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Late arrivals - what to do

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JBloggs

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Once again, I am faced with this. I am getting grayer and grayer as check in time begins at 4pm, so we have to be "ON" at 4pm and they show well after check in time. It ends at 7pm and are asked on the confirmation to let us know EARLY if they will be arriving after check in time. AND we ask specifically for their check in time. Please share what has been successful in your policies to get the late arrivals to call early.
Last night the room called at 715pm. Guess what, we put a note on the door and were out of here. They left messages "Call me back" and were all frustrated. We did not call, we were not here. They arrived very late, and we came back not too long after they had gotten here. EVEN if we were here - on a holiday evening - waiting around - we would have put a note on the door for a self check in. I actually made the webervations so there were no checkins on that Saturday - so we could do something as a family. But this couple called and DH took the booking saying it is just ONE check in, nothing to stress over.
I am trying to be diligent that if they are not here by 7pm to do that, put a note on the door, to have a life, to have family time. I know it is fizzling out of the busier season, but it has taken a toll on my relationships with my family.
(No, this is not a negative vibe, downer, I am just sharing something as a human being - I feel I need to have a disclaimer anytime I share anything PERSONAL on the forum now unfortunately. This is part of innkeeping, it is not all sunshine and roses)
 

Don Draper

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I know how rotten that feeling is when you get that message...we've had a few late ones who couldn't find us so they too were very frustrated when they finally make it here.
We simply had to draw a line. These people are adults who should be reading their confirmation. PERIOD. They did not have the consideration to do that. They assumed you would be waiting for them regardless of when they got there or what they needed. We just do not cater to these kind of people.
Look at it this way...someone who wouuld arrive in this manner is clearly a certain "type" of person with certain expectations. Even had you been there to greet them at whatever time they showed, this personality would have shone through in a million different ways. They feel you are there to serve them and would have let you know it. So you would have been left with this feeling no matter what you did...at least you got to enjoy an evening with your family.
Kill 'em with kindness, smiles, great breakfast and then get them out the door. They were never coming back anyway, not if they showed so little regard for you and your place.
 

Morticia

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Sorry to say I have yet to find the magic bullet in wording to get guests to acknowledge the check in time and stick to it. Just the other day a couple scheduled to arrive at 7PM (and we planned to have that time to get some things done) emailed at 10:30 the night before (which I didn't see until late morning the next day) that they wanted to now check-in at 1 PM. Where between the hours of 3-7 PM does 1 PM fall?
 

bbinnsitters

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When I am at an Inn I always take the guests phone #'s when making a reservation - home and cell. That way I can call the day b4 the reservation to "confirm arrival time" or call the day of to ask what time they "think" they may be arriving. A two minute phone call has saved lots of time for me in the past.
I started doing this because one time I was waiting for a guest and it was getting later and later and I was getting irritated - I finally called, and lo and behold, he said they weren't coming till the next night....not according to MY notes! That is also why some places I am at send out confirmations and make copies of them so that when something like this happens I have the proof right in front of me.
 

Copperhead

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I do not think there is any FOOL proof method (pun intended) in wording your confirmation. I have and better luck since I added the following to their confimration:
We have noted your arrival time, please contact us if this time changes as this allows us time to prepare for your arrival which may
include a trip away from the inn.
Some how them thinking they could show up and we would be gone has made most be more prompt or courteous by calling to arrange a different time. We also request their cell number and have made a coule of calls to see where our delayed check-ins are.
 

Morticia

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I do not think there is any FOOL proof method (pun intended) in wording your confirmation. I have and better luck since I added the following to their confimration:
We have noted your arrival time, please contact us if this time changes as this allows us time to prepare for your arrival which may
include a trip away from the inn.
Some how them thinking they could show up and we would be gone has made most be more prompt or courteous by calling to arrange a different time. We also request their cell number and have made a coule of calls to see where our delayed check-ins are..
There ya go again, expecting guests to read! The phone call thing I'm not sure about. I wonder do perfectly grown up guests take it as a sign they will be hovered over when they arrive? And then there's my experience as the guest when I did exactly what I was told to do...call when I was an hour away...and was greeted with, 'Where are you???'
 

wendydk

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My wording is "Check in is 3pm or after". Early checkins happen for us on very rare occasion, and when they do, they are usually less than an hour early, so I'm ready. It's nothing that happens enough here to irritate me.
 

