Sardines with a Pricetag

Things you do and don’t do if you’re trying to run a fishing lodge.

Fishermen are a pretty patient bunch of people as a whole. I mean, you get the kind who are high maintenance, and some who are kind of hard to keep track of, but that’s just the name of the game. As the ‘owner’ or ‘manager’ that’s what you do. You cater to the high maintenance people and try to keep track of the rest of them. Finding a lame excuse for not doing that is just lame. Charging your guests for just about everything is also kind of lame, but he could claim that it’s expensive getting things out here, and it is.

Charging for water, even bottled water, is something he and I don’t see eye to eye on, but I don’t say anything because I’m not paying for this stuff, nor am I paying for bringing things out here. I just think that water is the most basic item of survival and it should be made freely available to everyone. Wine, beer, soda – that’s a different thing; if you want to put all that crap in your body, you are welcome to pay me for the privilege of letting you do it.

Fishing tackle, shirts, and jackets are also available for sale here, and I know the jackets were imported, so the price tag on those is right up there. This kind of thing is all normal, but when you charge a guest for a stretch of line – no knots, no hook, no nothing, just about six feet of line – you’re going to piss off your guest. He did that, and that guest was VERY pissed. I don’t care if you charge 5c, that is just SO wrong.

Another guest asked him face-to-face if he could buy something from the tackle shop, but since they were outside (right out front) and since it was somewhere around 11 in the evening. “The tackle shop is closed,” he said. What??? Closed??? He’s awake talking to the man. Take him into the building and let him buy his lures, but he didn’t want to.

Another thing you DON’T do is forget to book the flight of a departing guest. He gets all packed up, comes in early for breakfast, and learns that there’s no room on the flight for him so he’ll be leaving in the evening. What if he missed an important flight because of that? These people all come here from Switzerland or France or wherever over there, Germany, Austria etc. missing a flight is a very big deal.

Going fishing in a boat while your guests walk is also another bad thing, unless you go somewhere else. Coming back with more fish than your guests is – at least here – considered bad manners. But the ‘owner’ also has an export business so he has to catch fish to take home (he goes home to Switzerland too). This looks very much like his guest are competition for the fish – a very bad deal.

He is also highly reluctant to make any improvements here around the lodge. Now I can understand needing to work within a budget, and the recommendations I make… Well, I try to consider the cheapest way to go about it, but making your guests feel like sardines that are only worth the dollars in their pocket is the wrong way to look at them.

When this lodge was built (I have no idea how long ago that was), the cabins were set up as do-it-yourself houses. They are well-built little houses with a tiny kitchenette, a few shelves, and room to sleep two or three people. When I first came out here over 20 years ago now, those little kitchens were not in use anymore. Now, in some of the cabins, beds have been added, and in a couple especially, they have been added right in front of the little cook stove (remember, these are never used). Everyone understands why the beds were added – most fishing parties now consist of 2 to 4 people, so putting them in one cabin is desirable. Removing the useless kitchen counters etc should have been done a long time ago.

I brought this up last fall. I explained the need for room and how it really looks bad to have a bed stuck in front of the kitchen. His excuse for not fixing at least one was not lack of time, or too expensive, or any other good excuse. At the time, we had the lumber (still do) and we had the time – we could have done at least one. His excuse was that the wood would be a different color that what was on the rest of the walls. He went on to say that the people come there and all they want is a place to sleep; they don’t care what it looks like.

That is true, as far as it goes. A cabin is a place to sleep, but when it looks like you are only in that cabin because they want to squeeze a few more dollars out of that cabin, you are subconsciously made to feel less welcome to stay, but it is what it has been for years, so no biggie, just me wanting to make things better – make the effort at least

As if that’s not bad enough. Like I said, most parties are 2 to 4 people, but when you DON’T put more than one party in a cabin. For a stretch of 2 days, he had 3 parties in one cabin. That only added up to 4 people, but if that doesn’t make a guest feel like a sardine, I don’t know what does.

Enough about the cabins, lets talk about the food. He refuses to pay for a plane to get supplies out here. Now the flying service is pretty good about bringing stuff for whoever if there’s space on a flight coming out, and most of the time that works just fine, but once in a while, we need stuff and there’s just no room. This happened two or three times this summer. The cook puts in an order, and then a week later he puts in another order and the guests are wondering why there isn’t any of this or that. We very nearly ran out of coffee, no less. A plane costs what one guest pays to stay here – he could have bought a flight to get his supplies out here.

Another thing that is happening is the guests are using up more bait than we are bringing in and we have already had to buy bait for them to use. This cost was also about what one person pays to stay here, but he won’t pay for more bait – “they can just use lures,” he says. – So we have a guy here who has been coming for 20 years now. For his 20th anniversary, I guess he paid nothing to stay. I’m sure that wasn’t my boss’s decision. Anyway, so we’re running out of bait, this guy tells my boss that he’ll pay for the bait. My boss is going to let him pay for the bait!!! He’s letting an old time guest pay for bait for the whole lodge full the people. Who does that sort of thing?

My boss is SO concerned with his profit margin, he’s not seeing the big picture. Unhappy guests don’t return. Unhappy guests tell their friends how unhappy they were. AND as I understand it, all these guys are big fishing club guys back home so these clubs get the word and this place will sink pretty quick. Right now it’s floating on the momentum of past success.

Tips is one indication of things going sour. They have been incredibly slim this year. A guest asked me yesterday how the tips work here, making it very clear that he wanted to tip us but not my boss.

There is another man here – a friend of my boss’s father and fellow investor, I think. Guests have been complaining to him – it’s all in Swiss or whatever language so I don’t understand more than a word or two here and there, but enough to understand how unhappy they are. Something about how many fish a guest caught or didn’t catch or what he wanted to do with it, I’m not sure. And the thing about the fishing line was a big deal.

Don’t get me wrong, my boss is a nice guy, but him running this lodge is a very bad business decision. I hope the other man, and the other investors see this and do something about it.

They (my boss and the lodge assistant) were joking the other day and I tuned in to hear, “…well okay, I quit,” from the lodge assistant. My boss laughs and say, “Okay, I quit too.” You know what came out of my mouth a second later. “Does that mean I inherit?” I have no clue how to run a business. I’ve never done it before, but I’m certain I could do a better job in a heartbeat.

My future looks bleak – wish me luck.


Published in: on July 30, 2014 at 4:42 PM  Leave a Comment