A Different Kind of Hotel

Eric Simons is a 19-year-old entrepreneur who lived for two months in the AOL HQ in Palo Alto. Simons was given a badge while participating in Imagine K12, an education incubator housed at AOL. When the program ended, Simons’s badge continued to work. So he stayed, sleeping on one of three couches, showering in the gym, and eating for free in the cafeteria. There’s a walled garden joke in here, maybe even a domain squatting joke, too.

– Jason Kottke, The AOL Hotel

The story about Simmons is at CNet, Meet the Tireless Entrepreneur who Squatted at AOL.

It doesn’t entirely relate to hotels, but it reminded me of the people who try to get freebies at hotels with the staff not suspecting a thing. At one of the hotels I used to work at, people would prop open the stairwell doors at the back of the building to sneak in after hours, mainly to sleep in the stairwells when it was below zero out. On occasion they would go into the staff room and snag a free meal from the lunch room before the kitchen staff had cleaned everything up. At a different hotel, people would come into the building, walk up the ramp and around the corner to use the pay phone. Before security cameras were installed, the Front Desk had to keep track of how long they were there to make sure they didn’t go wandering off into the rest of the hotel (the phone was right by an open staircase). I’ll spare you the details of what happened in the bathroom stalls located beside the bar.

I am sure others have similar experiences working in small hotels in downtown locations.

Stories like the Simmons are a good reminder to double check the security of your property:

  • How often do you replace the master keycards for the hotel?
  • Do you have nightly routines for security staff or other night staff member to do a walk-arounds?
  • Do you change the security codes regularly that provide remote access to your property management system?

Another area of potential concern is staff abusing their privleges at the property. If checks aren’t put in place, it’s quite easy for staff to stay in hotel rooms overnight without the management knowing. Even worse is having the Front Desk take cash payments for a room late at night, pocket the money, mark the room as dirty and then be on the desk in the morning for the guest to check out with.

It’s important to look for potential weak spots on a regular basis to ensure you have all areas covered, and to thoroughly think through new policies that may be put in place. The last thing you want is to open a door to someone sleeping on one of your couches for two months and living for free.