Bill's Bountiful Blog

May I keep you posted on my thoughts, ideas, observations, and silliness?. Am I serious? Is it relevant?. Does anyone care? Probably not much.

But in today's age of everyone has something to say, why not me? And who can blame me for jumping into to the pool? For speaking up For laying it out?

"Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one." - Thomas Wiley, Journalist

Cell Phone Photos Are Not Just Fine

By William May
Published: 06/01/15 Topics: Comments: 0

I do not want to argue and nit pick but sometimes advertising people just say silly thinks.

Recently while uploading some of our fabulously large, High Dynamic Range Photos (all converted to Progressive PDF's for loading speed, while retaining quality, to a very large vacation rental listing website a little box popped up that I must take exception with.

It said "Include a few well-lit photos."

OK I do not have a super big problem with that statement but they should also disclose that using only a few photos will cut rental inquiries dramatically. And not including enough photos is equally disastrous. I am sure the techies have the stats and know better.

But then the little box read "Cell phone photos are just fine."

Really? A cell phone photo?

If they meant "just fine" as in "not completely terrible" well maybe that is OK. Surely the websites is trying to get every possible paying property owner to use their service and asking amateurs to create and upload superb photos would result in less listings and lower income for the website publisher..

I get their logic, but I question their desire to help managers get the very best sales results.

On the other hand, these technical website folks need to spill the beans about cell phone photos.

A few folks can coax an adequately good snap-shot out of a phone. Some mobile devices have rudimentary HDR which can help. But most folks take truly lousy photos. (Check out your grant Grandma's photos of your sisters wedding. Your sister will never live those down.)

What the giant websites should tell their customers - in all candor - is that managers should find and spend money on a professional photographer who has mastered the art of using HDR for interior photos.

That will make the manager far more money than it costs.

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Author: William May, Signatour Photo Team
Blog #: 0405 – 06/01/15

Creepy Vacation Rental Videos

By Wm. May
Published: 05/27/15 Topics: Marketing, Vacation Rentals, Videos Comments: 0

Recently, a number of websites - including some Vacation Rental portals - have begun using videos as a kind of background image that depict people using vacation rental homes.

Maybe you have seen them. Often they are mundane and slow moving but even the slight movement attracts attention.

There is no sound, and no titles and they are seemingly used mostly as a graphic element - to indicate that staying in the home is comfortable and desirable.

Unfortunately, they do the opposite because no one realized the implications that make the videos creepy.

  • One depicts a young woman asleep in a disheveled room as she wakes up.

  • Another shows a dad and daughter playing on the top bunk of a bed.

  • Another shows a couple of men making breakfast, in a none too attractive tiny kitchen.

All of these feel like they were video taped by a peeping tom when the people were not looking. Viewing them should make you feel uncomfortable.

So who thought this was a good idea? Maybe a peeping tom or voyeur?

The videos are often grainy, or perhaps faded which inadvertently indicates the videos were shot a non-professional camera. That too implies they were taken without the subjects approval. Even more creepy.

By comparison, some videos are exterior long shots of the ocean with boats moving, or waterfalls falling, some have people far in the background.

Those videos are more reassuring because they were clearly taken in a public space and not of some one in a private bedroom in their jammies. The subtleties between various videos is the difference between acceptable and creepy.

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Author: Wm. May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0398 – 05/27/15

Drones Will One Day Be Old News

By William May
Published: 05/01/15 Topics: Hotels, Photography Comments: 0

At a recent meeting of hotel operators the questions were all about drone photography.

Signatour Photo Team Experts were there to display dramatic " Before And After" photos showing how bad lodging properties can look online and how attractive they become when properly shot in the HDR photo technique.

But every admiring hotelier also wanted to know how to get an aerial photo shot of their hotel from a drone. is going to delivery packages with them. Hobbyists are sending drones into their neighbors yards and they are regularly featured on the news.

Of course, shooting an aerial, or a series of them, can be helpful in showing guests exactly where they may be staying. We are happy to provide that services to our clients.

But soon, every lodging property will have aerials and then property managers will need to find a new and better way to attract guests.

Good news - that ability already exists and it is called High Dynamic Range.

To clarify, HDR is not the HD as is common in High Definition television and computer monitors. Read our white paper: HDR is not the HD

Some hoteliers had regrets when seeing the Before and After photos that Signatour creates using proprietary High Dynamic Range HDR) techniques.

Said one, "Damn, I just paid a photo vendor, recommended by my Franchisor, a bunch of money for what are junk compared to yours."

More good news - Signatour guarantees our photos will impress and even stun you with their accuracy and vibrancy, or your money back.

Frankly it is an easy guarantee to make because we have spent a decade perfecting our Perfect Touch product. No one can match it. And we will throw in the drone shots too.

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Author: William May, Signatour Photo Team
Blog #: 0395 – 05/01/15

Sponsor: Signatours Photo Team – Our Perfect Touch photos use High Dynamic Range (HDR) To create the most accurate and compelling photos every devised for architectur, hospitality and loding properties. Affordable Too. Just call 866-765-7520 today. Get more bookings tomorrow. –

Velella Velella Attack Ocean Shores

By William May
Published: 04/15/15 Topics: Ocean Shores WA Comments: 0

Velella Velella Attack Ocean Shores Washington State

With the unseasonably warm weather, people are not the only creatures trekking to Ocean Shores Washington.

The aptly named Velella Velella jelly fish have been washing up by the millions on West Coast Beaches.

"They do look messy," said Jackie Martin, a property manager at By the Sea Vacation Rentals, "The last time we saw these was six years ago and they washed away fairly closely."

The warmer temperatures causes the creatures to migrate closer to the land and in the millions. When the wind blows in a certain direction, the jelly fish are blown off course and up onto the beach.

As small cnidarians, Velella Velella are members of a an ocean surface community that includes the better-known cnidarian siphonophore, the Portuguese man o' war. Each individual is about 7 cm long, usually deep blue in color with a small stiff sail that catches the wind and propels them on the surface of the sea.

