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

Vacation Rentals In Afghanistan

By William May
Published: 09/05/04 Topics: Comments: 0

I kid you not. The LA Times is reporting that Estullah Rooz, after years of fighting Soviets, rival Mujahedee and the Taliban, the man known as the Commander Mullah is going corporate. And how you say? Well, he's building the first Swiss designed and pre-fabricated Vacation Rental homes on Lake Qargha six miles north of the Afghanistan capital of Kabul.

Rooz concocted the idea with a friend of his - Zemary Hakaim - who immigrated to Switzerland in 1972 and became a self confessed Hippie. Together they leased land at the lake and convinced local landlords to allow them to erect the Swiss Style Chalets. And for labor, Rooz and Hakaim recruited or converted experienced freedom fighters into carpenters, landscapers and service personnel at twice the pay of a soldier's salary.

Rooz expects his Vacation Rental homes to be a real money maker once erected. For now, he profits with food sales and guests can also visit the recently opened golf course complete with pro shop made out of an old, dented shipping container.

Don't you love entrepreneurs? They're the ones who find a way to bring a great idea to fruition. In a very convoluted way this is nothing more than what many resort area owners have learned to do with their vacation homes over the past few years: cater to different renters. Evolve the renting market from one of quaint cabins and rustic retreats into one of fancy homes and luxurious villas. With skyrocketing prices, enterprising individuals find a way to overcome their limitations.

As illustrated by our comrade in arms Mr. Estullah Rooz. I'm going to write him a letter and offer him an Honorary VROA membership. He certainly deserves one and I think we might just have a few tidbits that might help him along the way. I'm sure he also has tips for those of us looking to setup our own rentals in Afghanistan.

I won't be the first to rent his place but goodness knows I really wish him well.

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Author: William May, MayPartners Advertising
Blog #: 0158 – 09/05/04

Be Selfish If You Donate Your Rental

By William May
Published: 04/19/04 Topics: Comments: 0

New owners of Vacation Rental homes quickly learn how many friends they really have. And I don't just mean cousin Jenny and her 12 screaming kids who would love to spend every week end at your lake house this summer chowing down on your hamburgers and chips.

No, I am referring to all the truly great not-for-profit groups who will think it is a nifty idea for you to donate a week at your house to their annual auction, bazaar or awards dinner give-away.

Let me say that I am the first to support every good cause I can afford. Penny and I have volunteered and worked on boards for the zoo, children's safety, theatres, dance companies and the like. If you too are a softie for these organizations, congratulations. You are doing your part to make the world a better place.

Offering your home to charities allows you to provide a unique benefit to those who need your help. But many rental owners are besieged with more requests than they can afford to donate. If you have ever donated you may not recognize the problem.

Give a single week's use to, let's say, your daughter's brownie troop auction and your name as a willing benefactor will ripple through the community. Soon, you'll be hearing from well meaning "procurement" person at every not-for-profit around.

Maybe all of this is good news for our fledgling industry. Vacation Rentals are often the highest priced item in many fund raisers. That means consumers value the opportunity to stay at a nice private vacation home.


At the same time, however, if the income from vacation rental homes is essential to the financial well being of most owners. As much as you may want to be a big donor ad supporter you also have to pay the mortgage.

Big companies have learned they are also targets of the well meaning fund raisers. You can imagine the thousands of legitimate requests that large companies receive. It may serve us well to learn from those firms about how to be concerned and involved citizens without giving away the farm.

As an example, Microsoft Corporation's primary philanthropic system (aside from its founder Bill Gates giving away billions of dollars personally) is to setup a matching system for employee donation. Staff member donations are matched by the company up to a certain amount. This serves to help charities but control the outflow.

Other large corporations set strict budgets on donations and require charities submit proposals on an annual basis. They generally don't entertain short notice pleas for help. This means only the organized and persistent causes get helped. Plus it eliminates the interruptions and soul searching that might disrupt the work of their employees.

