Friday, December 28, 2007

So you're planning a wedding...

Get comfortable, this is going to be long.

We get a lot of these calls because Wellfleet is a popular place to get married. Usually it's the bride inquiring about the number of rooms and/or how many people we can accommodate. More often than not, someone - either the bridal couple or the parents - wants to rent all our rooms for the wedding weekend. Here's the thing: we won't do it. We did do it for several years but after careful consideration we've stopped.

To the bride (or parents), this makes no sense. After all, you're doing us (the inn) a favor by renting all the rooms, right? Unfortunately, that's not really true. When I made the case to my husband & business partner to stop doing full-house rentals I wrote out a list for him that outlined why it just wasn't working for us. Here is the list, in no particular order:

1) Weddings are inevitably scheduled for weekends we'd be full without them.
2) Because they're taking all the rooms, they think we should give them a discount. Since we could rent the rooms anyway, that's not going to happen.
3) There is frequently a problem getting all the names of the people who will be staying here when a single person handles a group reservation. Call me silly, but I like to know who is showing up at my door and staying in my house. Not to mention that if we get a call for someone we need to know what door to knock on or if the party is staying here at all.
4) More often than not, the entire group arrives and checks out on the same days. That means two whole-house changeovers, which is a lot of work.
5) Because the inn is fully booked for a 2-day weekend we always find ourselves turning away guests who would have stayed 3, 4 or even 5 nights if a room had been available. In July or August we'd very likely rent those weekday nights anyway, but in September or June that is pretty unlikely so a weekend group rental winds up costing us money.
6) Additional traffic/wear & tear on the house; friends and family staying at other lodgings around town drop by to visit the friends/family/bridal couple at the inn. I find people who are not registered guests wandering in and out of the house and sometimes have been given the code to the front door. On several occasions a guest here has invited friends attending the wedding but not staying with us to use their room here to shower & change before the wedding, resulting in a lot of extra towel use and extra cleaning.
7) People coming to a destination wedding are probably not coming back to this area. They are not going to become repeat guests and are not necessarily going to be a tremendous source of word-of-mouth advertising for us since their primary memories will, understandably, be of the wedding. There have been a few exceptions to this one, but by and large it's true.

There are a few other points, but you get the idea. None of this behavior is malicious and certainly the people we have had here as part of a wedding group have all been very nice but overall the reasons not to take group bookings during our busy months far outweigh the reasons to take them. Many places that take wedding groups also host the wedding and/or reception on the property, so they are getting a facility fee which helps make up for some of the revenue lost on longer bookings. We are far too small to accommodate the event itself. We are happy to accommodate people who are attending a wedding as individual reservations and I encourage the brides to go ahead and put us on their "places to stay" card or web page, but we treat them like individual reservations, not a group.

Now if you happen to be planning a wedding or some other event for some time between November and May we would be DELIGHTED to accommodate your group. We might even work with you on price.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

On Being a Good Guest

We don't have house rules. Our guests, with very few exceptions, have been lovely people who are respectful of our property, enjoy interacting with our other guests and chatting with me and my husband. Usually people arrive during our regular check-in times and as innkeepers we are committed to being on the property during those hours to greet you. We make ourselves available for late check-ins when required or we give our guests the information they need to do a self-check-in when we know they're going to be late. If we find we are going to be out during some part of our check-in period or if we have dinner plans for the evening we try to get in touch with our guests to make sure they're going to arrive while we're here or tell them to look for a note if they're not. In our opinion, that is a courteous way to conduct business.

Unfortunately there is an occasional guest who does not feel that courtesy runs both ways. I am waiting for one such guest this afternoon. This guest called to make the reservation just two days ago and I specifically asked for an estimated time of arrival because a) I had tentative plans for this afternoon and b) I had no other arriving guests so having an arrival time means I can plan errands, etc. around it. This guest was planning to arrive about an hour before our the beginning of our usual check-in time (2 - 6 p.m.), but that was fine with me since I knew the room would be ready and my tentative plans were for the hours of 2 - 4. I'm pretty certain I even mentioned to this guest that I had plans for the afternoon and to please call me if there was going to be a change in arrival time.

When the guest had not arrived by 2 I called the cell phone number I had. No answer. I left a message, then called again at 3:30. Still no answer. As I write this, it's nearly 5 p.m. and I have heard nothing. My plans for this afternoon are obviously shot and I am a bit frustrated. It is going to be a bit difficult for me to greet this guest with my usual enthusiasm, although I will do my best to hide my irritation.

I certainly understand that plans change, departure times shift, road conditions can be unpredictable - especially at this time of year - and that emergencies can come up. Weather is not the issue today so perhaps there was an emergency but unless the guests is physically incapacitated it would be appropriate to call and let me know what's going on. I may not be a relative, but my life is impacted by the events in my guests' lives just the same, especially on the day of arrival.

So I guess the point is this: if the innkeeper asks you for an arrival time and you are able to give one, please call if something changes. And if the innkeeper asks you for the cell phone number you use when you travel, please either keep it on or check it periodically; your innkeeper may be trying to reach you.

Lastly, a word of apology for my long silence. I've been shaking off a bit of this year's burnout by getting out of town for a few days and trying to work on winter maintenance projects when I'm not traveling.

I hope everyone has happy & healthy holidays. I hope to see you in the new year!

Thursday, November 22, 2007


It always amazes me how quickly this holiday rolls around. It seems as if Labor Day was just last week, but here we are just five weeks away from the New Year. Yikes.

