It Takes a Team

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As the calendar flips to September most people are thinking about the beginning of school and the start of football season.  For us at Vacation Rentals of the Desert it is the signal that our pre-season has begun.  September and October are spent gearing up for our season.  Properties that were re-decorated or re-modeled during the off season need to be checked, new photos need to be taken, and to make sure they are ready for tenants.  New properties added to the program will need the last minute touches to get them ready.  Items that were in storage for the summer like patio furniture will need to be cleaned and brought out.  So even though the season hasn’t started yet, we are pretty busy.

With that in mind it needs to be mentioned what a team effort Vacation Rentals of the Desert is.  Owners who rent properties on their own may think it is not all that much work, but think about how much time and effort it takes to prepare 120+ properties!  We have been lucky with wonderful staff in the past and present to go along with the wonderful businesses that help us be the company we are today.  Kathy, Joaquin, and Trish…you are the backbone of the company.  Your dedication is seen daily and our guests recognize and appreciate it.  Your hard work does not go unnoticed.  We have had wonderful seasonal staff in the past,  Michelle you fit in right away and your hard work has made it so we count the days till you are back in the office with us.  David…your work on social media and the website upkeep is much appreciated.  A big thank you is needed to Lesley and the rest of Crown Concierge.  Your hard work allows Vacation Rentals of the Desert to succeed, as cleaning and concierge services are so important to our business.  We are glad to have you in our corner.  Lastly, our handy man Alex…THANK YOU!  Your reliable and impeccable service always insures that our properties are kept up and running so our guests can enjoy their stays.

There is no “I” in team and only one “I” in Vacation Rentals of the Desert.  It takes all of us to get through the season and your hard work is always noticed and very much appreciated.

 

Posted by Vacation Rentals of the Desert Employee David

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Some Things You Just Can’t Un-See!!

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One sunny afternoon I got a call from a guest in a panic. He told me that he had locked himself out of his rental and asked if I would run over with a key ASAP.  He said he would be in the garage. So off I went, key in hand.

I pulled into the driveway and saw the guest standing in the back of the garage behind his car. He did not come out to meet me … but as I approached I noticed he was “strategically” holding a Rubbermaid laundry basket in front of his midsection.

With a laugh, and red face, he said “don’t come any closer … just throw the keys into the basket then please turn around.” I did as he asked.

I thank him for that … some things you just can’t “un-see!”

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Blue-Eyed Handyman

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Ready for another funny story? 

This one happened about ten years ago, before I started Vacation Rentals of the Desert.  At the time I was managing another small vacation rental company here in the desert.  Of course vacation rental companies of any size must have a good handyman.  Someone who can climb up on a ladder to change a light bulb, repair a leaky toilet, remove a blockage from a garbage disposal, replace smoke detector batteries … small jobs that do not require professional plumbers, electricians, etc. or their higher service fees.   It is also important that a handyman work well with people.  Providing professional, polite, prompt service with a smile is essential.  This was Peter!  On top of all that … Peter was charismatic, funny, smart and very handsome, which we viewed as a huge bonus.  But was it really?

Here in the desert, the vast majority of our vacationing guests are retirees from Canada and the Northern states, with stays from one to six months.  Peter was perfect in every way!  Peter was a retiree from the aerospace industry and it was easy to see that he did not need to work … Peter liked to work.  He was well liked by our guests and instantly accepted as an equal.  He was a guy’s guy and even though I won’t say he was a lady’s man, I will tell you he was a really big hit with the women … and this is where the problems began.  It took a while, but I started to see a pattern … some of our guests liked Peter just a little too much!  It hit me one day after answering a phone call from Mary Ellen, a single lady from Canada staying with us through the winter months.  She called to say that she need “that handsome blue-eyed man” to come over right away to take a look at a sink that was draining slowly.  Hmmm … my mind flashed back to a few other service calls from Mary Ellen in recent weeks, and suddenly I put two and two together.  Did Mary Ellen have a little crush on Peter?  Wow … what to do, what to do?    After a bit of digging through work orders I started to see a pattern … and found another two possible “crushes” going on.  I spoke to Peter, and he was absolutely clueless, but he did admit to being invited for drinks and to dinners by several of our vacationing guests, both women and couples.  He politely turned down all these invitations thinking that it would not be appropriate … and I whole-heartedly agreed.  But now I had to ask Peter to tone down the “charm” and pay a little more attention to the attention he was getting.

