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3841 Views 22 Replies Latest reply: Jan 4, 2013 4:52 PM by sapphiresteve RSS
New Member 7 posts since
Nov 15, 2012
Currently Being Moderated

Dec 29, 2012 12:44 PM

Extra Amenities

I am new at renting my home. We do not advertise cable wifi, etc. Our first guest we have wants the cable package of ESPN. We offer basic. Do we supply them with an upgraded cable package and charge them or not? Do we even offer it to them? We already gave them a $600 discount for being our first guest rental and it was a full week. If I do charge them, how do I collect the money? They aready paid in full online. We also know they are cranking the heat up, leaving lights and TV on, etc while they are gone all day skiing. We explained to the about radiant floor heating and how it works but they still turned it up to 78 and complained it was too hot and couldn't sleep. Unsure how to handle these phone calls of complaints that we eithher did not advertise and explained usage? We gave them the discount and now know the electric bill is going to be rediculusly high.  Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

  • stjvilla Active Contributor 626 posts since
    May 27, 2011
    Currently Being Moderated
    Dec 29, 2012 1:43 PM (in response to wpmountains)
    Re: Extra Amenities

    Ouch.  Sorry to hear this, but it's not unusual to have a steep "learning curve" when you first start out.  These guests are not being cooperative and if we were dealing with them we would remind them that it's basic cable and that's it.  If they really must have ESPN they can download it, assuming you do have wifi.  We would not try to accommodate them with any add-ons for which you want to charge them as it is likely to be a nightmare trying to collect.  Be glad these folks are only there for a week!  If they complain, just remind them they got a huge discount!

     

    Obviously, we would now caution you about offering any discounts, especially if you have no way of controlling the electric use.  The best way ahead is to spell out in writing exactly what you do and don't offer and stick with your policies.  Never sell yourself short just because you want to secure that rental.  It usually does not work out well.  Best wishes!

    • sapphiresteve Active Contributor 506 posts since
      Dec 16, 2010
      Currently Being Moderated
      Dec 29, 2012 2:55 PM (in response to stjvilla)
      Re: Extra Amenities

      I would just "swallow" the situation and it's costs, put it behind you and direct your energies to prevent it from happening again. Don't try to collect additional monies as it will aggravate the problem.Try to make them happy, even though it hurts.

       

      If you can get ESPN for a few days at little cost, give it to them.Even though you might have to pay for a month, it won't be that expensive. Then put in your rental agreement something about exactly what type of cable service you provide.You also might consider providing a higher level of cable service, especially if your basic service does not include CNN and TWC.

       

      There is at least one thread on this forum about thermostats which can be set so that a code has to be entered in order to have it call for a heating  temperature higher than you set, Apparently, they are widely available and not too expensive.

       

      Replace all your lamps with CFLs. Don't go for LEDs--at this moment, they are very expensive and  the main advantage over CFLs is that is that they live longer--if they don't disappear.

       

      Televisions  don't use all that much electricity. Even large ones rarely draw much over two hundred watts.

       

      Steve

  • kiawahcottage Community All-Star 375 posts since
    Jan 1, 2011
    Currently Being Moderated
    Dec 29, 2012 3:54 PM (in response to wpmountains)
    Re: Extra Amenities

    Hi,

     

    I agree, they should not have assumed you supply anything you didn't advertise. 

     

    These days, I think people do expect WiFi.  If you don' have it you should probably put it in.  Because of this business I need to be connected when I travel, but for $600 off I will just go to a coffee shop or something!

     

    On the cable TV there is no reason to go with a premium package unless something you want or it's commonly offered in your area.  That said, I don't think you can go with the lowest level, ie; just the networks and a couple of crummy cable owned stations.  You should get an "enhanced basic" or a "family package" offering all the non-premium channels. 

     

    Now, about the $600 discount.  You don't have to go that far to make your guests feel they are getting a good deal. I'm thinking 5 or 10% at most.  Can you get them a discount on lift tickets?  Some people do the arrival flowers or gift basket.  Gift certificates or local coupons (or even Groupons) are also popular.  I occasionally get an inquiry for a week with the question "is there any discount for an extra week?".  Well, yes, (since I include a $150 exit cleaning fee in my 7 night rate) the second week is $150 off (which costs me $0). 

     

    Oh, and if after you have explained how the heat works and they still don't get it, agree with them and apologize.  Tell them the thermostat must be on the blink and to try setting it at 68 and see if that helps till you can get it fixed.  Problem solved.

     

    Good luck,

    Paul

    • sapphiresteve Active Contributor 506 posts since
      Dec 16, 2010
      Currently Being Moderated
      Dec 29, 2012 4:28 PM (in response to kiawahcottage)
      Re: Extra Amenities

      Yes,  "free" wi-f is just about mandatory. I recall that a while back TripAdvisor did a survey and 92% of the respondents said that they resented not having "free" wi-fi.

