You Learn Something New Every Day!

When we decided to start making belgian waffles for our guests, we also decided to offer a gluten-free option for those who have wheat allergies. Usually, the people with these allergies either call ahead to let us know or put a note in their reservation when they reserve online. Yesterday, we got a phone call from one of these guests. It kind of went like this:

Me: Hello, Meadowlark Inn.
Guest: Hi, I saw on your website that you serve a gluten free breakfast.
Me: Well, we do serve gluten-free waffles.
Guest: How do you prepare them?
Me: (long explanation of exactly what goes in them)
Guest: Where do you prepare them?
Me: In our kitchen.
Guest: Is it the same kitchen that prepares the non gluten-free foods?
Me: Yes.
Guest: Then you really aren't gluten-free and shouldn't be saying that you serve a gluten-free waffle.
Me: But I don't cross contaminate. I have a separate bowl, spoon, separate waffle iron. I thought I was doing everything right.
Guest: When you prepare foods, the gluten is airborne and contaminates the other foods.
Me: So what you are saying is that when people prepare gluten-free foods you would need a separate kitchen to say you are actually gluten free??
Guest: Yes.
Me: Well, I have a hard time believing that all gluten-free preparations are done in a separate kitchen. How long is the gluten airborne?
Guest: 48 hours.
(a lot more back and forth of me being told how to properly prepare a gluten-free meal!)
Me: We actually do have two kitchens, one in our apartment and one outside our inn dining room. So, if I do all the preparation of non gluten-free foods for 48 hours before you come in in only our apartment kitchen, then the inn kitchen would be pure enough to make the gluten free waffles when you come. Right?
Guest: Yes. But would you mind if I called you in a couple days before I come to remind you of all of this?
Me: Of course. Now, do you already have a reservation with us so that I can put it in your notes?
Guest: Oh no, we aren't staying with you. We are staying somewhere else and just want to come eat at your place because our place doesn't serve gluten free!

WHAT????????? Omg, I just can't make this stuff up. I then went on to tell her that we are not a cafe or restaurant and we only serve a complimentary breakfast to the people that are actually staying here. She seemed disappointed and then asked if we had any openings for the night that she wanted in case she could cancel her other reservation (we didn't).

The more we add or the different things that we do here, there always seems that there is always something more to learn. At first, when I got this phone call, the caller seemed very argumentative, so I almost thought I was being "punked". I quickly realized that she was serious and I thought, "Ok, there is always more to learn, and I do want to do everything right so...". But when I heard she was staying somewhere else, it took everything for me to keep my "WTF!!!" bottled up! And although I learned more about how to keep from cross contaminating gluten foods, this is what I learn every day.... Be nice, be kind, be considerate to all of our guests, even the ones that aren't staying here!

The Dreaded Double Booking! Just when I thought we were safe!

It's the one thing that all innkeepers fear the most.... the dreaded double booking! Accidentally booking two guests in the same room! When we bought the inn six years ago, the previous owners handed us their reservation system for the following season. A shoebox with reservations written on index cards in it. Really?? When they went over the business with us, one of the lines they used was, "And when you double book and you will..." I never remember the rest of the line, but I always remember thinking - NO, I won't double book! I signed up with one of the best online reservation systems, making it impossible to ever double book! Many lodging facilities that we know have done it at least once in the past, but this is something that we have prided ourselves on in the past six years of never doing! Well... at least until this week anyway.

On Sunday, one of our guests still hadn't shown by the time we were going to bed. We left the usual envelope with their name and key outside on a hook in case they showed up later that night. But no. There it was - still hanging when we woke. It was one of those moments when you realize something has gone terribly wrong. Things start flashing in your mind. Maybe they cancelled and I forgot. And I left their reservation in place (for four nights!) when we could have rerented the room. No, I know it wasn't that. But I was going to check my past emails and see if I found anything. And there it was..... Not a cancellation, but the original email from months ago. The email where they stated they would like to reserve a room for four nights starting Monday...NOT Sunday. Now this could have been an easy fix. Just shifting their reservation one night over. But we were fully booked on that last night. We only had Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday for them. We now have 11 guests on Thursday with only ten rooms. I sat at my computer just staring at the reservation calendar for hours. As if something would just pop out and tell me what to do.

The choices you have when this happens are never ones that you want to approach a guest with. You can find another hotel for them for all four nights, you can find another hotel for them for their fourth night, or you can let them have your apartment for that fourth night and you and your family and your dogs and your pride can sleep in your car. I stared at that computer and saw that one of our other guests arriving on that Thursday have come several times before and they come just to enjoy the area and the lake. Maybe just maybe they wouldn't mind coming next week. George said he would call them and ask if their trip dates were set in stone and maybe they wouldn't mind coming a few days later, when we had openings.

With my tail between his legs, he explained that we have never done this before and how sorry we were and would they mind changing their dates. Just then, the clouds parted, the stars aligned themselves directly over our inn, and the guest told George that she actually wanted to postpone her trip and was hoping that we would let them out of their reservation this week without a penalty. What! What did she just say! No, this can't be true. From the smile on George's face, I can tell that all was well in the world. The four hours sleep mixed in with the four hours of worrying was all for nothing.

I am sure this is something that I will never live down. "Remember that time that you......blah, blah, blah." Yeah, I did it. But I will never do it again. I will be more careful. And I will take an extra dose of ginko biloba "Natural Mental Sharpness" Formula. And all my future guests can feel confident that yes, that room that they booked for that romantic weekend away will not be shared with complete strangers. And Dear Higher Power in the Sky, thank you, thank you, thank you for watching over me this time and fixing what could have been the ultimate in bad tripadvisor reviews.