It’s never a great feeling when you spend money and time kitting out a beach hut for you to then find damage to your beach hut hire. But when your notified or discover those mishaps, after a guest has visited, there is just one question. Do you insist on charging for breakages?
If you are ‘unlucky’ enough to have a bad run with a number of breakages then I can completely sympathise with you. I’ve been there and bought the t-shirt. As an owner of three beach huts and having hired out my own huts and others for three years, I’ve been through the good, bad and ugly when its come to breakages.
I think we all feel that our huts are very much part of our own homes and its hard not to feel a bit emotional or upset about those breakages. However, it’s also important for us to recognise that emotional attachment to our huts when weighing up whether to enforce a charge for any breakage.
It’s with that in mind that I’ve set out the most frequently stated pros and cons to implementing a damage charge for your beach hut hire business. In order to make a decision that is right for your own beach huts hire, I’ve taken the liberty of challenging each of those ‘traditional’ statements.
Should you Charge for Breakages? The Pros and Cons of Charging for Breakages
Charging for breakages – Pros
#1 If a guest thinks they will lose money, they will be more careful in the beach hut and with its contents.
Yep, that is true. A breakage charge may encourage individuals to be more careful.
However, let’s be honest, it does also rely on every guest reading your terms and conditions and understanding how it will apply to them. I find many don’t read the arrival info in full so I’m guessing more don’t read the terms and conditions in full ;-).
The value of the breakage may also impact upon the assumption. For example, a £10 breakage charge for one person may feel a lot of money but much less for others.
While this is the number one reason that most beach hut hire owners quote for starting to ask for security deposits, are there other ways you can encourage owners to be more careful with your hut and contents? When booking accommodation yourself, does a breakage clause in the T&Cs change your own behaviour?
#2 You won’t have to deal with unexpected costs as a beach hut owner.
Assuming that you can chase down every breakage and ensure it’s paid for by a guest, or covered by a security deposit, this again is true.
Let’s face facts though. No matter whether you tell people you are ‘recouping costs on a family beach hut’ or just covering your licence fees, you are providing a service to guests. You ARE running a business.
Would you expect other companies to understand their costs and account for a reasonable level of wear and tear and replacements? Could you pro-actively mitigate this through budgeting and ensuring your pricing includes this?
Charging for breakages – Cons
#1 Admin Burden
If you know me a little by now, you know how much value I place on my own time. I feel it’s something most beach hut hire owners overlook in that they are focussed on generating income but forget the cost of doing so via their own time which could be used elsewhere. That’s time lost doing paid work or leisure time.
This last week we had one breakage that fell into this category. The guest emailed on the day to inform of a breakage and having checked the inventory, I discovered it was a £6.99 plastic drinks dispenser.
Now, in this case, the guest had reported and offered to pay for the item but what if they hadn’t? The time to contact them, a potential debate around who is liable and then chase payment all adds up. Doesn’t it? Is it really worth £6.95 to do all of that?
You may be sitting there thinking you can’t ‘afford’ to not pass on the charge, but can you afford to spend the time, and the associated value of that time, doing so? When you weigh up the below potential negative impact, I’d ask yourself two important questions:
Are you really implementing a charge for financial reasons?
Or is there emotion involved and you are doing it to feel better by holding the guest to account for a breakage?
If you are considering implementing a deposit charge, then Id’ strongly urge you to look at the impact this has on your admin processes too but also the impact that it may have on sales too if guests find it easier to go elsewhere due to admin burden.
#2 Confrontation about damage
Accidents do happen and it’s important not to revert to a negative mindset about every incident and assume the worst from all guests.
While it’s important not to avoid confrontation, it’s sometimes it’s better to keep the goodwill with your guests, who may be repeat bookers, rather than charging for a breakage.
Yes, it will cost you £x to replace the items right now, but what will cost you in the long term in lost business from a genuine accident? A short-term mindset may cost you longer-term as word spreads re unreasonable enforcement and lack of general business acumen.
#3 Can you separate genuine wear and tear versus damages?
Is breaking a mug the same as breaking a bucket and spade? Is damaging a deckchair different to snapping a bodyboard? Is breaking a mug from Asda different to smashing a Cath Kidston sugar jar?
For me personally, I’d say yes. But I wonder if I asked the same question to a large number of people whether we’d have different views on each item. I suspect so.
If we have different views on what is wear and tear, how will you be able to distinguish and apply a policy consistently? Could that difference in view present issues with the customer experience and word of mouth?
Is There Ever an Exception?
When evaluating the pros and cons, it’s hard not to see that the pros to applying charges can be achieved through other means, while the downsides to charging are difficult to mitigate. Those ‘cons’ of charging for breakages could have a much longer negative impact on bookings and returning guests. Choosing not to charge for every breakage, really does require a mindset of looking beyond the immediate emotional reaction to a breakage. As a beach hut owner myself, I know from experience, can be difficult. Especially at the very moment, you discover a breakage or item missing.
However, despite personally erring towards not charging, I would strongly encourage any beach hut hire to include clear terms relation to breakage charges.
You may be wondering why, when I don’t tend to enforce those clauses?
Personally, I consider it best practice to have clear terms and conditions laid out for all guests who hire from me. And yes, there have now been three occasions where I’ve raise charges for breakages.
I know, I know. Despite all of my arguments listed above to not charge, there have been three occasions where I’ve raised an invoice to cover the breakages.
In all three circumstances, there were two common themes:
- The guests didn’t report the damage
- The huts had generally been left in disrepair with a combination of unwashed dishes, spillages, unemptied bins etc etc etc. This added additional cleaning costs to that days hire which I did not include in the breakage charges passed onto the guest.
But in all circumstances, I know my terms and conditions give me the right to charge, even if I choose not to.
In fact, there is a great feeling when a guest lets you know of a breakage and you choose not to apply. You get the opportunity to show them that you understand that mistakes happen.
You never know, maybe like me, you’ll find in the main that guests are genuinely worried about reporting the breakage and become much more loyal as a result of how you handle a sensitive issue for them. As for the other minority. It’s part of business and I need to focus my energy on our future rather than things I cannot change.
So the question is now over to you – will you be charging for breakages? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below or feel free to email me at [email protected]