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Gimmelwald - Olle and Maria

This B&B is strongly recommended in the 2020 guide. I would warn travelers against this place. My wife and I made a deposit of CHF 500 for a trip in early May, which we are not able to take because of the COVID-19 lockdown in the United States. I asked Olle if we could use our deposit for future travel, and he refused, making a reference to checking our "travel insurance." Unethical and bad business. Avoid these people.

Posted by
9389 posts

Tiny operation, not a big corporation. They have no doubt been hard in their lives as we all have and are just trying to make it through to the other side. If it was a non-refundable deposit, then it is no-refundable.

I expect to lose significantly more than that with a lodging organization that has gone insolvent. I feel for them losing their livelihood and they are losing far more than I am.

Posted by
17619 posts

By the way, I was on the Gimmelwald website recently, and I guess things there have changed.

Olle and Maria no longer share the teaching job in Gimmelwald; there is no longer a teaching job in Gimmelwald. It looks like the school there is closed. I guess the kids go to a neighboring town? I think it says that Olle is teaching in a school in a neighboring town. I don't know if it is the same one the kids go to.

Since the school is closed, the school house is not being used. It was going to be sold, but the town decided to try to buy it and make it into a town center. They need donations.

Posted by
3947 posts

Strange times. It’s not unethical and bad business - they haven’t got any income and will have overheads, so as a small concern, if you entered into a non refundable contract, it’s within their right not to return your deposit. If I had paid a non returnable deposit and they didn’t return it, I would make an insurance claim, which is standard across Europe.

Posted by
1174 posts

I have stayed with Olle and Maria three times - 2008, 2009, 2017 - and it was wonderful each time. They are warm hosts who give you the bulk of their home to settle into. Olle lets me borrow his hiking boots (proper ones) instead of having to hump them around Europe, takes me hiking on trails only the locals seem to know about, introduces me to other locals, and engages me in long conversations about everything. Oh, and he drove me to Bern for the day and gave me tickets to see him perform in Rigoletto.

My 2017 review.

Posted by
2 posts

I am the author of this comment, and I have as much sympathy for a small business in this terrible environment as anyone. I own one myself. I did not expect a refund. I merely asked that our deposit be used as a credit toward a future visit, and it doesn't seem extreme of me to call that "unethical." I tried to choose my words carefully. I'm sure that the owners have treated many visitors very well (it's why we booked there). But they did not treat us well. That is the only point.

Why do internet forums often take this sort of course? I was merely telling people of my bad experience with the refusal of a reasonable request, and most of the responses imply that I have no sympathy for small businesses. Of course I do. But no one addresses the main point: is it fair not to apply a deposit to a future stay? I don't think so.

And then there's the inevitable "no one cares what you think," a comment that this courageous person would not have made to my face. The anonymity of the internet reveals the uncivil people for who they are.

Posted by
2904 posts

Thank you for posting your experience. I’m not surprised that different points of view were expressed. I was shocked at the “no one cares what you think” comment.

What is a forum if it is not a place for people to share their experiences and questions?

Posted by
11417 posts

Welcome to the forum, rcudahy -
A couple of issues here? First off, the B&B's website clearly states:

"We request a deposit of half of the total renting costs in advance. Payed deposits will never be be refunded. We recommend you to take out a travel insurance in case something crosses your travel plans."

It doesn't say that the deposit "...will never be refunded with the exception of...." There are no exceptions listed. On the off chance you were going to need to cancel for any reason and wanted the deposit refunded, you were instructed up front to make sure the amount would be covered by the appropriate trip insurance. It didn't hurt to ask for a credit towards a future trip but given a lot of small businesses are unsure of ever being able to open again, it's not "unethical" nor "bad" for them to refuse to do that and stick to their published policy. Very sorry but IMHO it's the agreement you both entered into when the reservation was made and the deposit sent.

Secondly, and I mean this very kindly as I understand you're upset, but the RS community generally takes a rather dim view of a poster's very first contribution being a damaging complaint, and especially one that isn't necessarily the fault of the business. Sure, not every detail about every trip goes according to expectation so it's OK to express some reasonable dismay over let-downs that a business should have/could have addressed, such as a very dirty or unsafe room. It's just best introduce yourself to the community first via forum questions, positive trip/business reviews or help you can provide for someone else's questions.

Think of it as that first impression you'd like to make when meeting like-minded (as in fellow travelers) strangers?

Posted by
9 posts

Your posting could have been phrased differently, but I also don't understand why Olle and Maria's BnB would not want to apply your deposit to a future reservation.