Velella Velella are carnivorous little guys, catching plankton in their tentacles that hand down in the water They are not poisonous, and they do not have a sting.

Says Martin, "They can be handled with out any problem, but people should wash their hands after touching them."

The wind and high tides may wash them right off the beach, or they could be in evidence for months all the way into summer.

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Author: William May, Plumbob Publishing
Blog #: 0393 – 04/15/15

How to Choose a Vacation Rental Photographer

By William May
Published: 03/01/15 Topics: Photography Comments: 0

Exciting indeed is the increase in lodging consultants and experts who put great photos at the top of the list for improved bookings.

Guests give websites but a few scant seconds to decide if it's professional, if it has what they need, and whether they are willing to look further. In two seconds, most people can read only a few words but a glance at a photo reveals dozens of thoughts and conveys quality, emotion, and content.

So why do those who tout themselves as experts constantly talk about the need to hire a professional photographers but then recommend vendors whose work is not up to modern standards?

An easy comparison of various vacation rental photographers will reveal the obvious differences. To help illustrate the differences, here are questions to answer when considering a photographer for an Inn, Resort, Hotel, or Vacation Rental Home.

Education - Digital cameras are great but it is not easy to use every bell and whistle to create accurate, stunning photos. If your photographer did not get a professional education then they won't know how to do everything they should.

Self Taught - Teaching yourself to shoot photos is fine, but unless you have 40+ hours (per week) to devote to the craft and for many years, you can't keep up on technology.

Flash Lighting - If your photographer uses a flash attachment to shoot your homes, they are shooting incorrectly. With today's technology, all photos should be done using High Dynamic Range techniques. Because HDR relies on multiple shots and accounts for each pixel at different exposures, a flash should never be needed.

Raw format - All great HDR photos must be shown using a camera's raw format because it is the most densely packed number of pixels. With more pixels, color correction, toning, and sharpening have the best chance for establishing accuracy. Any photographer who does not shoot in RAW, is not up on technology.

License - Sometimes you can get a better deal on prices if you only need the photos for limited use. For example, if you put them on your website but not elsewhere the price maybe lower. If you want all internet rights, usually a bit higher. And if you want exclusive rights, even denying the photographer the right to display them on his portfolio website; that can get trickier.

Travel - If your photographer is local he is less likely to be at the top of his game. Great photographers are in demand which means they usually travel from destination to destination. That is because they are in demand.

Time - Hiring someone who is instantly available should make you wonder why they are always available. Sure you might get lucky to fit in a shoot between your photographers other sessions.

Speed - Anyone who can shoot your property one day and have dozens of quality HDR photos to you the next, is fooling you. Retouching photos and creating HDR masterpieces takes time and talent. A photographer who needs some time to complete work is more likely to produce excellent products.

Weather - Even interior photos look better if shot on a blue-sky, bright sun day. If your photographer can set a date days in advance and stick to them when the weather is bad, they are taking advantage of you. The schedule must slide if the sun "don't shine."

Cost - If the cost for shooting is anything under $500 for a condo, $750 for a house, or $2,000 for a complex then they are only shooting and not processing.

Great photo sessions and images can cost much more depending on the size, type, and location of the property.

Barter - If your photographer is willing to do all the work of shooting and processing great photos for the privilege of staying at your home when he does it, he isn't a professional. Sure everyone loves to go on vacation but a great travel photographer has more free stays than he can stomach.

Expert - Not everyone who says they are an expert is one. Great photographers are found by looking for great photographs. No sales pitch or self-professed expertise can make up for a lack of quality.


Now that you are ready to talk with photographers, get prices, and look at their portfolios; here is how to go about picking the very best one:

Big Screen - Be sure to look at each photographers portfolio using a very big computer screen. Not all guests have large monitors but many do. The larger screen will show you photos that are not sharp or explicitly in focus. If a photographers shots are not super clean, scratch them off your list.

Portfolio - Lastly, open a web browser, simultaneously pull up each photographer's website portfolio, and then switch back and forth. Great HDR photographs should stand out.

The difference between them and conventional (even professional) photos will be stunning.

Save your pennies until you have enough to hire an HDR expert photographer. The expenditure will pay off quickly and repeatedly with greater bookings and more occupancy. You'll make more money by spending the relatively small cost of finding a truly qualified lodging photographer.

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Author: William May, Signatour Photo Team
Blog #: 0008 – 03/01/15

Sponsor: Signatours Photo Team – Perfecting how to shoot and process accurate compelling architectural photography for Inns, Resorts, Hotels and Vacation Rentals. Our Perfect-Touch program requires technical education, years of experience and the artistic skill that most profession photographers can not match. –

Talk Talk Talk Talk Talk

By William May
Published: 01/23/15 Topics: Communications, Football, Sports Comments: 1

Although the Seahawks football team have been the talk of our home town Seattle (as well as the whole country), I have noticed some very peculiar behavior.

When our surprisingly competent quarter back, Russell Wilson, comes to the line of scrimmage, it is not unusual to see him start the count that signals for the play to begin.

Frequently he turns his head left or right and barks commands to the team, or to individual players. Sometimes he steps back and commands the running backs. Sometimes he taps them on the arm or he puts his hands to his mouth megaphone style to alert the wide receivers.

He is alerting them that something has changed in the 5 seconds it took them to leave the huddle (where he had called the play) and jog to the line. He sees a defense he doesn't like, or notices an opponent not aligning as anticipated. .

He must believe his players do not see what he sees, or know what he knows. That makes it his job to communicate with them. So he talks, talks, talks, talks and talks some more.

He does all of that because a failed play can send very mean and very big 300 pound opponents crashing in on top of him, throwing him violently to the ground and destroying the play. He has great motivation to communicate with his fellow players.

