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November 21, 2018 | Rome, Italy

Innkeepers of the world, unite!

By | 2018-09-02T22:55:49+00:00 August 27th, 2018|"In Provincia"|
Travel sites promise and promise and promise, but in the end it's a high price for all.
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t last, you said to yourself. At last you found a bit of time on your hands so you pounced on the opportunity. You booked a weekend at a quaint and familiar B&B. Satisfied, maybe even giddy you immediately looked forward to this short escape from your daily grind. You imagined candle-lit dinners and balmy air sweeping over the patio.

You felt especially comfortable, not only because you’d been to the place before, but this time you’d booked it through your favorite online reservation site, which we’ll call Fooking.com. You swear by it.

Little do you know (how could you know?) that the owners of your quaint B&B will be socked with a 20 percent commission as a result of your visit. Never mind that you’re a repeat customer. Never mind that the price on the B&B’s website was actually a little lower than what you paid.

Fooking.com is just so convenient. I mean, it handles hotels, hostels, B&Bs, you name it, and it’s everywhere. Plus, it offers incentives and special privileges you can claim through your accumulated genius points. Why, as a genius, should you look elsewhere, let alone book with the B&B itself?

Once again, what you don’t know is that, through its methods, Fooking.com is ironically push your favorite innkeeper (and many others) out of business. How? you ask. After all, you love that place! There’s certainly nothing wrong with the B&B or its owners. They do the same great job they’ve done for nearly two decades.

Yet you can’t help but notice that their rooms are empty most of the time. How is that possible?

For those out there who want an answer, here it is, and it’s not pretty.

Things have changed in the travel industry, and not for the better. Sites such as Fooking.com create the equivalent of the “shopping mall effect” — and everyone knows what malls did to small, often family-owned businesses in local settings. They made them disappear, leaving the spaces they occupied to chain store shops.

That, too, was excused due to the public’s desire for convenience.

Fooking isn’t looking to cultivate a culture of charmingly individual B&B’s that offer personal service. Fooking isn’t interested in earned reputations or years of dedicated service. That’s much too sentimental.

Fooking wants no more but no less than to sell as many rooms as possible as easily as possible.

Just think about it. Fooking.com lists more than two million properties worldwide. They only need to make a dollar a day to make almost unthinkable amounts of cash.

Here’s what Fooking does to achieve its ends: first, it gives customers the impression they’re entitled to have a five-star treatment at two-star prices. That’s normal, right? Hotels love to work under cost.

Second, they convince customers they can cancel any time with no penalties, and can also complain about anything. For example, it’s become normal for disgruntled customers to leave online insults for innkeepers to read. If you didn’t like the color of the soap bars, why not say something vulgar? It’s freedom of speech and anything goes, right?

If you love bananas for breakfast but there aren’t any, why not launch a tirade? It’s fun to vent.

Fooking will publish all of it. Fooking promotes the idea that any hotel business exists to take advantage of its customers. Fooking will defend you, poor victim, and keep these monstrous folks at bay.

I can assure you there’s no way for an innkeeper to have an offensive and inaccurate review removed. Even if an entire crate of bananas was on offer, an angry customer is a prized customer.

Behind the scenes, Fooking attracts all locally-given listings in any area by promising owners an increase in reservations. That’s especially true if an owner agrees to no guarantees, no cancellation penalties, and slashes prices.

If an innkeeper decides to follow these policies, obviously suicidal in business terms, the hotel will appear high on first page of the site. Some clients “play” these policies by making a number of bookings for the same date, canceling only at the last minute or failing to show up altogether. If they do show up, a few go so far as blackmailing management with a threat of bad reviews.

Yes, this happens.

After a while, a hotel needs to return to proper pricing and accept guarantees, which is when Fooking dumps it on the last page, where no one goes except when hunting around before New Year’s Eve.

A “macedonia” is a fruity delight on a summer night.

Basically, Fooking sets impossible prices and conditions for the innkeeper, falsifying the business for an entire generation of customers. And because Fooking has blinded the public with virtual billboards, plus an easy-to-use app, the innkeeper ends up sinking in one of two ways. Either because everyone wants the kind of deal a small company can’t sustain, or those looking for specials at fair prices can’t find the innkeeper’s offering because they’ve essentially been blacklisted.

I am not writing this to ruin your idyllic escape. But I do ask you to apply perspective to this matter, which you might not have even considered before.

Look at it this way: if you go to your local farmer’s market to ensure your vegetables are fresh and to support a family business, consider doing the same when you book your holiday. Skip the intermediaries. We small independent innkeepers are dropping like flies. Soon, shopping mall anonymity will make its way to the hinterlands: anonymous faces, anonymous rooms, leaving only prepackaged travel. Don’t let that happen.

I will now take your comments — over dessert.

Macedonia di fichi (serves 6)

Ingredients

  • 12 fresh figs.
  • 11/2 cups dessert wine such as Vinsanto or Moscato.
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar (or pomegranate syrup).
  • Juice of one lemon.
  • 3 cardamom pods.

Preparation

— Peel and slice figs and place in a bowl. Add all other ingredients and marinate overnight.

— Serve with a bit of Greek yogurt or fresh ricotta — or anything you find at your local farmers market that’s fresh and creamy, and is given to you with a smile. Enjoy.

About the Author:

Letizia Mattiacci
A former behavioral ecologist, Italian-born Letizia left academia with husband Ruurd to renovate a 500-year-old Umbrian farmhouse they turned into a B&B and cooking school named Alla Madonna del Piatto . She maintains a blog and in 2015 published a cookbook called "A Kitchen With a View."

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