Pick Pocketing Or Premeditated Crime? You Tell Me!

This post is a continuation of my earlier post, about how my mom was robbed at the W Barcelona. So if you haven’t yet read that post, I’d suggest reading it first.

When we woke up this morning we thoroughly searched every inch of the room to be sure the purse wasn’t anywhere to be seen. I had my mom talk me through the entire evening, and I even went a bit “Inspector Gadget” on her. I searched the guest bathroom carefully to see if there were any hints as to the guy’s motives for coming to the room.

Below is a summary of what followed. And the more I write this out, the more I realize this almost certainly wasn’t a random pick pocketing, but rather something that was at a minimum premeditated, and at worst, much more than that…

W-Barcelona

Reporting the theft to the hotel

After being 100% certain that my mom’s purse was stolen, we headed down to the front desk, where we were helped by the duty manager. We explained the situation in great detail, and he jotted down maybe a dozen words on a Post-It note. He promised they would look into it and be in touch with us shortly.

In particular what I wanted the hotel’s help with was figuring out the following:

  • How did the guy know which room we were in, given that my mom never gave him our room number? Was it an inside job of some sort? After all, he claimed to work for Starwood (it probably wasn’t true, but at a minimum I think the hotel has an obligation to do some internal investigating).
  • Since my mom got repeated phone calls (presumably from this guy), could they figure out where the calls were coming from?
  • Could they retrieve camera footage of him in the hallways, at the bar, in the lobby, etc.?

The duty manager promised he’d immediately launch an investigation and be in touch with us shortly, knowing that we were scheduled to check out that afternoon. He suggested maybe waiting to file a police report until they were able to pull up the footage.

Radio silence…

Between when we reported the incident and when we checked out (shortly after 3PM) we passed the front desk several times, and each time stopped to see the duty manager. He kept saying they were still “working on it.”

I was expecting security or management would be in touch to get more information on the incident, etc. But they didn’t.

Another shock at check-out

This is where it gets really interesting/creepy. When we went to check-out we were presented with the bill, which included 84EUR in bar charges.

I explained that we had only made one bar purchase for about half of that, and asked them to pull up the receipts.

He presented me with receipts, and much to my shock two of them had my name on them with no signature (I didn’t write the name or room number either). Amazingly enough they were signed for roughly the same time we were at the bar – my mom and I were there from about 6PM to 7:15PM, and during that time two purchases had been fraudulently signed for. This guy has horse sized balls if he’s at the bar actively charging things to my room while we’re also at the bar.

W-Barcelona-Receipts

At this point this got a whole lot more serious for me. Not only was my mom robbed, but stuff was fraudulently being charged to our room.

Trying to escalate

At this point the duty manager left for about five minutes. When he returned I requested to speak to the general manger. He walked away for another five minutes, at which point I asked one of his colleagues to please page him, since we had a flight to catch and couldn’t wait around all day. The duty manager returned and then disappeared again for several minutes.

I emphasized again that I’d like to speak to the general manager. This was a serious situation, and the complete lack of transparency wasn’t going to cut it, especially since we had a flight.

After about five minutes the head of security showed up, and not the general manager.

The guy was nice enough, but this made the situation even worse. He had apparently only been informed of the situation after noon, several hours after we reported it. And he apparently wasn’t even informed that anything was stolen, which was the whole problem to begin with!

As far as he was concerned, there was just a creepy person and that was it. He recovered the footage of the guy in the hallway, though didn’t at all look into the phone records for the calls to the room, which I specifically requested from the duty manager earlier (and which he said would be easy to do).

The amount of misinformation was disappointing, and showed that the hotel really didn’t give a crap.

W-Barcelona-Lobby

“Excuse me, who are you?”

At this point a lady came out and addressed us by name and suggested we sit down to talk. She didn’t actually introduce who she was, so I awkwardly had to ask “excuse me, who are you?” Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like if you’re introducing yourself in a situation where a guest has been robbed at your hotel, it’s appropriate to introduce yourself by your name and job role. She was the director of rooms, as it turned out.

We sat down at the bar with her and the head of security, and I tried to explain to her my frustration, and what I wanted the hotel’s help with:

  • How could the guy have charged something to my room when my mom never gave him my name or room number? The craziest part is that two charges were made the same time we made one “legitimate” charge at the bar. If they had launched a “serious” investigation of some sort, you’d think they would have immediately picked up on that.
  • Along similar lines to the above, how did he access the elevators (which require key access) and then show up at the door to my mom’s hotel? I wasn’t saying it was an inside job, but rather was explaining that we didn’t give him the information, but he did get the information somehow, so at least the hotel has the duty to investigate.
  • Why wasn’t the hotel taking the situation seriously? Why did it take hours to let the head of security know? And why was the situation communicated incorrectly, despite the fact we were explicit in the situation about something being stolen?

At this point I figured I’d get an “I’m sorry, this has been less than ideal, I promise we’ll do better with the investigation.” Instead I perceived that she was getting defensive and confrontational, along the lines of:

“I can promise you we did everything we can.”

“Sorry, but I don’t really get that sense. We clearly communicated the situation to the duty manager, and it seems the details were lost. And maybe that’s because he didn’t actually take notes or follow up with us.”

“Well that’s what he said, we can call him over here now so he can tell you what he heard.”

“That’s not the point, it’s not about who heard what. He promised to touch base with us soon, and that didn’t happen. How could he have accurate notes about the situation anyway when he simply wrote about a dozen words on a Post-It note about the situation?”

“Well I promise we were taking it seriously.”

“If you had a serious safety situation in your hotel, wouldn’t you follow up with your guest to get a more detailed report of what happened so that you can do a more thorough investigation? How can you launch an investigation with such little information? We told him we were leaving this afternoon.”

I explained to her I felt like this was quickly becoming an “us” vs. “them” thing, and that’s not what I wanted. I didn’t want anything from the hotel, other than having them figure out what happened. And I explained that regardless of whether they were taking the investigation “seriously” or not, I hoped she understood why I didn’t perceive that they cared.

She proceeded to basically justify the situation. “Well we didn’t know he stole anything and for all we know he could have been a friend.” Well, ummm, he wasn’t, and we made that clear when we approached the duty manager.

“As far as the elevator goes, maybe he was in it with you?” The elevators in the hotel are tiny, and my mom would have totally seen that. “Well, the elevators are dark,” she said, to support her statement.

And she questioned us beyond that – “well why didn’t you file a report right away?” Fair enough, though at first my mom assumed the guy was just flirting with her, and later on she was so scared that she wanted to stay locked up in her room and wait for me.

Bottom line

I was just blown away by the fact that the entire front office at a global hotel chain was being so apathetic, accusatory, and unapologetic about the situation. I wasn’t expecting them to say “sorry, it’s our fault you got robbed.” Because it wasn’t. But I feel the hotel has some duty of care when a non-guest shows up at the door of key-protected floor of someone that never gave them their room number, calls repeatedly, charges things to their room, etc.

What was I expecting? I was hoping they would at least say “sorry for your disappointment,” or “sorry we’ve let you down with our research so far, we promise to do better.”

But instead I walked away feeling like I just finished with the DMV as opposed to a hospitality chain that I spend nearly half my life with…

Was this all premeditated?