Most of us do not risk physical pain when we fail to communicate. But using constant communication to do our jobs, and be successful is just as important. It is not an option, it is a requirement.

Do it in person, do it on the phone and, for less urgent matters, use email or snail mail. Then check back to make sure the other person received your message.

If you fail to talk talk talk, you won't get tackled but you will be letting your team mates down.

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Author: William May – Seahawks Fan, Signatour Photo Team
Blog #: 0002 – 01/23/15

Christmas Trees Endanger the World

By William May
Published: 01/17/15 Topics: Government Comments: 0

Christmas Trees Endanger the World

The latest target of political extremists is the lowly Christmas Trees. They have pronounced that live- fresh versions are terribly dangerous when located in public places, like hotels, condo buildings, restaurants and even correction facilities (double speak for jails.)

This is really just another form of hate crime - where one group of people decide to punish and impugn the people they hate who behave differently than them.

Here is the pitch from Honolulu Fire Dept. Battalion chief Terry Seelig found on KHON TV website in Hawaii:

"Our goal is to help them understand what their options are," proclaims Seelig. Inherent in his hubris is that he and fire chiefs know what is best for everyone, even those who want to have a Christmas tree.

In faux generosity he is wiling to allow that those under his thumb, "can have limited amounts of cut vegetation."

Why must he create strange new terms and then explain them to the public like they are children? It is just his method of demeaning the people he serves.

And if you think politico speak is rare, get this one from Seelig, "They are going to probably have some change remorse." Really? Change remorse? Why can't he just admit, 'this is really going to peeve people but I just really don’t care what anyone things who thinks differently than me?'

No one should be surprised by this latest government official land grab. Big brother has an insatiable appetite to gain mind control citizens in every possible way, and to do it with inane laws and regulations.

The hypocrisy is proven by the fact that he is willing to grant some dispensation to the lowly serfs by saying that people "can have trees in their individual apartments." So if a tree is not dangerous in a private home why is it not safe in a restaurant?

This is not a rant about the political left or the right, but about a much more dangerous group - government thugs who feel they have nothing better to do with their time than to find a single complaint and decided that 300 million people should adjust their lives to conform to the mathematically unlikely scenario that a Christmas Tree will burst into flames and be dangerous.

For more insight into crazy thinking and stupid laws, be sure to read, "The Death of Commons Sense" available on

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Author: William May – Anti-Scrooge Advocate, Plumbob Publishing
Blog #: 0388 – 01/17/15

HDR Photography is not HD

By William May
Published: 01/01/15 Topics: Comments: 0

Do not be mislead. Do not be deceived.

The term "High Definition" may apply to your television or computer screen but "High Dynamic Range" photography is a different breed of animal.

HD and HDR are entirely different things and they are what Signatour Photo Team does exclusively.

HDR refers to a technological process so powerful and so compelling that it has been patented by Adobe software. Almost anyone can use HDR. In fact a rudimentary version is built into Apple’s iPhone 5.

Only one in every ten thousand amateur photographers (one in a thousand professionals) can master HDR to become truly capable of using it for dazzling accurate photos.


HDR has many uses but the Signatour Photo Team goal is very simple.

HDR is the advanced tool used to produce architectural photographs that actually reproduce what the human eye sees. You may get tired of hearing the phrase, but that simple capability is essential to making your photos accurate and proper.

Even the world's best SLR (Single Lens Reflex) camera requires the photograph to pick an aperture and an exposure time.

For example, for Aperture most SLR cameras have a standard seven "F Stops" that can be chosen, but one must be chosen to take a photo. F-Stops represent the amount of light entering the lens, with digital cameras, the amount of light arriving at the sensor.

Further, aperture values are not absolute measurements. They are relative requiring the photographer to divide the aperture's diameter by the focal length of the lens.

For example, a 50mm diameter aperture on a lens with a focal length of 200mm would have an f-stop of 1/4 - generally written as F4 or 1:4.

Prior to digital cameras, photographers had to spend hour upon hour using special hidden lights to overcompensate for dark areas inside a room, or screen away light form outside.

Very expensive magazines have been doing this for decades but it requires a bunch of workers, toiling together for days to get a single accurate photo.


On the other hand, the wondrous human eye can adjust all F-Stops on it's own lens and judge focal length at the blink of an eye (actually much faster than that.) So as you switch your glaze from a dark interior space to a bright outside window, then back to another interior dark space, your eyes sees it all perfectly. Automatically.

Surprisingly, not all animals can do this well, but humans can. And they never know it happened! The miracle is taken for granted


For over a hundred years photographers tried to solve the aperture and exposure problem using odd techniques and time consuming methods.

Decades ago, some shooters actually tried to take multiple shots of the same image using different exposures. They then cut apart their glass plate negatives, glued them together and made paper prints from them in hopes of getting accurate exposures. It was unpredictable. It was expensive. It was tough.

Other photographers spent hour upon hour in the dark room, covering parts of the light source used to expose sensitive photographic paper to manually adjust the black or white (later color) to represent what they remembered to be correct.

Most famous photographers "dodged" and "burned" and "blended" photo prints relentlessly in the dark room to improve or change the character of the photo.

It was said that Ancil Adams - a dedicated outdoorsman famous for his stunning Yosemite National Park photos - spent more time in the darkroom creating photos than he spent shooting them.

Shooting HDR photos is not for the unskilled or lazy. To do it properly requires patience, proper equipment, computer skills, a good memory (more about that later) and the fine hand of an artist.


The problem with shooting interior spaces is that the range of light and contrast in a room varies from very dark (back in a corner), to the diffused light (on a ceiling), to the very light (seeing through a room out a window).

To correct that problem our team members use very sensitive professional cameras, mount them on heavy tripods, locked down so it will not move, and then shoot up to 16 photos each with a different F-stop.

Be careful - if the camera is jiggled, the photos are useless. Even the slightest movement means the photos can not be amalgamated into a truly accurate photo.

