Home » The Masked Manager » Vacation Rentals – The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

By The Masked Manager

The masked manager


I had a conversation with a colleague of mine a few days ago and he gave me this analogy (slightly embellished by me) which may ring bells with many in the VR industry:


English: Selection of bread in German bakery

English: Selection of bread in German bakery (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many years ago in a land far far away, there was a small bakers shop with a generous elderly baker who served the town with wonderful fresh bread. For years customers came and bought bread from him daily.  They chatted, got to know each other, the children played together and life was good.

A few years later fresh bread became very popular indeed as an alternative to mass produced breads and individual baker’s stores set up everywhere with many wonderful varieties of breads from recipes from all around the world.  The customers suddenly had lots of choice and the bakers all had different breads, but were very knowledgeable and helpful to their customers. More people wanted bread and the economy was strong, everything was rosy.


There was no car park or local parking and customers had to walk into town, which became difficult in the rain with so many people coming to town and making the road muddy. No worry, a very generous and clever man, George (known as Larry to his friends), who had a started a local company, set up a huge car park and let the baker’s place adverts free of charge where the cars parked, just so the visitors could see the different types of breads they enjoyed quickly.

The bakers just needed to do a bit of work to set up their adverts on posts in the car park. The people arriving in the car park could choose where to go and look at the pictures and prices and follow maps to the shops. All the shops were happy; there were lots of visitors and just the right number of shops.

This car park just got bigger and bigger, more shops appeared, bread became even more popular, and the ever generous parking company even provided spaces for more adverts for the shops. Other car parks which set up at the same time were further away and not so well paved  or well organised and soon became full of potholes and less used and were soon acquired by the larger charitable parking lot company.


The men appeared

Then one day men appeared at the parking lot and started handing out leaflets with lots of the baker’s products shown on them.  This was interesting!

These men said, just look at all these breads on this leaflet, we have taken all the bakers products from all the shops, free from advertising costs, and put them in one place, also with the bread prices shown and how many they may have on the shelf.  This worked OK and some leaflet providers were better than others.   A little later, because this was now popular with the customers the leaflet businesses started charging the bakers for the adverts, but not too much. The bakers were happy and so were the customers.

The car park owner, lets called it George Industries (GI) now, however had other plans. He knew that without his car park, less people would come to the shops, especially as the car park now surrounded the whole town and George also owned the main roads into town. It looks like his investments may pay off soon as the shops were at his mercy and would need to line George’s pocket with more gold coins.

GI offered all the shopkeepers the chance for anybody coming into town to be seen on the drive to town and even more prominently in the car park.   This would only cost a few pence for each potential customer who looked at the advert.  What a great deal!  However, don’t you all worry he said, all the car park boards will remain but they need to fit more stringent criteria: certain sizes, colour, and font requirements.


At the same time the leaflet distributors and their businesses were selling up. They all had offers they couldn’t refuse and all were harvested into a few large companies who saw that there may be a great opportunity to get into the bread marketing business.

The original smaller companies had all printed one leaflet with different ideas and breads and advice on where to buy.  Now they were all part of a thick catalogue and these now few large businesses decided to raise the advertising fees for catalogue entries and started placing big adverts on the roads in and hundreds of adverts in the car parks.  GI was minting advertising money as these companies competed for space and GI was buying more land daily.

After a while some of the larger bakers, who by now were struggling to pay the companies advertising rates were seeing their own businesses swallowed up by bakers’ chains.  Meanwhile the diversity of breads was dropping off and all products beginning to look the same in the catalogues. The front page and back pages were most popular as looking through the whole catalogue was just too difficult.  Only the biggest bakers could afford these slots. They had lots of bread shops and they could always send a customer to the one next door. One or two adverts were all they needed.


Slice bread with money

A couple of years later the catalogue companies decided that getting bakers to pay for adverts was very limiting.  After all, these bakers made a huge margin on the sale of bread, or so they were told by their bosses, who were clearly very experienced in this business.

The catalogue companies were obviously solely responsible for these bakers’ successes and their investors knew no different. Surely they all deserved a share of the bread sale profits! They knew who was spending what and when and they could of course direct customers to certain shops and they could share in more profits. 

This would also solve the problem of those annoying large bakery chains who only advertised one shop.  If they charged the customer then they would need to supply all the bread information from every shop.

They just needed to have a chat to George and his company about the parking and adverts.



The catalogue companies now allowed the parking customers to buy bread on arrival in the car park from the pictures, but the customers weren’t allowed to know who they were buying from, just that it had a great price and was available. If a shop didn’t provide the exact number of loaves daily, the types of bread and the prices they wouldn’t be seen.

The customers still had to walk to collect the bread after they had paid over the money and were then allowed to know where the shop was (and hope the bread was as good as the photos and it tasted OK).  The bakers received their cut of the money sometime later.

The bakers took every opportunity to pass out their own leaflets to customers and to get them to come back, but these leaflets got lost and not all were as well presented as they could be.

These small bakers and their leaflets upset some of the catalogue companies: These were the catalogue company’s customers after all.  Their customers were being coerced by these cunning bakers who were offering cheaper prices and extras if the customer came direct to the shop! 


It was time to use a sledgehammer tactic and insist that this stops. “If you don’t stop trying to get your own business with cheaper prices”, they said we will have no option but to remove you from the catalogues: “Oh and we have a lot of control of the adverts in the car park now”.  So best of luck, all your competitors are with us!

By now the catalogue companies were fighting amongst themselves for the best spaces in the car parks, the main roads and any other businesses set up to share in the advertising opportunity. The baker’s breads by now had been largely forgotten.