The more thought I put into this, the more creeped out I am about the situation. At first I assumed it was just a random pick pocketing, but now I’m fairly certain it was premeditated. The guy was clearly smart and knew a lot more than he was letting off:

  • He knew my name and room number
  • The fact that he specifically mentioned he was in 2A on our Emirates flight is creepy (we were assigned seats 2E & 2F, so that would have been the seat across from us)
  • He claimed to have been a Singapore pilot — it could be a coincidence, but given my obsession with planes and Singapore Airlines…

For me the question remaining is whether this was premeditated in the sense that he simply did some research in order to figure out how best to rob my mom, or if it was more that he was trying to figure out a way to attack me (whether it’s me directly or through my mom).

I still can’t figure out his motive, though. If he stole the purse over drinks, what was his motive to come to our hotel room? And when my mom made it clear she was uncomfortable having him in the room, why did he keep calling? What was he hoping for that he didn’t have already?

Would love to hear what you guys think about the situation!

Comments

  1. Hope you escalate to Starwood and get the hotel into trouble. Unbelievable on how they handled it. Probably not their fault about the incident but how they handled it is just disgusting. I would not have been able to keep my cool if I were you.

  2. Really, really sad to hear Ben!
    1 question; if he stole the wallet while having drinks… Didn’t your mom have something in it which could unveil your roomno?

  3. Was your mom drugged and he kept calling to find out when she had fallen asleep? Then maybe he came into the room and took the purse?

  4. I suggest that if this dude is stalking you that you take this post down before he gets any satisfaction out of it.

  5. Ewwwwww– very creepy. Glad it was only “things” that he took and that your mom was not injured or worse.

  6. Your mom got burned by a scam, like so many people do in so many places around the globe. Doesn’t particularly matter if it was premeditated or not, since every crime is formulated at some point on some temporal scale. Chalk it up to naiveté; now you know that giving out some of your travel information is just as and as wandering around with a fat stack of currency and your passport in your pocket. You’ve learned.

    You’re not going to get the purse or the green card back, and the folks at the W know this. They know that trying to learn any additional information is a time sink.

    It’s going to be hard and stressful, but try to enjoy the rest of your trip. My mom died about this time last year — 4 years younger than your mom. Worse things have happened and can happen.

  7. @ Lucky — OMG, the follow-through of the hotel staff and management was absolutely terrible! I really, really hope you escalate this through your Starwood contacts and get to the bottom of this — not only in possibly finding the perpetrator but also corporate should have a few words with the hotel so that next time it happens to another guest they are more responsive.

    Also, please give our best regards to your mom. My mom had been a victim of attempted robbery a couple years ago (in a mall parking lot as she was getting into her car) and even though she managed to fight the attacker off, it really shook her up (especially since she’s always very careful).

  8. This is all very creepy and weird. And I hope you contact Starwood corporate concerning the attitudes and actions (or lack thereof) on the part of that hotel. If they treat a preferred guest that way, I could only imagine how they’d treat a random, flustered tourist who’s in Spain for the first time. Part of the job of a hotel is to take care of your guests. If your guest is a victim of a crime on your property, you should not only be eager to find out how it happened but also ensure that the victim/guest is taken care of to the best of your ability. It sounds like they were just lazy.

    Back to the premeditated question, I have no idea. I can’t remember but did your post about your mom’s thoughts on your trip include your flight info? If it did, then in the future, maybe you should wait to include seat details until you’ve moved on from the city you were flying to in the trip report. Don’t give the name of the hotel until you’re no longer staying there. People are crazy and if this was a premeditated incident, you have to take steps to stay safe.

    Another possibility was that this was an inside job. He worked for the hotel or has a friend/accomplice who worked in the hotel and that’s how they got the room number and were so easily able to charge stuff to your room. If the hotel suspects this themselves, that could explain why they’re trying to brush you off because they know their rep (and wallets) could take a HUGE hit if it’s found that they’re employi crooks vs just being some apathetic jerks.

    Also, for your mom and anyone else in the future- don’t tell strangers you’ve just flown in a premium cabin internationally. This puts a target on your back. They immediately assume you’re rich and are a good target.

  9. I don’t get the impression it was premeditated or in any way targeted at you personally. It seems far more likely that he’s a con man who targets affluent looking female tourists of a certain age.

  10. I’m sorry to hear of your situation, albeit there could have been ways to prevent it happening by helping yourself, but that’s beyond the point.

    Given the jurisdiction, despite being a global hotel chain, I have little faith that anything of material effort will be done. You would be best to get evidence of the theft in whatever form you can for insurance purposes, then methodically starting to take steps to minimise fraud or identity theft, e.g. reporting stolen cards, etc.

    If you have any Spanish contacts, particularly in Barcelona, now is time to ask for a favour.

  11. Typical Spanish customer service. Please, please, please escalate to Starwood, otherwise nothing will change.

  12. Sorry to hear about this, but just a quick note to point out… You were robbed if you or your mom were in the room when this happened, or if the thing was taken off your body. If not, you were burglarized. It’s a distinction the police need to know.

  13. First off all, the W Baecelona hotel is not owned by the major (SPG, US) hotel chain – only managed by. In fact, last time I was in Barce – I heard the hotel was for sale. Your story is frightening and I’m sorry to read how it unfolded and that it was so unpleasant for your mother. This hotel is located on an amazing piece of beach and in a country that offers much in the way of beauty and culture.

  14. How much of this information is available for someone reading your blog? Like, let’s say you have a stalker, and I hope it isn’t the case, could he have just gleaned what he needed from your posts/videos?

  15. Even more convinced now that it was a combo of inside job + info gathered from social media. This has gone from creepy to very worrisome, and quite an elaborate robbery on a targeted guest. I would most definitely contact Starwood corporate. Ridiculous how badly it was handled by the hotel, as if they know something…

  16. I wonder if this is just viewed differently in European hotels (which of course is so wrong). A number of years ago I was at the Grand Hotel (now I believe its the St Regis) and we were put on a floor with some Saudi prince who had his own armed security with him. The only reason we knew this is that we got caught in the middle of him trying to be robbed and about 4 or 5 of his security running past us several times with guns in hand…when I spoke to the hotel and questioned why they had a guest with there own armed security let alone put other guests on the same floor all I got was we were sorry and we’ll look into it. Not a offer to move us to a different floor or anything. They did send up a bottle of Champagne later that night but that didn’t change that the attitude was less then concerned. I did send a letter to corporate back in the states and they were appalled at how things were handled by the hotel and did try to do the correct thing when I got a call from the hotel offering us a few free nights to come back…needless to say I wasn’t going back there.

  17. Were you ever able to report the incident to police? Does anyone else find it concerning that the hotel was able to stall until it sounds like it was basically too late to file a report with police?

  18. The above poster is probably spot on. This looks like a multi-person scam where the confidence man targets an affluent older woman and a second person who had some sort of access key robbed your room while the other guy brought her downstairs. They probably have someone on the inside that gets paid to look the other way and supplies a key for them to get into the rooms.

