When is a prank not a prank? When there’s thousands of dollars of damage to someone else’s property. That’s when a prank becomes a criminal offense.
Dictionary.com defines a prank this way: a trick of an amusing, playful or sometimes malicious nature.
The malicious nature reference is where hotel owners and operators are paying a hefty price as a result of a wave of so-called pranks against U.S. hotels.
Here’s one such report from the Orlando Sentinel last week.
The summary: A prankster claiming to be a front-desk clerk awoke guests with a call at 7 a.m., told them there was a gas leak and they needed to smash the window of the guestroom with a toilet tank. The guests, including a county sheriff’s deputy, complied. They were also told to:
- Break the mirror on the wall.
- Use the lamp to bash in the wall to get to the trapped man on the other side.
- Throw the mattress out the window.
Again, they did what they were told. They were ready to jump out of the window when Hilton Garden Inn manager Samir Patel arrived on the scene and told the guests that there was no gas leak; they had been misled.
According to the Associated Press, other pranks at hotels that have been reported recently include:
- In Arkansas, a caller posing as a sprinkler-company employee persuaded a motel employee to do more than US$50,000 in damage to a motel as part of a “test” of the motel’s emergency alarms.
- At a Comfort Suites in Daphne, Alabama, a caller ordered a guest to turn on the sprinklers for a fire that wasn’t. The result: more than US$10,000 in damage.
- In Nebraska, a Hampton Inn employee was convinced by a caller to pull the fire alarm, later telling him the only way to silence the alarm was by breaking the lobby windows. The employee enlisted the help of a nearby trucker, who drove his rig through the front door.
The danger to hotel employees and guests goes without saying. The malicious folks behind the pranks need to be fully prosecuted, if they’re ever caught.
Hotels owners and operators—and even the brands the properties represent—need to be on the lookout for such pranks. Not only could it cost a hotel thousands of dollars in damage, but there could be a lawsuit waiting to happen. More frivolous things have happened.
My mind keeps going back to the late Anthony G. Marshall, a barrister extraordinaire who was a magnificent friend to the hotel industry before his untimely death a couple of years ago. What would Tony make of this? Undoubtedly, he would get a brief chuckle, then turn extremely serious and say: “Reasonable care. The hotel must provide reasonable care if it expects to make it through this without a lawsuit.”
Reasonable care in this case means making sure ALL employees are aware of this rash of nationwide idiocy. Reasonable care means not being afraid to post a message telling guests that any emergency calls will come from the hotel manager or the local fire or police department. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to verbally inform every guest who checks in how the hotel handles emergency situations. Tell them to always ask who’s calling, and if they don’t trust the caller, hang up and immediately call the front desk.
If you don’t get how serious this can be, type “pranks at hotels” into your search engine of choice and view the results. You won’t be laughing. These pranksters call back to the scene of the crime after the damage has been done, and laugh their butts off at the hotel. They know what they’re doing, and they’re dangerous.
Take matters into your own hands by informing employees, guests and anyone else associated with your hotels this is no laughing matter. Being aware is being safe—and in the long run it could save money.