I love the seaside apartment where I live with my sweetheart so much that we bought a second one that we rent out as a holiday rental property. Both are in St Lawrence Beach Condos in St Lawrence Gap on the south coast. They sit at the edge of the Caribbean Sea; the view is awe-inspiring.
I so enjoy the decorating of the property, marketing of it, and the great people from around the world that I get to meet. And since I started renting the apartment last March, I’ve done really well with it; it’s booked more than 90% of the time. And everyone’s who’s rented has been just great and very happy with the place.
Until …. I received an e-mail three days ago from a woman asking if she and her husband, a pilot with Air Canada, could come from Canada and stay the three nights I happened to have available. As she felt insecure about making a payment through my online system, I agreed to take cash for the rental when she arrived – in US currency. She signed the contract I use with guests and returned it to me. The contract stated our arrangement in very clear terms: payment in cash; the contract also noted that I allow no more than four guests (it’s a two-bedroom two-bath place).
The woman showed up with a tribe of five friends. My gut said “No Way Jose” but my heart said “Oh these folks must be tired after traveling all day and maybe it was I who misunderstood the arrangements we made.” (I’m very quick to assign blame to myself when things go awry.)
I told them I was concerned about there being six; they assured me it would be fine, that two friends decided to come along at the last possible moment.
Then there was the payment issue. They had $300 in US currency; $725 was due. Again, I should have shooed them out of the apartment, shouldn’t I have? But it was 6p.m. and getting dark; they’d arrived from the airport by taxi – where would they go? I calmly expressed my consternation and sent them to an ATM down the street for the balance due. I took Barbadian currency for the $425 balance.
They are in the rental apartment right now. I am pretty disgusted with myself for not sending them away at the first sign of their breaking the contract.
My mother used to say that people’s very finest qualities are often also their worst. Mine is niceness. Such a lovely quality in a person, niceness. There’s not enough niceness in the world, is there? I like other people and I show it. On my gravestone it will be carved, “She was nice.”
Alas, I get burned for my niceness; my niceness is a curse in some ways. I have been trampled on more than once. An example: A few years ago, a woman I employed wanted to visit San Francisco, where I was living at the time. Her money was tight. I told her she and her partner could stay with me in my home. During their visit, I showed them the sights, took them to dinner, and put them up. A few days after they left I discovered that she was stealing money from my business.
Another time, a friend of mine going through a tough divorce needed a perch for awhile while she found a permanent place to live. I offered my large home (what is it with me, giving up my living space?). She stayed seven months! And the money she saved by not paying rent went to a Manolo Blahnik shoe collection that Carrie Bradshaw would envy. We are no longer friends. My niceness did us in. Yes, I talked with this woman repeatedly about moving out … but I think I must’ve been too freakin’ nice about it because she never quite heard me.
Okay, truth is that right now I’m angry with myself far more than the folks in my rental apartment. These renters will be gone in two days and that will be that. They’ll go through life breaking other people’s rules and I’ll never have to deal with them again.
But I will have to deal with myself. And I will have learned a lesson: respect my own contract! Listen to my head, not my heart! And remember: this is a business, not a shelter!
I hope, too, I will have learned to keep my niceness in check. Alas, I fear this will be a far more difficult lesson for me.