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Doing What We Can To Help People

By William May
Published: 11/19/09 Topics: Comments: 0

For a number of years our company has donated vacation rental home use to a wonderful group called OutdoorsForAll.org (Formerly SkiForAll.org). Their mission is to enrich the quality of life for children and adults with disabilities through outdoor recreation.

OFA takes handicapped folks to destinations and into sports they could never imagine otherwise. Blind kids go skiing, the wheelchair bound go biking. The offer horseback riding, hiking, swimming, canoeing, rafting, water skiing and more.

The first time they stayed with us they brought a dozen kids to a ski area. It made us feel good to help, but we were disappointed when the housekeepers found that the beds had not been slept. A bit alarmed we placed a quick phone call to the organization apologizing because we didn't want them to think they could not use the beds.

We were greeted with boisterous laughter. "Oh you don't understand do you?" said the director. "These kids are mostly bed bound so staying in a big bed in a luxurious home is not an adventure." She explained. "But sleeping in a sleeping bag on the floor by a fireplace is a thrilling experience for them. They could hardly sleep." We smiled and felt better.

If you want to make yourself feel great today, click here to make a donation to the Ski For All Organization.

Besides wonderful groups like Outdoors For All, we sometimes have guests that require special assistance.

Recently one such guest complained that we could not provide her with a wheel chair condo during her stay - even though she failed to request one when booking. She complained her condo wasn't actually on the beach, even though it was as close or closer than every other accommodation in town.

Never the less, she went home and THREE MONTHS later demanded a full refund, complained to every agency and media (who bought her trumped up story without corroboration) and then demanded a full refund for the week long vacation she received.

Businesses are often maligned for being callous or uncaring. That is unfortunate because businesses are nothing more than people; people who care about every guest and work diligently to satisfy them.

Our staff and affiliates were crest-fallen when that guest complained. But should they be?

Their actions went beyond the call of duty. Instead of sulking about one person who seemed to be asking for far more than she ordered, they need to focus on the hundreds of thousands who appreciate their lodging, noticed how clean the linens are, appreciate the comfortable furniture, relax at the pools, use the fully furnished kitchens and offer those little compliments everyone needs in life.

We need to judge our own compassion by those who appreciate it, but keep working for those pesky people as well. You know we will.

P.S. A good thing came out of this incident. We sponsored and our not-for-profit trade association - the Vacation Rental Association (www.Vrai.org) formed a donation program where owners can announce their giving to charitable causes. See VacationRentalAngels.com

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P.S. Coming Soon. The VacationRentalAngels.com program sponsored by the Vacation Rental Association. Where owners can announce their donations to charitable causes.

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Author: William May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0128 – 11/19/09

Complaints, Compliments and Compassion

By William May
Published: 11/18/09 Topics: Comments: 0

She wanted to go to the beach. It was to be a special trip with her daughter who had special needs. Larger homes were her preference, but a plain ocean front condo was her budget. She asked for a first floor home and a vendor to provide oxygen.

On the coast of Washington State oceanfront means there is nothing between you and the ocean, except for a hundred yards of sand dunes, dune grass and sometimes scraggly pine trees that reach out to very wide, very flat beaches.

Upon arrival the woman requested a wheelchair unit for her son (not her daughter it seems), a view and easier beach access. The condo was on-grade with no steps of any kind, but she also now wanted a view. The condo faces the ocean but it is not exactly right outside the front door. It is as close to, or closer than every other accommodations in town.

She was offered and selected a different condo to the North. But after moving she complained there were too many pine trees blocking the view and no path to the ocean through the dunes to accommodate the wheelchair.

The next day, she wanted a higher view. After inspecting several condo complexes she selected one to the South but soon that was not to her liking. She then demanded and was upgraded to an ocean front house far north.

Was it enough? Well no, because then the guest insisted she be moved back to the very first condo. The dutiful staff loaded up her things and drove them back. She was offered the option of canceling and receiving a refund but declined. Then every day for the rest of the week she called central reservations office asking for a larger house.

