Reviews as Weapons
I’m the first to admit it. We do very little advertising and rely on word of mouth which includes on-line reviews. Our “market” is very selective. Our happiest guests are those who stay long enough to relax in the beauty of the setting and who think that the value of our constant attention to detail is worth paying a little extra for.
We’ve said it a million times, this is our world and we want to share it with you. It’s not perfect, but it’s very special. When all is said and done, we know that we’re selling a dream…the dream of a relaxing vacation filled with beach time, gardens, art and creative people. We set the stage and promise to give you 100% of our efforts. You need to play your part too, attitude and a sense of humor go a long way towards having a wonderful experience.
Where am I going with this? I want to talk about travel review sites. They are an undeniable factor in how a traveler decides where to stay. We are very grateful when we’ve done well and someone takes time out of their busy lives to write about their experience. Truthfully, we’re more than grateful. Although we’re adult enough to understand that we can’t please all of the people all of the time, we’re just like everybody else…positive feedback makes us feel special and motivates us to do more and share more. We chase after good reviews like gold stars but not at the cost of fairness. We’re keenly aware that in our world, a bad review can make the difference between dozens of new people discovering us each day…there’s no question, we need good reviews in order to prosper. But we’re not going to compromise our integrity to get them.
Three times in the past week I’ve had on-line reviews used as weapons and I need to vent in order to put it behind me and enjoy this goreous week.
The first one: In the Northeast we’ve been living through rolling thunderstorms, seemingly forever ( I’m not being metaphorical here, but…). Last week, in the evening, we had a guest call from Old Orchard Beach, she said they had been on the road for an hour already and had no idea that we were so far when she made the reservation…so I offered to shift her vacation to other dates when she had more time to visit. “No” she said, “we’re coming. This is going to be an adventure!” So we accommodated her late check in and met the next morning. Everything was perfect…she loved the park, loved the goats, her children were ecstatic about the playground…in short…it was worth the long drive. But around 6:00PM she came into the office, phone in hand, and said that she had just received an automated alert of severe weather in the area. She was leaving. We hadn’t heard anything, the air outside was calm and Accuweather on the desktop indicated that Searsport may be in for a bit of rain but that was all. Long story short, she wasn’t convinced; so I called the local emergency management office (in front of her) and asked if they had any warnings…”no, all’s clear…no worries”. Well, she packed up anyway and left angry about not receiving a refund. Two days later this shows up in our e-mail box (I’m paraphrasing): “You falsely advertised that you were in Southern Maine, you falsely advertised that you had sandy beaches and I was deceived. If you don’t refund our money immediately I will be forced to report you to the Better Business Bureau, expose you on Facebook and on blogs.” The hot blooded side of my brain screamed “be my guest” but the calmer side wrote back and asked her exactly where on our site we had lied…I haven’t heard back but I’m waiting for the shoe to drop.
The second one: This morning (July 4th week) a man came into the office and said he had just been called into work and needed to leave early, could he have a refund? I explained the policy of no refunds for early departures and offered to print out a copy so that he could be reimbursed for his loss of a one nights’ stay by his employer. This wasn’t the answer he was hoping for. I explained that we needed to treat all of our guests fairly, with the same policy (Taken from the website, the reservation confirmation and the check in form: “We are sorry, but we are not able to offer refunds in the event of illness, emergency, inclement weather or other circumstances that are beyond our control… For stays over holiday weekends, all site fees must be paid at the time of reservation and are non-refundable”). He walked out telling me that I’d be reading about this soon. When I looked into it further, I found out he had asked the same question at check in when he signed the policy statement three days ago. Yes, I understand that rules are meant to be broken but these aren’t extenuating circumstances.
The third one: Today a new review popped up on Trip Advisor…scathing. You can read it here. I’ll calmly say (because I’ve stewed on it for hours) that this feels like a punch to the stomach. So much doesn’t get said here. Here’s our side of the story, I’ll put the review quotes in italics for clarity: “I (woman writing the review) explained that when booking with Astrid we discussed that we were excited for renting this camper with the slide because we are looking at buying one just like it” We have three rental trailers and had always intended that the Hornet be the trailer that should be on the ocean site for this off-season promotional rate. This family moved in and everyone seemed happy. The next morning when we understood the confusion of her expectations, we switched the trailer out (the same day) while they were exploring the area…the mistake was an honest one and the fix was inconvenient but not difficult. The “scissor jack on the right side of the camper folded and the blocks fell out from under it“… it was a brand new trailer and the jacks broke (not one but two broke)…not something we could predict or prepare for. We’re certainly mortified that it happened but we didn’t make the jacks. We spoke the manufacturer that morning and had new ones shipped the same day; in the meantime the trailer was leveled with blocks.
The electrical issues they write about were caused because THEY moved the fireplace onto the electric lines and water pipes. This wreaked more damage than you want to know about. We called in the power company and a master electrician. The cost of their moving the fireplace: a brand new copper-lined main breaker box and all new wiring and damage to several other coaches that we may be responsible for. It goes on “I (woman writing the review) contacted the Maine Dept. of Safety and spoke with an investigator named Rebecca…I waited to post this review not wanting to tip them off to the inspection” Seriously? Did they really think we’d try to cover something up? Had we given any indication that we were not completely engaged? We brought Central Maine Power onto the site immediately to assess the situation. Even when we’re slow there’s always a dozen coaches plugging in every night…in season there can be more than 100. Electricity isn’t a force that we trifle with and all in the park saw the electrician working by 8 AM.
This post is long so I’ll wind my rant down…We’re not perfect but our intentions are good…we never step away from our responsibilities but the pressure of these public assassinations takes the joy out of life…is there a solution? One of the most indispensable tools in a campground owner’s collection is a sense of humor….we’ll exercise ours and hope that you’ll do the same. Let us be happy and generous; not because we’re afraid of a bad review but simply because we’re glad that you’re here.
OK…it’s out of my system…I’m off to have a marvelous day at the shore…hope that you do to!