Dear people in the hospitality industry who are *not* hospitable,
This letter is from all the travelers who counted down the days until their vacation… and then they met YOU.
If you work in hospitality, but wouldn’t know what hospitality meant even if you stepped in a big steamy pile of it, read on.
I’m not talking about Italy, by the way. I’m talking about the low bar travelers find at times no matter where we go in the world.
If you’re in the accommodation rental business (either as a seasoned vet who remembers the days of telephone bookings, or as a newbie, freshly feeding off the teet of the Airbnb/VRBO cow) you may want to brush up on a few key concepts:
- Remember that before they check into your apartment, some of your customers have flown 17 hours, have taken 3 taxis and 3 Tylenols, and haven’t closed their eyes since the plane lifted off the tarmac (except if you include that second where they squeezed them shut against the operatic shriek coming from the toddler in seat 36D). You should make damn sure you have emailed them clear instructions about how to arrive at your ridiculously-difficult-even-for-a-local-to-find apartment. Or better yet — send a driver for them and eat the bill. That’s service and compassion they’ll adore you for.
- Don’t advertise you have a kitchen if you can’t be bothered to leave the basics for your guests who will be using it. The bare minimum is salt, pepper, oil, vinegar, a clean sponge (you heard me — brand spanking new), dish soap, a stack of tea towels and napkins. (A few cold beers in the fridge never killed anyone, either.) If you have advertised you can do laundry in your listing, you should provide laundry soap (yup, I’m THAT demanding).
- You should sharpen your knives more than once a decade and try and supply some that were purchased post-Second World War. If your kitchen knives can’t cut melting pistachio gelato (or the awkward silence following the kitchen tour), make the bold claim in your apartment listing that your kitchen is not equipped for actual cooking. PS: Butter knives are not chef knives.
- You can’t leave a family of four with four measly rough-to-the-skin towels for a 3-week stay. You’ll need to triple that. And if you want to be WILD, throw in some beach or pool towels. I like the thin cotton Moroccan ones, and they cost a whole 10 bucks a pop.
- You can’t offer as the only respite from humidity a single dusty, creaky fan that’s probably circulating mothy closet air from being stuck in the back of one behind tons of random boxes. You can’t. It’s not illegal, but it should be.
May we suggest: You stick your hands in your pockets. I know your pockets are tight but dig down just a little deeper. Yes, now you’ve found it! That magical space where a few hundred bucks are tightly rolled (albeit slightly crinkled because your talons have been gripping those bills hard). Now head to Ikea and drop them on some things called Solleron, Krossa and Mastholmen, and get to sprucing up your rooms. Voilà — with the money you collect from a single-night stay, you’ve successfully brought your business into 2019.
If you run a shop (food, artisan, clothing etc.) in a tourist area and…
- you have “No Photos” posted in the window, and spend most of your day trying to enforce this rule.
- you have “Do Not Touch” signs posted on your shelves, and spend most of your day telling offenders off.
- you have no patience for offering directions to poor lost souls who wander in.
- you have a grumpy-ass I-hate-you-all face on.
May we suggest: You take a vacation to Timbuktu, and upon return, take up employment behind a desk where you don’t have access to tourists.
If you work inside restaurants and bars and…
- you start rolling your eyes, huffing or shaking your head when your customer is taking .000001 of a second longer to decide between the lasagna or the fish than you have bandwidth for.
- you take offense should a customer want to add another chair to the table to accommodate an arriving friend.
- you take it personally should a customer not want to order in the sequence you expect, or wants a cappuccino after their dinner (you’re not drinking it, what do you care?).
May we suggest: A reminder that at times, working in the service of customers means you need to channel the patience of a surgeon, the compassion of Mother Teresa and the joy of a lottery winner. If you don’t have these qualities (and can’t fake it when needed), then release your job to someone else who loves it more than you.
In a world where we’re increasingly disconnected from real humans, do your part and show your customers that you give a damn.
Hospitality means going that extra mile, and doing whatever you can to create an incredible experience.
To me, hospitality means a generosity of heart and spirit.
If you don’t have it, get out of this industry.
We, as tourists and travelers on our precious vacation, don’t want to waste one millisecond of our time in front of your grumpy mug, or lame apartment or shop.