Ultimately I was forced to have an awkward conversation with Mary Ellen and a couple of other guests about excessive service calls and the type of issues that our office staff might possibly handle instead of sending Peter.  I did not want owners being charged for frivolous issues or for an abundance of calls spread out over a period of time that could have been handled with just one service call.  I can tell you that these were very delicate conversations … I did not want to embarrass or anger the guests or lose their future business.

Mary Ellen returned to the desert for several seasons following our “conversation,” and over time we became quite close, business-wise.  Years later she told me that she had had a serious crush on Peter and in fact, had asked him to become her companion and travel with her around the world, which Peter had politely turned down.

Peter continued on with us for many years until he truly retired and moved out of the area … but while he was our handyman, I kept my blue eyes wide open!

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Photo:  http://dojoblog.net/small-business-ideas-handyman.html

19 Idiotic (But Real) Travel Complaints

shutterstock_146971178I could not resist sharing this post circulating on Facebook.  One of these days I’ll compile some of the comments we have received at Vacation Rentals of the Desert … like wanting a full refund since it rained.  Sometimes it is really, really hard to keep a straight face!  

A vacation is supposed to be your time away from the crazy. Remind me never to travel to any of the same vacation spots these people have booked. I’ll take that upgrade and trade you a bus tour of “OH MY GOD THESE PEOPLE ARE NUTS!”–

These are actual complaints received from dissatisfied customers by Thomas Cook Vacations (based on a Thomas Cook/ABTA survey):

  1. “I think it should be explained in the brochure that the local convenience store does not sell proper biscuits like custard creams or ginger nuts.”
  2. “It’s lazy of the local shopkeepers in Puerto Vallarta to close in the afternoons. I often needed to buy things during ‘siesta’ time — this should be banned.”
  3. “On my holiday to Goa in India , I was disgusted to find that almost every restaurant served curry. I don’t like spicy food.”
  4. “We booked an excursion to a water park but no-one told us we had to bring our own swimsuits and towels. We assumed it would be included in the price.”
  5. “The beach was too sandy. We had to clean everything when we returned to our room.”
  6. “We found the sand was not like the sand in the brochure. Your brochure shows the sand as white but it was more yellow.”
  7. “They should not allow topless sunbathing on the beach. It was very distracting for my husband who just wanted to relax.”
  8. “No one told us there would be fish in the water. The children were scared.”
  9. “Although the brochure said that there was a fully equipped kitchen, there was no egg-slicer in the drawers.”
  10. “We went on holiday to Spain and had a problem with the taxi drivers as they were all Spanish.”
  11. “The roads were uneven and bumpy, so we could not read the local guide book during the bus ride to the resort. Because of this, we were unaware of many things that would have made our holiday more fun.”
  12. “It took us nine hours to fly home from Jamaica to England. It took the Americans only three hours to get home. This seems unfair.”
  13. “I compared the size of our one-bedroom suite to our friends’ three-bedroom and ours was significantly smaller.”
  14. “The brochure stated: ‘No hairdressers at the resort’. We’re trainee hairdressers and we think they knew and made us wait longer for service.”
  15. “There were too many Spanish people there. The receptionist spoke Spanish, the food was Spanish. No one told us that there would be so many foreigners.”
  16. “We had to line up outside to catch the boat and there was no air-conditioning.”
  17. “It is your duty as a tour operator to advise us of noisy or unruly guests before we travel.”
  18. “I was bitten by a mosquito. The brochure did not mention mosquitoes.”
  19. “My fiance and I requested twin-beds when we booked, but instead we were placed in a room with a king bed. We now hold you responsible and want to be re-reimbursed for the fact that I became pregnant. This would not have happened if you had put us in the room that we booked.”

What’s your most memorable vacation nightmare? People, place, or thing?

Facebook post shared from:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/blogdramedy/idiotic-travel-complaints_b_4073107.html

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Just Clowning Around

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Bozos from left to right … Joaquin, Vickie, Mary, Trish & Kathy.

