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New Blog Layout, Short Links for Guests, Smarter Field-Code Link Editor, Show Refund Policy on TI, Ignore Auto-Responders

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Wednesday update time!  After a small week last time, we came roaring back with 26 shiny new ones for you, led by a redesigned blog and short links for guests.

New Features

Hey - if you're reading this from the blog, look around!  Notice anything new?

We finally brought our blog into the 21st century with a new layout and design.  You can now read blog posts comfortably from your smartphone, search for articles or follow along by category. Some new imagery, intros and other things were added as well.

If you used to follow blog comments by RSS, sorry - we removed that.  We also changed the main RSS feed to only include an intro body and removed social media links that we don't use anymore.  Is Google+ even a real thing anymore?

We've wanted to overhaul our "www side" for awhile, but we've been too busy with other things (you know...  channels, messaging, hosted, SMS) to get to it.  Over the next year, we'll be allocating extra development time to making this a reality piece by piece.  The blog was the first to go!

If you're frustrated with Booking.com breaking your guest links, get in line!  We all are.  This past week we released a new link-shortening feature where guest links are automatically shortened by default.  The longer original links will still continue to work but, by default, they will now appear shorter.  This took some clever work, and you may not have even noticed it, so take a second to go see what I mean....

Open any booking > Transactions tab > Request button > Request Payment.  When the window opens, take a look at the URL.  It used to look like this:


But it now looks like this:


There's nothing you need to do to use this new shorter URL format - it will be used automatically.  If you had field codes in email templates that render links, the short URLs will now be used by default.

This should stop Booking.com's message thread from breaking all the links you send with email.  It will also help in Airbnb and SMS conversations where messages are sent in short plain text.  Cleanliness is next to godliness.

While we were here, we went ahead and re-enabled the "failed payment " message that used to be sent to Booking.com guests when a payment failed.  Awhile back, we stopped sending the message because the links were being mangled by Booking.com.  Now that the links are short, they won't be mangled, so the message is back!  To be clear, Booking.com is always alerted, automatically under the covers, when a payment fails, but the extra message helps remind the guest because it goes into the booking message thread on Booking.com.

Enhancements and Tweaks

Lots of tweaks and enhancements this week!

We upgraded our "www side" to use FontAwesome 5 similar to the recent update that hosted websites got.  It looked so nice on hosted websites, we wanted to get in on the action!

Depending on how you block-off time, the system used to associate an owner with the blocked-off time for those clients that have PM (property management) turned on.  We turned that off.  Blocked-off time no longer have owners.

We noticed a high number of clients had broken email templates because of how link-based field codes were used - ie. field codes that render links for the guest to click on.  If the field code was placed in the wrong spot, or included a certain type of formatting, the link would break because of the email formatting around it.  We completely overhauled the link editor on email templates (and renter agreements) to insert specific field code links from a drop-down list.

This also means you don't need to copy/paste field codes back and forth from somewhere else. Just highlight the text you want to link, click the link button and you'll see everything right there in front of you.

If you want to insert your own custom URL, you can do that too by selecting the top "Custom Web Address" option.

There's another great little easter egg in there...  If you happen to select the renter agreement link (BULEASE) the window will show you an extra drop-down list of all your renter agreements and let you select which of your renter agreements to link to as an extra parameter:

Have you ever wanted to search your bookings based on an old booking number from a different system?  You might have recently joined OwnerRez and had a different numbering system in the past.  You can now search for bookings based on a legacy booking number from the top omni-search bar.  If you're not sure how to set (ie. add or remove) a legacy booking number, check out the Info tab on any booking.

Awhile back, we added a yes/no option for Travel Insurance during quote acceptance where guests could see Travel Insurance options, what each option costs and choose to include or decline coverage inline.  On the decline option, we tell the guest that they may not receive a refund.  But what if they can receive a refund?  Now that our custom Cancellation Policy feature is out, it's easy for the system to know if the guest will get a refund and under what conditions, so we added a "View refund policy" link that can be clicked to view what the actual policy is right then and there.

