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Are Americans too picky about accommodations abroad?

Are Americans too picky about accommodations abroad?

Jun 29th, 2008, 12:29 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 52
I did the math and came up with 2X as much per person. However, that's neither here nor there. We paid approximately the same price for our rental in England and the house was infinitely more livable.

My husband made it very clear to the owner within the first five minutes that the house was not what we expected. The owner's response was to accuse us of being imposters (!!!).
We did try to get more information about the house. I posted on Fodors and on several other websites and didn't get any helpful feedback.
As far as the review on Trip Advisor, let me just say that the "poor photographs" included in the review were definitely not "fraudulent". I took the same pictures just to back up what I am saying and some even worse. I even made sure the coat of arms was in one picture so there could be no doubt where I was.
Rmkelly313 is offline  
Jun 29th, 2008, 12:37 PM
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that is interesting schuler. i would not doubt that such low quality accomodations would still get good feedback for the reasons i already mentioned.

the english are also much more likely to accept inferior accomodations in scotland as we generally feel bad for them. we never complain about anything anyway but we would certainly never complain in scotland as we know they are very sensitive to taking criticisms from englishmen. generally, we walk on eggshells with the scots. just a cultural attribute that you need to understand if you want to make sense of all of this.
walkinaround is offline  
Jun 29th, 2008, 12:41 PM
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I object to use of the term "abroad" and what you are really talking about is the UK, and I gather there truly is a problem there. However, the UK is not "abroad" -- there are dozens of EU countries, and they are highly individual. I think you could take them country by country -- and then there would be a useful discussion, not comparing apples/oranges.

I post on many Greece travel forums in which people from all over Europe and a number from Australia and Asia, as well as from the USA, post queries and give feedback and comments about their trips & accommodations.

In their reactions many US travelers DO come off as being inexperienced with lodgings outside the US, and lack of understanding about WHY things are different, i.e.
-- Constant complaint about size of rooms in older buildings being small
--complaint about bathrooms being small (not understanding that they must often be retrofitted into the existing room -- this is not a brand new Red Roof Inn but a 300 year old building).
-- whimpering because they have to hold a telephone shower in 1 hand ("how can I wash my hair!!"), with never a word of praise for the marble floors, hallways and stairs.
-- insistence thay they want "a clean hotel" -- as if dirt abounds; when I always stay in small budget pensions and they are SO clean they squeak.

Comments like this I put down to lack of travel experience, but it does give Americans a rep for childish whining.
travelerjan is offline  
Jun 29th, 2008, 12:43 PM
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My take on this:

a five bedroomed baronial mansion sleeping 12, in the Brae of Balquhidder - $3300/£1650 per week would tell me right off -- Very reasonable price so is probably not totally up to date nor w/ the poshest of decor/facilities. A house that size - if it was done up - would probably run £2500-£3000 per week. So I would assume it was homely (in the brit sense) rather than deluxe.

Re the sheets - I assume there were duvets on the beds. If so they usually do not use a top sheet. That is just normal.

As for the TA complaint about the "brown water" - brownish water in Scotland is not undrinkable. The water runs through peat often giving it some color. Heck - whiskey distilleries kill to have a natural source of that sort of water.

One thing - in the States, many vacation rentals are done up to a very high standard - maybe better than the owners year-round home. In the UK - especially country properties, tend to be more like the family's "holiday home" w/ mismatched linens, old but serviceable furniture, etc. Just a different way of doing things.
janisj is online now  
Jun 29th, 2008, 01:09 PM
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Mold isn't acceptable anywhere. Call that a whimper.
Carrybean is offline  
Jun 29th, 2008, 01:19 PM
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There are two websites for Stronvar House. One offers self-catering accommodation and the other bed & breakfast.

The bed & breakfast rate is £29.50 per person and seems not to vary by season. There are four rooms available. The self-catering accommodation consists of five rooms, and is £1650 per week. Again, this does not vary by season.

Both websites stress the quality of the accommodation, but I would have thought that the prices do not indicate great luxury.

I think it would certainly be wise in future to book through an organisation which would enforce standards, and be prepared to mediate in the case of complaint.

As for cultural differences, these are determined by all sorts of factors. Whenever we travel, we are surprised by what is accepted by the inhabitants of other countries, which we would reject, and the things they take for granted which we do not enjoy. It's all part of the fun.
chartley is offline  
Jun 29th, 2008, 01:56 PM
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I've stayed in inexpensive 700 year old forester houses in Germany that had superb fittings. Simple but everything made with precision and working perfectly. Ditto for centuries old buildings in Flanders, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Sweden and France (outside Paris).

So enough with the lame "it's an old building" excuses for mold, peeling wallpaper, tatty bedlinens, brown water, cracked window panes, dirt, and bad smells.

As my British MiL says, "when things in the UK are good, they're very good and when they're grotty, they're VERY grotty."

And as for the claim that Americans are "childish whiners", I can assure you that our German relatives would be appalled at the conditions the OP described and they wouldn't hesitate to say so. No matter how little they paid.

