What do you get when you stay at a B&B and how to choose one properly

Last week a rather nasty article got published online by Country Living Magazine, 6 Reasons Why I Will Never Stay at a Bed and Breakfast Again.  I am not even going to go there in terms of what I think about the article or the author, read it yourself and draw your own conclusions, aside from wondering why it would take 2 years to write a snarky snippy article about a B&B you stayed at. There is always Tripadvisor to vent your wrath on (and no review there at that time mind you.)


There have been some great rebuttal articles on this; Dear Country Living Magazine: Point and Counterpoint and What a Bed and Breakfast Owner Wants You to Know About Staying at Small Inns, and I am sure there will be more as it hit a rather big nerve with the industry as a whole.


The article hit a nerve with me as well, as I work with and within the industry, I work with PAII which has been around for a long time, but mostly it hit a nerve because many of my personal clients are B&Bs, and very many of my friends are innkeepers, and that article portrays ALL B&Bs in a bad light, painting a very broad brush stroke across an industry that makes itself unique through it’s individuality. Plus using horrible Getty stock images to illustrate the article (and realistically people may think they were actual pictures of the inn) is pretty darn insulting. (unlike the stock photos in that piece, the photos in this are from real B&Bs, the top is from the 1896 House in Williamstown, MA, the others are from the Glynn House Inn in Ashland, NH and the Highland Lake Inn in Andover, NH, and I took them so I know they are realistic and true images of the B&Bs).


B&Bs are all unique, a few can remind one of an elderly auntie’s house, but others are art deco, to mid-century mod, to Victorian and some are much more modern. I’ve stayed in hundreds and hundreds of B&Bs over the years, and every single one is different.


In all of those stays I only have had two not so great experiences, one was at an inn someone else booked for me (and it would not have been my first choice based on their website, and looking at their reviews, and it was not horrible, just not my cuppa tea) and the second was the upstairs room above ours ended up being inhabited by a couple of drunken revelers who were practicing the art of gliding hotel (or B&B) furniture for most of the night, this was no fault of the B&B itself, just bad guests.


The quote from Terri Petrovits commentary, “Some people aren’t ‘B&B people,” is entirely true. People who like to stay at B&Bs, like to stay at them for a reason, because they are all unique, and you can find one or two, or a dozen to suit, where ever you like all over the world. Horsefarm B&Bs, stately historic homes filled with antiques, pet friendly B&Bs, Nautical B&Bs, upscale Lux B&Bs, Rustic B&Bs, B&Bs filled with knickknacks, Romantic B&Bs, Themed B&Bs and B&Bs filled with carefully chosen décor that is clean, sleek and modern. You name it, there is a B&B out there to suit, and if none of them do, then stay in a cold, boring hotel, and or a unregulated unsafe Airbnb, your just not a B&B person and that’s ok ?


I’d just like to counterpoint some things from the article “6 Reasons Why I Will Never Stay at a Bed and Breakfast Again” so that when you are looking for a B&B to stay at, you know what to expect when you stay and book at one.


First “The early bird gets the scones”. B&Bs have set hours for a reason for breakfast, most will be very accommodating if you need to leave early, or miss breakfast, but you do need to try to let them know prior. Innkeepers work pretty much 24/7, when they are done with breakfast, they have to clean up, make beds, clean rooms, take reservations, engage with guests, and all the rest of the million things one has to do to run a business full time, they can’t just sit around in the kitchen all day waiting for stragglers. Running a real B&B bears absolutely no relation to the Newhart TV show.


In the couple of instances, I’ve missed breakfast, (i.e. staying up very late the night before working on a presentation) the innkeepers have gone out of the way to rummage me up some homebaked muffins and fresh fruit. This is more than you would ever get at a restaurant (or a hotel) if you showed up after service was over.


