The shocking truth about owning a bed and breakfast

Owning a bed and breakfast isn’t always fun and games.  It is a lot of hard work and you need to weigh the Pros and Cons based on your tolerances.

Owning a bed and breakfast isn’t always fun and games – in fact, sometimes it is just down-right disgusting!

There – I said it!  And, although they may not admit it, there isn’t a bed and breakfast owner out there that would disagree with me!

A while ago there was a on-line forum discussion on pet peeves of b and b owners, and it was interesting to see how similar everyone’s gripes were about their guests.  Most complaints fell into one of two categories:

  • cleaning up after guests and dealing with inconsiderate guests.

Under the disgustingly dirty category, common examples were:

  • Hair – hair in the sinks, drains, tubs and showers; on the floors, in the bedding and everywhere else imaginable!
  • Garbage – believe it or not, not everyone will bother putting their garbage in a waste basket – dirty tissues and leftover food and drink are a prime example!  Some guests will put recycling and regular garbage in the same container; panty liners and other sanitary products are just pitched in;  I have even found needles and broken glass.
  • Toilets/bidets – clogged, not flushed, or used inappropriately (not all  cultures are use to the fixtures seen in most North American/European bathrooms)
  •  Bad smells – such as very dirty sports clothes, cigarette smoke (on clothes or from people who disregard no smoking signs, or smoke directly outside of the room right by the open window/door); heavy perfumes such as patchouli or musk and personal care products that use aerosol sprays.  (These smells permeate the soft furnishings of a room and if not dealt with immediately can be very difficult to remove.)
  •  Dirty shoes & luggage – very few people take their shoes off; most luggage is dragged along the ground and then placed on the bed, sofa or dresser tops – even when there are luggage racks available
  •  Spills & wet towels – left on bedding, rugs, furniture, towels and tablecloths
  •  Make-up and hair dyes – on pillowcases, facecloths, towels, and sheets

Under the incredibly inconsiderate area, common complaints are:

  • People who call late in the night to make a reservation or want a room
  •  People who spend (what seems like) hours on the phone asking for details and then don’t book, rather than reading your web site
  • People who argue with you about your price, or expect a discount because they are a senior, belong to AAA, they are on a fixed income, etc
  • Guests who ask for a special check-in time and then don’t show up or call until much later…or show up even earlier!
  • Guests who arrive early and if you won’t let them check in, still expect to be able to use a bathroom
  •  People who want breakfast at a special time and then decide to sleep in
  • Guests who insist they need special foods (whether they have booked in advance or walked in off the street) and then decide they want what everyone else is having
  • Guests who bring other people into the bed and breakfast – i.e. booked a room for two and want four people to share the room
  • Guests who wake you up in the middle of the night because they want a cup of tea, need a bandage or forgot to ask you for something earlier in the day
  • Guests who want to pay cash so they can avoid the taxes at check-out
  • People who go back to bed/out for a walk and are late checking out

So – are bed and breakfast guests really that bad?

It depends on your attitude, and how tired you are at the time; and how prepared you are to deal with the situation.

As for the cleaning issues, if you’ve had kids, here’s a good analogy: think about when your child was a baby and had a REALLY messy diaper.  It was pretty bad to clean up, but hey, that’s what you did as a parent.  Now – think about a time when you had to change a friend’s’ kid with a diaper like that.  You more than likely handled your own kid’s diaper with a lot less trepidation, gagging and disgust than you did when it was someone elses kid!

When you apply that analogy to cleaning up after a bed and breakfast guest, it gives you a better understanding of why it can get so disgusting – especially when you do it day in and day out (90% of my guests stay 2 nights or less).

As for people being so self-centred, consider the fact that many people don’t understand, or confuse the concept of a bed and breakfast being your home with that of a hotel with a 24-hour reception desk.  In addition, they have no concept of all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes to make their stay so enjoyable, so how can you expect them to know how their actions are going to impact on you?

