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Cancelling a booking with Makati Crown Regency through Getaroom.com

Cancelling a booking with Makati Crown Regency through Getaroom.com

On the rare occasion that a double booking occurs at Alcoves we either upgrade the guest to a nicer room with us or find them alternate accommodations at an equal or nicer place.

This is how I ended up booking at Makati Crown Regency, in order to accommodate an overbooked guest. Booking online a room with Makati Crown Regency was painless and quick.

However the double booked Alcoves guest ended up no longer needing the room. As such, I had to cancel the booking with Makati Crown Regency. And this is where the story gets interesting.

I called up Makati Crown Regency, gave my confirmation number and asked to cancel the booking. I note that I tried to cancel the booking online but the link provided in the confirmation email had no option to cancel or modify the booking.

Makati Crown Regency  confirmed the booking but said they couldn’t cancel it as the booking had been done online. I said fine, transfer me to someone who can cancel the booking. I get transferred to the reservations manager who, after also having to call someone to check the procedure for cancellation, informed me I would have to contact the online agent from which I had booked the room from. (I had booked through Getaroom.)

Again I said alright do they have a phone number I can reach the online agency with(at this point I was already dubious since Getaroom is an international site). After some fumbling on the other end, I am informed they do not have a phone number, only an email address. A little exasperated at this point I say that it’s kind of silly that even though I am already directly talking to the hotel with which I have a confirmed booking with I can’t cancel said booking. They say they can only give me an email address.

Resigned I get the email and send a request right away. Honestly I was pretty sure I would get no reply or at best a reply a couple of days later. But in fairness someone replied within a couple of hours to confirm my cancellation.

So on one hand the current method to cancel a booking is pretty silly, Kafkaesque even. Even though you’re talking to the hotel with which you have a booking, and the hotel confirms the same, you can’t cancel the booking. On the other hand the roundabout method in place now works well, if you can get over your initial skepticism that someone will reply to your email.

After all that trouble I never even stayed at the Crown Regency.

Online Booking at Manila Peninsula is a mess

Online Booking at Manila Peninsula is a mess

Considering Manila Peninsula is a 5 star hotel, it’s surprisingly difficult to book with them online.

The booking process starts out like most online bookings. You input the dates you need and the room type you want and give basic details such as your name, address, credit card number, etc.

Once you submit the data you’d think the booking would be complete and that you would get a confirmation of the same. A summary of your booking is emailed to you right away but buried in the details is that if you want to complete your payment online (as opposed to paying when you check in) then a link will be emailed to you to complete the process.pen email

It took 3 days for the email with the payment link to arrive.

And this was after I followed up with the hotel. (I also requested for other things in my follow up email but Peninsula’s reply did not address my other concerns.)

To complete the booking I had to click on a link in the email, which led me to a payment processor, where I had to again input my credit card details.

This was the second time I had to give my credit card details. The reason given in the email was that this was to prevent credit card fraud. However many hotels in the Philippines (Alcoves among them) allow direct booking straight from the website. One doesn’t need to fuss around waiting for an email link to be sent before one can confirm the booking.

Yet Manila Peninsula, a hotel which prides itself on excellent customer service, has to ask its customers to undertake a multi stage booking process before a room can be booked online.

In summary the online booking procedure is:

  1. Slow – You have to wait for the hotel to email you the proper link. This took 3 days in my case. Moreover I’m always wary of clicking links in email as many phising scams start out with this simple action.
  2. Redundant data entry – You have to enter your credit card details twice, at different stages of the booking process.

To be fair you can just reserve a room online and then pay when you arrive. This isn’t true online booking though; online booking with full payment becomes a much more involved affair.

Nationality requirement for incorporating a travel agency in Singapore

Nationality requirement for incorporating a travel agency in Singapore

Since October of 2015 my aunt has been trying to incorporate a travel agency in Singapore.

My aunt is based here in the Philippines, is a lawyer and has over 30 years of experience in the travel business as she owns her own travel agency in Cebu.

Surprisingly it has been very difficult to set up a travel agency in Singapore. The country is well known for its efficiency and lack of red tape;

Red tape - the bane of everyone.
Red tape – the bane of everyone.

which makes the 8 month process (and counting) so puzzling.

Basically the ministry in charge of such things now requires that a Singapore citizen or Permanent Resident (PR) be employed by the travel agency before the process can proceed. My aunt has replied that she wants to incorporate first and hire people once that phase is concluded. The ministry does not seem so inclined.

I’m not surprised (sadly) when I hear that it takes 8 months or longer to incorporate in the Philippines. But I thought Singapore, efficient, pro-business Singapore would have less cumbersome rules to navigate through.

BPI Mobile Android App – How to disable application permissions

BPI Mobile Android App – How to disable application permissions

bpi logoI’ve used BPI’s mobile app for awhile now and find it very useful for transferring money (to other BPI accounts) as well as for checking account balances.

