Saturday, July 03, 2010

Innkeepers’ Lament (1) : The Guests We Like Best

It’s not always easy sharing one’s house with strangers. That was my conclusion as June drew to a close and July began on a fierce drum roll of cars driving into Wellfleet to celebrate the Independence Day weekend.

Chez Sven receives a lot of foreigners – England, Ireland, Switzerland, Germany – which allows me to compare their B&B smarts to that of guests from the USA, and know what? Many American guests fall short. Must be on a learning curve. Oh, yes. They often seem to need a few pointers on B&B etiquette.

Yesterday a couple arrived five hours late. We expected them at 2 and waited all afternoon. They apologized profusely when I explained how worried I had been. Airplane delayed on the tarmac? Traffic jam? Nope. Just eager to get to the beach, so eager that they forgot our 2 o’clock check-in appointment. Sea air will do that to you, I guess. And, their cell phones, you say? Must have left them at home. Nice people, but somehow not B&B savvy.

Think about it: a B&B is different from a hotel. Hotels have staff to take online reservations, answer phones, do laundry, clean rooms, run errands, make flower bouquets, cook breakfast, water the garden, etc. At a B&B, these duties are all assumed by the host.

Interesting word, host. Reminds me of Southern hospitality. Here are guests from North Carolina, who stayed with us last weekend. They were perfectly charming and totally got the bed & breakfast concept. We spent a lot of time together, socializing, something one does not usually do with the staff at a hotel. They felt like friends. And, we were sorry to see them leave. Unfortunately this is not always the case.

I don’t know how many times new American guests have asked, “And, where do you sleep?”

First off, not appropriate.

Some Americans do not seem to understand Chez Sven doubles as our house. This is where Sven and I live, year-round. Guests from England would never ask such a personal question straight off upon arrival. Imagine going to visit friends. Would you ask the location of their bedroom? Guests who start out this way usually prove to be gauche in other ways, too.

Really, such questions are none of their business.

Guests who slam doors? They will not be invited back.

O-o-o-o-h! Sounding a bit strident, am I? Must be the one-half hour wait this morning (at 7:30) for bread at PB Boulangeriebistro and the idea of another heat wave on the way. The heat turns innkeepers into harpies.

Last week I got the following email from a fellow innkeeper: “Do you think any of our guests have a clue about how much work and time running a small B+B really takes? I'm sure they all think that we are just sitting around raking it in! I love the ones that show up two hours before check-in even after telling them that the room will not be available before 3. Who do they think cleans the room and does the laundry???”

Americans expect good service and they are right to do so, but a B&B is not a hotel.

As Donna Summer sang, “She works hard for the money so you better treat her right.”

Or, listen to Aretha Franklin: “R-E-S-P-E-C-T.”

Guests who treat us with respect, these are the guests we like the best. We jump through hoops and move mountains for these guests. And, more often than not, these guests feel the same way. These are the guests who tell us, after a day or two, "Gee! Chez Sven has begun to feel like home ... "