Confessions Of... A B&B Owner
'Don't tick off the person who makes your coffee'
Our anonymous confessor has run two B&Bs over the past decade, first in Milwaukee, and, for four years now, in Wilmington, N.C.
A delicate relationship
Years ago, my husband and I had reservations at an inn on the shores of Lake Michigan. The place sounded perfect, with an in-room fireplace and breakfast included. But the "fireplace" was lit by a switch on the wall, which turned on a bulb behind red plastic flames; and the breakfast was Sara Lee sticky buns and packets of Sanka. Oddly enough, that was the moment I knew I wanted to own a B&B: I had to be able to do better than this. Since then, we've welcomed into our lives hundreds of people, the vast majority of whom are warm and respectful. Some guests, however, forget that the homey B&B they're staying in is an actual home and not a full-service hotel. Two people comprise the entire staff, serving as hosts, receptionists, cooks, housekeepers, gardeners, marketing department, conversation partners, and fairies who make troubles disappear. And even with all of these duties, we have actual lives outside the house/workplace.
Most B&Bs have a time window slotted for check-ins: It's typically listed on websites and brochures and mentioned when reservations are made. As soon as you know the timing doesn't work for you, call us! I can't stress this enough. The day you blow off the 3-5 p.m. check-in time and show up at 10 p.m. may be the night of our special anniversary dinner or a friend's wedding. Once, when my husband was away, I had a couple who specifically said they'd be checking in between 4:30 and 5 p.m. Earlier that day, I drove one-and-a-half hours to visit my mother in her nursing home. She was ill, scared, sad, and lonely. I spent as much time with her as I thought I could, before driving like a madwoman to greet my guests on time. They finally rang the doorbell at 9:30 p.m., chatting about stopping for dinner, and failed to apologize. As revenge, I met their request for good, strong coffee by giving them decaf. The moral is: Don't tick off the person who makes your coffee. When they complained about feeling tired and headachy, I offered them each another cup.
Not a morning person
Before my husband and I opened our first B&B, friends gently encouraged me to think about a Bed & Lunch instead. I am simply slow to wake up. Before guests see me, I've been in our private quarters (yes, some parts of the house are off-limits), slurping coffee and glaring into space for an hour or so. Eventually, I venture out of my cave. To compensate for my morning ways, I do a lot of breakfast prep the day before. And before that (usually while taking the reservation), I ask guests about dietary restrictions. Still, there are folks who sit down at the table, choosing that time to say, "I'm deathly allergic to eggs, strawberries, white flour, cheese, and orange juice!" or "Did I mention I'm vegan?"
Before we come to clean your room, please put your fur handcuffs away-far away, preferably in the bottom of your suitcase. We don't ever want to see them. Same goes for used contraceptive devices, oils, "toys," and certain rise-to-the-occasion medications. We once hosted a couple on their honeymoon. Each day, I'd find souvenirs from the night before, including feathered nighties, lotions, and a timer (I have no idea, either). On days like that, I think about changing careers to a widget-maker or dog walker--night shift, of course.
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