“People Are Just Mean This Year”: Visitors Bringing Short Fuses, Bad Manners To Cottage Country

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Written By: Nina Dragicevic – Storeys, Canadian Real Estate News Coverage.

Guests Gone Wild: The Cottage Country Edition — but instead of drunken antics, cottagers are high on rage.

A recent Guardian article exposed the result of lockdown-weary Britons unleashed into the countryside for holiday: bad behaviour, unreasonable demands, and traumatized service staff quitting their jobs. Adding insult to injury, these visitors left terrible reviews in their wake.

The article was emailed to Maryrose Coleman, co-founder and vice president of Muskoka District Rentals, by her daughter living in London. It immediately rang true — Coleman’s been living this new reality for two years now. The company manages luxury cottage rentals, a mostly upscale market but with some family-friendly options as well.

“It’s challenging because we were dealing with a lot of people who were renting that would ordinarily travel and couldn’t,” Coleman says. “And they weren’t used to cottaging. And so there was a different expectation. You know, they didn’t understand that at nine o’clock at night on a Saturday, it might be difficult for us to run something out to them. We tried to accommodate as best we can, but you know, it’s not a hotel.”

READ: OPP Warn of Cottage Rental Scam Ruining Would-Be Muskoka Vacations

Fussy guests might be expected in a high-end market but this is different, Coleman says: “People are just mean this year.”

One client demanded a new washer and dryer delivered to their property because they felt the appliances onsite weren’t large enough. Legal threats are suddenly a thing; guests want to stay for the full visit but have their money refunded, or they will sue. Cleaning staff or property maintenance personnel are facing verbal abuse — facing shouting, thrown linen, and being berated for issues outside their responsibility.

“I had one of my housekeepers in tears,” Coleman says. “The cleaner came out to speak to me and she burst into tears again. People were just so mean to her. In her own words she said, ‘You know I’ve worked for lots of people, and I’ve worked for lots of rich people, but people never treated me this way.’ And I don’t tolerate that kind of behaviour from anyone — human beings deserve to be treated with respect.”

Chloe Verner, manager of client services, works alongside Coleman in a client-facing role. Some guest complaints reach dramatic heights comparable to a “Shakespearean soliloquy,” she says.

Verner even witnessed a customer at the local Starbucks raging over the texture of coconut milk in their drink — it was curdling a little bit, which is normal for coconut milk, she says.

“I feel bad for the staff there, honestly,” Verner says. “I was like, I’ve been getting flack all summer. And now you guys are clearly getting it.”

It’s not all bad news: one recent happy ending involved a lost engagement ring found and returned by another guest. And some clients are always pleasant to deal with, Coleman says. Plus she’s sympathetic to the families expecting the post-pandemic vacation of a lifetime.

“Once you start unpacking what they’re talking about, you realize what’s probably happening is that they’re unhappy,” she says. “And they thought this was the trip that was going to save their marriage or make their kids love them more — whatever it might be. They take it out on us.”

“If there’s a customer service failure on our part, we deal with it,” she adds. “This is different. It’s almost as though people are so bent and frustrated by the pandemic.”

Verner says the informal chatter in the industry — she has acquaintances working in the Niagara tourism industry — is that pandemic guests are much more challenging.

“We’re all a little shell shocked that a global pandemic just suddenly reared its head,” Verner says. “But everybody that’s working in the service industry has been working the entire time. And they just hope that people kind of treat them like a human, to be perfectly honest.”

“We’re not frontline workers and hospitals, we’re not looking for that kind of sympathy,” Coleman says. “But we have been working crazy hours with reduced staff and just trying to do our best. And a little bit of human kindness goes a long way.”

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20 COMMENTS

  1. Josephine, the people who are suffering here are not the owners. They are people who make a living cleaning or renting out the homes. I also don’t think they are asking for anything outrageous, simply to be treated as human beings.

