10 Replies Latest reply: May 15, 2012 1:03 PM by jane300 RSS

    troubled guest

    New Member

      I marked this as a question as I would love feedback, and it is going to read more as a narrative.

       

      This week we had "the perfect storm" at our rental.  We have an unusual, off grid house with more possiblities of things going wrong than a house that is all hooked up to city services.  The trade off is of course a unique "eco-experience".  99% of our guests are looking forward to the unusual and adventurous aspects and take it all in stride.  Plus we put a lot of effort into making certain there are not issues for our guests through daily hands on maintenance. 

       

      The weather had been particularly wet and stormy.  Changing out the propane tanks was more challenging than usual, and both our caretakers unknowingly opted to crank over the valve and put off changing the tanks, thinking the back up would kick in.  Second time of course there was no back up.

       

      The guest arrived hours after check in time, to find no heat.  Outside temperature was about 65 F.  The hot tub was steamy hot and upstairs the bed was cozy. 

       

      I was on a rare out of town trip, heading back the next morning, in a time zone three hours different.  It was 1:30 am for me.  I was asleep with the ringer off.  All the backup people were similarly out of reach of their phones.  So it was after the persistent buzzing of my phone awakened me about 45 minutes after the first call from the guests that I awakened and listened to the messages.

       

      The guest was outraged.  Hopping mad.  He had managed to change out the propane tank himself but could not figure out how to light the pilot of the heater.  I could understand on many levels, and set about to remedy the situation.  I was too asleep to talk him through it adequately, and too disturbed by the phone rage he was presenting to feel entirely competent.  My husband who was in the right time zone called him immediately and within a minute there was heat in the place. 

       

      Meantime I had texted our help letting them know the situation, and the person who had made the blunder wanted to do something to make it up to the guests.  She made a special pastry and took it tover inthe morning, along with some flowers.

       

      I called the guests right back and made an offer to knock $100 off the cost of their stay and then suffered through a long monologue of how horrible the experience had been.  The guest is about 24 years old, a young man.  His girlfriend had called and left an apology earlier for his surly attitude.  I was still clinging to the vestiges of sleep.  I offered to refund his entire deposit, and make the stay cost free for him.  That was not what he wanted.  After carrying on a bit more he told me he wanted to pay half price and so get a portion of his deposit returned.  It was a one night stay that I had previously discounted 10% at his request.  I agreed.  I would have agreed to anything except paying him to stay there by that point.

       

      When he left, so did the plush bathrobes, the oversize spa towels, and the house key.  He had already received his refund.  And the personal apology. And the goodies. 

       

      We have had vacation rentals for about ten years.  This is the very first time we have ever had an experience even somewhat like this. I feel bad the guest had an unpleasant experience, and worse that he felt compelled to change the propane tank out himself.  He should not have encountered that problem at our house, and the 45 minute delay was unpleasant. Our helpers will never make this mistake again, but mistakes do happen. And my cell phone does go to vibrate sometimes.  I am grateful that I refrained from offereing him a discount to use on his next stay with us, as I customarily do when something goes awry during a guest stay. I think I have already made up my made to disengage fully and be glad he must board a plane to get to my house.  However, I would happily receive feedback.   Would you charge for the missing items?  And if so, how would you go about it? 

       

      much thanks in advance...  I needed to put this somewhere, and maybe hear back from people who have been there before.

        • Re: troubled guest
          sophie Senior Contributor

          Wow! What a story. You handled this absolutely beautifully! You should get the award for being the most gracious to a guest when something goes wrong. If I understand correctly, he stayed for free and then he stole things!!! If these are contractual items I would definitely charge him. It depends on what your contract states on how to charge him. If he signed saying you could charge for damages, then charge him. You don't need a deposit to do that.If you have a damage deposit, take it out of that.  Of course, send him email with the items stated that he took and what the contract line items say you can charge. What does your contract say?

            • Re: troubled guest
              New Member

              We are very informal, and do not use contracts.  Stealing is something that I would never address up front as I do not expect any guest to take anything.  And in fact in all our years the most anyone has ever done of that nature is exchange their books for ours.  He did not stay for free but was given that option.  He stayed for half price.  I am reluctant to contact him regarding the missing items as it feels like it would be inviting more anger from him while he vehemently denies having anything to do with the missing things, turns and blames our staff (not knowing I returned and was the one to enter the house and find things missing), and ultimately blames me for being a bad host.  I cannot imagine any scenario where contacting him brings me anything but more aggravation, just as I know full well two plushy robes and two oversize spa towels do not accidently find their way into anyone's luggage. 

