May 11, 2014

Dear Advised Homemaking

Dear Advised: Here’s my dilemma. I recently went on a ‘retreat’ in Central America, pretty much on a whim based on what an acquaintance described to me. On my last day there, the owner of the resort organized a boat trip… I’d seen enough of how the resort was organized to ask questions about the trip, like how long it would be, where we’d have lunch, safety on the boat, and how many of us there would be…

Nevertheless, there were surprises… It was late afternoon, the sun was about to set, and we were in open waters, and several other people had voiced concerns about having enough gas to return. All in all, it was an uncomfortable situation. The boat trip was to an island that took about an hour and a half to reach… we passed by a large drug dealing compound, and were told by the owner as we passed it, that boats could not approach shore without risk of being shot at — so I was admittedly anxious as we returned home that night, as dusk was approaching, about the safety of being out in the open waters.

I’d heard from some other women who’d gone on a previous… expedition that they’d had a borderline “iffy” experience when their boat was approached by another… boat filled with men who displayed some aggressive behavior towards them… I was concerned about our safety… and several people around me had started to voice concerns… the owner then moved to the back of the boat where I was sitting and tried to draw me into an argument…

I did feel badly… I could see how much it meant to him and that he was trying to do something that he felt was good… When we finally made it back to the resort, about an hour later, the sun had just set and we were lucky in that respect to get back before it was much darker. I apologized to the owner… saying that I had not fully understood… and had I had more information… I could have made an informed decision before going on the trip.

I left the next day to return, and again, apologized… the owner was clearly still angry as he could hardly bring himself to say goodbye, even as I thanked him for my stay at the resort. Later that day, he had sent angry emails to me… In his emails, he said that he expected an apology from me to him and his staff (who were wonderful, whom I tipped generously, and about whom I only said the nicest things!)…

I was proud of myself also for standing up for myself, in a civil way, and for also standing up for the safety of all concerned. For me, if anything, the lesson was… to take a few minutes to check reviews of a place… the fact that I didn’t really speaks more to my desperation to leave the city and get out of what has seemed like an interminable winter!

So, I am wondering how I should have handled this entire situation. Should I have sacrificed my need to protect myself and do the right thing to appease… by not speaking up on the boat? Should I not have apologized? Or do I simply chalk this up to a bad experience? I am left with a bad feeling about it all. I’d appreciate any insights that you might have and hope this wasn’t too lengthy. Thanks, In a Social Snarl

Dear In a Social Snarl: In my early 30’s I was on a five-day cruise to Mexico with children and adults. There were a lot of ups and downs during this trip to which I had no control over (I didn’t plan the trip).

There were safety risks on the boat for young children, and keeping my children safe was my top priority. I wasn’t carefree and childless, and I didn’t embrace the wild adventuresome spirit that was pumping through the other parents. This made me the ‘dud’ of the party.

Did I catch flack for this? Yes!
And a few nasty jabs, glares, and stares? Sure.
Did I care? No!

It didn’t matter how risky others wanted to be. If my kids weren’t comfortable with whatever adventure others wanted to go on, I unapologetically said no. Today, well over a decade later, the best memories the kids and I have of that trip are the quiet moments we had alone together.

Why I’m Telling You This

I read your letter (and we have had further communication so I could get to know your position and experience further). What I know is you were put in a position you weren’t comfortable with. There were inherent risks. You had to weigh; do I speak up to protect myself and others? Or do I stay quiet and go with the flow (which isn’t who you are, so you spoke up, bravo)!

Did you catch flack for this? Yes!
And a few nasty jabs, glares, and stares? Sure.
Should you care? No!

You believed in yourself. You knew right from wrong and whether or not you were the type to follow the crowd vs. go your own way. You made the decision that was best for you based on your view of the situation. There is nothing to apologize for. You were firm but polite. Well done In a Social Snarl, I am proud of you.

A Thought For Business Owners

If you treat a customer the way the owner of this resort treated his paying guest, then you have just bought yourself a one way ticket to trouble. In researching for this post, I found this resort far too easily. Almost everything and everyone can be found in a Google search (I omitted information in the original question so that you, my reader, could not Google the resort).

This boat trip had a few details listed on their website. Was it a great description of the days’ events such as timed itinerary and possible risks involved? No. However, as the captain of the ship and the owner of the resort, it was his duty to make sure his guests felt safe and comfortable (even if there had not been an incidence to date, that we know of).

If making guests feel safe out in open waters is not in this resort’s mission statement, and it should be, then the owner should expect unhappy guests to turn towards internet review sites to share their experiences.

Customer Service is of the utmost importance and the lifeline in any business. My hope is that business owners will read this and learn from this owner’s misstep and that the internet can make or break you. In a Social Snarl, put this experience behind you. You handled it well.