Legally speaking: Distribute your guestroom keys sparingly

7 Jan, 2013 By: Karen Morris Hotel and Motel Management

This is a sad tale about guestroom keys. A hotel franchisee of Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide’s Luxury Collection brand botched a key request and, no surprise, is being sued. The plaintiff, a female guest, alleged that a visibly intoxicated man approached the front desk, falsely claimed to be the plaintiff’s husband, and requested a key to her room. The clerk inexplicably gave it to him. The man proceeded to the plaintiff’s room and sexually assaulted her. Now, the hotel is in a difficult position to defend itself. 

By law, the contract between a guest and a hotel entitles the guest to privacy in the room, and obligates the hotel to protect that privacy. If a hotel is careless or haphazard about how it distributes keys, people who should not have access to an occupied room may get in. Nothing good results from that.

We all know that guests sometimes stay at hotels to hide from someone. Their pursuer may be an abusive spouse or partner, or someone attempting to harm them because of an obsession, a bad business deal, a grudge, or otherwise. A locked door is a guest’s last defense from unwanted and possibly dangerous intruders. Giving a key to an ill-intentioned interloper can cause disaster.  

The guest alone should control who is given a key. If the guest authorizes the front desk to issue a key to someone, the hotel is well-advised to get that authorization in writing. Once the hotel has the necessary consent, it can give room access to the designated person with impunity. Short of such consent, the hotel should deny anyone seeking entry. This is true even though the requester claims to be a spouse or other close relative or associate. The person seeking the key may be the very person the guest came to the hotel to avoid.

The importance of training front-desk personnel is, well, key. An untrained desk clerk can be putty in the hands of a would-be abuser. Training should be sobering and frequently reinforced. 

The obvious is sometimes easy to forget: Always remember that keys enable access to guestrooms and do not trust the front desk, which is key-distribution-central, to any employee who has not excelled in recent training or who has indicated any inclination to capitulate to an angry or aggressive key seeker.   

Another example of why hotel management is not for the faint of heart.

Topic : Keycards, Security, Karen Morris, Legal Issues, Guestrooms, Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide
External Source : Hotel Management

About the Author: Karen Morris

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