So these are some of the things I'm thankful for this year:
- Our wonderful guests, especially the ones we see every year;
- The beautiful place I live, surrounded by water and pine forest;
- Our terrific neighbors Mark & George who cooked Thanksgiving dinner this year and allowed my parents to attend;
- Our terrific neighbors on the other side, Patty, Fred & Jeremy at The Holden Inn, whose friendship means so much to us and with whom we can share ideas, tools and tales;
- My husband, who aside from all the other things he does has been doing breakfast solo three mornings a week the past five or six months, allowing me to get a little more rest;
- The good health of the people we love;
- My foot being sufficiently healed in time for me to wear sexy shoes tonight!

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday surrounded by people they love.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


I had minor foot surgery this week, not for anything life threatening but to take care of an annoyance that has been growing more so over the past few months. I'm a bit laid up in that I'm supposed to have the foot elevated to prevent swelling. I was hoping to be more mobile by the weekend than I am, but walking around is uncomfortable. My husband is being wonderful about keeping me fed and dealing with the weekend guests. I'm trying to spend a little time doing paperwork each day and then go back to being a good patient so I can be fully recovered by next weekend. This is a difficult profession in which to schedule health-related procedures, but if we don't take care of our health, how can we take care of our guests, right?

Saturday, October 27, 2007


Among the many odd things that happen in places of lodging, this is a story from our first or second summer in business.

It seems that one of our female guests wandered out of her room late at night without a stitch of clothing and wandered into another guest room where the sleeping couple had apparently forgotten to lock the door. The couple in this room were there for his birthday, the stay was a gift to him from his wife. The man awoke first, saw the naked woman in the room and thought "This is the best birthday present EVER! My wife is soooo cool." Fortunately, (or unfortunately depending on your perspective) at this point the wife woke up but before she could react the sleepwalker turned and exited the room. I gather she headed downstairs.

My husband & I, despite the fact that we live in the house, were totally oblivious to this entire escapade until the next morning when the guests from the 2nd room told us about it after breakfast. They thought it was extremely funny. Adam & I were astonished that they had managed to have breakfast at the same time as the sleepwalker and her husband and remain totally cool about it, not saying a word while they were still in the house.

Both couples were there a 2nd night but I'm pretty sure the birthday boy's wife made sure their door was locked before going to bed!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Oyster Festival

It's Oyster Festival Weekend!

As busy as August is here in Wellfleet, the Oyster Festival brings in more people than there are on an average day in that busy month. Last year the estimated attendance was 20,000 people over the two days with about 13,000 attending on Saturday. Approximately 100,000 Wellfleet oysters were consumed at the festival. Projections this year are for 25,000 people to attend. Since the weather is beautiful and each year there seems to be more publicity about the festival, I'd say that's a pretty fair projection.

Opinion in the town is somewhat divided between those who think the festival is great and those who would like it to go away. Not surprisingly, most of us in the business community think it's great. It brings in tons of people who spend money on lodging, food and souvenirs and it's a week later than the traditional "end" of the season, which was Columbus Day weekend.

The festival organizers have been pretty well organized as far as parking, restroom facilities and clean-up are concerned. Considering the festival is only in its seventh year and the growth between years 2 & 3 was HUGE, I've been pretty impressed at how well the logistics have been handled. Year 3, which had the first really big influx of people for the festival, was a bit rough but the organizers clearly took the lessons learned that year to heart. Kudos to them. On Monday morning it will be difficult to tell that anything out of the ordinary happened in the center of town.

We have a great group here for the festival. Most of them were here last year and they really enjoyed each others' company. Most of them are staying a third night this year, which is lovely as well. As for me, my cleaning chores are done and I hear the oysters calling...

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

You Know You Live in a Small Town When...

Your appliance guy walks in your open back door, replaces the part that caused the breakdown and leaves a note hanging on your door saying the appliance is fixed, all without you even seeing him. Happened today.

Your UPS guy just leaves your boxes in your kitchen. Happens all the time.

Your bank calls to remind you to come down and sign some papers. That would never happen in New York City.

One of the waitresses at a restaurant you get to about three times a year in a different town (!) knows you make amazing scones, even though she's never had them. I guess we'll have to do something about that.

Moving from the biggest city in the country to a really small town was certainly full of surprises. Most, like the above, have been good and make me smile.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Refrigerator update

My appliance guy came by this afternoon, disguised as a fire chief (he IS the chief in a nearby town - almost everyone out here has two jobs). The problem turned out to be a fan blade that had detached itself from its mount. Simple fix, no moving of the refrigerator required. I am SO relieved. He is concerned that the blade will come off again, so he will bring a new one by in the next day or two. Meanwhile we can reload the refrigerator. Since the fan is in the freezer behind the rear panel, I'm leaving that empty for him until he installs the new blade.

Who knew such a thing could happen? We are so lucky to have a great repair guy nearby. He sells new appliances as well, but I'd much rather repair than replace as long as the economics of doing so make sense.

Friday, September 28, 2007

What's up with this?

I've never had such a difficult year for appliances. Usually we'll have a problem with one appliance over the course of a season, but this year it's been ridiculous. First it was the washing machine which was working but was clearly not happy and turned out to be a fairly easy fix of a broken spring. Then the dishwasher bit the dust. A few weeks ago we had to have a repair call for the refrigerator in the kitchen to fix one of the doors. Then the washing machine DIED right in the middle of the first wash cycle this past Sunday, a day when every room in the house had checked out. Thankfully I'm on good terms with my next-door neighbors who have a 26 room guest house and three washing machines. I was able to get enough stuff washed to get me through the next couple of days and my appliance repair guy sent his crew to me on Monday. The problem turned out to be the transmission and they either fixed or replaced it - I wasn't home to see.

