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TheBeachHouse

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I just reread Gillum’s post about rooms for vets and it got me thinking. We participated twice and during the third year, we got several calls asking for the free room. We’ve also given rooms to raffles and auctions.

Our experience is that the ‘winners’ often take advantage. They rarely, if ever, book a second night. They are often demanding and they tend to check,out last and leave no tip.

Twice, we reserved a room for an artist homestay for a weeklong event and had it cancelled at the last minute. I should add, three times, the artist stayed, enjoyed his stay and gave us a painting as a tip. So it isn’t all bad.

We declined an auction this year because we’ve had bad experiences with ‘free’ rooms.

Input? Experiences? I know Gillum, you’ve had great experiences with the Veterans Day promotion and we love the idea, but, as I said, we dropped out after two years.
 

gillumhouse

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I long ago STOPPED the freebies - except for B & Bs For Vets. I am involved in rails-to-trails very heavily so gave to an annual fundraiser that used a well-known rail-trail in the State. The last year I did it was because the winners told me it was considered one of the better prizes (2-nights just no holidays) and they did not get it the year before so worked extra hard this year to win it. THAT told me they were not willing to PAY for it so I quit. (The cigar-drool pillowcase I talk about Murphy's Oil Soap saving was from a certificate given to Rochester, NY TV PBS - a man who knew everything and helped cement the no more freebies as well as being 1 of my very few please never find me again.)

Since then, when tapped for a donation I give roasts of coffee NOT room nights. Perhaps it is location and mindset of the demographics with the freebies - or they just think they are entitled! (and yes, SOME veterans get that affliction too)
 

Anon Inn

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Our experience is that the ‘winners’ (of free rooms) often take advantage. They rarely, if ever, book a second night. They are often demanding and they tend to check,out last and leave no tip.
Due to this forum and other innkeeper advice before we opened, (about just such 'taking advantage') we have only donated a room once. I do home baked goodies and local products gift baskets (with inn brochures and cards) for local organization fundraisers. My better half was a Vietnam vet. We discussed doing this. He was opposed. His own experience led him to discourage any glorification of military service, even in this way. I will continue to honor his wishes in this. (I will add that we shared a bit of humor about the subject in his last year when he decided to take advantage of Home Depot's veterans parking spots after he fell and shattered his hip.
 

TheBeachHouse

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The NY PBS promotion is the one we just turned down! They were very flattering about how they picked us, and the promotional work they do sounded very good, but we just don’t like ‘free.’ So we declined. Now, hearing your 8nput, I feel more confident in our decision.
 

Morticia

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Our experience with ‘free:’
  • A blogger who was referred to us by our town marketing group. She got everything free—room, dinners, outdoor experiences. She and her husband trashed the room. When she got home she called and asked me a bunch of questions and then wrote a blog saying we were kid-friendly.
  • We worked with a retirement community that had potential residents stay with us for a weekend. We got paid, but the guests thought the stay was free. One woman could see us waiting for her at the door upstairs, she decided she didn’t want to go upstairs so she went into my apartment instead. She told me she’d stay in my bedroom because it was on the ground floor. I said no so She left, we had a hard time getting paid.
  • Other local events we gave free rooms for we did because we wanted to help out, we didn’t expect anything in return, and that’s what we got.
  • Donations to museums: had one woman win multiple times but she saved all the vouchers up to use at once. They were all invalid by the time she tried to use them.
  • Donations to the local naval air base: the organizer always won and she was such a selfish person I didn’t want her back.
  • When we did the veterans event we gave away all the rooms. We had one good experience in 3-4 years. We had a group of female vets who came to help build a habitat house. They paid for a second night, brought gifts, and thanked us profusely. Every other year we had people argue with us, not show up, demand more. I arranged to get them free dinners, free samples from G&S amenities, free gifts from local businesses. It wasn’t enough for some people. Gomez is a disabled vet and he was appalled. He finally said he didn’t want to do the event any longer because he was hurt by the attitude.
  • One vet wrote an online review saying it wasn’t worth it.
  • Free appears to be a mug’s game. If you can do it with an open heart expecting nothing then it’s ok. But if you expect even a ‘thank you,’ you may be setting yourself up for grief.
 

Morticia

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The NY PBS promotion is the one we just turned down! They were very flattering about how they picked us, and the promotional work they do sounded very good, but we just don’t like ‘free.’ So we declined. Now, hearing your 8nput, I feel more confident in our decision.
I’ve also turned that one down.
 

JimBoone

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Free, or deals that are supposed to provide some later benefit to me, have never seemed to have offered any benefits except for the person receiving the free or discounted room. For me, the exception, if any, is that it just suits you at the time to invite that person to stay as your guest.
 