    I wouldn’t read too much into the Emirates and Singapore comments. I am sure he was just parroting anything your mother mentioned or alluded to build her confidence. “You mentioned you flew in from Dubai yesterday, what a coincidence so did I, I am surprised I didn’t see you there…”

  19. Extremely disappointing behaviour from the W Hotel staff. Will not ever be staying there after reading this. No idea how you were so restrained with them!

  20. Very strange story!
    Handled as bad as it gets from the hotels side.

    But a few things:
    1. If he did such a good background check to find out who you where, wasn’t that a lot to do just to steal your moms purse?
    2. If he should charge your room, why settle for such a small amount on the bill.
    3. Can it just be a stalker that tries out how far he can go?
    4. Can you remember anything about who sitting next to you on the plane? And if he really was, he could have overheard where you would be staying, recognize you and your mom. But if he was in First, then just what was in it for him. A couple of hundred dollars, some creditcards (that he cant make use of). It just doesn’t make sense to me.

    Strange story!

  21. Just wondering when your mom had drinks with this guy, did she charged it to the room? This would be the time when the room number and name were overheard or saw on the receipt by this person.

  22. Inside job. Period. You might as well forget about the whole thing and move on. I am not saying this to be insensitive, but we’ve been robbed at home and the police did absolutely nothing. Sadly, that’s why criminal’s thrive… Just be thankful no one was physically injured.

  23. Sorry to hear that Lucky! I can certainly understand your frustration with the hotel staff (doesn’t surprise me at the W Barcelona though), but now is the time to hand this over to the professionals as your mom and yourself are victims of a crime and this is not something to discuss with unprofessional hotel staff.

    If you haven’t done so yet, call local police and have them come to the hotel. Make sure they gather all available evidence (cctv, fraudulent bar receipts, phone records, room access protocol). Get in touch with your local consulate and get legal assistance. They will be able to talk you through the further process of dealing with local law enforcement and prosecutors. Be very firm and tell them to stay on the case with local law enforcement and to keep you updated. Regularly check back with them to show you are serious about this.

    After that you can deal with Starwood.

  24. As to the guy following Ben’s blog. Did your mom’s bag have a first class bag tag on it when you checked in?

    If I was pulling this scam and in need of affluent victims, I’d be on the lookout for the first class bag tags. That would be far easier than Internet stocking travel bloggers.

  25. Did you take a taxi to the hotel or were you able to book the chauffer drive? Were the luggage tags removed before checkin? From the tags I can tell that you flew EK F, read your name and assume that you are a good target.

  26. As I read through today’s saga I could not help but think right away that it may be coming from the hotel and may be a frequent occurrence. When you registered for the room did you give SPG flight info and etc? (The hotel record will also have your airline FF#) That would give much of the info found in his pilot story. Then he could get your room info from registration OR the bartender. Somehow after the first delays by the Duty Manager I might think that something more insidious was going on. BUT you are more of a global traveler than me and would know about this. I wonder how SPG will handle this? The fact that you have a huge following should not make it any different but then again …

  27. As to the guy following Ben’s blog. Did your mom’s bag have a first class bag tag on it when you checked in?

    If I was pulling this scam and in need of affluent victims, I’d be on the lookout for the first class bag tags. That would be far easier than Internet stocking travel bloggers.

  28. If your mom is anything like most moms, this guy could have gotten lots of information about you from her. I’m guessing she is very proud, and tells lots of people about your blog, and how wonderful you are to take her on these trips etc… It’s just natural to make that kind of small talk with a friendly person you meet at a place where you feel secure.

    I don’t want to make light of the matter — but maybe you and your mom could be a featured episode of “Scam City: Barcelona”

    Hoping things are looking a little brighter by now.

    Best wishes to your mom and you.

  29. I’m absolutely disgusted by the way the hotel handled the situation. I certainly won’t be staying at the W for future trips to BCN.

    I’m not convinced that this was an “inside” job per se but it seems to me that hotel did a piss poor job at guarding the information of guests and I would classify this as an “extreme” breach of safety protocols. Really upset that this happened to you. Do you think the suspect could have been stalking you on Instagram? It’s pretty clear from one of your recent pics that you were in row 2….

  30. Ben, was your instragram post mentioning the view from the W BCN posted before of after your mom met the thief?

  31. Creepy indeed! I just feel bad for your mom because this incident ruined the rest of her trip. We’ve been pick-pocketed overseas, and even though we only lost $10, it took time to call credit card companies, report to the hotel, and all the other non-fun stuff. Needless to say we felt violated! It’s never a good feeling. Stay with your mom for the rest of the trip.

  32. If the creep got Ben’s name simply from hearing his mom say it to charge the coffee to the room, how did he know how to spell it correctly? (see receipt)
    Also, he charged a drink at the same time Ben was drinking in the bar?
    This guy is a stalker and criminal.
    Ben, I would avoid live trip blogging

  33. “The craziest part is that two charges were made the same time we made one “legitimate” charge at the bar. If they had launched a “serious” investigation of some sort, you’d think they would have immediately picked up on that.”

    Actually, chill on this aspect. They needed to focus on a breach to the guests’ physical security by some dude who had, shall we say, “poor boundaries”. And the theft should have been second, albeit related. A forensic analysis of drinks charged to your room need not have been a priority – how were they to guess that such a review might identify helpful information?

  34. I agree with some of the posters above that your blog gives too much info and posting your signature on the bar receipt was not wise.

  35. You notifying hotel security instead of the police is akin to notifying a football coach about seeing horrifying child abuse in the locker room, a silly move. If a crime is committed against you or a loved one, you call the police. Simple. The crime committed was burglary and theft: property crimes. Not robbery, which is a crime of violence (your mother was not punched in the face for her purse on the Rambla). It’s amazing how much you are blaming the hotel after your mother let a clearly uninvited guest in the room, and are then shocked when something comes up missing, and incredulous at hotel staff for not engaging in a forensic investigation, after something that could have and should have been prevented by a little common sense on your part.

  36. Not only should video surveillance show who was where and when, but should not the key control system show which keys accessed the room and when?

    Example: Guest Key 1 7:01 pm, Guest Key 2: 7:29 pm, Housekeeping Master of employee X: 7:44 pm…

    Starwood: My upcoming reservation in Barcelona depends on how this is handled.

  37. As much as I think that a lot of times you nitpick and come off as overentitled, this time I would definitely agree with the posters suggesting to raise hell with Starwood Corporate. This is BS from the hotel.

  38. Always report it to the police. Not because you can expect them to solve it but the staff won’t be lackadaisical with their efforts.

  39. I have written to the GM of the hotel, as well as to my Starwood rep and other contacts I have at W Barcelona. I’m reasonably confident that the GM was never notified, and I’ll let you know (in a personal email) whatever I hear.

  40. I have no justification to say it’s not an Internet stalker it with such high levels of crime, this seems like textbook case of a scam. Criminals are smart and can lead conversations to find out information. Every point in this story could have that explanation.

    And it’s NOT your mom’s or your fault. You fell for a scam but no one got hurt. I’m so so sorry and wish you well in getting things sorted and feeling better.