You'd think that would be enough appliance trouble for one season, but this morning when I was making breakfast I discovered that my 2nd refrigerator - the one we store most of the B&B supplies in - was not all that cold. A thermometer showed temps in the 50's. I put a call into my repair guy around 8:15 but they weren't able to get to us today. We got the thing emptied out and all the important stuff is chilling away in the refrigerator in the cottage, but the unit in question is going to be a bear to move because it's really wedged into a spot in my office/laundry room. So on the one hand I'm really hoping the repair crew can get here tomorrow, but on the other hand it's going to be ugly when they do. Wish me luck.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Notable Guests

A lot of our guests are interesting, but we've had two especially interesting guests in the past ten days or so. Sadly, both had to leave before breakfast so my other guests never got to meet them and I barely got to chat with them myself.

The first was Ruby Dee Davis, who was in town for a fundraiser at the local theater. She's a sweet, lovely lady who arrived at about 5 p.m. on the evening of the event and was picked up at 7:45 a.m. to return to the airport in Boston. She was already packed and in the living room when I came down to prep breakfast at 7 a.m., although she was dozing on the couch. I was impressed that she'd gotten her suitcase down the stairs on her own, since she's quite petite and in her 80's. That suitcase was at least half her size! At any rate, she was snoozing on the couch so I let her be for a while. When I woke her, about 20 minutes before her limo was due, she asked me if there was anything she could do to help me. So cute!

The second notable guest I checked in yesterday. His name didn't ring a bell, but after I checked him in I noticed that his address was 5th Avenue in NYC. That's a pretty high-rent neighborhood, so I Googled him. He turned out to be an architectural luminary, someone who's work I knew but who's name I did not. One of his partners is even more famous. I was extremely sorry I didn't get a chance to speak with him at greater length. Sadly, my husband, who studied architecture, was out of town this weekend and didn't get to meet him at all. He left at about 8 a.m. to head back to New York.

Well, so it goes. Perhaps one or both of them will return and stick around for a few days.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Very Cool

I flew a plane today!

One of my husband's friends from the fire department owns two planes, a single engine and a twin engine, and was planning to take another guy from the department flying today, so he invited Adam along. Adam was committed to handling breakfast at the inn today (our Sunday ritual), so he offered me the spot. Despite having to get up a little earlier than I might have, this kind of opportunity doesn't come along often so I grabbed it.
I met Peter at his home at about 8:45 this morning. Moe and his two kids - six and around five years old - were already there. We drove to the little airport in Chatham where we boarded Peter's twin-engine Piper Seneca, similar to the one in the photo above, and took off. Peter gave us all headsets with microphones so we could talk to each other and we could also hear the information from small airports from Provincetown to Newport, RI.
Moe sat in the back with the kids and I got the co-pilot's seat. We flew past Monmoy Island hoping to see seals but there weren't many. Judging from the number of fishing boats out, there must have been lots of fish around today so we assumed they were all off feeding. Then we headed up the bay side of the Cape, getting a peek at the target ship off of Eastham, circling Moe's house, then the inn, then up to Provincetown. After we rounded the tip of the Cape at Provincetown, Peter asked me if I'd like to take the controls. Hell, yeah! I flew from Provincetown all the way back down to Chatham, made a second pass around Monmoy (still no seals) and aimed us towards the airport. The plane has a light touch at the controls, which sort of surprised me. It was remarkably easy to gain or loose a hundred or more feet in altitude, particularly while making turns, so holding steady took a little practice. Don't worry, I let Peter do the airport approach and landing!
Peter has been flying for 27 years and has been a flight instructor for 14, so I felt quite safe in taking the controls. He talked through the takeoff procedure, showing me all the various switches, levers, gauges, etc. That stuff fascinates me, someday I'd love to learn to fly.
The weather today was perfect: clear, sunny and low humidity. We could see all the way to Boston. The tide was low and that allowed us to see the old target ship off Eastham and what's left of Billingsgate Island here in Wellfleet, as well as all the flats where local shellfish are farmed. It was a terrific morning. I was back at the inn by 11:30 feeling pretty good.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


My husband and a helper took care of the inn today, including breakfast. I slept late, had a bite to eat and went to the beach where I took a quick swim (the water was pretty cold for this late in the summer, although it was beautiful) and read for a couple of hours. The humidity is gone, crowds noticeably smaller, traffic much lighter. I didn't answer the phone or the doorbell, or even see any of our guests today. Tonight we're hosting a bonfire on the beach for some of our local friends.

I realize I've been sounding a bit cranky lately. That's pretty normal for August. I think the toughest part of the summer is over. We now return you to your regularly scheduled cheerful innkeeper.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Update on Smokers

The smoke smell was gone before the smoking guest and I didn't need to borrow the ozone machine after all. Just as well, because I don't think the owner found it. The current occupants of that room are a lovely Italian couple. They're also smokers, although they say they would never consider smoking indoors at a B&B. The good thing is that if any odor had lingered they wouldn't notice it. Anyway, I'm breathing a big sigh of relief.

By the way, fabric freshener spray rocks!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Another First

In eight years we've never had a guest smoke in one of our rooms. It happened last night. She didn't read the sign stating "we are a no-smoking establishment". She told me she assumed it was alright because of the ashtray in the room. It's not an ashtray, it's a candy dish. And it had candy in it. I guess people see what they want to see.

I had two big fans running in there all day and I sprayed the curtains with fabric freshener. When they check out in a few days I'll strip out all the linens and change the pillows. I think I can borrow an ozone machine from one of the motels. She's agreed to smoke outside for the rest of her stay, so with luck I'll be able to clear the smell out of there.

