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


Indentured Servitude Comes to Vacation Rentals

By William May
Published: 12/01/17 Topics: Employment, Housekeeping, Vacation Rental Management Comments: 0

There is a hidden under belly about how Venture Capitalists are entering the Vacation Rental industry in hopes of dominating it to cash out for big bucks.

It appears some pursue growth at all costs, by over working staff, and even evading labor laws that call for overtime wages. Jobs are hard to come by, and they take advantage of well meaning employees who have no other option but to work far harder for far less.

Her real name is being withheld for fear of retaliation, so we'll call her Susie. She worked for some years for one of those VC backed firms hoping to amalgamate the industry by buying up local vacation rental managers and taking over their listings.

Nothing wrong with that, if you like the corporate approach to what has previously been a very personalized service business. In fact, at the rate that some of these venture capital backed companies are hemorrhaging money, it is no wonder they survive by taking advantage of workers.

Susie was hired to clean homes and provide property services but the job quickly turned into 80 hours weeks, for a set salary appropriate for 40 hours. She was not paid for the extra hours and did not receive payment for overtime, nor the time-and-a-half hourly rate required by law.

Those companies skirt the law, by trying to claim employees as contractors, or managers making them exempt from overtime compensation. It is a ruse that sometimes works, but is never considerate to people who work so hard.

Susie said she never received a day off in several years, nor the promised paid vacation time and when she begged to hire additional housekeepers was told, if you don't like it you can leave.

Susie fell for the "We are newer, and smarter, and bigger and better than all those local Podunk managers. We are going to take over the world with technology" and you are going to be part of something great. Working hard will have its rewards.

For Susie that meant constant fatigue, dawn to dusk duties seven days a week, a rude supervisor, corporate officers who could care less, and the constant threat of job loss - if she was to raise a complaint about off-the-clock hours.

Was Susie really just a disgruntled employee? Not really. For years she drank the "upward mobility" poison that corporate workers have been swallowing for years. That working long and hard will benefit them in the long run.

Pursuing career growth and personal achievement is a requirement in many industries. But in Susie's case it was all led by a few corporate officers who constantly praised themselves but fail to honor the most sacred of business ethics - to provide proper compensation from line staff who do all the heavy lifting.

Eventually Susie just could not take the grind any longer. She quit with no prospects for a job elsewhere, "I didn't plan it" she said, "But I just could not do 80 hours a week anymore."

As a service business, vacation rental staff are what guests and owners come to appreciate. There is no sense in doubling listings if complaints triple.

Smart owners realize that people like Susie are, and have always been, the backbone of vacation rental management. Without the Susies of the world, renting out a home is a risky investment.

Since she left, Susie's prior employer has hired and lost additional workers just like she. They struggle to find new employees and can’t keep good people. They advertise jobs constantly because the word is out about their employment practices.

Reputable companies don't build their business by over working staff, or promising more than can be delivered. "Its no wonder quality lacks and they have so many online complaints" Susie notes, "Everyone works so much, that we just don't have enough to give. I tried, I really did. But 80 hours a week is too much."

Worst of all, property owners are no longer getting the care and consideration they deserve. They see a revolving door of housekeepers and maintenance workers and that causes quality to suffer and commitment to wane.

Smart property owners are learning to evaluate management firms by their staff and not by misleading promises that bigger is better. In vacation rental management, local is what makes it work.

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Author: William May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0565 – 12/01/17

Vacation Rental Picante Sauce

By Wm. May
Published: 09/01/17 Topics: Lodging Management, Vacation Rentals Comments: 0

Vacation Rental Picante Sauce
Yet another corporate vacation rental management company has announced gobbling up tens of millions of dollars in investment, in hopes of dominating the vacation rental management industry in America, and perhaps even the world. But they are risky for property owners.

Beginning as far back at 1989, Pace Picante sauce began running television commercials. In one, grizzled cowboys threaten to lynch the camp cook when they learn he has been serving them picante sauce from "New York City?"

The cow pokes become offended because Picante sauce should be made by "places in San Antonio with fresh vegetables and spices by people who know what picante sauce is supposed to taste like."

Watch it here.

While the huge vacation rental management companies want to convince property owners that they can manage every home just right, even though they are located hundreds of thousands of miles away, the truth is - they can not.

One of these giant companies even has over 300 negative complaints and reviews online about shoddy housekeeping and lack of response. The average for vacation rental managers is zero, one or two over time. Something is seriously wrong with having 300 unhappy guests, because that means there are far more who don't take the time to post complaints.