You will notice that the largest companies often provide small item donations. Your grocery store chain, for example, might donate a bouquet of flowers or video rental. Unfortunately, the rentals we offer are comparatively expensive.

They are especially expensive in relationship to the size of our small businesses. A $750 rental donation could be five percent of your annual income whereas a $50 donation by Safeway is peanuts.


If large well organized companies see fit to control their charitable giving it is logical that we smaller vacation rental home owners do likewise. So here are some ideas on how to go about formalizing your "Donation Program."

First, stop and decide what your charitable objectives are. If you don't really need the income and you can afford to donate repeatedly then please do so. We'll all think highly of you for that.

But if you have to generate income from your home you might want to be a little strategic. For example, we have decided that donations are a great thing if and only if they provide benefit for us as well as the charity. We limit the number of gifts and we set rules for how the rental should function.

If you have ever had to make procurement calls for your favorite charity you will have heard all kinds of responses from business owners. Some will donate a small item to most everyone who asks. Others donate only to their favorite causes or groups to whom they belong.

And others are rather crass about demanding something in return for their donation such as patronage by everyone in your group. And almost all of these people will feel rather sheepish about responding. They get tired of being "hit up" but they know it is bad for business to decline.


For example, we ask for promotional value in order to accommodate requests. I think its the secret to being really good citizens. In short, we only donate to groups who will help us promote our rentals. When you think about it that helps them as well. If donating secures other paid rentals then your income grows and you can afford to donate again.

When someone calls soliciting a donation, its acceptable for you to ask some questions. (Believe me the big companies do). Here is what you want to know. Most requests now a days are for an auction or raffle so I'll preface my questions as if that is the case.


- Who will be attending the event?

- How many people will attend?

- Will your item be offered in the silent or live auction?

- Can you write the live auction description?

- Will the description be included in the auction catalog?

- Can they put photos in the catalog?

(Good for them and for you)

- Can you put up a post and display for the silent auction?

- And for the live auction?

- Can you get a complimentary ticket to the event.

(Its good to meet and great and hand out cards.)

- Will they give you names & addresses of attendees

(So you can mail to them)

- Can you put a flyer at each seat?

- Or put a flyer in each "good bag: given to attendees?

- Will they immediately provide you with the winner's name & address

- Will they disclose what the winning bid was?

WORD OF MOUTH. Auctions and similar events are valuable if they provide word of mouth advertising for your rental. To stimulate such promotion, it is wise to require a display, offer flyers or participate in the auction more than just making the donation and getting a 10 second announcement.

BE THOUGHTFUL. Never make a commitment immediately especially on the phone. Ask for all the information and then give it some thought. Think of donations as if you were giving them CASH money. In many ways you are. If you don't make the donation and sell the dates instead you are essentially giving them the cash. Think of it that way.

DON'T GIVE AWAY THE BEST. Most charities are so thankful for a donation that they are not terribly picky about dates. Its wise to give them desirable dates so they will get a significant price. But you don't need to give the your high season. Make sure the auction description clearly explains the dates and exclusions and legal requirements. Require the winner use the dates within one year of the purchase.

STRATEGIZE THE DATES. It seems easy to donate a week to a good cause but you don't have to donate that much. Consider limiting your gift to three or five days. It still shows your support. You will be surprised how many winners will ask to buy additional dates at the regular rates. Be sure to mention this possibility in the description.

WRITE A GREAT DESCRIPTION. The auction description or photos or display are your chance to sell your product. Write exciting, descriptive information. Don't be afraid to sell your product. Remember to sell the resort or area as well. Not everyone will be familiar with your destination. And include the legal stuff in the description.

WRITE DOWN THE DETAILS. If you agree to a donation make sure they provide you with a written contract explaining what you are giving and what you are getting. Most such forms are very short. Don't be afraid to attach a letter confirming the number of attendees, the live description.

GUEST PAPERWORK. Require winners to sign the same paperwork you require for paid guests. Always require a cash deposit to protect yourself from damages and overages. Make sure its clear the booking is non-cancelable and non refundable.

