The Interview

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I want to hear from other single (preferably female) innkeepers that have to deal with the constant barrage of personal questions from guests.  It starts the second they walk in the door.  Everything from where I'm from to if I'm single to what I do in my off time (haha!).  The list goes on and on.  There must be something about my manner that tells these people it's ok to ask these types of questions - I try to get through my spiel, be professional, avoid some questions (especially if I'm still answering a prior one), but still...they continue on.  I am seriously at my wit's end with this crap this year.  I think the majority of people are just trying to be social, and show an interest...this is the South after all, and they think you have all the time in the world to chat with them.  But this isn't chatting - it's intrusive, nosy, and just...exhausting!  Is it because there is only one of me?  Is it different for those that answer the door with your partner?  Is it different for male innkeepers? 

I need to know how to put a stop to it without just saying "I prefer not to answer that" or the Ann Landers suggestion "Why do you want to know?".  I feel both of these are rude, but then...if I'm not direct with putting an end to it, I don't think it will stop.  I do enough freaking talking about the town, the house, the history, the breakfast, places to eat...all that.  To have to talk even MORE, especially when it's a question of a personal nature is really taxing me this season. I lost my cleaning help, am busier than I've ever been, and am anxiously awaiting any interest in the sale of this inn.  So I am completely burned out and the season has just started. 

I welcome any advice, but let's be realistic.  I don't think any of us can easily say "no" in any situation - this is no different. I don't want to be rude...but I don't want to slit their throats in their sleep either! Smiling

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Success!  "Is this a family home?" was the second question, mixed right in with my spiel.  I think I was on "Help yourself to maps & brochures" when it came flying out of their mouth.  I mean, really?   Obviously not listening to me or they wouldn't have asked that question.  So my response was "This is an investment property for me" (I couldn't remember the exact words to use!), then I went right back to what I was saying. 

I got back to my speech and "Do you live here?" came next.  I realize that's not really a personal question - some people do care that the owner lives on site.  So I answered "Yes, we do, but the best way to reach us is by cell phone.  I'll give you that number in just a moment."  I think I came across personable, but more business like than I usually do.  I also showed more of an interest in them and why they were visiting here, and asked more questions than I normally would. 

So.....Avoid, Deflect, and Reflect (it back to them) is my new motto.  I'm anxious to practice it more and get even better!  LOL

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BananaE29 wrote:

I got back to my speech and "Do you live here?" came next.  I realize that's not really a personal question - some people do care that the owner lives on site.  So I answered "Yes, we do, but the best way to reach us is by cell phone.

Do you have a pet? I think you do. So the WE is not a lie.

See how it works.  So on your blogging say "Happy first day of summer to our guests!" use OUR vs MY. and bobsyeruncle in that aspect. Smiling

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BananaE29 wrote:

So.....Avoid, Deflect, and Reflect (it back to them) is my new motto.  I'm anxious to practice it more and get even better!  LOL

After all this discussion guests checked in walked into the room talking and sat down. One on the sofa and one of the bed and kept talking! I am my own worst enemy. I had to laugh (inside) as they held me captive AND I was still outside the door trying to put this into action!

I actually felt guilty trying to escape them. They are really nice people and were being friendly.

So all that say, do what you have to do when you feel the way you feel. I walked back down the stairs shaking my head saying "So much for that!" and laughing. Now I know what their son does, how their dog died and more! 

Thanks a lot for the deflect advice innmates! cool

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Joey Bloggs wrote:

So all that say, do what you have to do when you feel the way you feel. I walked back down the stairs shaking my head saying "So much for that!" and laughing. Now I know what their son does, how their dog died and more! 

Thanks a lot for the deflect advice innmates! cool

 

Hahahaha!  I can see this happening very easily.  But I find it much easier to excuse myself from a rambler than being rude and just not answering a questions.

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BananaE29 wrote:

Joey Bloggs wrote:

So all that say, do what you have to do when you feel the way you feel. I walked back down the stairs shaking my head saying "So much for that!" and laughing. Now I know what their son does, how their dog died and more! 

Thanks a lot for the deflect advice innmates! cool

 

Hahahaha!  I can see this happening very easily.  But I find it much easier to excuse myself from a rambler than being rude and just not answering a questions.

