The woman’s voice was shaking. She said she was calling because she didn’t know who else to call.
She had rented a room in a bed and breakfast on Kaua’i, sight unseen, over the Internet. The picture she was e-mailed showed a beautiful lighthouse. She was told this was the view from the room she was renting.
But the combination house and B&B turned out not to be in Kilauea, and she couldn’t see any lighthouse, much less Kauai’s most famous one, the one she’d seen on her computer screen.
Another woman suffered the recent death of an elderly parent and the almost simultaneous end of a long-term marriage. She took a room in a Kaua’i bed and breakfast over the Internet. She asked if the house was quiet, saying she told the operators she desperately needed rest. She was assured it was a peaceful home.
It wasn’t. In the other room the owners were renting out was a family of five, she said. She averaged three hours of sleep a night for her stay on the island.
The third caller was a guest at a bed and breakfast she had stayed at before on the island’s east side. But the people running the home had changed the house rules without telling her, she said. When she arrived this year, the two men who ran the B&B were naked.
“They’d turned it into an all-nude house,” she said.
Another woman who’d rented a room there had alrady left without having her money refunded.
No-money-back is one of several common threads running through these stories. Also, most of the women took rooms sight unseen and paid the total cost of their stays in advance.
And finally, none of the B&Bs in question were registered with the Kaua’i Visitors Bureau.
“I personally have had complaints and I’ve done everything I can to fix the problem,” said Sue Kanoho, executive director of the bureau.
“There a lot of really nice bed and breakfasts on the island,” she said, but the problems stem from B&Bs that “are not legal. Some of these people are just taking an extra bedroom and calling it a B&B.”
“I personally have a problem with them taking 100 percent up front. No hotels do, no condos do that,” Kanoho added.
She said that many of the complaints she receives revolve around noise and lack of cleanliness.
“I have a bone to pick with people who aren’t clear and up-front” about what they are really offering, Kanoho said.
Most importantly, Kanoho, who has traveled the world with Kaua’i County Mayor Maryanne Kusaka, selling Kaua’i as a vacation spot, said complaints, no matter how few in the big picture, work against the island’s reputation.
But, as noted by Edee Seymour, who has run a registered B&B on the island for years, legitimate B&Bs have little in common with those running bait and switch hustles and demanding all the money up front, sight unseen.
“I only take two nights deposit” in advance, Seymour said, adding that if she senses a guest isn’t happy – not a common occurrence – she will help them find a place more suited to their expectations.
“I always ask my guests if they are happy,” she said.
Most Internet-advertised B&Bs are legitimate. One man who has been operating a B&B in Wailua for 13 years advertises over the Internet and in guide books, but isn’t registered with the visitors bureau.
The man, who requested anonymity, said if a guest’s stay “is longer than three days, I only take one day (up front). And I always refund. I don’t want somebody badmouthing me,” he noted.
“Ninety-five percent of the people who have been our guests are nice people,” he continued. “We did have a couple who didn’t like the place but didn’t tell us. They just went down the hill and never came back. I got a call from a travel agent – we also book through travel agents – and these people had said that the house was dirty and the person who greeted them was obviously drunk. It was all untrue, but I gave them their money back. Another man left because there was a spider web outside of his room. He was afraid of spiders. You can’t please everybody.”
Other than an occasional guest who brings home a new friend after a night on the town (“We frown on that”) and one couple who got into a fist fight, hosting more than 100 guests every year for 13 years has been fun and profitable, according to the veteran B&B operator.
“I enjoy it and I like the people,” he said.
Staff writer Dennis Wilken can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) and mailto:email@example.com