Life Advice



Run Your B&B Like The Business It Is

Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin on

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have owned a very lovely bed and breakfast in a boutique community for 15 years now. In the last year, I have noticed an upswing in guests being wantonly destructive.

For example, we had a woman dye her hair bright red in her bathroom sink and then wipe her hands on the vintage wallpaper, leaving unfixable stains. This guest then disputed the repair charge, which left me with the repapering bill.

Could you recommend a gentle and non-alienating way to ask guests to not to destroy my home? Or perhaps verbiage for a sign? I really do generally enjoy the guests, but I simply cannot afford to repeatedly replace wallpaper and antique paintings that have been stolen right off the wall.

GENTLE READER: Shortly after hoteliers started calling their customers guests, they learned the downside of advising the clientele to make themselves at home.

There is, in Miss Manners' vocabulary, no such thing as a paying guest. She mentions this to provide context for her solution: You are in a business relationship with your customers, which not only gives you the right, but sets the expectation, that you will establish clear terms.

A deposit against damage, and a written explanation that it may be used to return the room to the condition in which it was found, is reasonable and practical. No list of the ways in which a client could damage the property will ever be complete -- and it might give them ideas.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My three friends took me out for dinner for my birthday and paid for everything, as this is something we all do for each other. The next day, two of them talked on the phone and realized they hadn't left enough of a tip.

One of them called me and said, I know you won't like this, but we just realized that we underestimated the tip. We want you to go back and give our waitress $15 more.

I was offended and stunned, and suggested that one of them do it, since she lives close by. This friend responded, No, we want you to do it, and I'll pay for your drink next time we go out.


I said OK, but now that I think about it, it really bothers me. I would never ask this of her, or anyone. Am I overreacting?

GENTLE READER: Friends ask one another favors. But friends also do not insist on compliance -- particularly if the favor is potentially embarrassing. We want you to do it reeks of coercion, not to mention conspiracy.

Had you been able to ask Miss Manners in the moment, she would have advised you to avoid the trap of assuming any responsibility for finding a solution: I'm sorry, I just can't. If you cannot bring yourself to make good on your word, already given, a full-blown apology is going to be required: I'm so sorry, I agreed because I thought it wouldn't bother me. But it does; I'm embarrassed. I know I said I would, but please don't ask me to do this.

This may be more trouble than delivering the retroactive tip.


(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website,; to her email,; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)






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