I recently deleted a post. That’s not too common, but on rereading it, I thought it was just too snippy.
It was the result of being mad and hurt, not of real, thoughtful behavior the would benefit our guests in understanding what we do. Anyhow, I ditched it.
Several friends who follow the blog for fun were disappointed at the deletion. They loved it! And it really was pretty funny. Multiple mentions of Aspic as a breakfast item. And some good pictures.
I actually have seen a version of this done in Germany, but that is another story. And because you asked, here is the link back to a fun article and source for picture above: http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2009/02/15/the-icky-era-of-aspic/
(The point I was making is that enjoying the food tastes of others can be an adventure).
However, being a writer and being an inn keeper are two different projects and the post had to go.
What was it about?
Well, we got a two star review.
According to the article linked below, this is serious.
“Research at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2012 showed that an increase or decrease of just half a star can have a significant impact on the number of bookings a restaurant receives. For very small establishments, such as out of the way country pubs, the effects can be devastating financially and incredibly upsetting, personally”
Stars are important. People glance at stars and move on. They may never read the logic or factor it in.
And re the review, while everybody makes mistakes–we probably more so than many–this review was a set up.
(As well as a good example of a factor called “online disinhibition effect.”)
This review violated the Trip Advisor guidelines for reviews because it was written by a close competitor, only a few miles away.
And this is increasingly a problem–never mind guest blackmail and false positive reviews.
For perspective, read below:
In our case it was not very subtle. For obvious reasons a competitor cannot write a review about their competition–particularly a negative one. Just like we are not allowed to write reviews about ourselves. Public reviews are supposed to be a places for people to exchange useful information–but that’s not really what is happening most of the time.
I guess our “set up” two star was useful in a way, pointing out again something that is already stated repeatedly. I’ll say it again below: In Spokane you must be licensed as a B&B to keep folks less than 30 days. We are. You must have a central and inspected kitchen to serve breakfast. We don’t. Everybody here has their own kitchen.
Anyhow, I think reviews can be a valuable first tool for travelers–and also can be a valuable pointer to hotel keepers as well. We do care about honest feedback. It’s just that it does not happen often on the public forum which seems more inclined to subjective and emotional responses to what are often one-time events. Honest, helpful–if invariably hard to hear–critical feedback goes to the owner privately and is responded to. If that response is not satisfactory, or in fact confirms the complaint, then it might, might, be time for public negative review.
Time and time again you see owners responses of WHY did you not tell us at the time? It could have been remedied!
Negative public reviews are the last course of recourse, not the first contact. Statistics show a vast proportion of one and two star reviews are false–a setup.
Take a look at the numbers: Some places of our size have hundreds of reviews. I think we have less than 30. The oldest and probably most-used B&B here in town has had 12 reviews since 2005–a mix of positive and negative as would be natural. These low numbers (average 1.3 a year) are probably because the innkeepers are not soliciting reviews–or worse yet–paying for them. It probably says more about their marketing strategy than their operation.
Frankly, when people are happy they tend to just go on and be happy. Only when mad, mistreated–or having a grudge–are they inclined to be vocal in a negative way. The motivation to write bad things is much bigger than the motivation to write good things. Many establishments, seeing the benefit of hundreds of good reviews to dilute the several inevitable mediocre ones, have paid services, or a network of like-minded individuals, to write glowing snippets for them. The top review (as of today) for our “in the business” accuser?
“Kudos from one inn-keeper to another!”
Not that one inn-keeper could not love another’s service, it’s just relatively unlikely that a fairly new B&B would generate 60-70 honest, public and completely ecstatic reviews–all but one completely 5 star, and an average of one a month. It just doesn’t work that way.
