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“Expectation is the Root of all Heartache”

Well, it finally happened. It took 20 months and 16 days, but — brace yourself — I finally got my first disparaging review. It was bound to happen at some point. I felt I would have vast humility when it happened, but it was more of a stomp around the kitchen. Don’t get me wrong, reviews, positive or negative, are important for growth, and I have been around long enough to know that thick skin is necessary to walk through “this thing we call life.” I have had plenty of feedback and suggestions since opening day from so many great people and lots of those ideas have been implemented. 

The comment was posted on The Virginia May Facebook page, and started with “stayed here for Valentine’s Day, and it was a bust.” What? I know there is a collective wave of shock as you all read that. No one was more surprised than I. Now, when I think of a bust, several images come to mind… my own gravity-sloping downward bust, the bust of David the Thinker, Shakespeare’s head, traveling as a young adult — “ Italy or bust!” 

But The Virginia May? A bust? Lisa, what are you talking about? February is the month of love, and extra good food, chocolate, and red hand towels. This would hardly be considered a bust. To make a long story short, it was the condition of the hot tub she felt was less than “acceptable,” and that I was a “liar” with “poor customer service.” Those gems are pulled out of the texting messages we had exchanged the previous night, with no happy ending on her part. She did state she would post on all apps from here to Keller to Fort Worth to Arlington of her experience. And while I hope Lisa felt better about her vitriol outburst, there was no mention of the renowned breakfast served to her, the pristine white sheets she slept on, the impeccably clean cottage, and the quiet of the street. Nothing. I regaled her with the maintenance measures, defended my learned knowledge of test strips and chemicals, the draining and bleaching schedule, and the filling back up in our private texting exchange. But I could not win her over. I have OCD, Lisa. Trust me, it’s clean. 

I did not respond on social media, and I did not defend my work ethic publicly. I decided to take the high road and write about it with my own sense of weird humor. Isn’t the line “all publicity is
good publicity” applicable here? 

If Keller, Arlington, and Fort Worth are covered on her end, I want to make sure that Haslet, Saginaw, and the Alliance area are in the customer satisfaction loop too. 

What seems slightly unfair these days is the “customer is always right.” Maybe in 1950, when the world was kinder, but 2024? Since the inception of the B&B 20 months ago, I have experienced some wicked situations of the general public’s hospitality habits and their stay at the cottages. These stories cannot become public as you can well imagine, but they have certainly been bandied about with my close friends, and yes, gales of laughter ensue. All I need to do with my sweet neighbors is mention pineapple, or wax, and the giggles start. So, like all business owners I just buy more white cloths (by the case full) even when there is a black makeup cloth with MAKE UP printed on it. I don’t leave a trail of half-truths on social

media and air their dirty laundry. I just throw it in the washer and get on with my day. A cloth isn’t the entire overnight stay, and I don’t think using the white cloth instead of the black is done with any intended malice. 

When I retired from teaching and the steady and reliable school board paycheck was no longer, it was a sobering thought that my wine budget would be purely based on my ability as a business owner. Nothing motivated me more than the thought of not having copious amounts of wine in my house. I did not come from a business background, unless you consider the educational development of high schoolers a business. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Education, and a Master’s degree in administration. Toilet cleaning and bed making I learned in elementary school, and being kind to others I learned in kindergarten. There was no fancy training for food, or cottage design school, or landscaping classes — Covid and Pinterest helped immeasurably. I have travelled a fair bit, and mirroring great experiences I have had was the goal. 

I have met incredible guests who are here in our area spending money locally, and for that I am thankful they found me and the B&B and booked an overnight stay here and not the Marriott. I get to experiment with food, sit and hear the stories of my guests, and why they are visiting. I send them to local pubs, to the Farmers Market in Saginaw. I tout the greatness of Eagle Mountain Park, two marinas, a beach park, and encourage them to get pedicures and massages in Haslet. I have all sorts of local supper suggestions, (notwithstanding my own incredible private dinners I offer guests), where to buy plants and flowers and cowboy hats and cute little boutique shops. I find out who likes antiques and send them to Azle to shop the strip and Twin Points beach to swim in the hot summer months. It’s face-to-face real connective moments with people, and I always encourage them to
shop local. 

So, what is the moral here? Find the joy in life. While it’s always easier to gravitate towards negativity, and absolutely, feedback is important, let’s not crush the little people when one aspect of a business exchange is not to your liking. There are far more gracious ways to express disappointment. Takes only but a minute to be kind. 

If that doesn’t suit your fancy there are many big, impersonable hotels downtown. I am certain the hot tub is always acceptably clean — after all, they cater to children with small bladders, and the continental breakfast is always busting with good cereal and dry muffins. And isn’t that what makes the human experience so great? There is always a choice. 

Colleen McCullough is the owner of The Virginia May Bed and Breakfast at Eagle Mountain Lake 

You can follow the B&B on Instagram and Facebook @thevirginiamay

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