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December/January 2006

Our Members Speak Out

Edwin K B&B, Florence, OR

We asked: How do you handle “problem guests”—those who are loud, rowdy or don’t follow the rules?
 

Question for February: What is the nicest/funniest/weirdest thank-you gift you've ever received from a guest?

Email your responses to Sandy.Soule@BedandBreakfast.com. If we publish your comments, we’ll thank you with a $25 credit in our Featured Properties Auction program!


“We have had problem guests from time to time, and our response depends somewhat on their attitude. Are they apologetic? Would we want them to return? Are they ‘regulars’ or is it their first and probably visit? What are the financial, physical, emotional consequences in terms of  loss of business, cost to replace or repair damage, effect on other guests, and so on?
 
 “Our policies are explained when the reservation is made, restated in our confirmation, and written and posted in each room. Guests must sign that they have read and accept these policies as part of the check-in process. We suggest setting up your online reservation/reservation request with a mandatory checkbox, confirming that guests accept your policies.
 
 “After the fact, it is difficult to charge guests for an ‘accident,’ no matter what it costs; they feel that they aren’t responsible if it wasn’t intentional. We do have a policy for damages and a damage deposit applied to groups. If you have a wedding, family reunion or other group, you should have a contract, which includes your policies and consequences, and consider a damage deposit. We have found that weddings and families with children are the highest potential risk for damages.
 
 “We have a quiet-hour policy which we call a ‘neighborhood ordinance.’ Our policy is clearly stated in our brochure, website and – for groups only – in the confirmation/contract. We definitely maintain a presence and let guests know when they are too rowdy. We have good results when we let neighbors know in advance about a wedding; we ask them to call us directly (not the police) if there are any problems.
 
 “Occasionally, we get a guest who complains, even though nothing is wrong, and they already understood what our inn was like from the material provided. We offer options, but sometimes they refuse them. I have learned that some people will complain just to avoid paying for the room, or because they will really be happy only at a hotel. If it’s a weekday (when we’re not full anyway), we may let it go. They may be nice people and refer friends who would like our style.
 
 “If a guest damages something in your inn, take a picture of it. We were at a historic inn and saw the maids taking photos of a cigarette burn. I thought this was a great idea. You should definitely charge people for deliberate damage or for intentionally refusing to follow a safety policy.
 
 “While innkeepers know how much work, money and emotion go into our inns, some people just don’t get it and never will. Don’t feel bad for charging someone who hurts your business or you. On the other hand, it is our responsibility to take precautions to avoid damage and accidents, and to make our policies clear. If you don’t mind it being broken, fine. If it is a family heirloom that will make you cry if it breaks, don’t put in the room.”
Patty and Mo Rave, Terrace Inn, Petoskey, MI
 
 “Since we opened in May 2005, we have been blessed to have the most wonderful guests. Many guests became friends who correspond weekly; some guests sent letters or cards on their return home; others left gifts for us; and some call occasionally.
 
 “We have housed couples looking for a quiet place to unwind after a day with grandchildren down at the beach house, those celebrating their honeymoon, others escaping from work and phones, and a few anniversaries.
 
 “One young couple stayed with us two nights for their first anniversary. They had been traveling by car, visiting friends and relatives around their scheduled stay with us. On their departure day, they wanted one last trip to the beach. At checkout, I offered the use of our beach chairs, towels and some bottled water, but explained that when they returned the items on their way out of town, the room would not be available as the next guests would be checking in around 5 p.m.
 
 “They stored their luggage in our living room and left for the beach. I went to shop for my incoming guests and run a few errands. On my return, I found that I had not locked the guestroom after cleaning and preparing for the next guests, and the couple had returned, taken showers, used the Jacuzzi tub, gotten sand from the beach everywhere, and left wet beach towels on the newly made white bedspread.
 
 “I had one hour before my new guests were to arrive, so I called their cell to get their estimated time of arrival; they were only 40 minutes from our inn. I told them of my dilemma, and they offered to stop for dinner on the way. They said they were hungry, and it would give me plenty of time to take care of the room.
 
 “As flustered as I was, the incoming guests’ thoughtfulness and flexibility put a smile back on my face. I now lock rooms immediately after guests check out.”
Teresa Bonifant, Country Villa Bed & Breakfast, Virginia Beach, VA
 
 “My husband and I purchased our B&B 18 months ago. It feels like our problem guests are getting more frequent: spilling wine on bedding and/or carpet but not informing us; burning candles and spilling wax with dye; using massage oils in bed, which stains some sheets – and not telling us so we handle washing differently. Others bring smoke-smell into rooms so strong that we have to wash everything in room to get rid of the smell; some use something other than bath oil provided for Jacuzzi tubs that plug up the tub or cause ugly stuff to come out of jets; and so it goes.
 
”Other guests drink too much and cause commotion late at night after other guests have gone to bed. We’ve only had this happen twice in the almost two years we’ve been here, but both times were quite stressful. The first guests we asked to leave, and with the second couple we waited until they went to bed, since our other guests didn’t seem to know what was going on. Unfortunately, the guy continued to smoke and drink on the balcony outside, causing a spotlight to come one and off
which kept our guests in our apartment awake. Just as we were about to go ask them to leave, which was now around 1 a.m. – he finally went to bed. But the room smelled so bad the next day from alcohol and smoke, it took us a long time to clean the room.
 
 I think we have learned to ask problem guests to leave earlier, before an unpleasant situation gets out of hand. We also added a sentence to our welcome letter, stating that guests who get unruly will be asked to leave without receiving a refund, and that if there is damage, they will be charged.”
Laurie and Marv VandeStreek, Edwin K Bed and Breakfast, Florence, OR

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