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By William May
Published: 11/01/14 Topics: Comments: 0
We are just going to go out and say it, "Our new mobile website for smart phones is by far the most comprehensive, beautiful and functional mobile website ever."
Yes, there are many ways to build mobile websites "But no one has built anything like this" said Salman Arshad of Redstone software.
Redstone Systems, creator of HelpBook.me software for the Inn, Resort & Vacation Rental industries just added this new mobile website capability and has donated use of the system it to the Vacation Rental Industry website.
That means that all the websites which use the Vacation Rental Multiple Listing Service (www.VRMLS.org) also now have very functional mobile versions. You can see the sample at:
While that may not sound earth-shaking it is actually evolutionary - the first efficient, effect and persuasive mobile websites for smart phones.
Redstone started by studying hundreds of mobile websites for Inns, Resorts & Vacation Rental management.
Joseph Romain, Creative Director said "The variety was astounding, as was the lack of features. None of the websites had all the design and foresight necessary to easily book unique properties on a smart phone."
Some websites had nice graphics, some had adequate photos, showed property amenities and maybe a map, but none of them made properties shine, and none made it easy to envision what the guest was getting if they rented that particular property.
"Let's face it, smart phones are a 'very small piece of paper' on which to write a graphic novel so to speak," said William May, project manager. "The other websites look like someone just jumbled things together from scratch without enough forethought."
"So we started from scratch. To figure out how mobiles should work and then do it, rather than copy what others had done"
The Redstone Advisor Board includes many experts in graphics, video and other commercial creative arts. Their input commanded the staff to start with a clear goal, and have every aspect of the website support the mission.
Author: William May, Plumbob Publishing
Blog #: 0379 – 11/01/14
By William May
Published: 10/08/14 Topics: Comments: 0
Who knew? This week is Pet Peeve week and that provides us license to admit that everyone in the Vacation Rental industry has a few - pet peeves.
In fact, if you mill around at an industry conference, read vacation rental blogs, chat with competitors, or belly ache with your co-workers, you have certainly heard plenty of gripes about Guests, Property Owners, and even those giant vacation rental listing websites.
Here are the top 10 Vacation Rental Pet Peeves:
10. Early Arrivals - Guests who show up while the cleaners are still in the house, then want to walk around, use the bathrooms, and generally make a mess.
9. Giant Portals - Those who want to control "Their Guests" until there is a guest or manager problem, and then they proclaim to only be a "listing service". Can you spell hypocrite?
8. No Tippers - Stingy guest's who leave the place is filthy, and of course are the ones who do not tip.
7. Nosey Neighbors - Who stand on their porches ogling all the guests, then call if the "children are making too much noise in the pool" (and at noon, no less.)
6. Missing Bookings - Customers who call in to discuss their booking when they don't have one. Then after arguing vociferously, realize they booked some place else.
5. Undisclosed - After registering 6 guests, those people who bring 16. When caught they say "Well they're only going to be here for a few days. Or, "I didn't really invite them all, they just showed up."
4. Taxes - Rent-By-Owners who don’t pay lodging taxes, screwing up the industry for all of us who do.
3. Scofflaws - Portals who don't cause advertisers to pay lodging taxes.
2. Cities & Counties - Who want to prohibit or regulate vacation rentals out of business, "To protect our communities" even when there has never been a legitimate complaint.
1. The number one Vacation Rental pet peeve is: people who tell you about their pet peeves!
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Send us your vacation rental pet peeves and we'll publish them here.
Author: William May, Plumbob Publishing
Blog #: 0372 – 10/08/14
By William May
Published: 07/20/14 Topics: Comments: 0
Long ago we had these very nice travel aids called maps.
They were printed on paper, folded like origami but you could unfold them to see towns, roads, rivers and other landmarks. Because they showed lots of land -- often a full state - it was always possible to get a general idea of where things were.
From there you could find your way to where you were going, or to find your way to the next state. You could even drive all the way across the US if you wanted. Hey, you could even drive into Canada.
They had these darn Maps in other countries too. Other than a few very remote places, you could unfold the origami and practically drive around the world (if you wanted to swim much of it.)
ALONG CAME TECHNOLOGY
First it was GPS devices that allowed you to know the latitude-longitude coordinates of wherever you were in the world based on signals they received from Global Positioning Satellites. All very high tech stuff. Over time the devices improved and you could find where you were and where you are headed to see a detailed route.
Although GPS was great party conversation, only a small percentage of the popular had one. That increased as car dealers started to install them in vehicles and as the devices improved.
