Ashland-based booking company appears to have collapsed; police investigating fraud reports
By Damian Mann for Ashland.news
BookStayHop LLC, a major player in the local vacation-rental market, has abruptly ceased operations, and Ashland lodging businesses say the company could be on the hook to them for potentially $1 million.
“We were blown away,” said Ashland resident Steve Asher, who estimates he’s owed at least $25,000 for the rental of a secluded two-bedroom unit with a pool and hot tub. “The question is, where is the money going?”
Asher and other vacation rental property owners have notified Ashland police about the situation and say they’re worried BookStayHop owner Daniel Perry is selling off assets in preparation for declaring bankruptcy.
“There’s way too much money that has gone amiss, serious money,” said Asher, who said he had trusted Perry over a three-year period to get bookings for his rental unit.
Asher said he’s owed money from BookStayHop for July, August and part of September, and Asher said his studio rental was booked solid during the pandemic.
Perry worked with popular websites such as Airbnb and Vrbo and had a relatively small staff, Asher said. In recent months, Asher said he had been unable to reach Perry, who, Asher said, was frequently traveling out of the country.
Perry’s Medford attorney, Keith Boyd, sent a letter out on Sept. 26 giving local lodging owners the bad news:
“It is with great regret that the business will not be able to pay any of the rents due for your properties,” stated Boyd, whose website proclaims him the most experienced bankruptcy lawyer in Oregon. All employees of BookStayHop.com have been terminated and any commitments have been canceled, Boyd stated in the letter.
Boyd, who was out of the office this week and could not be reached for additional comment, said in the letter that Perry had attempted to arrange loans to keep the company going and to stop the negative cash flow, a situation that began during the pandemic.
“More recently, in order to make payroll and pay taxes, the funds which would otherwise have been paid to the property owners had to be used for payroll under what could only be described as emergency measures,” Boyd stated.
BookHopStay manages about 100 vacation rentals in Ashland and surrounding areas, as well as in Mexico.
Ashland police Chief Tighe O’Meara confirmed there is an active case file investigating allegations of fraud.
“We’re just not in a position to say anything at this point,” O’Meara said.
In the case report, several rental owners pointed to questionable billing practices earlier this year, including claiming BookHopStay deducted a commission greater than the 25% called for in the agreement with operator.
The lodging operators say they figured out the discrepancy by contacting some of the guests directly.
According to the police report, the businesses stated, “This pattern of inconsistent payments dates back to March 2023, when they (Book Hop Stay) issued a notification admitting the payout delays (and saying the delays) were due to issues with their credit card operators.”
Perry sent out an email on March 10 referring to the payment issue: “First, we made a decision last quarter to move from internal booking to an outside, out-of-state agency. While we know this was the right decision, our control over payouts has been more difficult to manage. We have a plan in place that should resolve this in our future payouts.”
A Sept. 11 email sent from BookStayHop to various vacation-rental businesses locally apologized for the financial distress: “As a follow-up to my August update, and with a heavy heart, I am sorry to report that our efforts to secure investor financing were not successful and that all available funds to support continued operations have been exhausted.”
Perry, who ran the the company, said earlier in September during a brief phone interview that the company was in the process of being sold, but he hasn’t responded to phone and text messages since then.
Since July, some 100 local lodging companies that worked with BookStayHop have been kept in the dark about essential guest details, critical to management of their units, according to some of those companies.
Lodging businesses say they are concerned Perry is selling off company assets, pointing to the recent ebay.com sale of a vehicle for $31,000.
Sylvie McCracken with Helman House said in an email response: “After getting the runaround for many months with excuses, delays in payments and lack of replies to our inquiries, we were shocked to hear that Daniel/Book Stay Hop had no intention of paying nearly 3 months of high season income. We’ve reached out to no avail. This has not only affected Ashland small business owners like myself but also longtime Ashland tourists that were left with their reservations canceled with as little as 15 minutes notice. Appalling.”
Evan Zitchick, with Mountain Retreat Cozy Cabin on Hyatt Prairie, said in an email, “I have never received a dime from BookStayHop from the moment we signed a contract together. I gave my bank account and routing number and we’ve had multiple bookings through them. I haven’t received a dollar.”
Ashland residents Tom and Felicia Hazel said, “Daniel and his business, Book Stay Hop, strung us along for months with repeated charges for services not rendered, late payments, and ultimately no payment for the last 3 months of busy rentals. This is in addition to neither replacing nor compensating us for lost and damaged inventory, as stipulated in the contract. Disappointed and disgusted.”
Katharine Cato, director of Travel Ashland at the Ashland Chamber of Commerce, said BookStayHop was a major player in the vacation rental market.
“As the BookStayHop website went down, they are no longer members of the chamber,” she said.
Reach freelance writer Damian Mann at email@example.com.