You would be shocked at check out they actually asked to peek into our quarters. Yes, true.  I don't think there was anything other than curiosity, but you know the saying, and the dead cat.

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Joey Bloggs wrote:

BananaE29 wrote:

Joey Bloggs wrote:

So all that say, do what you have to do when you feel the way you feel. I walked back down the stairs shaking my head saying "So much for that!" and laughing. Now I know what their son does, how their dog died and more! 

Thanks a lot for the deflect advice innmates! cool

 

Hahahaha!  I can see this happening very easily.  But I find it much easier to excuse myself from a rambler than being rude and just not answering a questions.

You would be shocked at check out they actually asked to peek into our quarters. Yes, true.  I don't think there was anything other than curiosity, but you know the saying, and the dead cat.

I once caught someone coming down the stairs from our quarters.  He said his code wouldn't work on that door.   I said right, that area is private (as it says on the door) our private area.  And his reply - I just wanted to take a peek!  surprise

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BananaE29 wrote:

Success!  "Is this a family home?" was the second question, mixed right in with my spiel.  I think I was on "Help yourself to maps & brochures" when it came flying out of their mouth.  I mean, really?   Obviously not listening to me or they wouldn't have asked that question.  So my response was "This is an investment property for me" (I couldn't remember the exact words to use!), then I went right back to what I was saying. 

I got back to my speech and "Do you live here?" came next.  I realize that's not really a personal question - some people do care that the owner lives on site.  So I answered "Yes, we do, but the best way to reach us is by cell phone.  I'll give you that number in just a moment."  I think I came across personable, but more business like than I usually do.  I also showed more of an interest in them and why they were visiting here, and asked more questions than I normally would. 

So.....Avoid, Deflect, and Reflect (it back to them) is my new motto.  I'm anxious to practice it more and get even better!  LOL

yes

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Yes. The do you live here question is to make sure someone is around.

The royal 'we' came in handy!

Good for you!

Usually we get the 20 questions during breakfast. Mostly about if we're local, if not where'd we come from, what did we do before, why did we change jobs.

We spent 20 minutes today showing guests pix of our old house. It's odd where the conversation goes.

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I'm not single, but I do solo check-ins most of the time and am often peppered with these same kinds of questions. I don't actually mind the curiosity of guests, but I often don't have the time to answer, especially with the rapid-fire guests.

Sometimes I use a delay tactic on them. When they ask "How did you end up here?", I reply "I'll have to tell you about that at breakfast or I won't be ready for the next guests". Not really a solution for you since you don't want to tell them later, but if you're taken off guard, you can use it to buy some time. Some people won't pick the question back up later but if they do, you can have another tactic ready.

The other thing you can do is deflect, not just back at them (because maybe you don't want to hand them the convo ball), but to non-personal aspects of the topic.

For instance, if they ask "Is this your family home?" Make the answer about origins of the building and not about your family. "No actually, this house was built by the first doctor of the town" or "Most of the homes in this neighbourhood were built in the boom of the 80's when there was a big influx of martians...". You're staying in control of the conversation and you're still answering their question, just from a different angle.

The other thing you can do is answer like a politician. Give an answer that could be tied to their question by the thinnest string and don't worry if it is at all relevant. 

Q: "Do you have family in the area?"

A: "This is a great, family-oriented community, whether you have family or not. You know how they say it takes a village to raise a child? Everyone here watches out for each other, but still lets everyone march to the beat of their own drummer. Friends and community are like the family you choose."

Good luck and hang in there!

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happyjacks wrote:

The other thing you can do is answer like a politician. Give an answer that could be tied to their question by the thinnest string and don't worry if it is at all relevant. 

Q: "Do you have family in the area?"

A: "This is a great, family-oriented community, whether you have family or not. You know how they say it takes a village to raise a child? Everyone here watches out for each other, but still lets everyone march to the beat of their own drummer. Friends and community are like the family you choose."

Good luck and hang in there!

  GEE, that is almost creepy good!  wink

Anyone asking a 2nd question after that answer deserves a 30 min rattle on about nothing remotely on the topic.  devil

 

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we get _ how long have you been here - a lot!