ARE PHONES SMART?
Today, many people have adopted to use of Smart Phones - such as the ubiquitous iPhones, Androids - and are delighted to find that those phones have what they call GPS, but is actually based on the triangulation between multiple mobile phone towers and not on satellites.
They work well except in distant locations where only one tower exists and then they are dead meat.
ARE PEOPLE SMART?
With innovation comes complexity and then comes reliance on technology. Unfortunately some folks take this to mean they can quit thinking smart.
Many lodging operators send out detailed instructions on how to get to their properties, even including Lat-Long coordinates. So with a phone or a GPS devices you can type in the coordinates and your car will practically drive you directly to your destination.
Unfortunately, not everyone gets how this works and they find themselves out in the boondocks with a non-helpful smart phone and without a tightly folded up map for backup.
For help they call the property staff who must always be friendly and helpful, even at 3AM in the morning.
GUEST: Can you help me find the house?
STAFF: Yes. Do you have the written instructions we sent?
STAFF: Do you have a map, or GPS or Smart phone?
GUEST: A Smart Phone but the map is not working out here.
STAFF: May I ask where you are?
GUEST: I don't know.
STAFF: Do you see any recognizable landmarks, a house, a river, a store or anything?
STAFF: Have you passed any landmarks recently?
GUEST: Not that I can remember.
STAFF: Is the land flat or hill?
GUEST: Kind of both.
STAFF: Do you have anyone else with you?
GUEST: Just my 2 year old? And I have my dog.
STAFF: Does the dog have a map?
GUEST: I don't think so. Could you just come find us?
STAFF: Yes, I guess so . . . . may I ask where you are?
You get the idea. Good. Get a map please.
Author: William May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0373 – 07/20/14
By William May
Published: 06/09/14 Topics: Comments: 0
It was over 10 years ago that we first came in contact with the Ski-For-All Foundation.
In the Northwest United States, snow skiing is a rite of winter. Not everyone in the area participates, but the mountains beckon to most of us. In fact, many people are zealous about spending time in the great outdoors and especially in winter.
It is no wonder that some of the most fervent fans got together to share their joy with those least likely to get out.
OUTDOORS FOR ALL:
Using committed volunteers, generous donors and specialized equipment, Ski-For-All helps disabled children and adults to ski and snowboard.
Even the blind can be lead down the mountain at speeds that able bodied non-skiers find frightening, but that finds the sightless skier whooping and laughing at the top of their lungs.
By holding onto a short leash with a sighted skier, and sensing the tension between the two it makes your heart flutter so see how fearless they are.
Who could imagine that even quadriplegics can ski?
It is done by putting the client into a toboggan with four skiers hold tethers affixed to the four corners, the client can speed downhill at an astonishing rate, and everywhere others skiers stop and watch and often cheer.
It takes lots of preparation and time for just one run. But one run is seldom enough for the client. So the volunteers load the toboggan and the client back onto a chair lift to go back to the top. They repeat the journey for as long as the client wants or until the ski area closes (usually the later.)
Knowing of this wonderful organization, we thought it grand to donate use of our vacation rental homes to Ski-For-All and were delighted when they could bring clients to the mountains for over-night trips.
After the first stay, however we received a disappointing phone call. It was the housekeeper who said, "something is wrong, no one slept in the beds."
Embarrassed, I called Ski-For-All and apologized saying "of course it would be absolutely fine for them to sleep in the homes we provided."
The director laughed out loud on the phone. "You don't understand," she said, "these kids spend much of their lives in bed. So sleeping in a sleeping bag, in a cabin on the floor was a thrilling time for them"
"Oh," I said, "I had no idea."
I would like to invite you to donate use of your vacation rental home to charitable groups too. It would be great if you wanted to call Ski-for-All, but in fact your generous donation will be appreciated by any not-for-profit group you can think of.
You'll receive nice thank you of course, but the warm glow of satisfaction will come the minute they book your place. You will be using the riches you possess to help those who need it most.
VACATION RENTAL ANGELS
To recognize the generosity of the wonderful vacation home owners who donate to worthy charities, the Vacation Rental Association (Vrai.org) has formed a "Vacation Rental Angels" program on which their properties can be advertised. Its all for free and our small way of saying thank you. (VacationRentalAngels.com)
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Over time the Foundation has increased its programs to include hiking, biking kayaking, canoeing, yoga and even rock climbing. The newly christened "Outdoors-For-All" is the same great bunch of people now spreading its love of the outdoors to an ever wider circle of people who long to get out and enjoy the environment. (OutdoorsForAll.org)
Author: William May, Plumbob Publishing
Blog #: 0377 – 06/09/14
By William May
Published: 04/08/14 Topics: Comments: 0
On a Saturday, March 22, 2014, the small community of Oso, Washington State was covered 8 to 20 feet deep with dirt and debris after a massive hillside above the area cut lose and thundered down upon houses, cars and residents.
