Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Vacation Nightmare: Live snail incubates in boy's knee

I had some complaints about my vacation at "The Little House" at 958-1/2 Ocean Boulevard in Hampton NH.  And I especially noted that the jagged boulders separating the beach from the house are dangerous for children.  But thank goodness I or my child didn't experience what this poor boy did.

4-year-old Paul Franklin was climbing on some rocks at the beach when he fell and cut his knee.  The knee became swollen and so his mom took him to urgent care, where they prescribed a round of antibiotics. 

The knee got worse and even turned black.  Against doctor's orders, his mom squeezed the wound to try to drain it, and a live snail emerged!  

Paul's father speculates a snail egg was forced into the boy's knee when he fell on the rocks, where it began gestating.

The spunky 4-year-old has adopted the snail as a pet and named him "Turbo!"

See the story and video via Huffington Post and CBS: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/16/boy-knee-snail-egg_n_3768456.html

Monday, August 12, 2013

Why Is Resolving Customer Complaints Good For Business?

It is well-documented that resolving customer complaints is good for business.  Responding promptly and resolving customer issues builds long-lasting loyalty and repeat business, as well as referral business.  Here is a roundup of research and advice:

Customers' Problems Are Companies' Loyalty-Building Opportunities (Andrew McInnes, Forrester Research, December 6, 2010)
Click to see the blog post
  • 81% of customers who said a company's problem resolution experience far exceeded expectations are very likely to do business with that company again
  • Only 5% of customers who said a company's problem resolution experience fell far below expectations are very likely to do business with that company again
  • 71% of respondents who said that problem resolution fell far below their expectations also said that they’re very likely to tell someone about the experience
Infographic: Social Customer Service, the Next Competitive Battleground (Daily Infographic)
Click to see the infographic
  • 59% of customers will switch brands to get better customer service
  • 73% of customers have spent more with a company because of good customer service
What Drives Customer Loyalty with Complaint Resolution by Tor Wallin Andraessen (Journal of Service Research, Vol 1, No 4, 1999)
"Satisfaction with complaint resolution has a positive impact on customer loyalty. Complaint resolution is thus an important element of the company’s customer retention strategy."
Six Steps to Dealing with Customer Complaints (Ben Ridler, Entrepreneurs' Organization)
  1. Listen carefully to what the customer has to say, and let them finish. 
  2. Ask questions in a caring and concerned manner.
  3. Put yourself in their shoes
  4. Apologize without blaming
  5. Ask the customer, "What would be an acceptable solution to you?"
  6. Solve the problem, or find someone who can solve it -- quickly!
Groupon Blog: Five Lessons Learned From Amy’s Baking Company
Five problems small businesses grapple with when they receive a customer complaint, and how to solve them calmly and professionally.

Susan Koster Unwilling To Resolve My Complaint

Susan Koster is clearly unaware of the ample research proving that resolving customer complaints is good for business.  Responding promptly and resolving customer issues builds long-lasting loyalty and repeat business, as well as referral business.  See the wealth of research proving that resolving customer complaints is good for business.

Here's a timeline of our interactions:
  • 3/9/2013 - 6/15/2013: Susan Koster is all sunshine & rainbows when she is in sales mode. Many friendly exchanges as Susan Koster cheerfully answers our questions about her rental property at 958-1/2 Ocean Boulevard, Plaice Cove, in Hampton NH.  6/15/2013 marks the date our final payment was received and the information packet was sent to us.
  • 7/20/2013: Susan Koster is a good communicator only when it suits her. We move into the rental property.  Several emails are exchanged to inquire about our move-in experience.  Susan inquires about many things (did the cleaning lady do a good job, did previous tenants leave anything broken, etc.).  We reply politely to her emails.  The place is not perfect... it is much more rustic than advertised, and I have some concerns about its safety especially for small children... but the cleaning lady seems to have done her job and there is nothing visibly broken.
  • 958-1/2 Ocean Blvd Hampton NH -- On 7/24/2013 the backhoe
    arrived on the beach.  It stayed for the remaining 4 days of our
    vacation.  Susan Koster did not respond to our complaint for
    9 days, only responding on 8/2/2013 after I sent a tersely
    worded email demanding a response and proposing a
  • 7/24/2013: Susan Koster goes "missing in action" when things get tough. Despite rapid-fire replies up until now, we get no response after we notify her that there is a backhoe obstructing the beach and filling the air all day long with clanking and crashing.  The backhoe will prove to be a constant presence for the remaining 4 days of our vacation.
  • 8/2/2013: 9 days of silence from Susan Koster. Still no response after 9 days, so I send a tersely worded email requesting a response and proposing a settlement.
  • 8/2/2013: Susan Koster belatedly springs into action. Susan Koster promises to look into things. Checks with neighbors at Plaice Cove and inquires with the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services.
  • 8/5/2013: Susan Koster says tough sh!t: Susan Koster sends an email stating she will not issue me any kind of settlement or reimbursement because "this work is totally out of my control, I was not aware of its happening until you told me, and cannot accept any responsibility for it." 
It is most unfortunate that Susan Koster didn't feel the slightest bit compelled to work with us on a settlement.  In my 8/2/2013 email I proposed she issue a reimbursement for the final 4 days of our stay (the $2200 rent for the week translated to about $314 per day, so a 4-day refund would be $1256).  I didn't expect her to approve that, but I hoped it would be a starting point for negotiation.  I would have been satisfied with $500 bucks or so.  This would have done little harm to her bank account but it would have made me feel a little less angry.