  41. I’m sorry to hear about this, but I’m not surprised. A few years ago I had several thousands of dollars worth of stuff stolen from me at a W in the US–with strong indications it was an inside job–and the hotel couldn’t have cared less. In fact, they treated me like I was the criminal. Very much the same situation as you experienced–lots of promises that they were taking it seriously and would get back to me soon, and then days of silence. It wasn’t until I involved the SPG folks that anything actually happened in the investigation. I haven’t stayed at a Starwood property since.

  42. Ben-I would NEVER work through the hotel or hotel security. Their main job is to keep issues like this quiet. ALWAYS call the police and have them intervene.

  43. Some people are very good cons and listeners. We had a person that listened to our staff names at an non profit fundraising event and saw observed how we interacted. He wasn’t even supposed to be at the event. Eventually, he fooled several staff members to give him $$$ with a very convincing story using several staff members names + locations, etc. We were all amazed at how he did it and how he observed the entire situation.

    The following year, he did the same exact thing but we had the NYPD right there waiting for him at the exit…. and nabbed him.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if he was around you before then, followed you during check-in …. told the front desk to that you were him and they made an additional key for him. With that key, he may have rummaged through your stuff while you both were out…. found BP, etc and knew everything about you. I’m surprised he didn’t take more…

  44. hi Ben sorry to hear about this creepy situation. W Hotel should at least be able to tell you if they have had any similar episodes with this individual. I think that would be a reasonable question for local police and perhaps worth checking with nearby hotels of the same category. At least this way you would know if this was directed at you or not. This would also be a good time to use the power of your blog to put pressure on the W in Barcelona as well as corporate. I am sure they would change their tune it we all stayed away from W properties until you have the answers you need.

  45. So sorry you had to endure this. I know it’s important to be safe when traveling in general, but, Barcelona, and to a slightly lesser extent, the W, are now on my shit list.

  46. From my read, this doesn’t seem like someone who stalked you on social media. It’s a confidence scam perpetrated at high-end hotels. Also seems like an inside job. This hotel has serious security problems.

  47. My suspicion is that he doesn’t follow the blog. Unless he’s your one-off stalker, he does this regularly and let’s face it, how many travel blogger’s moms could he target? I think most likely he’s honed an ability to find out info. Second most likely, there’s an insider connection.

    What disgusts me is how the hotel responded. When people are traveling–particularly in another country–everyone is vulnerable to some degree and for a hotel not to recognize that and provide a level of assistance is simply unacceptable. I *barely* would have understood if someone had just taken something out of your room when you weren’t there–that probably happens all too often and hotels are somewhat blasé about that. But this was completely different.

    All those commenters that give you a hard time saying that you get preferential treatment should read this post. And while on the subject, I think you’re perfectly entitled to use your status in the blogosphere in this situation.

  48. What a dreadful situation Ben. I agree with those who have suggested you take this whole affair up to corporate! It’s just incredible, the lack of assistance and the way the management staff at the W handled the situation. And to try to turn this matter on you as if you had something to do with it, instead of the victim that you are is unacceptable. I couldn’t believe the insinuation that ‘maybe’ the creep was a ‘friend’ of yours; reading that made my blood boil. You certainly seem to have handled this much cooler & collected than I probably would have, so kudos! I hope you DO get your basic questions answered!

  49. @Lucky. A couple of things came to mind reading your post and looking at the photos. The photo shows 2 separate charges rang in or out at 1807 and 1857. 2 seperate employees; Daniel and Daniele. The issue is it doesn’t show what time they were signed.

    The Hotel should be looking at the Bartender, the less than helpful duty manager, and the servers.

    Possible inside job. Guests might not want to persue relatively low false charges? Embarrassed
    Always make a police report and demand the police (Tourist Police) come to the hotel and do the reporting in the lobby. Everything in the open. Get copies of the reports ( not common in other countries)

  50. Besides hoping that your mom and yourself will have safe travels for the rest of your journey….

    Go unleash hell on them Ben!!

    Never thought SPG would allow a hotel under them to be…. This unprofessional….?

  51. Hard to believe this was a stalker or a truly targeted robbery.

    It is most likely that it was targeted in that the perpetrator picked your mother out by way of luggage tag or hotel inside man and then got her to give up more info in that first chat than she realized and now remembers.

    Some con men are just really good at manipulating people. That said, I am confused about the timing of the bartab…was that before or after their first encounter and before you went for dinner?

  52. As a women of means who travels alone or with other women at times, this is a very scary,creepy situation. Ben’s first instinct to be terrified for his mother’s safety was spot on. Thanks to miles and points I stay in the finest hotels when I travel. What is the number one amenity I value at these hotels? Safety. That I won’t be robbed, stalked, bothered, burgled, raped, murdered….the list goes on. There are several elements that lead one to believe this is more than pick pocketing and may well be an inside job. It is truly frightening that this man was able to show up at Mom’s hotel room door ,knowing Ben had left the hotel, and asking Mom to leave with him. I know that your Mom is embarrassed, but that was quick thinking and very smart to get him out of the room by offering to go down stairs with him. Thank you for sharing your experience. I also will not be staying at the W Barcelona. By the way The Arts Hotel Barcelona is very good and service is excellent.

  53. When my mom’s purse was stolen at the Bilbao train station, one of the courses we pursued was to look in all the surrounding trashcans (in the hopes that he took $$ and tossed what remains). The police eventually called and said they found the purse on a nearby street. Thankfully, her passport and rosary were still inside. Just the money was gone.

    Anyway, just the tip about checking garbage cans for anyone following this. I realize you’re long gone from BCN, Ben, but I wish you and mom the best.

  54. Hi Ben,

    Horrible thing to happen to you and your mum on a special trip.

    In trying to piece things together and help you work out when the purse was stolen. Did your Mum keep her room card in her purse? If yes she must have still had it when she went back up to the room and it seems like he saw the purse when he used the bathroom and just took it then. More opportunist and take what he can on that one quick visit which it seems is what he was working towards with chatting to your mum.

    He could have got useful information from talking to your mum. From your posts we know you went out to dinner with friends. Did she mention this to the guy. She will have mentioned you by name and he could have got your surname out of your mum in conversation thus having your name for the drinks.

    Long post but I think you are reading to much into the premeditated part. It sounds very much like a well planned confidence trick that probably happens on a daily basis in every major tourist city in the world.

  55. Ben, I am sorry that you had to go through this and that your Mom was subjected to this sordid episode. If it was me, and I had a blog with the readership you have, I would be going on a digital jihad against the hotel, against Starwood Corporate and any one else who would listen. Tweet about it, yell from the rooftops on Facebook and flood Instagram. Dont shrug this off. Time to dig your heels in and demand answers. Family comes first. Always

  56. Many of the posters have already emphasized following up with Starwood, so do that. It might also be beneficial to still contact the police department there. First, they *have* to deal with this sometimes in a tourist town so I can’t imagine taking a phone report is new. Second, if this is something more nefarious, then reporting it may help save someone else.

    I can add that I experienced a similar series of events in the late 1990’s in Amsterdam when traveling with a team of business colleagues. It happened to one of our female members but I was also targeted. In that case, the “guy” did get into my room as well and got a laptop before he was discovered. What he didn’t know was we were there to meet with Sr police officials concerning a large conference and senior US delegates. However, the hotel (Novatel) acted the exact same way you described your events. Due to our police contacts, we were able to also determine that the hotel never informed law enforcement (required in Amsterdam) and it later turned up in the investigation that it was a small ring working with hotel staff. Could be the case here too.