I answer with "4 1/2 years its a big renovation project and start listing things we have done! that gets rid of the rest of the questions!

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Those are all excellent responses.  I need little cue cards to carry around with me, or maybe I'll write it on my arm like I did for tests in high school Smiling  First check ins are here - I was completely prepared, and they did not ask one single question.  Not about me, the town, the house...nothing!  Good grief!  So I'm back here, reading responses over again because I have such a crap memory, and I'll be prepared with some of these answers for the next ones to get here! 

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Wow, you are good!

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 ugh, banana. i remember it well. probing, intrusive questions. deflect and distract or ignore them.  what i answered depended on my mood and how much i felt like sharing.  i did wonder if it was because they felt like they were coming into my home and should chat ... like 'company'.

 

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Turn it around.  

"How long have you owned the inn?"

"Seems like yesterday!  (smile) Do you have children?"

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TheBeachHouse wrote:

Turn it around.  

"How long have you owned the inn?"

"Seems like yesterday!  (smile) Do you have children?"

 

I'm hearing a few of you offering this suggestion of turning the questions around.  I believe I'm going to try this, although faking the enthusiasm when I really don't care about their children or their lives (I'm sorry!  I just don't right now!) will be a challenge.  But I think I can do this. 

So..."Is this a family home?"...."No, it's a business venture."  I like this because it takes it off the personal path right away.  I can then flip that into "And what do y'all do?"...YES, I am trying this today.  I shall report back!

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TheBeachHouse wrote:

Turn it around.  

"How long have you owned the inn?"

"Seems like yesterday!  (smile) Do you have children?"

I agree with this totally.

I just don't want for them to launch into their stories. cool Unless they are short.

I say that as we all know someone who does this, asks you a question only so you can ask them and then they launch. I had a guest here this way a month or so ago, I heard her asking every person that same question so she could tell them for 30 minutes about her kids. I had to laugh, it was like a teacher being let out of kindergarten for the summer! This was a couple who both spoke at the same time to one person.

At the table one person said something and they both sat across and talked over each other in reply, to the one person. It was quite comical. I have relatives who do this, we have always considered it chaos.  Not everyone talking at once, but over each other on the same topic to the same person. 

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Joey Bloggs wrote:

I just don't want for them to launch into their stories. cool Unless they are short.

 

 

Haha Smiling  I think you must be a long lost sister!

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On the same train of thought...

This is why we go ballistic when someone goes into our innkeeper quarters. We have touched on that on another thread, or two or three. We have virtually no privacy, so if someone decides to just go where they are forbidden to go.

Like the old man that day in my kitchen, I was ready to slam him with a fry pan! "What are you doing in here!" I said. I have daughters. He was the unfortunate one to be on the tail end of a few boundary breakers...Our door is closed, a sign that says "Private" and he went in anyway.  Hard to explain these doors, we have a chain across you can remove from the outside if you know how, but they squeak really loud. Each time we think about WD40 I say "No way! That is my alarm system, it has to squeak..."

They are only them. But in our world they are a new "them" times how many rooms every day for weeks and months and into years. Newbies do not get this, they think it is all roses with guests in your home "We like to entertain...We like to cook!" 

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"Is this a family home?"

 

"No, this is a business, an inn"

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Okay, I'm not in the exact same situation, since I'm a male innkeeper but I can assure you that people frequently ask intrusive questions. Heck, I get people who mispronounce my name too. Even if I politely correct them, they insist that their pronunciation is right and mine is wrong. 

I have a few ways that I try to politely tell them that have violated the rules of common decency. Some are subtle, like asking them "Excuse me?" (with a tone that says WTF is wrong with you!) which is pretty common around here. But when they push beyond it, I have two ways to handle it.... I ignore it and see if they move on OR I give them an answer that is obviously an exaggeration and lie. 

So the answer to the question "Are you single?" Starts with the "Excuse me?", moves to ignoring it and finally ends with "Oh, do you have a billionaire uncle you are trying to marry off?"

But then in the last few days, I dealt with a guest that kept on asking me for suggestions and honest feedback and then just didn't do what I said and instead asked others who gave them the wrong answers. I tell them how to get to a great restaurant, they go to a mediocre restaurant. I tell them how to get to where they are going and how to buy the ticket, they end up buying the wrong ticket. 