So, what scares you the most about owning a bed and breakfast?  I would love to know what keeps you up at night worried about making the move to owning a bed and breakfast?  Leave a comment or contact me directly to see if I can help you get over that fear!

Comments

  1. Agen Bola Indonesia

    I’m not that much of a internet reader to be honest but your
    blogs really nice, keep it up! I’ll go ahead and bookmark your site to come back in the
    future. Cheers

    1. Susan Poole Post author

      Thank you! I’m glad you are enjoying it. Are there any particular topics you would like me to address in other posts?

  2. lucy

    My husband and I are embarking on a B&B project as we find our bodies aren’t as good at hard physical labour as they used to be (my husband is a builder and I farm). My main (and enormous) concern is that my husband does not have the personality for it! He is not good at maintaining healthy boundaries, and will give and give in a quite unsustainable way until he snaps in rage and is incredibly rude. I know I need to make myself the frontman for guest contact as I am much more patient and diplomatically trained, so that he doesn’t find himself agreeing to things he’s not comfortable with or get run over by inconsiderate guests. That will help with part of the problem, but the other issue is that – if he perceives that my attention/energy is being taken up too much by guests or he takes a sudden personal dislike to them, he will bend my ear till I am just about ready to scream myself! What it means effectively is that I will be carrying the stress of guests largely alone. I would like t think we are embarking on this next stage four life together but am not sure I will have the support I need.

    1. Susan Poole Post author

      Hi Lucy!

      That’s quite a dilemma you have! I’m not sure how you can resolve the issues you have identified..but it’s a good first step that you recognize they are present. I wonder if it’s time to go back to the drawing board and figure out if owning a B&B is right for you…you might want to start with the no-cost e-book I have created – 3 Questions Everyone Who Wants to Own a B&B Asks – or Should! that helps you get clearer on the reason you want to own a B&B. Good luck

  3. Linda Kruse

    My biggest fear with owning a B & B are those guests who demand the luxuries they received (or think they should receive) at the luxury B & B’s for the price they will pay at mine. We wont have a restaurant attached, or a fancy jacuzzi tub, or a spa package, or a television with full access in each room, etc. Most of our clientele will be visiting the Town, college students and the amenities the town and area have to offer. But I fear those who will give me a bad review because “I couldn’t do it all’.

    1. Susan Poole Post author

      Dear Linda:

      It is impossible to please everyone, and no matter how clearly you advertise exactly what people are getting for the price, most B&B owners will tell you that the majority of our guests do not read – especially when they are price conscious. All you can do is be very clear in your promotions and terms and conditions (that must be agreed to before booking) and hope for the best.
      I always encourage B&B owners to use poor reviews as the opportunity to “educate” potential guests who are reading the reviews on TripAdvisor (you don’t have the same opportunity on OTAs) – pointing out what is clearly stated on your web site. Here’s my reply to a guest who commented on how small the room was that they booked…
      I hope that helps!

  4. Colleen

    I have one to add to the disgusting list. How about one of a 14 member wedding party who booked at our bed and breakfast for after their wedding. They said they would check in at 12pm or 12:30am. They started arriving at 1:30am and one guy had to be carried in. Others followed carrying boxes of beer. I questioned the bride, who had stayed the night before, as to what was going on. She said they just wanted to have a few drinks before bed. The played loud music and were as loud as I was reminded drunks are. 4 hours and many appeals later, the bride ( who assured me that she was a mother and an organizer of people so she would control the group ) had long gone to bed, and we were still sleepless with a rowdy word-slurring group of 6 or 8. It was always, just one more drink, just one more smoke, just a little snack. At 5am one of the drunks had dropped himself onto our elegant Italian sofa in the reception area. He snored so loudly, again sleep was out of the question. Others still talked loudly in their rooms. Then we heard a big clatter and the guy on the sofa was standing in our marble foyer peeing all over our shoe rack and good shoes belonging to our family and spraying over my two year old grandsons ride-on remote controlled car. He emptied his bladder full and proper and his fellow drunks said they would help him to bed. That was it. I ordered him out of the house and a couple of drunks went with him and called a taxi. I have never felt so violated as a host. And the bride – could not even bring herself to pay for a carpet clean in the lounge, dining and reception area which is in the filthiest state with her group`s drunken cavorting, including a spill of chip dip, which is going to rot if not cleaned properly.