    Keep us up-to-date as this does cover the unfortunate circumstances that do sometimes occur and can help travelers be better prepared to handle them when/if they do happen.

  57. Man, I thought I got it bad when my iPhone was stolen in Barcelona. I’m very sorry for what happened to you and your mom. For some reason, BCN is littered with scam artists and thieves that locals are pretty numb to it. I got the same exact apathetic response from the hotel I was staying in when I reported my stolen phone.

    I hope you pursue this matter with Starwood so that they can rectify the treatment that you got from the staff at the W.

  58. -As previously mentioned, the person probably parroted what your mother was saying to create a bond and get her guard down (omg we were on the same flight – what a coincidence!)
    -noted the room number and name she wrote down on the cheque
    -went to the front desk to have new cards burned with the limited information he had – i.e. I got my wallet pickpocketed with my I.D. in it, can you burn a new card and cancel the old one (which would explain why you couldn’t get in)
    -sat down to eat in the lobby while waiting for your mom to leave (while charging the food to the room)
    -decided she must have gone to her dinner appointment and went up to the room, first knocking on the door to make sure no one was there
    – when she answered, said he had to use the bathroom in order to go on a recon mission
    I just don’t know how he could have stolen the purse without your mom noticing (if she was standing in the doorway). Maybe he came back while she was sleeping?
    The hotel is trying to cover their tracks because they messed up big time by burning a new key for someone who wasn’t you

  59. I suggest we troll the hotel on trip advisor.We can reduce their rating muah-hahaha..REVENGE YOU F***ing stalker….IF YOU TOUCH BEN,FACE THE CONSEQUENCES

  60. @eightblack please reconsider the use of “jihad” in discussing a situation like this. Like “Hitler” or “Holocaust” references, it’s politically and generally toxic. Thanks.

  61. Ben, suggest posting a summary on TripAdvisor, so a much wider readership knows to avoid this hotel at all costs!!

  62. So sorry to hear about this… I hope they give you more answers than they’ve come up with so far.

    I just cancelled my reservation at the W Barcelona for next month. Someone else can have my business.

  63. It seems a touch farfetched to figure that this was preplanned. Any advance planning would have to be elaborate and detailed, to a degree that seems unlikely. There’s obviously a number of questions in need of answers, among which, is the behavior of the hotel personnel: Evil or Stupid?
    Evil is predicated on this being some form of inside job, and the improbable staff behavior is some form of cya. For instance, if this had happened before, the staff would have to lie, playing dumb, rather than admit to being a pack of incompetent stooges. The cover up, misdirection, and confrontational attitude toward you and your mother was preferable to admitting complacency or complicity.
    Stupid is based on the staff needing both hands to find their butts. The staff really ARE a pack of incompetent stooges. Bad communication, mixed with a healthy dose of perceived infallibility would seem the most likely culprits here. Another possibility under this would be to strongly suspect that they thought you were lying, which would also explain the lack of reasonable response.
    Evil or Stupid? I’m more inclined toward Evil, but only you can decide.

  64. Imagine that…thieves in Spain. The pick-pockets in spain and italy are some of the best, let alone the roving gypsies on the trains and buses. Virtually guaranteed inside job, ASSUMING he didn’t lift something from the purse while having drinks and/or seen the room number on the card they put your access cards in. Perhaps that’ll be the nice thing of using a cell phone to enter the room?? Can’t see how a thief flies in the same cabin as you and decides to rob someone in the cabin. I’d be shocked if a) SPG doesn’t have the offender on film…b) they probably played it slow b/c they knew you were checking out c) hoping enough time passes where the “rolling backup” over-wrote the video of the offender, so if cops do get involved they can just throw their hands in the air d)Agree w/ above poster, hotel security isn’t to help put a black mark on their record w/ corporate…i.e have a theft on their property recorded…in short, I’d escalate if I were you, no question…it may not help you, but may “pay it forward” to future people staying there??

  65. It’s the W, if you asked for a hooker for your room, you would have received super prompt and efficient service. Actual Customer service, not so much. I once had bags stolen off my train in Amsterdam including, my passport, and I was greatly freaking out. The holiday Inn I was staying at granted me a very late checkout (6 PM) for free, so I could take care of stuff, even though I had no status and the issue was absolutely not their fault in the slightest.

    That is good CS when things go bad.

  66. @Lucky, so sorry for this dramatic situation. Did you look into getting Trip Interruption for all the trouble specially flying in to the consulate to get temporary Green card?

  67. What Paul said: “Ben-I would NEVER work through the hotel or hotel security. Their main job is to keep issues like this quiet. ALWAYS call the police and have them intervene.” The manager never had any intention of investigating this, especially since he figured you would have to fly out soon. He has no motive to investigate the problem when it will go away in a day or two all on its own. I also agree with Christian’s take: “Another possibility under this would be to strongly suspect that they thought you were lying, which would also explain the lack of reasonable response.” There are places in your story where any woman would recognize that the manager, security officer, etc. really thinks the woman did something to invite the attack and that it isn’t worth investigating. When they said the crap about the guy coming up in the elevator with your mom, they’re essentially accusing your mom of taking this dude back to her room. Really sorry you guys are going through this…

  68. Sorry to hear you fell for a scam. It can happen, to any of us.

    What is shocking for me the most is not the way the hotel handeled the situation, but the way you did it.
    First, your mom tells you about a ‘new friend’. Did you tell her some information about the usual scams and why ‘new friends’ might be dangerous? Did you inform her that it might be a threat? You are well traveled – you should know all the basic possible scams (you can read about that ether in lonely planet or just google ‘tourist scam city x’ before your visit) by heart by now. Your mom on the other hand might not. It is your duty to inform her.
    Second, your mom tells you that her purse is missing. You shrug it off and go to sleep. Seriously? Her important documents missing that might keep her away from going back home and you go to sleep? I would spend the whole night checking all my stuff 100 times and simultaneously informing all the instances: police, embassy etc. I understand the psychological state and stuff, but first things first: cancel everything! I can’t understand that you informed the hotel for the first time only in the morning: the gm plus the police should have been at the scene (your room) at the moment your mom missed the purse!
    Third, when did you notice the police? What about them coming and looking for fingertips and writing a protocol? While I do realize that police (especially in Spain) will not help you cacth the thieve or regain your stolen things, but you will need the official paper with stamp and signature that documents the robbery.
    Forth, why did you let the people from hotel (managers etc.) wait for the last minute to get back to you? If you want information, well then go get it – stand on the front desk and watch them work on your request. You knew that you have a flight later on, why did you wait till they ‘work on it’ for hours, instead of making sure that they do it? What is more, Spain is known for ‘mañana’ culture – if you want it otherwise, you have to get a bit more effort into it.

    I understand that as you live in 5 star hotels you have different expectacions, but at the end everybody is for himself. I also understand the psychological aspects and feelings behind this – I was robbed, I was scamed, but the way you reacted after the unfortunate event is beyond me.