Surprisingly few of our guests have been smokers. Usually I can smell it when they are and am able to mention our policy when I check them in. In this case, I wasn't here when she arrived. She's from a southern state, where smoking is still permitted in a lot of public places. Guests from New York and most of New England pretty much assume smoking isn't permitted indoors. I'm sure it wasn't malicious, it's just aggravating.

Friday, August 17, 2007

It's just a little thing...

A few days ago I managed to make a woman angry. No, it was not a guest and yes, perhaps I could have handled the situation a little better, but perhaps she also over-reacted a bit.

Here's how it happened:
There's a knock at the door and I go to answer it. Two women are standing in the vestibule. I said "I see you missed the doorbell" and proceeded to point it out to them. A lot of people miss it, which is why we installed a knocker. With guests it's actually important that they know where it is, it's one of the ways to get a hold of us if they need us. We can't hear the knocker from the third floor where we live but there is a chime for the doorbell up there. Since I had never seen these ladies before I guess I could have skipped the doorbell lecture, but I actually thought at the time one of them might be checking in that day.

Anyway, one of the two ladies informs me that friends of hers will be staying with us beginning in two days and she has something she wants to drop off for us to put in the room for them. She then pulls a wrapped package out of her bag. I told her that I really didn't have any place to store it and could she please come back on the morning of the friends' arrival to drop it off. I thought I was fairly polite, but it's possible I was a bit short with her. She was clearly not happy at my lack of cooperation. She grumbled something about being on her way to the market to buy lettuce and not wanting to put wet lettuce in a bag with the wrapped gift. I got her a plastic bag in which to place the gift so it would stay dry and sent her on her way. I could see she wasn't happy when she left.

When she returned on the appointed day my husband answered the bell. I happened to walk by as she told him she was quite angry at the way she'd been treated by me and I did apologize to her, although I was in a hurry at that moment so I really don't know how well my apology was received.

After she left it was clear that my husband was furious with me. He saw no reason why I couldn't have taken the package and since we're in the "hospitality" business it is our job to go out of our way to be nice to people. He's not entirely wrong, but to what extent do we have to accommodate requests from non-guests? We really do bend over backwards to honor special requests from our guests; reheating leftovers for them, loaning a jacket for a whale-watch, providing a cutting board & knife to dress a fish they caught - all sorts of things that are unusual and out of our routine. But this woman was not our guest, nor were her friends currently staying with us.

My husband's point was that this lady is a local and she will probably not refer her friends to us in the future because I had refused her request and she had thought me rude.

Unfortunately, this lady was largely a victim of circumstance:
- I had no help on the day she dropped by, so I was busy;
- I was/am hot and overtired;
- I really did not want the responsibility for this package;
- I was concerned that I'd forget to put it in the room;
- the previous week we had received three fairly large boxes in advance of a guest's arrival and had stored those. In that case, the guest had contacted me in advance to ask if it was okay to have something shipped to her at our address and I had told her it was but please try to have the delivery timed for as close to her arrival as possible. The box arrived two days before she did, which isn't bad. I was, however, somewhat irked when the second two boxes showed up - from another store and via a different delivery method - later that day. I felt somewhat taken advantage of and clearly that was part of my reaction to this new request.

In my own defense, I typically do not allow the drop-off of items days before a guest arrives. We frequently have guests who are coming for weddings and often the bride drops by with bags of goodies for them; a few times they've tried to do so a day or two before arrival. I have always requested that they return on the day of arrival. We really do have very limited storage space. I made the exception for the above guest because she was arriving from Canada and wanted to have a birthday gift for her niece, who is living in town, delivered.

I could and should have handled this differently, but in what other business do people just assume you'll do this sort of thing? For example, if her friends had made a restaurant reservation for one night of their stay, do you suppose she would have thought it was okay to bring a package to the restaurant two days before the reservation and ask them to present it to the couple when they arrived for dinner? I doubt it.

Sunday, August 12, 2007


I guess it's been a while since my last post. I have a couple brewing, I'll try to be a bit more diligent this week.

It's August. The weather is hot & sticky and so am I. I'm also tired. I'm having a difficult time getting into bed before midnight because the only quiet waking hours are after 10:30 or 11 at night and I need that time. Of course someone called at 2:30 a.m. last night to see if we had a room next week. When I asked him if he had any idea what time it was he said "Oh, don't you have a 24 hour desk?" Sir, if you're reading this, I do not apologize if I was a tad short with you last night.

Local traffic is heavy, beaches are crowded, it's difficult to park on Main Street and there are long waits at restaurants. This is all normal. So are my fraying nerves. Thank goodness my guests are all really, really nice.

Although September is on track to be our busiest September ever, the lower humidity, cooler nights and lighter traffic will go a long way towards calming my soul. Meanwhile, I just keep exercising those smile muscles!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Middle of the Busy Season

It's full-on summer here in Wellfleet. People everywhere, restaurants mobbed, tons of kids at the beach and all the business owners hunkered down in summer mode. We have a number of friends who own restaurants, we see them only when we go eat at their establishments. Other friends we sometimes bump into when we go to the local theaters (movie or live), which is about once a month. We make noises about getting together for dinner or something, it doesn't always happen. Everyone understands. Winter is for socializing with our friends.

The population difference in our town between winter, when only the year-round residents are here, and summer, when all the 2nd home-owners are here is approximately 3,000 vs. 17,000. Add to that the transient visitors - those who are staying at motels, B&B's or renting cottages - and there are probably 20 - 24,000 people in Wellfleet on any given day in July and August. It's kinda crazy and certainly it's easy to loose sight of things and start grousing about all the extra people in town, but let's face it, the summer tourists are the only reason this town still exists. Nearly every year-round resident who is not retired owes their ability to make a living in some way to tourism. We all know this, but sometimes the sheer number of people and the unrelenting sameness of the days (no such thing as a "weekend" for us in the summer) can make us a bit grumpy. It becomes an art to keep that to ourselves - part of the skill set one must develop as an innkeeper.