For another competitor, their complaints reveal a wolf in sheep's clothing. Although they profess to be managers, they quickly throw owners and managers under the bus whenever there are any complications, as the following complaint answer proves:

COMPLAINT: "2 days before my trip receiving a voice and email telling me that my reservation had been cancelled because of a double booking."

ANSWER: "Booking was canceled within 48 hours prior to her arrival when it became apparent to the Host that there was a conflict with a previous client who'd booked."

And then they accidentally revealed the wrong problem, (our company) "The Host (homeowner) is the party responsible for resolving any conflicts. [Our company] is a marketing and booking service that Hosts use to assist with reservations. . . The rental agreement. You accepted . . . Clearly states that the booking is directly between the Guest and the Host."

And then they reveal the unreliability of their services by saying "Double bookings are an unfortunate side effects of the vacation rental and travel industry as a whole."

Well, duh, no that is not correct. That is excuse making

Although no one is perfect in the lodging industry, double bookings are NOT common and they are certainly not an unfortunate side effect. They are the result of a company pretending to be a lodging manager when they are, in fact, too far away and too powerless.

LOCAL IS BETTER:

Vacation Rental Firms have proven to be a locally branded business. Owners and guests prefer to deal with a local reliable professional firm that is on hand to attend to them. Members of the Vortex Organization have found the best way to do that.

They are independently operated to ensure great houses, hospitality cleaning, happy guests and happy owners. Our first office opened in 1964, but we are the most tech-enabled managers. We are in it for the long haul..

But the network ensures that managers have all the tools such as dynamic pricing, post listings on hundreds of advertising websites, and answer guest inquiries 24/7. In fact, local firms have access to local tourism promotion, websites and contacts the others can not match.

That means our managers produce more bookings as well as more peace of mind.

So if the vacation rental "manager" you are using to book your home is not actually located in the area where you rental home is situated, or even in "New York City", its time to go local.

Call a local professional vacation rental management company to learn about all the comprehensive and reliable services you have been missing.

- - - - - - - - -
And a few more just for fun:

1989 Pace Picante Sauce

1990 Pace Picante Sauce

1993 Pace Picante Sauce

1993 Pace Picante Sauce

1994 Pace Picante Sauce

1995 Pace Picante Sauce

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Author: Wm. May, Vortex Managers
Blog #: 0530 – 09/01/17

Seaway Dance Hall at Copalis Beach Rocked Out

By Wm. May
Published: 03/01/17 Topics: Comments: 0

Seaway Dance Hall at Copalis Beach Washington State

Just West of the Green Lantern Tavern in Copalis Beach Washington State is a very strange looking building where Rock and Roll reigned supreme in the 1960's.

Hundreds of thousands of Quonset huts were produced by the U.S. Military in World War Two. These prefabricated structures of galvanized steel were semicircular cross-sections that looked like half of barrel sitting upside down on the ground.

After the war, Quonset huts were sold as surplus to the public and a very large version ended up along side the road by the Pacific Ocean where enterprising music lovers decided it would be a perfect venue for the hordes of teenagers who came to the beach each weekend.

Dubbed the Seaway Dance Hall, many young rock bands got their first serious gigs there and my group "The District Five" was one of them.

At the age of 15, we were made to feel like stars as the walls of the hut seemed to pulse and swell by guitar amps played far too loud and dancers who jumped and yelled and screamed. We played a little better, played a little longer and glowed with the acceptance the crowds gave us as we were starting our musical careers.

Bigger name bands from Washington State and the Northwest also appeared, including names that may be unfamiliar except by those who haunted the Seaway all summer long.

Bands like - The Beachcombers, Little Bill & The Bluenotes, The Candidos, The Chaotics (Sumner), The Chessmen, Dennis Wayne and the Cole Jets, The Epics, The Frantics, The Galaxies, The Intricates, Noblemen, Cymantha McGugin & The Cherry Frost , The Titans.

The Seaway also showed movies during the slow season, but the wise owner had put the chairs onto risers which could be rolled out of the building to clear the floor for dances which were only held in the months of June, July and August.

Today the building sits dark and quiet just waiting for a new generation of music lovers to rediscover what great music, salt air and a bunch of fun loving people can do to transform a humble Quonset hut into a musical mansion, at least for a while.