Today though the app asked me for access to my phone’s contacts, SMS messages and memory (photos, media etc.)screenshot_20160526-150543.png

I have no idea why the BPI mobile app would need all of this access. It’s a banking app. I don’t want my banking app rummaging through my texts and pictures.

So I turned off the app’s permissions and it works fine.

screenshot_20160526-150547.pngIf you don’t want the BPI Mobile app, or any Android app for that matter, having access to critical parts of your phone then you can simply tell that app no.

Go to Settings, Apps, BPI (or whatever app you want to control), Permissions and then toggle off the areas of the phone you don’t want the app to have access to.

Apps are useful but these seem to be getting more and more invasive as the years go by.

screenshot_20160526-150551.png

 

 

Review: Puregold Delivery Service

Review: Puregold Delivery Service

IMG_20160504_134759031As Alcoves has expanded over the years the quantity of supplies we need has of course also grown.

The most difficult to buy is the bottled water, heavy and bulky, which makes it difficult to transport from the store.

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You have to pay HSBC to take your money

You have to pay HSBC to take your money

hsbc-logo-squareSince I seem to be complaining about banks these days I thought of HSBC, the only bank I know where you have to pay so that it will take your money.

No, we haven’t reached a negative interest rate yet in the Philippines whereby deposits actually earn a negative amount.

HSBC does something much simpler, it charges you a fee every time you want to deposit or withdraw from your foreign currency (non PHP) account.

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Review: Getting a housing loan from BPI

Review: Getting a housing loan from BPI

I’m a fan of BPI. I think the bank tries to offer innovative products (eg. one of the first, if not the first, to introduce internet banking in the Philippines) and their service is generally good. For my business I even use a BPI mobilePOS.

Recently though I got a housing loan from BPI and unfortunately it wasn’t smooth sailing. This was surprising as loans are  traditional bank business and you’d think BPI would have such a process optimized for speed and convenience while at the same time taking the necessary safeguards that the bank won’t lose money.bpi logo

It took forever to get the loan and the bank insisted we secure documents which were redundant.

The facts: My fiancee and I bought a piece of land with an existing townhouse on it. We borrowed some money from my family in order to afford the purchase. Complete payment was made and the title was transferred. The sale went smoothly, we had no problems with the seller.

After the sale we approached BPI and said we wanted to get a mortgage on our property. We would use the loan proceeds to pay back some of the money we owed to my family. I thought the mortgage would be a relatively simple thing as we had all the documents necessary to prove our ownership:

  1. Title of the property
  2. Certificate Authorizing Registration (CAR) from the BIR – The CAR basically says that all the necessary taxes have been paid on the sale and title can be transferred from the sellers to the buyers (ie. me and my fiancee). Title will not be transferred without a CAR.
  3. Real property tax (RPT) receipts from the local government unit proving that the RPT for 2016 has been paid. The title would also have not been transferred if there were still outstanding RPT due on the property.
  4. CENOMAR – Certificate of no marriage from the NSO that me and my fiancee are not married

propertiesSo, we apply for a real estate mortgage from BPI. The initial terms were for a loan amount of 6 million, with a loan period of 10 years at an interest rate of 5.8%. (Eventually BPI lent us less than this but at an interest rate of 5% for the first 3 years, we lucked out as they were having a promo at the time.)

First annoyance, several phone calls were made to me to verify the information I had submitted in the loan application. Once or twice is fine but I must have received 5 phone calls all asking me the same thing. The worst part is that the person calling to verify basic information had the wrong information! For example, one of the callers did not understand that we had already bought the property, she thought we were borrowing in order to be able to buy the property.

Eventually, BPI finally decides it has enough information (which it already had from when I first filled up their initial form, if they just bothered to read what they made me full up) and dispatches an assessor to the property. I meet the assessor at the house, everything is fine, he does his job and goes.

Afterwards I get an email from the loan officer handling the transaction. The loan has been approved. Great, I arrange to meet her at a BPI branch for the signing.

Second annoyance, when I get to the bank branch I find out that the loan officer still needs more documents from us before the loan can be processed. (Why didn’t she just tell me this over email instead of having me go to the branch.) Moreover the documents I was being asked to supply were redundant. As I explained above I already had sufficient documents to prove clearly my title to the property. Yet BPI still asked me for, among others, proof of full payment to the seller as well a certified true copy of the cancelled title.

I had already presented to BPI the original deed of sale where the seller acknowledged receiving full payment. Also I had presented the CAR from BIR authorizing registration of the transfer of title. With these 2 documents basically everything else they asked for was redundant.

When I complained I got the usual run around that it was bank policy, there was nothing they could do, it was BSP policy; it was the RDO’s policy, etc.

In the Philippines having a clean title in your hand is apparently not enough proof that you own that property.

