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9 Episodes in: Laugh Riot at “Instant Hotel,” Managing Expectations, and Alaskan Bald Eagles

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I don’t want to give anything away, which means I probably will, but episodes eight and nine of “Instant Hotel’s” Season 1 are seriously hilarious. You might have to watch from episode six to get a feel for the characters and allow the comedy to build, but I haven’t laughed that hard in a couple of months. (That’s your spoiler alert.)

Managing expectations in any endeavor is so important to customer and experience satisfaction. There are few companies that get it right. Disney, somehow, is able to deliver on sky-high expectations. Marvel movies have also done it consistently. DC movies weren’t able to satisfy expectations until movie goers started expecting bad movies and got decent ones. Otherwise, even in customer-oriented businesses, it’s a crap shoot. Under promise and over deliver should be your mantra, the problem is that people expect you to over deliver. If you just meet expectations, it isn’t good enough.

You need to be able to talk up your product, service or experience enough that people are interested in it and willing to take a chance on it, but not so much that people expect gold plated toilet seats and unicorns. It’s a fine line that requires honesty without bragging and still needs to feel positive.

(Seemingly unrelated detour, but stick with me. I’m not promising it will make sense, but it will be interesting.) It’s hard to see bald eagles at rest in the wild unless you know what you’re looking for. Part of the reason for this is because people expect it to be easy to spot a white head against a dark background. So, instead of looking for the heads, they look for the other parts of the eagle that blend into the background trying to see the full form of the bird.

When I moved to Alaska and went on my first camping trip on the Kenai during salmon season, the more experienced guy on the trip pointed at a tree and said, “Look at all those bald eagles.”

I looked at the evergreen tree and didn’t see a single eagle. I thought he was playing a joke on the cheechako (me). “Where?”

“In that tree.” He pointed to the same tree. “Do you see them?”

“No.” I shook my head.

My newbie friend leaned over and whispered, “Look for the golf balls.”

It was like a veil had been lifted. My jaw dropped. I uttered an exclamation of awe as the tree lit up with what looked like hundreds of bald eagles. From that moment on, I knew how to spot bald eagles in trees and could see them easily.

So, a couple years later when my mom came up to Juneau, I knew she would want to see bald eagles, and that seeing them could be problematic. There are a lot of bald eagles in Juneau, but they are less visible when the salmon aren’t running. There was one place where it was easy to find bald eagles, so I told my mom I was taking her to see a lot of them. However, the place where they hung out wasn’t going to be very majestic. It would stink if the wind was blowing inland, but there would be eagles there.

Properly prepared, we went to the city dump, and there were so many eagles. I was even able to tell my mom about the golf ball trick pointing to a nearby tree.

Mom had a great time looking at the eagles and laughing about how they weren’t so majestic when they were eating garbage. Had I told her we were going to a nutrient-enriched environment that acts as a sanctuary for the eagles when food is scarcer, her reaction to the dump may have been a but different. She would have been at least disappointed, even if she had fun.

When the “Instant Hotel” guests are overly critical at their hotel stays, they set themselves up for a downfall. If they have such high standards and can point out all the flaws of an instant hotel, their hotel must be immaculate and so much better. Don’t talk up your property or degrade others even if it really does deliver on what you think.’

Managing expectations is a key to success. It’s about being honest with yourself, your guests and your customers. When you can provide a little extra, you should, but don’t set the extra up as an expectation.

If you’d like to read more about Alaska, get the coloring book “There Are No Penguins in Alaska.”

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7 Episodes in: ‘Instant Hotel,’ Creativity and the Power of Critique

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It doesn’t take any special qualifications to be rated one of the top one percent of TripAdvisor raters. The only thing you really have to do is write a lot of reviews about places you’ve been. You don’t need to have any expertise in what you’re writing about, you don’t have to take into account anything but your own opinion. There are no other qualifications for being a reviewer.

As a writer, I can appreciate when someone writes a lot of reviews because it isn’t always easy to write. However, to use a TripAdvisor status as a way to justify your opinion is duplicitous. TripAdvisor doesn’t endorse your opinion; it just says you have had a lot of them.

Just going places doesn’t make you educated in anything. It doesn’t tell you how to run a hotel. It doesn’t tell you about the history of the area, and it doesn’t create automatic information by osmosis. It simply says you have money to go places. In order to know about what is behind a good critique, you have to know something more than what you’ve done or what you think you’ve seen online. So, in the second half of “Instant Hotel,” I can only roll my eyes and scream out in frustration when Serena continuously talks about her discerning eye as evidenced by her TripAdvisor rating.

Critics of an idea or product are often seen as smarter than the people who created the product. It’s easy to destroy, degrade and denigrate something. It’s much more difficult to come up with something new. While some critics may inspire passion because they treat things fairly and can be happy for what they are criticizing as well as angry or sad about what they are criticizing (like Roger Ebert), critics who only find fault with what they criticize are working to aggrandize themselves. In a competition like “Instant Hotel” where people are judging other people’s dreams, the judgments should be fair and driven with a genuine concern for lifting people up, instead of finding a way to tear people down so you can award them fewer points. Awarding fewer points is a strategy to win a game, but this isn’t just a game; it’s people’s livelihoods.

There’s no doubt that Serena is playing a game. Her and her buddy, Sturt, discussed their divide and conquer strategy. We can only hope that it backfires spectacularly on them. Then Serena can take her TripAdvisor rating and flush it in her next television engagement – Lifetime’s “True Love Story.”

In the interest of fairness, I did a small amount of additional research because ultimately, this is Serena’s livelihood, too. It isn’t fair to believe that reality TV reflects reality. In an interview published on “Decider,” Serena said it was the editing that made her look like the villain. She wanted to please the producers and wanted to get more air time. She also wanted to compete and win, so she says that the whole Houseboat episode didn’t go down like it was edited. She doesn’t care about her TripAdvisor rating, but again, the producers told her it would be good for the show.