  2. As a long time cottager this behaviour is so disheartening to hear about. How have all this entitled people existed this long? Let’s hope next year everything opens up and those nasty people won’t be back

  3. if the rental prices were not so astronomical – people would not be demanding much more. The prices are comparable with a luxury hotel 700 a night – 80 000 a week. These prices should expect exceptional accommodation & service -the margin for owners is absurd they should pay staff way more

  4. i think renters want the cottage experience ,pay a huge rental price and expect 5 star service ,which brings us full circle to cottage experience and what it actually is

  5. Some people are just not educated.
    Our previous neighbours had guests in their backyard every other day. This was accompanied by loud music, fireplace smoke (even though in Toronto, where we live, outdoor fires are prohibited), constant barbecuing, late night loud conversations, 4-5.cars parked on the driveway and street. While most of this is not illegal it clearly shows lack of concern for the comfort of the neighborhood.
    It culminated with a party so loud that we called the police. Shortly after, another well-attended party caused us to install a fence – the only one along the ravine that the lots backed on

  6. While there is no excuse for being rude to anyone, this is likely steming from customer frustration. Muskoka rental prices are ridiculous – people who typically travel are now forced to stay within the province – they are paying these exorbitant rates for cottage rentals only to arrive and get hit with a dose of reality – it’s a cottage! After spending 2x the price of the Four Seasons Hotel they think they would receive some service, some over-the-top experience similar to staying in a 5+ star Four Season Resort – this disconnect less to frustration – it is house…a cottage…there is no service…no exceptional experience…no wow factor…its an over priced rental house with 4 walls …unfortunately the dose of reality sinks in when they realize how overpriced these rentals are and quickly moves to rude behaviour. Again while I do not agree with the rude behaviour people need to stop paying these COVID prices and look back at traditional travel (or in country 5-star Travel for WAY cheaper than 3-star over priced Muskoka)!

  7. Lumping wealthy people…city people etc together as ignorant, nasty etc is in itself ignorance. We are individuals and behaviour is individual, so respectfully the issue is about unkind behaviour.

    • Sorry, but if you’re going to bilk people out of $5000 a week for a legitimate 3 star that’s what you get. You want to profit from a pandemic and charge the dumb city slickers the same for a week in your cabin as it would cost for a safari in South Africa then you better believe they aren’t going to be OK with “roughing it.”

      It’s a joke how much vacationing in our own country costs.

      • Fair enough. But the server at Starbucks or the cleaning lady at the cottage aren’t the ones charging the insanely high rates. Theyre just working to make a living. Expecting the luxuries for an overpriced rental OK. If it doesn’t meet the renters standards for the price, take it up with the booking agent or owner or manager. Its not right to treat the serving staff (who have no say over the pricing or the profit) as if they are garbage.

  8. I am so tired of people coming up to stay in airbnb in my little village and treating it like a resort. Parties…loud music…so loud you can feel the vibrations…singing at the top of their lungs. Taking over the beaches. Kids driving the roads in golf carts. This is a family area. We live here year round. We work here. We get up at 4 or 5 in the morning to go to work and we get to deal with their rudeness then too. Time to reel it in. The owners need to be held responsible for their guests.

  9. I work at the on of the busiest restaurants in Muskoka and watching entitled city folk make 15 year old hostesses cry because they are not being seated where they want, or aren’t getting seated fast enough, etc., makes me sick. You spending money does not give you right to say or do whatever you want to another person. Your money may be hard earned but is still not more important than people. Covid is not an excuse. It’s not fair we can get vicidictice reviews but customers who are abusive get away with it. They should be held accountable and have their names on a list of “serve at your own risk.”

  10. Paying staff more yes

    Advising people prior to accepting the large fee which in turn is providing these agencies with hugh commissions of what to expect is the solution . Contact the agency and see for yourself , no indication of what will NOT be provided . These agencies are the issue not the guests . There are some people for sure that will never be satisfied, even when they stay at the Four Seasons

    B

  11. People in the service industry deserve every bit of sympathy that hospital and front line workers have been getting, if not more. Bad customers should not be surprised when they get the service they deserve

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