Reports were daunting for rescue personnel first on the scene. The viscous nature of the earth turned it to black oozing mud making it almost impassible on foot.
Highway 530 which ran along the river at the bottom of the hill was lost in the muck which actually flowed across the Stillaguamish River blocking its flow. The Corp of Engineers are working diligently to re-open the channel and prevent down river flooding.
Shortly after the catastrophe a number of people were rescued and sent to area hospitals with varying degrees of injuries. Since, then the search has escalated to as many as 800 rescuers and volunteers.
As news of the slide began appearing, there were many news reports of un-authorized volunteers sneaking into the dangerous and muddy slide areas attempting to find and rescue survivors.
Due to the extreme danger in the area, at first authorities were intercepting these volunteers, threatening them with arrest and even, in a few cases, detaining determined volunteers.
Then in a Seattle Times Newspaper article on March 26, 2014 the authorities made a surprising about-face. After reconsidering the situation they decided to authorize many of those same unofficial volunteers when they learned how capable those unofficial volunteers were.
"Right off the bat they should have had every one of the loggers here in there," said Forrest Thompson 18 years of age who works for logging companies in town. "Climbing across logs and mud all day is what I do for a living."
Crisis situations crystalize the thinking of those involved. Survivors will never forget the experience and first-responders may suffer delayed stress. It is safe to say that no one who lives in the area will drive the road again without reliving where they were a the time.
Watching the rescuer's work 24/7 and without pay and sometimes without acknowledgment should make us all wonder what we are capable of. And maybe, just like Forrest Thompson, it’s a good time to ask just exactly what it is we do for a living.
If you are not familiar with what a logger does in the woods, Thompson's quote of "Climbing across logs and mud all day is what I do for a living" pretty much sums a very difficult job.
The areas they work in are not the nicely treed backyards or parks most of us think of. They are steep and dangerous mountain terrain that has often never been cut before. Danger is everywhere.
Can you imagine the physical and mental strength it takes to arise at 4 AM in the dark every morning, ride in a bus 2 hours, arrive at the work site where it is unbearably cold in winter and torturously hot in summer?
Could you trudge through mud all day jumping over logs sometime taller than yourself all while dragging heavy metal cables behind you? And after 8-10 hours of brutal work, you get to ride 2 hours home, collapse into bed only to get up the next morning at 4 AM to start again.
While silicone valley gets the press, and corporate workers get the perks it is loggers and hundreds of professions like them who actually make America work. It is refreshing to see even that small quote in the Seattle Times acknowledge that at least these people know exactly what it is they do for a living.
If you are a lawyer sitting at a desk are you an attorney, or do you help people right wrongs?
If you serve food in a restaurant are you a waiter or are you trying to make people happy?
If you work in a bank, are you counting money or protecting it for your customers?
To what extent would you go to perform you job? Could you call it - as young Thompson - "just what I do for a living?"
Luckily, most of us will never come face to face with situations as dire as those in Oso. But now is a good time to think ahead, decide what you would do in such situations and realize that in your own world, in your own job there is more you can do and people you can serve.
Thompson said that he has already marked several dead bodies and dug out at least one that authorities had extracted from the scene. He had also recovered family photo albums, jewelry and sentimental possessions from the debris.
A State Patrol spokesman acknowledged Tuesday that these area residents were well-equipped to aid in the effort because of their work in the local logging industry. Several used their dump trucks, tractors, trailers and other equipment to get through wreckage. "Frankly, their experience is highly valued."
Author: William May, MayPartners Advertising
Blog #: 0361 – 04/08/14
By William May
Published: 03/15/14 Topics: Comments: 0
Ron and Cheryl are successful. He a physician. She a professor. They found their dream second home, spent money outfitting it perfectly, and looked forward to fun and profit.
Cut Out the Middle Man
Renting the house seemed like a good idea. It was only three hours from home and they found a book explaining how easy it would be. Find a reliable housekeeper, throw up a website, buy some ads, and renters will be pushing money at you! Ron and Cheryl decided to cut out the middle man to show everyone how smart they were.
