[updated 15th February 2021)


Our Post-Covid Team


Due to the impact of Coronavirus, we have sadly had to reduce our already small team of nine to just four - on significantly reduced hours. (equivalent to 2.5 full-time team members).

 

This means that a fraction of our usual, amazing, and hard-working team is available to answer your enquiries and therefore service will continue to be affected for some time.

 

We are committed to delivering our mission of ‘making living and working away from home more accessible, safe and enjoyable for touring theatre professionals’ and we would like to thank you for your continued support, patience, and understanding whilst we return to full-speed and the service to which you are used to.



Delayed Deposits - Update


We are delighted to announce that after months of arrangements and overcoming hurdles, all deposits from qualifying cancelled bookings that were delayed due to the devastating impact of the pandemic should have been processed by the end of February 2021 (was January but it took slightly longer than anticipated). 


Furthermore, we are delighted to say that rather than offer a partial refund and two rounds of refunds, ALL bookings where a refund has been requested via our email survey by 9am on the 4th January have now received a FULL refund of the original deposit.


This has only been made possible due to the overwhelming support from the TheatreDigsBooker community. Our thanks go out to all Hosts and Guests who have opted to reschedule, credit or even donate their delayed deposits, which has allowed us to stretch what funds we have managed to raise far enough to refund in full.  


We would like to take this opportunity to thank all our Hosts and Guests for their patience, understanding and support and, again, apologise for the inconvenience this delay may have caused.



Delayed Deposits - Process



Rescheduled Bookings

Where Guests kindly opted to reschedule their bookings, if dates were given, we edited those bookings in bulk to move them back into an accepted future booking. Where future dates were left blank, bookings were moved to the 2nd February 2022 (2/2/22). All Hosts and Guests received an email explaining how to amend these dates when the exact future date is known or to make any required adjustments.



Credited Bookings

Where Guests kindly opted to take a credit instead of a refund, the value of their deposit for each booking has been added to the Guest's 'Wallet'. This will never expire and will be available to apply towards future booking deposits at any point in the future.



Partial Refunds

When we started to process delayed deposits, we had not yet raised enough funds to refund every booking in full. Thanks to so much faith and loyal-cooperation from our wonderful community in the form of opting for credits, reschedules and even passing deposits to others, the funds we had raised proved just enough to FULLY refund those who had requested partial refund. 


These refunds were processed in batches and were completed by the 22nd January. 


Guests who completed the survey for a cancelled booking and requested Partial Refund who have not received notice from us should contact support@theatredigsbooker.com.

 


Culture Recovery Grant 


We are incredibly grateful and fortunate to have been successful in our bid for the Government's Culture Recovery Grant. Here are some frequently asked questions and our best attempt to answer them:


  • How are you spending the Grant money?

 To ensure we deliver on the promises of our application, we will be using the funds to assist us in surviving the ongoing shut-down of the industry. In addition, the funds will support us in adapting to the needs of the industry by providing a safe and robust accommodation service in this new post-Covid landscape.

 

  • Why can't you use the Grant money for refunds?

 To enable us to comply with the funding agreement, public funds obtained through this cultural recovery grant can not be used for refunding deposits to Hosts or Guests, whether legally entitled to a refund or not. 




FAQs


Theatre Digs Booker is founded and run by touring theatre professionals.


Throughout our 10 years in operation, we have always strived to be fair and understand the needs of our community.

 

Here are some frequently asked questions and our best attempt to answer them:


  • Can my Host request to keep the deposit?

Ordinarily, as per our terms and conditions, when a booking is cancelled by the Guest, the deposit decision is passed directly to the Host. However, as we find ourselves in such extraordinary circumstances we asked all Hosts who have had bookings cancelled for Covid-related reasons to consider passing the deposit to the Guest. We have reiterated to Hosts the importance of supporting the sector during these difficult times.


Only a tiny fraction of Hosts requested the deposit for themselves. Those that were for bookings where dates fell during the first government enforced lockdown (23rd March 2020 - 4th July 2020) were deemed as illegible for Host refund and the deposits were offered to the Guests. The remainder of bookings were processed on a case-by-case basis.


