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Advice to gite owners from a guest


Montcigoux

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As a regular gite user often taking two or more holidays a year in France who has also owned properties in France I thought I would get my most common gripes off my chest. I think you are all quite heroes to put up with guests but there are some things some of you could improve on. My first gripe is the lack of photos on the website especially on general booking websites rather than your own dedicated website. When you are choosing a gite you can be researching hundreds especially if you are looking in a region or if you don't want an exclusive pool. The photos are crtical they can tell you so much about the gite.  Please post lots of  clear photos of both the interior and exterior including the main sitting and dining rooms,  and especially the kitchen with details of the sink and cooker - you can tell a lot from that and the bedroom pics as well, why not use the maximum number of photos allowed by the website? Try and avoid the photo of the ubiquitous green or white plastic chairs in the garden they just look so depressing and cheapskate even though they are practical.

Please include details upfront on whether the gite is detached and the degree of privacy  and what facilities are shared with the owner and or other guests.  Don't use up limited space telling me about the region and local attractions I can find that out  for myself tell me about the gite in detail. Make it absolutely clear which bedrooms are completely private and which are walk through to other bedrooms or the only bathroon and if you are offering a bed in a reception room tell me if the room has doors that can be closed and whether or not you have to walk through it to get to other reception rooms. Always tell me how quiet or noisy the gite is from road or railway noise etc. and whether and where there is parking.  Include a photo of any put-u-up type beds or sofa beds made up and dimensions if you are expecting a couple to sleep on them. Is there somewhere nice and private to sit and enjoy the sun?

The next thing I need to know is immediate availability I don't want to have to send off an email or a booking form only to find the gite isn't available so a web site that clearly states availability up front is critical especially as I often book quite late. As discussed in other posts include details of any extras and their charges and what is included in the basic price. You don't need to be overly generous we don't need a welcome pack.

In advance send very good directions on how to find the place written from the perspective of a complete stranger to the area arriving from different directions who may be looking for the place in the dark as we were in Normandy a couple of years ago. By this stage of the journey everybody is tired and it is not a good start to be unable to find the gite. Please include landmarks at point where you turn off, a physical description of the gite and its location and the type of road. Don't use the sort of directions that include "turn at the fourth roundabout" by this time we have lost count of how many roundabouts or we are not even sure if we are on the road  that you are referring to, instead use the road numbers, the directional signs we will see and landmarks. The google earth link is useful but if your gite is in a town the google earth map doesn't give all the street names so it isn't a lot of help when you are lost.  A really useful service would be to offer to provide a set of free street plans  for the locality or nearest town or village or at least an indication of where the nearest tourist office is and its contact details. On holiday you don't always have sat nav (its an extra on hire cars) and so few gites have internet access. It helps to know where to find things for the first couple of days. If somebody is going to be there to greet us please let us have their full name and mobile number.

Other useful information to give before arrival is the opening and closing times of local shops or supermarkets especially ones that sell  bread and fresh milk and what if any basic provisions there are in the gite as often I call in at the shop or supermarket before I get to the gite. Please clear out rancid and already opened provisions left by previous owners and don't leave used tablets of soap and dish sponges and scourers of uncertain origin in the sinks. If you feel you must leave soap leave either use wrapped guest tablets or  leave liquid hand wash instead. Cleanliness  - gite owners you pay cleaners who in my experince are often frankly not worth it, all they seem to do is change the bedding and do a quick wipe round.  The standard of cleanliness is often very low -  do you ever check their work?  I have cleared out green mould from breadbins, last week I found myself cleaning three loos as they had dark ingrained dirt in the bowl and that gite was on mains drains. Make sure your cleaner cleans with the shutters open so they can see what they are doing. When we arrived at our very expensive gite this week all the shutters were closed and the key wasn't where we had been told it would be. Eventually we realised that the cleaner was still inside with the key it was 1.30pm and she was virtually cleaning in the dark as the lighting in the main rooms was so dim. I do sympathise with you when guests trash the place again please be clear about what standard you expect I had no communication on that from this weeks gite. Having met the french cleaner I could have assumed that she would do everything of course from my regular reading of your complaints on this website I knew better and even mopped the kitchen floor! You need to be realsitic about the amount your guests can do on the last day especially if they are setting off for an early flight find out how your guests are travelling so that you knowwhat to expect when they have left.