       

      Where our VR is located there are only two cable packages available. "Basic" is twelve channels, eight of which are local or shopping.  I have heard two travelers complain when that is the included service. The other is "expanded " which is about seventy channels, so that's what we have. We also throw in the minimum Showtime" package, because it's only about five bucks a month.

       

      Because many people are addicted to either CNN, or the Weather Channel (rarely both) I advise that as a minimum you have a package that includes those two channels.

       

      I love the fact that they set the thermostat to seventy-eight and then complained that it was too hot.

       

      Oh yes, I suggest that you prepare a document that everyone receives before they sign the Rental Agreement, that lists everything that you do supply, and everything that you don't supply. It can be part of the RA, but it need not be. Be sure to include a disclaimer, that in unusual circumstances a few of the supplied items may not actually be supplied.

       

      Steve

  • mlbmaine Active Contributor 937 posts since
    Mar 2, 2012
    Currently Being Moderated
    Dec 29, 2012 4:53 PM (in response to wpmountains)
    Re: Extra Amenities

    Welcome to the Community!  We all learn as we go along.  I have been renting our summer cottage for four years, and I am still learning new things about this business.  As you read different threads on this website, you will see that there are often quite different views and opinions about a particular issue.  Through trial and error you will determine what works best for you and your property.  Obviously, a big factor is what your competition is offering.

     

    Personally, I offer discounts on a very limited basis.  I only offer a small discount (about 8%) to repeat customers or for a multiple week rental in my low season.  I am frequently asked what my discounted or best price is by prospective renters.  I respond in a nice way and explain that I do not offer discounts.  I further state that I believe that our pricing is very competitive when compared to other properties in the area with similar amenities.  (Which I believe it is!)  Some people walk away.  Others go ahead and rent from me.  I have noticed other owners in this community state that it seems that the renters who ask for and receive a discount tend to be high maintenace and problematic in other respects.  That seems to be borne out by your experience with your first renters as well.

     

    You are just starting out and I'm sure that you would like to receive a glowing review from these renters.  (Be advised, however, that no matter what you do or how happy you make them, they may not take the time to post a review.)  Check with your cable company - can you upgrade the cable package to include ESPN for only one month? If you can and it is not ridiculously expensive, you may want to do so.  Do not try to collect the extra expense from your renters.  They won't pay you for it and will only be aggravated by your request even though they are already receiving a huge discount.  Check the listings for other similar properties in your area.  Do they advertise higher level cable packages?  If they do, you may want to upgrade your package permanently to remain competitive.

     

    Each market is different.  My property is on the coast in rural Maine.  Believe it or not, I do not have WiFi - there is only dial-up internet connection at the cottage.  There is no cable TV in the area and I do not have satellite TV.  I clearly state in my VRBO listing that TV reception is limited to two channels:  ABC and Fox.  I also state that there is only dial-up internet connection and that if renters want WiFi, they can have access to it at the local library.  I know that I have lost some renters because of each of these two issues.  I also advertise, however, that there are many board games and a library of over 75 DVD movies.  My property appeals to couples and families who are interested in having a "less connected" type of vacation.  I am already fully-booked for next summer.

    • sapphiresteve Active Contributor 506 posts since
      Dec 16, 2010
      Currently Being Moderated
      Dec 29, 2012 5:09 PM (in response to mlbmaine)
      Re: Extra Amenities

      I agree with  everything in mibmaine's post  one hundred-per-cent:. Especially that you must adapt to  both your "market", and to with what you feel comfortable.

       

      BTW, if you would like to acquire a nice DVD library inexpensively, go on EBay and search for DVD lot. You will find many people selling DVDs  of movies that are just a few years old in "box lots"--typically of around twenty DVDs. Because they can be sent by "media mail" shipping is very cheap. You should be able to acquire a nice library for an average of about three dollars a disc.

       

      Steve

      • msdebj Senior Contributor 1,362 posts since
        May 25, 2011
        Currently Being Moderated
        Dec 29, 2012 5:59 PM (in response to sapphiresteve)
        Re: Extra Amenities

        I agree with others here.  In addition, you may want to simply add to your advertisment that you offer BASIC CABLE. My experience has been that most people don't vacation at our home to watch TV, but who knows these days? Free wifi is a must in our home's area. Just make sure your 'streaming package" is something you can afford.

         

        A $600 discount is huge.  Do you already offer your weekly rate at a discount over "per night"?  In our area that is common practice- they basically get  a 6th (or 7th) night free.

         

        My advice would be to never offer to provide additional items in the middle of a stay. Replacing a major appliance that goes on the blink is one thing, upgrading your home's amenties for each guest is another thing all together.  We'd all go broke if we did that. I even read in these forums that a guest purchased a new matteress during their stay. Do you think they'd try that at a hotel? Of course not.