My first thought when I saw this picture was, “I Think We’re all Bozos on this Bus!” Funny how a comedy album from the 70’s immediately popped into my mind. It was the name of the album and the titled skit and if you are older than fifty … you may even remember this comedy troupe, the Firesign Theater. I just looked them up on YouTube. I guess my sense of humor was a bit different forty-something years ago.

Well, Friday I think we were all Bozos in this Office! Sometimes you just have to let your hair down and that’s what we did. Over the past few years we have hired a seasonal reservationist to cover our busiest months, October through April. This was Mary’s first year with Vacation Rentals of the Desert. She was an immediate asset and fit comfortably into our office dynamics. But the season passed swiftly and on May 1st we had to say good-bye to Mary … actually we said, “see ya later” since Mary is planning on returning in October. So we had the perfect excuse for an office luncheon, cake and … Bozo noses, to commemorate her last day.

In the vacation rental business you MUST have a sense of humor and find ways to blow off steam or else you won’t last through your first year. When most days consist of almost 100% customer service, it can be very stressful. We walk a fine line with three masters to serve … property owners, tenants and the vacation rental company itself. It’s not all about taking reservations … that’s just the fun part of the job. Once the tenants have arrived we spend a great deal of time answering questions, solving problems, scheduling repairs and replacing missing, damaged or broken home supplies ranging from measuring spoons to refrigerators, bath mats to pool heaters. One thing is for sure … we never know what the next phone call will bring. Below are just a few challenges that we faced … and the thing is that these are not out of the ordinary in this business.

  • A tenant calls two weeks before his arrival date to say he has just been diagnosed with cancer. He has been a repeat tenant for years and he’d like his money back. The tenant did not purchase travel insurance … and he is especially near and dear to our hearts! 

  • A tenant falls very ill just days prior to their departure date. They call to extend their stay but we have new tenants arriving to their property on the same day as their scheduled departure … and we are otherwise booked solid!

  • An owner calls to tell us that he is listing his property for sale. He agrees to let the current tenant stay but insists that we move the following month’s renter out. That particular month is March, which is the most popular month of the season and all of our properties are booked for the month … now we have the wonderful job of telling the fully paid tenant!

  • The A/C breaks down during tenant occupancy and needs to be replaced. Between ordering the unit, obtaining country club permits and scheduling a crane (it’s a roof unit), it will take at least four days to install. It’s over 110 degrees during the day and in the 90s at night … we have an emergency!

  • A tenant who insisted on having full range of cable channels for his three month stay, calls daily for assistance with the cable box. He keeps hitting the wrong button on the remote with throws the entire system off cable … who’s going to pay for all those trip charges?

  • It comes to our attention that an older tenant staying with us is not well and can no longer take care of them self … a very delicate situation!  

So vacation rental management … it’s a big job and a big responsibility. We are entrusted with our client’s homes, our tenant’s hard earned vacations and retirement dreams, and at the same time we are trying to keep owners and tenants happy, we must generate enough money to pay our overhead and staff. At Vacation Rentals of the Desert we are professionals, we take our jobs very seriously … but sometimes … we just have to put on a red rubber nose!

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Cheers!

1959257_134827990021136_2146120384_nBeing a small business owner, I have come to appreciate the hard work and heart that it takes to make that first scary step towards starting a business.  At the beginning, with twelve years of vacation rental management behind me, some people would think that starting Vacation Rentals of the Desert would be pretty easy.  It is true that I knew the vacation rental business well, but the difference between managing and owning are miles apart.  Being an owner/manager can even be more stressful … and all my clients, whether property owners or renters, know that the buck stops at my desk … and they all know where to find my desk.    I’m happy I took the leap of faith and I’m proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish with the help of my exceptional hand-picked staff.   It’s fun and rewarding but takes hard work … everyday!

16503_214627095374558_8594128579485478441_nIt goes without saying that I greatly admire those with an idea, a dream and a bit of gumption, who take those first scary steps and turn their dreams into a business.  So today’s post is not about the vacation rental industry, but about one of my property owners … another successful small business owner surrounded by exceptional people.   