 Consider a deep clean during the season there is a lot to get through in a changeover peiod just changing the bedding etc so try to allow one day for a thorough clean of ovens, tile grouting, loos, skirting boards and ledges, under the beds, high shelves in the kitchen, storage containers, on top of the fridge freezer and grotty kitchen cupboards. Dim lighting  makes it hard to read in the main reception rooms especially if you tend towards short sight as I do and having time to do lots of reading is one of the main pleasures of the holiday.  Beds -this last week all our beds were uncomfortable and we were glad to get home for a good night's sleep. Please use good quality mattresses.  I am used to gites where the crockery and cutlery is all oddments so I can put up with that but they still need to be checked by your changeover person and any chippedor stained crockery or glassware thrown away. If you supply a TV or DVD or satellite  dish or an oven or grill please make sure that they work properly and leave simplified quick start guides on a laminated sheet next to the appliance to try and prevent people from breaking them. The only thing I have found that always seem to work in a gite is the microwave even if it is at least 20 years old. I understand about financial pressures so I am tolerant of  the mismatched second hand furniture and the pine self assembly stuff in most gites that frankly would all be better in a skip. Could you try and keep the grot factor of the sofas to a minimum though and also make sure that the chests of drawers and wardrobes are not broken in some way.

Please  make it clear what you expect us to replace before we leave we are not psychic and custom and practice varies widely so if you want the barbecue charcoal or the loo rolls replacing tell us. I note  that nearly every gite I have stayed in does not have clear basic information pinned up on how to contact a local doctor or the ambulance. Many British guests may not realise especially if they are in a panic that you don't dial 999.

I also think you should out of courtesy send an email to your guests after their holiday asking them for specific feedback on things like the directions, the furnishings and fixtures and fittings etc. Many guests won't rebook just because they like to travel widely not because they don't like your gite and most of us are not serial complainers so if you don't ask you will never hear from us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Crikey!  Have you just had a bad gite experience? (Haven't we all at some stage!)  All the comments about grot and dirt and lack of privacy would seem indicate this.

I hope it hasn't put you off too much.

Fi

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Oh, Fi, I thought that, on the whole, the OP's post was constructive! 

S/he seems to know exactly what they want and, in many ways, that's a lot better than people who don't know what on earth they do want.  In my book, those people (the ones who don't know what they want) are the hardest to please.

I know very little about this topic, having never been to a gîte and having never run one.  But I am interested in finding out as I may well want to stay in a gîte when I am ready to travel around France a bit.

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Sweets - oops sorry didn't mean to appear negative.  As a gite owner I am probably guilty of a few of the sins listed (my website isn't the best in the universe).  It just seemed to me that the OP's post was very specific about some of the issues from which I inferred that they had had a bad experience recently. 

Fi

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Oh we can so agree about uncomfortable beds, it is really depressing... and sofas... we stayed in a gite a few years ago that had garden furniture for their sofa... we sat on the floor as it was more comfy!

We stayed in a gite in April and it was so bad... and I mean really bad... that we moved after a day... and we went away again in June for a few days and the gite seemed ok but... beds - oh so dreadful!  Shower... useless, fitted in such a way in the bath that it was impossible to stand under it?

To be fair we have also stayed in some lovely places... the second one in April was very nice... but over the years it was often a bit pot-luck and paying more never assured quality [:$]

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I do leave a bottle of the local plonk and some cheese for new guests.  Wouldn't dream of leaving half opened packets of anything (my dog does well though!).  I leave very little food-wise (I stayed in one gite where I spent the first evening emptying all the cheese/milk/butter/dead salad etc out of the fridge!).  I do offer to do some basic shopping for guests - I just put it away, leave the supermarket bill and they reimburse me.  I do provide cleaning materials and equipment - if I want people to keep the place clean, it seems logical to provide the wherewithal.  Nothing more boring than spending your holiday money on J-cloths.