She wanted some owner to donate a bigger home due to her personal situation? A difficult request but a staffer called competitors, asking for donations. He waived his fee to afford something even bigger, but in the summer high season there were no better alternatives.

The guest stayed for the week and upon departing complimented the staff for all their great help.

So it was a big surprise when THREE MONTHS later the guest filed complaints with the government and a TV station claiming that no one took care of her, no one satisfied her needs, no one understood her problems and no one solved them for her. And all it would take to make her feel better is to receive a full refund for her entire stay.

The TV reporter didn't check the facts, didn't ask to speak with the manager, and featured the wrong condos in his report. He didn't care that the guest signed paperwork that specified a condo that was exactly as ordered; that she saw actual photos before booking; or that she got driving directions a week in advance that also showed the photos of the home again.

He didn't care that she had been offered a full refund repeatedly. He didn't care that staff personally carted the woman's belongings from home to home to home to home. He didn't care because he had a deadline and needed to get a story out to please his boss. The facts be damned.

In 1861, Wilbur F. Story, Editor of the Chicago Times said, "It is a newspaper's duty to print the news, and raise hell." Unfortunately today's quasi journalists only remember the raise hell part.

For a number of years the company has been donating vacation rental use to a wonderful group called OutdoorsForAll.org. (Formerly SkiForAll.org). Their mission is to enrich the quality of life for children and adults with disabilities through outdoor recreation.

They take handicapped folks to destinations and into sports they could never imagine otherwise. Blind kids go skiing. The wheelchair bound go biking. They offer horseback riding, hiking, swimming, canoeing, rafting, water skiing and more.

The first time OFA stayed in a vacation rental from the company they brought a dozen kids to a ski area. It made everyone feel good to help, but housekeepers were disappointed found that the beds had not been slept in.

A bit alarmed a quick phone call was made to the organization apologizing because no one wanted them to think they could not use the beds.

The call was greeted with boisterous laughter. "Oh you don't understand do you?"; said the director. "These kids are mostly bed bound so staying in a big bed in a luxurious home is not an adventure," she explained. "sleeping in a sleeping bag on the floor by a fireplace is a thrilling experience for them.

They could hardly sleep." Everyone smiled and felt better.

Businesses are often maligned for being callous or uncaring. A media reporter then telephoned to call the company on the carpet for failing to do enough. The guest filed complaints with the State and the Better Business Bureau.

All of that is unfortunate because businesses are nothing more than people; people who care about every guest and work diligently to satisfy them.

Staff members were crest-fallen when that guest complained. But should they be? Their actions went beyond the call of duty.

Instead of worrying about one person who seemed to be asking for far more than she ordered, and whose needs were impossible to meet, they need to focus on the thousands who appreciate their lodging, notice how clean the linens are, appreciate the comfortable furniture, relax at the pool, use the fully outfitted kitchens and offer those little compliments everyone needs in life.

After a person has done all they can to help others, after they have gone far beyond what is reasonable, they need to have the wisdom to judge their own compassion by those who understand and appreciate it!

P.S. To see a much better explain of philanthropy visit VRAI's VacationRentalAngels.com program where Owners can announce their donations to worthy charities.

Or, go to OutdoorsForAll.org and make a donation to a worthy group. They deserve it.

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Author: William May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0127 – 11/18/09

Everything Robert Fulgham Learned in Kindergarten

By William May
Published: 11/01/09 Topics: Comments: 0

I stumbled onto an Internet posting the other day that told me it has been twenty years since Robert Fulgham wrote "Everything I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten."

That is stunning really because it does, as they say, seem like yesterday. Of course I've read some of his other books and now that I've visited his website (RobertFulgham.com). I see there are others I will have to savor. So should you.