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Author: Wm. May – Beach Lover, Plumbob Publishing
Blog #: 0517 – 03/01/17

Sponsor: At The Crest – Nearby, but far from Ocean Shores. Just 10 miles North is the beachiest 54 unit condo. On the dunes, year round pool and hot tub. 1 Bedroom, sleeps 6 people. Barbecue, playground and clean salt air. – AtTheCrest.com

Hire a Crack Head to Clean your Home

By William May
Published: 03/01/17 Topics: Housekeeping, Vacation Rentals Comments: 0

"Hiring cheaper housekeepers is no problem", said the property owner. That way they can make more money.

"I mean how hard can it be to clean my little 3-bedroom 2,000 square foot house?"

Do you mean clean it any day of the week including weekends? Be on-call for special cleaning? Always show up on time and never complain? Be willing to do extra cleaning, and without notice, when some guests leave a terrible mess?

Do you mean a cleaner who has lots of family and friends to back her up when she gets busy with other things and decides she can't work on a day you have a back-to-back? Or when a child is ill or a car breaks down?

Some owners want to believe there are many people just begging to clean their homes. Unfortunately, there are not. Worse yet, most of them don’t pass a background check. They don't have references. They don’t want to take training. They detest checklists.

These cleaners don’t stick around when things get too busy and they never clean at high hospitality standards. They do not clean sufficiently and they are not there when you need them the most.

Let us all be honest, not all job applicants will be dedicated to our industry. There is no glamour unless they work for a desirable company that treats them well.

Many applicants just want a quick buck to pay for their drug habit. This is more common than you might imagine. The homeowner may never know until the druggie goes missing along with assets from their home.

If you are paying your cleaner in cash, do beware that it's illegal and your money may be just feeding a habit.

Professional management firms must protect their reputation with guests as well as owners. They want to pay their staff a good working wage. They want to be fair, kind, and responsible employers. They need workers who are reliable, loyal and competent. They do background checks and they have extra staff for backup.

Of course, these things are just good business, but they are also the only way to provide hospitality grade cleaning - the kind that discerning travelers expect at every lodging establishment from four-star hotels to cottages in the woods.

"Oh, but if you can’t clean the house cheaply, it will drive away guests," said that owner.

It's actually the opposite that's true. Guests are not stupid, they understand that no one can clean homes for a measly amount. One guest enunciates what some owners refuse to acknowledge;

"Your home was amazingly clean. But last year I rented a beautiful new home from another manager and the place was disgustingly dirty. I should have known better - no one can clean a whole house as cheap as they charged."

Yes, and every owner should understand the basic formula for requiring professional and thorough cleaning. With the advent of the internet, guests now have a global platform to report unclean homes. One bad review can lose thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars in lost bookings.

Why risk that? The math is simple. Hiring great housekeepers, paying them well, rewarding them with praise and thanks is good for business. It's even greater for maximizing income while minimizing problems.

Still not a believer? Here is the challenge - after the next few departures, do your own cleaning.

Arrive to clean exactly on time and then wait while the guests loiters and leaves late, knowing that the incoming guests while inevitability show up early, and expect the house to be sparkling clean even before their scheduled arrival time.

Of course, you must chit chat and make nice with every guest, or they'll make nasty comments to your boss, even though they were not supposed to be inside yet.

To clean well, get your hands down deep into and behind the toilet, scrub your knuckles off in the shower, get on your hands and knees to scrub the kitchen and bathroom floors. Wash stacks of dishes, pots, and pans with gobs of dried on food.

Wash loads of towels and linens. Be sure to treat any of those unmentionable stains. Make every bed perfectly and plump every pillow. You'll just love trying to put on comforters on bunk beds. It is not impossible, but you won't enjoy it.

While you are at it, clean up the dog poop in the yard, or shovel the walkway of snow in the winter. Scrub that meat-encrusted barbecue until the brush breaks. Sweep the leaves from the porch.

Don't forget to check every light bulb, vacuum every square inch of every floor, and catch every cobweb or your boss will scold you like a child.

Do all this in the shortest number of hours because some owners out there want you to work cheap while treating you like an indentured servant.

After you do your own cleaning, the light will come on. You will want to pay cleaners more, you'll treat them better and you'll make more money because happy housekeepers make happy hospitality grade clean homes!

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Author: William May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0583 – 03/01/17

How to Become a Professional Lodging Photographer

By Ron Lee
Published: 02/21/17 Topics: AirBnB, Lodging Management, Marketing, Photography Comments: 0

Becoming a professional lodging photographer has never been easier.