For more on creativity, get “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Order “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”

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5 Episodes in: ‘Instant Hotel,’ Criticism and Creativity

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By the time the fifth episode has rolled around, everyone has drawn lines. It’s the fussy couple vs. the mother-daughter team. Who will win is really beside the point. Throughout the course of “Instant Hotel,” each team has received criticism about their hotel, and each has acted predictably. Criticism makes people defensive. It hurts even when it comes from a place of love, and it rarely makes people think about the actual problem.

It’s difficult to hear when people are raising valid concerns about the results of your passion, and it’s harder to tell the difference between genuine criticism and jealousy or gamesmanship. So, when the teams are facing the Instant Hotel owners, a lot of the criticisms are dismissed.

Some of the criticism deserves to be dismissed. A difference in taste or opinion is no reason for someone to change something. If the hotel is designed for quiet contemplation, and that’s not someone’s idea of a good time, then that hotel isn’t for him or her. It doesn’t mean the owner should change the hotel; it just means that the hotel needs to be marketed to those looking for that type of vacation.

However, there are other concerns that are justified. If the criticism is that there are no curtains on the bathroom windows, that probably needs to be taken care of. If people don’t like the number of mosquitoes, you should at least try to come up with a solution (citronella candles, bug killing light) because sometimes trying is more important than succeeding. If, instead, you decide that people are telling you these things so they can deduct points from your score and don’t take them as valid, then your real guests are going to have to face the issues, and probably won’t say anything.

“Instant Hotel” provides us all with a way to think about how we can deal better with criticism by taking what’s valid for us and using it to our advantage, even if it is said with malice, and leaving behind what won’t serve us or our vision. As a creative person, it’s the same thing. If someone doesn’t like your book because its science fiction and they don’t like westerns, well, you know, whatever. However, when they tell you about the typos they spotted or ask about a plot hole, it may be time to revisit the writing.

For more on creativity, get “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Order “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”

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‘Instant Hotel’: The Strategy

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What makes “Instant Hotel” a little different from other reality game shows is that it pits a group of entrepreneurs in the hospitality industry and share economy against each other. Each couple owns an instant hotel, which means they rent out their homes to vacationers. The other couples visit the hotel and rank it based on the home itself, local amenities and attractions, a good night’s sleep and value for the money. These scores, all on a scale of 1 to 10, are combined with the interior design professional’s score. In addition, the group of 8 are given a score from the hosts based on how the home was left and if all the rules were followed. The winner of the game gets a trip to California to stay at an exclusive instant hotel rumored to be run by a Hollywood celebrity.

So, how do you win this game? Since it’s the first season, episode two, it doesn’t appear that many of the participants are looking to win in the traditional sense – getting the prize. Instead, they’re looking to enjoy themselves, see what other instant hotels are doing and just go along for a good time. The mother/daughter team tried to plant the seeds of some sort of alliance against the two gay men, but it was more of a “let’s not let them win because we don’t like them” kind of thing.

If someone wanted to win, they could rate every experience they were on with a zero. The scores are anonymous, and it would probably be too late before anyone did the math to figure out what was going on. That same team could then rate their guests as a zero, and it would still put them ahead but reveal the strategy. This would work best with a team that is later in the series. No one knows when they will be the hosting hotel, but even the first hotel could rate its guests with a six without giving anything away.

However, that’s not actually the point of this competition. The point is for every hotel to get more guests after the episodes air. How do we get more people to come to our hotel rather than the other hotels featured and the other hotels in our area? The first step is to have a great hotel. The second step is to treat your guests well. The third step is to hope the guest at your hotel on this show say good things about your hotel. Whatever happens, the hotel experience needs to be memorable so that no one forgets what your hotel was like.

These steps should help the team connect with the viewing audience in some way and improve booking rates. More needs to happen though. People need to feel like the team is made of people they want to hang out with. They need to feel like the team is something they can support. Most importantly, team members need to find a way to create a story that will last and motivate people to book.

The longer-term gain from “Instant Hotel” is increased tourism for Australia from both nationals and foreigners. So, there needs to be a minimum of bad-mouthing of places and hotels and a maximum of showing off the best the country has to offer. Could a team employ a zero-sum strategy? Sure, and while it might win that team the trip to California, it would undermine the meta game goals of improved bookings at their own hotel and improved tourism for Australia. Because who would want to stay with a team that lied to win?

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2 Episodes In: ‘Instant Hotel’

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When someone does something with passion and the do it well, it’s a joy to watch them be rewarded. In the second episode, Jannine and Mark have a ‘50s-inspired Instant Hotel that’s amazing. The other guests love it, too. When they tell the couple how they feel, Jannine and Mark tear up. It’s a beautiful moment that’ll touch your heart strings, too.

As a series, “Instant Hotel” is fun. Because the participants are Australian, I’m never sure what I’m going to get. Sure, they speak English, but the cultures are different enough to catch an American off guard. So far, they tend to stick with their stereotypes: The two gay guys, the spoiled little girl who can’t get out of bed and her enabling mother, and the young couple with the wife who is spoiled but “in a different way.” But most of them seem to be enjoying themselves. The competition is bound to ratchet up as the mother-daughter team look to bring down the gay-team, but for the moment, there are only seeds for this future conflict.

I don’t normally watch reality television shows, but “Instant Hotel” is a good time that has a different cultural element to it. If you want to diversify your viewing habits and watch something that you don’t normally watch, this show is a good choice. Improve your creativity by replenishing your well and learning about instant hotels in Australia.

For more on creativity, order “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Get “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”