Disenchanted by Farm Stay and B&B Experience in New Zealand

smile

A NZ home stay vacation may not put a smile on your face

Thinking about staying in Kiwi home on your next vacation? Wanting to experience the Kiwi way of life?

You’d better read this article before you book, first published in the Malaysian Star.

The author found cramped, messy homes and less than ideal catering arrangements. Add to that being constantly monitored, and having to defer to the comfort of “Western guests,” and you could be forgiven for thinking this sounds like the holiday from hell.

The author’s message is what passes for “cultural experience” is no substitute for good service, do your research thoroughly and not take “glowing reviews” at face value. When one pays top dollar for a service there is a reasonable expectation of value for money. In New Zealand that could be a tall order.

Disenchanted by farm stay and B&B experience in New Zealand

Published: Saturday February 28, 2015 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Thursday March 12, 2015 MYT 10:08:34 AM

Reader Jo Lean* from Kuala Lumpur shares about an unpleasant vacation experience in New Zealand.

DURING a recent trip to New Zealand , we were booked into two farm stays and two bed and breakfast (B&B) homes organised by our NZ tour operator. Our family of four, including two young children, were excited at the thought of experiencing a part of the famous Kiwi hospitality we had heard so much of. We had stayed before in B&Bs in Britain and the United States, and each experience had been excellent.

Of the four NZ private home stays, only one lived up to our expectations, which were not unlike those of any middle-class Malaysian family. We were told that a farm stay would give us a chance to experience farm life and to get to know real farmers, and a B&B offered a comfortable stay in a house, inclusive of breakfast.

The level of comfort at a farm house or a B&B would depend on the reputation of the farm/B&B host and the budget of the traveller. Our NZ tour operator assured us we were getting the best the area had to offer based on the price we paid.

But what ensued was a travel nightmare. We didn’t expect to be put up in homes that were full of clutter, and cramped into tiny spaces where we couldn’t even open our luggage and being served less than ideal meals. Throw in hosts that were eccentric and discriminating, and we had our nightmare trifecta.

The B&B on Stewart Island which is highly ranked by a popular trip advisory website was a disaster from the moment we arrived. Our children’s room was located beside a junk-filled garage and all the sliding doors had no locks from the inside to prevent young kids from wandering around the property which was perched on a steep slope.

We were not allowed into the kitchen by the host, despite prior knowledge that we had to use the kitchen due to the special dietary requirements of my younger child. It was only after our persistent requests that she agreed to clean the kitchen for our use and even so, she stayed in the kitchen watching us the entire time we were in there.

She also had a dog which she refused to chain or confine to a certain area of the house although we had informed our tour operator that our children were afraid of dogs. My younger child was terrified after being chased around the house by the owner’s dog (which the owner admitted wasn’t good with children).

The real shocker was when she told us she was expecting to host another couple the following night in a room that led to her kitchen. It wasn’t a big house and the host had to sleep on a sofa in a space beside the kitchen to accommodate her guests. We now had to share a small cottage with strangers.

We were warned to be very quiet if we wanted to get up early for breakfast so as not to disturb the other couple whom we later discovered were Westerners. However, at around midnight, the same couple returned from an excursion and made a lot of noise slamming doors and turning on the corridor lights while my children were sleeping. It was clear that the host imposed double standards on her guests.

There were other annoyances that I will not go into but suffice to say it was two long nights of discomfort and disappointment.

At another B&B in Franz Josef on South Island, the owner never left us alone despite living in a cabin behind the B&B. Everywhere we turned, there he was. He was friendly bordering on invasive and the breakfast was short of a couple of key items that he had promised us the night before. Key, meaning no bacon and no egg in our bacon and eggs breakfast!

Our second last night in NZ was a farm stay two hours from Christchurch. After being on a three-week long road trip across the country, we were exhausted. We thought it couldn’t get any worse, but we were wrong.

The farm stay wasn’t even on a farm. The host had an assortment of farm pets in his backyard but had to take us to another farm that did not belong to him to show us how sheep were shorn. We were directed to the bedrooms upstairs in the farmer’s cramped house that he shared with his wife and three children. When we walked around some parts of the house, we were sternly reminded by the host that those areas were private.