They already have the deposit, CHF 500, and now they want to give up chance to get the other CHF500 at a future date?

Many travel related businesses large and small are suffering greatly and in some cases are changing their deposit, refund and re-booking requirements to accommodate their customers needs and to ensure future business.

I reserved a private apartment directly with the owner for future travel to Croatia , no credit card or deposit required, they just asked that I give them 2 weeks notice if I have to cancel.

Maybe the RS organization (in their spare time) can "encourage" Olle and Maria's BnB to adjust their re-booking policy?
Scott

Posted by
422 posts

Not wanting to move a deposit- real simple, you booked one date, blocking others from that date and now you want to book and block another—all for a single deposit. Sorry, world doesn’t work that way. Maybe they can rerent your initial date but maybe not- which means you want to shift the potential financial hardship to them.

It is obvious they have probably been burned in the past with cancellations- their main rental season is probably on the short side and they only have 3 units.

I find (just looked at it) their website to be very clear. At several points in the rental process they clearly state: “No Deposit Will Ever Be Returned”. What could possibly be clearer.

They also clearly warn guests to obtain travel insurance in case plans have to be changed.

How can a business be more clear, more up front, more direct: No Deposit Will Ever Be Returned. What is there about that sentence that you do not understand?

Posted by
11417 posts

Maybe the RS organization (in their spare time) can "encourage" Olle
and Maria's BnB to adjust their re-booking policy?

Scott, pretty sure the RS organization has their hands plenty full right now, and I don't think it's their job to "encourage" a featured accommodation to change their policies or to favor readers of a specific guidebook over any other traveler.

Your accommodation in Croatia may have been able to credit your stay but that doesn't mean all of them can or do. Every host's situation is different.

Posted by
741 posts

This B&B is strongly recommended in the 2020 guide. I would warn
travelers against this place. My wife and I made a deposit of CHF 500
for a trip in early May, which we are not able to take because of the
COVID-19 lockdown in the United States. I asked Olle if we could use
our deposit for future travel, and he refused, making a reference to
checking our "travel insurance." Unethical and bad business. Avoid
these people.

Here is Switzerland, we assume that your an adult capable of acting in your own best interest and includes reading the terms of the contract you enter into. Now their website clearly states:

Deposit
We request a deposit of half of the total renting costs in
advance. Payed deposits will never be be refunded. We recommend you to
take out a travel insurance in case something crosses your travel
plans.

Now if you did not bother to read the terms of the contact, when you booked, that is entirely your problem and you have nothing to whine about.

Posted by
1841 posts

I very much understand your frustration with spending money on a service that you cannot use.

But no one addresses the main point: is it fair not to apply a deposit
to a future stay?

The total cost/loss associated with the cancelled stay is CHF 1000 if the proprietors cannot rent the room (which is the likely outcome given the current world environment). If the proprietors let you use the deposit as a future credit, they are bearing all the cost of the loss -- they keep your CHF 500 deposit now, lose the other CHF 500 on the early May rental, and then charge you CHF 500 for a future rental for which they would otherwise collect CHF 1000. The proprietor is out a total of CHF 1000. You are made whole. Does that seem fair? Not to me.

"Fair" (at least to me, for an unplanned worldwide, business-destroying epidemic), would see you guys going "halfsies" -- you bear CHF 500 of the loss, the proprietors bear CHF 500 of the loss. So, the proprietors' enforcement of their policy regarding non-refundable deposits seems fair, equitable, and ethical.

I was merely telling people of my bad experience with the refusal of a
reasonable request

I would accept this statement as honest if it ended "...with the intent of harming Olle and Maria's B&B during an unplanned, worldwide epidemic."

On a personal note, I got results on 2 separate kids one hour apart this week indicating that they have cancer and had to break that news to their families. The worst day of my career. Hug your kids/grandkids, forget about the CHF 500, and conduct yourself with a kindness you can be proud of on the other side of this epidemic.

Posted by
6039 posts

With the other things RS staff have to do, I suppose they cannot devise a warning symbol to go on a post like this, for folks to wear helmets and flak vests.

I suppose they thought Rule 2- "BE POLITE"- was all that was needed. That may have be misplaced optimism.

Posted by
23259 posts

There is an interesting juxtaposition of threads on the forums at the moment...

Several people asking about the welfare of various Italian hosts, even to the extent of wanting to send them donations, and a similar sentiment towards a Scottish pub, and then a post mentioning two Swiss hosts. Asking about their welfare? Looking to send a gift to help them over hard times?

