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...

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