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Sandy popped into the office yesterday to say hello.  I have managed David and Sandy’s property at Rancho Las Palmas Country Club for several years.  After chatting for a few minutes she mentioned that she had gifted a couple of bottles of wine to her vacationing guests.  Then Sandy told us it was from her winery, her label … BlendZ!!  Wow!!  Turns out Sandy and her husband David, along with close friends recently started their own winery in Ventura, California!  She showed us the website and explained that their inspiration came from Rock n’ Roll and their blends are inspired by … music!  With labels like “Dazed and Confused” and “Imagine” it is easy to see that their clientele centers around baby boomers … however I’m sure any age can appreciate a good bottle of wine.  What a clever, fun and delicious concept.  They have a small storefront in Ventura, with lots of “happening” events.  If you are in the area, drop by BlendZ Winery and become a groupie.  Say hi to David and Sandy and tell them Vickie from Vacation Rentals of the Desert sent you … have a glass of Scarlet Begonias for me.

Happy Sunday everyone!

 

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Today!

Dr-Seuss-TODAY-iS-YOUR-day-Your-font-b-MOUNTAIN-b-font-is-waWell today is here!  Our single busiest day of the year … so I’ll keep this short and sweet since I need to head out the door.  Today … all hands are on deck!

Today we have about forty-five properties with people coming and going and thirty-four of these have a five hour turn around between guests!   Not an easy task, but all properties need to be checked after guests depart and again before guests arrive.  All have to be cleaned, fluffed and fussed over because every one of our guests deserve to arrive to a thoroughly clean vacation home after their travels.

This past week has been all about timing!  We have talked to each of our guests and know their precise time of departure, whether early or at the appointed 10 a.m. hour.  We have contacted our arriving guests as well and know the times of their flights (barring airline delays) and have their ETAs.  Cleaners have been tightly scheduled to fit the timing just so.  The first day of January, February, March and April have always been challenging.  These are the most popular arrival and departure days of the year and organizing these days takes a great deal of work.  Keys, garage door openers, gate transponders and gate passes to be returned, logged in and then logged back out again.  Gas and electric meters to be read on homes with private pools.  Pool heat to be turned on, or turned off.  Properties to be inspected, damage reported and addressed.

So … today I ask that my readers say a little prayer for my staff, cleaners, handymen, departing and arriving guests.  I’ve got a glass of red wine with my name on it … but first I’ve got to make it through … today!

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Functional Beauty!

 

17Every week for over a year now, I have sat down on Sunday morning to write a story for this blog.  Most weeks I have a topic in mind, however sometimes the events of the past week will force themselves to the forefront of my thinking … which brings me to this week’s topic. 

Vacation Rentals of the Desert has a very unique non-exclusive management agreement with many of our home owners.  We developed this idea during the recession to allow vacation property owners the opportunity to off-set their management costs by participating in the rental process … to a degree.  I have found that this system has worked well for our company and have a handful of properties with owner booked tenants as well as tenants acquired through our company.  The property that I will describe in today’s post is a gorgeous, newly remodeled and furnished condominium that joined Vacation Rentals of the Desert this past summer.   The new owners, when purchasing the condo, agreed to honor a three month booking from the sellers.   As new owners to our vacation rental program, we provided a minimum requirement list and after viewing the mid-century decorated property with the owner, I made several recommendations towards improving its functionality as a vacation home.

One of the first things that I noticed was the lack of window coverings.  In the main living and dining areas there are large sliding glass doors that look out onto a patio and the fairway beyond offering a gorgeous unobstructed view to the outside world … and an equally unobstructed view of the inside and its inhabitants!  It was easy to identify a privacy issue.  The decorator faux drapes framing the sides of the windows were removed and motorized blinds installed.  Problem solved.

Recessed canned lights are fitted throughout the condo adding to the clean modern feel, but the lack of lamps present a problem for guests trying to read, or when one person is reading and another is watching TV.  This was easily addressed by purchasing a couple of standing lamps with directional lights.  These lamps are a favorite trick of mine and I believe should be standard in every vacation rental home.  They can be easily moved to wherever needed and then stored away in a closet when not in use.