No. A post intended to make life difficult for a pair of lovely Swiss hosts.

I wonder how they are different.

I find that very interesting.

I wonder why...

Posted by
741 posts

But no one addresses the main point: is it fair not to apply a deposit to a future stay? I don't think so.

So how exactly is it fair to fail to accept the terms of the contract you agreed to and then get all up set when the other party holds you to the terms of the contract and you go bad mouthing them for doing what they are legally entitled to???

Posted by
17619 posts

Two and a half years ago, I was scheduled in May to fly to Germany and spend the first 12 nights in a Ferienwohnung in the Spessart (Bavaria). For the week leading up to the trip my partner was in bed sick. I kept asking her if I should cancel the trip, but she insisted she would be ready to go.

The morning before we were to leave Denver, she collapsed and had to be taken by ambulance to the hospital, where she was put in the ICU. I immediately emailed the 80 yo widow who owned the building with the FeWo and told her we would not be coming and she could try to rent it to someone else. Of course at that late date, she couldn't. She had not collected a deposit, but I eventually sent her the full amount that she would have gotten for the 12 nights in the FeWo. It wasn't as much as your deposit with Olle, but it was a lot, and it wasn't her fault I wasn't coming, and I didn't think she should suffer because of my misfortune.

I don't think Olle did anything unethical. I think you should write to him and offer to send him the entire amount he would have received if you had stayed there (ethically, you owe it to him), and tell him he is welcome to rent it to someone else if he can, but point out to him that in return, if he can rent it, he should return your deposit or let you apply it to a future stay. That's only fair to both of you.

Posted by
3123 posts

In the description the OP wrote, the innkeepers made a poor business decision. Were they unethical? No. Were they penny wise and pound foolish? Absolutely.

This pandemic caught the world by surprise and I think their reaction was shortsighted.

I would never want to do business with them given the OP’s description. If the OP has an extensive social media network, the innkeepers’ response to him will only continue to go viral.

Posted by
7153 posts

It's not Olle and Maria's fault that the pandemic, of course! But neither is it the fault of people with reservations - who in their right mind would recommend sending the entire balance of their cancelled reservation on to Olle and Maria??? Good grief.

Posted by
1841 posts

I've offered full payment to 3 mom/pop lodging establishments in Germany and Austria that I had reserved for April/May. One declined any payment. I'm waiting to hear back from the other two.

Posted by
109 posts

"...who in their right mind would recommend sending the entire balance of their cancelled reservation on to Olle and Maria???"

I would. But then I never claimed to be in my right mind.

Posted by
7153 posts

I just stopped by the supermarket today for a bag of groceries - but I paid for 10 bags out of good will 😂😂

Posted by
109 posts

Good for you!

(I was being sarcastic but it does happen. Otherwise known as "Paying it Forward". But then, they aren't in their right mind(s) either.)

Posted by
432 posts

Sorry you lost your deposit. I was in Gimmelwald in July 2017 and enjoyed our visit; however, Murren or Wengen have more restaurants, shops, etc. We stayed in Wengen and I felt we picked the right village for our base.

Posted by
398 posts

There seems to be an assumption about businesses being different from people. People lose their hard-earned money; businesses, on the other hand, have to follow some business-related rules (like refunding money) as if the impersonal business - and not people - is coughing up the refund.
Is it possible that the business run by Olle and Maria is a main part of their income and not just "fun money," over and above what pays their bills? If so, this is a question of Olle and Maria donating money, personally, to the OP. This, despite clearly stated rules that say they won't do that. And this, despite the fact that the the OP only planned one vacation whereas Olle and Maria are looking at losing many months of income.
We have paid all travel costs for a trip planned for August. I'm assuming we will have to cancel. Of course, I'd like to get refunds - or even credits - but I understand that it may not go that way. Some of our bookings were done with clear "no refund" policies and I took that chance. I don't like to lose money, but we can afford to pay for a vacation in Europe. Our main cost will be disappointment, not financial ruin if we don't get refunds.

Posted by
109 posts

"There seems to be an assumption about businesses being different from people."

Yes they are different.

You seem to only see the mom/pop small business type things. That's what we are discussing after all. But businesses are not people. Microsoft, Google, etc are different from people. To say they are the same leads to crap like Corporations have an "inherent right of free speech" like any other person/citizen. But perhaps you meant only the non-Incorporated ones?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporate_personhood

I suspect a lot of the people who are pushing so hard on the refunds have mostly dealt with the Corporation type business.

