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!