AN ALTERNATE. Another way to get value is to donate "designated dates". In this method you give the charity specific dates to sell such as your mid or low season. Ask them to offer these for sale exclusively to their members by instructing the member to purchase.

Then remit all the cash to the charity. You will find that they will appreciate the real money donation more than they do the equivalent value in dates.

SPLITTING INCOME. Or how about giving a charity certain low or mid season dates to sell with the agreement to split the income with them. You get at least some income for harder to sell dates and they'll promote it to far more constituents than those who actually buy. You get lots of exposure and possibly regular bookings in the future.

SAY NO. Do you find some of these suggestions demanding? Maybe, but your home is your investment. The more you get out of it the more you can support your favorite causes. Say no to those who do not provide good value so that you can say yes to more of those who do.

Set a limit on how many dates you are willing to donate. Groups who call to late to be considered can be encouraged to apply again next year.

SEEK OUT DONATIONS. Don't reward only those who solicit you. Keep your eye out for great causes with events that might promote your rental well. Give them a all to ask what they are looking for. Even though you may be soliciting them don't hesitate to ask the same questions before donating.

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Author: William May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0046 – 04/19/04

No wonder guests prefer Vacation rentals? Oahu Pick Pockets

By William May
Published: 04/06/04 Topics: Comments: 0

Can anyone tell me why a family would stay in a Hotel for their vacation? I was reminded recently of how distressing it can be when we visited the famous Waikiki Beach area of Hawaii.

Penny and I hadn't spent much time there for 20 years but my 14 year old son decided there were things he just needed to see like the Bishop Museum, Hanama Bay and the world famous North Shore surfing sites.

So on our working trip to Kauai we stayed over on the island of Oahu and took a hotel room smack dap in the middle of the action. Waikiki, Pearl Harbor, the might Mo battleship and all the sites were worth the effort. But an effort it was.

The name of the hotel shall remain anonymous because I don't want to get sued for libel (but hey, truth is a defense). It was a 30 story high rise building across the street from the people-packed beach and had been recently decorated. It was clean and well staffed and, in general, no worse and certainly no better than other tourist havens.

But let me tell you why it wasn't a vacation and why most hotel stays don't qualify as a holiday. These slightly stressful reasons are exactly why the vacation rental industry is growing fast. If you want a vacation you need a vacation home.


- In order to check in, we stood in line with 40 other people as the clerks were working feverishly (at least those that spoke English). It sill took 20 minutes to get a key. Room cost was just $199 per night, plus, plus, plus. (More on that later).

- My son was a little slow on jumping out of the rental car which allowed the bell man to snatch the bags and rush them to bell hop prison. She he did the honors. Cost for the tip $8

- We proceeded to the room which had two double beds (no queen beds in this space conscious establishment.), adequate mattresses and the traditional black out curtains. No frills here. There was a small closet and a shower curtain that wouldn't stay up.

- Penny flung open the curtains and stepped out onto the 18" deck with a peek-a-boo view of the beach. No room for a chair out there but that was OK because the roar of the building HVAC system made it impossible to talk. Plus the stench of diesel bus fuel wafted up even to our 24th floor room.

- She quickly crammed the door shut only to discover a loud locomotive sound coming from the air as it blasted under the hallway door and whistled through the deck door that wouldn't close all the way.

- Thee was no place to lay out the suitcases so we used the floor which meant there was then no where to walk. We collapsed on the bed.

- Soon hunger called. After a long flight we dial room service to order from the gourmet menu except the entrees seemed like left over from an Antarctica research camp. (I'm thinking everything comes out of a can). An hour later and $71 and we have dinner for three.

- My soon wanted an extra coke but we didn't think we could wait another hour and pay another $5 so he finds a pop machine in the hall for the bargain price of $3.

- Then he finds the mini bar, "WAAAAAAIT yell before he grabs a snickers bar." I'm thinking $3 per candy bar is highway robbery.