The smart guests learn that I'm a resource that can cut wasted time out of their vacation. That I can get them to see what suits them quickly and give them great restaurant suggestions. Others seem to think that they need to know what country my parents were born in. I answer them, because it suits me. Because if it didn't suit me, the answer would be the "Sea of Tranquillity". Or you can use an answer that clearly makes things uncomfortable for them, so they want to squirm away. Like when a mother starts talking about sex with their children... "Which reminds me, I have to get to the pharmacy to pick up a pregnancy test." And see if that ends the whole conversation.

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I also get the how long have you been doing this and the is this your family home..... Many times they do not even see Himself - arrive while he is in his inner sanctum painting or with his ballgame on the radio or TV program. If they then have an early breakfast, he is never seen.

I always wear an apron with pockets. IF you have a land line, put your cell in your apron pocket with the house number ready to be called. Reach in your pocket and hit call - excuse me, I must get the phone. Or set the calendar or timer on your cell to ring in 10 minutes with a ringer sound so you can excuse yourself to take this reservation.

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The married folk get intrusive questions, too!

Figure out which questions really bother you and come up with a canned response that is short.

Well, the short version is this... I won't take up your precious vacation time with the long version!

We mostly get how long have you been here, what did you do before, can you make a living doing this, how's business been?

As a single woman doing this I think people think it's perfectly OK to take all your time because you don't have anything better to do. Read: no man to bother about. Sorry that's my reading of why it's happening. I bet single guys get asked a lot of intrusive questions, too. Because there's no woman around.

I know dh gets a lot more attention when no one sees me.

It's OK to cut rude people short with canned answers.

So come up with your story and stick with it. Divert attention elsewhere. Turn the tables and ask about them.

Or:

I love what I do, people are wonderful and my parole officer thinks this is an excellent venture for me. (Then smile and take them to their room.)

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Okay and more from me. Sorry I am here and thinking about it.

I noticed that DH who never ever checks guests in btw, had to a few times, used to toss them in quickly and never go into the room. Then he would be straight back down here. I would be trapped, cornered, and more.

So try that, be brief, act like the phone will ring any moment. Briskly walk them through and toss them into their room, don't go in the room! See if that helps. i hope so...

PS I don't see anything on your website or blog that says you are single or lets me have your name only. So they are being super snoopy!  When my daughter checked guests in they would do this to her and she never gave them a straight answer. She never really got how snoopy they were being.

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Amongst many other things that irritate me lately, calling me by name when phoning (before they've met me) is another.  They see it in the T_A reviews and use it when calling for reservations.  It's like they are trying to endear themselves to me before booking.  Look..I don't care. Gaaaaaaa....I just took five days off last week - can you believe it?

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BananaE29 wrote:

Amongst many other things that irritate me lately, calling me by name when phoning (before they've met me) is another.  They see it in the T_A reviews and use it when calling for reservations.  It's like they are trying to endear themselves to me before booking.  Look..I don't care. Gaaaaaaa....I just took five days off last week - can you believe it?

We've been getting this too of late. Hi! Is this Madeleine? I think they think they know us because of the blurb on the website.

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Not more of this b.s.!

Banana, do they KNOW you are single? Put a pair of work boots by the front door. 

               "But this isn't chatting - it's intrusive, nosy, and just...exhausting!  Is it because there is only one of me?  Is it different for those that answer the door with your partner?  Is it different for male innkeepers?"

I recall asking an innkeeper where her husband was like 23 years ago, I think about that now and feel bad about it. Why did I do that? Yeah I did it, and now I think what the heck!! (He was away on business, so then she told me her personal stuff on how hard it is when he is away and she has to fend for herself, but I am female and she was so I hope she was not offended by it) boo hoo I am really bad.

AND If you recall my situation this month with the drop kick and the building and health dept being called. He had to be the "big man" and as described by another here, A BULLY.

I know  FOR   A   F  A  C  T   he would never have behaved that way with a guy. That was what made me even madder.

I am very sorry you are going through this. You are approachable and friendly this is the reason I bet they are doing this.  I guess you can change and not be so friendly, what a shame that would be. But time to close up. My advice "Act like you don't hear them" or continue onto the check in schpeal.

