Rob and I have been running Holiday Lets for over ten years now. We have learned a great deal about how to keep guests happy, encouraging them to come back again and again to relax in the countryside.
My job means we have to live in Tied Accommodation during term time and it seems a shame to leave our family home just sitting empty while I am working. However, we don’t want to rent it out full time as it means there is nowhere for us to escape to when the holidays begin.
We try really hard to provide a clean, warm, and cosy cottage which offers a peaceful retreat to our guests. This house is our home and we want them to love it as much as we do. Our welcome packs are generous (Marks & Spencer’s Red Velvet Cake, posh crisps, a bottle of white wine, tea, coffee, milk etc) and I insist on freshly ironed, spotlessly clean Egyptian cotton bed linen. We were also lucky to find an excellent cleaning company who are reliable and take pride in their work so the picture frames pass the white-gloved finger test, and everywhere gleams.
To be fair, most of our guests are absolutely wonderful. Appreciative, kind, tell us what a lovely holiday they have had and that they will come again. Most, if they come across a problem, will tell us straight away so that we can resolve it immediately. Some don’t tell us until after they have left and then leave a negative comment about ‘the light bulb blowing on the first night’ not mentioning that they didn’t contact us otherwise we would have come and replaced it within half an hour.
So before you read on, remember these guests are very much in the minority. But working with the public over the past ten years has opened my eyes to how badly some people can behave. I really find it quite astonishing how some guests will leave the cottage, particularly as they know I have their name and address.
What follows is the very worst behaviour I have experienced. I would love to hear any stories you might have about working with the public – I bet there are some real toe curling stories out there. Do share in the comments!
Oh dear. Some of the stuff I have seen. Most of the time we have a cleaning company do it, but quite often we have to do the changeover. Again, most guests are brilliant and leave the place tidy if not fully clean. However many do not.
These are pictures I took going in once a couple had left. They had literally got up and walked out, leaving ripped open chocolate wrappers chucked on the side.
Also pizza boxes on the table (containing days old pizza) full bottles and glasses of half drunk whiskey and coke.
Worst of all…
two used condoms under the bed.
As I said to Rob, they had clearly enjoyed a better weekend than we had.
I appreciate guests shouldn’t have to spend hours cleaning the cottage, but surely it’s not too much trouble to throw a sweet wrapper in the bin? Soaking wet towels were lying on the rug, and a bottle of shower gel had been knocked over and left to drip all down the sides of the bathroom wall.
A month before this picture was taken we had installed a brand new beige carpet in the upstairs bedroom of our cottage. An American woman booked the place for two weeks. She was the only one to stay there since the carpet had been fitted. She was a bit of a pain throughout her stay. Despite it being August she went ballistic when she discovered we hadn’t provided any firewood. (We did say in our advert we only provided firewood from October to March). When she called to complain, Rob drove straight up there to fill the fire basket. It could only have been about thirty minutes between her calling us and the wood being delivered.
This wasn’t good enough and she called the company we use to advertise out cottage to say this was appalling service which she refused to put up with and told them she was going to cut her holiday short. She left earlier than booked and demanded a complete refund for the company, AND THEY AGREED!
I was already fuming as we had sorted out the problem so quickly, so you can imagine my reaction to going into the bedroom and seeing the stains on our new carpet. God only knows what it was – coffee? Even the professional carpet cleaners were mystified. The guest clearly knew she had made a stain as she had pulled the bedside cabinet forward to cover it up. However, when the company contacted her she denied all knowledge and said it must have been done by a previous guest.
It was infuriating, we had to rip out and replace the whole (month old) carpet without a penny contribution from the guest who had done it.
Accidental damage is fine, and we are always prepared for the fact that guests will drop things or break things. But willful damage, or just carelessness is really depressing. In our first cottage we had beautiful beech work tops which were well oiled. We provided about a million chopping boards to cover the surface, as well as a separate draining thing, and had signs up everywhere asking the guests to please take care with the work tops: ‘Don’t chop on them’, we’d say, and ‘Please don’t leave anything wet on them.’
One day we came into the kitchen to see the guest had left this.
Thanks to this family leaving wet cutlery on the beech work tops all future guests had to live with the ghostly imprints of knives and forks which had ruined the wood. Of course this could have happened by mistake, but leave a note! Say sorry! Is that too much?
We have let to workmen a number of times and they are usually great. However, one memorable let was for a two month period to a group of plasterers. I offered to provide fresh bed linen every week. The foreman assured me they could us the washing machine, so I didn’t need to bother. Well going in after they left was an experience I won’t forget.