Go spend your time and energy on another project — like working for the Department of Motor Vehicles.
We’ll thank you for it. You might thank yourself for it.
Alternatively, may we suggest you start acting hospitable. Next time a booking rolls through, I dare you to surprise and delight your guests.
Lovers of stress-free vacations
Excellent! Now write the same about expectations and behaviour of travellers… we get as fed up with some of those as we do surly service providers.
I love your blogs btw!
That’s a great idea – perhaps that will be our next editorial piece! 🙂
We can definitely all relate to crossing paths with travellers who maybe should have just stayed at home…
Thanks for the love!
Loved this so much! I worked in the hospo industry for over a decade…and this makes me think of SO many managers/co-workers I met along the way.
Thanks Miish! It really is fascinating how so many unhospitable people find their way into this industry. I’m glad our post brought up some memories (hopefully comical in hindsight?) for you!
Well said Bianca! The hospitality industry is not for everyone. But if you decide to join the movement and turn your bedroom, or guest house, or entire home into a vacation destination for world travelers, then let’s hope you take this advice as gospel. My recent experience with VRBO in Asheville, North Carolina was extraordinary and had every amenity mentioned above. Our traveling experience was made that much more delightful because of the accommodations.
On the other hand, during a leaf-peeping trip in New England years ago, our group of three women were staying at a large bed and breakfast where the shower stall was built so small you couldn’t lift you arms to wash your hair. Then one evening when we were in the game room quietly playing cards, the owner walked in and shut the lights off. At 9 p.m. Knowing full well we were in there. This was a common area, not next to any bedrooms and the ‘resort’ was out in the middle of nowhere so there was no place for us to go but our room. This was back in the days before Airbnb or VRBO. I wonder if he is still in business with all the new competition?
Bianca is right. That next booking call? Put a smile on your face because we can tell through the phone whether you are smiling or not, and have a relentless priority on doing whatever it takes to satisfy the customer. (Yeah, I know, my 27 years with Nordstrom is showing.)
Or for the perfect travel experience, just travel with Italian Fix! Please, please, please expand into Scotland/Ireland – I want to go there but I don’t want to plan it. ?
Oh wow, that sounds like a terrible experience in New England. Lights out at 9 p.m.? While on vacation? Yikes. I’m hoping more of your experiences are like the one in North Carolina 🙂
And I agree with you 100% — people can tell if you’re smiling at the other end of the phone!
As for Scotland and Ireland — both incredibly dreamy places. I hope you get the opportunity to go!
I agree whole heartedly with this. I was in service business for 20 years and the little touches and thoughtfulness mean a lot to people. Being a respectful, responsible guest/ customer is also very important. Unfortunately many feel like if they are paying they should be able to do what they want, which is really disheartening.
I completely agree Rebekah. It is very disheartening when people feel entitled to behave however they please as long as they’ve paid for the service. Respect and kindness goes a long way on both ends! 🙂
So well said! I want to offer a glimmer of hope to travelers that some people get it right. We landed in Florence after being abandoned in Bologna for four hours by the airline that couldn’t reach our destination due to wind. My Airbnb host decided to meet us at the bus station to drive us to our apartment. He proceeded to cook us a wonderful pasta dinner with homemade bolognese, wine, and of course a fresh loaf of bread. That turned our whole initial experience into the expectation that our trip would not be the disaster as it began.
Excellent, and amusing, article! I will keep all this in mind as I begin my journey as a new Airbnb host.
Hello Bianca, I agree that hospitality is essential for B&B owners as well as Airbnb hosts. But let’s remember that if you want professional service, research your options and choose a place that is run by professionals. Most Airbnb hosts are not professionals in the hospitality industry – they are just trying to make an extra buck off a room or property that they have. My husband and I have a B&B in rural Italy (Abruzzo) and although we are ‘off the beaten path’ we provide all of the little extras that you mention in your article. Our guests enjoy personal attention without a big price tag. We even allow our guests to do their laundry without an extra charge – the fun part is putting it out on the line to dry in the sun, the good old fashioned way.
Fab Open Letter! Made me laugh, and also remember some “hospitality” experiences I’d like to forget. Thank you!