Another area of concern was the beds … specifically the height of the beds.  Personally I do not remember beds in the 50s and 60s being so low to the ground.  Lower than today, for sure … but mattresses on the ground were pictured with peace-sign bedspreads and shown in hippie pads, not as a “decorator” detail.   True mid-century modern would be a full size bed in the master bedroom with short legs screwed directly into the box springs.  Anyone remember those?  But I don’t see that going over well today.  Despite the beds being so low, and based on the fact that the condo had been a rental the previous season, the owner and I decided to take a “wait and see” approach for the time being.

Their tenants arrived and settled in.  Typically we do not become deeply involved in an owner acquired guest, but we are always happy to assist if needed.   It wasn’t long before we realized we should have been pro-active regarding the beds.   One visit with the guests showed that height was not the only issue here.

The condo has a king in the master suite and queens in both of the guest bedrooms.  All three beds have fabric frames and headboards.  None of the three beds had box springs!  The mattresses where sitting directly on the frame slats and sunk down into the frames snuggly.  The mattresses where great … new pillow tops of great depth, but practically sitting on the floor.  Making a bed meant getting on your hands and knees …  and to tuck in the comforter you inevitably scrapped your knuckles.   For a short term guest … probably not a big deal.  Who makes beds when they’re on vacation?   For a three month guest living in a property, it’s a big problem.  The guests also mentioned that the mattress covers would pop off during the night and sleeping with sheets and bedding coming apart was a struggle.  Taking a closer look at the bedding, we discovered that the mattress cover was made of a plastic, waterproof material that was very slippery.  This was compounded by silk sheets and silky comforters!  There was so much going wrong here you had to laugh.  The beds were absolutely gorgeous but when you pulled the comforter out from the tight frame to turn in for the night, the bedding slipped all over the place … taking on a life of its own!

I shouldn’t laugh … the guests were not happy.

I promised that I would speak to the owners and see if we could get the problem remedied as quickly as possible.  Once explained, the owners completely understood and I was enlisted to make the necessary purchases …. Three sets of box springs, all new mattress covers and two new sets of sheets per bed … 100% cotton!  The beds are fabulous.  They now look and act as beds should.  The four inch box springs lifted the mattress just level with the tops of the bed frames, increasing the height … but not so much that it takes away from the mid-century look.  The cotton bedding is also easier to keep on while sleeping and the guests are no longer chasing their bed all night.

So when furnishing your vacation home, it’s not only about beauty.  A beautiful piece can also be functional.  I always recommend that owners stay at their vacation home for a minimum of one week before their first paying guest.  Sleep, cook, and entertain if you can … really live in the property.  If something doesn’t work, change it immediately.  It is better that you discover the problem rather than hearing about it in a bad review!

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Funniest Vacation Rental Story Ever!

Happy-New-Year-Pictures-4The following is my very favorite “funny” vacation rental story.  You will also find this story buried in the “About Me” section of this blog.  Since the “About Me” section is easy to miss … I thought I’d kick the New Year off with a laugh! 

I was jolted out of a dead-sleep by the William Tell Overture.  What I thought was a clever ring tone for my “emergency” cell phone lost its humor at 1 a.m. in the morning.  In response to my groggy “hello” was a very agitated security guard telling me that one of my tenants had locked herself out of her vacation home …. without any clothes on!  Quickly dressing, I grabbed my ring of emergency keys and dashed out not knowing what to expect.  The plan was to pick up my tenant at the guard house of the country club where she was staying and deliver her and a set of keys back to her vacation home.  I braced myself for what I anticipated would be a very embarrassed and very upset guest.  As I approached, from the guard house emerged a tall and extremely beautiful woman, head up, shoulders back proudly wrapped in a mattress pad just as a queen wears a royal cape.  I will call her Sue.  Waving her thanks to the two security guards, Sue jumped into the passenger seat of my car before I had a chance to pull over and, thank goodness, she was laughing!  She explained, “I shopped all day at the Cabazon Outlet stores and returned to the condo tired, hot and thirsty.  I pulled into the garage and immediately went inside, closed the blinds, stripped out of my clothes, poured a glass of wine and sat down to cool off and watch the late night news.  Before going to bed I decided to unload the car.  I propped open the door between the condo and garage with the fire extinguisher and made several trips between the condo and my car.  I was retrieving my last bag out of the trunk, the mattress cover, when I heard the fire extinguisher slide across the floor and the door slam shut.  The door was locked … keys in my purse … inside the condo!”  This poor woman sat in the garage, wrapped in the mattress cover, lights off and garage door wide open for two hours until she saw the security guard in the patrol car making his rounds.  She ran out and flagged him down!  As we got out of my car Sue parted her Bed, Bath and Beyond cape and showed me that she was indeed wearing undergarments which looked very much like she had dressed to go swimming.  Sue explained that “this is one of the funniest things that has ever happened to me.  My husband made a trip back home for a meeting but will return in a couple of days.  Please don’t mention this to him … he would be so embarrassed.”  Sue and her husband returned several times after that and Sue and I always had a bit of a laugh about her “exciting” shopping episode.  As far as I know, Sue never told her husband.  Post Note:  I changed my emergency ring tone the next morning.

