I am sure we all get that sinking feeling when something unforeseen happens while guests are in our property. We do our utmost to make it beautiful; have it well prepared for guests’ arrival, and make ourselves available for help if required. Conventional wisdom would also dictate that a well-handled problem should deliver more satisfied guests. And pigs might fly!
So, three days before Christmas, a group of seven adults checked into the cottage. We don’t normally accept all-adult groups in party season, but these checked out on all our screening processes. They’d received our pre-arrival package that pointed out the water to the cottage was sourced from a well, and – since the drought of last summer – if the water was overused, the limiting device would kick in. This meant the water would stop running until the well was replenished – usually after about 45 minutes. We also stressed that showers should be short and spaced out, and the dishwasher and washing machine should not be used at the same time. Our personalized Welcome letter stressed the importance of water conservation and reminded guests they should be careful with water use.
On Christmas morning at 12.15am – yes folks that is quarter after midnight – I heard the phone ring. Thinking it was Santa stuck down my chimney and calling for assistance I raced to the phone to find a plaintive guest telling me there was no water and she could not clean her teeth, wash her face, or do the dishes. She demanded to know what we were going to do about it, and could we get a plumber out there straight away. I commiserated of course and suggested she use the drinking water provided in the water cooler for teeth brushing; and put the dishes in the machine for washing in the morning, but regretted we could not find a tradesperson at that time of the morning on Christmas Day. I then asked her to let me know if there was still an issue with the water when they got up, and we would see how we could help (the group were checking out later that day).
This was the first year in many that we’ve had kids in our household for the big day – our son and granddaughter were over from UK – so when real morning arrived and the festivities began, I freely admit I forgot to call and check that all was OK. By the time I remembered, the guests had left so I assumed all had recovered and they had enjoyed their stay. Not so, it seems as later on that day (when they got home) the Flipkey review was published.
The one and only problem that we experienced was the water shortage. The well system I believe had malfunction and although it is winter and we tried our best to save water by not turning on the dish washer or washing machine during the day on Christmas eve from around 6 pm all the way to 3 am there was almost no water even for flushing in the washrooms and the dishes were all piled up in the kitchen. One of us stayed in shower for about 2 hours and finally we had to warm up drinking water in pans to help her out while she was shivering in the bathroom. It was very inconvenient and we had to call the owner to see if there's anything we could do but she said there's not that she could do and no one even called us a day after to check if we were doing ok without water. The owners had informed us ahead of time about the well system for water in the agreement but never told us about the shortage even with all the conservations. Also the cottage was supposed to be equipped with wifi but it wasn't working prperly and there was no wireless coverage for the cellphones and we were disconnected from the world for 3 days. Other than that it was a great vacation!
After 40-odd five star reviews, the 3* felt like a kick in the teeth, and I really let it get me down. I know there was a situation that impacted our guests’ stay, but I felt the feedback was unfair. In particular the internet access was working perfectly before and after their stay; the water had been fine for twelve sets of guests before them and three after, and until the post-midnight call on Xmas Day we knew nothing of any issues affecting their stay.
There! I’ve had my little rant, and shall say no more about the 6 bags of unsorted garbage we had to separate after their stay…..oops that was a little more rant.
Am I making a point? I don’t know really. I just wanted to share this because every so often we all get a bit of jolt after thinking we do the best for our guests and are reminded we cannot please everyone. I feel OK about it now and the ridiculousness of the review has gained more of a comedy element each time we read it. Surely no-one would stand shivering in a shower for two hours waiting for the water to come back on? And interestingly, that was not mentioned at all in the post-midnight conversation so I am guessing the water came back on for long enough for her to step in the shower and (dare I say this) get lathered up. Which is why she was up until 3am I guess?
Thanks for listening folks……I needed to get that one unloaded and as I re-read this I appreciate it was a minor incident where a legitimate complaint was perhaps warranted. Guests are needier these days and in places like ours where there is a rustic aspect to the luxury we provide, we may need to be more specific about the limitations of a system.
And the positive results that came out of all this? I have been banging on for months about the need to deal with the water supply and ensure it never runs out again for our guests. The plumber is booked for April when the ground unfreezes and he’ll put in a heated line to bring water in from the river; install filtration systems, and we should never go dry again.