I promised Susan Koster I would post an accurate review expressing my disappointment with my rental of 958-1/2 Ocean Blvd, Hampton NH.  I have done that in many places and in exhaustive detail.  It is my hope that future potential renters will be able to find ample information about Susan Koster and her property on the Internet and will decide to spend their hard-earned money elsewhere.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Beach Review: Plaice Cove, Hampton NH

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Plaice Cove Beach is located just North Beach, Hampton NH.  It is quiet and never too busy, used mostly by the dozen or so cottages that line the shore.  There is public access to the beach between some of the houses, but there is no dedicated parking lot -- the closest lot is located at the junction of High St. (Rt. 27) and Ocean Blvd. (Rt. 1A) and is more convenient to North Beach. So the public access ways are mostly used by residents and renters walking from across Rt. 1A.


  • It is fun for older kids and adults to walk across the boulders and explore the tidal pools.
  • Magnificent views.
  • Steps away from Cinnamon Rainbows surf shop where you can rent surfboards, paddleboards, etc.


  • Bring your aqua socks, it is a very rocky beach, with not much sand.  Big boulders on the North and South ends of the beach.  The main beach surface is gravel.  If you want to wade into the surf it is very painful on your bare feet most of the time, especially while getting battered by the surf.  The exception is extreme low tide, when it is dead calm and you can pick your way through the few sandy spots.
  • Rough surf. The waves are not high but the low waves are powerful and will batter you into the jagged boulders, especially if your footing is compromised by the sharp gravel walking surface.
  • Small children will have a hard time navigating this beach.  Parents will need to lead them by the hand and attend to them closely to ensure their safety.

Nearby beaches that are better than Plaice Cove:

  • Hampton Beach: Beautiful, broad beach, nice sand, gentle surf.  Great for kids.  There is a boardwalk with arcades, bars, restaurants, shops, and an outdoor theater.  For those who visited many years ago like me, the boardwalk has been dramatically cleaned up and it is much less "carn-y" than it was when I was a kid back in the '80s. Yelp review: http://www.yelp.com/biz/hampton-beach-state-park-hampton
  • North Hampton Beach: Narrow beach that almost completely disappears at high tide.  The surrounding neighborhood is much less appealing than Hampton Beach, but the sand is better than Plaice Cove. Apparently there is a surfer scene here and it is close to the surf shop Cinnamon Rainbows.  Yelp review: http://www.yelp.com/biz/north-hampton-state-beach-north-hampton
  • Wallace Sands State Beach: Beautiful little beach.  Sometimes over-crowded.  Nice sand.  Good facilities.  Good for families.  The drive to this beach features stunning beach mansions and good restaurants for fried seafood.  Yelp review: http://www.yelp.com/biz/wallis-sands-state-beach-rye

Other reviews of Plaice Cove Beach:

 Surf and weather forecast for Plaice Cove courtesy of Surf-Forecast.com:

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Sea Wall Construction Obstructing Plaice Cove Ruined My Vacation

958-1/2 Ocean Blvd Hampton NH --Wednesday July 24th
the backhoe showed up.  See those kids on the beach?
They did not stick around very long after
its arrival.
The straw that broke the camel's back for this vacation at "The Little House" at 958-1/2 Ocean Blvd in Hampton NH was the construction.

On day 3 of our vacation, the backhoe arrived at the neighbor's house.  We thought at first maybe it would be a 1-day project.  But as each day neared its end we would look out with dismay and see that the unstructured pile of rocks was growing instead of diminishing... the work area was not being cleaned... the backhoe was not leaving. 

It was 4 straight days of constant, noisy clanking of iron and crashing of rocks to end our vacation.  The backhoe completely obstructed the beach at Plaice Cove in front of our cottage.  It was a blight on our view from the deck.  The construction work was visible and audible from inside through the windows.

Here are some quotes from the HomeAway property listing and reviews attached to the listing:
  • The presence of the ocean is everywhere.
  • Hear the sound of the waves, taste the salt spray, see the sun and the full moon as they crawl out of the ocean and be at peace.
  • When we arrived and first took in the amazing view from the deck we were overjoyed to have found such a special place.
  • Just sit on deck and watch the waves, birds, paddle boarders, surfers and the world.
I have complaints about this rental property, but one thing that is undeniable is that the view from the deck is magnificent.  The construction took that away.  The final 4 days of the vacation were ruined.