One fact I have learned through my eighteen years in this crazy vacation rental business, you never know what will happen next.   No two days, no two properties, owners or guests are ever the same.  From lost keys to leaking toilets to mysteriously blinking lights to broken air conditioners in the middle of the night at temperatures over 110 degree, during our rental season there is never a dull moment.  One thing remains constant, everything is an emergency to the person reporting the problem and it is our responsibility as vacation rental professionals to rectify these problems as quickly as possible … no matter how insignificant they may seem.  And so, as crazy as it might sound … I love this business, despite the daily challenges, conflicts in personalities, things that make you say hummmm, things that keep you awake at night and things that make you laugh so hard you almost wet your pants.  So as any proud mother might say … I love my baby … even if it does drive me crazy sometimes.

Happy 2015 everyone!

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To Bidet or Not To Bidet?

mocha-dad-shakespeare-blog-cartoon That is the Question!

OK …  today I’d like to ask for my reader’s thoughts on a particular topic.  I’m torn on this issue and need to get everyone’s views and thoughts and hope to start a discussion on a somewhat sensitive subject.

I recently signed up a new property.  I just found out that the owner is adding an electric bidet.  My first thoughts are … Yikes!  Not good!  But after speaking to the owner, who is adamant about the bidet, I have been assured that the toilet will look and operate like a regular toilet.  There is apparently a remote control that allows the toilet to be switched over to operate as a bidet.  After some research on the internet, I’m still not totally sold on the idea.  Will there be sanitation or cleanliness issues?  Special cleaning?  Complicated operating instructions?  Easily broken?  And most importantly, will it be a turn-off to potential guests?

We manage only a few properties that are furnished with standard, free-standing bidets, and it has been my experience, when showing these vacation homes, that prospective tenants are often uncomfortable with this “questionable” amenity.  Many times they will even make negative comments.  Perhaps it is more of a European “thing” … not certain, but if guests are uncomfortable with a separate bidet, how are they going to feel about a combination toilet/bidet?  I have also experienced some resistance with handicap fitted toilets.  Guests who are not handicapped typically will ask for an alternate property.  So apparently toilets can be a touchy subject.

Is it just me?  Am I overly concerned about something that could be a plus?  Please share your thoughts … I’m very interested.  AND … should I add the “electric bidet” to the property description?  Maybe it’s no big deal … maybe it is, but I’d love to get your input and thoughts on how to present “the bidet” to potential guests.

I definitely have a negative opinion on this subject, and this may have something to do with my personal views …   I have traveled extensively outside the U.S.  I have seen lots and lots of bidets in my travels and honestly never gave them much of a thought … until … the bidet that caught my attention and very much disturbed me.  It was in a public restroom in a large shopping mall in Cairo, Egypt.  Picture this … the toilet had a small copper tube protruding from the center of the hole inside the toilet bowel.  The tube ended just above the water level. There was an on/off valve fixed to the outside of the toilet that when turned on, apparently would shoot water out of the copper tube. Wrong in so many ways!  I’m afraid this sight contaminated my thoughts on bidets … for life.  Pun absolutely intended!

Am I being too critical?

What are your thoughts?

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Photo:  http://under30ceo.com/top-ten-reasons-why-start-up-companies-need-to-blog/mocha-dad-shakespeare-blog-cartoon/

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