               

              There is another website we use where guests are subject to review just as hosts are.  That would be welcome in his case, and had he known that could happen, I doubt he would have either raged on me nor stolen our things. 

               

              thanks for the response, sophie

                • Re: troubled guest
                  sophie Senior Contributor

                  aloha,

                   

                  I agree with you then. I would just move on. If there is no contract, then you have no legal recourse to charge him or keep his money. I guess you can be glad he didn't trash your house on his way out and you are only out 2 robes and towels.

                   

                  Keep up your good work, you sound like an amazing owner!

              • Re: troubled guest
                marym Active Contributor

                You're right - the perfect storm.  Something we owners all dread, but it can happen.  You tried to make it right - I think you did - apparently the guest did not and felt he was entitled to the extras in light of his experience.  Perhaps the lesson here is do what you offered, but do it at the END of the period after the guest has left so that you can make certain everything is okay with your property?

                  • Re: troubled guest
                    New Member

                    That is a good point. 

                     

                    In thinking this over, it occurs to me that although I returned money to him I could turn right around and charge him full freight, citing as my reason that in taking items from the house he did not honor his agreement with me that the half charge would be ageeable under the circumstances.  If he fights the charges, I could fight back. 

                     

                    I am sticking to my original thought at this time, but it's good to consider all options and perhaps to think about having a contract, although I have resisted that until now. 

                     

                    aloha!

                      • Re: troubled guest
                        Contributor

                        I wholeheartedly advise you to have a contract because without one you don't have a leg to stand on should something happen - including more damage than stolen robes etc. It's for your own protection and people generally expect to have to sign something when they rent from you. You sound like a wonderful landlord and its a shame someone took advantage of your good will.

                    • Re: troubled guest
                      New Member

                      Alohawahine, I admire how you handled the problems that occurred for your guests. Your response reflects your desire to provide all that you promised and do what you could to make it up to your guests. 24 years young may not be mature enough to realize that what he has done will come back to him in kind some day. I had a neighbor whose guests did some regretful things in his home and he called them and asked them to come back (they had just left) to clean it up. You don't want to know what they did. They were rude and our neighbor actually ended up taking them to court for damages. I can tell you it really upset him to go through it. He won and now says he would do it again. In your situation as much as it may seem right to pursue the cost of the items stolen, it prolongs the whole experience in your life and perhaps can cause you more stress than losing the items. If you are actually a business, you can write it off as loss in your taxes and if it were too expensive it would be covered by insurance. Your peace may be worth more than the stolen items and all that you may have to go through to get it resolved. I wish you continued success with your eco experience vacation rental!

                        • Re: troubled guest
                          amyg Active Contributor

                          alohawahine, I agree that you handled the situation well given the circumstances.  My hat's off to you.  Just wanted to mention that if you put together your contract, always remember that it's a changeable document.  Meaning that as you experience new situations, you'll want to ammend it as needed.  I think in 10 years we've updated our rental agreement probably 15-20 times--easily.  Whether it's by your own experiences or learning of them from others (this board is a great resource for that), or you're just sharpening up your contract's language (I do that quite a bit) you'll be fine-tuning your document as you go.  The first rental agreement is just a starting point but an invaluable protection for you and your guests.

                            • Re: troubled guest
                              marilyn Active Contributor

                              In addition to a contract, we photograph the house before and after each tenant. If I am not available to do the photography, my housekeeping staff will do it. There is no disputing before and after pictures. By the way, we photograph the interior of each cabinet as we have every type of wine glass imaginable, tons of gourmet kitchen tools and appliances.  In the past we found that if a guest breaks something they will throw it away so that you do not know they broke it. If it's missing in the picture, replacement costs (pro-rated) comes out of the security deposit

                              Marilyn

                              www.hamptonhouseproperties.info

                          • Re: troubled guest
                            New Member

                            We also try to never manifest bad situations, like theft and damage, however, I would still never rent without a contract, because it lets the guest know that you care enough about your property to protect it.