958-1/2 Ocean Blvd Hampton NH -- July 24th, backhoe viewed from the deck.
Notice it has built a pile of rocks that has obstructed the entire beach
all the way to the waterline.

958-1/2 Ocean Blvd Hampton NH --Thursday July 25th, the backhoe has
returned for day 2.  See the sad kids sitting on the rocks wondering if they
will get to use the beach any time soon.  Nope.

958-1/2 Ocean Blvd Hampton NH -- Friday July 26, backhoe day 3, see it
outside the window. When we saw it parked there at the end of the day and
realized it would be there again in the morning, we gave up and went home

a day early.

Dangerous for Small Children

"Children can be monitored from the deck."

So says the HomeAway.com listing for "The Little House" at 958-1/2 Ocean Blvd, Plaice Cove, in Hampton, NH.  That phrase is preposterous and shows just how out of touch Susan Koster is about the appropriateness of this property for small children.

Here are all the ways this place is unsafe for small kids:
958-1/2 Ocean Blvd Hampton NH - Kids trying to climb
down from the deck to the beach over the treacherous
boulders. There is no path for direct access to the beach.
  • Climbing from the deck over boulders is the only direct access to the beach.  I pray that you don't decide to monitor your children from the deck.  If they got in trouble down on the beach you would need to scramble over boulders and rocks to get to them.  You very likely could break your ankle and not make it to your child very quickly or in any condition to help.  The safest access to the beach is walking two houses North and using the public access way between houses, then circling back toward the cottage.  I'm not sure why Susan Koster hasn't moved some rocks around to make a safer path to the beach, but she hasn't, and so we spent the week trying to keep our 2-year-old from seriously injuring herself while climbing over the rocks to get to and from the beach.
  • Exposed electrical wires, junction boxes, and outlets.  As I mentioned in another post, there are no internal walls (paneling, drywall, plaster) and so the electrical work is all exposed on the inside of the house.  Dangerous and probably out of code.  We had a 3-year-old nephew visit one day and we had to stop him from sticking his fingers into the wiring of an outlet near a table he had crawled beneath.
  • Nails protruding from the walls.  Hundreds of them, all over the place. As I mentioned in another post, these are the nails used to hang the vinyl siding on the outside of the house.  If a small child stumbled near a wall they would probably need a trip to the hospital.
  • The "short-stay guest/storage/laundry room" has sharp tools scattered all over the place.  I explained in an earlier post it is actually a garage with a couple of beds placed in it.  Well, like most garages, it is chocked full of saws and shovels and hedge trimmers and other power tools.  This was our 2-year-old daughter's bedroom.
  • The beach itself is rocky and rough.  After you climb over the boulders and arrive down on the beach, you realize that most of the beach surface is not sand, it is gravel.  If you are barefoot, you will find yourself carefully picking your way along, trying to avoid the sharpest gravel.  Getting into the water is very difficult because the waves are beating against you and forcing you to catch your balance on jagged gravel.  Now imagine trying to guide a 2-year-old into the water under these circumstances.  Only at absolute low tide is the water calm enough for a small child (or anyone else) to enter safely and comfortably.  Pro tip: buy some "aqua socks." Click for more details and a review of the beach at Plaice Cove, Hampton NH.
Susan Koster, please make you listing more accurate regarding the safety of "The Little House" at 958-1/2 Ocean Blvd in Hampton NH.  I was stressed out the entire vacation.  Here are some more photos:
958-1/2 Ocean Blvd Hampton NH - Here's a shot from the beach.  You can see
there is no path to follow to get back up to the deck, it is all rocks & boulders.
958-1/2 Ocean Blvd Hampton NH - Exposed electrical wiring, junction boxes
and outlets.  Very dangerous for anyone, but especially a curious small child.
Also, it is probably a fire hazard and against building codes.  Also, if you zoom
in you can see the points of dozens of nails sticking through the walls. The nails
were used to affix the vinyl siding to the outside, but they are sticking through
the walls.
958-1/2 Ocean Blvd Hampton NH -This is the "short-stay guest/storage/laundry room."
It is a garage with a couple of beds in it.  Like most garages it has sharp tools scattered
all over the place.  Here you can see an electric hedge trimmer, a rusty shovel, and the
red handles of hedge snippers placed in close proximity to a child's chair.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Rustic? Or Run-down and Dangerous?