Each single photo is shot repeatedly, at the highest possible digital camera range and in a "Raw" format to stuff the photo full of every pixel of light (or dark) in the room. The files are huge and there are 16 of them for every single photo to be created.

Those photos are then uploaded to a high powered computer with lots of storage and computing power because the software needed for the next step eats computer memory alive.

To complete a single photo, the photograph next pulls all 16 photos into a single screen (remember these are huge files) and overlays them in a cascade so he can examine the exposure of each.

Using various software tools he does what those photograph explorers did a century ago with their glass plates - he picks and chooses the proper exposure for every inch of the room.

The software automates this some, but not entirely. It is necessary to examine pesky problems like blinds or draperies that are composed of very dark and very light components.

Sometimes the photographer must tone each color in the room to match what his eye remembers (remember the memory requirement?) Then set about to insure that lines are as straight (or not) on the photo as they are in real life. Camera lenses are round and naturally straight lines, such as ceiling to wall junctions can appear rounded.

After all the proper parts of each photo have been chosen, the photographer instructs the software to combine them leaving out all the photo parts not chosen. Software helps make intricate connections clear but it takes an artist to insure it is realistic.

In the end the photos are truly dense in pixels which is where the term "High Dynamic Range" originates. The file is massive but full of details.

Today architectural photos are primarily used for the internet and large file sizes can cause web pages to load slowly or improperly. Therefore the next step is for the photographer to resize and reapportion the photos to reduce file size while retaining the same accuracy.

Using nothing more than his wondrous human eyes the photographer artist reduces the file size until just before its reduction would be visible. He does this separately for each final size and reduces the file size significantly without decreasing the quality and accuracy of the photo.

This entire process is all made possible by multiple images of different exposures, a huge computer file size and the millions of resulting pixels but only if the HDR process is properly handled at every prior step.

It takes hundreds of hours to master. Great HDR photographers get progressively better over years.


Many try, but few succeed. Signatour photos are better than those produced by some other very skilled HDR photographers because completing the photo to match what the eye sees, requires a true artist.

The difference between Michael Angelo, and his contemporaries, was not their tools or the quality of their paints or marble for carving. It was that Michael Angelo had the touch. He had the eye. He had the magic.

Signatour Photo Team members use HDR in ways far beyond what your garden variety professional photographer can do. By specializing in architectural photos for the travel and tourism industry they are able to proceed through the photographic process over and over again.

Each time they use specialized skills to create photos that are as vibrant and accurate as what the miraculous human eye can see.


Putting inaccurate and embarrassing photos in your advertising or website means you are subliminally telling customers that your property is not of the highest caliber.

Using Signatour HDR photos tells them just the opposite. If you care about the quality of your advertising then they will presume you care about the quality of your business.

The Signatour Photo Team process is called "Perfect Touch" because we use the latest technology, the best equipment and have movingly beautiful properties to shoot - but mostly because we have artists who can make every photograph come to life.

Now all you have to do, to get photos that will properly show case your property and business, is to call us today.

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False Assumptions

Every now and then someone says, "But gee your photographs look fake or odd." In some ways they are correct, but mostly they are unobservant.

For hundreds of years, printers have been forced into reproducing photos using a pattern of tiny dots to trick the viewers eye into thinking it was seeing a photograph. To produce color photos, they had to overlay four versions of those dots, offsetting them slightly to fill the gaps. It worked but close inspection shows imperfections and inaccuracies.

In very high-end printing - such as National Graphic Magazine - the dots are so small (and the printing so costly) that your eye can not see the dots. But in most pulp printed newspapers, a close look at the photos reveals those dots with the naked eye.

These methods were good for the day, but they were not accurate, failing to reveal the proper dynamics of dark and light and medium. In short, what you saw in print was not what your eye saw in person.


Until the advent of digital photography, amateur photos, such as those most amateurs get back from the photo store, the problem of F-Stops remained. Photos of moms, dads, kids and vacations were taken with simple cameras with scare ability to alter exposures and aperture.

Now that everyone has a pretty camera in their pockets, their phone, the number of photos taken is skyrocketing. Although some smart phones have rudimentary HDR, the onslaught of photos simply means that a whole lot of people are seeing far more photos that remain improperly exposed and focused.

The result is photos with improper exposures. Yet - due to a history of looking at bad photos - consumers have been subconsciously trained to think that crappy photos are accurate. They are shocked to see accurate photos that they think something is wrong with them - when nothing is wrong with them - and everything is right.

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Author: William May, Signatours
Blog #: 0380 – 01/01/15

A Map, a Map, My Kingdom for a Map

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.)


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.


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.


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.

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Author: William May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0373 – 07/20/14

Outdoors-For-All, the Heroes Among Us

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.


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.


To recognize the generosity of the wonderful vacation home owners who donate to worthy charities, the Vacation Rental Association ( 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. (

- - - - - - - - - - - - - ---

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. (

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Author: William May, Plumbob Publishing
Blog #: 0377 – 06/09/14

Crowing About Our New Mobile Website

By William May
Published: 05/01/14 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, other lodging managers have built mobile websites, but no one has built anything like this" Said, Salman Arshad of Redstone Systems.

Redstone Systems, creator of software for the Inn, Resort & Vacation Rental industries just added this new mobile website capability. 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 book unique properties on a smart phone."

Some websites had nice graphics, some had adequate photos, showed property amenities or 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. mobile websites are, first and foremost, places to advertise and promote properties. To show their beauty and benefits. So HelpBook mobiles use full size photos, logos and graphics.

But they must also streamline the ability to select and book properties online. Other websites often taken the viewer back to a properties primary website - but those are impossible to se or use on a smart phone.

So HelpBook mobiles are fully featured and allow guests to book homes online, with full security using the payment system from

Best of all, HelpBook mobiles are fully deployable from a back-end database driven system. Once necessary data - such as photos, descriptions and amenity lists are secured - regular websites can be created in hours.