All you need is a camera and business cards. Just put the words "Professional Photographer" on the cards and people will think you are a pro.

Can you imagine a doctor getting away with that? Would you go to a dentist who says, "I am a professional dentist" who didn't have the training? Yikes. Those people would be driven out of the industry.

Unfortunately, there have always been a greatly many people who love the idea of being an artist, a photographer. It sounds like such a great job. For Inns, Resorts & Vacation Rentals, photos are the way guests make instant decisions to view your property or pass on to the next.

No longer is it necessary to burn hundreds of dollars of physical film, toil in the dark room and only later learn if your photos were adequate. Now a good digital camera gives you a thumbnail view instantly that you can call "good enough."

But, great camera gear doesn't make you a true photographer any more than buying your new born child a piano and pronouncing them a "Concert Pianist."

Today, a new higher title has been added to the photography professional. Its called "High Dynamic Range," or HDR, and it is a vastly superior way of shooting, processing, and delivering world class photography. It is a requirement for almost all photos, but an absolute requirement for shooting interior architectural images.

HDR Photos are crisp, clean and brighter, but only enough to match what the human eye actually perceives. By comparison, non-HDR photos are fuzzy, bland, and actually underestimate and mis-represent the property.

Unfortunately, most professional photographers are no longer professional because they are more in love with being "Artists" than they are in spending thousands of hours mastering HDR.

That means more lodging operators are wasting lots of money hiring pros or don’t begin to understand HDR.

To see the difference between Pros and HDR Pros, all you have to do is spend a little time examining listings on your favorite websites like VRBO.com, Expedia.com, or even AirBnB.com.

A company called Evolve Vacation Rentals offers "Free Professional Photography" to property owners. Because Evolve does not have on site staff they must call any "professional photographer" they can find and hire them without realizing that non HDR photos are robbing their listings of maximum bookings.

Headquartered in Portland, Oregon, Vacation Rentals does the same thing. Their recent foray into Matterport 3D photos is a good start, but ignoring HDR still photos causes them to lose bookings.

Turnkey Rentals out of Austin is trying to take over the world, but right there on their home page are fuzzy, out of focus, non-HDR photos. How could a management company call themselves professional when the number one listing tool - photos - are all messed up?

All of these companies talk the professional photographer game, but non walk the walk. And all because they refuse to spend the slightly more money necessary to find and employ high level HDR photographers.

Ignoring the absolute requirement for HDR photos is like the proverbial canary in the coal mine. If your manager does not understand the difference between truly professional HDR photos and want to be professional photographers, what else don’t they understand?

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Author: Ron Lee – Not a Photographer, Signatour Photo Team
Blog #: 0521 – 02/21/17

Sponsor: Signatours Photo Team – It is not enough to have a camera and cards that say you are photographer. Today's technology demands study, practice and perfection along with an artists eye. Every Signatour photographer has all of those along with a support and professional staff to ensure the highest quality HDR photos. – Signatours.com

Wisdom from Catherine the Great

By Wm. May
Published: 01/09/17 Topics: Education, Gratitude, People, Self Improvement Comments: 1

Catherine the Great

For a dozen years Catherine and I worked hand in hand with sometimes demanding clients and difficult people. She was never confused. Never flustered.

She talked with people on the phone from all corners of the U.S. and Canada. When I met those people at conferences they always wanted to know about Catherine instead of me. Who could blame them, she was far more intriguing.

She addressed everyone with their title such as "Mr. Jones." But when they insisted on being called Robert she would agree. But on their next phone call she was back to "Mr. Jones". She believed, "Everyone likes to be respected. It is such a small thing, why not?"

For many years, she had been an assistant to the mayor of a major city at a time when protests, riots and even bombings were common due to opposition to Vietnam and ongoing racial unrest.

Catherine saw herself as the only voice of reason. At our office, she always "dressed up, because you never know when you have to dress someone down." And yet, even that was said quietly, calmly and with a hint of a smile around her eyes.

In client meetings she always wore white gloves because "Everyone should learn how to conduct themselves graciously to be taken seriously." And, "Why not, I love to look lovely in gloves."

Catherine always donned a lovely, well-coiffured wig and had quite a collection to go with her every outfit. Along with gracious manners, she did not mince words. "I tell it like it is, but tell it respectfully" and she demanded the same from others.

"Be friendly with everyone, and soon they will become friends."

"If you can't say something nice, I recommend you learn how."

"Never raise your voice, or they will scream back at you."

