Online reviews in an age of “disownership.”

There has been a change of late in the meaning of “disownership.”

Via the dictionary, it used to mean, to refuse to acknowledge ownership of or responsibility for.

This still might be true, but disownership is now also a buzzword description for the growing trend of borrowing or renting an item rather than owning it oneself.  According to recent studies, 25-30% of Americans have decided to rent rather than purchase some items that they fairly routinely used to own.

Currently, popular objects of disownership are vehicles and vacation homes.

In the US, it used to be if you wanted to go on vacation you had to stay in a hotel, or have a vacation home.  A hotel was supposed to embody the experience of being catered to, a vacation home just the opposite–another place you needed to leave in good order to return to it in good order.

(Please put to rest the reality of being “catered to” in a chain hotel with rates one can afford on a government salary.  And also put to rest the idea that at the Odell House there is any expectation that nightly guests must clean for themselves.  We only appreciate thing generally where they were found!)

Disownership had been alive and well in other countries–places where there have always been vacation flats and routine car rentals.  I never stayed in a hotel in Germany–always a vacation rental in a small town.   Those places are not routinely left strewn with bottles, garbage overflowing, ironing board left out, sink full of dishes.  Why?  Because the maid is the owner and booker and greeter. One might want to come back and be greeted with a smile.

Now, with the advent of multiple services that allow one to rent someone’s personal home, room or apartment, there is getting to be a lot more variety in the US as well.  But too often these places are treated as hotels, not what they are–your vacation home.  Or more accurately, someone’s personal space that you are using for a short while, with full and happy permission.  Use it, give it back roughly as found.

By “as found” I mean the furniture where you found it, the forks all present and in the correct apartment, the pictures not rehung, broken or gone.  Break a glass?  Tell us so we can replace it if need be.  Some of the apartments have too many anyway.  We are not going to charge you for simple accidents.  Completely ruin a $200 set of 600 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets?  Well, maybe.  (There are wiser choices for mopping up pizza spills. .  .)

Anyway, there is some considerable confusion in consumers about what they are asking for and paying for when they step outside the hotel model.

Example: when I was young my mother took my brother and I to the Savoy Hotel in London as the start of the trip to Wales.  It was very grand.  My single uncles used to stay there regularly and recommended it to her.  The booking probably felt safe after a long trip with two children.

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Tea in the dining hall was a grand sight!

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But my mother took one look at the bill for five nights with three people needing to eat and moved us to a vacation flat that belonged to a lady downstairs with a plaid apron and scarlet hair.  Sort of like the flat that Sherlock Holmes hung out in.  The landlady provided some services.  The apartment was completely furnished, and she worried slightly about those furnishings.  Not that Dr. Watson was not allowed to visit–he just was expected to wipe his feet.

Anyway, the flat was indeed very fun as well, but considerably more lived in.  Less shiny than the Savoy for sure. There was no large dining hall, but a small kitchen area, ice box, etc.  Dinner was at the pub down the street if you wanted it out.

Just for interest, below is a room at the Savoy–they are all different and have period furniture!

$1,225 a night.

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Here’s one at the Wakefield House–they are all different too, with period furniture.

$125 a night–with a kitchen and dining room.

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We furnish them like this on purpose.  It’s not supposed to look new.  Just the beds.

So, when renting a home or apartment one has to ask, why not a hotel room?  What’s the difference?  Unlike the Savoy–which really was fantastically expensive, there is not too much price difference between our lodging and the Davenport.  Not on a nightly rate anyway.

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Above, a room from Spokane’s Davenport Collection–one of 614 rooms.

I’m not sure how much a night–I think $120-180 plus parking and anything extra.

In some cases a hotel really is better, particularly if you need a conference center or large swimming pool.  Or if you expect hotel types of services and anonymity.   There would be a booking staff, and a  front desk awaiting your request 24 hours a day.  And a maid who has no connection to the other two jobs, and is paid the same whether you leave things in total disarray–or not.

Sounds like a five-star sort of place?  Well, it would be.

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Like The Davenport.  Spokane’s only five-star hotel.   Five Stars–except they are not.

