Comfort Is Key. But not Always in a B&B
Between Vermont and Florida, there are scores of B&B's that we've stayed in, including some on the Maine coast and islands. B&B's are interesting little animals with a history as ancient as humankind itself. We live in a tourist area, and B&B's are constantly going out of business or on the market for sale. It's no surprise. The huge hotel chains have moved into town in a serious way and with respect to B&B's - they have absolutely NO competition. B&B's face a nunber of challenges. I find the one's that do succeed have in many cases, even more amenities than hotels such as a private jacuzzi, and their strength's lie in return business and really good continued word of mouth.
My experiences with B&B's have ranged from subpar, to somewhat acceptable, to downright disappointment. The concept of a B&B is folksy comfort, homey contentment and local flair and charm. Most times, this is an illusion and doesn't even come close.
When one patronizes a Holiday Inn or Comfort Inn for example, the very basics of modern life and communication are offered. A guest can expect a room with comfortable beds, complete privacy, a table designed specifically for a laptop, TV and bar 'fridge. Sometimes even a microwave and coffee maker are included. Disposable drinking glasses are a given and don't get me started on those adorable little guest soaps, small shampoos, body wash and most times a blow dryer (which I never use since we always bring our own). Which brings us to the most basic of human necessities - a good bathroom. Many B&B's don't have private bathrooms. A DO NOT DISTURB sign is usually unavailable at B&B's particularly for use on bedroom doors. I understand that B&B's don't have TV's (generally) in their rooms due to the deceptive dream of complete rest, peace, quiet and serenity. I personally don't know anyone who can take a vacation without staying in touch with the office and the world.
Patronizing a B&B means becoming acquainted, personally and sometimes too intimately with the owners. And really quickly. A recent experience took us to a B&B whereby the owners most kindly offered us use of their kitchen. However, comfort is number one in dealing with strange environments, and since their kitchen is located in their own living quarters, this didn't equate to feelings of comfort. Certainly not for me. (There were no restaurants in the area). Although our bedroom was tastefully furnished, there was no sturdy table for a laptop, drinks or snacks. And no disposable glasses or otherwise were supplied in the room. Another negative.
The challenges of inviting strangers into your home are many. But business is business and if home owners embark on the B&B road, they MUST ensure the comfort of their guests on all levels. We all want to save a buck. However, we also are obligated to pay all our taxes. Divulging to guests that they (Inn owners) don't really want to pay Maine tax and so will not charge this to their guests is I feel, unprofessional and completely inappropriate. Running a hospitality business means paying one's dues in all respects, and becoming familiar with guests in terms of tax duties is crossing the line.
In any hotel lobby, one would never see personal valubles such as pocket books and purses left lying around by employees. Neither should this be the case in B&B's. When owners leave their personal valuables lying around, it not only leads to a feeling of discomfort on the part of their guests, but it also lacks professionalism. "Oh we trust you" is not a valid justification for this, but rather, preemptive measures on the part of the business owners should always be practiced. Attitude is everything. Many owners give a clear signal that they really want our money, but not us in particular. I'd like B&B owners to realize, that if guests are not made to feel 100% welcome and their presence desired, then get out of the trade. Hospitality means anticipating the needs of guests and providing comforts and whatever else may be necessary to ensure a good comfortable stay WITH return business.
And last but certainly not least, it is also hospitable to share information beneficial to prospective guests, such as where the cheapest parking is. It costs $36 per day to park at Casco Bay Lines parking lot. There is cheaper parking available elsewhere IF a guest knows about it.
I'm looking forward to my next Comfort Inn stay wherever it may be.