FHI2426

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We only did the Vet giveaway one year, asked each of the 3 guests if they wanted a 2nd night 1/2 price, all said no, one messed up sheets and yes no reviews.... One guy was in service 20 yrs ago for 5 years, so not exactly a shinning example... The PR was really good on social though... I will decide in a few weeks on a giveaway depending on actual bookings leave any rooms available... Id say we are all in agreement here!
 

CoffeeTreks

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You know, I've done several freebies, and have had pretty good results. I have also turned many away. I think when I started, I was worried about getting taken advantage of, so I said no, but as our business matured, I thought, well, why not give this a try. I think the key for me is to be clear about what I hope to be getting out of it.

I haven't given freebies for contests (except 1) , but for marketing exchanges.

What's worked well: I've said yes to a professional photographer who wanted a three night stay in exchange for shots of our property, rooms and meals. Good experience and lots of photos and she gave them to me on a USB. I've said yes to a few bloggers/influencers. What's really worked out well here is when I've been very clear about what I'm getting out ...I appreciate those that give me some photos or, the best, drone footage at the end of their stay...and said, go use it however you would like, just tag us. That way we can use the final products how we think it would benefit us. I also find myself saying yes to nice, persistent people who are just starting their businesses (whether they are bloggers, or travel agents, or have dreams of living life as guides), I just figure people need a hand when they are just starting. One of the 'influencers' asked us to provide a one night free stay for a contest. I said OK. The winner never came.

I also appreciate learning the point of view of those in the digital world (bloggers and influencers), about tourism. If we do give a free stay, I make sure to arrange some time when either my husband or I can informally chat with the person about their business, what inspires them, and why they selected this area to visit. This helps me at least, get out of our small town view of tourism at our tiny destination, and think bigger, even if just for a night.

I also say no a lot. If it's something that I don't connect personally connect to, I don't do it.

If I provide a free night to an organization not related to marketing (and not personal), it is about the connections and trust I hope to strengthen with the organization by providing the free night. But there has to be some type of relationship to strengthen. For example, this week I agreed to provide a free night to a travel agency for the guide when they booked the rest of the inn for a tour group. But, never again to a travel agent who has not given business to us before. Hah!
 

Arks

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Got an email this week from the local visitor information center. Travel writer wants to visit our town. No charge for the article she writes, other than a free meal from a restaurant and a free night from a hotel.

Huh?? So the cute shop they visit pays nothing, the restaurant they visit gives $5 worth of food but otherwise serves all the customers they'd have anyway, and makes the same money, writer or no writer, but the hotel gives a $150 room for zero, gives up the chance to sell that room for full rate (if they're booked up, which I generally am lately), and still has to pay a housekeeper to clean up after them, plus supplies.

NOT FAIR!! Not even close to fair. People are always asking me to give a "free" night for this or that, but they never ask the auto parts store down the street to give a penny. It's all on the innkeeper. Those nights are not free to me!
 

Morticia

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@Arks they just never see it that way! I was always being asked to donate two night stays, while everyone else could give a voucher for $25 off. One time a well-dressed woman came to the door looking for a two-nighter for a local private school. I offered a gift basket of local products instead. She all but sneered ‘they didn’t need *that* kind of gift.’ So, she got no kind of gift at all.
 

TheBeachHouse

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I was almost regretting turning the pbs station down, but I’m feeling stronger in my conviction now. Good points!
 

GoodScout

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We did the PBS station one once, and the guest that won was a major PITA. Fortuately, for some reason they haven't asked us again.

We've had some Vets who just stayed a night and left no tip, but most have been great. My brother-in-law is a Navy vet, and loves coming up and spending the night here so he can hear stories from other vets.

As to other donations, we found that since many of the charities were local, we switched and offered a free gourmet breakfast for four rather than a room night. Works much better, and gets locals to know more about us and how to recommend us to friends & family staying in the area.
 

gillumhouse

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One of my most precious memories and one that was a teaching moment for ME was a Public Radio freebie while I was still doing those. This is long so get that cup of coffee.

While the husbands chatted, she and I went into the Library to do likewise. She told me she was driving when the Chocolate Challenge came on (a Valentines fundraiser for the MPR station) and my place sounded so nice that she pulled over and made the call to donate, choosing my place as the gift. During our chat she told me about her involvement in her church and disappointment that her daughter was not raising her kids more in the church. She also told me that she had had another daughter who was killed in an auto accident coming home for Christmas a few years earlier. She said she could hardly bear to listen to Christmas carols because of that.

Next morning I had a temp job to go to so was getting breakfast done so himself could just put in oven and serve. Although I was pushed for time, I kept getting this feeling that I NEEDED to write her a note - and finally gave in and did. In my "gift shop" I had some CDs of our Community Band Christmas Concert for sale. In the note, I pointed out she could hardly fault her daughter for not involving the kids in the church when she herself could not bear to celebrate the most joyous time of the church. Wishing she would get to the point in her life that she could celebrate the other daughter had been IN her life rather than grieving for her loss. I then told her I hoped she would go to the shelf and take one of the Christmas CDs as my gift so when she was ready, she would have the music.