Thankfully all our guests since the "incident" have been lovely and interacting with them has been a pleasure, but August does tend to bring a certain type of vacationer to our town. There is an undercurrent of tension in this type, and they seem to be in a hurry - for what I'm not sure. It puzzles me when I see people who are on vacation leave a restaurant in a huff because their food isn't coming fast enough. What's the rush? And where do they think they're going to go and not have to wait to be seated?

Occasionally we do get guests here who seem to try to pack a week's worth of vacation activities into two or three days. Usually they're mid-twenties and either live or work in large cities. If they seem open to it, I'll suggest they pare down their to-do list somewhat and try to relax. After all, who wants to get home from a vacation needing a vacation?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

I Love My Dishwasher

I didn't realize how much I loved it until it died on me last Friday. We purchased it in 2004 and bought the extended service contract, but since we live at the end of the universe Sears only has service out here on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I called a local repair person, he told me he couldn't get there any sooner than Tuesday, either, so we might as well wait and get the service we didn't have to pay for. So for five days we washed all the dishes by hand. Granted, I grew up in a house where we had no dishwasher, so washing dishes is not a foreign concept to me, but there were only four of us!

The good news is that the service tech did come on Tuesday, the culprit was the motor. If we hadn't purchased the extended service the repair would have cost nearly $400. We're now back up and running and life is good.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Unclear on the Concept

Bed & Breakfasts are, pretty much by definition, small businesses. They are individually owned and the owners often do a lot of the work themselves. Some B&B's have assistant innkeepers, a few even have full-time, live-in innkeepers who are not owners. Each establishment reflects the personality of its owners. Decor varies widely, breakfasts run the gamut from continental to multiple-course gourmet, amenities may be quite simple or they may rival the large hotel chains. I've heard of B&B's that have themes, made-to-order ice cream sundaes, all sorts of romance packages, various types of animals on the property and so forth. The point is that if you can think it up, there's probably a B&B out there somewhere that has it. There's only one thing I've never heard of a B&B having: a 24-hour reservation desk.

Anyone who has ever stayed in a B&B can plainly see how it works. The innkeeper is up early, makes breakfast, helps guests with plans for the day, checks people out, cleans up from breakfast, cleans or supervises the room cleaning, does laundry or supervises staff doing it, does all the paperwork, greets and checks in new guests, sets up for the following morning and goes to bed so they can get up and do it all again. Somewhere in there they may have time for a meal or two. It's pretty clear to the guests that it would be inappropriate to call for a reservation in the middle of the night, so when we do get calls like that it's pretty obviously someone who has never stayed in a Bed & Breakfast.

Fortunately this isn't a nightly occurrence. It happens a few times a year. It happened twice last night, once at about 11 p.m. and once just after midnight. Fortunately (or not) we were still awake, but we usually explain that we're in or heading for bed and ask them to call back the next day. I kind of wish I'd tracked these calls to see if any of them ever call back, but if I had to guess, few if any do.

Some B&B's do not answer the phone at night. We feel strongly that we must, since someone may be calling with an emergency for one of our guests or for us, since it's the number most of our family & friends have for us. In eight years, however, we've never had a late night call that was an emergency - they've all be people calling for reservations. I'm guessing none of them has ever stayed in a B&B before. I'm also guessing that they won't be staying in mine.

Don't even get me started on the ones who ring the doorbell after midnight...

Monday, July 16, 2007

A First

It isn't a good first, either. Last week, for the first time in our eight years of innkeeping, we had to ask a guest to leave.

This was a last minute reservation that took a 3-day slot, two days of which had been a cancellation so we were glad to get the booking. They arrived early (see my previous post on this subject) but I needed to get out of the house for an appointment so I agreed to check them in. Fortunately my husband arrived home when I was about halfway through the process and took over; they seemed to want to chat and I didn't have the time as I was rushing to get rooms cleaned. We both agreed the couple was a little "odd", but other guests have struck us that way and have turned out to be perfectly nice people. Not so this time.

At breakfast the first morning I asked the couple where they had gone for dinner the night before - a standard conversation opener around here. The answer I got back started out as a rant. He was unhappy that the restaurant/club they had been to for lunch had closed their kitchen at 9 p.m. and before the music started. They had wanted to have a late dinner and hear the band. He expressed surprise that nobody had told them about this policy at lunch (why would they?). I mentioned that most of the restaurants around here stop serving around nine and named the exceptions, all of which stop serving at ten. Also the fact that as far as I knew, the places that offer live music in this town all close the kitchen prior to the band starting. I don't know why that is, it's just local custom and I've never thought to question it.

The guest would not drop the issue and became angrier and angrier. He accused me of being "argumentative". It was starting to get ugly when another guest came to my rescue and changed the subject. I stepped into my office for a few minutes to cool off and thought seriously about asking the couple to leave right then and there, but when I returned to the dining room a lively conversation on another topic was going on and everyone seemed happy, so I let it go. When my husband returned in the afternoon to spell me for a bit I mentioned the incident to him just so he'd have a heads-up. He told me I should have called him and he would have asked them to leave, but at that point I thought it was overkill and that everything would be fine.

I left the inn for a couple of hours and when I returned I discovered that this same guest had gotten in my husband's face less than an hour before and for a different reason. He'd then called me "rude" and his girlfriend had agreed. That was pretty much the last straw for my husband, who immediately issued them a refund for the remaining two nights of their stay and sent them packing. The result was some lost room revenue but peace of mind and peace in the house. A worthwhile trade-off, but one I hope I don't have to face again. By far the majority of our guests are lovely people who make us want to stay in this business. I don't know if I'd feel that way if this sort of thing happend more often.