We have new everything (courtesy of IKEA), minimal itsy bitsies (mainly because life is just too short for dusting!), and I do a thorough clean every changeover (myself).  Living on site I am in a position to deal with any niggles before they turn into holiday wreckers.  However, some guests do leave a lot to be desired (and leave their commonsense at home as well) - it is a two-way street.  Still haven't recovered from the outraged Parisienne who couldn't understand why there was no heart-shaped cake tin ....[:D]

Just wondering - what nationality have the problem gites been?   I have only ever stayed in a Brit -owned gite once - it was fine - but not worth the premium.  On reflection I would have preferred something more basic and had more money for treats.

Fi

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We don't have a website, but have plenty of photos on our listing sites. When people make enquiries I also direct them to our picasaweb albums of the house and garden, and of the area. I feel sure we list everything that renters need to know about the house. We have a narrow spiral staircase, so state that the property may not be suitable for the elderly or for very young children.

We keep our availability calendar updated regularly, but what annoys us is when people make enquiries for dates without checking it, thus wasting our time.

We give comprehensive directions from all the ports, and the information we leave in the cottage actually got 10 out of 10 from our last guests! I love putting together details of all the local attractions, beaches, supermarkets, etc complete with photos. It also includes details of doctors, dentists, etc and what to do in an emergency.

We don't live in France, so we have to rely on cleaners for the changeovers, but have luckily found them to be very good. Some of the guests have been friends or colleagues of ours and they always say the house was immaculate when they arrived. We always have our annual holiday in the middle of the season, so before we leave the house gets a special deep clean and everything checked.

We had holidayed in cottages and gites for years before we owned our own, and we always said if we ever owned our own holiday rental we would never furnish it with a mish mash of secondhand or cheap furniture. One of our bug-bears was tiny kitchen bins that were full almost immediately, and freezers that were little more than glorified ice-boxes. Unfortunately we cannot fit a dishwasher in our kitchen, but we have all other mod cons. When we bought all the crockery we made sure we had two matching sets of everything so we could replace breakages like for like. However, I think only one piece of china has been broken in 5 years, but glasses are always being broken. Mostly guests replace them - and because they come in sets of 4, etc, we have ended up with loads of new glasses!

One point you have mentioned is a feedback form at the end of each holiday. We may consider this. We get a lot of positive feedback from comments in our guest book, but that would give an extra chance for guests to mention things they don't like to write in that. But would guests be bothered to reply, I wonder?

You have brought up some very interesting points. I do feel that every gite owner should have experience of being a guest at some time, so they can see things from both sides.
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We sometimes wounder why we have availability calendars as most people never seem to bother looking at them. Its much easier to look than to type out a blinking long e-mail asking for weeks that are already taken.

We also give very good directions but when people have visited our website they could just take them off themselves as we have google map and they just put in where they are coming from and thats it. I don't think anyone has ever thought of that or the fact that its very easy to find on the internet yourself. we have gone and stayed in gites ourselves and never asked for directions just put in the address and thats it a full printout with times and everything. I suppose some are lazy really or just a bit daft. Most don't take any notice of our directions anyway and say we have SAT NAV and get completely lost...

As far as people that leave the properties the grubbiest I'm afraid it has to be the 'brits' even though some Norwegians we had a while back beat everyone hands down on the living like a pig factor. I have never seen such fowl mess in my life, they were only here for a week you would think more like a month. But how anyone could live in that filth for a week I don't know. It took us 3 hours with two of us going at it like stink, Yes stink is a good word. Even having to scrape knose contents off the wall in the kids bedroom and the shower room. Pigs utter pigs. They asked how safe the place was for the children and we said everything was fully fenced etc but they still needed to police the children. What a joke she wanted to know how safe it was so she could just let them out to run riot and not give a stuff. Certainly will not be letting them to book again.

Its also amazing how people come on a self catering holiday and forget what the words 'Self Catering' mean!!! Try and get by by saying oh we just ran out of the last toilet roll 2 days into a week and come begging for more. Yes we do give in as its only small things but they all add up especially when you have already put in plenty to go on with. Just to tight to go and buy any.