         

        One more tip on geting a deal on DVDs: Your local library may have an annual sale on books, Dvds, etc. I bought 25 DVDs- full range of classics, kids, etc. for $2 each. And, those Black Fridays sales are good too! I've purchased DVD players for each of our 3 TVs for around $20 each. 

         

        We do work hard to communicate with our guests before they complete the payment process to make sure they are aware of what to expect ( type of heat, etc.) I've found that talking with them before hand, asking the nature of their trip, etc.  really helps. I do it under the guise of telling them I want to make sure our home is a good match for them. And I ALWAYS ask if this is their 1st experience in renting a VR from a private owner. If not, I've got a " Information Tips" article explaining what to expect and what to not expect. It's really helped!!!

        Best of luck! Let us know how this works out!

        Hope your 2013 is really good!

        Debj

        .  

        • sapphiresteve Active Contributor 506 posts since
          Dec 16, 2010
          Currently Being Moderated
          Dec 29, 2012 7:41 PM (in response to msdebj)
          Re: Extra Amenities

          I wouldn't hesitate to provide additional items in the middle of a stay, or if requested prior to a stay--if I considered the request reasonable. One criterion would be if it is something that future guests might use and appreciate, or it is something really weird that is likely to just occupy space and gather dust for eternity. 

           

          If your "basic" cable is really, really basic *like twelve channels, eight of them local accesses or shopping", I would list the four decent channels and add "and eight channels of junk.  No, I wouldn't do that, I'd splurge for a decent package.  I agree that people don't go on vacation to watch TV, but there are certain things that they expect, even if they don't take advantage of them. Probably a good guide would be what hotels in your area that charge prices roughly comparable to yours offer.

           

          Steve

    • beth.fortune New Member 21 posts since
      Oct 2, 2012
      Currently Being Moderated
      Dec 30, 2012 1:32 PM (in response to wpmountains)
      Re: Extra Amenities

      I will answer the wifi question, since I have been a renter longer than I have been an owner. Many people need to stay connected for work, and a cell phone connection is not enough, nor is it reliable in some areas. Even when we go somewhere to "get away from it all" my husband has to answer emails, at the bare minimum. And, now that I am an owner myself, I will want to stay connected to respond to inquiries when we travel.

       

      Additionally, many people download their entertainment these days.

       

      With that said, it's up to you whether you choose to offer wifi or not. Just know that there is a certain percent of the population who are addicted to their devices (cough, cough, myself included) and you will be eliminating them if you choose not to offer it.

       

      Your house sounds lovely. I think your instincts are right, screen more carefully to make sure your guests are a good fit for your property. I am a new owner myself, but when I get an inquiry that is asking for a big discount immediately it tells me that that person does not appreciate the value of my home, and may not be respectful if I allow them to rent. Sorry you had this first bad experience. I'm sure you will have future guests that will appreciate your home for what it is, and you for the extra effort you put in to your property. Don't lose faith, just pay attention to your inquiries and choose people that really want to stay in your home and appreciate it for what it is.

       

      I hope you have a happy and prosperous 2013.

        • mike-dfv Community All-Star 835 posts since
          Mar 5, 2011
          Currently Being Moderated
          Dec 31, 2012 8:58 AM (in response to wpmountains)
          Re: Extra Amenities

          My wife hates that I take my laptop everywhere, including on a cruise. The problem is, as stated above, I don't want to miss an inquiry. Could I handle inquiries on my smartphone ... yeah ... I could ... but the screen and keypad are so small, that I really don't want to. Give me my laptop over my smartphone any day.

           

          Mike

    • sage Community All-Star 972 posts since
      Jul 4, 2012
      Currently Being Moderated
      Dec 30, 2012 3:20 PM (in response to wpmountains)
      Re: Extra Amenities

      When you initially said $600 discount, I thought that was a huge discount.  Now that you say 10% discount, that sounds perfectly reasonable to get that first rental.  So don't beat yourself up over that.  I give some discounts, primarily if it is a last minute booking (which I define as arriving in less that 3 weeks since most visitors to my fly-to destination plan months in advance) or if a query is for dates that would fit especially nicely into my calendar to fill what otherwise could be an unproductive gap.  Basically, I will offer a discount when I see it to be in my interest (I absolutely am not a vacation charity and am unsympathetic to pleas of travelers on a limited budget).  And I find that I am more likely to quote a discount, and a greater discount, if the traveler has not asked for my 'best price.'

       

      I don't think you need to offer amenities so long as it is clear from the outset what you do offer.  You just want to be sure that a guest's only surprises are good surprises.  However, on a property that rents for up to $6,000/week (which I infer since $600 was apparently 10% of the total) you are catering to a market that will expect perks.  Look at what your competition offers.  In some respect, you want to be even more desirable than them.  That could mean beating them on price, on location, on amenities, whatever. 

