Complaints in the high season are a topic of their own, our landlady thinks. Read here what she is particularly concerned about around the summer holidays.
Once a year I get a “blue letter”[a warning letter to parents that their child may have to repeat the school year]. It’s not really blue and it’s usually an email, but it feels like the time when you did something wrong at school and your parents were informed. I can now predict the time: It’s the peak season. And bad weather. The perfect time for complaints.
Now and again there are guests who have something to complain about. Fortunately, this happens very rarely with us and usually it’s something minor that can be resolved quickly. And if not, then a personal conversation helps. If guests notice that we care, then a broken dishwasher is a technical problem, a pillow that is too hard is quickly replaced – none of this is a drama.
But there is a special category: the peak season complaint. This is different, usually more detailed, tends to be fussy and often goes too far. And it only reaches us when the guest is back home. This was the case with a couple who had booked three weeks with us in the summer. They wrote that they had spent the entire holiday behind closed curtains. Using the terrace was out of the question. Either it rained or footballs landed on the coffee table. They listed in detail everything that didn’t suit them and was missing. And that was really a lot. Even things that we had not promised to provide. To emphasise their displeasure, they wrote that there were better and cheaper holiday flats and that they were closer to the beach. Bingo, direct hit! Or a guest who wrote to me that they had had a nice holiday but had left early because of the bad weather. He then listed all the things he didn’t like, ending with a missing ashtray. But I thought to myself, we could have given it to him. Why didn’t he just ask?
The main category of seasonal complaints, I have learned over the years, is not about problems that could be solved. Something went wrong on holiday and a culprit or guilty party has to be found. The weather gods don’t have an email address, landladies (or landlords) do. Sometimes I ask myself whether guests who write such e-mails expect an answer at all? And what I should I write back?
There are many triggers that spoil people’s holidays. And of course, badly cleaned flats or false promises are valid reasons. But this is not about complaints in regard to the holiday as a whole. But rather, little things are added up and blown up into a big storm. And I ask myself, is it perhaps guests who book early, who consciously decide on a holiday home, although many others were still free? And now they are disappointed with the booked accommodation, but maybe also with themselves and their decision? Or does the reason lie in the peak season price? While in the low season a barking dog in the village is a minor annoyance, the problem and its weighting drift further apart with each additional euro. Or is it because – as psychologists like to explain in silly season interviews – holidays are a test of endurance for many couples and families? “The complaint season is starting” is what a landlord friend said the other day. And while some might suspect a new Netflix series behind it, we both knew immediately what was meant.
As a landlady, I can’t do anything about bad weather. Nor can I do anything about false expectations. But we can make up for the lack of ashtrays, make the advantages of the village green more attractive to children who want to play football, or find all the spare pillows for guests to try out. If we know the problems, we will take care of them. We just have to know that there is a problem. And an email after the holiday is of no use at all. Then it’s unfortunately too late for both sides.
Published: July 2023
Coverphoto: Anja Bauermann / Unsplash