#1 Websites are Easy
Cheryl used a do-it-yourself website company to build a website. It didn’t have maps, rates or online booking but it was cheap. Cheryl spent every night for a week getting it to work.
#2 Digital Photos Are Easy
Being a camera buff, Ron thought his photos looked good; until his grade school grandson asked, "Why are they so dark?" So he hired a professional photographer for hundreds more.
#3 Advertising is Easy
Cheryl placed ads on a big vacation rental listing website for just $329; but no one inquired. She bought others, spending hours every night posting new ads. After spending $1,500 in advertising she got her first inquiry - for a $500 booking.
#4 Guests Will Come Flocking In
In time, Cheryl started getting a few inquiries; but each wanted an hour of her time. She tired of recommending restaurants; and getting low-ball rental offers. People were rude. In the end, she figured she was earning $4 an hour.
#4 People Will Prefer My Place
Ron and Cheryl's house is gorgeous. Unfortunately three bigger houses in the neighborhood siphoned off their best leads. Ron cut his rates to compete. The competition cut theirs.
He pleaded "my place was better", but guests wanted it for half-price. He lost order after order.
#5 Friends Will Rent It
Ron posted flyers around the hospital and handed out cards at his club. Friends were happy to come but could not understand why good old Ron would charge them for staying.
#6 Housekeepers Are Everywhere
Cheryl figured she could find someone cheap to clean her place. But the first cleaners left the place dirty. She had to hire a cleaning company - at high prices. But whoops they don’t work weekends!
On the third reservation, the housekeepers didn’t show up at all. So Cheryl jumped in the car, drove three hours, and worked her fingers to the bone, only to have the guests scream because the place wasn’t ready on time.
The Guests demanded a big refund. It happened twice in the first six months.
Cheryl was embarrassed. She and Ron were losing money.
#7 Get a Cheap Handyman.
Everybody "knows somebody who knows somebody" who is a retired carpenter just dying to earn your $10 per hour, handle late night calls, and always shows up on time.
Ron found one who took the job but never answered his phone again. Ron realized this on a Saturday night and had to drive a six hour round trip to flip a fuse.
#8 Staff to handle problems.
Ron figured a well maintained home won’t have any problems. However it seemed that every other guest found a sink dripping or a lock sticking. The first year, Cheryl refunded $1,700 to guests when Ron couldn’t fix things fast.
#9 Guests will follow the rules
Ron was on site the day the first visitors arrived - but with two dogs. Ron demanded they leave.
The guests demanded their $2,000 back - in cash. He paid. It was too late to find replacement guests. Chalk it up to another loss for the "sure-thing" vacation rental.
#10 Nothing Will Go Wrong
The last guests drank and sang till the wee hours. Neighbors called demanding quiet. Ron apologized. The neighbor called the cops.
The next morning, the guests departed early and demanded a full refund because the neighbors harassed them.
Vacation Rental Math
For part-time amateurs, self-managing a Vacation Rental is a recipe for disaster. Ron thought the profit would be higher by doing the work themselves.
Cheryl would cut corners and cut out the middle man. What they forgot was there is no way to cut out the work.
Only a few mistakes caused their income to plummet. Adding their own time to the equation meant they were running in the red.
Cheryl began to hate the house. Ron began to hate guests. Being absentee landlords was creating a money pit. They were in over their heads.
Finding a Professional
A friend recommended a local vacation rental manager who agreed to provide a turn-key service for a reasonable commission.
He knew where to advertise and where not to. He pumped money into the marketing, answered the phone 24 hours a day, had reliable housekeepers, and was on call 24/7. Bookings rose, problems disappeared.
Ron and Cheryl are vocal advocates for owning a second home, but not of being hobby landlords.
They make more money, have no hassles, and enjoy the house when they use it. Best of all Ron and Cheryl are proud of their home and the customer service guests receive.
Now they can smile when thinking of their dream home.
Author: William May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0359 – 03/15/14
By Wm. May
Published: 01/28/14 Topics: Property Management, Vacation Rental Association, Vacation Rentals, WAVRMA Comments: 0
Servers at restaurants, both fancy and plain, demand tips. The valet who parks your car puts his hand out. Even your neighborhood Starbucks barista wants money for making up your fancy café mocha, skinny, double cup, with foam.
In Lodging many guests simply do not know they need to tip those hard working housekeepers who slip in and out of their rooms while they sit comfortably in the dining room, paying too much for dinner, and giving the smiling cheerful waiter a big tip for being so attentive.