Posted by
1653 posts

It has also been my experience of Swiss culture, that things tend to happen exactly as they are meant to happen. Rules are in place for a reason, and requests for exceptions are typically dismissed, or not even understood. If a contract says X, then X happens.
Certainly a far cry from my own, French, culture, where everything can be discussed and re-opened...

Posted by
109 posts

balso: How do they handle mistakes then? Just go through with it anyway? It seems like there must be some way to resolve those, even if not common.

Posted by
398 posts

RobertH, I agree with you. Microsoft, etc are different from people and absurdities follow if this is not acknowledged.
Perhaps I was unclear. I was trying to point out that simply describing something as a business doesn't tell us everything we need to know. I wouldn't expect Mom & Pop small businesses to behave as if they were Microsoft. To go further, I wouldn't expect a small business which provides an essential portion of a family's income to behave the same as one which provides "fun money" over and above what pays the family's bills.

Posted by
109 posts

Sure, and that's why I said I suspected a lot of the people pushing hard for the refunds (not all) are people who mostly deal with the Corporation type businesses. And getting screwed regularly by them tends to taint how you treat all businesses. Don't know.

Posted by
17 posts

I made a deposit with them for June. I had sent them an email asking if the deposit could be shifted to next year. I have not received a response from them. I see both sides of the issue. I do have some questions though. I know that our country is forbidding us to travel there. Is Switzerland banning our entry? Is the government of Switzerland, or their canton allowing their business to stay open? Cory

Posted by
6039 posts

Booking Terms and Conditions

Deposit

We request a deposit of half of the total renting costs in advance. Payed deposits will never be be refunded. We recommend you to take out a travel insurance in case something crosses your travel plans.

Payment

Payments can be made in Swiss Francs, Euros or Dollars only. Unfortunately we do not accept credit cards. Paypal is accepted.

Cancellation & early departure

We request a deposit of half of the total costs in advance. Cancellations made later than 1 months before the day of arrival or early departure will be charged with 100% of the cost of your stay.

With terms like this the place must be beyond SPECTACULAR, that anyone would agree to such unfair one sided terms. ( and not taking credit cards is a giant red flag for me).

Posted by
1174 posts

“With terms like this the place must be beyond SPECTACULAR, that anyone would agree to such unfair one sided terms. ( and not taking credit cards is a giant red flag for me).”

And it is spectacular. No red flags as they have great reviews from many people (including me) and are highly recommended in the RS guidebook.

Posted by
422 posts

Terms are not one side but are very clear, direct, up front, out in the open. NOTHING hidden in the “fine print” everything is clear and explicit. They rent 3 rooms during a very short season. It supplies their families income for the year. Credit card companies charge fees and can hold up income when phony challenges are made, etc. I am aware of many small mom and pops that do not accept them.

Again, terms are real clear and up front. Don’t like them, don’t book- no one is forcing you.

Posted by
1841 posts

I've offered full payment to 3 mom/pop lodging establishments in
Germany and Austria that I had reserved for April/May. One declined
any payment. I'm waiting to hear back from the other two.

I now stand at two establishments declining my "gerne" (gladly) offer to pay the full cost of the stay. The third wants to wait to see whether the establishment is allowed by the state to be open at the time of my stay. If it is allowed to be open, there will be a cancellation fee; if it is not allowed to be open, there will be no cancellation fee. The cancellation fee is 85% of the cost of the 3-night stay per the reservation paperwork. The owner has no credit card number to enforce the charge, so I could easily stiff him. But that would be rather dishonorable and totally un-German-like. It would also reinforce the notion that US Americans cannot be trusted to honor the contracts into which they enter.

Posted by
1841 posts

I would never want to do business with them given the OP’s
description.

The OP's description pushes me in the totally opposite direction. In Germany/Switzerland/Austria, as noted above, a contract is a contract; the owners are exhibiting behavior appropriate to their culture. Honestly, the OP's complaint feels to me like cultural ignorance and arrogance in that there is an expectation that a Swiss small business should act according to the OP's conception of US American business practice.

The OP also did not merely state his/her experience as the OP claimed, the OP labeled good, hard-working people trying to keep their small business afloat in tough times "unethical." Then added, "Avoid these people." To me, it feels like there is little purpose for this post other than to be spiteful and to cause harm during crazy, crazy times. I don't think that's cool.

So... when I return to the Bernese Oberland, Olle and Maria's B&B will be at the top of my list of places to stay.

Posted by
1841 posts

not taking credit cards is a giant red flag for me

Schade (Pity). You're missing out on some great, inexpensive places to stay.

