How to handle guests during a power outage at your b&b

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07/29/2012

Dear Fellow Innkeepers - 

We live in a rural area of the US Northwest (Puget Sound) with severe wind storms during the winter.  Although the electric grid has been updated in our county, sometimes one of the millions of giant cedars, alders or Douglas firs may come crashing down on a power line, and poof! the electricity is gone, not to be restored for at least 5 hours.  We now have generators for both parts of our house and a generator for our well-system - but in the interim before these things get cranked up and running - what is an innkeeper to do?  We automatically reassure our guests that we can restore most power and heat, and immediately come by with offers of hot cocoa, a hot toddy - etc. But should we also offer steep discounts for that day - refund the day's stay in total - offer a lesser discount?  What are  your experiences in your neck of the woods with this issue?  Before we got our generators, we would offer a complete refund and get out the electric lanterns, in-house battery powered heater and down blankets!  That didn't do anything for the fact that there was no water from our electric-powered well pumps for water and commodes!  Ah, the good old days!  Thanks for any feedback.

 

Breakfast Diva's picture
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05/26/2009

The first time the power went out after we bought the b&b, it was of course during breakfast prep/cooking. The generator kicked on. Yippee.....but then we realized that they had not wired in the stove! ARE YOU KIDDING???? I ended up having to use just the microwave and a single, regular sized waffle maker. That afternoon, I went out and bought a big electric skillet. We then had the electrician come out and wire in the stove/oven. 2 years ago we had to replace the generator with a new one and this one is more powerful and can run the whole property if need be.

Once again, we shake our heads and ask "What were they thinking?"

Proud Texan's picture
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05/30/2008

We are all electric and in the woods without a generator (yet).   So far,  we have not had any outages when guests were here.  We once had to call a guest before they arrived and told them we were in a power outage and gave them a choice:  stay somewhere else and receive a full refund or come ahead and take their chances.   The roads were so bad,  they stayed home.   I do think they came later though.

If there were a power outage here while guests were present,  I would give them the same choice.   There would be no heat or air conditioning nor would there be any water or breakfast.   It happens so infrequently,  we don't sweat it.

Madeleine's picture
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09/29/2011

We called guests to let them know we had no power and they were all excited about making it a 'camping' trip. We tried several times to explain that it meant NO hot water, NO TV, NO internet, NO heat and NO breakfast. (We can do breakfast if necessary but we would prefer to not try to plus keeping food cold is a biggie for the health dept. No power and the fridge starts to warm up.)

It took about 5 minutes to convince them to go somewhere else.

I really and truly do not want to worry about guests when the power is out. Some people will start off thinking it's fun but a day later when they haven't had a decent meal because all the restaurants are closed too or they can't 'do' anything because the stores and theaters are closed? Not so much. Altho, most are cool with just going to the next town but we don't always know what other towns are out at the same time.

I think that's something the guest doesn't really get. WE worry about them, the consequences of having them stay, the possibility they might trip and fall in the dark, they'll get tired of no hot water, etc.

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Joey Camb's picture
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04/02/2010

from what you say - you can resume almost normal service within say 10 minutes - i wouldn't offer anything - guests may  be out etc they may not even notice! do you live on site ie there immediately to deal with anything? then I wouldn't worry you seem to have everything covered as much as you can. Might consider a small disclamer on your web site but thats as far as I would go and depending on frequency.

We had one at 10pm at night so was in a bind of knocking on people's doors ie and waking them up to tell them it was a power cut or not - decided on wandering the halls figuring anyone awake would come out and ask - only one did and were slightly confused by our emergency lighting - which i was pleased to say worked a treat! our heating works on gas so no issue there!

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Breakfast Diva's picture
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05/26/2009

I'm also in the NW in a rural area. Like you, if the power is out, there goes the water. We have a hard wired generator that automatically kicks on when the power goes out, but the water must be switched over manually by us and it can take a few minutes to get that done. Do you have emergency flashlights in your guest rooms? There's some really great ones out there that automatically turn on when the power goes out.