    Anyone know what we can do? What rights do we have to claim an expense like that. My family of five at home all missed a night of sleep, which wasted our working hours the next day, and I missed a special event I had planned to take my grandchildren out to. Instead I was cleaning up a filthy drunk`s smelly urine from my home. They also ignored our house rule of only smoking outside and most of the rooms stink of alcohol and tobacco. In all our correspondence there was never a mention of using our home as an after party venue. We are a bed and breakfast. The bride said that as I had spoken to her over the phone, I should have known that she was not 60 and old ( as we are ) but young and that her friends would be drinkers???

    1. Susan Poole Post author

      Wow – that really sounds like an awful situation to have to deal with! What you describe is often the reasons that many bed and breakfast owners refuse to accept wedding parties and their guests. This typically isn’t a group that works well at a B&B for the reasons you describe.
      To avoid issue such as you describe, I would suggest creating a contract with an advance payment of a cleaning or damage deposit and what additional charges might be implemented should things get out of control. That way, you can be compensated for the work and damages.
      At this point, you could consider an insurance claim, or present the bride with a list of charges and when she refuses to pay, take her to small claims court – but that is very time consuming, and without a contract, I’m not sure you would win.
      Thank heavens very few guests are like this – most are lovely people who make it a joy to own a B&B!

  5. R. K. Rushing

    We have had our B&B open for 3 years. We’ve had the late night calls, and late night check-ins. As with any business, there are pros and cons. But any job dealing with the public can be challenging sometimes. All in all, it’s been a great experience. We’ve met some wonderful people.

    1. Susan Poole Post author

      I’m glad that you feel that the pros outweigh the cons of having a B&B!
      Getting enough sleep is important when you have guests in the house. For some couples, late night check-ins aren’t an issue; if you are on your own, they can be. If you don’t want those late nights, then policies clearly stating the latest check-in time will help. And why do B&B owners (myself included!) have such a tough time turning off the phone? 🙂

  6. Kathy

    Do you know of any single women successfully owning and operating a B&B? I am single and retired and have always been interested in the B&B business. What would you recommend as an appropriate size of property for a single owner? Should I hire a ‘live-in’ person to help when I do have guests?

  7. Lauri

    Hi, Susan,

    I was looking around on the internet for the answer to a question I know the answer to already. But I want to hear it from someone with more experience.
    We run a b and b in an historic house- not famous, but very nice, and about 140 years old- and we have a lot of antique furniture. I think our guests like the ambiance, the old-fashioned feel and look of the place- but many of them don’t know how to sit on that kind of furniture. For instance, an empire-style couch, with an elegantly carved frame, recently redone in a durable but good quality upholstery velvet, has had an arm broken already by people sitting on it. We repaired that. But I have found guests crouching on it with both feet, as if poised to leap, or with their feet on it- and I know this is because times have changed, most people did not grow up with delicate furniture, and have no concept that it can be damaged. What can I do, short of redoing the decor in a more modern style? Every solution that is interactive- i.e., saying “Please, no feet on the sofa,” or “Do not sit on the arms of the couch, ” seems rude. So I say, yes, I know the answer- get the delicate pieces out of the living room, in the name of hospitality. Do you concur? Or is there anything acceptable to say to let people know it’s a somewhat delicate antique?

    1. Susan Poole Post author

      Hi Lauri
      Thanks for describing the problem of damage that occurs in various forms at a bed and breakfast.

      Have you really stopped to look at what type of guest is causing the damage? Could you change your marketing (i.e. the pictures on your web site, etc.) showing the style of furniture you have, so the guests that are attracted to that type of ambience will want to book, and those that aren’t (and my guess is who causes the damage) won’t be as attracted to your property?