Then, that same data is used to create HelpBook mobiles sites in very little extra time. The fundamentals of good graphic and website design are followed, making the websites easy to use - but also impressive and persuasive.

Booking hotels and other lodging is said to be growing at a fast pace, and now all Redstone properties have the ability to persuade, facilities and complete bookings for Inns, Resorts & Vacation Rentals online.

"No other company can do it as fully, as impressively and as fast as our software," notes Arshad.

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Author: William May – Manager, Redstone Systems
Blog #: 0366 – 05/01/14

What I do for a living

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."

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Author: William May, MayPartners Advertising
Blog #: 0361 – 04/08/14

Top Reasons to Do-It-Yourself Vacation Rental

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.

More Smiles

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.

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Author: William May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0359 – 03/15/14

Varoom Vacation Rental Cooperative Springs to Life

By William May
Published: 02/23/14 Topics: Comments: 0

After two years of work the world's first Cooperative for By Owner Vacation Rentals has just launched online at - and -

We hope you will like what we've done because its sole purpose is to help guests and rental owners find each other in ways that might not otherwise be able. This is a novel approach to helping Rent by Owners fills unoccupied dates by coordinating guest requests between managers, who have too many requests and owners who would like to fill them.

For Guests

Even with the thousands of advertising websites catering to vacation rental owners, guests often search in vain to find the perfect accommodations. On our guest website at we list each and every rental in the Varoom program.

There are cabins, condos, houses and villas to choose from. Booking online is easy, or guests can inquire, email or telephone for quick service. The website is easy to navigate and make online bookings.

For Property Owners

Booking through Varoom is cheaper, easier and more flexible than expensive paid listings. And this blog is here just to keep Guests, Owners, Managers and others up to date on everything we are doing to help grow the industry.

For owners, the system is collaborative in nature. Varoom works on a non-exclusive basis meaning owners are free to accept bookings from any other party with no fee to the Co-op. Owners only insure a commission to Varoom when they accept bookings and make money.

We'll be the first to tell you that no single marketing will fill a property with a never ending list of prospective guests. But Varoom can fill in the gaps and match inquisitive guests with helpful owners.

Penny Taylor, Varoom Sales Manager said, "There is no up front fee, a long-term contract is not required and property owners can pick and choose when to accept bookings. This is completely flexible for owners."

Varoom attracts visitors with extensive advertising, newsletters, email campaigns and a robust easy to use website. Varoom does the upfront work of posting homes into its system and offers an easy to use interface for coordinating dates, rates and bookings.

But Varoom also cooperates with local managers who often have excess inquiries and insufficient inventory to satisfy every guest. Even owners listed with managers are allowed to submit to Varoom because it does not compete with managers, but cooperates with them.

Steve Fletcher is a long-time property owner, renowned business consultant and member of the Varoom Board of Advisors. "By sharing in a mutually profitable way, guests, owners and managers all benefit, This kind of collaboration has always been a hallmark to a successful business."

The Future

Please join us today. And check back regularly to see more developments. We'll keep you posted on everything Vacation Rental. Feel free to send us your comments and suggestions.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Varoom was built and is operated by experience vacation rental professionals to meet the still unfulfilled opportunity of the Internet to divert traveler's into comfortable, convenient cost effective vacation homes as an alternative to costly hotels.

To list your property just fill out the inquiry form or contact us:

Penny Taylor
PO Box 22987 Seattle, WA 98122
Voice: 866-674-6652
Fax: 888-628-0839
For Owners:
For Guests:

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Author: William May, MayPartners Advertising
Blog #: 0352 – 02/23/14

Like Happy Lemmings to the Seahawk

By William May
Published: 02/06/14 Topics: Seattle, Sports Comments: 0

As I drove my wife and son to downtown Seattle from our home just 20 blocks to the East, the traffic, usually light, was oppressive. On every side street thousands of people were streaming down the hill like lemmings to the sea. Sidewalks were so full, entire families walked down the middle of the auto jammed streets.

On the gigantic ferries that bring vehicles into Seattle, many walk-on passengers arrived before dawn to get a seat among the other thousands sailing, but many had to wait up to three crossings just to get a standing room only ticket. They worried they would be too late.

From North and South, state patrol troopers said automobile traffic on the 8 lane Interstate freeways were in grid lock for ten miles on each side of the city. Drives and passengers stood outside their cars unable to continue to what was then the center of the universe

As my car inched across an overpass, a roar erupted from the thousands of nearby people as they screamed, shook their fists, and waved flags at several buses that were then inching along the freeway below they headed for Seattle. Emergency lights were blinking on the buses, while they were accompanied by a police escort. Every pedestrian stopped to stare and scream. Cars stopped, occupants jumped out to join in the screaming, leaving their cars running with doors wide open.

The city seems to have succeeded from the United States, all visible American flags were gone and replaced with odd new flags. All in green and blue sporting a giant number 12 emblazoned on them.

The day before the Seattle School Superintendent had announced that no student absences would be tolerated today but quickly changed his mind after getting thousands of angry messages - including a tweet from the Mayor.

Later it was reported that 25% of the students in the region called in sick with a mysterious form of hysteria . As did workers from major corporations, big companies and small. In all, over 750,000 people converged on a short street in the middle of a town bathed in cold temperatures but brilliantly blue skies.

Getting anywhere near the city center was impossible, so I dropped by family off close to downtown and headed back up the hill to my office. It was eerie. I felt like the only car driving East away from town. Stopping at a large coffee shop I was delighted to find the place empty, no line.

The barista asked if I was a football fan. "No," I said, "Is that what's going on?"

"Are you kidding me?" he asked with disbelief. All that hub bub out there are the fans happily going to attend a parade that will feature their Seahawks football team. A group made up of long suffering veterans, players selected low in the draft when other teams felt them unworthy, and numerous draft choices that were ridiculed by pundits.