As a side note, the guest's choice of club and music that had set off his morning rant was an unusual one. During the day it's a restaurant/bar popular with families. At night it's a popular and well-known local music spot, but mostly for the 20's and early 30's crowd, as the music rarely starts much before 11 p.m. I've been there a couple of times and felt old (I'm in my 40's). This couple is at least twenty years older than I am. So strange.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

I know I'm early but...

It doesn't happen every day, but it happens often enough. I'm in the middle of cleaning rooms, or worse, still cleaning up from breakfast, when the doorbell rings. A couple is standing inside my vestibule and I open the door.

"Can I help you?"

"Are you Janet? We're xxxxx. We know we're early, but we wondered if our room was ready...?"

Um, no. Not usually.

Okay, I really do get it that most people have very limited vacation time, that traffic is lighter early in the day, it's perfect beach weather and my guests want to get as early a start as possible. I sympathize with that, I really do. But please understand the math.

Breakfast here starts at 8:30 and goes until 10. That's nominal. Sometimes people linger, sometimes I'm engaged in conversation with them. It can easily stretch to 10:30. Check-out is 11 a.m. Yes, people often leave earlier but not always. It takes me a half-hour minimum to clean up from breakfast - that's bare minimum: clearing the dining room, loading the dishwasher, putting away the perishables, clearing the sink. I usually need to eat something myself. Then I start rooms. It takes roughly 40 minutes for me to get a room ready for new guests. I may have several rooms to change over. Check-in starts at 2 p.m. which is actually quite early. Many places don't start check-in until 3, 4 or even later. Each time the doorbell rings, it interrupts my rhythm and everything takes longer. It can be quite frustrating, particularly on a day like this past Sunday where every room in the house changed over and the guests for all but one room rang the bell between 11:30 and 12:30.

I really can't check you in that early. Check-in is a process and it takes a little time. I also may get to chatting, which I enjoy but it's keeping me from finishing the rooms. Occasionally my husband is home and if the room is ready he can take care of checking in an early guest while I continue to work, but it doesn't happen often. Even on days where I have help, it's important for me to have that time between 11 and 2 just to feel ready to greet my new guests.

Here's what I can do before 2:
- let you use the first-floor bathroom;
- get you a proof-of-stay so you can purchase a beach sticker and go to the beach;
- direct you to a restaurant where you can get lunch.

Feel free to ask me for any of these things. I will be as polite as I possibly can while asking you to come back after two.

Monday, July 2, 2007

It's a small, small world

This small world story actuall pertains to me... well, more specifically, my husband.

I was conversing with one of our guests this morning at breakfast and she was telling me about her grown sons, who have rented a house nearby with their families and who she is here to visit. In passing she mentioned a town in New Jersey where one of her sons lives. It turns out to be the town my husband grew up in, and with which I am somewhat familiar, so I asked where in this town. She named a section of the town, which is the same as where my husband grew up, so I asked the street name. She couldn't remember but she said it was near [local landmark]. Just for grins, I asked "It isn't [name of street my husband grew up on], is it?" You know where this is going. She knew the house number and I called my husband to double-check. Her son owns the house my husband lived in from the age of six until he was eighteen. They bought it from my mother-in-law. How very strange.

I don't have the connection to that house my husband does, obviously, but I did spend a fair bit of time there the first few years of our marriage. We held our wedding reception in the back yard of that house and there was a huge family & friends party there in June of every year until it was sold, so I know the house pretty well.

We're hoping to meet him later in the week, I'm sure they have questions about the house my husband will be able to answer. We already know my mother-in-law wants to ask them about "her" apple trees and a few other things.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Four Questions

When we first opened our doors as innkeepers in June of 2000 there were some things we expected, and a lot we didn't. We expected, correctly, that our guests would mostly carry cell phones, so we did not put phones in the rooms. We expected, correctly, that a lot of our guests would come from the New York City area. We did not expect the fact that we named our rooms after neighborhoods in Brooklyn would actually make people decide to book with us. That was a happy surprise. And we did not expect that we would wind up answering the same four questions every single day.

And what are the questions?

1) How old is the house/what year was it built? (Around 135 years/1871.)
2) Was it an inn before you bought it or did you renovate? (Yes*)
3) Has it always been your dream to own a Bed & Breakfast? (No, it was a way to live in a place we love but where the major industry is tourism & hospitality. That is not to say we don't like what we're doing, we just didn't have that romantic dreamy thing going for years and years; we knew it was going to be a lot of hard work.)
4) What are the winters like? (Peaceful.)

There are other questions that come up a lot, but these are the ones nearly every single guest asks us. Not that we mind answering them, we enjoy chatting with our guests, but sometimes it's hard not to smile when these questions do crop up.

* The woman from whom we purchased the house did run what we call a "loose interpretation" of a B&B, which is to say she rented rooms and prepared breakfast for her guests, but all the rooms shared just one bathroom. We did the renovation that gave every room its own bathroom and generally brought the place up to modern standards... and codes.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Lima Beans

All new ventures come with a learning curve. Over the years we've been in business we've tweaked many of the things we do to make them work better. Sometimes it's to make them work better for us, other times it's for our guests. Actually, that's for us as well, since anything that makes our guests happier is good for us and the business.

