Thu, 25 May 2000

Hotel's security

Starting in the late 19th century, the Savoy Homann Hotel in Bandung has been host to kings, princes and dignitaries from around the world. It has been considered a four star hotel and even received ISO 9002 accreditation. Lately, however, perhaps because of changes in ownership and management, or because of the monetary crisis, the quality has slipped away. The hotel amenities are almost invisible. The gift shop cum drugstore is a cupboard in the aging "business center office" which charges outrageous prices for the uncomfortable use of their antiquated computer and business machine.

Granted, the kitchen is still staffed by good cooks and caring hopeful staff who serve a tasty although limited selection of eastern and western food. On the same level, actually only a few feet away, there is a rat-infested garden with a fishpond and a few birdcages with beautiful birds. The sight of rats dashing about from burrow to burrow while snatching spilled bird food is unnerving.

Getting back to one's room, one finds that there are major deficiencies. The realization that those strange pellets in the bathroom are most likely rat droppings is astonishing. It quickly becomes obvious that the cleaning staff are not well-trained, forgetting to replenish the many little things in one's room. One day there is no shampoo, for several days there are no bags for laundry, at other times the complimentary tea or coffee is missing and the bottled water supply is always short. These things are annoying and not worthy of a renowned hotel.

Unfortunately there is also evidence of systematic criminality. By this I mean that the management actively participates in illegal behavior. The showing of pirated movies on one of the hotel's channels (5) is an indication of this.

For real criminal activities, we have to again look to the staff. Small things are generally safe in your room but it is my personal experience that a large expensive item, like a lap-top computer, is not safe even for short times. If not locked up for every minute that you are not in your room, it vanishes with no trace. Don't expect to recover any valuables and don't even try a police investigation. The hotel will first search your room to see that you are not the thief, and then when you insist on a police report, they take you to the station to give your name and address, and you get a piece of paper stating that you lost the computer on the street. Since my lap-top was stolen from my room with no evidence of forced entry, I can only assume that the hotel is somehow involved, particularly since their main objective is to "keep it quiet" and not pursue the thief. Then, when the question of compensation comes up, the hotel flatly denies any responsibility and hides behind "its rules" that all valuables be kept in the hotel safe.

Given that a computer is as important for doing business as clothing, one should really keep one's luggage in the lock-up as well. Obviously insider thieves can walk into your room at any time and walk off with any of your belongings when you are away. What then is the traveler paying for when he or she rents a room in a hotel. The answer should be "security".


Ottawa, Canada