       

      Although I personally have no wi-fi devices and cater to a less affluent clientele than you, I considered wi-fi to be essential in my VR and I know that by offering it I have have had rentals that otherwise would have been missed.  I also provide a computer for guests' use if they have not brought their own.  That did not cost much, and it helps to set my property apart from my competition.  Balance the cost of amenities against the expected increase in rental receipts.  If spending an extra $400 is likely to bring in $1000 more income every year, it would be a very good investment.

      • sapphiresteve Active Contributor 506 posts since
        Dec 16, 2010
        Currently Being Moderated
        Dec 31, 2012 9:23 AM (in response to sage)
        Re: Extra Amenities

        And give me my desktop over any laptop. Not only are  the "keys" on a smart-phone impossibly small for my fat fingers, but almost all the websites are "watered down" to accommodate slower transmission speeds and the smaller screen.

         

        I recently bought a seven inch tablet and an external keyboard the same size as the tablet which, together form a mini, mini laptop, that I can also use as an "E-reader" I hope that it works out.

         

        Steve

  • sapphiresteve Active Contributor 506 posts since
    Dec 16, 2010
    Currently Being Moderated
    Dec 31, 2012 9:28 AM (in response to wpmountains)
    Re: Extra Amenities

    If your rate even discounted, is approaching eight hundred dollars a night, IMHO, you should really be pampering your guests. Not only give them ESPN, but also HBO etc, etc, etc... Give them all the heat and electricity that they want--they are paying for it.

     

    Steve

      • sapphiresteve Active Contributor 506 posts since
        Dec 16, 2010
        Currently Being Moderated
        Dec 31, 2012 11:59 AM (in response to wpmountains)
        Re: Extra Amenities

        Concerning the heating situation, I think that  either your thermostat is broken or (far more likely) your current guests are just nuts. If it's not too difficult, it might be a good idea to check that the thermostat is functioning properly, or have someone else check if for you.

         

        As for the "isolated v connected" issue is concerned, I believe that you are needlessly limiting your market.. Guests are always free not to bring a laptop. Some of mine have not, just to "get away from it".

         

        In any event, as long as you continue to honestly and accurately report to guests what you do and do not furnish, you are completely free to do whatever makes you comfortable and happy. If you so start to provide Internet access, I would describe it as "extremely slow". Always under promise and over deliver.

         

        Steve

      • sage Community All-Star 972 posts since
        Jul 4, 2012
        Currently Being Moderated
        Dec 31, 2012 12:53 PM (in response to wpmountains)
        Re: Extra Amenities

        It is a get away from the "rat race" of life.

        Mia -

         

        You are right that escape from technology can be a draw for guests.  For an article on one place that very successfully markets solitude, look at http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/silent-retreats-rising-popularity-poses-a-challenge-how-to-handle-the-quiet/2012/12/12/01c1052c-37f0-11e2-a263-f0ebffed2f15_story.html 

         

        Mixed marketing -- offering luxury and solitude -- could be tricky, but may be a way to set yourself apart from your competition.

  • beachgal Contributor 95 posts since
    Apr 22, 2012
    Currently Being Moderated
    Jan 4, 2013 7:58 AM (in response to wpmountains)
    Re: Extra Amenities

    Lots of good feedback.  I found that most guests want wifi provided even if they do not use it much. Even though you can access hotspot via smartphones, many guests are not that tech savy. I provide a printer/copier so that guests can use it to print out boarding passes, etc. - guests love this.  I previously provided HD and expanded cable channels, but changed back to a more basic package that did not require the HD box.  I found that guests would unhook the HD box and DVD player to hookup their own games, etc. and then the next guest would show up with the cables all undone or hooked up wrong.  Good luck with your new rental.

    Terri

    • lahainarental Contributor 76 posts since
      Mar 22, 2012
      Currently Being Moderated
      Jan 4, 2013 4:15 PM (in response to beachgal)
      Re: Extra Amenities

      I agree on the Wifi. Our resort has wired Internet included in the price of our AOAO fee but we found that most people expect Wifi these days so we include it. As travelers ourselves, although we try to unplug on vacations, we often have to be able to get online and respond to inquiries etc.

       

      April

      World traveler and proud owner of two Lahaina Maui vacation rentals:

      http://www.mauiparadiserentals.com/

      • sapphiresteve Active Contributor 506 posts since
        Dec 16, 2010
        Currently Being Moderated
        Jan 4, 2013 4:52 PM (in response to lahainarental)
        Re: Extra Amenities

        We suggest that our guests check their EMail daily.

         

        Not too long ago, one of our guests after not checking EMail for several days, finally checked it and learned that her flight home had canceled and they were  rescheduled to return a day later.. The only notification from their airline was via EMail!

         

        Steve

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