One of the things that has evolved and changed over the years is our check-in speech. We've added or deleted certain things when it's become clear that guests weren't understanding what we were asking or telling them. Part of the procedure when checking in new guests is to tell them what time breakfast is, then find out what they drink in the morning (coffee, tea or decaf coffee) so we know what and how much to prepare. We also at this point ask about dietary restrictions. What we're trying to find out is whether our guests have specific food allergies or are vegetarians, we're actually not that interested in what foods our guests don't like to eat or if they're on the diet du jour. We serve breakfast as a buffet so if there's something a guest doesn't like or isn't supposed to eat it's easy enough to avoid.

Over the years we tried phrasing the question a number of different ways because guests were giving us answers that made it clear they didn't understand the question correctly. The number one answer I seemed to get when I asked the question the wrong way was "I don't like lima beans". My husband seemed to get "I don't like raw shellfish". Okay, folks... we're not serving lima beans and raw shellfish for breakfast. We want to know if something we might actually use in a breakfast dish is going to make you sick or kill you!

We have finally settled on "Do you have any dietary restrictions that might affect breakfast?" as the phrasing that most often gets us the answers we are looking for. I'm grateful to add that the vast majority of our guests don't have any serious dietary issues. The few that do, we've been able to handle easily. Vegetarian? No problem as long as you eat cheese & eggs. Nut allergies? We use nuts only rarely and we cook & bake from scratch so we know what's in things. Wheat gluten issues? We have a very good friend with Celiac disease, so we understand that, too.

Of course it would be lovely if guests could let us know about issues like this in advance of their stay, and a few do. But as long as we know before we actually start cooking we can deal with almost anything. That's been part of the learning curve as well. We rarely stress out about dietary restrictions because we've been doing this long enough to know how to adapt our dishes when necessary.

Monday, June 4, 2007

The Kindness of Strangers

I regularly communicate with a number of other innkeepers from around the country. A story from this B&B in Pennsylvania was so wonderful I wanted to share it here (with permission from the other innkeeper, of course).

We have guests on their honeymoon this weekend. Groom is over from Iraq for a few days to attend the wedding before he goes back (Army...patrols the streets). Two different rooms came to me privately after breakfast this morning asking to put a night for the honeymoon couple on their bill. Honestly, I still tear up thinking about the generosity of our guests. The honeymooners were stunned! I will, of course, be writing to each of the guests to tell them how surprised and grateful the honeymooners were at these "random acts of kindness."

Friday, June 1, 2007


The first year we were in business I did all the housekeeping myself. My husband pitched in a lot with the laundry and prepped breakfast with me almost every morning, but housekeeping was pretty much mine alone. In some ways it was necessary. I learned a lot about what cleaning products worked best, the most efficient way to clean our showers (and which soaps I dreaded finding in them), how to fold sheets in such a way as to minimize the number of trips I had to make around a bed when I put the sheets on alone and so forth. This was all to the good, but it was a very long summer.

Since then I've tried to get help at least a few days a week with cleaning during the busy season. Some years I've had pretty good luck with consistent help but most years it's a moving target and I find I have to hire and train three, four or even five kids over the course of a summer. Some have only ended up working for a week or two.

Last year I had two local highschool kids working for me. One of them is unable to continue this summer because her family is moving right after school gets out at the end of this month but I thought the other would be with me all summer and perhaps for the next couple of years until she graduated. She's a great worker and pleasant to be around and I was planning to train her to do a lot more, even to make her my assistant. Alas, it is not to be. On Wednesday she failed to show up for work and despite my pleas to call and discuss the problem and her future employment with me she has maintained radio silence. Her mom says she's embarrassed, but she (the mom) understands that two days is long enough to wait and that I'm done.

I'm sorry about loosing her; she's had some difficulties at home over the past month but until this week has been very reliable about showing up for work. An apology and a plan for getting here in the future was all that was required but I guess at sixteen embarrassment is still considered a terminal illness. I'm also sorry that I now have to start from scratch finding help and training them. This is going to be a busier than usual June and now it's going to be that much more difficult.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Interruptions, the Catch-22 of innkeeping

Between the phone and the doorbell, my day is one of interruptions. This is both bad and good. While they can make it difficult to get anything done, a lot of those interruptions mean reservations.

Such is the life of an innkeeper. I suppose many other types of business owners have this same problem, people who have shops, restaurants, galleries, any business that deals with the general public rather than select clients. We spend a lot of time, energy and money making our place of business look attractive and welcoming, both physically and with our web presence. I suppose we should not be surprised when people want to come in and look around or call to ask questions. In fact, we both need and want them to do so. It just makes it difficult at times to get through some of the non-guest tasks that need to be done.

New Website

We've just completed a major website redesign. This one was a complete overhaul; we basically have a completely new site. Our old site was done by someone local and I think he did a nice job, he was lovely to work with and he has a good sense of design, but the internet world has changed substantially and a good lodging website must be optimized to come up on the first page of a search. Our new designers are a continent away so I've never met them, but they specialize in lodging sites and are much more tech-savvy than our local designer.

I guess there was something about the old site that really appealed to some people; we got compliments on it all the time. Unfortunately it wasn't doing anything for us as far as search engine rankings. I'm really hoping the new site speaks to people as much. If anyone is reading this, please go to our site at and let me know what you think.

Saturday, May 5, 2007


The first surprise came yesterday. The high school gal who cleans for me was helping me in the garden. We were cleaning the skeletonized remains of last year's petunias out of a raised planter bed when she said "Hey, there's some sort of animal nest over here!" I looked and there was indeed a tangle of dry stems and sticks. Thinking it was a bird's nest that had blown out of a tree, I picked it up. It was much looser than a bird nest and I noticed it had a lot of grey fuzz woven into the structure. I poked around some more and found a hole and as I peered into it a little brown bunny head popped out of it! It popped back down and I saw more little brown bodies in there. I called my helper over and she fearlessly reached in and grabbed one - it was about the size of my fist. Another made a break for it and then I grabbed one. She grabbed two more and the last one also got away from us.