  • Can I use my deposit for future bookings?

Yes. If you make bookings you can use your previous deposit against your new booking.


If making a booking before February 2021:

As and when you make a booking and pay the deposit for the new booking, we will manually refund your old deposit to you, in effect transferring the credit of your previous deposit to your new booking. The new deposit just has to be equal to or greater than your previous deposit.


Here are two examples of how this will work (assuming the Host passes the deposit onto the Guest):

  1. If a Guest pays a deposit of £20 and we hold the deposit for another booking worth £20, we will refund the ‘delayed’ deposit as soon as possible. 
  2. If a Guest has two cancelled bookings each with a £20 deposit, totalling £40 of delayed refunds and makes a booking for 2021 amounting to £300 (£30 deposit), we will process the oldest booking and the Guest would receive £20.

If making a booking after February 2021:

Thanks to our new 'Wallet' feature, any delayed deposit that has been requested to be credited will be added to each respective Guest's account and will show as a usable balance when making future bookings.



  • How can you withhold my deposit?

Whilst the term ‘deposit’ can be confusing, the general principle is that the deposit acts to the Host as a confirmation of the Guest’s intention to book and is refundable up until the moment the Host accepts the booking. Once the booking is accepted, our service of introducing the Guest to the Host is complete and we retain that proportion of the total booking value (10% including VAT) as commission from the Host. The Guest (or theatre industry) has never been charged to use our services.


Clause 1.iii of the Terms and Conditions states:


' ...Once the booking is confirmed by the Host, the contract between Theatre Digs Booker Limited and the Guest is complete and the service has been provided. As such, Guests have no right to cancel their contract with Theatre Digs Booker Limited after this time and the Deposit becomes non-refundable...'


Importantly, in 10 years of operating, we have never implemented this clause and we don't intend to now. 



  • Where do I stand legally/with Equity?

Purely from a legal standpoint, as per our T&Cs, once a Host accepts a booking, deposits become non-refundable commission. Therefore legally, we are within our rights to retain those payments. Equity are fully aware of the situation (that there is nothing they can do due to transparent terms of the site) and ask you to direct any questions not answered here, to us directly and leave Equity to continue to do their incredibly important work of helping the industry survive this global crisis.


  • What are you doing to help?

We're doing everything we can in the current climate to ensure our survival including securing additional lending, seeking out grants and reducing our overheads to retain funds. 

 

Thankfully, we have been able to secure a government-backed ‘Bounce Back’ loan and grants to keep the business running while we wait for the theatre industry to start touring again.


We are also reviewing our insurance, cancellation, deposit and commission processes to ensure we mitigate future risk in similar circumstances.


  • Have you changed the way you handle deposits now?

We have never charged Guests or the Theatre Industry a penny and we have been able to do this by staying 'lean' and using a proportion of deposits for future bookings as working capital, to run the business. This system worked perfectly for almost 10 years, until the current crisis.


In light of these unforeseen circumstances, we have taken the decision to 'ring-fence' all future booking deposits until the booking is complete.


This should ensure that no booking deposit refunds are delayed in future.


New ways to better handle cancellations and generate revenue will be considered in due course.



  • As a Host, why should I pass the refund to the Guest?

 We understand that both Hosts and Guests have been negatively impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic and we always try to find the fairest solution for all parties. 


If booking dates fell during the first lockdown period in the United Kingdom (23rd March 2020 - 4th July 2020), our understanding is this would have made the booking illegal as no overnight stays were permitted by law at the time. Just as accommodation providers were not allowed to receive Guests except in exceptional circumstances, Guests were also not allowed to travel or stay away overnight during this period.


This would also apply to any booking that is deemed to be unlawful based on the government guidelines in place at the time. In these cases, any request by the Host to retain the deposit will be voided and the deposit will be offered to the Guest.


