The charming lady behind the desk at the quaint B&B off the Grand Canal in Venice, where we were spending several days, sighed when we mentioned that Millie and I are proprietors of a historic house, offering overnight accommodation, and are well acquainted with Trip Advisor and bizarre guest reviews.
“My sister” — co-owner of the establishment — “I won’t let her come in anymore,” the now-totally-animated signora continued. “She tells me, ‘I wish we could review the guests.’ It’s better she stays at home and does the accounts.”
The guests she spoke of, people who arrive unhappy and can’t be pleased by anything short of draining your lifeblood, are what I call Trip Despisers. They’re unhappy with their travels, and you’re to blame. You own them, their quirks and eccentricities, for the night.
Most of the time, we’re not the bad guys; we bend over backward because we love our properties and want you to be happy.
Not that we’re perfect at Madewood. Recently, we forgot to place logs by the fireplace in the honeymoon suite. We planned to send some back after dinner, but I was engaged in conversation with the loving couple over coffee and brandy in the parlor, and Angie was busy making sure everyone enjoyed their Valentine’s evening.
Mea culpa, f’sure.
But why not call the cell-phone number on the dresser in the room and remind us?
No, it’s better to place the oversight on an array of online bed and breakfast websites.
People become champions of civic virtue when they write online reviews. It’s our duty, their words seem to say, to warn everyone of the dangers that lie hidden in an otherwise magnificent venue.
“The cricket that we discovered walking around under the antique claw-foot tub made us uneasy. We could hardly sleep.”
Under the claw-foot tub. What were you doing under the claw-foot tub? You probably couldn’t sleep because of back pain from looking under the claw-foot tub.
Or the reed-slim couple who requested an egg-white frittata for breakfast, rather than the usual whole-egg version. Angie carefully separated the eggs; I consumed the yolks.
“We just can’t understand why our simple request wasn’t honored. We couldn’t eat it, and left hungry.”
The yellow you saw in the frittata, that’s called cheese, people! Why not ask? Answer: Because it’s more fun to complain on a website.
Before Trip Advisor, there was The Irate Letter.
They usually began with something like, “You spoiled the most important day of my life.”
Did our tractor run over you? Did you get a bad piece of eggplant that sent you to the emergency room? The complaint affliction extends to enervated brides.
In one case, “It was so hot that day that the best man’s black leather watchband bled onto the sleeve of his new white linen suit. I feel that you owe him a new one.”
Remember, this is an outside wedding, in August, in Louisiana.
Returning to overnight guests, the acknowledged champs: “They nearly killed our beloved mother by turning the heat in her room all the way up.”
This is after three sisters, tired of their octogenarian mom after two weeks of travel, deserted her in the downstairs bedroom and decided to hole up — all of them — in a second-floor bedroom where mom would be just a distant memory.
“Turn up the heat and roast her,” the lead sister told a staff member when mom said she felt cold. She then headed upstairs to inexplicably pull a mattress off one of the beds in their room and sleep on the floor.
Remember: This is a freezing night, in February, in Louisiana. You cannot roast anyone in an antebellum mansion bedroom with 18-ft ceilings, even with central heat, unless that person is hanging like a rotisserie chicken from the ceiling.
As we recall, mom was toasty but fine, not broasted.
I think an historic property owner in Mississippi spoke for us all when he responded online to a guest who complained that she didn’t even get to meet the owner. They were distraught over this; it spoiled their visit to be so purposely ignored.
“My dear lady,” one of the owners wrote, “didn’t you know, the one who greeted you upon arrival, the one who carried your luggage to your room, the one who brought you some of our asparagus bisque to sample in the library, the one who served you breakfast each morning of your stay, the one who suggested your day’s itinerary, the one who went out late in the evening to get a certain type of beer that your husband had requested and stocked your in-room refrigerator with the beer as well, the one who brought a complimentary fruit and cheese plate to your room the afternoon of the wedding, the one who suggested other notable restaurants for your dining pleasure, the one who spent about an hour with you and your husband in the library discussing the home’s history and the history, is one of the owners?”
A high-school friend recently referred to me as the B&B Baron. But it’s far less glamorous than that.
I think of the refrain from a jaunty song in West Side Story: “When you’re a Jet, you’re a Jet all the way.” You buy into this job 24/7. The verses continue, “from your first cigarette, to your last dying day.” I’ve never smoked, but I want people to think that the Madewood and the Jets really are the greatest.