Well folks, it’s been a week of Cottage West being open for business and already powerful lessons have been learned. It is one thing to manage a property, a completely different one to own that property and have to deal with the consequences of guests’ decisions.
Our first guest last Saturday was quiet. I had been rather vigilant, because she was local and I was worried she was planning to throw a party. It’s a common theme, local folks don’t want/can’t throw a party in their own home, so they rent an Airbnb and then invite a hundred people.
I was relieved that nothing crazy happened, but when I entered the home at 11:30 the next morning I was hit with a wall of odor – marijuana and cigarettes – that practically knocked me over.
As I opened every window, turned on the ceiling fans, and eventually even opened the front and back doors in an attempt to clear the air, I realized that it is one thing to state “no smoking” on your house rules, and another to enforce it.
Signs help with that. So as I made a panicked run to the store to get air fresheners (our next guests were running early and wanted to check in before 2 p.m.) I resolved to place polite no smoking signs in every room of the house and then also make the front porch a smoking area. It’s a covered porch, with a lovely swing, all I needed with a “designated smoking zone” sign and an ashtray.
I added the following “no smoking” signs to the living room, bedrooms and back porch.
Make it Obvious
After the third guest had come and gone, I realized that, except for the 2nd guest, no one had used the bath towels located in the hallway closet.
I hadn’t made a sign, I had just assumed that everyone would look in cabinets for things. This was an incorrect assumption.
I made a change when preparing for Guest #4. I added two bath towels and washcloths to our welcome tray that I place on each bed with two mints.
I also will be making a sign that I will place on the built-in cabinets that basically says “look in here for more supplies you might need.”
While the idea of this did not occur to me until our third guest was already there, I now am setting out a form that says:
I hope you are enjoying your stay here at Cottage West. I wanted to let you know about two things:
1. We are busy working on our other Airbnb offerings, which will include a 1956 Flying Cloud Airstream and Cottage East – a four bedroom, three and ½ bath house.
2. We have a website dedicated to our Airbnb properties that will give you all of the latest updates on our progress and our current offerings. You can find it at: http://thecottagebb.com
We will also be sending out emails when new properties come on line, which will give you advance notice of special pricing. If you would like to be notified (we promise we will not spam or share your email address), please add your name and email address below.
Again, thank you for choosing Cottage West. We want your stay to be pleasant, peaceful and comfortable, let us know if there is anything we can do to help with that.
I hope to eventually create a newsletter for guests that inform them of special pricing and events coming up in Kansas City.
Bite the Bullet
On Saturday, my husband went into the basement of Cottage West searching for a tool and discovered that the sewer had backed up. It turned out to be a tampon.
Someone had flushed a tampon down the toilet.
One hundred dollars later, the plug was cleared.
Now I have zero idea WHO put the tampon down the toilet. I have had four guests, it could have been any of them since in every case there were women staying there. Short of asking them if they had their period while staying at Cottage West, which I am NOT going to do, I have to eat this expense.
Lesson learned. As I wrote above, a sign will now need to be posted in the bathroom.
This is a Business
As soon as we began the process of finishing Cottage West in earnest, I joined several Airbnb Hosting groups on Facebook. It was an interesting experience. Despite the rather obvious fact that they are running a business, many of the hosts posting were far from business-minded.
I was taken aback by their pettiness. After all, they were making money, running a business, it just happened to be a place they owned.
Instead of looking at it as a hospitality business, and treating it as service-based, I got the feeling that many hosts expect their guests to be thankful in some way for getting to stay in a home instead of a hotel.
I believe that is the wrong way of looking at it. I want people to embrace staying at an Airbnb for several reasons.
- I am offering a HOUSE, complete with a fully stocked kitchen and laundry facilities.
- I am offering PRIVACY. I make myself available to the guest, assure them that I am just down the street, but they don’t ever need to meet me or interact with me if they don’t want to.
- I am offering INFORMATION. Where is the best place to get street tacos, see a movie, or find craft beer? I can help them with that. I’ve created a guest handbook that advises on some great places to eat or visit and I also let guests know that if they need any additional recommendations, I’m happy to assist.
- I provide HOSPITALITY. Not just in the kitchen and laundry, but in the warm, cozy house with bright colors, a television with Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime, but also the yoga mat, lending library, and a host of supplies in the built-in cabinets that guests can use. The coffee station in the kitchen, the art on the walls, and the hair dryer and curling iron all say “this is like home.”
I don’t expect a guest to be thankful or appreciative. That’s icing on the cake, that tells me I’ve done the job I was supposed to do. I’ve made it different, and better, than any hotel stay will ever be able to do.
I think that expecting a guest to be thankful is a trap that many folks fall into. The fact is, for Cottage West and other places to be successful, I have to be giving them something they won’t find at just any place. It is an experience, one that makes them talk about it, and hopefully return, that is what will differentiate us from the crowd.
That’s what a business does – it finds a particular niche and/or creates it – in order to be different (and hopefully better) than its competitors.
Three Guests Down, Plenty to Follow
At this point we have had three guests stay in Cottage West and give us feedback. A fourth guest is there now.
We have had fabulous feedback with five stars all the way. I’ve also seen comments like:
“This cottage is super cute! Christine and Dave have obviously put a lot of love and thought into this home. Very clean, with lots of thoughtful touches. Also, they have it very well stocked with little things that you might need, or may have forgotten. We would definitely stay again!”
And her private note in the Airbnb feedback: “We loved your home! Super cute, and we loved all the little touches. We’ve stayed in a lot of Airbnb’s, but yours was by far the best stocked, and most thoughtful! Thanks!”
These comments and others tell me I’m on the right track. I’ve created a place that is both comfortable and warm, friendly and safe, and well thought out.
I also know there are still improvements to make. We are working on scheduling in repairs and improvements such as re-surfacing the inside of the clawfoot bathtub and cast iron kitchen sink and other fixes as time allows.
I want our little property to be the best that it can be. Build it, and they will come!