For bookings that fall outside of these specific dates but are still cancelled as a result of Coronavirus, as we find ourselves in such extraordinary circumstances we ask Hosts to kindly consider allowing us to refund the Guest. 


This will help to support the sector and help to keep those who really need it, afloat during these difficult times.





  • Other companies refunded everyone straight away - why didn't you?

Whilst we can’t really comment on how other businesses operate, in a recent announcement by the Founder of AirBnB to his staff, they announced that they raised ‘$2 billion in capital’ which they are able to do because of their enormous future value - currently estimated at $41bn. 


They are also global, not restricted to one small industry, charge 100% at the time of booking, charge bookings fees, cleaning fees and operate complex dynamic and seasonal pricing systems that are designed to charge as much as the market can afford. By comparison, we have one fee which hasn’t increased since it was introduced in 2013 - in fact it went down when we became liable for VAT. Rather than pass it on, we quietly absorbed the cost.


Decisions like that, where we always put our community first, keep our profits low and are why (so far) we have not been able to raise more than the bare minimum to survive.



  • Why did you need to temporarily delay refunds / Why aren't deposits 'ring-fenced'

We are a small business with a tight cash flow. We budgeted 10-15% of bookings to be cancelled/refunded each month and maintained a buffer of several times that to allow for any 'spikes'. 


This worked perfectly for nearly 10 years.


Deposits were never 'ring-fenced' as this was never deemed necessary based on years of statistics showing that we had more than enough of a buffer to cover any spikes.


The coronavirus pandemic resulted in 100% refund requests at a time when our revenue was reduced to zero, almost overnight. 


Similar to airlines and travel companies who are offering vouchers in place of cash refunds, we also needed a ‘delay measure’ in place to ensure the survival of the business as allowing automatic refunding at such scale would have resulted in an immediate closure of the business and only a small proportion of deposits being refunded.


Only by ensuring the future of Theatre Digs Booker can we work to honour all deposits.


As mentioned in "Have you changed the way you handle deposits now?", we have changed our business model as a result of this crisis and now 'ring-fence' deposits until the booking has taken place.

 

  • Doesn't your insurance cover this?

No. Even companies which have business interruption insurance or similar policies that include pandemics are being refused payout as Covid-19 is not listed or because they were not ordered to close by the Government. 



  • How often will you update us?

Whenever something notable changes we will update this article. 



  • What happens next?

Our focus since March 16th, when the Prime Minister shut down our industry, has been solely on survival under extraordinary pressures including 100% cancellation rate and a forecast of zero revenue for 12+ months.


We knew we had to survive as a company to stand any chance of honouring delayed deposits. This resulted in many difficult decisions including redundancies and downscaling our operations to a fraction of our previous size.


This resulted in some Hosts and Guests becoming frustrated by a lack of communication and reduced service levels but our choices were drastically limited.


Now that refunds have been honoured, will will adjust our focus to review our reaction to Covid and take whatever lessons we can from these events and then quickly move forward to recovering, adjusting and growing to once again become the No.1 accommodation resource for The Arts. 


We look forward to supporting our loyal Hosts and Guests through the coming months and years and thank everyone for their patience and understanding. 


Our thoughts are with all those who have lost loved ones through Covid and to our community who have been so horribly impacted by the ongoing shutdown of our beloved industry. 



  • What other help is available?

The government has launched £1.57bn Arts Support Package.


SOLT and UK Theatre have launched a Theatre Artists Fund.


https://theatresupport.info/ has gathered together support for theatre professionals during coronavirus.


Equity has a number of support options available on its Coronavirus Support Pages.


Also the Royal Variety Charity has a grant application form on its website.


More general help can be found on the Government's coronavirus webpage.




If your question is not answered above or in any other help article, please email support@theatredigsbooker.com and we will try to respond as quickly as possible and add the answer here.


By working together, in good faith, we will all be able to get through this painful time and quickly return to normal service once it has all passed. 


Thank you for your understanding and patience. Stay well.


Phil Barley and the TheatreDigsBooker Team