I need to come and see you and have a cuppa with you. I will slap them around for you! heart

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It happens constantly - it always bothers me, but I don't usually get this upset about it.  I know I have suggested to someone else on here, when struggling with how to say something without coming off rude, that it gets easier the more you do it, and I need to take my own advice.  One problem I have is that the questions may start off in a business fashion..for example, "How long have you been doing this?"...the next will be "Is this a family home?"...then that leads into "Do you have family here?"...which leads into "Oh, you do this yourself? You are single?"...which..yes, believe it or not, sometimes will go further "You have NEVER been married?  Do you have children?"  I mean, at what point do I put up the wall?  If I'm direct right way, then I'm not personable.  If I decide willy-nilly when the questions start bothering me, I don't really have a standard answer.  The response will come out with emotion, because I've let them push me to a point where I'm uncomfortable.

Again, I think people are just trying to make conversation - maybe they're nervous, maybe they think it's expected when in someone else's home to do small talk.  I'm not a small talker.  I'm a worker.  I am a caregiver.  I like making people feel special.  What I don't like is my personal space invaded.  We get no personal time as it is, so stay out of my head at least!

Ugh...just so tired.  Yes...please come and have a cuppa with me...with some Bailey's thrown in.  Then let's sit by the pool and have a few "harder" drinks.  Then let's go on a cruise and let someone else pamper us!

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In spite of my saying I don't do small talk this is my patter...

Hi! Come on in! I'm Madeleine. (Pause for them to realize they need to tell me who they are.)

Tell them I'll be right back I have to get their keys. (This has worked remarkably well for them to orient themselves before I come back and ask for payment and signatures.)

If you would offer a drink at this point go for it.

I then review their rez form, go over the number of days, the room they chose and show then the balance and ask for the cc.

While they are rooting around I ask how was the drive, where else have they been, where are they going, would they like a map, have they been in town before, do they need help with dinner reservations, etc. Review dietary stuff.

After payment I explain the keys and the entry door and say I'll now show them around the house. Which I do.

Show them the high points, mention breakfast time, coffee time, etc. Show them the brochures of things to do, ask if they have plans.

If they have mentioned seeing or doing something I'll ask how they liked it, would they recommend it, etc. Ask if they need directions to anything.

By now we're at the room. I open the door, turn on the lights, Point out the a/c, heat, bathroom. Tell them where to find me, thank them again, give them my name again and say I'll see them around the house or in the morning for breakfast.

5 minutes tops.

Not to say it has not taken 45 minutes to do a check-in if someone wants to talk. If I'm in the mood I'll talk, if not I excuse myself and say I'm the only one here right now (excellent reference for you, "right now") and I have to check on something in the oven.

But I get the total tedium of constant chatter. It hurts my head. I'm not a social butterfly.

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Our check in process is almost identical.  I do the tour downstairs, show them brochures, how to work the front door, the dining room, how to get to the pool, etc...then I say "Let's get the registration out of the way before I show you to the room".  If they haven't started with the questions by then (and that's a big IF), they'll start at this point.  While I'm running their card, actually using my brain, instead of spouting off the same words I've said ten gazillion times...THIS is when they'll choose to start.  Now at this point, I have no problem saying "I'm sorry...I'm not a good multi-tasker and I don't think you want me to over charge you" (I say it with humor), and they get the hint.  That will actually shut them up for the entire time until we get to the room - most people, by this point, are happy to be in THEIR room, and could give a hoot less about me.  Glory Day!  So I always try to get to that point quickly. 

I am really thankful for the replies, if for no other reason to realize I'm not just a grumpy burned out innkeeper and others feel the same.  I'm happy to hear I'm not the only one that doesn't like the small talk.

 

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Side track here... We have guests from your state here who love going to your town, I gave them your name. They're not the least bit nosy.

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Madeleine wrote:

Side track here... We have guests from your state here who love going to your town, I gave them your name. They're not the least bit nosy.

Thanks Madeleine!  Why is it I never know who owns what on this forum?  I guess I'm not consistently on here enough.  I know JB's place.  And Empty Nest helped me a lot with my website.  But I can't ever make the connection with names and places.

