Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Advanced Innkeeping: A Primer

One of the skills veteran innkeepers acquire is the ability to pigeonhole people, ie. to take in at a glance, a la Sherlock Holmes, clues as to where a guest is on his life journey. I can also often tell, within the first few minutes, how positive the experience at Chez Sven will be. From a few cursory glances, more often than not, I can guess what profession, what age, sexual orientation, whether a couple are married or not, whether the woman is a wife, girlfriend, daughter, or mistress, and what type of holiday is desired, ie. sedentary or active, but also whether people want to be left alone, something we have learned to respect. We get extroverts, and introverts. Some folks want to talk, others don’t. Either is okay with us.

Chez Sven is a green bed-and-breakfast, as our Web site indicates. I ask everyone at registration whether eating organic food at breakfast is important to them. My second question is even more revelatory: How important to you is our being green? I always look to see what number the guest has circled. Sven and I are particularly pleased to receive guests who choose 4, the highest number on our scale. It’s not surprising to me that these folks are the ones who prove the most compatible and get the most out of their stay. To these guests I am able to talk about toxic chemicals in the environment, for instance, something I care deeply about. Often our "green" guests go home with a copy of Theo Colborn’s Our Stolen Future in one hand. I keep a large pile in the office and give them away.

We had a guest this week who was harder to pigeonhole than most. He seemed shy at first, although I noted he circled 4 on the registration sheet, a good sign. He came alone, and was obviously tired. In fact, exhausted would be a better word, and he slept a lot the first two days. No wonder. His profession is demanding: physician. As time passed, I came to appreciate his fine mind, rigorously organized life, and willingness to be open to new experiences. What’s more, Brian totally got Chez Sven. He understood the opportunity to be treated as family and seized it, as his guestbook testimony indicates: “Thank you for opening up your home and yourselves this past few days. What a wonderful, relaxing long weekend.”

Brian spent a lot of time with Sven. “It’s fascinating to see people half your age, or even younger, and that they take pleasure in talking to me,” my husband remarked yesterday. Sven is a great storyteller, but there’s more. He is highly intelligent and, as a retired teacher, enjoys sharing his knowledge. Guests who understand and take advantage of this will get the most out of their stay at Chez Sven.