Houses on the road to town had adverts in their windows and George’s business leased these spaces and shared the profits with the homeowners.  The cost to erect any private adverts was enormous and far beyond the reach of the small bakers by now.  They bakers all fought to be seen in catalogues who themselves paid GI for the local advertising rights.

By now customers were paying the catalogue companies directly and the bakers were using cheaper flour, not painting their shops, getting rid of trained staff and had stopped cleaning the windows. There was little or no money in the business any longer as the catalogue companies taxed the system more heavily every day. Some bakers put their prices up and sold less bread.  The customers had started complaining that the product didn’t taste or look as advertised and was more like the commercial sliced breads they had switched from.

This was bad for the catalogue companies but they knew how to get around this; they asked customers to threaten the bakers and allowed them to print the customers comments next to the pictures the bakers had paid for in the catalogues.



The bakers now worked twice as long and for much less money. Their families suffered and there were more stress related illnesses in town. Life was tough and the economy didn’t help.

Throughout all this George at GI was watching with amusement, he charged more and more for the adverts and bought more and more land to surround all the shops, catalogue and the remaining leaflet providers. It wasn’t just the bakers; he now controlled all of the leaflet and catalogue companies and the suppliers to them.  His staff enjoyed celebrity status, slept on bean bags and drove electric bicycles.


There was another problem.  The bakers still had signs in his car park that George in his business infancy had originally allowed (and was part of his original PR machine). The bakers were allowed to keep them provided they followed his rules, which he had changed a lot.  Life was good of course but he still didn’t understand his children’s sniping comments about the Dark Side. What had Pink Floyd and Darth Vader to do with making so much money and controlling the world!

GI  changes were to make it more difficult for the annoyingly independent bakers to place adverts and therefore to allow the big spenders more space.  It didn’t seem to detract many of these irritable and outspoken flour mincers and this attitude had even spawned even more companies who were helping these bakers. George didn’t really like these businesses as it stopped his advance to one of the wealthiest men in the land.

The quality of bread was irrelevant at this point as this was covered by the catalogue company’s penalty systems that paid him lots of money.

In a moment of genius, GI offered a deal to the catalogue companies, who by now depended on GI a lot. He would allow them to advertise on the bakers own boards, and anywhere else these bakers adverts could be found. There was nothing in the small print to stop him and his lawyers were legion!

So the bakers who did not pay anything for their advert in the parking lot now enjoyed the catalogue companies’ adverts being overlaid on them.  They of course paid GI for the privilege? These were only small adverts for now, but as they get bigger GI could charge more.


Finally George and his business had a few customers who paid a fortune for the adverts and this reduced his administration costs on all those pesky bakers’ adverts.  All these bakers seemed to do was complain that life wasn’t fair anymore anyway.  OK so he made some promises, but that’s was some years ago. Well they should have bought a parking lot and not a bakers shop!

The catalogue companies by now had noticed that many customers were getting rather fed up with the same old breads and were also changing their habits. These people were the catalogue company customers (not the bakers), so they should apply the market research to get more money. After all they hadn’t had decent bonus for a few months.

Many new customers were on diets for example and probably eating smaller loaves, obviously at cheaper prices.  The catalogue companies started offering this, only to discover many bakers would not play ball.

Why would they not invest in different ovens and make smaller loaves at cheaper prices? They were very annoying. Why should they care about fixed labour costs and utility bills? The customers want this and we have told them they can have it. Also if the customer doesn’t like the bread, they can have all their money back anyway.

Plus the bakers won’t get paid for the bread until the customers have taken it home and eaten it!


Market stand selling bread in Osh

Market stand selling bread in Osh (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By now many of the smaller catalogue companies had disappeared but some smaller survivors, plus the bakers themselves, had started investing in their own collectives in the parking lots and spending a lot of time on their brands, quality and traditional skills.

They had also started showing maps direct to the shops and offering best prices and personal service, despite the catalogue companies underlying messages of retribution. These annoying bakers were stealing their customers. What is bread anyway they wondered!

These new and forward thinking bakers also decided not to give the large catalogue companies any bread selling opportunities and concentrated less on these catalogue companies in the parking lots and roads into town.  They focussed more on getting the information to the customer before they got to the parking lot.

The bakers had also started bread clubs for members that offered great deals and were not publicly advertised.

George and his teams of clever people by now had found a whole multitude of new ways to generate income from his parking lots and was as interested in providing the baker’s telephone lines, electric cars to deliver flour to the bakers, had added new molecules to the flour to improve health and much more. 


mouldy loaf of bread covered in bacteria

After all, the parking lots and roads were all needed for delivery of anything, unless you used air travel (now there’s an idea). Plus as George well knows, what can catalogue companies offer, they don’t make or supply anything like his friend Mr Apple and are very ephemeral. 

In fact the catalogue companies would end up being just that one day, an unwieldy and uninformative selection of white sliced breads. George may need to rethink his parking lots sooner than planned.

Maybe George should start his own bakery!

The Masked Manager

The gloves are coming off, so drop by every month to hear what the masked manager has to say.


One thought on “Vacation Rentals – The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

  1. Peter says:

    Whoaa!, put this article to music and let it become the anthem of the New Wave of Vacation rental owners! Extraordinary, succinct and potentially revolutionary! Good job, noble Masked Manager. Down through history, intellectuals such as yourself have gone around “masked” to avoid the ire of the establishment. Please dont ever be cowed by GI, be forever an inspiration to those of us who clearly see the same vision. Thanks sincerely for articulating this brilliant observation on the state of our industry. Best wishes, Peter

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