    Homework for you: read about tourist scams and possible threats so much, till you be laying under your bed, afraid of ever leaving the room. And memorize all of them by heart. And then read how to act in that kind of situations and what to do afterwards. Not everything can be avoided, but the sooner you can recognize that you are in possible threat – the better your chances are.

    Sorry if it sounds a bit harsh.

  69. Ben – publish the GM’s email address. I, and I’m sure all your readers, will barrage him (I assume it’s a man) with emails demanding changes and a personal apology to you. This is absolutely unacceptable. He could have physically assaulted your mother or worse. I’M FUCKING OUTRAGED!

    And I total understand your angry reaction when your mom finally opened the door. I’ve done the sa,e with my kids in scary/dangerous situations many times.

  70. If you look at the reviews on Tripadvisor you will see that there are at least two other reports of thefts at this hotel and one centers at the Eclipse bar. Methinks this could be more of an inside ring.

  71. @kira – don’t fucking blame the victim! In retrospect, Ben has surely learned a ton from this experience, just as I did when I was first scammed. Could he have made different decisions, yes. Does this excuse the hotel – in which he’s a guest – from reacting more professionally and appropriately? Why the fuck would you harp on Ben for what he could have done? You fucking trolls. Easy to make yourself feel superior in the comfort of your home by criticizing Ben’s actions…Jesus.

  72. @seattleeric – I never said that this excuses the hotel. Yes, hotel should have reacted differently. But it didn’t. Things sometimes don’t work the way they should – that’s where a person should take the matters into its own hands and stop relying on others.
    It’s interesting that you call me troll though – I’m far away from being superior in my comfort of my own home as I’ve been traveling non stop for nearly 2 years now, so I’m well aware of the situation that Ben is at. It’s easy to jugde from your own comfort of your home, isn’t it?

    Anyways…

  73. @Seattle Eric Is this how you typically write to others?

    Just as an observation, you may want to substitute some humanity for the profanity.

    I respectfully recommend you avoid this language when corresponding with grownups.

  74. Ben, while I agree the W’s response was very poor you seem hell bent on blaming someone else when its not even clear to us what happened. Where was the purse stolen from? When? The lapse in hotel security may have nothing to do with the theft.
    It certainly wouldnt have been difficult to find out someones room number with a bit of investigation – you see it in movies all the time.
    I think you and your mother need to work out what happened between yourselved rather than spending the rest of your trip sitting around waiting for someone to apologise for something that may well have not have been their fault.

  75. Ok, no one else will say it so I will. This is the order of events:

    1) Your mother met a strange man she took to the bar
    2) He must have read the room number on the bill
    3) He follows her to the room, where uncomfortable, she allows him to use the bathroom
    4) Her purse goes missing
    5) He charges items to the room number, signing your name

    At best, your mother should know better. There’s no-one to blame here but here. All children are taught not to talk to strangers.

    At worst, she probably picked up a hot Spaniard and paid the price, hence why he knew the room number. Sorry, the story is unbelievable. It reads like a bad Grindr hookup.

    She should really be ashamed of herself. Trying to blame the hotel is ludicrous.

  76. MD,
    would any mother traveling with her grown son pick up a stranger especially when they are sharing a room? what kind of asinine thing to utter?
    stop blaming the victim.

  77. @MD I’m very sorry but she’s an old woman who is travelling with her son in the same room. What you’re saying is purely trying to find an alternative theory without putting much thought into what you’re saying.

  78. I can’t quite figure out what happened or when. The actions of the Ben, his mom, and the hotel all leave me scratching my head a bit. I also can’t shake the feeling that there is more to this story than has been revealed so far. Maybe it will come out in the future but until then I’m at a loss.

  79. MD, Lucky already stated that he doesn’t think it’s the hotel’s fault. He was just hoping that the hotel would be more customer- and solution-oriented in dealing with the matter. The hotel to have at least some interest in helping out regardless of fault. Plus, for the record, blame is an unproductive topic when dealing with situations that affect one’s personal safety and sense of well-being happen.

  80. kira, meh this is Ben we are talking about if u have followed his stories you would have picked up by now that he is useless at taking care of himself especially when it means standing up for himself or risking any sort of confrontation or awkwardness I would assume that this is a family trait which lead to this problem to begin with, n ppl who say stuff like u shouldn’t blame the victim well that only applies if you have taken reasonable steps to protect yourself.

  81. was in Barcelona a couple years ago with many friends, 2 stayed a the W on the beach and we had zero problem accessing and using the pool and then going up to their room afterwards. All without room keys.

  82. You’re all missing the fact that a married woman has picked up a strange man in a foreign country who she invites into the hotel for a drink. It’s rather pathetic you’re all making her sound so innocent.

    So what if Ben was sharing the suite with her? That does not make her innocent.

    I would like to know how Ben’s father feels about the situation.

  83. But seriously, how the W handled the situation was arguably worse than the actual incident. They just stalled until you had to leave. Their service sounds awful.

    I wish I had a W Barcelona reservation to cancel.

  84. The more I think about this, the more I fall into MDs camp. What was Ben’s mother thinking when she agreed to go to the bar with a complete stranger? Even if it was perfectly harmless, her unawareness of the optics of the situation is staggering.

  85. Unfortunately I think you were targeted. When you post large aspects of your life online, it makes it all too easy to exploit that. I know of two other bloggers (albeit outside of travel) who have both been targeted based upon details they have posted online. (One burglary, one theft at a conference).

    The fact that this guy knew too many things about you that couldn’t just be coincidence makes me think it was something to target you. If he knew your name, he easily would have gotten the room details. You are travelling in premium cabins, staying in suites etc, your details will be out there on one of the many hidden forums used to share information that is usually used for cyber crime, but in this case it may well be stretching in to theft in person as well. Unfortunately the actions of your mother (and I mean that in the being pleasant to people way) made it a very easy task for them,

    It is pretty scary the amount of information that criminals now collate on people having been to a police seminar on it a few months ago. Sadly I think you were a victim of this, rather than an opportunistic crime. Be careful what you post and try not to make it too easy for them. Most importantly, stay safe and enjoy your travels.

  86. may be it’s just me but when i go on vacations, i often start chatting with other vacationing strangers. complete strangers they may be, i sometimes share a beer or two at a sitting. was i trying to pick any of them up? no. we all get carried away in a relaxed, vacationing mode.

    there is not a hint or suggestion that the mom was trying pick anyone up. yet, you are insisting on it.

    what is your motivation for making such accusation? this is so rude. you don’t go to someone else home and throw unfounded insults at his family member, especially the mother.

  87. How disgusting we humans can be. Awful thing to happen to anyone mate. I would say it’s an inside job. So badly paid in Spain for hotel work so more than likely splitting the $$&.

  88. Why is it so rude? If it was his father and a young female Spaniard this would be a totally different conversation, right?

    The video is exploitative, if your mother was such a victim why would you film her telling the story to camera? Notice she doesn’t even mention letting him in the room?

    As Judge Judy says: “If it sounds unbelievable, it probably is.”

