Author’s Note: This summer we listed the Auberge de Stowe B&B for sale. We’ve been at this for fourteen years, and it’s time for a new challenge. If you or anyone you hate has a notion to be an innkeeper, read the following post first.
1. It’s old, and it wasn’t built with any of your guest’s needs in mind. There’s been absolutely no thought given to making memories for guests that stay here. No contrived themes for the bedrooms, no conveniences like super-deluxe down comforters, no cable or satellite television. If you’re in a wheelchair, forget it: the entry doors are narrow and angled and come at the top of two cement steps with a door that opens out. And the bathrooms in the guest rooms are like closets. French people have difficulties fitting in them. Come to think of it, if you have a gigantic butt you’re also out of luck. You’ll never squeeze through the odd passageways and tight corners. It’s also shaped funky and people sometimes get lost. The wifi is erratic. Cell service is sketchy. In other words, it’s got tons of character.
2. You have to get up early and be nice to people. These are two separate actions that should never be grafted together. Getting up early is easy. I do most of my creative writing in the morning. That’s because most people don’t get up as early as I do, so it’s quiet. But when you throw coffee-mad paying guests into the way, you get a feeling that’s a cross between aggravation and desperation. Being nice to the first people to get up isn’t bad, but after you’ve made your “This is the best place to hike/ski/skinny dip” speech three times without the benefit of a bathroom visit, it gets difficult. #bladderbuster #colonquiver
3. Being a small business person sucks. Everybody wants a piece of you. Charities. The tax man. Your neighbors. Being in business is not about you making money. It’s about other people making money off of you. People on the phone are the worst. The phone rings all day, even after you list the number with the Do Not Call list (which is actually an anagram for “call this number repeatedly”). The phone people use spoofing to hide the number their dialing from. They represent the Benevolent Order of Police and Fire Chiefs, Vacation Getaways Condos, the American Masturbation Society, People for the Ethical Treatment of Tea Party Wingnuts, Save the Whales, Save the Bales, Save the Kale, Greenpeace, Timepiece, Peace on Earth, Earth First, First Nations Scholarship Fund, Clean Up the Bay of Fundy, and my personal favorite, the Shelter for Homeless Hookers. Really. And they all want your money. So you will evolve fun and creative ways of dealing with them, like answering your phone with Mumbai accent and saying, “Hello, my name is Robert, may I speak to your manager or the person in charge of financial decisions?” Which is why being a small business person is so much fun.
4. Toilets. These are the things people pee and poop into, and they’re your responsibility.
5. The road. It brings up people with money (or at least adequate credit scores), but it also brings traffic, noise, and schmucks. Traffic clogs the roads, jamming the intersections. Traffic causes endless fender-benders. Traffic confuses people from Massachusetts and New Jersey at the three-way stop in the village. People from Connecticut and New York seems to have figured this intersection out, but people from Massachusetts and New Jersey are flummoxed by it, and their solution is to drive through the intersection without stopping while yelling, “You should see this stupid intersection!” into their cell phones.
The road brings noise. Huge tractor-trailers shudder when they hit the potholes that pock the road like zits on a teenager’s face. Dump trucks scream through the village and engage their engine brakes, sonically assaulting buildings, cyclists, and pedestrians. Emergency vehicles race up and down the road, sirens wailing. Dogs bark. Crazy women scream. Times Square is quieter.
The road brings schmucks. These are the people who think you owe them something because they haven’t maxed out their credit cards yet. These are the people who throw cigarette butts, diapers, and 16-ounce cans of Bud Light out the window. They also bring up their foul urban and suburban habits with them, like iPads and drugs. I’m going to start standing at the town line with my Schmuck Meter. Every time it goes off, a schmuck will get stopped and turned around. We don’t need the money that bad.
6. Maintenance. See “1. It’s old.” Luckily for prospective buyers, I’ve done just about everything that can be done to this place: new heating systems, new roofs, new decks, new bathrooms, door hinges, GFCI outlets, vacuuming. The problem is that the cycle is coming around again, and I don’t want to be without a chair when the music stops. That’s for the next guy. Let him deal with the next round of updates. My plumbing skills are as good as they’re going to get.
7. Needs vs. Wants. Everybody that stays with you wants something, but needs nothing. Staying at a B&B in Northern Vermont is superfluous. Think of what guests could be doing with their time and money instead of engaging me about how good the coffee is. They could be volunteering to better their own community. They could be reading the classics to folks in hospice. They could be dumping buckets of ice water over their heads. These are the people you will have to deal with daily, but you’ll get to deal with them on your own terms, not your boss’s.
8. A skewed notion of time. Owning an inn means you are busy in the morning, busy in the evening, and busier in the middle of the day, when you’re doing things like fielding phone calls from the Shelter for Homeless Hookers and paying legitimate bills. Also, you can’t properly drink. Check-ins roll in from 4PM to 10PM, prime drinking hours. Many times, I don’t get to have a drink until after 10PM. This seriously impedes your ability to become an alcoholic. And if you’re a pothead, that’s even worse. Since your 420 friends aren’t the primary target demographic, the first whiff of Mary Jane will send lodgers scurrying for the conservative horizon. By the time you’ve checked in the last guest, the only thing you want to do is go to bed–so that you can get up early and be nice to people.
9. Vacations. Fuggedaboutit. For the first five years, you won’t have enough money. You’ll be exhausted, and traveling will be the last thing on your wish list. If you do decide to travel, you can only go on vacation in November and April, when the rest of the world is traveling, so you’ll pay top dollar if you make it out of Dodge. You’ll return from you vacation pissed and poor. And the guests will be waiting with their demands for more bandwidth and toilet paper.
10. Friends. You won’t have any who you don’t already have, or who aren’t innkeepers. And the friends you have now will soon be sloughed away as they fail to comprehend why you would want to be an innkeeper when you could instead be an uptight jackass and earn scads of money and have tons of stuff and take vacations at small B&Bs in Northern Vermont. You’ll be left with a bitter collection of innkeepers who congregate weekly to drown the memories of their harrowing weeks with the beer their guests left behind. And they will be among the finest and best friends you will ever have.
11. Social media. The scourge of modern mankind. Most of you reading this blog will have come from Facebook, and that irony is not lost on me. If not for social media, I’d be writing travel sidebars for women’s magazines (“How To Pee on the Interstate When There Are No Rest Areas”). So I embrace it at arm’s length.
12. Your guests. Your guests will madden and delight you. They will intrigue and bore you. They will piss you off, and they will become your friends. They will come back and you will forget their names. They will all blend together and they will stand out in your mind. They will leave you tips and they will leave dirty diapers and condoms and bloody sheets behind. You will become a human expert. Some of them will become like brothers and sisters, and some of them you will escort out by the scruffs of their necks.
If all that appeals to you, give my realtor a call. We’ll set up a visit, I’ll relieve you of your life’s savings, and you can get on with the business of innkeeping, the noblest venture you’ll ever undertake.
P.S. I know that’s twelve reasons, but I couldn’t stop, and “10 Reasons” sounds better than “12 Reasons.”