Posted by
17 posts

I can see both sides of the issue. I am curios about several points though. Is there a lockdown of hotels in Switzerland, or in their canton? Is the Swiss government allowing incoming flights from the U.S, ? I am wondering about this, since their are two sides to the agreement. We give a deposit as security to live up to our promise to stay and pay for the room. The commitment of the hotel owner is to have that room available for our stay.

PS Let's all keep it civil. Bitte und Danke

Posted by
17619 posts

not taking credit cards is a giant red flag for me

Funny, taking credit cards is a giant red flag for me. I want my money to pay for hotel amenities, not go to some big bank.

Well, actually, I wouldn't refuse to stay somewhere just because they took credit cards, but I have observed that most of the places at which I stay, don't. Some have included a statement when they confirmed by reservation saying that I must pay in cash, and others have told me at check-in that they would only accept cash for payment. But mostly I decide where to stay by comparing places that have the amenities that I feel are necessary (not a hostel, close to the Bhf or public transportation, breakfast included, en suite bathroom, etc), while ignoring amenities that I don't care about (room service, English speaking, take credit cards, etc). Then I start with the least expensive place on the list. In general, I have found that less expensive places (usually Privatzimmer) provide the most culturally rich experience, and I've never seen one that takes credit cards.

Rick says,

As far as I'm concerned, spending more for your hotel just builds a
bigger wall between you and what you traveled so far to see.

I decided something similar in the 1980s, after doing my first self-financed trip on a shoestring. Whereas the company had put us up in starred hotels (one was a 4), I used Michelin Guide's 1 rated hotels, and found I liked them better. So I formulated my own travel philosophy long before I heard Rick's, which was,

if you stay in small family run places, you'll not only have a
culturally better experience, you'll spend less money in the process.

And back then, I wasn't even looking at Privatzimmer, which give, IMO, the best cultural experience as well as being the most economical places to stay.

For 3 trips, 8 weeks, in Europe in the last 7 years, in almost entirely German speaking countries I've traveled 75% double occupancy, 25% single; 62% hotels and Gasthouses, 38% apartments and Privatzimmer. My average cost of lodging per person per night has been €31. I really think that that is better than you can do if you insist on places that take credit cards (and you find on booking websites).

And, BTW, although I would love to stay at Olle and Maria's, I'm not sure I would accept their conditions. In over 5 month (cumulative) of traveling in Germany and adjacent countries since 2000, I have never had to make a deposit to get a room. I don't know if it's because I have a German last name and can write a pretty good (grammatically) letter, but they seem to trust me to show up. (I have had Germany hosts say what American's are notorious for asking for reservations and not showing up.) That's why I was careful to pay for the apartment I had reserved and not shown up.

Posted by
589 posts

The way I see it the pair of owners had a choice. They chose not to extend a deposit into a future booking. They have every right to do so. Additionally, the OP has every right to notify people what exactly happened and voice a displeasure at the result. If this pair would have said, yes we will extend your deposit one year, the OP would be here telling us what a great pair they were and many people would be nodding in agreement.

Everyone should keep in mind that Olle and Maria will be keeping all of the 50% deposits on all rentals that people don't use. So they are only out 50% of a potential rental, but keep in mind, that is free money because they have no work to do, no guests to wait on, no supplies to expense, etc.

Yes, Olle and Maria will feel the Covid sting just like the OP, equally 50%.

Posted by
6039 posts

Yes, Olle and Maria will feel the Covid sting just like the OP, equally 50%.

I disagree that each share the sting equally.

O & M get 50% of the fee, and have to do nothing. OP is out his $$ and gets ZERO. I do not see that as 'equal'

I suspect the 50% covers their fixed costs, so their loss is minimal if not 0. The other 50% would cover the cost of providing the services and profit.

I have no disagreement the contract was clear and obvious, but I do think O & M are taking a shortsighted approach.

Posted by
22 posts

Just another thought. Didn’t the EU just extend travel limits into mid May? If so, the inn would not be able to provide the accommodations. Shouldn’t they refund based on that alone?

For me personally, I had to change three May reservations in Switzerland and Austria for May. In each case I did not ask for a refund but to rebook in September. In 2 cases the hosts were happy to oblige. The third refunded.

Posted by
23259 posts

Switzerland is not in the EU. It is in Schengen.

Posted by
22 posts

Apologies Nigel, wrong term.

A person still can't travel to Switzerland right now and the innkeeper can not provide the accommodations.