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Mostly because I don't mention much about where I am.

I think you've mentioned some things that were very specific. Maybe when you were redoing your website?

But, there are a lot of people on here I don't know either.

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We've never been asked if this is a family home. I know Joey gets that one, too!

I hear your misery.

I get they are crossing boundaries they have no business crossing.

Is there a sequence that seems to bring this up more often? As you said, it starts off with asking if this is a family home.

Can you then cut it short saying, 'no this is a business venture.' Without pronouns like 'my' or 'our'. 

You CAN use the royal 'we' in these circumstances if you think it helps altho, by golly you are darn proud of doing this yourself!

I'm not a small talker either. Not good at it. But, apparently, the best way to seem incredibly friendly and brilliant if to get the guests talking about themselves.

Perhaps even turning the same questions on them. How long have you lived in (look at rez form for town name )? Do you like it there? I've always wanted to go there, have a cousin there, think the xyz is great there.

Just keep batting the questions back at them.

If they ask about your family ask about theirs. Are you here to visit family?

I pretty much start taking the minute they walk in and keep going right to the room where I part with how they can find me and do they need help with the bags.

It is odd that guests do think we should tell them everything about ourselves like it's a play they've walked in on.

I feel like you do in August. Right now it's so dang slow I'm talking to everyone.

Yes it's hard when you have no down time. I really don't know how you do it. I'd go nuts if I had to do it all myself!

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Its because they think they rented you with the room.

this is the heart of the issue, i know it well. It pushes you from owner to object, they own.

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I feel this way with groups, I've never felt this way with individuals.  This insight may help me to be a little more firm in my responses because nobody owns me!  Except ice cream...ice cream owns me blush

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BananaE29 wrote:

I feel this way with groups, I've never felt this way with individuals.  This insight may help me to be a little more firm in my responses because nobody owns me!  Except ice cream...ice cream owns me blush

That's what we like to hear!

Well if it is butter pecan, I mean.

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Joey Bloggs wrote:

Well if it is butter pecan, I mean.

 

One of us is a Southern girl, apparently Smiling  I just live here - give me something with peanut butter or chunks of brownies in it.  YUM!

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BananaE29 wrote:

Joey Bloggs wrote:

Well if it is butter pecan, I mean.

 

One of us is a Southern girl, apparently Smiling  I just live here - give me something with peanut butter or chunks of brownies in it.  YUM!

Speaking of southern...do you have any "Cookouts" there? I know they are not orig there as based in NC. They have like 300 varieties of shakes. So anything you order will have chunks of whatever you choose, reeses, cheesecake, etc People kill over the peach cobbler (not my thang, I prefer the chunks like you do of peanut butter etc) and real ice cream (not a machine made soft serve thingy). When you order a combo you can get shake, vs a soda. 

Here is the short list from their website:

Banana
Banana Berry
Banana Nut
Banana Fudge
Banana Pineapple
Banana Pudding
Blueberry
Blueberry Cheesecake
Caramel
Caramel Cheesecake
Caramel Fudge
Cappuccino
Cheesecake Chocolate Chip
Chocolate (Hershey's)
Chocolate Cherry
Chocolate Nut
Cherry
Cherry Cobbler
Chocolate Malt
Heath Toffee
Hi-C Punch
Mint Chocolate Chip
Mocha
M&M
Oreo
Oreo Mint
Orange Push Up
Peanut Butter
Peanut Butter Banana
Peanut Butter Fudge
Pineapple
Peach
Peach Cobbler
Reese Cups
Snickers
Strawberry
Strawberry Cheesecake
Vanilla

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01/12/2013

Really?!?  You do this to me when I'm starving and have no hopes of eating for at least a couple hours.  Shame on you! Smiling

I do not believe we have anything of this nature. But how would I know, unless it's inside my house somewhere!

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Joined:
10/07/2008

BananaE29 wrote:

Really?!?  You do this to me when I'm starving and have no hopes of eating for at least a couple hours.  Shame on you! Smiling

I do not believe we have anything of this nature. But how would I know, unless it's inside my house somewhere!

I think I am beginning to pencil you in on my next road trip. Smiling 

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Joined:
01/12/2013

I know a great place for you to stay.  The new owners will love you! Smiling

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