  89. Sorry to hear about your experience. I echo everyone’s thoughts at the relief and both you and your mom and fine and unhurt. Money, green card, DL, etc., can all be replaced. A few specific suggestions:

    1. If you are still in BCN, contact tourist police immediately. Have them search the nearby trash cans for the discarded purse. Very often, conmen are only interested in cash, jewelry etc. Literally within minutes, they would toss everything else that can tie them to the theft: purses, IDs and like.

    2. FWIW, request the hotel to search the trash cans on its own property.

    3. Stop worrying about how the guy got your room number. Truth is, it is not that hard. I have done it myself when visiting friends (though not in BCN) just by asking nicely, with no inside connections. Could have observed your mom charging the beverages to her room. As for the elevator access, he could have tail-gated anyone.

    4. Your mom could have told a few tidbits about you. It is amazing how many dots google can connect!

    5. Whether probable or not, it would be wise to proceed as if someone is stalking you. At least for the time being, you should stop posting live trip reports and future travel plans. Only publish reports after a trip is over. That’s really all that your readers need.

  90. @ David — She had opened the door already, at which point she felt scared. So she figured it was best to “comply” while leaving the door open the entire time and insisting they go downstairs. Of course in retrospect she should have looked through the hole in the door.

  91. @ MD — He paid for the drinks in cash, not her. And he showed up at the door ~20 minutes after she returned to the room. And he showed up at the door AFTER he fraudulently charged stuff to the room. And yuck.

  92. I’ve stayed in the W in Barcelona and the service was absolutely terrible, without me having an experience even close to yours. I’d always stay in the Mandarin or Ritz-Carlton (The Arts) in future.

    Sorry to hear it was so unpleasant for you.

  93. I’m too lazy to read all the comments or for that matter evaluate the prospect of him evaluating your Emirates seating arrangement. Just focus on Starwood’s abysmal handling of the situation.

  94. Hi Lucky, I’ve been reading your blog for a while, and the first thought that came into my mind after reading this post, was that all he would have to do to find out all this information, is to follow your blog very closley for a while! But on the other hand it would also have to be an inside job for him to be able to get you and your dear mother’s room number.

  95. It’s nothing more like the standard con that you can encounter anywhere, just like people have already said probably done by more than one person. Normally at least one man and one woman. And in glitzy places like the W and at hotels where tourists will be leaving soon it probably happens even more than average. People simply are not wary enough of the possibility that someone intent can be to rob you.

    First mistake is the drink/talk at the bar, the second and major one letting someone in the room.

    I can see the point in the reluctance for the hotel to handle it. And although they could have been a lot more sympathetic if you let someone into your room voluntarily all bets are off. They just rent you a room, they are not responsible for who you invite in and what happens after that.

    And for all the blog comments…. do you really think that’s an efficient way to steal a purse, really…. These cons happen to lots of people everyday, the con men and women simply know how to listen and social engineer details out of you. No blog needed.

    A very bad experience none the less, that could have gone far worse.

  96. @ AAExPlat — He charged stuff to our room before I went to dinner/before he showed up at my mom’s door. We didn’t have any sort of Emirates luggage tags, and didn’t have checked bags.

  97. @ Msv — Those weren’t my signature. They were the ones forged by the guy, which look nothing like mine.

  98. @ J-D — Yeah, that’s the tricky part of blogging. He definitely could have figured most of this out by reading my blog. I guess that’s the downside about being so open about my life here.

  99. @ Gail — She hadn’t checked during that time period. She knew she had it before, but only checked again whether it was in there early the next morning, after thinking about it overnight.

  100. @ Tom — Don’t think she was drugged. She just had eagplugs in because we were on the floor below the night club, so were told it would be quite noisy.

  101. Lucky, so sorry you are going through all of this. Sounds like your mom was definitely targeted. I have had friends involved in similar situations, but I won’t bore you with the details. Unfortunately happens everywhere including numerous locations in the USA. As some other people mentioned, at the end of the day, as long as there is no violence it becomes just another memory and learning experience (which will thankfully fade away over time). My only criticism is :
    ” (I didn’t have data on my phone, so I only got these texts upon returning to the room) ”
    As one who often travels with teenagers (etc.) internationally we always have a “contact plan” in place. (which means everyone has texting ability, even if there is no data available for iMessage or WhatsApp) There is no good reason why you do not have the ability to receive texts (SMS) while out and about globally. IMO, having data/text globally is the “cost of doing business” when you travel the world frequently. You cannot rely on always having wifi. At minimum, people should be able to get a text (SMS) to you anywhere in the world at any time (of course, considering limitations if you happen to be somewhere that has no cellular service). Be safe, and I hope you continue to enjoy your trip with your mom.

  102. Hi Lucky,
    I hope everything will turn out for the better. It’s always incredible how smart these a$$holes scam people can be.
    However, going through your report there are some inconsistencies which obfuscate a bit the whole story. You wrote earlier that while your mum was at the bar (chatting with the scam guy) you were working in your room; then she returned to the room (later than you expected), told you the story, and at 7:30pm you left for dinner. Later however you write that you were both at the bar between 6:00 pm and 7:15 pm when the two fraudulent charges happened. So when exactly was your mum talking with the stranger? Did it happen before 6:00 pm? It’s just that from your story it seems you were in your room when the fraudulent charges happened, not in the bar.
    Or did the first encounter between your mum and the guy happen earlier in the afternoon, and then you and your mother both went to the bar, the guy was there (assuming he did the 2 fraudulent charges) but for one hour your mom did not notice him? It would help to have a clear timeline of events!

  103. What a shame. It’s easy for everyone to Monday morning quarterback, and definitley everyone wants your mom to be safe, but she was the victim targeted by a criminal. I hope she’s not taking it too hard. Maybe it was just the moment for something to happen, and all things considered she is ok, you are ok, etc.

  104. Looks like the hotel was stalling by not following quickly up on your initial report, especially since they knew you were heading out later that day. Suspicious they did not encourage you to contact police. I assume the hotel GM and head of security will probably be able to brush such events under the carpet and keep thereby keep unfortunate incident quota down (and their performance bonus intact?). If police is called the hotel GM and head of security would have to make a report of the incident.

  105. I personally don’t think the thief knew about your blog or he would have spelled your last name correctly. In the receipt it looks more like Schapeng (Schaponk?). He probably was a scam artist that sticks around hotels and picked you as a target. He got your information from the conversation with your mother or overhearing you at the hotel bar. The managers of W should really be more concerned about this.
    Like others have already said, you better only blog about past events for your own safety.
    I hope you and your mom are fine now. Best wishes.

  106. I think one of your blog readers is very malicious. It makes sense, he knows your seats, awesome obsession with Singapore Airlines, and what your mom looks like. He probably found went to the front desk and told them that he was you, and that’s how he got a key card. No matter what it’s creepy, but I think it was a reader!

    -Roberto

  107. The W Barcelona has an appalling attitude toward safety. Suggesting a police report be delayed indicates a coverup. It’s too bad because Barcelona is otherwise a great city.

  108. @kira – I apologize for my outburst. I understand now that you were simply taking an objective view of the situation. Let’s just say thatBen’s experience hit close to home for me and brought up a ton of emotion that I, unjustly, released onto you. That wasn’t fair. Again, sorry for the name calling.

