Travel Etiquette: Don't be Late for Breakfast at a B&B!

In this edition: Don't be late for breakfast if you're at a B&B (or else!); how to prevent others from grabbing your suitcase at baggage claim

Q: My husband and I recently stayed at a B&B for the first time. In the info booklet the owner left in our room, it said, "Breakfast begins at 8 a.m." We thought that meant they started serving at 8 a.m., but that you could come later if you wanted. Well, it turned out you only got breakfast if you were there at 8 a.m. sharp. We went downstairs at 8:45 a.m., and the owner told us we were too late. We apologized, citing the wording, and asked if she might make an exception. She said no and proceeded to lecture us! Is that normal in a B&B? I usually stay in hotels, so I'm not sure if we committed a horrible breach of etiquette by being late or if the owner was the rude one. I do think the wording was ambiguous .. and anyway, shouldn't B&Bs serve guests whenever the guests want breakfast?

A: B&Bs that have a set time for breakfast usually do so because they don't have many hands on deck. The innkeeper needs to cook, as well as clean rooms, answer the phone, etc., and the only way all of that will get done is if breakfast happens on a set schedule. This is something you should look into before you book a room at a B&B. There are also plenty of inns where you can eat at any time you like. One of those would have probably been a better choice for you.

However, any inn that's going to have a policy of not feeding latecomers at all needs to make this absolutely clear to guests. "Breakfast begins at 8 a.m." is too vague. They should say something like, "Guests who want breakfast must be seated in the breakfast room at 8 a.m. sharp. We regret we cannot serve latecomers." In fact, I think they should have explained this verbally when you checked in.

The owner didn't handle this appropriately, though. If it truly would have disrupted her day to serve you a full breakfast at 8:45, OK, but she should've accepted your apology and acknowledged the ambiguous phrasing rather than lecturing you about being late.

Q: I have a black suitcase that looks a lot like other black suitcases. Several times, I've seen someone else pick it up at baggage claim, realize it's not theirs, and throw it back onto the conveyor belt. Why can't people memorize what their bags look like, or use distinctive luggage tags, so they don't have to grab other people's bags?

A: I'd like to turn this question back to you. If your bag looks like so many other bags, why don't you use a distinctive luggage tag? You can't make other people memorize that their bag has three zippers instead of two on the front, but if you put a big, can't-miss-it tag on your bag, other travelers will clearly see it's not theirs.