I’ve written many very good reviews for hotels I’ve stayed at. Unless they do it really wrong, and I’ve informed them, and not gotten help with it, they get five stars. Why take the trouble? And why five stars? Because I realize it is important to them–and I’m inclined to appreciate creative tactics and small gestures. You can always learn something from someone’s model. I tend to forgive the small errors because I know that perfection is close to impossible. Lessons learned from a 120 year old house–and working with the public. And five stars because, why not? Appropriate value for what was paid–and value is an important part of it–good service, clean and orderly. Why not five stars?
I’d expect something different from the Savoy in London at over $500 a night,
than I would at the Mt Si Motel at $75.
Which is where Rick and I stayed with the water frozen, and I wrote them no review at all–I figured 18 degrees and a strong north wind were extenuating circumstances. Though it was certainly cold, they were attentive and kind.
But I did once wrote a terrible review about the Rodeway Inn in Corvallis Oregon–where I stayed two nights teaching a clinic. See if you agree with my stab at their reputation.
I was at work and I was kept up of both nights. The first by drunken teenagers vomiting and shouting in the halls, and the second with a major fight in the parking lot. (There’s just nothing like bodies slamming on the wall to lull one to sleep).
Prom weekend. Oregon State University
I actually could have forgiven even that–it was, after all, guest behavior not hotel behavior–but when I told the management of my plight the owner said, What noise? You must be Crazy! There was no fight in the parking lot!
Except there was. And I got no sleep in a filthy room that I actually would have been afraid to leave.
So the scene was set for a terrible review. One star. Filthy room, screaming occupants, vomit, physical violence.
They did offer breakfast.
I suspect the Rodeway Inn, Corvallis does not care about reviews–or cleanliness or upkeep or service–because it can take a $50 room and sell it eighteen weekends a year (for prom night or game night at OSU) for triple that. They are a really bad hotel. One and a half stars overall. Been in business for years. Overpricing their rooms on sold out weekends in a university town works well for them. Not so much the customer, but that’s not the point.
So, if you agree with me, this is a place worthy of some scathing reviews, particularly on busy nights when it is honestly impossible to sleep.
How did we get our recent two star review? (In spite of local chocolates on the new bed, ironed sheets, organic soaps, fresh flowers, gourmet coffee, full kitchen, great views, and $95 for the night?)
Here is the review: *****
“This was listed as a B&B. We are B&B owners and we certainly know what qualifies as a B&B and that is it includes breakfast. This is more like a nice boarding house. Each unit has its own kitchen – no breakfast served. Most of the drawers in our unit had somebody else’s belongings in drawers. This is advertised as a “Green” echo friendly establishment. Organic soaps etc. were on the kitchen and bathroom counters, however I would NOT consider Soft Scrub, Clorox, etc. as echo-friendly green cleaning agents found under the sink in the kitchen.
We could recommend staying in this place as it is in a lovely part of Spokane and it was adequately furnished and clean. However, it is misleading to advertise it as a Bed and BREAKFAST and green, echo friendly. It was also creeping having someone else items in drawers. This was misleading.
Room Tip: Just come prepared to fix your own breakfast or go out to breakfast – false advertising.”
Here’s a link to the review.
So here’s what we did wrong:
#1. Lack of cooked communal breakfast–which we do not promise and have not once in 17 years served. In Spokane you currently must be licensed as a B&B/hotel/motel to keep folks less than 30 days. We are–and fit ALL of the guidelines, owner in site, historic registry. The unlicensed group have a stay of execution to be out of busssiness by end of August. You wonder we make the distinction? Licensed, legal, inspected, insured..
Breakfast? You do not HAVE to serve food to keep people legally over night as long as you fit one of the categories, pay the taxes and buy the license. But if you do serve food, in Spokane you must have a central and inspected kitchen where it is prepared. We don’t. Everybody has their own kitchen. That’s actually a big draw for people and we are very clear about it. (That you can legally make your own free breakfast from on-site materials, and have the invitation to use fresh eggs from the chickens and veggies from the garden was not mentioned in the review Local coffee, a grinder, gourmet tea, pumpernickel bread in the cooler, fresh eggs, butter and cream? They were all there.)
