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Bud Nipping 2 comments

I spent New Year’s weekend with dear friends in Ottawa. For the first time ever, I left my vacation rental, the upper floor of my house, in the hands of complete strangers.

What could go wrong? (She asked with trepidation.)

In fact, some things did go wrong but not nearly as wrong as they could have. There was no significant damage, a few small items went missing, and the cleaning of the unit wasn’t up to a “rentable” standard. Renters are asked to return the unit to the state in which they found it. A few rules were broken (i.e. no fireworks) and they left behind a HUGE amount of garbage. At least most of it was in bags.

After a few emails back and forth, I settled on returning only half their deposit money and using the balance to hire my local and reliable cleaners to put the place to rights. This is, in fact, the purpose of the deposit system.

Here are some takeaways I’ve arrived at from this episode.

a) Emotional response: I just couldn’t confront the relatively minor mess inside, and the bigger mess on the deck. I felt affronted that people wouldn’t read the departure checklist and take an hour to do some simple things like strip the beds and run the vacuum around. I managed to get the deck in shape myself, after animals had investigated the three bags of food garbage left out there. But without help, I simply wouldn’t have gotten to the inside clean-up. It wasn’t a time thing or an “I’m too good to clean” thing. I was offended.

Some of my renters, the ones who are crossing over into friend turf now, asked me over beverages at the firepit last summer if I felt “invaded” by people in my space. I really don’t. It actually pleases me to hear laughter and conversation upstairs, and to see people at the waterfront enjoying themselves. The vast majority of people have been pleasant, respectful and really great to have around. The rental unit itself no longer feels like “my space”.

But, clearly, I feel like I’ve been kicked when I inspect afterwards and find myself underwhelmed with the care taken of the space after I’ve carefully prepared it for the comfort and ease of the guests.

b) It wouldn’t have mattered if I was home. The only thing I might have been able to catch if I were home would have been the fireworks going off. Unless I’m specifically asked, I don’t inspect the place with the renters standing there. On one or two occasions, some groups have asked me to complete the inspection so they could be assured that they would be getting their deposit back. Fair enough. But if I’d been home, I don’t think the outcome of this rental episode would have been materially different.

c) Don’t go there. My reliable cleaners, bless them, are good people who have not much experience beyond the local area. They asked me after cleaning if the renters had been “foreign”. Not thinking, I said yes, and named the country of origin of this rental group. This caused one of the cleaners to launch into a monologue about people from elsewhere.

The speed with which this exchange went from friendly chat to political diatribe was mind-boggling and I stupidly didn’t see it coming. At least I was quick enough to nip the monologue in the bud to point out that the origin of the rental group was not the problem. Maturity, adherence to rules, possibly lack of on-site supervision (they could get away with it), and just plain ol’ “did your mother let you leave your room like that?” … and don’t tell me that there are not home-grown Canadian travellers who have trashed hotel rooms, pensions, and bed/breakfast rooms. Bollocks.

This is the stuff we’ve got to nip in the bud – the finger-pointing and blaming anything we don’t like about a person’s behaviour on that person’s “otherness”. This always defies logic. Hearing it and confronting it is more important now than ever before. Please, if you are reading this, join me in not letting this stuff fester in our conversations because this is how such monochromatic beliefs are formed and reinforced.

Don’t let them get away with it.

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