The Age of the Refund
By Alex Foti, Founder, Bretton Woods Vacations

When we started Bretton Woods Vacations in 2017, we had many ideas and many options, but one thing was clear: our company’s focus would be on providing the outmost quality, and a relentless pursuit a perfection.

A vision, of course, means nothing if it’s not put into practice. In that process, we weeded out dozens of contractors and employees who couldn’t keep up with that vision, put in place protocols to make sure we could deliver as good of a product as possible, and did everything in our power to control every variable that can affect a guest’s stay, and ensure everyone is as happy as they can be. We had a dream, and wanted everyone to be part of it.

Reality, of course, is a bit different. When you manage over 100 homes, things happen. Rain pours, blizzards strike, winds howl, bugs invade, appliances break – sometimes even the newest ones. We just came out of one of the strongest blizzards in years, where most of our homes lost power between 3 and 8 hours. Some guests took it in stride – they lit a fire, played card games, and had a blast. “It was a great time to put down our devices and bond,” told us a guest. Others did not quite see it that way. We passed on every bit of information we received from Eversource, but we were blamed for that information not always being the most accurate. We were skewered for not knowing exactly at what time power will be restored. Our employees were berated for not driving fast enough to get to a home to bring over whatever the guest needed to make their stay more comfortable – even as some of our employees became stuck between trees falling in the high winds and braved conditions where really, they should not be driving for requests that were frankly at times just petty. While the majority of guests were amazing, for some, human compassion was out along with the power, and all they could focus on was why it took an extra 5 minutes to deliver those extra towels. The raging blizzard outside and our employees – literally- risking their lives to deliver those towels meant absolutely nothing.

Managing this many homes is not an easy task. We do maintenance, multiple inspections, checks, and yet occasionally things break. It seems that guests used to understand that sometimes things break, and we have always been committed to doing our best to address promptly. Today, it seems like that’s never enough. Here are some examples.

A guest rented a home for 3 days for a family of 6. The dishwasher broke. Within 2 hours of the dishwasher breaking, we had a repair technician out there to fix it – something I would never even promise, as it can sometime take days to get an appliance repair in. Unfortunately, the dishwasher needed a new control panel, which would take a few days to arrive. To address the guest’s disappointment, our Director of Housekeeping herself went there and washed not only the dishes, but cleaned the entire kitchen. The next day (final day of their stay) we offered the same service, and the guest declined. But here it comes: the fabled “request for refund.” Without any appreciation for the extra effort, the guest requested a 90% refund – yes, that’s right – NINETY PERCENT – for the “terrible inconvenience” of… having someone do the dishes for them, instead of a dishwasher? Well, request DENIED.

Then there was the other request. A guest staying for 3 nights at an amazing hilltop home. Lost power for 2 hours. The request? A full refund, for the inconvenience of not having power for 2 hours.

Then there was a guest who rented a unit whose first 3 words in the listing are “Top Floor Unit.” A day after her arrival, the guest requested a full refund or threatened to sue because her mother, who was staying in the unit below which they also rented, couldn’t do stairs. Does it matter that the description state that it’s a top floor unit? Nope, need a full refund. On the same weekend, someone called to ask for a full refund because the unit smelled like smoke. I personally went there and noticed that there was no smell whatsoever, and she said – oh well, the king bed pillows smell. So I offered to bring new pillows. Well, when I said that, suddenly it wasn’t the pillows that were a problem. The problem became that the unit was not a ski-in ski-out – even though it was not advertised as such, and in fact the description says that the unit is located next to the Mount Washington Hotel’s golf course (has anyone every done downhill skiing on a golf course? Interesting concept). Given my refusal to offer a refund for this series of seemingly changing reasons, she concluded that her only option was to unleash her legal team on us. We’d be hearing from her lawyer, were her last words to us.

The list goes on and on and on. From the ridiculous to the nonsensical to the blatantly made up, what used to be a sporadic incident seems to have become an epidemic of ludicrous requests for refunds. We love our guests, and with a returning guests rate close to about 30%, it seems that they love us. But lately it seems like we have entered the “age of refund,” where people seek every possible excuse to demand a refund, without any recognition whatsoever for the people who addressed those issues promptly and professionally, if there ever even was an issue. So, if you are a guest or a perspective guest, here’s my appeal to you: be nice. Remember, it is easy to hide behind a keyboard and type a nasty message. There are people on the other side of that message – wonderful, hard working people who do everything in their power to make sure you have an amazing stay. Our team is like our family. They’re human, full of imperfections and emotions – those things that, you know… make us human. It seems like we have entered the Age of the Refund, an age where people have forgotten how life works, how things happen and we don’t always have control over it… and we don’t always get a refund because we don’t like it. But most sadly, it’s an age where people feel that because they’re a customer it’s OK to treat other humans with disrespect, to walk over their dignity.

Here at Bretton Woods Vacations we believe in technology and we believe in the future, but we refuse to enter the Age of the Refund. We still believe in kindness, honesty, and human compassion. Call us old fashioned.