Awkward conversations over breakfast”. B&Bs are all different, some have communal dining tables, some have individual tables within a dining room (how this is terribly different from sitting in a hotel restaurant, aside from B&Bs having much better food and better service etc. is beyond me.) But if sitting at a communal table is not your fancy, find out first, most B&Bs have dining room photos on their websites, and you can always ask. My husband refuses to stay at a B&B with me that has a communal table, because he doesn’t want to socialize, I personally love it. Ask. It’s YOUR vacation.


Where’s my coffee?” I like strong coffee; my favorite is the kind where the spoon can stand up in it. But not everyone does. Every B&B I have ever visited serves a different brand of coffee, and a different strength of brew.


Ok, coffee too strong, or coffee too weak? How about you ask the innkeeper for something else, or another cup of differently brewed coffee. I’ve been in several B&Bs where I considered the coffee a bit on the weak side, but it appeared most of the other guests were sucking it down happily, so I asked nicely and guess what? The innkeepers made me another pot! Perfection! And by the way, many B&Bs have self-service Keurig machines, so you can get your caffeine fix at any time.


The rooms are from another decade”. Now this one is VERY broad generalization of the industry, and quite frankly downright wrong. While some B&Bs are old fashioned and have antiques in every room, and yes, a few do still have doilies, many of them do not. Of the 2 dozen B&Bs I’ve stayed at in the last year, only one would I call a doily inn, and I don’t mean that as a sarcastic or nasty statement. The inn was decorated with 50s chic, and I adored it. It was quaint, it was comfortable, the bed was one of the most comfortable I’ve ever slept in, the pillows were to die for, the rosemary hand soap was so lovely smelling I wanted to eat it, the innkeepers adorable (they were in their early 70s) and the breakfast incredible. I usually prefer more modern B&Bs and many B&Bs are. I stayed in a B&B last month that was luxury defined; soaking tubs, Molton Brown Amenities, Ceccotti furniture, Silk-bamboo bathrobes and truffled eggs for breakfast, and Innkeepers in their mid 40s. Innkeepers run the gamut of ages from 30s to 70s, and their B&Bs run the gamut of tastes and styles. That’s part of the appeal of B&Bs. Uniqueness.


There are few modern amenities” Another VERY broad generalization of the industry. Most B&Bs have TVs and many of them are quite large (but generally tastefully staged), rooms may also include smart phone docks, and other modern electronics, and did I mention WIFI? Most B&Bs have free WIFI, vs hotels where you have to pay through the nose for it, and most times it’s horrible, or an Airbnb where WIFI may be totally nonexistent.


Yes, there are B&Bs with no TVs or small TVs, but some people want to go on vacation and turn technology off, the tiny TVs are there for those that “have” to get their fix. If having cable access is so important to you, that you need to have it on while on vacation in the first place, maybe you need to rethink that just a little, and maybe you should check out the website, look at the room photos and read the descriptions. If you can’t see or read online that they have or have not 100 inch screen TVs, and it’s that important to you, Ask!


The referenced electric fireplace you probably won’t run into in most B&Bs, and if you do and have an issue with it, please save yourself a second bad night of sleep (unlike this lady) and enquire about it with the innkeepers after the first night, instead of bemoaning two nights of it. Or 2 years later……..


They’re overpriced”. Yet another VERY broad generalization of the industry. Yes, there are pricey B&Bs out there, but most are quite affordable for what you get, they are generally cheaper than hotels and while you may say, “stay at an Airbnb, it’s cheaper!” Look carefully at the comparable rates, Airbnb rentals are generally equivalent in price, if not more money than a B&B, when all the costs associated with it add up. Fees to Airbnb, plus base rate, plus most have cleaning fees. So, your $99 per night Airbnb rental gets a $50 dollar per night cleaning fee tacked on, plus the 6% – 12% fee that Airbnb tacks on, that’s a bit more expensive than a local B&B at a $130 per night for example (read the fine print in the Airbnb listing). And B&Bs have things that most Airbnbs do not, they are inspected and insured, and their fire alarms work for example, add delicious homemade gourmet breakfasts (or you can have your Cheerios in an Airbnb). And in case of an accident a real B&B has liability insurance, ask the next Airbnb host you go to if they have it, and consider what would happen to you and your family in case of a fire, or an accident at the rental for example.