After 22 years as a Unitarian Minister in the Pacific Northwest, Fulgham published that first book and has never looked back. His view of the world is pretty simple or so it seems. As the world accelerates and technology dominates, Fulgham would remind us of the basic, appropriate and mature.

Although his attitude might strike some as youngish or maybe even immature, the stories and ideas he illustrates so well are the basic foundation on which we as humans should strive.

So what would all of this have to do with the somewhat non-universal industry of vacation rentals? Well plenty as it seems. Or maybe I should say it has to do with every business, every career and certainly every calling.


The kindergarten book reminds us all to foster those concepts which are universal in every culture. Things like:

- Don't lie. Always tell the truth.
- Don't hit.
- Treat your parents well.
- Pick up after yourself.
- Say Please and Thank You.

To me it seems like Fulgham’s message might be summed up in the phrase "treat everyone well" or at least try.

I am not sure I have always accomplished that goal but I know I am always aware of it and have always tried. I also know that isn't easy when conflict exists in the world, as it inevitably does. Nor is it easy when others might try to bring you down to their level. An acquaintance who becomes distraught, a customer who is unreasonable or even governmental bureaucrats who steal more and more freedom from Americans.

It would be easy to despise such people but in the end, we have to remember to treat them well also. Even if that respect will not be reciprocated.

VACATION RENTALS & LODGING

So is there anything practical in this blog? Yes I assure you there is. Here are a set of rules for how we conduct our business in hopes that guests, owners and vendors will treat us likewise.

- Be Clear. In advertising, contracts, phone calls, emails.

- Be Fair. It can be difficult to understand unreasonable requests, but we gotta keep trying.

- Be Quick. Get back to people. Take care of problems as fast as possible.

- Be Happy. No job is easy and half the job is simply deciding to go about it with joy.

You can buy Robert Fulgham's Book at Amazon.com.

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Author: William May, MayPartners Advertising
Blog #: 0125 – 11/01/09

Remembering the "Thank You" Game

By William May
Published: 09/01/09 Topics: Comments: 0

Surprises are great. And thank you's are best.

In an industry like property management that requires attention to detail, constant supervision and reconciliation of occasionally conflicting goals between guests and owners it is too easy to forget the little personal things that make life worth living.

Long ago I attended a parent-child basketball camp and had the great luck to meet a man who I now call hero. Having built the largest basketball camp for kids in the United States, Coach's success seems based more on his knowledge and approach to life than on his immense basketball training skills.

At one camp he suggested to everyone they could learn how to be thankful by using his now famous thank-you game. The rules are simple.

You can be in a meeting, watching television or whenever you find yourself in the car with your family, especially on those long boring drives. The games starts by one person mentioning something they are thankful for. Then next person does likewise and so one until everyone has spoken.

The first responses are what you might expect like, "I am thankful for what wonderful children I have." or "I am thankful for having a loving Dad."

These kinds of honesty is not easy for everyone. Some people seldom tell anyone how they feel about things. And complimenting another person directly to their face is a lost art unfortunately.

After each person has spoken you should sneak a peak around the room. Smirking smiles will be breaking out all over the place.

But the game is not over. Because this game goes on until you reach your destination, or everyone is out of ideas. In a car, thank you's may come tumbling out one after another but be separated by pauses and that too is acceptable. Be thankful that there is no hurry. Give everyone sufficient time to dig deeply into their thoughts.

My family once spent over two hours in a car as compliments went round and round. Eventually resulting in "Thankful that the car still has gas" and that "I am sure happy it didn't snow or we would be stuck somewhere."

Does this sound a little mundane? That's OK because the best thank you's come near the end when each person realizes they have so much to be thankful about. My young son once said, "I am thank you for this game because it makes me remember how much I have."

Today I am thankful that the recession wasn't worse that it was. I could say thanks for all the owners and guests who have hung with us as the industry continues rapid change. My thanks for the housekeepers, maintenance people and reservation crew knows no bounds. So many people have been understanding and compassionate and kind. I am very thankful that guest inquiries continue to rise and that our team is in tact and making constant headway.