Himself told me when I got home, that she read the note, tears flowed, she got up, took the CD, but insisted on paying for it. I could NEVER have said to her face what was in that note, but that feeling I could not shake (I believe) changed us both. THAT was a freebie that gave me more than money ever could.

I still, however, do not give freebie rooms except to the Vets in Nov & if WV Tourism makes a request.
 

HmBrdIn

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I’ve also turned that one down.
They just called me and gave me the same flattering line about my Inn etc. etc. Turned them down this year as well.
At first I thought donating a room might provide some tax benefit. It does not. From all the free rooms I’ve donated, I think only 1 - maybe 2? - guests ended up returning.

It was worthwhile (I think) initially when first opened to help get the name out there. Not doing it any longer.
 

KenW

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With both of my businesses I run from these promotions that promise great marketing that will translate into sales....never produced anything. However when the opportunity comes to give we do. We have donated stays to Make a Wish, and other organizations. We met a serviceman on a flight that had just left his family and on his way to Afghanistan. We are giving his family a week stay at our lodge next summer. These are the promotions that count.
 

InnDeep

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I give a limited number of free stays as prizes to local organizations that we believe in and we are participating in the B&B for vets program this year. We have all 7 rooms fully booked with Vets at this point that weekend. Only 1 room free, the other 20 from that 3 day weekend, were booked under the "2 for 1" part of the promotion. I have spent a lot of time on a Army base while it mostly deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan & Haiti for relief efforts and after that experience of watching an entire base ship out and working to support the families on base getting through a deployment, supporting Vets & their families matters to me. So I agree with those who say that it can't really be about making money for the b&b, but about giving with an open hand.

We also offer a regular 10% "Heroes" discount to service members, veterans & first responders, which has drawn a nice group of guests and a good deal of customers since we instituted it. I have no idea if we get good press from any of this or not. I'm new at all this and probably impossibly naïve, but thus far, my military guests have been some of my favorites and most respectful.

I like Good scout's idea of giving a breakfast for 4 as a more "promotional gift" when asked by the many local folks. We also sponsor local events with outright cash to get our name out there and have a special interest in a local high school sports team that has had a hard time getting support (which has created a nice relationship with one of the local tour boat captains which coaches the team & makes us genuinely so happy to see these girls in decent basketball uniforms finally!).

We try be judicious in choosing just a few of these "free" nights and "2 for 1" offers though and always get a credit card to use as a stop gap against cancellations or "incidentals" despite it being a "free" stay. I absolutely charge the cancellation fee and let folks know I will be doing so if they cancel.
 

Arks

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At first I thought donating a room might provide some tax benefit. It does not.
I got that surprise too, my first year in business. I reported TIME I'd donated to some cause and my CPA let me know, the IRS doesn't care about your time. You only pay income tax on money you receive. If you don't get paid, there's noting to deduct.
 

gillumhouse

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I give a limited number of free stays as prizes to local organizations that we believe in and we are participating in the B&B for vets program this year. We have all 7 rooms fully booked with Vets at this point that weekend. Only 1 room free, the other 20 from that 3 day weekend, were booked under the "2 for 1" part of the promotion. I have spent a lot of time on a Army base while it mostly deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan & Haiti for relief efforts and after that experience of watching an entire base ship out and working to support the families on base getting through a deployment, supporting Vets & their families matters to me. So I agree with those who say that it can't really be about making money for the b&b, but about giving with an open hand.

We also offer a regular 10% "Heroes" discount to service members, veterans & first responders, which has drawn a nice group of guests and a good deal of customers since we instituted it. I have no idea if we get good press from any of this or not. I'm new at all this and probably impossibly naïve, but thus far, my military guests have been some of my favorites and most respectful.

I like Good scout's idea of giving a breakfast for 4 as a more "promotional gift" when asked by the many local folks. We also sponsor local events with outright cash to get our name out there and have a special interest in a local high school sports team that has had a hard time getting support (which has created a nice relationship with one of the local tour boat captains which coaches the team & makes us genuinely so happy to see these girls in decent basketball uniforms finally!).

We try be judicious in choosing just a few of these "free" nights and "2 for 1" offers though and always get a credit card to use as a stop gap against cancellations or "incidentals" despite it being a "free" stay. I absolutely charge the cancellation fee and let folks know I will be doing so if they cancel.
InnDeep, this was started for the spouses as much as it was for the Vets. I agree, the families take a huge hit with deployments, etc. and without any recognition.
 
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