There were four of them staying there (I was told only two but my neighbour reported four) and they were clearly very fond of fish as, judging by the state of the deep fat fryer they had left (full) behind, they had deep fried fish for themselves every single night of the two months. Also, they hadn’t changed the sheets. Not once. I could tell this because in each bed there was a person shaped slick of grease covering the pillow and sheet. Thankfully they had brought their own duvets (all with the design of a rampant lion) which I could dump in the bin.
Another lot of builders clearly didn’t know what a dishwasher was for. They stayed for a week whilst working on a building site nearby. In that week they enjoyed a fry up each morning and a meat and veg meal in the evening. The reason I know this was because every single plate, knife, and fork they had used for each meal was lined round the kitchen worktops with the fried egg or gravy still congealing on the dishes. When they ran out of counter space they simply lined the plates neatly along the floor beneath. In the week they stayed they managed to form a queue of around forty plates. They used every single piece of crockery we had in the house (but only once – God forbid they would put a plate in the dishwasher and reuse it) including side plates and the saucers we had left under two plant pots. I couldn’t believe my eyes, they hadn’t even taken the time to run the plates under the tap.
Again, very rare, but every now and then we have a guest whose behaviour is so bad it takes our breath away. We have had guests lie to the company about problems with the cottage to get refunds; guests who have gaily parked across the neighbor’s flower bed and then complained to me when the neighbour asked them to move; guests who have taken every shower gel, hand soap, and shampoo they can get their hands on; and guests who have decided the country break was an ideal time to dye their hair bright red, unapologetically leaving my lovely, fluffy, Egyptian cotton bath sheets covered in blood red stains.
I can cope with all of these, just about, but I cannot abide the ones who steal. We learned very quickly not to leave anything in the cottage we wouldn’t mind losing. Three different guests have stolen the kitchen radio (one who took it by mistake (?!) apologised and sent it back, bless her), numerous books, towels and a pair of binoculars we had left for bird watching.
This week a small sheepskin rug which I have had since the children were babies was taken. Not something I would have dreamed a guest would bother stealing. My grandmother’s 1950’s bread bin, extension leads and a Tiffany lamp – all victims of guests’ light fingers. Sadly we have had to start photographing each room at the start of each let so we can prove when the item has gone missing. Unfortunately we didn’t think to photograph the garden.
Best mate Guy’s parents, who do our gardening, met us when we arrived for a week’s stay at the cottage, faces red with outrage. We learned that the week before they had bought us six, large, fully grown wildflower pots to flesh out our nascent wildflower meadow which is just starting to show sprouting growth.
Guy’s mum explained that as they were planting the flowers she could feel ‘the guests watching our every move from the sun loungers.’ When they returned the following week they discovered four of the plants had been neatly dug up and stolen. The guests came from Lincoln, so I am tempted to drive up there to see if our flowers are in their garden, and if they are, I’m going to steal the damn things right back. Bastards.
Having guests stay at your house gives you an insight into how people live. Often their actions can be very puzzling. Our first cottage had a basic, TV above the fireplace with sofas grouped around it lay out. One family who were staying there for two nights must have spent hours rearranging every item of furniture to create a mystifyingly complex and impossible to get round set up. They didn’t bother putting it back when they left.
Another family fancied a sunbathe, so decided to carry all three mattresses through the upstairs bedroom window, lugging it out onto the roof of the bathroom, along with all the bedding and towels. They didn’t bother to bring it back in; just after they left the heavens opened, soaking everything.
Something we always provide in our cottage is shelves and shelves of books. Who doesn’t love a good holiday read? One family didn’t like it and hung bed sheets all over the shelves as well as the television. All the bottles and cans had their labels turned inwards so you couldn’t read them.
At least (so far, anyway) we haven’t been in the slightly awkward situation a friend of mine experienced when she first started letting. One weekend her neighbour called to say some ‘odd things’ seemed to be happening in her cottage. When she asked what, he said ‘well, there are an awful lot of men going in and out during the day and and heavily made-up young women smoking cigarettes in the garden at night.’ Yes, they were using her cottage as a pop-up brothel. She reported it to the police. Strangely, a month later a guest with the same name and address tried to book my cottage and luckily I was able to cancel it, explaining to the company they may like to blacklist this particular client.
Thankfully, these kinds of guests are rare and overall we have met some absolutely lovely people who enjoy the cottage, tidy up after themselves and have a nice holiday. Bad guests can be a pain, but their stories make good fodder for conversation at the dinner table. What about you? Have you ever had to cope with odd or unpleasant behaviour from the general public? Let me know in the comments!