It seemed that the Seahawks last Sunday had just won the biggest sporting event in the United States - the Super Bowl. Hopes were high all year, but the Seahawks dominated games and unexpectedly overpowered a team who promised to dispatch Seattle with ease. Nothing motivates like disrespect, and Seattle dispatched the Denver Bronco team 43 to 8, coming close to shutting out a team favored to trounce them.

Their coach took an unusual approach by preparing a team who never allowed themselves to say that winning the top title was their goal. They decided it far simpler and far more direct to purely set a record of One win and no loss in every game. Each game would take care of the next.

In the title game, they made it just another game and one in which they were completely prepared to simply go One win and no loss.

In fact, the annual celebration that in other sports would be called a world championship, is only a Super Bowl for American football because it has been unique to North America.

In recent years teams have traveled to England for games and plans are afield to let other destinations experience what America has known for so long - American football exhibits much of what is great about America.

Thus being that working together works best. That persevering is always worth the pain. That no one should ever let anyone else define them, or limit them, or disrespect them. Every child who watched today's parade in person or saw it on the televisions that were on in every home and every business, learned something important.

It was voiced by the team leader quarterback, in the words of his recently deceased father. When this player was told he was too small, too slow and didn't fit in anywhere, he remembered the words of his father who said, "Why not you Russell? Why not?"

Sports are an opportunity for every citizen in the region to smile, remember and share. It makes people lively while appreciating others. Lastly, it makes people happy and what could be better than that?

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Author: William May
Blog #: 0345 – 02/06/14

How to Hire & Retain Happy Housekeepers (10 rules)

By Wm. May
Published: 01/28/14 Topics: Lodging Management, Vacation Rental Association, Vacation Rentals, WAVRMA Comments: 0

How to Hire and Retain Happy Housekeepers - 10 Tips

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.

Heavy Work

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.

Rental Managers:

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.

The Result

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.

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Author: Wm. May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0338 – 01/28/14

Coming to Skippy's Class ill Prepared

By William May
Published: 12/11/13 Topics: Comments: 0

As an 18 year old, on the first hour of the first day of my freshman college year, I wandered into the dreaded English Literature classroom at Grays Harbor College and met a person who changed my life.

Virginian Clarke Younger
Virginian Clarke Younger

Once I might have thought that Virginian Younger, who passed away this week at the age of 90, was just another teacher. But that was until that first day in her class when she began to talk, or better yet I should say began to teach.

Knowing nothing of the English Literature (or maybe any literature for that matter) I was surprised to find how fascinating and revealing that subject, maybe any subject, could be in the hands of a master educator. Here was a person who had such a zest for her subject that no one could help but fall prey to her interest.

Mrs. Younger’s favorite topics were Shakespeare and the romantic poets, whom she could bring to life making them as real as if they were standing at the front of the classroom. She would read passages aloud or require students to do so.

Together we would examine every sentence in hopes of seeing the most subtle of meanings. It would get sliced, diced and subjected to the kind of adolescent thoughts common to students. She was never dismissive and only pushed to hear more thinking, more examination.

Looking back it is astonishing to realize that this world class scholar was teaching in a small community college off the beaten path in the Northwest corner of the country. She would have wowed any student in the finest college anywhere. Norton's Anthology was her constant companion. It became mine too.

With Shakespeare’s plays she made the language sing, the heroes heroic, the villains despicable. Her eyes twinkled at the century old jokes until we too found the humor. She even hinted at the naughty parts.

Suddenly the supposedly stilted language of the time range true. It warned and promised us things we would encounter later in life; hopefully with a lesser degree of tragedy, but maybe with a larger dose of joy.

Twenty years later, at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival when friends from our home town were attending, a group of former students asked Mrs. Younger to comment on a topic in that day’s play.

"Oh I remember that Cynthia here wrote an excellent paper on it, while in my class." said Mrs. Younger. To which Cynthia replied, "I really don’t remember the paper, and I certainly don’t remember the answer."

To those in attendance it was not the least bit surprising Virginian Younger would remember every good paper written by every student for such a long time.

I came to Virginian Younger’s class ill prepared.

I didn't realize it was OK to want to be smarter, that digging into classics could give me a perspective on the future or that there could be a teacher who cared so desperately for her student's growth she once cried in class. Everyone had done poorly on that week’s quiz because, as she concluded, when all students do poorly it is the teacher who has failed.

We forgave her and dug in with greater dedication - to her.

I took a 90 minute class from Virginia Younger every day for two years, although I could not get myself to call her "Skippy" her life long nickname. Her daughter had been my classmate in high school where teachers could only be addressed with the honor of a "Mr." or "Mrs." So to this day she is forever Mrs. Younger, as a sign of respect.

This teacher’s tests were legendary among students, particularly to those who were looking for an easy grade. In Mrs. Younger’s class they would be sadly surprised.

The every-Friday quizzes were not the puffy multiple choice tests that high school had prepared me for. Hers were blue book examinations for which there was often only one question and a dozen blank pages demanding to be filled. Student’s could leave early when done, but that could only mean you had not thought enough, reasoned with clarity or given it your all.

"Give me reasons. Explain your thoughts. Show you are thinking."

"You must have quotes" and you must attribute them correctly"

"Don’t worry too much about punctuation. Show me that you think. Convince me"

During that first class on the first day I met Michael who was to become a life-long good friend. Initially we sat in the back row until one day, arriving late, we were forced to sheepishly slide into front row seats.

Mrs. Younger noticed, paused for effect and then said, "Gentlemen, to what do we owe the honor? Are you trying to learn through osmosis?"

The students roared with laughter as did Michael and I. After class he asked, "Do you know what it means?" I said no. "Me either" Michael said, "I guess we better go look it up."

Off we went to the library on what was to become a lifetime of looking things up, of finding interest in pretty much everything and of realizing it is OK to want to be smarter. That may have been the exact day I learned that getting smarter is enjoyable and worthy even if, at the age of 18, I had no idea why.