      Otherwise, you are correct, and will need to change your furniture so it is sturdier.

  8. Florence March

    These are so ordinary that I don’t consider them challenges. The big challenges happen when the building fails – the well goes out at breakfast, the septic backs up in guest rooms, or the pipes freeze and burst all while you have a full house or are hosting a wedding or business retreat. Then things really get intense – getting contractors on a moments notice while cleaning up the mess and trying to make the guests so comfortable they don’t notice. That’s hard!

    1. Susan Poole Post author

      Florence:

      You are so right – smiling and keeping everything going in the face of adversity is the hardest part! (And why do those things only happen when you have a house full of guests?) Having a great support system of specialists who understand that you need them right away is crucial to keeping your guests comfortable and happy!

  9. Valerie

    Owning and running a B&B is not hard – it is work. Some people think it is NOT work. They thing – OH, I can live in a big house, rent our rooms, cook a breakfast, and yeah, I get to live in the country and have a bit house. Well, it is a business and it is a job – and it is work. But it is not hard. Not hard at all. It can is tedious, it can be frustrating, it can be messy, it can be gross, it can be tiring. But raising kids is all of those things too! Here’s the difference – you can’t put off that repair, you can’t talk back to your guest, you can’t keep a messy home, you can’t go out to dinner when you are waiting for an arrival. And that “sacrifice” is worth it to be able to own your own business, work out of your home, meet amazing and interesting people, cook for folks who actually appreciate it, and have a clean house that is always in working condition!! The job isn’t easy – but what job is. The job has so many rewards. I am so glad I took the plunge – it is the best thing I ever did.

    1. Susan Poole Post author

      Valerie:

      I love your analogy to raising children – it is very true! Most B&B owners will agree with you – it’s the wonderful guests we have that make all the hard work worthwhile.

  10. Buddy

    I have owned 4 inns and love every aspect of running the inn. My favorite part of I use talking with our guests My only complaint are how anyone can go on the media and write a review that is not the truth. Just last week we had a guest that cancelled her reservation. We explaine the $25 fee. This guest booked online with our reservation system Before you can even get a confirmation you must check a box that explains our cancellation policy. We don’t like conflict so we refunded the $25 dollars. She said she saw No where on our site about a fee. Every inn , hotel any lodging has a cancellation fee. She hung up on us and the next day she wrote on trip advisor and gave us a 1 Our ONLY negative review out of hundreds. I try my best not to take it to heart but of course I do. Other than that you smile and thank every guests for staying with us

  11. Najia Haddock

    I notice no one has mentioned theft. My husband and I are about to open a B&B and I have hesitated to put certain things in the guest rooms because I don’t want them to ‘grow legs and walk out’. Our rooms are themed and the things to which I refer are souvenirs from places matching that theme; not necessarily expensive things, but sentimental. I have put these things on shelves in the rooms so it is clear it is part of the decor and not a freebie. Have you experienced guest theft either of the inn’s property of that of other guests? I have thought I would check the rooms while my husband checks the guests out – and then somehow mention the missing item to the guests before they depart (awkward – not sure I’d have the nerve to do this).
    What else can you do to prevent it or recover if a guest does walk off with your property?

    1. Susan Poole Post author

      Dear Najia:
      The situation you describe is every B&B owners’ worst nightmare. I learned early on not to put out things that can’t be replaced, and have been fortunate not to have lost many items. However, my B&B only has 3 rooms so it would be relatively easy to know who took something. I think it’s a balancing act between accepting that some loss is to be expected, and when it is deliberate theft. I would suggest you include a policy that allows you to charge people if things go missing – including towels, pillows and other items, like you would for damages to the property.

      Susan

  12. Donna

    Hi I am just getting ready to open a bed-and-breakfast Tonopah Nevada. It’s me and two sons and my daughter-in-law involved in it. we are having disagreement on the fact that we are going to be pet friendly we all agree on that. They are also saying that they won’t allow service animals and I disagree on that.that it is a law that we have to except service animals can you help me out on this matter please!!