Red tape - the bane of everyone.
Red tape – the bane of everyone.

We should just throw the whole Torrens systems out if everyone else keeps requiring other things to be presented along with the title.

Third annoyance, since I was speaking to my loan officer in person at this point, I asked a question about the computation of the loan. She couldn’t answer me. (To be fair after this meeting she did check and got back to me on my question. It doesn’t inspire confidence though when your loan officer can’t answer how your loan was computed.)

Fourth annoyance, we were asked to sign forms that were missing key pieces of information, such as the expiry date of the loan being offered to us. To be fair the documents we were signing were standard contracts and big companies often leave many portions of these standard contracts blank (eg. when you sign up to buy a condo from a developer). Still, this should not be standard practice. The documents I signed were incomplete with the missing information only being supplied verbally by my loan officer. Yes, I’m a chump though and signed the documents anyway as if I didn’t sign them there was no way for the loan to move forward.

Fifth annoyance, I handed over original copies of my real property tax receipts as well as the real property tax assessments. I specifically asked my loan officer if I would be getting these back (they’re important when you have to pay the real property tax at the start of the year). She assured me I would get them back. As it turns out I did not get them back when the loan was finally released. I was promised something and instead got the exact opposite. Gosh.

Finally, the process took much longer than I thought.  I inquired about a bank loan in October 2015, I finally received the loan in May 2016. Granted the delay in the first 3-4 months was not the bank’s fault, neither was it mine. The transfer of title was delayed because BIR got the assessed value wrong and then Register of Deeds wanted to weigh in on it so it took a couple of months for the bureaucracy to correct its mistake. Still, that it still took 5 months in 2016 to get the loan through is ridiculous.

I’ve gone on at length about this because in a way I do feel aggrieved that BPI was such a pain in the ass to get a loan from. I don’t think I’m entitled to a loan but I do think once I’ve established that I’m the rightful owner of the property to be mortgaged, that I have the capacity to pay for said mortgage, that the bank is interested in granting me said loan; then at that point I don’t think it’s too much to ask as a customer that my case be dealt with efficiently without making me jump through hoop after hoop after hoop.

Again, I’m a fan of BPI. I’ve had an account with them since I was a teenager. All of my primary accounts are with them. But honestly after this experience if ever I needed a loan in the future I would seriously consider other banks.

How to issue official receipts: Be sure to keep your Authority to Print

How to issue official receipts: Be sure to keep your Authority to Print

How do you issue official receipts in the Philippines?

I wish BIR had less glossy ads and more substantive efforts on making things easier for taxpayers who actually want to pay their taxes.
I wish BIR had less glossy ads and more substantive efforts on making things easier for taxpayers who actually want to pay their taxes.

After you register your business with the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and receive your Certificate of Registration (COR) you’re not yet done with the paper work.

To issue official receipts you will need to apply with the BIR for an Authority to Print (ATP).

I don’t know why the BIR just doesn’t issue an ATP automatically when they issue a COR to a business. Everything the taxpayer needs to start operating should be accomplished upon turnover of the COR instead of lengthening the process further.

Anyway, after the ATP is issued you’ll need to take it to a BIR accredited printer (or you can ask around the BIR Revenue District Office, they usually have a preferred printer which they can point you to) to actually print the receipts.

Once you have your receipts, be sure to keep your ATP. The ATP is not a one use item. You’re supposed to keep the original and bring out that same original every time you need to print a new batch of receipts.

I emphasize keeping the ATP as I didn’t know this and promptly lost the ATP for my business after printing my first batch of receipts. So I had to go back to the BIR and get a new ATP, more paper work.

There’s very little leeway for printing customized receipts. You’re pretty much stuck with the standard (ugly, IMHO) layout for the official receipts.

The above is an outline for small businesses. Larger business with cash registers and other POS devices are issued a different authority whereby the receipt issued by the register may already be considered an official receipt.

If you go to most large stores though (eg. SM or Puregold) and request for an official receipt they will take your machine printed receipt and replace it with a handwritten sales invoice.

Sales invoices are the documents which the BIR now checks to determine whether an expense can properly be classified as deductible.

Annual Requirements for Philippine Businesses (Permits, forms and lines, oh my)

Annual Requirements for Philippine Businesses (Permits, forms and lines, oh my)

The holidays are over, people are staggering back to work and the business owner now faces January. It’s the start of the year and that means permits need to be renewed and quickly, before the lines at City Hall get longer and longer.

Here are the usual permits that need to be renewed every year for a business in the Philippines.

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Mercury Drug’s Slow Customer Check Out System

Mercury Drug’s Slow Customer Check Out System

Mercury Drug is the largest drugstore chain in the Philippines. It’s branches are everywhere and they sell everything from antibiotics to generics to bottled water and medical equipment.

My chief complaint though about Mercury Drug is the inefficient way the store deals with customer transactions.

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