We converted several more system alerts to the new format including new-inquiry notifications and calendar sync notifications.  About that - sorry for the bad Reply-To header!  After we released the new format, a bunch of emails starting flooding in from clients responding to inquiries because the Reply-To header was coming to OwnerRez.  We fixed that.  Replies to inquiries notifications should now be correctly going to the guest.

The default renter agreement had some old CSS (ie. styling and formatting) that made tables look silly, particularly borders and margins.  We removed that formatting on tables in the default renter agreement.

Ever send an email to a guest and you get back a bounce message, but it's not really a bounce.  It's more of an "out of office" notification?  These are known as auto-responders, and they're annoying because you keep getting them every time you send an email to the same recipient.  In some cases, the recipient may have a setting turned on in their email program to say some completely-unnecessary thing like "Thanks for your email - I'll respond shortly! Please consider the environment before printing!  Have a blessed day!".  Over and over and over....  We noticed that this happens a fair amount of the time and, given the huge amount of email that OwnerRez sends, it adds up.  So we updated our bounce detection code to check for these type of soft bounces and, if found, not bother you about them with an extra email.  You can still see if there was an auto-responder, or some other type of soft bounce, by looking at the master Communication History area in the app.

Bug Fixes

Blog post order in forum discussions.  You may have noticed in the past that new blog posts, curiously, showed up lower down in the Latest Discussions list in the forums area.  This has now been fixed.

Expired security holds.  Just because a security hold is successfully held, originally, does not mean it's still good later on.  Unfortunately, holds can expire and our re-authorization process may not fully work in certain situations.  We added some display logic to the Transactions tab on the booking to show if the security hold expired or can't be collected against.

Center menus with lots of links on hosted websites. Our new header customization for hosted websites is pretty cool, but it allows you to make some pretty wild menu layouts.  Some clients had centered menus with many links, and it caused the menu to push left or right and use the header space in non-optimal ways.  We fixed this so that centered menus look better.

Property info page showing wrong currency.  Did you know properties can have a different currency than the account at large?  Yep.  But the property info page was showing the global account currency instead of the property-specific one.  That is now fixed!

Travel Insurance "final payment" text.  As of now, our current insurance partner has dictated that Travel Insurance must be purchased by the initial booking date or within 30 days of arrival.  That's standard Travel Insurance of course - CFAR has different rules.  We removed some text that said that Travel Insurance could be purchased by the final payment date because that is incorrect.

Clarified second payment days in default renter agreement. This only applies to the default renter agreement, if you happen to use that.  The language was unclear about the second payment days relative to the booking date and arrival date, so we clarified it. If you use the default agreement, take a look at that and see if you like it!  You can always make a copy and modify it to say anything you want.

New Airbnb changes.  Sigh.  Airbnb sometimes changes their API specs without providing notice to partners.  We updated some API logic for Airbnb that broke because of this.

Don't import invalid Airbnb property types.  Airbnb's property types (eg. villa, guest house, cabin) include some old types that aren't valid anymore, by which I mean they don't allow you to select them now but you could have selected them before.  In our Listing Import for Airbnb, we are now detecting the old ones and skipping past them.

Remove Villa/Loft from duplicate property group categories.  Just what it sounds like - we had some duplicate property types that were removed.

Disabled channel mappings button when channel is de-authorized.  If a channel is de-authorized, for whatever reason, we are now detecting that and now allowing you to change property mappings.  Doing that before would create a crash message, so we disabled the button to stop the crash messages.

Season name on minimum night validation. This one has been around for awhile.  When you get a minimum night validation message (eg. "This property requires 4 nights") the system would sometimes insert a season name even though the rate wasn't from that season.  This was confusing for guests and we fixed it.

Custom sources white-space.  To help fix some common error patterns, we are now trimming off white-space on the front and end of the domain field on custom sources.

Overused "Using System Alert" field on emails. On communication history, the email view was showing a "Using System Alert" field on many alerts even if there was no alert type showing on the email.  Or in other case,s the wrong alert type was showing.  This is now fixed.

Quote status. We fixed an issue where quotes were not correctly switching to 'preempted' or 'expired' status, when bookings updated, unless they had custom cancellation policies.