As for the brown water, janis, please. At the very least the homeowners should have warned visitors to expect this! Not just blithely chirp that "it's normal" for Scotland.

(Bad decor is one thing--I can easily forgive cabbage rose curtains, tartan plaid sofas, ugly rugs, garden gnomes, avocado green and brown bath tiles, angel knickknacks, what have you. Disrepair is quite another.)

And FWIW, in the American West, rural accommodations with "lodge" in the name is code for "better than camping, but not much." And doubly so if the "lodge" says it's in a perfect spot for fishing and/or hunting. That means its regular guests don't give two hoots about the quality of the rooms or service as long as there are wild trout in the water and wild elk in the woods.
BTilke is offline  
Jun 29th, 2008, 02:08 PM
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Janis wrote" As for the TA complaint about the "brown water" - brownish water in Scotland is not undrinkable" Oh Janis how can you make excuses for that? Really! The owners should nake that detail very clear to the renters.
travelme is offline  
Jun 29th, 2008, 02:23 PM
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" Europeans are use to not always having a private bath, Americans not so much."

that's bullsh.. at its best!

time out please!
divine54 is offline  
Jun 29th, 2008, 02:37 PM
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O.K ....BREAK....this has been beaten to death!
longboatkey is offline  
Jun 29th, 2008, 02:51 PM
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I can't speak to rental accommodations in Great Britain, though I have heard negative feedback from a few Americans who've rented there, but I have 17 years' experience renting an old house in the country in France.

I have a guest book for comments, and of course I have been in touch with renters by email and phone over the years.

I haven't had enough European renters to do a scientific study, but here's what I've noticed about Americans' comments compared to Europeans':

Americans are much more likely to note things like: "It would have been nice if all 10 of us could have taken a shower before dinner some nights." "We couldn't figure out the washing machine (copious instructions provided in English), so we had to hang our clothes out to dry and they took a couple of days." "It would be great if you were closer to a gas station. We had to drive all over on a Sunday to gas up the car." "We couldn't communicate very well with the neighbor lady, but we did manage to get some eggs from her one morning." Mostly stuff that they were well advised about in advance, but somehow got a bit taken aback by when on location. They almost all write about how gorgeous the area is and how nice it is to "make a home" in a village and "live like a local."

European comments are generally more about the area, its history, its attractions. Generally they remark that the house is much better equipped than some they've rented (and having rented a lot of European houses, I think that's probably true). They wax poetic about the terroir and the prehistoric cave down the lane and how friendly the neighbors were. There is never a hint of not being able to "manage" appliances or worrying about getting gas or anything practical. But that's to be expected - they grew up on continent with plenty of old houses and small villages and unless they've been very sheltered, a week or two in the countryside in France doesn't pose a lot of major challenges.

It's interesting to see the differences, though, and I suppose on a superficial level one could deduce from them that Americans are "pickier." But I don't read it that way - they're just out of their element to some extent.
StCirq is offline  
Jun 29th, 2008, 03:03 PM
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I went back to the original and you mentioned about 11 people in the group. Later, when you spoke about the prices, it sounded like there's 21 people in the group.

My comment this was based on the 21 person group. But if it was only 11 people, it's still cheap. You didn't pay for palace prices.

blackduff is offline  
Jun 29th, 2008, 03:08 PM
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I agree that we are to an extent out of our element. And I also think that, as several have mentioned, that we should have gotten more information about the house, although I'm not sure what more we could have done. In the future, we will definitely use an agent as we have done in the past.

Two things I would like to add: I definitely do not consider myself an inexperienced traveler. We have done this type of trip for a number of years and even my grandchildren are well accustomed to self catering vacations in Europe. We don't complain about washing machines and we've dried our clothes on clotheslines more than once. We even replaced our shower heads in our home with the hand held type because it was much easier to clean the shower with them.
Secondly, we ourselves have been owners of vacation rental properties in the US for over 20 years. I can honestly say that the only complaint we have received in that time regarding the house itself came from an Englishman who complained that his wife was unable to make a salad because there was no salad spinner in the house!
Ah well, to each his own.
Rmkelly313 is offline  
Jun 29th, 2008, 05:22 PM
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There are several things you need to consider:

Prices - you say top dollar - but what does that mean? I would think for top dollar you would get a manor house with live-in staff

Age brings with it certain problems (uneven floors, low ceilings and doorways - and often plumbing and kitchens that are not what you;re used to in the US).

I'm always amazed by the show "Keeping up Appearances" in which Hyacinth is middle class with pretensions of trying to be more - but is living with kitchen appliances that you would find only on a boat in the US (tiny under cabinet fridge versus full size side by side, mini sizes of all other appliances).

A lot of that is expectations - and you must realize that in europe you're going to get european style facilities. (I have a friend who lives in Switzerland and says houses and apartment don;t have closets - at all - you have to buy giant cupboards to store everything in - and that's just how it's done).

But - broken windows and moldy walls are clearly not acceptable - under any circumstances. Unless you're getting it practically free - that you know what type of chances you're taking.