I am glad this year that we have more French coming here to stay as all in all they seem to be the best. Always leaving everything very clean and always polite etc. Nice people.

Feedback forms we have done in the past and some of the things that we have had on them we have thought, Oh yes we could do that and have put things right and added things etc. But we don't do them any more as some of the things were so petty 'We can't use the peelers etc' Just because they are french and a bit different than the uk ones! Don't like something else because its not like a uk one! You would never think that they had come to france, They wanted everything UK...

Perhaps its why we came to France in the first place fed up with the way the country was going and sorry but its full of brits. Yeah I know I'm leaving myself open to opinions so I've got my tin hat on, Incoming..........[;-)] 

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Thebiga, I think my Belgian guests from last week could have given your Norwegians a good run for their money!

One of them coloured her hair using the towels supplied as part of the rental (see this other discussion on the topic of towels). So that's another bath towel lost (as well as the two they "packed by mistake" and the bed they broke but failed to mention).

To the OP, thank you for the comment.

I could easily list a number of points from the owner's perspective, but I suggest instead a quick look at previous threads on the topic in this very section of the forum.

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We in the past have visited many gites/villas in France and Spain. On the whole all the places that we have stayed at have been lovely and clean, and the information provided has been excellent also. We always try to ensure that other peoples property is treated with the utmost respect and ensure that our two children (8 and 6) do the same. Yes - believe it or not we are Brits!!

We always ensure that we do a full clean prior to leaving, including stripping the beds, whether there is a cleaning charge or not. However, I must also say that on one occassion the person we rented from kept back 35 Euros of the damages deposit and claimed that this was a cleaning charge even though I had cleaned!! Both my husband and I could not believe it - quite frankly I felt quite insulted. Don't get me wrong - I believe that a cleaning charge should be made, but I also believe that this should be made clear up front that it will be charged so that there can be no misunderstanding at the end of the holiday. We left the property feeling that the landlord was making a quick buck - so to speak.

What I am trying to say here is that I dont feel it is right to assume that all Brits are the same - we would never for example not buy loo roll or claim that we couldn't use peelers etc - this seems very petty to me.

I can understand that problems like that would be very annoying but if you really feel that fed up with Brits dont rent to them.

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We do not have cleaners nor do we do charge for cleaning, but we do request that the property be cleaned before departure.

I then go through the house and do

the necessary before the next visitors arrive.

From my owner's experience to date, the Spanish families we have rented to have been absolutely fantastic. The property has been left spotless and I have always made a point of sending an email to thank them.

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[quote user="Clair"]We do not have cleaners nor do we do charge for cleaning, but we do request that the property be cleaned before departure.

I then go through the house and do

the necessary before the next visitors arrive.

From my owner's experience to date, the Spanish families we have rented to have been absolutely fantastic. The property has been left spotless and I have always made a point of sending an email to thank them.

[/quote]

We have an optional extra charge for cleaning (or it's diy) which so far only two people have chosen to pay.  Most people leave the place immaculate.   Then all I have to do is replenish loo rolls etc, and possibly give the windows a once-over and a bit of delving in the corners - nothing too strenuous.  There have been a couple of exceptions, but that's life.

I think from an owner's point of view the OP seemed to be tarring us all with the same uncaring money-grubbing brush which certainly made me slightly [6], but I must be doing something right because I haven't had any truly negative feedback or justifiable complaints (cake tins notwithstanding!).  Now I've said that I'll probably be sobbing into my rose on Saturday...

Fi

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I don't take the OP's comments to heart, as we already do most of what has been asked for.

One of the rental listings I use encourages visitors to leave a rating and a "testimonial" on their website after their stay.

We must be doing something right, as all those who bother doing it give us 5/5.

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Interesting point-you say staying in a Brit owned gite was not worth the premium. Does this mean that in general Brits charge more than the French for example? or because the French bring their own sheets,cleaning materials etc?
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KC. I'm not completely knocking the brits as we have had some very nice ones and some staying at the moment that are great. It was in general that we have had most problems with the brits not as every brit as it may have come across.