  109. @ Baccarat Guy: There is a problem with the iPhone system that sends messages as”imessages” (blue) instead of actual SMS messages (green). If the recipient of the message has data roaming off they will not receive these “imessages” until wifi is active. And a good wifi connection at that. Sometimes the iPhone can show 3 bars of wifi but data might not be moving.

    An iPhone user who sends a message to another iPhone user must “send as text message” to get a message send through the SMS system. Many people, certainly inexperienced travelers, do not know about this little detail. So for anyone who really wants to send an important message, make sure it’s sent as a SMS text (green), though it will cost money without an international SMS plan.

  110. Sometimes the simplest explanation is often overlooked. Meeting others when travelling is one of the most rewarding parts of gallivanting around the world. However the number 1 lesson is never trust some anyone who approaches you near a 4 star + hotel, or tourist spot. It is much easier to meet people slightly off the beaten track . The scammers are all at the nice hotels and tourist attractions, the normal inquisitive locals are leading their lives elsewhere (same as America).

    This is a common scam, and things like mentioning Singapore Airlines are just a coincidence;
    1) Virtually no one who flies first class, or who is a commerical pilot goes around stealing old ladies handbags.
    2) Singapore Airlines has been a top 5 airline for many years. An american or German is unlikely to fly them to Barcelona, so is just an easy made-up story that sounds fancy and plausible.
    3) Your mom prob mentioned your first name to him, and he got your surname from the bar tab, or front desk.
    4) The front desk of a hotel isn’t exactly a bank, and will pass on all sorts of information to anyone who asks nicely.
    5) Spain is somewhere between developing country and first world. You can’t compare service in America, to service in Spain (56% youth unemployment, dysfunctional government services, etc). Barcelona is notorious for scams, doubtful the hotel has the time to investigate each one, if any.

  111. Its more likely an inside job….something similar happened to me during my WEDDING! at a Holiday Inn overseas….money were taken from my pants in my room (stupid me didn’t use the safe but that can be unlocked by employees I guess )….Is there a better time to rob a room while the groom is busy dancing at his wedding??…..Pathetic.

  112. Wow, inexcusable the way the hotel handled this. It’s important that your mom understand this is in no way her fault. Better to be open and trusting than jaded and cynical, I hope she doesn’t let this damage her outlook. Yes you have to be careful, but one of the best things about travel is all the interesting people you meet along the way. I agree it would have been better if she had called security or the police right away, but it is what it is and she feels bad enough without having to second guess her actions.

    Aww…I’m really sorry to hear this happened Ben, hope you guys can make a quick recovery and enjoy the rest of your trip. And meet some great people to help reaffirm your faith in humanity a little.

  113. Lucky, I’m so sorry to hear about this ordeal, but I think you’re being a tad naaive.
    It is quite obvious your mom is not telling the entire story, as most elderly people would’ve done, fearing a rough reaction.
    There’s no excuse whatsoever for the hotel’s behaviour, but still, despite the fact I’m certain your mom told you it’s ok to cover this in the blog, I’d NEVER ever drag my folks and embarrass them in public like that.
    Just sayin’…

  114. Just rereading this post again and feel very sorry this occurred during your trip — especially with your mom! I recall the time when someone cancelled your flight a few years ago and from then on you wouldn’t publish any of your flights (except inaugurals or what not.) I recall you stating you’re flying to BCN at some point but I don’t think you mentioned on your blog that you were staying at the W Barcelona.
    Nowadays, whenever I meet a stranger and get an odd gut instinct, I’d always do a selfie with them at some point during the conversation. If anything, it’ll be evidence as to who I was with in case I need it in the future. I doubt your mom does selfies (yet) but it’s just an idea.
    do you think there was an accomplice?
    Anyway, at least both of you are safe now. Hope you both enjoy the remainder of your trip!

  115. A couple of comments.

    First of all I’m glad mom is ok. Frightening experience for her and difficult for a son to know his beloved mom was scared like this. In a few days, it will get better.

    Playing detective…I can guess how he got your information. You said you had gone to the bar on this trip with your mom and your charge was a fraction of the room charges presented at check out. Well, I’d bet that he was in the bar too at that time. And he overheard you two talking about your trip. You would have just gotten in, you’d be reviewing it together, etc. And when you charged your purchases, he overheard a room number or saw it on the slip the server had. So, not a reader of this blog, but someone very opportunistic and clever who picked up on a bunch of clues by innocent actions on your part and those working at this hotel.

    Also, a comment, that “purse” in American means what other countries call a handbag. I’m assuming that what was stolen–you called it a purse–in American would be a wallet. So her wallet (her purse) was stolen at some point from her handbag (American=purse).

    I’m very disappointed at the W’s reaction in not being helpful and sympathetic with your experience. I’m not over fond of their brand, and their lack of caring with this horrible experience, simply reinforces that for me.

  116. @ alastairdeacon — To clarify, we went to the bar after my mom went to the bar with the guy, where he paid for the drinks in cash.

  117. Dear Ben,
    I am sorry to hear about your highly dissapointing and frustrating experience at the W Barcelona
    with your family member
    In my 30 years of experience on the road my perception early on is the hotel in efforts to limit its risk exposure certainly made some mistakes in how they handled the situation regardless of the events that took place in which led to the unfortunate series of events that you and your family member experienced

    I would be willing to reach out for you to the appropriate corporate parties @ Starwood at the top level should you not already have the network of contacts to turn too
    Feel free to reach out to me should you wish to do so and best of luck in putting this behind you and getting the proper apologies and resolution to the situation in which to move on.

    The hotel is in serious need of training in handling not only the matter which occurred to you and your family member but so that future travelers are safer and handled more appropriately at all points of contact going forward.
    Safe Happier Travels
    Best Regards
    DW
    Hyatt Hotel Ambassador @Flyertalk.com

  118. I found the best and quickest way to get assistance from a hotel is Twitter. It usually is under 15 minutes especially the W. It appears to me he wanted her out of the room so a second person could go in undisturbed for whatever evil reason. Was the room key in her purse? I suspect another employee in with this stranger. Just my theory. I hope your mom is not traumatized

  119. Wow. Just read this ow in 2016. While I agree the hotel seems to have handled this situation poorly, the fact of evolution matter is that the hotel didn’t do anything wrong as I can tell. Ben’s mother was innocently and naively foolish and got scammed, and Ben was furious and determined to blame someone for this episode–and so the hotel is getting the brunt of that fury.

    Yea, the hotel didn’t smooth things over as much as I’d have liked to see, recommending that Ben contact the police, perhaps…but the hotel also didn’t do anything wrong that created the scam or the fraudulent charges. Whether or not any hotel employees were involved is not something easily determined…and certainly something better ascertained by the police and not by the hotel itself as almost anyone would or should know. That being said, if the scam didn’t involve hotel employees at all, which is entirely possible, the hotel couldn’t have done a whole lot other than to apologize that it happened.

    It feels like Ben got pissed that this happened and then blamed the hotel for it happening. Being pissed that the hotel didn’t do more sounds fair until you think about what was the hotel supposed to do? Other than call the police, there is nothing the hotel could have done.

    Scapegoating is an easy thing to do in the heat if a moment. I believe Ben did that here, I’m sorry to say.

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