Recent anecdotal responses indicate that tipping in Vacation Rentals occurs less often in hotels. That is a disrespectful situation that must change.
Industry research consistently points to lack of cleanliness as the most common complaint of travelers. Everyone wants a good clean place to stay. But some guests are even reluctant to stay in a vacation rental for fear it is not sparkling clean.
It is time to prove them wrong.
Those who clean bathrooms, scrub kitchens and scour barbecues deserve the highest respect not the lowest. It is hard work and under appreciated.
By comparison, being a corporate executive is a piece of cake. Those big wigs must even "Carve out" time everyday to go to the gym for the workout they do not get at work.
Housekeepers don't need a trip to the gym. They get down on hands and knees scrubbing floors, they climb ladders to clean or change light bulbs and they tote tons of trash out of homes.
Rent By Owners
Vacation rental rent-by-owners complain they can not find housekeepers, or good ones, can't keep them, or lose them often with little notice. That is because amateur owners base their hiring and retention methods on personal observations instead of empirical knowledge.
There are secrets to finding and keeping most any kind of employee, but they are especially clear and unavoidable for housekeepers and other workers who do societies dirty work.
Some vacation rental managers make the same complaints, but often they are new to the industry or have an over-blown sense of their own importance, while avoiding the hard work of personally cleaning homes.
Walking a mile in a housekeepers shoes is the only way to understand how difficult and deadline driven the work can be, and why those housekeeper shoes are often worn and tattered.
Luckily, most vacation rental managers eventually discover the secrets to finding and keeping the kind of loyal, industrious and committed workers who are willing to clean toilets and do other unglamorous work.
10 Iron Clad Rules
To find and keep top-quality people, who serve your guests well and do so with a smile on their faces it is necessary to follow some iron-clad rules.
PAY - Stop scrimping and pay people well. Pay them based on the hours cleans take and not on your budget, which is often far too little, and seldom accounts for differences in how guests leave a home.
SCHEDULING - Arrange cleaning dates as far in advance as possible. Provide online tools so workers can see where they are to be and when. Adjust schedules to accommodate second jobs, day-care, etc.
FULL TIME - Don't hire more people than you need. There will be employees who prefer part-time work but most want to get a full week's pay or close to it.
WEEKLY PAY - Pay your staff weekly, do it direct-deposit and never miss a payroll deadline, even by a few minutes. Everyone needs to get paid. They have bills to pay.
TIPS - Put out cute and subtle time envelopes, signed by the cleaner that just so happen to mention tipping. Guest actually like to reward those who serve them. Unlike restaurants, lodging guests need a reminder. This can increase pay 24 to 30% making housekeepers beam.
STANDARDS - Write clear concise cleaning "Hospitality" standards. Do not demand "Hospital" standards because they are not necessary or economically feasible. If you don't know the difference, someone else in your organization needs to be the inspector.
TRAINING - Require even experienced housekeepers to work along side current staff to learn the ropes of each home. Use checklists. Train, re-train and train again. Inspect work. Provide pleasant feedback.
HONESTY - Only hold housekeepers to a standard you could attain. To prove it - clean multiple houses in one day, and invite the housekeepers to inspect your work. Then do it for a week.
BE KIND - Cleaning small simple hotel rooms is far easier than scrubbing large personal homes that can have owner possessions, far more furniture and utensils and even peculiar outfitting.
RESPECT - Every housekeeper must be treated with the utmost respect. Never raise your voice. Never complain, Never insinuate.
This is the most often violated rule, but the most important one. Never fall victim to your feeling of superiority.
BONUS TIP - Believe every word housekeepers tell you. If a home needs deep cleaning - believe them, If a house needs extra cleaning after an owner says they cleaned it - believe them. If the vacuum cleaner needs to be replaced - believe them
Anything less disrespects the challenging labor to they do for you so reliably.
Not all new hires will be good housekeepers. Not all will achieve hospitality standards. Not all will remain employees for years to come. But converting your thinking to these iron clad rules will insure you achieve the following:
- High Quality Hospitality Cleaning.
- Happy guests and property owners.
- Respect from wonderful housekeepers
- Personal satisfaction in knowing you treated people well.
Author: Wm. May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0338 – 01/28/14
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DETAILS: We work to keep this information up to date, but details do change from time to time based on circumstances, often on short notice, and sometimes beyond our control. To verify any answer or other information you may need, please call or email us anytime. Allow a reasonable amount of time for response. Only legitimate inquiries will be answered.