#2. The presence of bleach products. Right next to the vinegar. That critique of our “greenness” is, I think a bit of a stretch (EV charging station, organic garden, chickens, compost, recycling and a fleet of loaner bikes?) Clorox on site is worthy of criticism? Let’s be serious. (Besides, there are on occasion good reasons for Clorox.)
#3. Items in the drawers. (There are lots of shelves–close to fifty–and drawers–more than 30–in that apartment. The North River View. They booked The Gallery which is very small. I upgraded them. That is policy–the nicest unit available.
Storage in the River View is not an issue.
As in many of our units there are things in the cabinets. Like tea pots.
And every unit has a tool kit so we can fix simple things right away. Extra sheets exist, some books and DVDs or videos. We assume sometimes people find these useful.
And I suppose it could happen that we forgot to open one of the thirty drawers and something personal was left in one. Except we checked, and there was not.
This is the profile of the gal who reviewed us (And I would NEVER divulge a client–no matter what they did.)
This is public information, right there with her review.
Here is mine: Also public information.
(And on looking at the travel demographic in the link above it appears a lot like the red and blue maps we see commonly in November. . . But, as my good friend and staunch Libertarian Noel says, (in fond tones,) “You are after all an egg-sucking liberal.” Oh well. My son’s work is funded by the Koch brothers currently. Shouldn’t that get me some cred for tolerance? And I confess, I have enjoyed mean jokes about Sarah Palin.)
Back on course!
Honestly, I have lost count of the B&Bs or small, micro-establishments I’ve stayed in. (India, France, Germany, Holland, England, Scotland, Ireland, Mexico, Belize, Nicaragua, probably thirty here in the US.)
And you know what I can tell you for a fact about them?
Almost nothing that I could say for sure.
Because they are all different–and called different things in different countries, offering what the hosts think of as hospitality. And that is different for each host and guest.
So it pays to read what the offering is–kitchen provided, no breakfast served is pretty darned clear–and accept it with some humility if you go to stay. You’re in someone’s home for heavens sake! They don’t have to be just like you. . . And you might learn something from that. If you’re not busy trying to put them out of business for being different than you expected.
Re expectations. I have mine, but I realize some of them–perhaps most–are not shared by other inn-keepers. Or the public in general. Am I going to write a bad review over sheets not ironed in another establishment? Just because I do it–and have not one, but TWO of these mechanical dinosaurs:
(A mangle from the forties. Isn’t that just beautiful?)
Furthermore, I hate, Hate, HATE, all fabric softeners and dryer sheets. (These are bad for you, I just KNOW it! ;) And anyway, the secret to good sheets and towels is. . . good sheets and towels.
Am I going to write a bed review because someone does not iron and uses dryer sheets? Nope. Just because that is the way I do it does not mean I’m entitled to publicly cast judgement on the practices of others. I might not go again over the dryer sheet issue–seriously.
The ironing? Eh. . . I do it because I think you’ll like how it feels, and it really, it makes me feel more orderly when the top sheet folds down nicely. Do I think it is really important? Not in your life. It is just my habit.
If you’ve stayed with us and want to write a review. Please be my guest:
Oh, and you know what my absolutely favorite Bed and Breakfast offering is?
A boiled egg.
In Germany you get “Pensions” and “Zimmer Frei” which are more like what we do at the Odell House, except there is no name for them here. The one above, The Biedendieck, had a little restaurant that you could have breakfast at if you stayed there overnight–and a very active bar in the evening, which I never went to in its active states–2 AM typically. (I can speak a little German but I definitely do not sing it.) It was good place to stay in the winter as it had heat. The other one I stayed in had unheated cottages in a beautiful garden and no food was offered–because, well, everyone had their own kitchen–and at least 5 gallons of hot water. . .
Anyway, a boiled egg is a fine way to start your day, though they do not peel easily when fresh, so better to eat them hot if you’ve gotten some from the chickens.
Best wishes! Dale