Trip Advisor clients rate them at 4.5

Some folks are outraged that overnight parking costs more than breakfast, which you must also purchase.  Cook in the room?  Forget it.  They don’t want to clean up after you, and the do want you to eat downstairs. They also want you to pay for it.  A lot of hotel revenue is in the use of their extra services and products.  Have a drink at the bar and a lot of profit is generated for the host.

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We appreciate the model, but we are not like that at the Odell House.  We are trying to give you a home away from home.  And the only money we make is on the room rate.  We’ll go shopping for you, but we don’t charge for it.

Sometimes people are confused about this.  We recently got a 4 star review from a very happy client stating we were a bit “shabby”, not a five-star hotel. This is true.  We are not even a hotel, never mind an officially rated one!  And we search out antique and period pieces with some great care.  Then, an old house is a litany of ongoing projects.  They do not survive unless you do this.

Anyway, re ratings and stars: there is no category for furnished apartments:

All Clad in the kitchen? Henkle knifes? Easy laundry? Is it free?  Organic soap?  Can you pick fresh herbs?

These items do not exist in hotels–though doormen often do.

Our dedicated, repeat customers at the Odell House fit a certain type.

They are experienced travelers.

They are not cheap–they understand there really is such a thing as “too inexpensive” in lodging.

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(Example of too thrifty: $45 a night with tax.  The railroad track for the new coal line is just behind that railing.  Believe it or not, there is an even cheaper hotel  within walking distance.  Except I could not get Rick to walk there. . . The lodging business is not alchemy: you can’t spend less than it costs to rent a place, keep it for just a night when you want, and come back at will.  It will not be there when you return–or it will be there, but eventually you won’t want to stay there any more.)

Given that, our clients are also interested in value.

They like to be able to have an option to eat in if they feel like it, and cook comfortably.

They want a very good wireless Internet.

They like older homes and so appreciate Historic Registry rules on original windows, woodwork and facade.

They may be interested in walking in a historic neighborhood with nearby places to eat.

They think entertaining oddments and books in the units make it more interesting.  They don’t feel the need to reorganize everything, or discard things not to their taste.

Our clients are a bit adventurous.  They would like help available, but they really don’t need a doorman.

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Here is our doorman, gardener, helper. washer and scrubber–Rick.  Though you are much more likely to find him stepping off his commuting bicycle in a Harley T-shirt getting ready to rake leaves or wash a floor. Masters degree and a lifetime of service in therapy for troubled teenagers.

Me?  I train horses every morning, have a degree in English and write a blog about Dressage that’s pretty well-read around the world:  http://dressagesnob.wordpress.com/.

That’s why I spent time in Germany.

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People who stay with us regularly recognize we are a staff of exactly two, and that the Odell House could not run without us–nor without our other paying jobs.  We are not getting rich doing this, which will tell you something about the profit margin and what is important to us. We like old houses and we like being helpful and inviting people to share our really beautiful neighborhood.  This is an amazing corner of the world.

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Our clients know that in some cases an evening call for a reservation might have to wait until after the cat has been returned home from a walk, or in the morning, the horses put away.

But they also know if they call with a problem it will be dealt with.

I was outraged last time I booked a chain hotel for a trip.  It took ten minutes on hold to get an agent who barely spoke English, then gave bad information, and a rate twice that advertised.   The service was annoying and time-consuming–not really a service at all.  Just like calling the phone company or an airline.  Huge companies making zillions of dollars that can’t hire someone to pick up the phone to help you!

Here’s what we attempt to provide:  A competent booking staff of exactly one: who even while riding in the morning, one hand on the reins and holding the phone in the other, knows the area and can answer your questions briefly.   And then responsibly record your reservation later in the day.

We also offer a helpful staff awaiting your urgent request 24 hours a day.

Yes. There are only ten units and we really will answer the phone.  If you are a current guest and need us before 7AM or after 10PM call twice and the call will be put through.

The power of two. . . .offering you your very own furnished flat in Spokane.

One thought on “Online reviews in an age of “disownership.”

  1. House share peterborough
    We’ve been in your situation. We know the problem of people who have just arrived and know the real estate market, rent apartments in Madrid with rooms, which makes us strong in this area. We are known for providing an efficient, safe and personalized service to all our clients; we are backed by architects, consultants, and real estate professionals. We provide you excellent accommodation in Madrid.

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