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Taken to the Cleaners – Reflections of a Reluctant Landlady

Updated: Apr 17

Anyone who has worked in hospitality probably knows that recruitment can be a real uphill struggle, and that the workforce can be fairly transient.  So when a member of staff recommend an experienced housekeeper, we were delighted.

References checked out and she moved into the staff accommodation. She was not a well woman, having battled cancer for some years.  However, she worked hard and cleaned the guest rooms well.

One day a guest complained that her wedding and engagement ring had gone missing out of the room.  Our housekeeper suggested she check whether she had inadvertently knocked the cabinet and hoovered them up by accident.  A couple of minutes later, she returned, holding the two rings apologetically.  It was a very unlikely story and shortly after we parted company.

A few weeks later, after a very busy Christmas and New Year, I was woken up in the middle of the night by a phone call, we had been robbed.  With a heavy heart I drove over to the pub to meet my son and a very distressed manager told me what had happened. She had been fast asleep in her bedroom, which was an annex off the office.  She had heard the office door open, voices, and then her bedroom door open.  She froze, pretended she was asleep, held her breathe until she heard the door shut again. She then heard banging for a good few minutes, which she learned was caused by the intruders attempting to take a heavy safe off the wall.  They eventually managed to remove the safe and carry it off the premises through the guest entrance/exit and disappear.

It turned out that two guests had checked in earlier, and unfortunately, a staff member had not insisted on an address/ID, and they had paid cash so we could not trace them.  We checked the CCTV footage and saw the two men going outside for a smoke with one of our live-in chefs a couple of hours before the robbery. The police arrested him, and he was led away protesting his innocence.  We knew it was an inside job as they knew the security code to get into the office.

However, it turned out that footage was misleading.  The chef had indeed gone outside for a cigarette, and it just happened to be at the same time as the two guests went outside.  They all returned inside and went to their respective rooms.  Once the two thieves thought that everyone was asleep, they let themselves into the office. Luckily, the chef was very forgiving.

The next day, we went through our VOIP system and found the call booking the room.  It was the same number we had on file as our ex-housekeeper.  She had booked the room, given the two robbers all the information they needed, and they had got away with 4 days takings over a busy bank holiday weekend, a number of tablets we were trialing and various other bits and pieces.

We gave Wiltshire Police the telephone number and last known address of the house-keeper, the location of the devices through Find My Device software (both London addresses) and the CCTV footage.  Sadly, they never traced the thieves, not helped by the fact the case crossed two jurisdictions.  We were insured, and got most of the value of the stolen goods back, however, not quite all as the adjudicator thought we were slightly under-insured.  It left a bad taste in our mouths and our manager was traumatised and affected for a long time to come. We paid an expensive lesson to learn: -

-            Change your door lock codes very regularly and whenever a member of staff leaves (especially after they have left on bad terms) - we moved to electronic fingerprint locks after the robbery);

-            Make sure you have panic buttons fitted in all appropriate places;

-            Check your insurance is the right level for your business;

-            Ensure any safe is bolted to the floor as well as the wall and is heavy duty enough not to be taken (albeit with great difficulty) by unwelcome guests;

-            Ensure you spot check your booking in procedures are being followed by staff at all times.

We were lucky enough to bounce back from our experience, and put stronger security measures in place, but it happened after the ‘horse had bolted’.  Now is the best time to check you have the best security you can afford in place.

A drawing of a cleaner hoovering up a pile of £50 notes.

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