I have yet to stay at hotel aside from several very expensive ones that match the amenities that a B&B has to offer, plus I’ve never stayed at a B&B where you get tagged for using the bottled water in a room at $5 a pop, or a bag of M&Ms for $3.50 unlike at a hotel. Instead at a B&B there are usually beverages available all the time, and free homemade cookies as well. I have yet to stay at a hotel where I have ever had a decent breakfast. Chefs don’t work breakfast at a hotel (I’ve worked in a few so I know the skinny), lowly paid line cooks do, so if you want rubbery scrambled eggs, stay at a hotel instead of a B&B. Even the luxury hotel I stayed in last month in Massachusetts had a horrible breakfast, and I had to pay separately for it to boot.


If you want an ideal B&B stay, do a little homework in advance. Look at the website, look at the pictures, read the descriptions, I have yet to see a B&B website that doesn’t state what size bed is in the room. Take a few minutes and go to Tripadvisor, Google and Yelp and read the reviews first. Are there management responses? Check out their social media! If you buy a new car or new stove hopefully you check out the reviews and reliability first before you spend money. If you are going on vacation and you want it to be nice, take a few minutes and do your homework first.


If you have questions that are not answered on the website, Ask! Pick up the phone or send an email.


If you have an issue at the time of your stay, please mention it to the innkeepers at the time, please don’t wait two years to blindside them with the fact you had some issues with your stay (Or you “think” you had some issues with your stay, and perhaps two years later these were a little confabulated? Or perhaps memory has played fast and lose with a few details for the sake of a snarky article?).


The very biggest and most oft repeated complaint I get from innkeepers when I help them figure out how to respond to online reviews properly, is that guests who may have had an issue with something, didn’t mention it at the time of their stay, so it could be corrected or fixed at the time.


I have never stayed at a B&B where I had a small (or even large) problem and I mentioned it to the innkeepers and they didn’t try to fix it right away. If you don’t even try to say something, then don’t assume they just “know”, and don’t assume right off they won’t try to fix it.


B&Bs and their innkeepers pride themselves on service and hospitality. Innkeepers are not hotel front desk clerks who generally don’t care, innkeepers take pride in their B&Bs because it’s their livelihood.


It reminds me of people who used to come eat at my restaurants who would lick the plates clean, tell the waitstaff everything was fine and dandy, “Just lovely!”, and then leave a scathing review about how they didn’t get enough herb butter for their ciabatta rolls, and the salad dressing had way too much garlic in it, so it was almost inedible (funny since they ate it all). Thankfully I only ever had a couple of those, but I feel the innkeepers pain on this point.  If your room is too cold or hot or whatever, mention it, give the innkeepers a chance to at least make it right. While innkeepers are excellent hospitality hosts, I have not yet met any of them that could mind read.


Bed and Breakfasts are unique, they are all different, the innkeepers are all different, it’s one of the pleasures of staying at a B&B, because they are not cookie cutter. (But they always have excellent homemade cookies :).


I prefer staying at a B&B vs a hotel for a million reasons, food and comfort are key, to name a couple of big points. I will never stay at an Airbnb, because I for one am concerned about things like; does the smoke alarm work? What happens if the host’s dog bites me? What happens if I get food poisoning from food they have made me, or food that’s been improperly stored in the house? Am I covered? Is it safe?


Inns and B&Bs are insured and inspected, and that makes additional reasons to stay at them in addition to the great food and hospitality that most B&Bs offer.


Please don’t take one unhappy person’s snark at a B&B she stayed at years ago as a representation of our industry as whole, it’s an opinion article and she had her own opinion, not every B&B is perfect, but the vast majority of B&Bs out there try. Do your home work before you stay, whether it be at a hotel, motel, Airbnb or real B&B, and say something if you have an issue no matter where you stay, while you stay, not after. I challenge you to form your own opinions about the B&B industry, and love it as much as I do.