- I need to logon for a few minutes but sorry no high speed internet in this aging beach beauty. I can use dialup in a pinch and find, hidden in the guest "Courtesy" manual that the cost for the data port (i.e.: phone line) is only one dollar per minute. Sorry I pass.

- And head to the street to find an internet cafe. There I find a place with high speed internet for just $6 per hour. But why do I have to march around the neighborhood to use it?

- At long last we find ourselves tuckered and trampled and snug in bed ready for a good night's sleep. No such luck. We hear Waikiki party goes stroll down our hall to their rooms every 20 minutes soused in liquor and banging the walls. It is spring break and a long night.

- Next morning we shuffle into Wolfgang Puck's express cafe for a glorified Egg McMuffin for just $9 each. I would have orange juice too but don't want to mortgage the house.

- Back to the entrance we go to request our car be brought around. It takes 20 minutes and a $3 tip every time we want the car. That, of course, on top of the $15 per day parking fee - but hey you get in and out privileges. Plus the tip each time of course. Even here in paradise if you don't tip your car might come back with dead fish in the trunk if you know what I mean.

- The next night I need to send a fax and am happily surprised that the price is only $1 per

page. Of course I know the long distance call home is now as low as 3 cents per minute but hey they have to make a profit, right?

- On the way back up to the room I discover that the elevators no longer descend to the lobby after 6pm, "To keep out the riff raff" says the clerk. So I'm forced to walk to the far end of the block long building, go up an escalator and then do elevator lottery to figure out which one goes to my floor. Geeeeesh!

- The next day I have to fax again and the clerk says "sorry you were undercharged last night the real rate is $5 for the first page and $3 each additional page. And I'm going to have to bill you for yesterday's mistake." Normally I would debate the issue but by now I'm without sleep or food or stamina.

- On the last day we go to the ice cream parlor on the beach side of the hotel and learn they have a fancy new system where they mix the cold stuff while you watch. And they sing if you give them a tip. I worry what will be hidden in the ice cream if I cough up some moolah. So the ice ream adventure is just $18 for three people. Last time someone took me for this much money the perpetrator was wearing a mask and had a gun.

- As we depart this Shangri-La we have to traverse the gauntlet of outstretched hands. $10 for the maid (is that enough?), $8 for the bellman, $4 for the car. I'm surprised the cashier didn't stick out his hand but by then maybe they realize most guests would chop it off at the wrist.

All in all we did get in some great sight seeing but I couldn't help but keep track of all the ways a hotel vacation rips dollars out of the guest's pocket. Certainly I am not a penny pincher. I even like some of those mega beach-side resorts where you can sit on your bum in the sun for a week and get everything handed to you. And for conferences and meetings, convention hotels are the only way to go.

THE MESSAGE: But now let me make my point. My fellow vacation rental owners, we need to blow the trumpet vacation homes even louder. We have a superior product. And we need to let travelers know the trouble with hotels.

NOTE: Or maybe we are just jealous of hotel owners. They have masterfully figured out how to take maximum dollars off guests while giving them the most meager of product and service.

BENEFITS OF VACATION RENTALS: Let me try to recap just a few of those services many vacation homeowners provide to their guests for free:

- Come and go when you like.

- Free parking usually

- Full kitchen, pots and pans for making macaroni and cheese when that suits you.

- Breakfast, lunch and dinner available 24 hours a day.

- No 1,000% markup on food.

- No tipping the rom service waiter.

- No tipping the doorman.

- A lot more room for a lot less money (per square foot)

- Decks you can actually sit on.

- Furniture that is actually comfortable.

- No neighbors on the other side of that flimsy wall.

- Don't have to share the bar with the Russian national drinking team.

- You can open the windows!

- You can turn the heat up or down. Or even on and of. Revolutionary.

- No daily maids to go through your underwear.

- No noisy elevators with noisy people.

- No hand in your wallet every time you turn around.



As always I seek your input. Please share your tips, techniques, compliments, and complaints on this or any other subject by writing me at

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Author: William May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0045 – 04/06/04

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