EmptyNest

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Just as long as you let them know if you have plans in advance and will have a note / key or whatever waiting for them..then just go do your thing. You cannot be held captive my guests who are inconsiderate!
 

seashanty

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you might not be comfortable doing this but here is what i did.
because i was solo, i felt trapped the first year and went nowhere. we also took walk-ins and if i wasn't there, i'd lose that business (which i needed)
then i decided i NEEDED to get away. granted, the harbor village was tiny but even if i just went across the road and had coffee with some locals, i felt like i'd gotten out.
i found someone to cover for me once in a while. she knew where i was (often just across the road) and would call over there if it was a walk-in or something she couldn't handle.
maybe you can find a nice person to work one evening a week or every other week (like a babysitter) who will answer the phone, give people their key and show them to their room (given a spiel to say about payment ... you may want to handle payment yourself). if it's very quiet, maybe that person could be asked to do little tasks. i think it would be worth the investment so your family life and your own psyche does not suffer. plus you don't want to be feeling aggravated instead of welcoming.
 

Innkeep

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I have a late arrival coming tonight from Paris. He was one of my very first guests and has been back one other time. He just called from an airport to remind me he would be getting in very late and recited my keypad code, and told me he did not expect me to wait up. We decided on a breakfast time, so I'm good to go!
 

Iris

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So, if you say "they could not find us" does that mean they tried to call you? We always leave notes for everyone at the door and it is really only critical for new guests. On our answering machine as well as on the note and in the cottages I have my cell phone number listed. Is that what the problem was? they called and no one was home?
I hate to say it, but there are Friday nights during summer, where we stay up sometimes until 2 am waiting for guests who sounded so....... ummmm..."uncoordinated" on the phone that we don't trust them to understand our notes. We stay up so that they don't bother any of the other guests trying to find their way around.
oh and, I now have call forwarding. That definitely helps
 

Innkeeper To Go

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The inn I most recently managed was in the countryside so most folks tried to arrive before 7pm, when we closed up the office. But late check-ins were still fairly common. Had a few each week and sometimes a few in an evening.
I don't like the idea of leaving keys in an envelope or leaving a door unlocked. That's just me.
So here's what I did and it worked really well.
I set up a bank of 3 lockboxes just next to the front door in a discrete location. They cost around $40 each.
Each guest got a unique confirmation number. We let them know when we accepted the reservation that the number was important and to be sure to bring it with them to check-in. We reminded them every time they would call before arrival about our hours - and that it's always okay to arrive later; we just need to set it up for them.
Like Sue Ellen, if we hadn't heard from a guest by 5:30 we would call them and leave a message if we didn't reach them. We did this for every guest who didn't already have a late arrival setup.
At closing, any planned or unplanned late-check-ins got a lockbox set up. The combination would be set to their own confirmation number.
Note on the door welcoming them and with detailed instructions including a number to call if they had trouble. Sticker on the lock-box with their name so they'd know which one was theirs.
99% of the time, they'd get in with no assistance needed. And if they needed help, they'd call.
Never had a single guest who was not able to get in or didn't know what to do when they arrived. Everyone was happy, most especially me since I was able to enjoy my evening! Had several times when all 3 lockboxes were needed but never needed a 4th.
Had some local part-time innkeepers who would serve as backup for me if I wanted to go out. Would just put their phone number on the note instead of mine, just in case.
 

seashanty

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i like the idea of the lockboxes ... some other innkeepers on the forum use them.
but i'd really prefer that someone be there when guests arrive.
and i do believe in jb's case ... it would be a good idea to arrange for some coverage ... if only for a few hours ... so you can get away and not worry.
 

sharpe

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We use call forwarding and it's always worked for us. Then we can give them the code for the door and as an added bonus, we don't miss any other calls. No stress. No mess.
 