My friend Michael took the student role more seriously than most. After Grays Harbor College he went on to get his bachelors degree, his masters and later is PHD in educational leadership. He became a teacher, a professor and theater director and much more.

Unfortunately I was unable to attend his PHD dissertation, but I did come to learn that dissertations have some odd requirements. Candidates must write their thesis well in advance, then schedule a spoken presentation, invite interested students, colleagues and experts and then - strangely - ask for and be prepared to defend their conclusions. Candidates even have to provide the refreshments. Odd.

Michael completed all the requisite steps including mailing out a long list of invitations hoping experts of note would appear. Having done theatrical work with Michael I know him to be impeccably prepared, rehearsed, detailed and strongly assured. But even he admitted to a touch of stage fright for this performance.

But upon moving to the front of the room, Michael was pleasantly reassured when, as he looked out upon the attendees there was Virginian Younger, now retired, sitting front and center of the first row. Smiling.

With that support he began what he was confident was a world class talk.

As he concluded, and after polite applause Michael’s PHD advisor, asked the audience for comments and criticism. Immediately an unknown middle aged man stood and began a rant about Michael’s entire topic, its weaknesses and what, in his estimation, had been Michael’s waste of the educational system.

Michael was taken aback and paused wondering what to do next. He never had the chance.

Just then an attractive senior citizen woman rose from the first row, turned to face the audience, paused for effect, looked the heckler in the eye and dismissed the enemies every point in great detail. Mrs. Younger did so with a smile in her eyes which secretly told the audience she was smarter; and it was OK to be smarter.

Michael was awarded his PHD.

The only demerit his Advisor levied was that inviting a "ringer" to defend the presenter was considered bad behavior.

Afterward Michael thanked Mrs. Younger profusely for having read his thesis and speaking on his behalf.

"It is not every day that one of my students achieves a PHD but I must apologize to you. I’m so busy being retired I didn’t even have time to read it. But of course I will. Its not my area of expertise but I am sure I will love it"

Upon telling this story later, with much laughter and back slapping, Michael suddenly stopped mid sentence when he realized,

"I’ve spent 20 years getting smarter, getting a PHD of which I am very proud. But it is a daunting to realize that Skippy is still the smartest person in the room."

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Author: William May – Ever a Student
Blog #: 0329 – 12/11/13

Sad Story for Non Renting Vacation Home Owner

By William May
Published: 12/06/13 Topics: Comments: 0

Have you ever gotten a message like this? It came from a caretaker in a home owner association. This owner took his vacation home out of rental several years ago.

Unfortunately he's making less money and lost his friendly attentive vacation rental manager who used to check on the home and drive by it frequently - even when there were not guests.

"Just received call from your neighbor of lot ### he had seasonal renters show up today and discovered someone had came in made them selves at home, didn't vandalize or anything just stayed then stripped the beds put the dirty laundry sheets towels in the laundry room. He was there just before thanksgiving so he is thinking it happened then and so I thought I would ask around if you saw people or recognized anyone? They gained access from hide a key which is now gone" - Home Owner Association Caretaker

Will the home owner wake up and smell the security? Well that just depends on logic.

He already made the mistake of taking a seasonal renter and is subject to landlord tenant laws that give renters great privileges including the inability of the owner to inspect his home and control the tenant's behavior.

The owner is making less money than if he had stayed with nightly rentals. Seasonal tenants use the home non-stop, can invite any guests they choose and always cause more wear and tear.

Collecting for damages is much more difficult. If the tenant's actions are bad or they fail to pay, it can take months to evict them.

Short term rentals - especially in recreational areas - are better in every way. More money, less wear and a friendly manager in the area.

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Author: William May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0325 – 12/06/13

Vacation Rental Housekeeper Spills the Beans

By William May
Published: 02/16/13 Topics: Comments: 0

The gigantic listing websites that seek to dominate vacation rental lodging have done a persuasive job of convincing home owners that they can effectively manage their cabins, condos and homes in distant locations.

Just buy enough ads, hire a cheap housekeeper, expect guests to behave and have no requests or problems while they stay. No one needs training, you can teach yourself. It’s a great hobby and you'll make lots of friends while living the easy life.

Professional Managers know this is nonsense of course, but some owners love spending 10-20 hours a week taking phone calls, answering emails and paying those giant websites an overly large portion of their income, all while working for just a few dollars per hour.

In return, the websites insist on posting reviews from guests without authentication or substantiation. They even refuse to remove bogus, slanderous or fraudulent reviews.

What do they get in return? Aside from too little money and too much work, what is life really like for Rent By Owners? What are the properties like for guests? And how do the properties fare?

And it is all made possible by hiring housekeepers who are often paid far too little or, dare I say it, are taken advantage of by owners. Here is an Interview with one long-time vacation rental housekeeper who wanted to remain anonymous.

- - - - - - - - - -

Jane Doe (obviously not her real name), a housekeeper who works for property managers as well as directly for rental by owners, has a surprising tale to tell.

VRA: So how long have you been doing housekeeping?

JANE: My mom had rentals and did housekeeping years ago. I started when I was a teenager.

VRA: What is life like for you?

JANE: Frankly, I work very hard, often on weekends, sometimes at night, and frequently alone. I feel kind of faceless as I clean up other people's messes.

VRA: Are they always a mess?

JANE: Actually no, not always. Some guests are very courteous, even doing the dishes, sometimes sweeping up, and not breaking things. But others are - well - pigs if I must say.

VRA: Which guests are the best?

JANE: Well those that leave tips of course. (She laughs). Although the idea that a housekeeper who spends 4-10 hours cleaning a house should get a tip seems odd to those folks who pay a waiter 20% for a few minutes of work.

VRA: What kind of properties do you like to clean best?

JANE: Well condos are smaller which can make them easier, but sometimes owners let guests cram far too many guests in, which can be a nightmare to clean up after. Houses pay better.

