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September 2006

Our Members Speak Out

Achter Sint Joris, The Netherlands

We asked: Have high gas prices affected your summer reservations? If so, what have you done about it?

Question for October: Do you host Murder Mystery Weekends? If yes, what makes them successful? If not, why not?

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

“My bookings quadrupled in June because we had a “Summer Daze” rate of $109. I served a simple but gourmet continental buffet breakfast with one freshly baked offering each morning, and guests served themselves fresh fruit, juices, yogurt and cheeses, plus a weekend egg casserole. I bought a few serving pieces to keep the foods hot or cold, and I was finished with breakfast early. The guests loved it. They really just want the fresh fruits and hot muffins or bread and the newspaper, and it was a welcome break for me. I did remind them about the summer breakfasts when they booked the reservation and also on arrival.” – Helene Shepard, Ibis B&B, Safety Harbor, FL

“Since we are in a university town and people come for orientation, workshops, etc. at the University of Iowa, gas prices have not affected our occupancy. Much to my surprise, I have noticed that we have had a number of locals coming for the night. It is sort of a mini-vacation; some have even walked over. They get a plush room with king bed, whirlpool tub, and breakfast served to them in their suite at their convenience. And they are paying full price. It might work for others to put on a Hot Deal to attract the locals or place an ad with the local public radio station.” – Nila Haug, The Golden Haug, Iowa City, IA

“I can assure everyone in the United States: high gas prices do not keep your guests away from you! Here in Holland, we have to pay much more for gas than in the United States, but my guests still love coming to my B&B. At the moment, one 1 Liter of gas costs €1,48, equal to US $1.85 per liter.

“So I think: do not worry about gas prices, but invest your time and thoughts in hospitality to your guests. That is what they remember: a good bed and breakfast, and your smile in the morning!” – Ina Vos, Achter Sint Joris, The Netherlands

“Foxbridge Bed and Breakfast has been affected by the gas prices. We have started volunteering at our local VCB, and we have done more local advertising. It has been a quiet summer, but…more yard work has been done to beautify the surroundings! We love being proprietors of a bed and breakfast.” – Hilary Renfer and Gray Odell, Foxbridge B&B, Poulsbo, WA

Upset guests, revisited:

“What I have learned is that, sadly, there are people in the world that make a life of complaining when there is no legitimate complaint, to (a) watch someone else squirm, because they are inherently unhappy power mongers or (b) because they are scammers and have been rewarded for their bad behavior by nice people bending over backward to try and make them happy.
“If you know, beyond a doubt, that you have done everything within reason to satisfy the guest, and they are still unhappy, certainly it is your choice to refund their stay or allow them to cut short their visit without penalty, but I guarantee that this just reinforces their behavior, and they will do it to the next inn, café, etc. You may fear that they will badmouth you to others or write a bad review on Trip Advisor, but I would never offer a full refund to someone that has slept in one of my beds, eaten my food or in any other way accepted my gracious hospitality.

“Chronic bellyachers, after all, aren’t just complaining about their ‘horrible experience’ at your place. Bad experiences follow them around…it’s the karma they’ve earned! Fortunately, there is a myriad of wonderful folks in the world that recognize and appreciate all that we do to provide them with the fabulous experiences that they happily pay for. Don’t let the rare few steal your joy…that might be the one thing that makes them happy!” – Jim & Naomi Maurer, MY Victorian Bed & Breakfast, Mobile, AL

 “I had an inquiry in February to have a baby shower at our cottage in April and to have the parents stay over for one night. I thought this was really something special, so I told the lady that I had to limit the number of guests to eight, and no children. She agreed and said it was going to be just a small shower lasting a couple of hours, so the couple could have the use of the cottage for the afternoon and evening. I offered to help her set up the party, supplying tablecloths and coffee/tea for the guests. I also provided service for eight so she wouldn’t have to purchase or bring those. I didn’t charge her for the use of the cottage for the party, only the one night’s lodging for two people.

“Two weeks before the party, I called her to confirm the details. On the day of the party, guests were to arrive at 3 p.m., party to be over by 5 p.m., and then I would re-clean the bath, set the table for breakfast and do any cleaning necessary for just the couple. (Normal check-in is from 4-6 p.m.)

“Now the horror story begins: the woman who organized it called the day of the party to say she was running late, and could I please help her out? So I went up to the cottage and made sure everything I was to do was finished. She finally arrived at 2:45 with her mother; it was raining and she had lots of things to bring into the cottage. I asked that they remove shoes or put on booties so mud wouldn’t get tracked in. The mother raised a fuss as ‘her shoes were part of her outfit.’

“I helped set the table and asked if she wanted the coffee started; she abruptly announced I could leave now. This shocked me, as I’ve never had a guest tell me to leave my own business. I smiled, left and returned to my home, but on the way down the path an elderly lady and small child were arriving.

