How honest should you be with guests?

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notAgrandma's picture
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07/07/2017

Do you ever tell your guests that their unexpected late arrival has completely screwed up your evening?

Last year, guests mistyped their mobile phone number in their reservation. They were checking in on Thanksgiving. My husband was out of town, and I was supposed to join friends who live 40 minutes away for dinner. I stayed home because of the guests. They called at 8pm to tell me they were "running late". They never asked about my Thanksgiving when they arrived, and I didn't bother to mention it because I didn't think they'd care anyway.

A few months ago, I made birthday dinner reservations 2 weeks in advance for a James Beard award-winning restaurant. Our check-in window is 4-6pm unless arranged in advance. My dinner reservation was for 7pm. When I called the guest (who lived locally and said she'd arrive at 5pm) at 6:30, she told me she was just heading out the door and would arrive shortly. My dinner was ruined.

This past Saturday, I was supposed to join friends for a festival that kicked off with a bike ride at 7pm. My guests arrived at 6:45, so those plans went out the window.

Yesterday, my guests said they'd arrive at 4pm. I sat around in our main house waiting for their arrival. I delayed making dinner and even skipped taking a shower because I figured they'd arrive as soon as I started those activities. By 6:30, I called them and asked if they were ok. They told me they were at Costco putting gas in their car and would arrive at 7pm. They got here at 7:30pm. Naturally, I had plans at 8pm. These guests took their sweet time unloading their car, and kept trying to tell me these looooooong stories about their drive.  I started grabbing their luggage and hauling it up to their room at lightening speed. I kept looking at my watch and explained that I had plans at 8pm. My friends arrived at 7:45 and I was *still* checking these guests in.

Are innkeepers expected to never have a personal life? Do you refrain from making any plans if you have guests checking in? What's the appropriate amount of time to wait before calling a guest and asking when they're going to show up?

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notAgrandma's picture
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Thank you everyone for the excellent advice. I do have a lockbox that I use for guests who've noted on their reservation they're arriving quite late (9pm or later). I program the lockbox code to be the last 4 digits of their cellphone number. I then leave a note taped to the front door reminding them of the source of the code, instructions on where their room is located (I turn lights on in the room & leave the door wide open), and information about breakfast.

I avoid using the lockbox for guests who've mentioned that they'll be here during our check-in window. Normally, a guest who's 15 or even 30 minutes late isn't a big deal. It just seems lately when I try to make plans, guests keep @#$%ing them up. I joke with my friends that it's another one of Murphy's Laws. Based on the advice & my recent experiences, it sounds like I should be more liberal in my use of the lockbox!

(Btw Sunday night's guests were sooooooo very addled, I highly doubt they could've figured out how to use a lockbox!)

Generic's picture
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02/24/2011

You should add a line saying that guests who don't want to worry about arrival time should simply request the self-check-in. You will be amazed at how many will take you up on it.

And definitely change your end time from 6PM to 5:59PM. 6PM is a round number, it's stretches to 7PM. 5:59PM is a precise number.

It's like $2.99, people say it's $2, but it's really $3. Somehow an invitation that says that we begin precisely at 7PM doesn't work as well as we begin precisely at 7:03PM. People will arrive late for the 7PM but will deadline the 7:03PM because someone was so precise with it.

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OnTheShore's picture
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08/28/2011

Yep, self check-ins here too if we have plans or decide to go out before all the guests have arrived. Note on the door tells them we've gone out, how to get in to their cottage, and that we will catch up with them in the morning. And it has a phone number they can reach us at if they need to. We'll leave some lights on in their cottage in case it gets dark before they arrive.

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Im all for self check in - after X time you work it out on your own. My trouble is the ones that can't and wake me anyway!

gillumhouse's picture
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I have one 3-peat guest that I have NEVER been here to greet on arival. The first time he could not even park in front of the house. I told him where to find his reserved parking place, the front door would be unlocked, and where his room & bath were located.

Friday I got a Tesla reservation and I had (since I had no reservations then) had invited a friend to Dinner in the Park which I told the guest (I have a commitment at 6:30) who said they expected to be here before that. At 5:30 I called them (a first for me) to ask their current location and suggested a leisurely dinner before arriving. I also told them IF they arrived before I got back to call me and I would come home as I was just minutes away. That is what happened.

I am flying slo sinc March and if I have plans with other people or a reservation, I either refuse the reservation (but never a Tesla or electric car) or I tell them which room is theirs, leave the front door unlocked & lights on (I lock my doors before leaving), and go.

Generic's picture
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I doubt most of us could leave the door unlocked like that.

gillumhouse's picture
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Yes, being in a small city does have its advantages - especially with the Police Station 1 block away.

JimBoone's picture
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The beauty of a small southern town

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Generic's picture
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Around here, I don't really trust the police. They end up in front of the commission so often that you wonder if they know what their job really is.

Morticia's picture
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We don't do anything in peak season. Or, one of us will go do something and the other stays home.

If something came up that we had to be at, that did not occur during our check in time, we'd leave a note on the door for the guests.

Our confirmation states you get a 'full service' check in from 3-7, and a self check in after 7.

You could opt to hire someone to do check ins if you want to go out.

We don't tell guests they messed up our plans because we don't generally have plans during the season or we don't let guests interfere with plans.

 

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JimBoone's picture
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I doubt guests would care, from their view I'm the hired help that is here to serve them and unlike friends who visit, business guests are paying me to be at their service.

Now that said I do ask for an expected arrival time and explain that outside of those times I may be absent. 

Admitted we are old folks and don't have that many outside activities, but should I have something special I'd either decline the reservation or let folks know in advance that arrangements needed to be made.

Baygirl's picture
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05/26/2009

Check in times are my worst part of the day.  Ours is from 3-6.  After 6 we leave a note on the desk for them explaining where their room is.  We've been doing this for 13 yrs now and it seems to work.  In each room we have a book that has any information they could possibly need regarding their room, our place and things in the area.  If we go out after 6 we put a note up outside our living area stating we're out and leave our cell phone number if they need to reach us.

 

Morticia's picture
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05/22/2008

Yes! We leave a contact phone number if we're not at the inn.

Highlands John's picture
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04/16/2010

Rather than being honest with guests when they wreck your evening it sounds like you need to put steps in place to protect your social life.

If your check-in window is 4-6pm and they that's been made clear at booking time then if they're not there by 6pm the booking is cancelled as a no-show. I Know several B&Bs who are strict in this way about their check-in times.

 

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Generic's picture
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I'd be more worried about the reviews after that. Which is why we went to self check-in.

Generic's picture
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We never tell them that. But we also moved to self-check-in once 6PM rolls around. And we don't tell them that we are there to 6PM, because to them that means up to 6:59PM... instead we specifically write 5:59PM, so they realize that we aren't there at 6PM.

Is there any way that you can put in a numeric key lock for the front? Or a lock box with the key in it? Set up the lock with the last four digits of their phone number or a number and a sign on the door with all the needed instructions. 

Change your confirmation letter to indicate that at 6PM that you use an automated system with a phone number to call you and that you may or may not be there to greet them personally.

It's amazing how many people will start to call when they run late realizing that you aren't going to wait for them, they get greeted by a sign instead.

And you know what, those who arrive late manage to get in, find their room, etc. And make it to breakfast the next day. You just have to slowly let it go and let them be adults.

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