Innkeeper To Go

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i like the idea of the lockboxes ... some other innkeepers on the forum use them.
but i'd really prefer that someone be there when guests arrive.
and i do believe in jb's case ... it would be a good idea to arrange for some coverage ... if only for a few hours ... so you can get away and not worry..
seashanty, you are totally right that it's always best for someone to be there when guests arrive. No comparison, really, having a friendly face to show you around or having a lockbox waiting.
Still, B&Bs can't afford all night desk coverage. And the innkeeper can't be very perky at breakfast if she's been restless til 2am waiting for a late arrival.
But flights get delayed. People are idiots. Whatever the reason, however late you have a part-time innkeeper at the desk, you're going to have some guests who sometimes come later. It's just going to happen.
So, for me, I think it's always best to assume that might happen and have a plan in place so that it goes smoothly so guests don't just freak out when they find no one there. Not good for anyone.
And you're also right, seashanty, that for sanity's sake you need to have some coverage even if just for a few hours. As a solo, having a process in place and a plan to deal with contingencies makes it possible for you to reasonably manage a medium-sized inn by yourself.
But here's my thing about staffing.
Part-timer sitting at the desk. Fine. For me, though, I want to make sure I use every second of their time. When you get back from that cup of coffee, you should have less work to do not more. That's critical. They can't just be waiting, they've got to be actively working on your goals. Every minute.
My part-time innkeepers need to be like me in that they might look all relaxed and chilled like they haven't a worry in the world. But behind that casual demeaner, they're busting their butts if they're working for me. We're all in it together and there's plenty of work to go around and all that. I'm all for sharing the load. I'm working hard, they're working hard. That's just how it is.
Granted, it takes some time to get that going in the beginning. But, in the long run, it's worth it.
 

Don Draper

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We have found that it's much more trouble than it's worth to have someone here part-time helping. Even the great help we have will come up against Murphy's Law, and something happens while they're here that is "out of the norm". We've left for two days and six months later we're dealing with something that the part-time help handled differently than we would have...a special breakfast request, a single night stay on what should have been a two night minimum, etc. It is without fail.
We go on and on here about how it's the innkeeper that makes the B&B and I firmly believe that. Guests know it too...so if they want the experience they're supposed to get they need to play by the innkeeper's rules. It's as simple as that.
We have travel plans next weekend for a B&B and know we will be getting in after check-in time ends at 5 pm. We let the innkeeper know this when we made the reservation. She left us the self check-in instructions. We're thrilled, she's thrilled. Gee, that was REALLY hard! This is not something we did because we're innkeepers...we read the Inn's policies before we booked and knew what we were in for.
Personal accountability. It works.
 

egoodell

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We use call forwarding. If they have something that happened and will be late, we ask they call us as they are approaching town, say 20-30 minutes out so we can get back to the house. Or, we tell them the code to the door and I have their key and a note in the entry. I will not be held hostage. I would prefer to greet them, but if they have not told me in advance they will be late they also have to understand that I have a life.
So, call fowarding works for us very well and relaxes the guests that realize I'm not held hostage because of their late flight etc. We also do that if they are going to be delayed until late. We ask they call us as they approach and just go to bed. They call and we have time to wake up to let them in and then go back to bed.
Riki
 

seashanty

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different innkeepers, different styles ...
more trouble than it's worth for some ... for me, it was a lifesaver.
if you're talking about going away for a few days and leaving someone in charge ... i did it twice, hiring innsitters, and had NO problems. no messups with the reservations. murphy's law didn't kick in.
as i've mentioned before, where i was located there was no cell signal. so if i just went walking for a few hours ... someone could not call me on my cell phone. if i had gone to someone's house in the area or to the general store, someone could call me on that landline.
the woman who stood in for me a few hours a week did what i needed/wanted/asked her to do. she was warm and welcoming, reliable and trustworthy. she did lots of little tasks while 'minding the store' ... i didn't mean to imply she sat looking out the window and waiting. i was lucky to have her. it was not a high paying job.
i did not ask that she 'bust her butt' for me but she was worth every penny i paid her. i don't use that kind of expression when dealing with my staff. like i said, different styles.
all night coverage was me and i needed those breaks. but i like the lock box idea if someone is going to arrive really late (past my bedtime)
 
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