal with the OP. – Patricia Shanahan Jul 20 at 23:36
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    Cancelling your booking would also mean cancelling any guarantees booking.com may offer. If it turns out to be a scam, the place is unacceptable, or something else goes wrong, booking.com has no responsibility anymore. – Zach Lipton Jul 21 at 3:22
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    They may also want to give your room for someone that isn't booked via booking.com so they get an extra 10-25%, while you end up with no room. – Nelson Jul 22 at 1:28
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    @ZachLipton Does booking.com offer any guarantees besides the ability to write a bad review about a place you didn't like? – Dmitry Grigoryev Jul 22 at 8:50
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    Reading of booking.com T&C shows that they have a Price Match. By using the Price Match, booking.com would possibly happily Price Match the discount, whilst thanking your for reporting the host. – Aron Jul 22 at 10:19
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TL;DR Keep your original booking.

It's possible that the host found out that the demand on accommodation for the period of your booking went up, so they will have no trouble renting the place for more money to someone else if you cancel. Or maybe they are already overbooked and are looking for the least expensive way out.

The thing you have to understand is that between the moment you cancel and the moment you rebook (with the same host or otherwise), you have no room. If you have free cancellation, at least don't cancel until you have a new confirmed booking on better terms.

Also keep in mind that booking.com provides added value to you compared to a reservation on the side. E.g. the host will be inclined to give better rooms to booking.com customers who can otherwise trash them in reviews.

If you go to a certain place regularly, it's a good idea to forego booking.com and get a reservation directly with the host you know and trust. This doesn't seem to be your case though.

6

The person who has contacted you as "the host" may not be who they say they are. They could be a junior employee who is able to slip you the key to an unbooked room, while pocketing your reservation fee. They could even be a scammer totally unconnected to the accommodation who has found out you are staying there (maybe from your social media posts, or maybe they have hacked into the accommodation's booking.com account). They would take your money, but when you arrived at the accommodation you would have no booking.

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Other answers have pointed out that the host probably wants to defraud booking.com. They're probably honest to you, but you may not want to count on probably.

One similar situation that is probably not fraud: suppose you're staying there already and want to renew your stay. You could do so through booking.com, or directly with the landlord. By then you'd already know them in person, and know the place, so it would be safer for you to do so.

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