    1. Susan Poole Post author

      The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) is legislation that protects the rights of people who require service animals to manage their disability. Do a search for the term “bed and breakfast + service animals” and you will come up with a number of well-written articles that clearly outline your responsibility.

  13. Randi Brewer

    I want to open a B&B that consists of individual cabins and a separate great room for dining and socializing. Any ideas on funding such an operation? I have contacted some banks and they do not do funding for B&B’s. Any help would be greatly appreciated!!

    1. Susan Poole Post author

      Dear Randi:

      Financing for a bed and breakfast is the biggest obstacle most people face. You should have a look at the SBA to begin with, and consider purchasing an existing property that has a proven track record for revenue. You will be required to use commercial loans and depending on your background and experience, the lender will review the amount of risk that they are comfortable with. A strong business plan will go a long way towards helping your cause.

      Susan

  14. Ashley

    I just wanted to thank you for your article. My husband and I are in our 30s. We travel a good bit, and have literally stayed in bed and breakfasts all over the world…on every continent except Antarctica. We always have taken much more time to clean up after ourselves when staying at a bed and breakfast…knowing it IS someone’s home. When I walk into a room and feel the heart behind the person who put it together, I have to respect it. This just confirms the value and appreciation in that. We may not be super neat at home, and we have 3 small kids….but I promise you that room will be neat when we leave (and while we are there too!) I am horrified to hear of the dishonor paid to owners.
    PS-My husband is obsessed with tripadvisor. He always makes it a point to write a meaningful review because he does see the value in it (his contribution to me continually tidying the room). He can sniff idiot reviewers a mile away…and others can too if they choose. Please take that to heart.
    I also can see, it’s hard to protect yourself. Disasters happen with all categories of people. We’ve been told “no kids” at many places. And while ours are fairly quiet, it never offends us to be turned away. We have sadly been to places with some very poorly behaved adults! As an owner, this is a tricky call to make. I understand after a one disaster too many, one has to draw a line.

    To all B&B owners out there, you are MUCH APPRECIATED!

  15. Susan

    Hi Susan,

    What do you think of owning a cat as a B&B owner? We are moving from our home abroad into our B&B building in Albion, Idaho.
    We have a cat already, but are worried that the cat will be a bother to people with allergies, even when the cat will not be in the guestrooms, hallways and dining room. At the other hand she belongs to the family….
    Do you have any experience with that??

    1. Susan Poole Post author

      Hi Susan

      Many B&B owners have pets at their bed and breakfast – it is a personal decision that you will have to make. You can include the information about your cat on your website in several different places (home page, your hosts and on-line booking page) and in your confirmation letter to try to let people know ahead of time. Hopefully, those with allergies will read the information so that they can make an informed decision – or call to ask you about pets in the house.

      Good luck with your new adventure!
      Susan

  16. John Johnson

    Hi,
    We have most of the complaints you listed,
    Booking an early breakfast then going back to bed.
    Booking a room for 2 and we found they sneaked their daughter in with a sleeping bag.
    Book the day before without a deposit then we stay up after midnight and they don’t turn up.
    Problems with nappies.
    Flood the shower room.
    We have to separate rubbish, we show them the bins and again they mix the rubbish.
    Don’t know how to turn lights off.
    Want to bring their own food & drinks and they want to use our dining room.
    Can you cook this for us?
    Can you chill their wine when we sell wine.
    Cut short their stay and don’t want to pay for the nights they have booked.
    We are now adults only. Must pay a deposit to reserve the room also pay in full on arrival. The result it has cut out most of the problems.

    1. Susan Poole Post author

      Dear John:

      Thank you for sharing. I am glad you have found a way to resolve your issues. Like most B&B owners, I am assuming that all the great guests make up for the ones that do cause issues!

