One of the things about running a b and b is that you come across all kinds of people. Now and again I’m reminded that some people’s lives and circumstances are really, really tough.
Take Susannah and Robert (not their real names), for instance. They’re from a continent far away – let’s not say which – and times are so tough for them that they have decided (they tell us) to ‘take a working holiday’. Now to you and me that might sound like a lot of fun – work, that’s a holiday? What could be better! But no, in this (and many other cases) ‘working holiday’ means impoverishment and hardship. Really.
True, they’ve had to spend a lot of money on their airfare to get over to Scandinavia in the first place, and also to fund their tour of Europe. (They’ve come all this way,- they can’t not see the Eiffel Tower!). They’ve been to Berlin, Paris, Zurich, Venice, Stockholm, Copenhagen. It’s been really hard. They’ve been jet-lagged. They’ve been moving on every few days. They’ve had to pay for ALL their meals.
Anyway, I digress a bit, because here they are now, writing to us about staying in 68 degrees bed and breakfast for a couple of nights. The thing is, they say, our rates are ‘way too high’ for them, but still they’d really, really love to stay with us. They’re students, on a working holiday, so, they suggest, maybe they could stay with us in a smaller room, or sleep on our couch – perhaps in return for a bit of ‘help’ in our backyard (though they’re understandably unclear what sort of help we might be in need of).
I’m a bit resistant to Susannah and Robert, at first. I don’t think our rates are high, given that we provide very comfortable spacious accommodation, a good breakfast, and lots of friendly help and advice. But then I have to check myself. It’s a good idea to put yourself in other people’s shoes before you judge them.
You see, Lynne, I say to myself, you have to remember the particular circumstances. When Susannah and Robert come all the way to Kiruna, like many poor students before them, they’ll have to go on a northern lights trip. And that’s not cheap. It costs double our nightly rate, just to sit outside in the dark for three hours in some loaned warm overalls, hoping the northern lights appear. But it has to be done, and, obviously, they can’t ask a tour company for a reduced price.
Then they’ll also have to go on a husky dog tour (you can’t come to the arctic and not have pictures of yourself with huskies!). That’s going to cost three times our nightly rate – for a three hour tour, going round in circles in the forest – and they can hardly ask the dog sled company for a free ride! The dogs have to eat, after all, and Bear Grylls – that’s the charismatic tour leader that’ll be taking them out – he has to eat and keep himself stocked in mountain jackets and survival trousers.
Then there’s Susannah and Robert’s meal out in ‘Spis’ – they’ve read on Trip Advisor that the special six course local specialities platter has to be experienced. They can hardly go to a nice restaurant like that and offer to do the washing-up! So that’ll cost them too.
Then there’s the entrance fee to the Ice Hotel, the souvenir champagne glasses from the Ice Hotel shop, and the pair of all-singing all-dancing Tecnopro Capri Pink Thermal Leggings they’ll have to buy (because it’s damned cold up here and they didn’t bring enough clothing). Shops won’t offer them a reduction, and they can’t very well ask for one without being seen as scrounging beggars.
No, the only way Susannah and Robert are going to be able to manage their budget on their trip to Kiruna is to ask us, very nicely, and with as sweet a smile as they can muster, if we’ll reduce our rates or let them stay for free. You can see their problem.