Hotels may have long considered theft a cost of doing business—it’s difficult to balance inventory control with the demanding needs of customer service. However, new technologies are becoming available that may help management and staff curb loss in all of its forms, from assets gone astray (for example, uniforms that don’t come back from the cleaners), to mistakes in item counting (e.g. minibars and toiletries) to the occasional but inevitable guest or employee theft. From RFID linen/supplies tagging to video surveillance and analytics to door locking technology, hotels are finding novel and innovative ways to protect their assets, and their guests. Here are five areas that hotels should keep an eye on.
- The Gift Shop. Many mid-sized hotels have installed self-service gift shops to provide guests with snacks, reading material, beverages and more. While gift shops in resort hotels and upmarket hotels are regularly staffed, more moderate accommodations allow patrons and guests to self-police their purchases, either dropping cash into a drop box or charging their items to their rooms. This presents hotel management with challenges on several levels. First of all, there is bound to be a small to moderate percentage of guests who opt out of paying for their consumption. Secondly, these kinds of gift shops—some of which are stocked with expensive items like personal electronics—present a unique opportunity for employee theft. As such, they should be located not only within line of sight of employees working at the front desk, but also be clearly co-located under video surveillance systems, including recording.
- In-Room Amenities. The loss of in-room amenities such as shampoo, lotion and tissues is inevitable. Even movie stars have confessed to taking toilet paper from hotel rooms. It’s best just to consider this part of the cost of doing business and let your chain’s management negotiate the best deals from their suppliers.
- Towels and Linens. Strangely, towels and linens are the number one item taken from hotel rooms, with 68 percent of British travelers confessing to have taken a towel or two from a hotel room. But technology is catching up with towel thieves, as many hotels have taken to using microchip tracking technology to keep track of their towels and linens.
- Other Guests’ Property. Many hotel guests would be surprised how often flat-out robbery occurs in hotels. Guests, whether they’re on vacation or business, can be distracted and trusting when they’re on the road, exposing them to potential theft not only by housekeepers but more often by fellow travelers. Covering the property with a comprehensive video surveillance system and regular analysis by experts can help expose areas of risk.
- Food and Beverage. Especially for large chains, the loss of food and beverages represents a significant financial risk not only because of the loss presented by theft or misappropriation but also loss through mismanagement. Fraud, reselling schemes, and concealment and misappropriation of high-ticket items like liquor bottles, steaks and lobster tails are all common occurrences even in upmarket establishments with stringent inventory control policies. Video surveillance, anti-fraud controls and inventory analysis combined with trained and experienced managers can all help control loss in this area of operations.