The listing on HomeAway.com says "The Little House" at 958-1/2 Ocean Boulevard in Hampton NH "has been updated for comfort and convenience."  I don't really want to nitpick, but the only updating is that some vinyl windows were installed and some vinyl siding was nailed to the outside.
958-1/2 Ocean Blvd Hampton NH -- Here's the
"updated" kitchen which the listing notes
is "fully equipped" and "will please the best of
cooks." Also notice the exposed wiring and
broken microwave.
  • Exposed electrical wiring: Electric junction boxes, outlets, and wiring is exposed throughout the entire structure.  That's because there are no internal walls -- no paneling, drywall, or plaster covering the framing. Very dangerous for all, but especially for small children (and probably violates building code).
  • Nails sticking out of the walls: Hundreds of them.  They are holding up the vinyl siding on the outside of the walls, but the nails are protruding int the interior by about an inch. Very dangerous for small children (and probably violates building code).
  • Sleep in a garage: The "short-stay guest/storage/laundry room" advertised in the listing is a garage with two twin beds in it, and a clothes washer/dryer.  This is not obvious from the picture or description posted on the rental site.  But in the welcome kit sent to renters by Susan Koster she herself refers to it as a garage (for example, "The key will unlock the left 'Garage' door.  Walk through the garage, through the bathroom, and into the kitchen.").  The "short-stay guest/storage/laundry room" has shovels, and hedge trimmers hanging from the walls.  My 2-year-old daughter slept here.  My aunt who is recovering from cancer slept here.  When I made up my aunt's bed, a big black bug crawled out of the sheets.  I was stressed out the entire vacation.
  • Shabby kitchen: There is not much updated about the kitchen.  There is a microwave but it is circa about 1980, the display is broken and hence it is impossible to reset it's clock, rendering it useless.  In fairness there is an old coffee maker and a dishwasher that both work, I suppose you could consider that "updated" if you really stretch the definition.  The statement from the listing that "The fully equipped kitchen will please the best of cooks" is woefully overstated.
  • Run-down bathroom: There is not much updated about the bathroom, the info packet sent to us once our final rental payment was received apologizes that it is old plumbing and begs you not to overload it. 
  • Overheated: There's no A/C.  No problem, I didn't really expect A/C.  There are ceiling fans in the living room and the "short-stay guest/storage/laundry room".  Surprisingly there were no window fans, so since we arrived at the tail end of a heatwave I needed to go out to Wal-Mart and drop $75 bucks on window fans just to cool the place off the first night.

I was prepared for rustic.  I grew up vacationing with my grandparents at their rustic cottage on a lake in Wisconsin.  And I loved it.  But please be honest about your accommodations when you are describing them on your rental website.  At least be honest about it, Susan Koster, when your potential renter inquires specifically if the place will be appropriate for his 2-year-old daughter.

More pictures:

958-1/2 Ocean Blvd Hampton NH -- This is the "short-stay
guest/storage/laundry room." As you can see, it is really a
garage, and there are ladders, hedge trimmers and other
dangerous items scattered all over the place. This is where
my 2-year-old daughter slept.  Terrifying!

958-1/2 Ocean Blvd Hampton NH -- More of the
exposed wiring. If you zoom in close you can
also see dozens of nails sticking through
the wood walls. These nails are holding up the
vinyl siding on the outside of the walls, and there
are thousands of them. Thank god my 2-year-old
daughter didn't fall into the nails or wiring.

"The Little House" at 958-1/2 Ocean Boulevard in Hampton NH

958-1/2 Ocean Blvd Hampton NH -- the nightmare was
complete when the major construction began on the
3rd day of my vacation.  It was a close and constant presence,
completely obstructing the beach, filling the air with noisy
beeping and crashing of rocks, for the duration of the vacation.
If you've found this blog, then unfortunately maybe you fell for the same listing for the vacation rental that I did. 

I vacationed at "The Little House" at 958-1/2 Ocean Boulevard, on Plaice Cove, in Hampton NH.  It was advertised on HomeAway.com.  It cost $2200 for a week -- not cheap considering you can get a Caribbean vacation for two including airfare for about that price.  I vacationed there in July 2013 with my wife and 2-year-old child.

It was a nightmare vacation!  

Here's why:
  1. Way more "rustic" than the listing let on
  2. Dangerous for young children
  3. Rocky beach, practically impossible to walk into the water barefoot
  4. Massive construction project blocking the beach
  5. Owner/landlord Susan Koster was unresponsive and unwilling to make things right

I tried to work things out with the owner/landlord, Susan Koster, during and after the vacation.  But even though Susan Koster seemed sweet and accommodating during "the courtship," before all the paperwork was signed and payments were sent, she disappeared when the sh*t hit the fan, and she was totally unwilling to consider a reimbursement of any of the rental fee after learning about my unsatisfactory experience.

My only recourse now is to post an accurate review expressing my disappointment with my vacation.  Maybe it will give me some peace of mind, and maybe it will save some other poor sucker from falling for it and renting this place in the future.