I would not offer compensation since it's nothing you did to create the situation and you have done as much as possible to get the water back running and make them comfortable. If you're talking about a 5 hour period, that should be a piece of cake for guests. Now, if you're talking 5 days, that's another thing!

Sounds like you're doing everything right, so unless somebody has a real tizzy fit, just go with the flow and turn it into a fun experience.

seashanty's picture
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06/02/2008

 how long does it take to crank up the generators?

 i just had flameless candles and flashlights, made a lovely game out of it although of course there were some grumpies.

only refunded if they were grumping.  only offered a voucher for a breakfast across the road if i couldn't provide one.

most thought it was a trip ... seeing lightning flash across the water.  yikes!

 

i STAYED in a place that didn't have flashlights in the room nor did they come to the room to offer one or to say if they knew anything.  ugh. i didn't complain but ... really?  not even a knock on the door to check on me??

 

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05/30/2008

We had a tornado come through our town!  The siren went off and guests in our second house were impressed that I braved the storm with an umbrella to knock on their doors and make sure that they took cover.  My husband was furious with me, but it turned out that 2 out of 3 had no idea what the siren meant!

One guy told me that after I left he took all the pillows off the bed, put them in the big jetted tub and climbed in with them.  Smiling

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Madeleine's picture
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09/29/2011

We've had that here as well but we do not have generators. We do have running water and the hot water will last a bit.

Most guests understand you're doing your best.

It sounds like you are doing all of the right things.

We have given back enough money so the guests can go out for breakfast. And once, when the guest was so completely unreasonable, we refunded the full amount so as to never see them again. (The guests had a fireplace, hot water and as it was a furious storm, they had a safe, dry place to sleep.)

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02/18/2012

We are also in a remote area- we do not have a generator, and the electricity often goes out for short periods of time.

I'm with gillum - and I don't feel bad about it.  I think people come for an adventure or a taste of something different - and that's part of the taste. At least for the cost-effectiveness of how to deal with the situation, that's it.

I love being prepared for things and knowing what to do, and  so how we've handled it is that we have in the guest rooms and the reception a description of what to expect when the electricity goes out and what resources we available for them in our lending "library" of fun stuff and lighting needs, and how they can check them out.   

I would find this helpful in another place as well.

 

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10/07/2008

Remoteness needs to be explained. If you are in a rural area, within a larger area that is populated with amenities, then they will expect it. If you are a log cabin in the woods, with a well, and woodstove, etc. then explain that.

Same if you are in tornado alley, you would need to explain the drill to them.

If you can stay warm and fed, I think you will be happy as a guest!  cheeky

 

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10/07/2008

If you know you have this and are not prepared, then you will have irritated guests. They expect alternate heat source and some way to be comfortable. If it is a short spell, and you romanticize it with candles and ambiance, then more power to ya ('scuse the pun!)

So all that to say, instead of lanterns and making them feel like an emergency situation, when they WOULD want to get a refund, or free stay, make it a romantic situation.

Fortunately, most of those wind storms are in the winter, when you may not have as many guests, I would say. But really you would be required to take care of your guests by the powers that be (again scuse the pun). Are you on a small lake? I ask as we posted an article recently, if so, then I know where you are, I lived in Port Orchard (Kitsap county) for 11 years. 

Welcome to the forum!

 

gillumhouse's picture
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05/22/2008

Call it Adventure in theNorthwest. Unless the guests get huffy, say nothing. Stuff happens.

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05/30/2008

I wouldn't offer a refund or discount unless guests were forced to leave due to damage to your property.  Weather happens!  And you have no control over it.  I think that continuing to offer services as you mentioned and reassuring guests is sufficient.

If someone totally freaks out about a loss of power, then it's a judgment call for you to offer something in terms of compensation. 

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