We looked forward to the dinner at least, since a reputable B&B booking website review mentioned that the hosts were excellent cooks but were in for a rude shock. Instead of a hot meal, we were offered leftover Christmas ham and cold beetroot and vegetables served buffet style. Adding insult to injury, the farmer was dressed in torn shorts for dinner which would have slipped my attention had his wife not reminded my older child to dress appropriately when he wanted to change out of his travelling clothes into something more comfortable.

That was the last straw. We left the farm stay shortly after dinner. Stuck in a little town with a population of 700, our choice of accommodation that night was limited, to say the least, and what happened next deserves its own article.

What astonished us was that when we complained to the tour operator, he took the owners’ side. He claimed that we didn’t understand NZ culture and the home stays were exactly what we had signed up for and that we were treated no differently from any other guests.

What are the takeaways from this tale of our travel woes? Be firm with your tour operator. Cultural difference is no excuse for poor service. Find out exactly what you are getting for the price you pay. Make sure you know the type of room and the living situation of the hosts in the B&Bs or farm stay homes.

Make known your special requests and get confirmation that they can accommodate you. Get an idea of what activities are being offered in the farm stay and what kind of meal you are having, for example, a two- or three-course sit-down dinner or a buffet-style meal. Glowing reviews from other travellers who have used the same tour operator are no guarantee of quality. Do not be afraid to ask questions, and leave no stone unturned. And lastly, our lawyer was right – put everything down in black and white.

* A pseudonym (source)

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10 thoughts on “Disenchanted by Farm Stay and B&B Experience in New Zealand

  1. I stayed at a BB in Christchurch once the owner forgot about the booking and went for a quiz night! I had to spend my night in car, in freezing cold. Phew!!! kiwis and their hospitality, both are quite unique in this world.

  2. Thanks for sharing this. The defensiveness of the owner and her eagerness to attack her guests speaks volumes. I usually tend to withhold judgement on these things because it is difficult to ascertain what truly happened when hearing one side of the story or two sides of the story from the parties themselves.

    However, I can state emphatically that the accommodation choices in New Zealand generally and Southland specifically are overpriced and of poor quality. The host berates the Swiss guest for his/her comment about the price. However, an operator charging NZ $240 per night needs to offer a certain level of amenities and service commensurate to the price people pay. Judging from the pictures on Trip Advisor, the owner is easily charging double the prevailing rate.

    I owned a small tour business one and I recall a certain type of B&B owner who viewed guests as cash cows that they could milk to pay the B&B owner’s mortgage. These types of owners were extremely cheap, obnoxious, and had no business acumen. They often complained vociferously when their business floundered due to terrible marketing and service.

    My tour company offered two services. There was a budget bus service that included several stops and a tour at a Wildlife Park. The service was good and the stops fascinating, but it was nothing out of this world given the price. The custom tours where people paid good money included things like a proper lunch made with fresh ingredients and a customised itinerary that lasted an eight hour day. The clients paid good money, but they had to receive top service. This is how the world works. Ignorant provincial bogans from Steward Island might not realise this, but this is how the world works. None of them actually travel so they fail to understand how the hovels they call hotels and B&Bs compare to experiences elsewhere. The Kiwis could start by learning languages other than English and trying to speak their guests language. Actually, maybe they could brush up on their mother tongue before moving to something else.

  3. To answer admin’s query as to why the malaysian star published the owner’s response which divulged some private matters, this is because privacy is not greatly valued in Asian countries in general UNLESS the parties concerned are friends or relatives. This even applies to developed Asian nations in general. This is due to the high and dense populations , a generally very curious and inquisitive population and a ” if I do not know you well your welfare or best interests do not matter to me”. Coming from Malaysia/Singapore( former Malaysian state) originally, I can confirm this.

  4. Re: Disenchanted by Farm Stay and B&B Experience in New Zealand:

    In the original article by Jo Lean published by the Malaysian Star, there’s a link http://tinyurl.com/na25laf to a response by a person claiming to be the B&B owner mentioned. She is Raylene Waddell, the “very proud owner and operator of Glendaruel Bed & Breakfast” on Stewart Island. While I believe that she did the right thing to reply if indeed Jo Lean was writing about Glendaruel Bed & Breaksfast, her defensive tone and unapologetic manner is what I find most amusing. New Zealand hospitality at its finest, not. Signing off as the “very proud owner…” is also very telling of Raylene Waddell’s personality.

