Gaia House trustee and teacher, Stephen Batchelor, explains the background to our cancellation policy.
The current Gaia House cancellation policy was implemented in 2014. The deposit is now £100 and is no longer refundable on cancellation.
In order to clarify this policy, I would like to say something about the background against which the decision was made to introduce a non-refundable deposit system.
Prior to implementing the new system, the number of people cancelling retreats for which they had made a booking had increased significantly. A pattern was emerging that suggested people were booking onto a retreat as a means of reserving themselves a place rather than making a commitment to attend.
For example, the Zen retreat in April 2014 was fully booked some time in advance. This led to many students, some of whom have regularly attended the retreat over the years, being obliged to put their names on the waiting list. As the time for the retreat approached, however, Gaia House received a total of twenty-four cancellations (out of fifty-two places). By this time, many of those on the waiting list had already made other plans and were unable to take the cancelled places. As a result, despite being listed on the website as “full,” when the retreat took place, there were six empty places.
While some of these cancellations were doubtless made for entirely legitimate reasons – illness, death in the family etc. – it was hard to believe that this was so in every single case.
These are some of the consequences when cancellations occur: Considerable additional work for our volunteer and paid administrators, who have to process the cancellations and contact those on the waiting list; a loss of revenue for Gaia House and Dana for teachers and coordinators since the retreat is not running at full capacity; and disappointment for those who had wanted to attend the retreat but are unable to do so.
Having spoken with other centres, we know that Gaia House is not unique in experiencing these problems. There appears to be a culture developing that takes an increasingly cavalier attitude to bookings and cancellations. It is not clear why this is happening, but I suspect it might have to do with the ease and impersonality of booking procedures when they are done on-line.
Gaia House’s current policy on cancellations has been implemented in order to address these concerns. Please remember that we are committed to keeping our prices as low as possible in order to allow a maximum number of people the opportunity to attend retreats. As a result we have limited resources and our staff members often find themselves working under pressure. Even a small amount of additional work can lead to considerable stress being placed on the whole system. We would be grateful, therefore, if you could bear these points in mind when booking a retreat and make a firm commitment to attend.
Stephen Batchelor, October 2016