Rabbits are really not my favorite animals. They do tremendous damage to my garden every year and I can't seem to get rid of them. Left to me, the fate of these six little bunnies would have been... um... bleak? Lucky for them, my young employee offered to take them home. We found a 5 gallon bucket, easily caught the remaining two they are now bunking with her gunnea pig. I'll try to get a picture later in the week.

Surprise number two came this afternoon. I had come inside to change the laundry and the doorbell rang. I was expecting one couple to check in so I grabbed the clipboard with their information and headed for the door. There stood the man I worked for the last 4.5 years I lived in New York and his new fiancee. Honestly, I never really expected to see him again. Not that we didn't part on good terms, but I just never thought he'd make the drive this far out onto the Cape. Turns out his fiancee has some ties to Wellfleet so I may well see him again, but this kinda threw me.

Lucky for me I have had seven years of dealing with all sorts of people at my door. I just put on my best Innkeeper smile and recovered my composure pretty well. We had a nice visit, then they left to get some lunch and head into P-town. They did not ask for a room.

Saturday, April 28, 2007


Somehow even though it is still early spring I manage to be very busy. Weekends we seem to be filling up with guests, which is great, but even when we don't have guests to take care of there is always a lot to do: catching up on laundry, paperwork, paying bills and PROJECTS. There always seems to be a list of projects. As if just having a business isn't enough, the buildings have to be kept up. Currently on my list:

- Finish a new wall in our rental cottage (sheetrock is up, sanding, trim and painting are still pending)
- Install new grills on the vent fan/light units in the guest bathrooms; the old ones have yellowed beyond acceptability
- Turn on the outside water (keeping my fingers crossed there are no leaks this year)
- Reinstall the pump and filters for the fish pond
- Plant the rest of my spring bulbs
- Work on the text for our new website (watch for the launch in a couple of weeks)
- Order business cards and other office supplies
- Inventory tee shirts and other logo items we sell, reorder if necessary

There's more, but you get the idea. Anyone who thinks owning a B&B would be a nice thing to do when they retire should talk to an innkeeper before they buy. Not that I'd trade it for any other profession right now, but it's real work.

Dove Update: Mama bird hung on longer than I expected, but at some point in the past week she finally abandoned the nest. I don't know if it was due to all the rain or whether another critter got her egg. Add to the list above: remove the remains of the nest from the gutter.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


Each spring we, like many people, enjoy the return of many bird species to our little town. One of my favorites is the mourning doves. These plump little birds have a sizeable population here but I never get tired of their soft call or the unique sound they make as they take off.

My husband is not quite as much of a bird lover as I am. He calls the doves "fancy pigeons" and would prefer if they didn't nest on our property. Inevitably, though, one pair will take a liking to one of our structures. Many years it is the gazebo, which offers good cover for the birds as they nest and fledge their young. This year, about two weeks ago, we noticed a pair of birds building a nest in a gutter, right over the downspout. Even I agreed this was not a good thing, but when my husband went up on a ladder to remove the nest he noticed an egg in it. Now he may not be a fan of the birds, but he is soft-hearted and he couldn't bring himself to take the nest down with the egg. There was a fairly large rainstorm in the forcast and he assumed that the nest would get flooded and the birds would abandon it then.

Brave momma bird sat on that nest all through that storm, breast deep in water. She sat through the nor'easter this past weekend and the subsequent days of cold rain. She's still there today. I have no idea if that egg is still viable, but if it doesn't hatch it won't be for lack of maternal attention.

I'll let you know what happens.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Check Your Room

Dear Guest:

Please, for the love of all that is good in the world, check your room before you leave our (or any) inn. Don't forget to check next to the bed and between the sheets. So far this week I've found two pairs of socks and a pair of boxers. And this has been a slow week.

If you get home and find you've left something behind, please call and ask for it back, we're glad to sent it. And don't be surprised if we ask you to reimburse us for postage, it takes time and money for us to pack your item, drive to the post office and get it mailed.

Your Innkeeper

If anyone is wondering, some of the other things that have been left behind over the years include a box of jewelry, flip-flops, an iPod charger, numerous cell-phone chargers, sunglasses, a robe, swimsuits, jackets, hats, and once, a laptop computer.

Sunday, April 8, 2007


We're one of those Bed & Breakfasts where everyone sits around a common breakfast table in the morning. Breakfast is served from 8:30 to 10 a.m. and although it has happened that the guests stagger themselves in such a way that there's only one couple at the table at any one time, more often than not at least two couples find themselves sitting together and sometimes as many as four couples do. One of the great joys of innkeeping is watching people make new friends and find connections with each other.

This morning I got to watch two couples learn they had much in common. They even went so far as to exchange addresses & phone numbers. I hope they stay in touch.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Credit where credit is due

Sometimes I stumble on a blog name that piques my interest but when I look I can find no explanation for the name. So for those of you who might be wondering where I got the title for this blog, here's the story:

Before moving to Wellfleet and opening the B&B, I worked in an office in New York City. My plans to make the move weren't a secret, but I had been pretty quiet about my leaving, a lot of our clients had no idea it was imminent. On my second to last day of work one of our long-time clients called to speak to my boss and before I turned her over to him I said to her "In case I don't get another chance to speak to you, I just wanted to say goodbye." She wished me luck and then said "I just don't know how you're going to do it."

"Do what?" I replied.

"Get up in the morning and make muffins for strangers."

And there you have it. It was such a great line I knew I just had to use it somewhere, somehow. So thank you Laura, wherever you are.