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Inside Lodging Inspections

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ASHLAND, Ore. –The Rogue Valley thrives on tourism. Abi Maghamfar learned that first hand when he left California to start a bed and breakfast in Ashland three years ago.

Maghamfar’s business, Abigail’s Bed and Breakfast, is one of countless tourist operations to spring up in the Valley. Events like the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Britt Festival allow him to rely on repeat customers for nearly half of his business. Nearly all of the rest come from word of mouth.

“I actually consider 100-percent of our business depending on impressing people,” said Maghamfar.

Maghamfar says, in the lodging industry, if a customer has a bad experience they usually don’t tell the operator to their face. They simply don’t come back, and they’ll likely tell their friends or post a negative review on the internet.

Health inspectors, who oversee safety and cleanliness of the area’s tourist accommodations, say that makes their job that much easier.

“These are almost self-regulated because of the consumer awareness in these facilities,” said inspector Brett Thomas.

But while dirt is hard to hide, some things are less obvious.

Health inspectors go through each hotel and motel every two years. Bed and breakfasts get inspected every year. Those inspection reports show two chronic issues – broken fire alarms and outdated fire extinguishers.

But some violations stand out.

One Medford motel was found with soiled carpets and fire alarms that were missing entirely. An Ashland hostel was written up for piling too many people into their rooms. And multiple places were accused of having for expired food or people serving food without a license.

If a room is found to be in bad enough shape, it can’t be rented until that problem is fixed. But in a big facility, most rooms go unchecked.

“We try to get a sampling,” said Thomas. “In other words, if we’re in a multi-story unit… We take two or three on each floor, get a representative sample.”

And while licenses are posted in most facilities, the inspection reports themselves are not.

Business operators say if you want to be careful, the best bet is to talk to a guest or check the online reviews.

They say that’s often how they evaluate themselves.

“Whether it’s a referral from a website like Trip Advisor or Yelp, or Chamber of Commerce or Oregon Shakespeare Festival, we keep track of all of that,” said Maghamfar.

Maghamfar says those reviews keep most of the area’s tourism businesses on their toes. Something like an inoperable fire alarm may not take a star off a Yelp rating, but he says if you provide a reason for someone to leave, many customers will take it.

“You don’t provide any reason for somebody not to come back to your operation,” said Maghamfar.

Hotel, motel, or bed and breakfast inspections are not usually posted, but they can be obtained by making a public information request to the Jackson County Environmental Public Health Department.