“The cars kept coming, and more and more people kept arriving. At 6:30, the party was still going on. When I asked why the party was still going on, she said that they were all having a good time and that it didn’t make a difference because she had booked the cottage for the whole day and night. I reminded her of her agreement with me that there be eight guests and no children. I explained they needed to close the party down so I could tidy the house and get it ready for the couple. She told me to leave and said she would let me know when they were gone.

“An hour went by and nothing happened. I again knocked on the door and tried talking to the host; both she and her mother started screaming at me, telling me I had no right to keep bothering them, they were trying to get the guests to leave and they would be out of there soon. Again they told me to leave the property. By this time I’d had it and explained to them it was my property and I had a right to enter the house any time I wished, and they couldn’t order me off the premises. I returned to my house and waited until I was sure they were all gone.

“When I saw the couple on the front steps, I went and asked if they would please register with me as I didn’t even have their names, and I apologized for the confusion that day. I offered to clean the bathroom for them and was told they were insulted to even be asked if it needed to be cleaned. I asked what time they would like breakfast and was told they didn’t want any. I thanked them, wished them a comfortable night and left. I had no further contact with them that day or next except for hearing them talking on the porch at midnight while swinging in the porch swing.

“Two days later I received an e-mail from the booking party; she wanted her money back. She said she had 20 guests, including five children (I saw three) and three men. I refused, as she nullified the verbal contract with me by having so many people there, over-staying the party time limit and using the extra bedroom for play and nap time.

“The guests who stayed overnight wrote to our state association president, claiming about how their night was ruined (they used every amenity and Jacuzzi in the place, ate all the snacks, and didn’t leave until after 11 a.m.). They published a protest with Trip Advisor that was full of lies. I contacted Trip Advisor twice to tell them what really happened, and they won’t take the review off their website. They tell me I can make a rebuttal. This isn’t adequate as the false accusations are still out there.

“My advice to others is to have a written contract with a signature.” – Myrna Casey, Rose Cottage Guest House, Tacoma, WA

“Dealing with difficult guests is always a learning opportunity. I can gladly say that in our six years as innkeepers this has only been an infrequent problem. I believe that setting, and then hopefully exceeding, guest expectations is crucial. I can relate to most of the article’s accounts, including innkeepers’ solutions and emotional involvement. Converting a ‘complainer’ to a valued returning guest is admirable, and we have all experienced this. What I have not seen published is a notion contrary to the popular thought that ‘the customer is always right.’ I believe the reality is that the customer is usually wrong…it just depends upon the degree of compromise, self-sacrifice and emotional scarring that the innkeeper is willing to endure on a case-by-case basis. We all can smile, apologize profusely and make compensatory offerings, but I believe there are those guests who seem to thrive on daily confrontation who need not be maintained on our returning guest list.

“I have no problem with recommending any nearby B&Bs and suggesting we may not be the best ‘fit’ for the guest. With online availability and reservations now the commonplace, screening of guests who may have alerted us in the past to some problem tenants has all but disappeared. We’re left only with the trendy youthful jargon ‘deal with it!’” – Paula and Jerry Welsh, Garden Grove B&B, Union Pier, MI

“The ‘how to keep guests happy’ had lots of complaints, but no suggestions except to grin and bear it. I used to have set breakfast times, then a range of time for two hours, than a range of time for 1 1/2 hours, then a later range of time because people were not showing up at the earlier part of the time. Even though I ask if there are any dietary concerns, the guests don’t always tell me exactly what they don’t like or can’t eat. I try to vary my menus daily so I have a sweet breakfast one morning and savory the next for guests staying more than one night. I have 11 rooms and up to 22 people, and I don’t have time to be a short-cook, yet I want to accommodate my guests. I believe that if someone has an allergy, it is up to them to tell me. I hate waste, and when I don’t ask, guests tell me at the breakfast table, ‘Oh, I can’t eat mushrooms.’

“I am thinking of going to a lovely continental breakfast of coffeecake, fruit, granola, yogurt and juices. I can request a reservation for breakfast for those who wish to eat. If none make a reservation, then they get the basic continental. If they make a reservation for breakfast, I will cook only for those people.

“I have heard many innkeepers complain that guests don’t show up when they say they will. I personally have committed all the ‘bad guest behavior’ that people have griped about: arriving too early, arriving way late because of a snow storm, and coming down to breakfast an hour late because I forgot to reset my clock. (They should have had an alarm clock in the room.)

“I say check-in is at 4 p.m. – no range of time. When they see that on my confirmation notes, they call me right away to let me know their plane won’t be in until 9:30 p.m. or they can’t leave home until after work at 5 p.m. and it is a five-hour drive, etc. I let them know how much I appreciate their call. If necessary, I can take a short nap to be awake when they arrive or I tell them I will leave the key out for them with a welcoming note and directions to their room. So I have sort of solved the ‘not knowing when they are coming’ problem.” – Nila Haug, The Golden Haug, Iowa City, IA

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