By Robert McGarvey
The Kim Kardashian caper in France – where the reality star claims to have had $9 million in jewelry robbed while staying at the the Hôtel de Pourtalès aka the No Address Hotel – is the wake up call that prompts the question: how safe are we in hotels?
The Erin Andrews case raised similar questions, perhaps more poignantly.
Crime happens at hotels.
We collectively spend a lot of time worrying about terrorism and, without minimizing those worries, a reality is that ordinary, brutish, thuggish crime remains a part of life on the road.
The Kardashian heist is in fact small time. Years ago, on January 2 1972, perhaps the biggest hotel robbery of all time happened at the swank Pierre in Manhattan – some $28 million in cash and jewels were lifted by a gang of eight. Said to be the work of organized crime.
But every day there is unglamorous hotel crime.
Here’s a particularly bloody shoot out at a Motel 6 in Phoenix a few months ago.
Vehicle break-ins might qualify as commonplace crime at hotels. (Word of advice: leave absolutely nothing of any value in a car parked in a hotel lot. It’s a hassle to schlep those extra bags into the room, but do it.)
Frequently the perpetrator is a stranger, sometimes a family member or friend.
Lots of electronics are said to be stolen from hotel rooms.
Here’s the question: how vulnerable are we? How risky are hotel stays – really?
Josh Williams, director of risk management for Crescent Hotels told Hotel Management, “We can only control so much of what goes on at [a given] hotel, and if this can happen to a Kardashian it raises some questions. If you are in my position, you get skeptical and cynical because you have to ask the questions.”
He added: “Bank-style silent alarms, working in groups and having more physical security present at all times, especially when dealing with celebrities or luxury guests, these things could have prevented this.”
Understand, the Kardashian business may have captured lots of headlines but it is unclear that it actually means much to you or me. For one thing, she was staying in what amounts to private apartments. For another, the very way she conducts her life is antithetical to good security.
Fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld has made good points about the Kardashian robbery – assuming in fact it occurred. The victim, per Lagerfeld, has to share some of the blame: “(She is) too public, too public – we have to see in what time we live. You cannot display your wealth then be surprised that some people want to share it.
“I don’t understand why (Kardashian) was in a hotel with no security and things like this. If you are that famous and you put all your jewellery on the net, you go to hotels where nobody can come near to the room.”
Lagerfeld has a point. Would you put pix of yourself – and your expensive baubles – on social media?
If so, good luck.
My personal rule of travel is to bring nothing that has real value. That even extends to technology (I usually travel with an aged Chromebook that can’t be worth over $100 and an elderly Nexus tablet). I recommend a similar philosophy. Bring nothing you’d cry about if it went missing.
I also never use the in-room safe because there is rich documentation online that many are very, very easy to break into.
In-room, good practice is to always use all the available door locks. Sure, a determined criminal could always force the door – but most would not have the motivation to do so if they encounter enough locks.
Can you trust hotel security to keep you safe? When I’ve visited high profile executives and celebrities in hotels, they have always brought their own security. What’s that say?
Yes, I do trust hotel security – in well run properties – to maintain a baseline level of safety in the property. But, outside of some special properties in Manhattan, Las Vegas, and Washington DC, hotel security often lack deep training and preparedness. They do their job – absolutely – but their training has not equipped them to operate at the level of big city law enforcement.
Nor should guests expect that much.
Ultimately your safety in a hotel comes down to you. What you do and don’t do.
Who do you tell you are staying where?
What valuables do you bring?
Do you pick hotels in safe, secure neighborhoods and where fundamental security seems to be practiced in the public areas?
Ultimately, your safety in a hotel is not much different from your safety on Fifth Avenue. You are in charge. Manage accordingly.