Of course, not everyone has been pleasant. But maybe that's because no one taught them the thank you game.

So that means this year I have to be thankful because maybe I'll get the opportunity to introduce the game to more people and hope they'll enjoy the great benefits I have received from a kids basketball coach.

Give it a try before the end of the week.

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Author: William May, MayPartners Advertising
Blog #: 0119 – 09/01/09

World's First Vacation Rental Multiple Listing Service (MLS)

By William May
Published: 03/18/09 Topics: Comments: 0

The every increasing cost of advertising on the mammoth impersonal vacation rental listing websites has spawned innovation. On April 6th, the Vacation Rental Association, with the help of Plumbob Publishing is unveiling the first every Multiple Listing Service (MLS) for Vacation Rentals.

The Vacation Rental Multiple Listing Services (VRMLS.org)VRMLS.org allows guests from around the world or around the corner to find short-term vacation rental lodging in their own backyard. "Searching through hundreds of thousands of rentals is a pain," says Salman Arshad, chief programmer on the websites. "We're offering micro sites for specific areas which will actually have far more listings than the big guys, because it is so much more affordable."

This MLS service is, "The only ‘Open-Listing' and 'Open-Distribution' service in the industry," says William May, president of VRA and it is going to make lodging advertising cheaper and easier.

Open Listing means that all industry participants including Owners, Managers and Resort Operators are entitled to list their properties on the MLS. The fee is modest and used primarily for the maintenance of the VRA database.

Website publishers to can then re-publish rentals from the MLS on their own sites as service to guests as well as managers. Publishers too pay a small price and secure a large list of available properties.

After submitting listings, Owners and Managers can then select those publishers on which they want to display their rental offerings. Penny Taylor, co-developer of the website says, "Instead of spending hours submitting a single property to multiple websites, on the VRMLS it is all done with a few clicks."

The first website to utilize this revolutionary concept is (VacationRentals.ws)VacationRentals.ws. The WS stands for Washington State and the site features cabins, condos, homes and villas for rent in the Evergreen State only.

One enthusiastic supporter is Dan Graham, operator of Mount Baker Lodging in Washington State. "I track hundreds of Vacation Rental listing sites and buy a great many ads per year. But this service is going to make it far easier. I wish we had had it years ago."

And the site offers applets that allow non-traditional websites such as local merchants and activity providers to embed listings onto their websites and include only lodging in their immediate area. These same applets can be used by managers and owners for the same purpose.

William May adds, "Paying for advertising is a hurdle to marketing of course, but the expense of labor to publish multiple properties to multiple websites has become overwhelming." We've solved that problem by putting control of vacation rental advertising into the hands of the people who should control it - owners and managers.

"Because we operate Vacation Rentals ourselves in Washington State, we can't wait to place ads on VacationRentals.ws," adds May. "I just wish the site had been created years ago."

What about the mammoth websites that now dominate the industry? "We will be happy to cooperate with them providing they act like good citizens and serve the owners and managers responsibly." says May.

The Vacation Rental Association was originally started by people in the industry as the Vacation Rental Owners Association (VROA.org) but recently changed to VRA. "We just felt there was too much conflict between Owners and Managers," says Taylor. The problem, she says, is that "Folks need to cooperate to better compete with traditional hotel, motel lodging, because they still have the lion's share of the market."

"Starting the VR-MLS is just one step in working together for mutual benefit." adds May.

ABOUT VRA: Membership in the Vacation Rental Association is open to all owners, managers and the vendors who supply them. Guests too can join to participate as consumers. VRA sponsors the Vacation Rental MLS which was created by programmers from Plumbob Publishing. Plumbob was started by the principals of Sunspot Vacation Rentals headquartered in Seattle. For more information contact William May 206-734-4507, or William@Plumbob.comWilliam@Plumbob.com

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Author: William May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0105 – 03/18/09