A STATE OF COMPLACENCY CAN SOMETIMES LEAD TO THEFT

27 Nov

The Dupont Plaza Hotel (now the Epic Hotel), in Miami had 18 coke machines on the property.  Each week the security director and the Controllers Assistant went out to collect change from the machines.  The change was placed in the cashiers valt until it could be counted.  I and the Cashier were the only people with access to the vault.

In interviewing members of the accounting department one of the accountants confided that amounts posted as VENDING MACHINE INCOME had become much less as years had gone on and that she suspected something wasn’t right.  The two people collecting the coins had been with the property for over 10 years each.

It was asked that the coins be collected toward one days end and locked in the vault to be counted.  After hours, several outside independent agents were hired to go into the vault to count the coins.  They determined that $3,100 was on hand from the coin collection.

Over the next few days the coins were counted by the cashier and deposited in the amount of $1,800.   This had gone on for many years.

MOST IMPORTANT ITEM IN ANY GUEST ROOM

27 Nov

In joining Majestic Hotel Properties as Managing Director decades ago I represented one of the hotels in a law suit brought by a jewler who claimed $500k of jewels were stolen from his room during  Boat Show.  Through this trial I learned the value of the INNKEEPERS LAW on the back of the exit door and have always insisted and driven clients crazy because I am so insistant that it must be in place on the back of the exit door 48 inches from the ground…. OR take the room off the market!

Boat Show is the biggest event on Miami Beach year after year and with it comes considerable wealth and well to do clientel.

I learned that the fact pattern was that our guest who was a jewlry vendor at the show was carrying a $500k+ bag of inventory.  He refused leaving the jewels in the safe available to him at the show, he decided not to use the front desk safes available to him and believe it or not, he didn’t use the room safe in the room.  He said he put the bag under the TV set and wrapped it in a towel  and then went to our restaurant to eat dinner.

A break in did occur in the room.  After 2 days of testimony in front of a jury his daughter who accompanied him took the stand pregnant and dressed in white.  She described the scene she encountered in great depth.  She said her recall was like it happened  yesterday and she recalled vividely that the innkeepers law WAS NOT ON THE DOOR or anywhere in the room.  She went overboard and stated that she could see the room in her mind and the door handle on the left side of the door and remembers thinking that the LAW was not in place.

How much of an impact it had I really couldn’t tell you, but I tugged on the attorneys sleeve and told him I thought the door handle was on the right and not the left.  When a break was taken we called the property and had the engineer check the door and sure enough it was on the right side.  A photo was taken and electronically sent or faxed.  In cross examination the women was clearly flustered at her mistake and I  felt it had some impact.

The finally conculsion arrived from the jury was this:  (1)  the hotel was 30% negligent in the handling of the room once the break in was discovered and (2) the Innkeepers Law was on the door.

This conclusion meant that of the $500,000 claim against the hotel instead of the hotels insurance company being on the hook for $150,000 ($500k x 30%) they had to pay $300 ($1,000 x 30%).  Of course we all know that the Innkeepers Law limits the hotel to up to $1,000 in liability for items left in the room.  True story!!

** It was determined in court that the exit door at the hieght mentioned was the most reasonable place for the Innkeepers Law, where every guest could expect to have seen it.  Since that trial I have seen the Law posted on the inside door of closets and even in bathrooms!  Needless to say I always think back on this experience.

“SAD…. SADDER”

27 Nov

Drowning.  A guest from the UK (with a history of epilepsy) chose to go to take his family to an empty beach during a storm and go swimming despite ferocious waves and bad weather.  In distress, several men on the pool deck saw him and heard his wife’s cries and ran in to try to save him.  The poor man was brought to the beach and despite all attempts could not be revived.

The assistant GM was assigned the task of seeing to the families every need around the clock.  The entire staff felt terrible for this poor family’s tragedy and met several times to discuss the best things we could do for them during this time of grief.  The assistant general manager saw too the families meals, ferried family arriving and departing to and from the airports and let it be known that we were available for there every need.  The wife upon departure was so very touched by our efforts that she thanked everyone over and over again.

Fast forward one year.  A local attorney sued the hotel on the family’s behalf.  In my deposition I was informed that the family said our staff mistreated them, were rude, did not offer to help them, did not offer to change their room and a variety of other sad misstatements. The insurance company settled with the family for a large sum.

“NO LAUGHING MATTER”

27 Nov

1988. South Beach National Hotel was purchased and the deal closed at the end of the business day.  The owner instructed me to leave everything as is until the next morning at which time I would be introduced and begin making necessary changes.  That night the hotel manager from of the former owner was operating the front desk and checked in a group without taking identification.  This “gang” shot a gun out the window and all fled.  The gun shot hit a women who was sleeping at a hotel across the street. I would receive reports for the next 2 years on her condition.  The hotel was sold and I am not sure if she survived.  This was a horrific nightmare and so very sad.

“KLEPTO DESK AGENT – BUSTED”

27 Nov

Theft:  1988.  Penguine Hotel; South Beach.  The PMS system and the telephone system did not interface and therefore the front desk clerk had to enter the telephone charges into  the hotel folio manually at check out.  We began to notice that when Ernie was at the desk and a guest paid cash there was never a telephone charge.  My wife’s law firm wanted to have a retreat so we arranged for all attorneys to check in for the weekend and asked that they pay cash.  We asked that each of them make several long distance phone calls during the stay.  Sure enough every phone charge was collected but none on the main folio.  I sat Ernie down the next business day and presented him with 5 letters from attorneys on letter head stating what they did and what they paid.  Ernie stunned could not speak and quickly made restitution.

“DREAMING OF BEATLES”

27 Nov

I was sitting at the Deauville Hotel, Miami Beach ballroom waiting for my meeting with the owner and imagining the performance that had occurred in that room decades prior; the Beatles first came to America and after the Ed Sullivan show arrived at the Deauville for their first US concert performance.    I was about an hour early so I wasn’t in any hurry and was just taking in the moment in quiet solitude.  Finally, after about 45 minutes I was jolted out of my seat as a man, apparently sleeping under the table I was sitting at,  jumped out from under (in uniform!) and bolted across the room through the door.

I was trying to imagine this guy sweating it out under their contemplating what he could possibly do and I had to chuckle as soon as my heart stopped racing!

“WEIGHT…THEIF!”

27 Nov

Waldorff Astoria Hotel NYC – approximately 25 years prior, the property manager was quietly smoking a cigarette by the loading dock at the Waldorf Astoria and observing.  The meat vendor backed his truck in.  The cart used to deliver meat from the truck to the kitchen was wheeled off the truck and weighed.  This cart was then pushed to the side and a different cart was used to roll the meat in.  The manager stepped forward and inquired about why the same cart that was just weighed was not being used to deliver the meat.  He found several 20 pound metal dumbbells soldered to the underside of the substitute cart!  Can you imagine the number of meat deliveries made to the Waldorf over the years and how much over billed weight this probably caused!?