Big Event Fail: A Double-Booking Fiasco


Sarah Dunn

It’s a question that keeps event professionals up all night: “Did I double-book?”

In this week’s Big Event Fail post, Sarah Dunn, event manager at Monroe, explains the consequences of accidentally double-booking her venue for a particularly large group. The chaotic behind-the-scenes of going through the booking process with a potential customer ended up leading to a miscommunication between herself and the owner, who was also conversing with a separate party about an event on the same day. She recounts her story and its results below:

“About a year into my role as the event manager, I was working on finalizing the details for an upcoming event with a client. This client had requested a specific date for the event  (which we had available at the time) as their organization was only in town for a few days for a conference. I had made it known to the client that the date was indeed available and they began taking the necessary steps on their end to get approval to book the space.”

“A few days later, she came back to me to let me know she was ready to sign an agreement and put down a deposit. I double-checked our calendar before sending off the agreement and noticed the owner had booked an event on that same night. Oh no!”

“In an effort to save face with the client, I first went to the owner and asked him if there was any way to move the other group to another date. The group he booked was a repeat client and I was hoping they might have flexibility. He explained to me their date was set and that this was no one’s fault but my own as I hadn’t put any notes in the calendar about the event I was working on.”

I went back to my client and casually told her the date was no longer available, hoping she would understand that she did not move fast enough. She wasn’t understanding, she was pissed.

‘Sarah, a few days ago, you told me the date was available and knew I was going through the necessary hoops on our end to get approval.’

She was right.

‘If you had told me there was another group interested, I would’ve pushed our management to move faster.’

I hadn’t known there was another group interested, but that wasn’t the point — neither did the owner when he went to book his repeat client. As he said, I hadn’t put any notes in the calendar. I told her I would double-check to see if there was any way we could move them to another date and if not, I asked her if there were any other dates her organization would consider. They had already sent out invites with the initial date requested.

After triple-checking, I called my client and let her know that unfortunately there was no way to move the other group, but I would do whatever I could to make it up to her if they were able to move their event to the day after. I told her I’d cover the cost of their jazz band for the evening and eventually, she agreed.

That was my first and only time I nearly double-booked the venue. After that situation occurred, I sat down with my manager (the owner) and we established a couple of rules for booking events:

  1. Clearly explain to all clients that a date is not held for them without an agreement and a deposit, no exceptions.
  2. Add any tentative events to the calendar so that my manager and I would be able to check with one another before booking a conflicting event.
  3.  Inform clients that we will try our best to let them know if someone else is trying to book their date, but that it’s not always possible. Rule No. 1 outweighs the others.

Six months later, feeling more established in my role, I found Tripleseat event software and I knew our business would benefit from it. I had a meeting with my manager to show him the advantages of the software — including the ability to easily see all inquiries for a particular date — and he agreed to purchase it. Not only have we never had a situation like that again, but the software has also proved to be immensely beneficial for our business in terms of drafting agreements, marketing, and financial reporting and data.”

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Get more advice from the event planning community
Read past Big Event Fail posts on the Tripleseat blog. And our EventCamp videos feature some of the top experts in events, restaurants, venues, hospitality and marketing. Check out the sessions on our EventCamp website – click Sessions on the top of the page to access the videos.