During my freshman year in college, a bunch of my friends and I got together and spent a whopping $500 on a rusty old 4-door Cadillac convertible. It was a tank! It had no top left at all, and you could see the street through the holes that were rusted through the floorboards. It was perfect, however, for taking the five of us south from
The trouble that day was that my friends had invited other Spring Breakers from other schools in for breakfast. There were people everywhere, and it made me feel a bit uncomfortable, having what few valuables I happened to have as a college freshman lying nearby on a mattress. Today as a professional, I’ve seen very similar situations and I’m equally nervous. Coming back to my hotel room to finish some quick paperwork during the lunch hour proved most illuminating! I saw occupied hotel rooms with their doors propped open so the maids, mini bar attendants, managers, etc, could come and go to quickly get their work done without having to encumber themselves with their access keys. I could see laptop computers, open suitcases, cash, and all manner of other valuables laying there in the open, on the countertops where they were easily accessible by almost anyone. My room was no exception…
After hundreds of stays at different hotels, domestic and overseas, I’m very security conscious now. I haven’t experienced a full “break in” per se, but I have had things go missing, without a doubt. I’ve asked some hotel managers, policemen, and other authority figures, “What’s the best way to report and/or handle a break-in to my hotel room?” Here’s some great advice:
- Call the police FIRST! Then call the hotel manager and inform him/her that you’ve had some things stolen and that the police are on their way. Managers will be much more cooperative and expedient if they know some policemen will be hanging around the lobby of their 4-star hotel. They’ll jump through all kinds of hoops to produce reports of the usage of digital keys to your room, video footage, etc.
- Change rooms immediately, and insist that you receive a new, freshly re-encrypted key.
- If your room has a safe, use it!
- The “Do Not Disturb” sign is like kryptonite to the hotel staff, use it. You can call housekeeping when you return from work and ask for fresh sheets and towels. They will be happy to “toss the room” while you sit and work quietly. Use the DND sign when you leave your room for quick trips to the lounge, restaurant, etc. Think of it as a sign for the room not to be disturbed. I firmly believe it is a greater offense for a hotel employee to ignore the sign, than to steal things from the room!
- Never leave your laptop in the room while you’re gone. If you’re going on a walk or something and it’s just not practical or possible to take it with you, lock it in your car, suitcase, or ask the front desk person to safely store it for you while you’re gone. Your laptop has everything a crook needs to steal your identity, passwords, corporate data, sensitive customer data, etc.
- Back all laptop data up to a permanent drive in your office or home before and after you take a trip. We actually have a corporate policy to enforce this.
- Keep all of your valuables in a safe central location, rather than spreading them out around the room. My roller-bag has a GPS, checkbook, passport, laptop, etc and I tend to keep everything valuable in it, then it stays with me always, or it gets locked up in the hotel safe by a manager. This makes it easy to grab “all of your valuables” should you be forced to leave the hotel because of a false fire alarm at 2am (this happens to me at least 4 times per year).
- Ask the manager to take your name OFF of the turn-down service list.
Sometimes I wonder whatever happened to that rusty old sky blue Cadillac (with the one gray fender)… I know we stripped the plates and abandoned it in a covered garage with the key in the ignition after we finally made it home. Someone out there probably thinks he stole it!
EXTRA: If you have questions for Ken regarding business travel, hotels, airplanes, etc, please call 1-877-49-EXPERT. Your questions will be recorded and Ken will answer the best ones in his Ask the Expert podcast show.