|August 22, 2006 - Why
the Little Things Matter...
fall, after the visitor season was over, I took the family
down to Florida for a week. I had never been to the Florida
Keys, and I had always wanted to see them. We originally
planned to camp at one of the state parks near Marathon, but
Hurricane Wilma did quite a bit of damage, and the park was
not available for camping.
than cancel the trip, I decided to do some research and try
to find a place for us to spend the week. I found an
apartment with two bedrooms and a kitchen, and it actually
fit our party of four very nicely.
arrived there, and it was time to check in, the first thing
I noticed was the number of small signs that were posted
everywhere. There was one on the door that said that said
that vehicles that did not belong to a registered guest
would be towed. There were a number of other ones, too, but
I don't remember what they said.
I went into the
office to register. The person was business-like, and had a contract
for me to review and sign. Since I actually work in the hospitality
industry, I read the contract thoroughly, both because it is a good
idea, and because I wanted to see if there was anything that people
in Florida were doing differently than what I had come to expect in
stated that they would charge my credit card for the entire stay at
the time that I registered, and that if I left early, there would be
no refund. This was acceptable for me, because this is one of the
conditions that I require, too. However, it would have been good to
have been advised of this in advance. There was a list of "Thou
shalt nots..." having to do with damages and noise... nothing that I
thought was unreasonable. I signed the contract, was given a couple
of keys, and we went off to our apartment.
apartment was very nice. There were two bedrooms and two
bathrooms, a ceiling fan, air conditioning, cable television
and a balcony with a view of the Gulf of Mexico. The kitchen
was at least passably supplied, with a stove and microwave,
dishes, pots and pans, glasses, etc. At this point, I
noticed a sign posted in several places in the
kitchen. The sign said that if we left dirty dishes, we
would be charged a $200 cleaning fee.
As you might
imagine, after a flight across the continent and a drive from Miami
to Marathon, it was time to visit the bathroom. When I walked in, I
was greeted by a sign that said that if the bathroom towels were
used for spills, or were otherwise stained, there would be a $50
Now I am the
first to admit that I pay attention to these kinds of details more
than most. However, I was feeling a bit uncomfortable at the
constant reminders that I should definitely not make myself at home.
I don't think that any of the things on the signs were in any way
unreasonable. In fact, they are completely reasonable. However,
there are other ways to let your guests know about these conditions.
Every time I
walked in the bathroom to take a shower, or washed dishes in the
kitchen, there was that reminder, and it ate at me. I know that I am
overly sensitive about such things, but I can't help but feel that
other guests would be similarly uncomfortable, but just not know
what they were uncomfortable about.
Now that I was
sensitized to the little things, I noticed that the owner spent a
lot of his day riding around on his golf cart. Admittedly there was
still a lot of cleanup to be done after the hurricane (notice that
some of the trees look dead or brown from being flooded with
seawater). However, he was a lot more about riding in the cart and
supervising than about cleaning up.
itself was very nice, and we did have a very good time while we were
there. However, there are certainly ways that the owner could have
presented his conditions that would have actually been a positive
experience. Guests expect that there are conditions and penalties
related to their stay. Informing the guests about the payment and
cancellation policies in advance is a start. Taking the time to
explain the damage penalties, rather than just putting a piece of
paper in front of you and having you sign it is another. Having
someone take a moment to walk you through your apartment and remind
guests about washing the dishes and not staining the towels would be
a third. Letting the guests enjoy their vacation rather than reading
and re-reading every little condition is a fourth.
I am sure that
there are some of you out there reading this thinking that I am just
way too uptight about this. However, you can tell from my experience
what this particular host is focused on. I never actually met the
owner -- he never took the time to introduce himself to me, even
though I was there for a week. This experience left an impression
with me, in part because one of the criteria by which I choose
vendors is the way they treat their guests. All of my vendors have
very nice places, and they have their own policies and penalties.
But they are also very focused on making sure that you have a great
time. I have lots of opportunities to visit properties and speak
with hosts. I am impressed when they talk about the guests
experience, and put off when they focus on the money.
My vendors make
their livings by making sure that their guests are not just
satisfied, but have a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The same is
true for me. If that isn't the most important thing to a vendor, I
don't use them.
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