    • I read the Glendaruel owner’s nutty reply. I think she is mentally unstable; look how she writes long defensive comments to any review that is even partially unacceptable to the little bubble she lives in. She said she was justified in charging $240 per night because she took them to the ferry building. Ha! Unbelievable. I guess she does not realize the visitors are from Luzern, one of the most beautiful cities in the world with very exceptional accommodation at reasonable prices, such as the Hotel Sonnenberg where I stayed this summer for $200 per night, overlooking the entire city and surrounding mountains and sea, immaculately clean with espresso, tea, world-class views and restaurant, etc. It seems she would like to censor all ‘negative’ reviews, in suit with the NZ gov’t I suppose who likes to suppress all negative news about NZ in general. I abhor New Zealanders; can’t wait till I can write my own long story about my horrific experiences on a daily basis in this scum hole NZ and publish it internationally… mmmhmm… yes indeed! 🙂

      • I definitely will; thanks for the offer. At the moment I am right in the middle of some work, but as soon as I finish that, I will put together a shortened version of ‘my story’ of what it was like to come to NZ to live and work as an academic researcher.

  5. For a country that relies on tourism as a significant income earner, the standards of New Zealand hotels and attractions is extremely high. This is especially so when one factors that New Zealand prices are high by international standards not to mention the cost of flights and time getting to New Zealand from the major population centres of the world.
    I recently stayed at a lovely place in Greece for 45 Euros a night during the quiet season. The hotel room was spacious with tiled floors, comfortable beds, etc. In contrast, I paid NZ $80 per night to stay in Te Anau during the quiet season. The place offered no breakfast, the room looked like army barracks, etc. New Zealand’s tourism industry will suffer when more people become aware that the cost of a holiday there is probably even more expensive than in Scandinavia with a level of service and quality below that of Eastern Europe.

  6. From the article Disenchanted by farm stay and B&B experience in New Zealand p0ublished in the Malaysian Star:

    I agree with Jo Lean* from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia shares about an unpleasant vacation experience in New Zealand. The kiiwi accommodation owners often treat Asians and also Europeans poorly but Europeans are treated slightly better overall.
    They are so stupid and fail to realise that Malaysia is far more developed than New Zealand in terms of infrastructure and technology and also quality of accommodation.
    Malaysians are not afraid of complaining as they do not live in a political correct fraudulent culture like NZ. I am glad that New Zealand’s cowboy accommodation owners are getting bad press overseas.This will force these useless fellas to clean up their act.

  7. Just to add some balance here, in case people think “oh, only foreigners complain about accommodation in New Zealand”,
    here are some locals to tell their tale (just the highlights before the main article, but that’s already a warning):
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2992708/Is-world-s-disgusting-hotel-Bloodstains-duvet-cover-mould-bathroom-leaving-pregnant-woman-sleep-outside-CAR.html
    Is this the world’s most disgusting hotel? Bloodstains on the duvet cover, mould in the bathroom… and leaving a pregnant woman to sleep outside in her CAR
    Epsom Motor Inn in Auckland has been heavily criticised on TripAdvisor
    It has been described as ‘appalling’, ‘disgusting’ and ‘shocking’ by guests
    Complaints range from blood on the bedding to mould in the bathroom
    Lucy and Gary Best, from Kerikeri in New Zealand, had a brutal experience
    When they arrived a receptionist said there was no record of their booking
    Despite explaining she was pregnant, the couple had to sleep in their car
    Motel’s manager said he has offered the couple free accommodation.

    It was said to have been booked out when they arrived. Everyone knows “bloodstains add character to a place” 🙂

    • Sounds disgusting, but it’s great to see this getting international exposure. It’s the only way things will ever change for the better in New Zealand.

      Review from Rhys from Tauranga, New Zealand November 15, 2014 left on Priceline.com

      It was a hovel, run down, gardens overgrown, cobwebs hanging from rafters, fridge rusty, shower temp control very difficult. It felt and smelt dirty.

      That would describe about 80% of New Zealand’s housing stock 🙂

      About 250,000 New Zealand homes are so damp, cold and poorly insulated that they ruin people’s health (more here) and there must be hundreds of thousands more that are just plain awful to live in.

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