      Susan

  17. Sir Francis Baron Von Ross

    Good afternoon.! Susan Poole.
    I am thinking of a different kind of B&B that it’s Christmas all year long but instead of renting rooms it would be
    apartments. This can be for family. It would be the same price as to rent a room.
    I would buy a four or 5 unit building and fix the apartments that would look like Christmas.
    Thinking of doing this in Amherst, NS or Saint John, NB.
    I have had so many people tell me that it would be fantastic.
    Please let me know what you think as your opinion matters.
    Thank You.

    1. Susan Poole Post author

      Dear Francis:

      There are many themed bed and breakfasts, so I am sure there is a market for one that focuses on Christmas. Having serviced apartments for families will be a selling feature – I know when I travel with family in Australia I find them very convenient. You will have to run the numbers and see if it is financially viable.

      Susan

  18. Zach

    Hello,
    My mother is opening a B & B and I’m a bit worried after reading this!
    Do you have any suggestions regarding policies that ensure my mother is not taken advantage of?
    Like requiring a deposit, pay on arrival, no children, or something along those lines?
    Thanks

    1. Susan Poole Post author

      Hi Zach:

      The policies you mention – a deposit, paying on arrival, no children are all good practices to have policies around. While not all guests are perfect, the majority of them are lovely people. If they were all like the ones in this blog post, then there would be a lot fewer B&B owners out there!

      Susan

  19. Zach

    Hello again,
    I forgot to mention that she still works full-time and I’m not sure B & B income will meet her financial needs (only two rooms). What about a B & B that is only open on the weekends?
    Thanks

  20. Bob Albin

    I’ve been running a busy B&B for 12 years now. It is work just like anything else, but it is not nearly as bad as the above blog entry lays it out to be. 99.999% of our guests are wonderful to deal with. One thing that made a big difference is that we moved out of the B&B property. We do shifts of 3 days/nights on and 4 days/nights off. It appears that many people go into the B&B business thinking it will be a fun hobby business. That’s their first mistake. If you want a hobby collect stamps, do woodworking, or paint because a B&B ain’t no hobby!

    1. Susan Poole Post author

      Hi Bob:

      You are quite right – owning a successful bed and breakfast requires a lot of hard work! I am glad you found a solution to avoid burnout – thanks for sharing it.

      Susan

  21. Susan Poole Post author

    Hi Sandra:

    You’ve done a good job of identifying the pros and cons of your property. One of the hardest lessons I had to learn was that people have to have a reason to come to your area before they look for somewhere to stay. Knowing how to find out who is coming to your area, and how they make their decision on where to stay means you will be able to set your price based on the value you are offering, not just what the competition charges.

    So far, you have identified three potential groups – golfers, visitors to residents of the nursing/rehab home and people coming to go to the park. Depending on your location, the golfers and park attendees may be seasonal, so you need to keep looking for other sources of potential guests. Since guests are crucial to your bottom line, I recommend you check out Learn How Much Your Future B&B Can Earn. There you will learn another important lesson – how to attract guests you want to host in your B&B. Knowing who your ideal guest is means they will want what you want to offer – this way what they want and what you offer coincides, so that your B&B matches your vision and is a joy to run. This will save you thousands of dollars and a lot of extra stress.

    I’d be glad to answer any questions you may have about Learn How Much Your Future B&B Can Earn. Just drop me an e-mail or respond to this thread and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

    Susan

  22. Katy

    Hi
    I wonder if you can give me your feedback on how to handle this. We are strictly non smoking in my b n b. I can smell a v strong smell of cigarettes. How do I handle it. They must be smoking in the room

    1. Susan Poole Post author

      Hi Katy:

      If you have a no-smoking policy then you should also include the penalties that come with an infraction. In the meantime, I would knock on the guests’ door and tell them you are smelling smoke and wanted to see if everything was OK. If they are smoking, remind them of the policy and tell them where they cab go to have a smoke. If you already have penalties in place, this is the time to enforce them.

      Susan

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