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Bed and Breakfast Forums

January 25, 2005

by Kit Cassingham

The best way to learn about bed and breakfast innkeeping, and to keep your hospitality edge as an innkeeper, is to talk with others involved in the industry. A bed and breakfast discussion forum is a community of like-minded people you can connect with at your convenience. With give and take on every forum member's part, you have a wonderful opportunity to learn and grow -- all from the comfort of your home and business.

The B&B industry is a wonderful community that I've been part of one way or another for almost 20 years. Through this community I have had first class mentors who have taught me hospitality, have had helpful brainstorming sessions to solve problems, have learned valuable business and marketing tips, made special friends, had sympathetic ears for venting to, and had supportive friends to crow my successes and awards to. As the industry has matured and the community has grown, there have been even more opportunities for these experiences. PAII had its first bi-annual B&B convention in Philadelphia in 1998, and the changes that have happened since then are exciting and invigorating.

As with every community, opportunities come and go. Yellow Brick Road started publishing articles for B&B travelers in 1984 and slowly morphed into a newsletter for aspiring innkeepers. ) B&B magazines, reservation system companies, and insurance providers have come and gone "since the beginning", and there will be more to follow suit. Early bed and breakfasts had shared baths and double beds, their market niche was being a B&B, and the best marketing tool was getting into the various B&B books. Times have changed. Being part of the community involves you in the changes that are taking place, keeping you on the forefront of this evolving industry. On the flip side, if you don't keep active in this evolving process, you'll suddenly discover it has moved on without you.

One of the community building options that has developed as the internet has evolved is an internet-based discussion group called a forum. I used to think of forums, or bulletin boards as they were called initially, as a time waster. I don't any more. Now I think of them as valuable tools and venues for sharing. The same things I got in my early days from the B&B community, when it was small, are again readily available through participation in a forum.

I said that I had mentors who taught me hospitality. They also were available when I had questions. A forum can introduce you to people you might not have otherwise met, people who can be your mentors, or proteges, and answer questions for you. And both of you can be comfortable in your own homes or inns as you interact.

Problem solving brainstorm sessions typically happen on the phone or face-to-face. In our busy lives that's not always possible, unless you have a forum to connect with in your "spare" time and those brainstorming with you can connect in their "spare" time.

I also consider forums part of your continuing education, something I think is a requirement for any successful business. A forum is a free place to get a significant portion of that education -- to learn new things, things you may not have ever considered before. You hear different perspectives on old and new ideas too. Think of a forum as a meeting, but in this meeting you can move from conversation to conversation without fear of disturbing others with your movement, and you can schedule that meeting time for your own convenience. Furthermore, there are no time limits for this meeting so the information is there when you are ready for it, the pool of information growing and changing with time.

Making friends was never easier than with the internet. Innkeepers lead busy lives and don't get out to socialize often enough. But to get online, jump into a forum to share with others in your line of work is a great way to make friends. It's like going to a B&B conference, only cheaper and faster. And the friends you make online may be at a conference you will personally attend someday, making the conference that much more valuable someday, which adds value to both the conference and the forum.

At times, innkeeping has its frustrating moments, and who can better understand those frustrations than other innkeepers? A forum gives you the opportunity to vent your frustrations and be understood. You might even get some insights that will help you resolve the frustrating situation. And aspiring innkeepers need to know about possible frustrations so they can be better prepared should they be faced with a similar situation.

And just as important as venting is crowing. Sharing your successes, victories, and awards is important and a forum is a great place to crow. This is where you have made friends and connections, where you can share your joy and be understood on a different level. Lots of people in your life will be glad to celebrate with you, but innkeepers are the most understanding of all. They know what you went through to reach your success and will crow with you better than anyone. That's the kind of support we all need in life, but especially innkeepers who give so much of themselves nourishing guests.

Forums satisfy diverse and abundant needs. They don't replace B&B conventions but they do fill in the gap between conferences. They don't replace the face-to-face interactions and the hugs found from the innkeepers you meet and know at B&B conferences. Why not have both options at your disposal? A forum for everyday sharing and learning and B&B conventions for more intense sharing and learning sounds like a good balance to me.

There are several forums available for you. I'm of course biased to mine (called Conversations in the navbar) because no membership dues are required and my style is imprinted there. B&B Talk is open to anyone wanting to participate -- aspiring, active, and retired innkeepers, vendors, and anyone who has an interested in the B&B industry. PAII has a forum too, available to PAII members.

Comments

Hi Kit, My husband and I have talked about opening a B&B for over 20 years now. Soon he will retire and its our opportunity to get serious about this new chapter in our life. I would love to read and talk to people in your forum.


My husband is about to retire also. We are thinking about opening a small b&b in SE Colorado. This has been my dream for more than 10 years. I've been reading and studying for years - now I really need to get down to business.


Bobbi, glad you found my site. Let me know if I can help you with anything.

-Kit


RAILROAD HOUSE
CORNER OF W FRONT ST & S PERRY ST
MARIETTA, PA 17547

I contacted the owners of Railroad House Bed and Breakfast on March 17th, 2009 to use a gift certificate. After some discussion they agreed to honor it and I made reservations for October 6th & 7th, 2009. On October 5th I called them and left a message on their answering machine, stating our arrival on October 6th & 7th. We arrived at their location to find it closed. We left and the owner called and said he got our message and he or his wife would come to the Perry St door to meet us in 10 minutes. We went back and waited 30 minutes, called them and got answering machine. We left message it was getting late and we would grab a bite to eat and be back. We came back and called and nothing. We tried calling and emailing to no avail. This couple is deceiving and lied to us. They are supposed to be in the hospitality business, not the robbery business.

I highly recommend not dealing with them in any way shape or form.

In PA there is no expiration on a gift certificate. That’s the law and a fair one at that. If someone pays you for a service and you do not get to perform it, it does not entitle you to keep the money. After 2 yrs from the issue date, the inntaker in this case should send the money to the PA Treasury department; they have a form for this. The holder can apply for a refund through this department. If the innkeeper does not turn the monies in to PA and I make a claim with the certificate; they will be fined and will have to pay the value of the gift certificate. This is the Treasury Department so if they find the innkeeper in violation, they will get their money.
My story is I hade 3 old gift certificates that I found and tried to couple them together for an anniversary get away. Two B&B's didn’t have a problem (Cashtown Inn & Quiet House). The Railroad house said they would honor it when I made a reservation on 3/17/09. Could them day of reservation 10/6 + 10/7. Answering machine said they were closed on Tuesday. It said the bar and restaurant. I went drove over their and knocked on doors and no one answered. So I headed back home and was going to stop to eat.
The owner called me and said he had no reservation but he has vacant rooms and can accommodate me. I said I will turn around and be there in 15 minutes. He than said are you the person with the 4 year old gift certificate? I said yes. He said he or his wife will meet us. I started wondering if they didn’t have my reservation, what made him ask about the gift certificate.
We turned around and went there and knocked, and knocked, and called, and knock, and called. Nothing! We saw two walkers and they asked us did we need help. They said the Inn keepers live in the building. We left a message that we were grabbing a bite to eat and will return. When we returned still nothing.
My concern is this: If they didn’t want to honor the gift certificate, just tell us, don't make an ass out of me and my wife. If we stayed there we would have certainly spent money in the bar and restaurant. So I just don't understand their cowardly approach to this. They are in the hospitality business and they treat people like this. I told all the Inn keepers up front about the date and number on the gift certificate.





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