Separately, in trying to guide travelers to NYC looking for super budget accommodations I often look at tripadvisor reviews and find that many european travelers seem happy with places that Americans make numerous complaints about. I follow the American ratings - figuring our * expectation standards are just different.
nytraveler is offline  
Jun 29th, 2008, 06:35 PM
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Hi again Rmkelly.

Sorry, looks like my first post went through almost exactly when you were posting, so I missed your information about what you paid.

I see that as a BandB the place charges £29 per person, or about £60 per room double occupancy. Four rooms at the BandB rate would be about the same as what you paid for five rooms (plus an 11th person) and kitchen access by the week (but with no breakfast.)

Quickie market analysis of Perthshire, Scotland (location, apparently, of your house rental) reveals that these rates are typical of modest bandbs in that area - in other words, rates are more than one would pay for a youth hostel, but considerably less than what one would pay for 'country manor' style accomodation. So on the one hand, yes, perhaps you were expecting a bit too much.

On the other hand, do I have it right that your greatest concern was the mold and peeling wallpaper? If the tripadvisor review photos are reliable, then I have to agree that even at the reasonable price, this was a disappointment. However, mold is also not typical of UK bandbs - at least not the ones at which we've stayed - even in North Wales, where prices are similar to Perthshire. The furniture might be simple, the linens and wallpaper a little faded, but all have been clean and in good repair.

Chalk it up to experience - and the mold to the resident ghost leaving the windows open on rainy nights.....
Sue_xx_yy is offline  
Jun 29th, 2008, 08:46 PM
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Folks may not believe that peat gives water colour - but it does and it is totally normal in lots of parts of Scotland. The water is not normally Brown brown, but really almost caramel colored.

I was not excusing cracked window panes or mold (which the OP only said it "looked like mold") -- definitely mold/mildew is not acceptable.

But I wasn't commenting about that - I mentioned brownish water (not an issue IMO), explained probably why there were no top sheets, and that it was a very moderate price for a house that size - that is it.

Those issues and old-ish furniture would not bother me at all.

Mold/musty odors is an entirely different thing. . . . . .
janisj is online now  
Jun 29th, 2008, 08:58 PM
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>>British lodging standards are just low.<<

They are? I've stayed in 2 different places in the UK, one in London and one in Bath and also saw the hotel room that my parents stayed at in Londo. None of those rooms were at low standards at all.

So I don't know what all of you who say that the rooms in the UK have low standard are talking about...
lyb is offline  
Jun 29th, 2008, 09:09 PM
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Well besides everything else Rmkelly stated that they had to sleep on the dust ruffles since there were no sheets (or mattress pads). That alone would not be acceptable to me.

I a few times have slept in a one star or two star place in Italy (driving around for two months without any room reservations) and never once did we have a bed without proper bed linens.

The place in Scotland sounds awful..just my two cents worth.
LoveItaly is offline  
Jun 29th, 2008, 09:27 PM
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My hunch about the sheets is - they were probably a sort of fitted bottom sheet that has a dust ruffle trim attached. I had a set like this when I lived in the UK - had never seen anything like them before I moved there. Then w/ a duvet most of the time you do not get a top sheet. The Duvet cover is sheeting material and removable for laundering.

Making a bed w/ a duvet is two steps - put on fitted bottom sheet, fluff duvet and throw on the bed. That is it.
janisj is online now  
Jun 29th, 2008, 10:15 PM
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(I have a friend who lives in Switzerland and says houses and apartment don;t have closets - at all - you have to buy giant cupboards to store everything in - and that's just how it's done).

uhhh....much of europe is like that. i've lived in many, many homes in europe and most have not had proper built in closets. "i have a friend who says..." sorry this sounds very funny. like saying "i have a friend who says that most americans drive cars with automatic transmission." duh.

lyb...standards are low in the uk.
I've stayed in 2 different places in the UK.....So I don't know what all of you who say that the rooms in the UK have low standard are talking about...

sorry but staying in 2 places in the uk and you're qualified to judge? i've travelled all over the country for decades. we have a certain talent for assembling hotel and b&b rooms that just don't work....often multiple problems i one room...serious design flaws, mysterious decor decisions, unsanitary items that have no place in a hotel (carpet in bathroom, wood toilet seats, etc), in-your-face plumbing, fugly fire doors and structures (well aware that fire doors are building regs), etc, etc. and i'm not talking about budget places, nor am i talking about anything to do with the buildings being old. we do have a natural tendency for getting mould because of our damp climate. however, why then do we put moisture trapping carpet in the bathroom?

and i agree with everything btilke says in her post. and st cirq, i still can't figure out how to use my washing machine after having it for five years (and having similar euro machines for decades). it is the most awkwardly designed device...rows of cryptic knobs with numbers that do who knows what. it's made in italy where they specialise in designing mysterious machines.

carry...how dare you "whimper" about mould. "damp on the walls" is one of the most endearing cultural features of old britain. how dare you americans come over here and try to interfere with one of our cultural icons.
walkinaround is offline  

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