How can I let customers make online reservations?
April 2, 2006 5:20 PM   Subscribe

How can I allow visitors to a website to make an online reservation for a specific block of time? I'm putting together a site for someone who offers gondola cruises, and to simplify their life I'd like to be able to do what airlines do: allow visitors to book a half-hour or hour-long reservation and pay online, so that time slot is taken and no follow-up phone calls are necessary. How do the airlines (and similar businesses) do it, and is it possible for us?

The site is hosted by GoDaddy, and we're also using their online shopping cart. Right now we're having to have them purchase a cruise package, submit times they'd like, and the booking office has to call or email them with the available time and run the credit card manually. It works in theory, but we'd like to automate the process as much as possible.
posted by cacahuete to Computers & Internet (9 answers total)
This isn't a complicated app to write. There are probably dozens of people here on MetaFilter who could do it in a weekend or less. (I could, for that matter, but I'm not really in that business anymore.)
posted by kindall at 5:38 PM on April 2, 2006

What you're talking about is writing a custom web application. From your description, it doesn't really seem like you need anything terribly complicated, but you're going to need to get price quotes from various web programmers and hire one that you like. GoDaddy may offer web application development as a service and many web design firms also have someone who could build this for you. You'd need both a client interface for customers to make purchases, and an administration interface for the booking office to make changes and access booking information.
posted by zachlipton at 5:47 PM on April 2, 2006

There's a free perl script that I've used to coordinate timeslots for community volunteers. I was able to customize it and I'm not a coder. Allows users to sign up for a time on a calendar-like interface, and then that time goes away for subsequent users. An email also goes out to whomever you want when signups are done. My Signup Sheet.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 6:10 PM on April 2, 2006

A quick google search for booking system php turned-up phpBookingCalendar. It might be what you're looking for.
posted by purephase at 6:57 PM on April 2, 2006

stupidsexyFlanders, how does your code cope with race conditions where two people might sign up for the same slot at the same time? That's the major problem I'd consider when writing something like this.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 7:42 PM on April 2, 2006

At the EXACT same time? I don't know. In programming is there such a thing, practically speaking? I think whoever hits submit first wins. Again. I didn't code it, just a user.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 8:03 PM on April 2, 2006

The way the program would logically behave, if two users were intiating a purchase for the exact same time slot, simultaneously is simple. It would book the first user to click submit, and the second user would receive a message informing them that the time slot they wanted is no longer available, with apologies. This would be before the card was charged, as the card would be charged upon booking.

Simple enough, and a silly eventuality that would likely not occur often at all in such a low-bandwidth installation.
posted by disillusioned at 8:08 PM on April 2, 2006

Response by poster: I don't think that there is too much likelihood of two users signing up for the same slot at the same time; business is booming, but it's not that booming. Thanks for the scripts & suggestions! I feel better already and will sit down with the tools you've suggested. Anyone else?
posted by cacahuete at 8:09 PM on April 2, 2006

At the EXACT same time? I don't know. In programming is there such a thing, practically speaking?

I was just curious. And it doesn't have to be at the exact same time. There just has to be a gap between a person clicking on "I want 5PM" and the 5PM slot disappearing from the page so that nobody else can click on "I want 5PM". But I agree it's extremely unlikely.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 10:25 PM on April 2, 2006

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