"If you don't stand up for something, you will fall for everything."

At home, Catherine was a different person. A 6 foot 2 inch power house who spoke forcefully, sported 2- foot long dreadlocks (although we never actually saw them), loved dashiki's and performing her poetry. She had a laugh that could shake buildings.

She often wrote well into the night, but was never late for her 9am start time. She never missed a day of work, because "I can count on people, if they can count on me."

Catherine said there are always three sides to every issue, not just two. We talked often about religion, politics and racism. For example, there are not just racists and non-racists, but a third person she tried to be.

She lectured me that African Americans are no more homogenous than anyone else. "Like all races, rich may look down on poor, thin people avoid fat folks, tall people feel superior to short people, and - this was news to me - some lighter skin African Americans look down on darker skinned people."

"Racism among all Americans is the more overt part of "me-ism," she explained. "Everyone starts with 'me first', my children second, my family third, my friends fourth and, then, maybe everyone else. You can't wipe out racism until everyone of us admits that."

That led to her absolute conviction that "We are all prejudiced. Not just whites, but yellows and reds and blacks." She concluded that racism could be eliminated if every one of us does it personally and the place to start is in our own hearts.

"The question isn't whether you are racist, the question is are you trying not be?"

Sadly, we lost Catherine with a late night phone call saying she had died unexpectedly at the age of 52. We were stunned. My son had adored her. My wife had been charmed. We called her Catherine the Great.

But she left behind this - for years I have accepted the truth of me-ism and that every day I must try to do better than the day before. Maybe someday maybe slowly bigotry will become a thing of memory, if we can all do just that. Try.

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Author: Wm. May
Blog #: 0752 – 01/09/17

Hating Groups of People Is Ignorant

By Wm. May
Published: 01/09/17 Topics: Comments: 0

Hating Groups is Ignorant

Contrary to common thinking, not everyone believes in love thy neighbor, turn the other cheek, or do unto others and you would have them do unto you. Many people try, and most of us fail, in some way.

Recent events and anger reveal those are missing ingredients from pretty much everyone involved.

Although our family is not of the faith, when my son switched schools at age 10, we chose a Catholic grade school. No particular reason, except we were looking for a good education from good people. We found it there.

He wasn't so sure about the uniforms and on the first Friday, he came home perplexed. "Dad, you are not going to believe this, " he said, "but after going to school all week, they expect us to come back on Sunday."

Some friends questioned a non-religious family sending their son to Catholic school. But there we met Father Bob Camusso, or should I say, re-met, because prior to the priesthood, Bob Camusso had been a prominent advertising agency executive, an industry in which my wife and I had worked.

He was really a "Man about town", dashing, handsome and well spoken, until he was called to the church and a life of service. He was then man about town in a fulfilling way.

Although my Dad had passed away five years earlier, I could just hear my never-miss-a-church-service man saying, "Hey, it's not going to kill him to go to a church school. You went to church and I think it was good for you."

My Dad said that kind of thing about many obligations we all face in life. Go to school and study, go to work and hustle, take care of our families, take care of ourselves by living right, avoiding alcohol and drugs.

He said, "You do anything you want in life, but if you stay with the 10 commandments, you'll do Ok and will have done a good job."

I enjoyed conversation with Father Bob and in one, I asked what do you do when people are difficult, or rude or misbehave. He smiled and said, "Well, Bill, we must all remember. Forgiveness is not a suggestion or a recommendation, it is an absolute requirement."

Watching the angry protests against racism and the hatred toward police causes me to think of these two "Fathers." One my natural Dad and the other a wise clergyman. I don't have answers to the race divide, now hundreds of years old. I don’t know how to relive the pain so many African Americans feel. I don't know about policing, except from my own limited interactions with law enforcement.

But I do know that we should all be frightened by the hatred we see. I can't see how it leads to resolution, but could easily result in the kind of physical confrontation that caused these problems in the first place.

I also know that there are there are certain individuals who do despicable things. Things beyond comprehension or even description, Things which are difficult to believe.

I am absolutely sure of this - to hate any group of people as a group, or because some members of that group are bad is unfair and ignorant. I won't hate any race because someone in that race is bad. I won't hate police because some people in their ranks are bad.

Instead, I want to be intelligent enough to assess each person I meet one by one, person to person, and to look for the good in everyone. I refuse to hate any group of people no matter the popular social pressure to so.

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Author: Wm. May
Blog #: 0753 – 01/09/17

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