Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Australian Couple Reimbursed for Major Theft from In-Room Safe

The management of the Andaman Beach Suites Hotel in Patong (Phuket, Thailand) has agreed to a settlement with an Australian couple who claimed that their money was stolen from their in-room safe.

Australian tourist Jim Nagi, 44, said he first noticed cash missing from the safe in his hotel room at the Andaman Beach on December 8. Then, on December 12, Nagi attempted to open the safe, but couldn't, so the reception desk used their master. It was at that time that Nagi and his wife realized that $A7,500 (US$7,400) had disappeared from the safe. Nagi then reported the theft to police in Patong, but has heard nothing since.

COMMENT: The couple, who had checked in to the Andaman Beach Suites hotel on December 4, moved into another room on December 8, the day that some of their cash disappeared. Subsequently, the hotel agreed to pay the Nagis the $A7,500.

In a strange sequence of events, the hotel management later asserted that the Nagis had brought "unauthorized guests" to stay in their room, inferring that such guests very likely had stolen the money. Yet, when the Nagis brought up the closed-circuit television cameras on each floor, strangely the hotel claimed the cameras were not directed correctly, which did not reveal the images of the "unauthorized guests."

As part of the agreement with the Nagis, the couple will pay only half of their room service charges and only half of all other extraordinary expenses added to his bill.

Given how important "saving face" is in Thailand, this case presumably ended as well as could be expected. Yet, there are lesson-learned for both the Andaman Beach Suites Hotel and the Nagis:

For the hotel: Everyone knows that in-room safes are NOT a secure way of safeguarding valuables, largely because they all have a "back-door" entry accessible to hotel staff. Hence, they should not be offered or used. Ever. Alternatively, the hotel should do what most hotels do, is to offer a bank of safe deposit boxes in the lobby with a two-key system, which eliminates the risk of internal theft.

For the Nagis: In an era where ATMs are available everywhere, it was imprudent for the couple of be traveling with so much cash. If they had NOT used the in-room safe, all of their problems would have been avoided. On page 208 of my book STAYING SAFE ABROAD: TRAVELING, WORKING AND LIVING IN A POST-9/11 WORLD, I strongly discourage the use of in-room safes. To obtain a copy, go to http://www.sbrisksolutions.com or http://www.amazon.com.

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