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Innkeeping Mistakes #1: Avarice, Lust, Envy and Pride

May 31, 2004

by Kit Cassingham

The "seven deadly sins" provides a new way of looking at the way you run your B&B business. Again we can comment on the need for writing business plans for B&B innkeeping, helping focus you thoughts on better customer service and solid business practices. Of the seven deadly sins, avarice may be the most insidious because it disguises bad business practices like passing innkeeping costs to guests that should be built into the room rate. Craving what other innkeepers have can lead you from your path, the one you outlined in you business plan. Getting rid of envy will help you focus on providing the best guest experience you can, rather than worrying about what others are, or are not, doing in their bed and breakfasts. The pride and prejudice you have about your inn cause be your downfall because you don't see problems as they arise and you don't keep your eyes on the horizon for new ways of doing business.
The Seven Deadly Sins Of Innkeeping
Part 1

Several years ago my husband addressed an annual Mensa meeting, using the theme, the 7 Deadly Sins, for his speech. It was a humorous and well received talk and it planted a seed for this Innfo. As I folded my clean Seven-Sins t-shirt last week I decided it was time to write about how the Seven Sins relate to B&B innkeeping -- for both aspiring and perspiring innkeepers.

Let me review the seven sins so your "back burner" can start making its own list of how they impact your life. Avarice, lust, envy, pride, sloth, wrath, and gluttony are the classic "Seven Sins". This month I'll discuss the first four "sins", leaving the last three for next month. I'll also introduce my husband's idea for the new eighth "sin".

  • AVARICE

    Avarice, defined here as greed, stinginess, or close-fistedness, doesn't seem like a characteristic of an innkeeper. But it affects innkeepers from the very first if they aren't careful. Don't get me wrong, I'm not talking about the Snidley Whiplash sort of avarice. It takes money to get into your B&B as well as to maintain and run it. It's the innkeepers who get into this industry with insufficient funds who exhibit this sin. Aspiring innkeepers act with avarice when they short-change their B&B education, saying they don't have the money to take classes or attend conferences. I say that if you don't have the money to spend on education you don't have the money to buy or run an inn and sustain it -- or yourself.


    Avarice Video

    Some acting innkeepers demonstrate avarice in their operations, customer service, policies, and how they sell their inn. When money is tight I feel it usually shows up first in the B&B's operations; guest sodas cost $1, one bar of soap is placed in guestrooms where two (or more) are needed, damage fees are charged for minor infractions and ones that should be considered part of the cost of doing business. Selling an inn brings out avarice in some innkeepers, shown by not wanting to sell a turnkey operation yet trying to get maximum dollars for the property, by not being willing to train the buyers, and even by falsifying records to make occupancy and income seem higher than they actually are (I had one seller tell me that he was willing to show buyers his second set of books if necessary to make the sale! Needless to say, I didn't take any buyers by to see his place).

    I also see avarice exhibited in some business decisions. For example, when an aspiring innkeeper is choosing their B&B broker they may not choose the one with the B&B experience. Too many times I see that decision cost the aspiring innkeeper lots of money, and often lost time because of bad purchases. Another example is when an innkeeper, in trying to decide between two website designers, goes with the cheaper one because they are local or related somehow rather than the one with the B&B expertise. I've never seen that work well for the innkeeper.

  • LUST

    With this sin I'm addressing covetousness or an overwhelming craving for something. I see this most with aspiring innkeepers who lust for the B&B lifestyle so much that they either don't do any (or much) homework about the business and dive in head first with their eyes closed, or those who do their homework but won't allow their rose-colored glasses to be removed to see the reality of the industry for them. One innkeeper I know lusted so much for the industry that he bought a large, elegant B&B inn. He had to put 50% down on the purchase price because the property wouldn't appraise for the agreed sale price (he made up the difference out of pocket!). He also helped run the inn for two months prior to the closing. Those two points alone showed his passion for getting in, yet when the seller left after the closing the buyer suddenly realized that innkeeping was a lot of hard work, not for him, and put the inn right back on the market. Oops!


    Lust Video

    Another innkeeper chased her lust for the business right into ownership, despite the warning signals it wasn't her best plan of action. Her purchase was reasonably priced for its condition and level of business, but after two months of innkeeping she realized she didn't want to sustain the developing business, nor did she want that lifestyle. So after just two months of ownership she put the inn back on the market. Those are expensive lessons, ones that could have been avoided if the lust hadn't been so strong as to blind these two buyers.

    I see lust in B&B innkeepers' actions by the way they compare themselves to others and strive for something they don't have. For example, I knew an innkeeper who wanted the best for his B&B inn -- antiques, jetted tubs, fireplaces, and food experiences. Admirable. The execution of his wants was less than ideal so these wonderful amenities actually ended up detracting from the guests' experiences. The jetted tubs he bought were high quality but the installation was low-budget and they looked tacky. He prepared wonderful breakfasts and snacks but served them on table linens that were stained. His lust got him part way into the dream of exquisite, just not all the way.

    At times there's only a fine line between lust and envy.

  • ENVY

    Here I'm talking about resentment, unhappiness, rivalry, or a discontented desire aroused by another's possessions, achievements, or advantages. I see it occasionally in back-biting comments by some innkeepers of other innkeepers, of how another's B&B isn't good because of something they don't like. One such example is an innkeeper turning up her nose at another inn because the antique billiard table had frayed pockets, never mind the inn itself was exquisitely finished and the hospitality top notch.


    Envy Video

    Aspiring innkeepers demonstrate envy when they have "a champagne taste with a beer budget" and don't face the facts about their reality. If an aspiring innkeeper can't afford the B&B inn of their dreams something has to give. But often what I see is people continuing to pursue the dream, making derogatory comments about the inns that they can afford. It seems to me that you either have to find a way of seeing the potential in the B&B inn that can be afforded or finding a fortune so the dream inn can be purchased. Envy can blind us to the potential that's right in front of us.

    I have heard disparaging comments about other inns from active innkeepers like "it's too modern", "they are so authentic they aren't modern enough", "they are on a busy street", "they are too far out of town", "you have to pass a mobile home park to get to the inn", "they don't have any views", "they only serve a continental breakfast", and "they serve so much starch at their breakfast". You get the idea. I believe it's envy that makes one innkeeper critical of other innkeepers. However, envy can be a mere emotion away from pride, another "deadly sin".

  • PRIDE Have you seen someone who has so much pride that they are blind to the problems in the subject of their pride? It can be most amusing, if you keep the right attitude. Pride can be the driving force behind an innkeeper who talks so much during breakfast that the guests can't talk to each other (or have a quiet breakfast alone). Pride of the interior of the property prevents the innkeeper from seeing the shabbiness of the exterior, or vice versa. That same pride has the innkeeper going on ad infinitum during the welcome tour when the guest would prefer getting to their room to unwind. I've heard innkeepers speak with such pride about the historical aspect of their inn that they lost sight of the present market and need for modern conveniences. One client didn't want to create private baths because the property was historical as it was and their guests would "want to preserve that" aspect of the inn. I guess that attitude could be avarice in action too, though it's hard to say without knowing more.


    Pride Video

    Pride interferes with maintenance when the innkeeper's attitude is caught up in the original concept, forgetting the present reality. Examples of this attitude are found in innkeepers who won't update carpet or wallpaper because it was original to the house when they bought it -- never mind that it's shabby and outdated.

    On the other hand, maybe it's sloth keeping innkeepers from maintaining their property. Learn more about that, and the other sins next month.




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