Saturday, April 17, 2010

When A Rainy Forecast Causes Guests to Cancel ....

How can an innkeeper make guests feel extra special when Cape Cod refuses to wear its sparkly petticoat and has donned, instead, a ratty London Fog slicker?

The forecast was for rain this weekend and, yes, it is wet outside, with heavy rain overnight. We had two sets of guests arriving for Patriots’ Day weekend this afternoon, Couple 1 and Couple 2.

Couple 1 asked about booking on Tuesday and confirmed on Thursday: “We are thinking we will brave the weather. Is Seagull Cottage still available this Saturday and Sunday? We hope so! Also, is the cottage heated/will we be warm enough?”

We don’t take credit cards, and it was too late to send a deposit through the mail, but I responded that yes, the cottage was still available, that there was heat and even a fireplace. No problem there. Everyone seems to agree: Seagull is one of the coziest cottages on the Outer Cape, an all-round great accommodation, even in the rain. The couple can stay inside and watch DVDs, if the showers do not let up on Sunday. Monday the skies will clear. I was confident that these guests would enjoy themselves, despite the weather.

I felt less sanguine about the folks arriving for the Green Room. Couple 2 had been obliged to cancel a fall reservation due to flu and received a rain check due to this unusual circumstance. Several weeks ago they contacted me to reserve Saturday and Sunday of Patriots’ Day weekend. I noted the reservation for the three-night holiday on the online availability calendar, so it ceased to be a possibility for anyone else. Then, Wednesday, I received an email with a request to switch dates to a weekend in May, due to the “unpleasant forecast.” I felt awful playing bad cop but said, sure, only they would have to forfeit their deposit. The couple decided to maintain the reservation.

It’s true the Cape is lovelier with the sun out, but two days pass quickly in an unfamiliar environment. Restaurants are open, tickets to WHAT are available, and Provincetown is still only a twenty-five minute drive away. Part of the benefit of a weekend getaway is being in a different location. The French call it, “changer d’air.” A new place, with new sights to see, new experiences, is always invigorating. And, it is so very quiet here ....

I said to myself, Couple 2 have decided to come, so what can I do to make them feel special? Fill the room with fresh flowers? I do that already. Invite them for a glass of wine and some cheese before their dinner out? That’s an idea. Put champagne in the Green Room fridge? Maybe. Chocolates by their bedside? All of these sounded like reasonable options. However, before I could make up my mind, I received a second email that Couple 2 had decided to cancel. I understand. I totally do. Your first impression of Cape Cod matters, and these folks were first-timers. Cape Codders know that a beach can be walked in drizzle or fog, with appropriate outerwear. It’s dramatic and unforgettable, but not what the tourist may hope for or expect, (except for tourists like Robert Dudka, who once told me he prefers wild weather) …I wrote Couple 2 back to offer a discount on a future visit.

Then, this morning, I received the following email from the Couple 1: “ We are sorry to have to change our plans but the forecast is getting worse and worse and we have finally had to admit that this is not the weekend (weatherwise) to come down. I have already told several friends about your place, and we would very much like to come down on a sunny (even partly sunny!) weekend in the future. I apologize for the late notice. Thank you again for your kindness and assistance.”

Aaugh! (Expletive deleted!) If I had a credit card machine, I would have already charged Couple 1 for the non-refundable 50% deposit. Sven and I get to eat the organic raspberries, etc. purchased at Trader Joe's. Had no one booked, we might have planned to go away for the weekend ourselves ...

Besides getting a credit card machine, would you have done differently, if anything, had you been in my shoes?