We do not take a breakage deposit here and some will say we must be mad but we choose to trust everyone with our properties to treat them well. We have had a couple of times when we have thought that perhaps we should have taken one but we choose not to. So we could not take any extra for cleaning or anything anyway.

One other thing that really gets us is that has no person ever seen oven gloves before!!! We give oven gloves and all tea towels etc for the kitchen aswell as all bed linen and towels in the price. No extras. But as I said oven gloves, The amount of times that we go in at the end of the stay and the oven gloves are clean but all the tea towels are wrecked and have to be replaced[:@] I can't beleive what must go through some's heads, not a lot I think. More very nice tea towels gone to the rag bag this week.GRRRRRRRRR

And about the peelers and loo roll, I find it very petty aswell thats why we don't leave feedback forms anymore.

 

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[quote user="Jazzer"]Interesting point-you say staying in a Brit owned gite was not worth the premium. Does this mean that in general Brits charge more than the French for example? or because the French bring their own sheets,cleaning materials etc?[/quote]

I just think that many (not all!) non-French owned gites are finished to a higher standard and offer more in the way of "services" (beds made/cleaning etc etc). 

We are 5 (2 big, 3 small) - for a French 3 bed chalet with 1 bathroom and 2 wc, bring/hire sheets & towels, do own cleaning, free firewood and bbq supplies, French owner who said "have a great holiday, if you break something don't worry, we'll sort it out it"  was  around 400 euros a week mid May - a similar size property in the same area which was owned by Brits and had en-suites for all rooms, plus a wc, plus beds made, plus towels, white leather sofas, itsy-bitsies everywhere, plus a rule book the size of Bleak House, was 650 euros.  For us, it was a no brainer - 150 euros buys a lot of steack hache/frites and goes on the luge d'ete, and I want to relax on holiday, not worry about breaking the rules.  Before I get flattened, this was our experience and choice, and in no way is a reflection on Brit owned gites as a whole (this is probably not enough to prevent a slaying though!)

Fi

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I sympathise with a lot of the things the OP says - but think that in his/her admission they always book late. A lot of the best accommodation gets booked up early by repeat guests and other people who realise that they will only get the dregs if they leave things to the last minute. I can honestly say that I am not guilty of anything they have said in their rather long and dull post, but then the OP wouldn't stand a chance of staying in my gites because they are always booked up for July and August before Christmas the previous year.

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I think the original poster's comments were hugely constructive. We often stay in gites and have had mixed experiences. Just a thought - all gite owners should stay at least one night in their own gite, that way you know that when it's windy the windows bang and you can't sleep (even with shutters closed) or that the water pressure is dismally low and you're standing in the shower with only a dribble of water, things like that. It's silly things like that where you feel that it's trivial to complain, especially if the gite owners are very welcoming people, but it has been a minor but constant source of annoyance throughout your stay. So a feedback form would be wonderful.

Most gites are great but I agree about cleanliness - cutlery is often very clean but the inside of the drawer itself can be filthy! Small things like that, again trivial to say something but it lowers our estimation of the place.

I hope all gite owners are taking this as constructive advice. I think the OP's comments were very valid and particularly the point about specific directions and landmarks to find the gite!
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I agree the OP's post is valid and constructive, - by it's volume bound to be a bit turgid, but even the trivial comments could be easily rectified for little cost. Trifles make perfection, but perfection is no trifle - Michelangelo. Our experience has been you can't judge Gites by the photo's and cost, we've had some expensive howlers and some cheap though excellent value, with a lot of shoddy rip-off (English) places inbetween. The best have been peoples second homes with proper furniture, comfortable beds and pleasant kitchens, - these are the places we have gone back time and again, but also recommended to friends and family. I'm in the middle of renovating a house and couple of gites and have learn't to do them to the standard I would wish to find and hopefully this will get repeat business, as opposed to one hit wonders that were cheaper to do but leave people uninspired to recommend or return.[8-|]
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J. John

You have made a very good point, understandably  there is often a big difference between what you will find in a second home and what you will find in a quickly furnished gîte. However, just like hotels there are good ones and bad ones and it's the same with people so we should not tar everything with the same brush.

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