VRA: Do you have that problem with property managers?

JANE: Rarely because but most managers are pros who use strong leases, establish fair but firm rules, and keep a close watch on guests.

VRA: Are you saying owners don't do those things.

JANE: Apparently not, because guests of direct-owners are by far the worst. I can't figure out what they are thinking. Buy a half million dollar place and then give the keys to people you've never met. It's crazy.

VRA: But surely those owners can hire someone local to watch over the home?

JANE: Not hardly. I am happy to clean, but no one in their right minds will agree to be on call, deal with drunk guests, fix unmaintained properties, and get paid a measly $15, $20 or even $25 per hour. It's just not worth it.

VRA: Are you saying that property manager homes are easier to clean?

JANE: They are easier in every way, near as I can tell. Rental by owner homes get trashed very frequently. Property managers can get a bad guest as well, but it seems to be far less common. And when it does I just call in the extra work to the manager, who pays me and, I presume, charges the guests. Owners who self rent want to blame anyone but themselves when things go bad.

VRA: Why don't owners hire managers instead of taking that risk?

JANE: Beats me. They are trying to beat the system, but the guests eventually beat them. I have cleaned dozens and dozens and dozens of homes and I would never ever try to manage them. It’s a losing idea.

VRA: But they save money right?

JANE: No. Without a manager they are just asking to lose money.

VRA: But owners get more bookings by telling guests they are dealing directly with the owner, right?

JANE: Wrong again. The manager properties are busy all the time, and even get bookings in slow season. Owners don't. If I had to rely on owner rentals l would starve during the slow season.

VRA: What is your relationship with owners and managers?

JANE: Every manager I work with is respectful. Most owners are rude and treat me like their personal slave. As I tell you this I am wondering why I actually work for them (laughs.). And when a guest acts up or brings too many people, owners have the gall to ask me to go over and confront drunk people. I just won't do it. That is too dangerous.

VRA: Well the owner can always call the police if its bad right?

JANE: In our area, the police won't come out unless its an actual crime. Putting too many people in a home is not a crime.

VRA: In doing this interview it sounds like you are biting the hands that feeds you, by talking about owners?

JANE: The worst part of working for owners is they become presumptive, often asking me to do favors and tasks for free. Some say they clean after their own use, but it always requires additional touch up or full cleans and those owners expect me to do that for free.

VRA: Do you do that?

JANE: If I don't throw in free work they'll fire me, some even say that. Frankly, I need the job. These are well to do people. Very presumptuous.

VRA: Why are you willing to tell your story?

JANE: I just think owners need to know the truth about how difficult this business is before they jump in.

VRA: But it’s a good business isn’t it?

JANE: It is - if you know what you are doing and hire a pro to take care of everything. And, by the way, when I go on vacation I would never rent from an owner directly. Its just too risky.

VRA: Why not?

JANE: When I travel far from home, I want a manager just down the street not hundreds or thousands of miles away. What would a distant owner do if the oven or AC quits? Or the water is bad? Or the neighbors are noisy. I'll take a professional manager every time.

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Author: William May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0342 – 02/16/13

The Vacation Rental Dollar Store

By William May
Published: 01/16/13 Topics: Comments: 0

There are two ways to make money with a Vacation Rental Home. One - Increase income (which we talk a lot about) and two - decrease costs. This newsletters is about the later.

Every now and then staff from our company have picked up products at the local Dollar Store. It was presumed the goods were inexpensive but not always readily in stock. The stores are not necessarily handy.

Of course high quality furniture, linens and kitchen wares are essential to keep a vacation rental in great condition to receive complimentary reviews and return guests. But it is not necessary to waste money on some things.

Recently, as I was awaiting a client in an unknown neighborhood and with time on my hands, I happened t spy a Dollar Store - across street and decided to take a look. Boy was I surprised.

First, that had a relatively wide variety of things for sale. And they had lots of them. Sure some of the products were of lesser quality but most were the same darn things that can be bought at Wal-Mart, Target and other higher priced stores. Some things were cheesy like fake flowers.

The shelves were heavily stocked and everywhere I looked were giant signs saying "Everything $1." Being new to the concept I kept looking on the shelves and packages for pricing. Surely that $5.00 package of cookies couldn't be a dollar. Could those 4-packs of wine glasses be only a buck?

The most broken items in Vacation Rentals are wine glasses. We want good quality glassware but price is a factor for anything that breaks. Expensive wine glasses don't break any less frequently than expensive ones. The Dollar Store wine glasses were pretty good quality.

Twice I asked a wandering worker for directions and found them cheerful and actually very proud of the products and prices. These stores are smaller than Wal-Mart but the first two staff members seemed friendly and anxious to help. They constantly straightened the shelves and were actively restocking.

It dawned on me that Vacation Rental owners could find dozens of different items in a Dollar store to outfit their properties. They could save a lot of money. Hundreds really.

I wasn't in need of any products, but after walking the aisles to make mental notes of what they stock, I sheepishly grabbed that bag of cookies and shuffled through the line. Apparently many people already knew the story of the Dollar store.

The line was long but the checkers were very fast because - you guess it - every item was one dollar. They didn't even have to look at the items to find that bar code.

We have a big sales tax in our state, so I was astonished when the checked said "That will be one dollar." It was a steal. How can anyone make, bake, package, deliver and retail 32 cookies for a dollar. 3 cents each.

Surely the secret is that they buy in huge quantities, they buy excess production from factories, they buy overseas. And they must work on narrow margins. The stores are no-frills but clean, well lit and maintained.

Some dollar stores also have online websites where the same kind of merchandise and pricing is available although you usually have to pay for shipping. But remember, when you drive to the store you are in a sense paying for shipping.

As I departed the clerk was especially cheery and I could see the other checkers were equally happy. They were actually having fun. When was the last time you saw that at Wal-Mart?

I might just go back for the customer service.

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Author: William May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0334 – 01/16/13

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