Bed and breakfasts and guest houses are often run by the owners – in South Africa they mostly have 5 or less rooms in the case of Guest Houses and the majority of Bed and Breakfast operations have 3 or less rooms. Because of limited staff , check in at a guest house is often by appointment prior to 3 pm and you are definitely expected to arrive before 7 pm unless a late arrival has been previously arranged with your host. I have to get up at 6am most mornings, so it is just not possible for me to sit up until midnight waiting on guests to arrive. For security reason we also do not take ‘off street’ bookings after 7pm.
Ask any guest house owner what the most frustrating aspect of running an accommodation establishment is and they will say that it is waiting for guests to arrive and even worse : ‘No Shows’. For the unenlightened – that is when a person makes a booking and changes his/her plans without notifying the establishment. If you have a 4 bedroom B&B that represents 25% of your occupancy lost. For me it is not so much the 25% occupancy lost as the time spent waiting on that guest ; the waste of keeping the room warm, the geyser running ; the disregard shown toward the B&B host.
When you phone the next day the excuses range from: ‘It is not my fault as I told my secretary/wife/agent to cancel and they forgot’, ‘I tried to phone, but your line was busy’, ‘I forgot my directions so I booked into another B&B’, ‘I never paid a deposit so I did not think that it was a confirmed booking’. One evening I invited two couples who both owned accommodation establishments over for dinner and in the course of a conversation it turned out that we were all three establishments expecting the same people to arrive for the long weekend! Because of the frustrations of no-shows I have made it our policy that bookings are only finally confirmed on receiving a 50% deposit.
The flip side of the coin would be to have a guest arrive at your door thinking they have a confirmed booking to find that there is ‘no place at the inn’. In 19 years of running a B&B this has only happened to me twice. The first time was many years ago – before the use of computerised booking systems when bookings were still jotted down in a diary. The guests arrived at our door on the 28th December and I had written them in for a week later. A strict deposit policy can also boomerang on you, as I recently found – by the time the guest paid the deposit we had presumed they were not taking the room anymore. Frustration all around.
Please, please, please do not let the Australians who booked two rooms for a week over Christmas and who never answered our e-mail requests for a deposit arrive on our doorstep under the impression that they have a reservation…