Starwood Corporate Now Involved In W Barcelona Investigation

For those of you not up to date on the saga of my mom getting robbed/lots of creepy stuff happening at the W Barcelona, here are the previous posts:

It goes without saying that I’ve lost faith in this hotel. It’s one thing if you have an apathetic duty manager. It’s another thing if you have an apathetic director of rooms. But when the general manager is possibly the most apathetic of all, that tells you all you need to know about the hotel.

To clarify, while I’ve vowed never to return to the W Barcelona, this doesn’t impact my love of the SPG brand otherwise, because I don’t think what happened at this hotel is in line with the values of the chain.

I’ve spoken to Starwood Consumer Affairs

This morning someone emailed me from the executive consumer affairs department, and I had the chance to speak to her on the phone this afternoon. I explained to her my side of the story, including what was most disappointing to me, and she jotted everything down. She apologized for the situation and promised an investigation was being done to figure out what happened.

Anyway, I figured I’d briefly post about this, since I do appreciate that Starwood Corporate is taking the situation very seriously, and you can bet I’ll share any updates from them here. While I’ve lost any faith in the hotel’s interest to figure out what happened, I’m confident Starwood Corporate wants to know what happened.

I’ll post an update as soon as I know more.

We did file a police report

I also wanted to clarify one further point, since I realize I wasn’t clear about this in the previous posts.

We had a flight out of Barcelona at 6:50PM, and did end up filing a police report at the airport.

Barcelona-Police

That process took just under two hours, which almost caused us to miss our flight. But the police at the airport were absolutely lovely, and the whole episode was actually kind of cute.

There was an adorable older Spanish police officer, and then a translator. My mom explained the whole story to her, she translated to him, and seeing his reaction was priceless.

So a police report was filed before we left, and I forwarded the case number to the hotel’s director of rooms, per her request when we had met at the hotel.

Why didn’t we file a police report right away? On one hand hindsight is 20/20, on the other hand I’m not sure what it would have accomplished. Again, we don’t have any hope of recovering what was lost, so the main reason we needed a police report was so we could show it at the US Consulate to explain why my mom’s Green Card was lost. My only concern at that point was figuring out how the security breach happened in a hotel so it doesn’t happen again, as opposed to actually recovering the Green Card/purse, the chances of which are slim to none.

Bottom line

I’ll have more updates soon, hopefully. And in the meantime thanks to everyone for the interest, support, kind words, and recommendations. It’s much appreciated!

Comments

  1. PSA. Personal safety and security always starts with you. (Coming from someone who has been mugged in Russia)

    SPG can’t prevent people from entering the hotel. (Unless known criminals)

  2. Lucky,

    It’s indeed the right thing to do. Reporting to the police is to have a record of what happened no matter how much hassle and the outcome is. It is to prevent similar things happening in future. If it’s an inside job, it will alert the culprits that you are not giving up so easily and see justice served. That’s why they target tourists in the first place. They know tourists will not go all the way and even never bother to pursue the case. If petty crimes in my country are reported by victims occasionally, serious crimes like murders and rapes will not even surge.

    Paul

  3. Hello Ben, I am glad your preferred status with the chain and your notoriety as a travel blogger helped moved this issue up the corporation.

    I know some other posters expressed some level of envy over this but I believe the things you have stated you would have liked security and management to do and examine, would be beneficial to all future guests, such as how did this individual get access to room floors without a hotel key, or perhaps why identification or a valid room key isn’t required when ‘guests’ are making charges to the room.

    Unfortunately, unless your mom unwittingly gave information to this person without even being aware of it (kind of like how charlatans do ‘cold readings’ ), I think that either YOU have a stalker…or perhaps as someone mentioned, there is an insider at the hotel that gives an accomplice names of folks who on the surface, look like ‘big fish’.

    I hope that you and your mom have some resolution on this issue. I feel so bad that your kind gift to your mom (whom I can tell you adore) ended with a sour note.

  4. If my $50 UA flights hold (Lol), I will definitely stay away from that hotel. Its too bad because it looks to be in a prime location, and that view is incredible. All this is shady and screams inside job. I always say, where there is money to be made, someone will figure out how to make it.

  5. Danny:

    As someone whose been to BCN a dozen times, the W isn’t an ideal location. It’s a FINE beach hotel, but that’s it…it’s a beach hotel.

    Oh, and it’s a chain hotel in a leisure destination….

    Stay at one of the other handful of solid BCN hotels, not the W.

  6. Wow that’s scary. It’s has to be an inside job. Thankfully she only lost some cash and documents. She might want to do a credit freeze.

  7. Do post on how the entry into the country without a greencard goes. Sounds like your mum does not have a US passport if travelling with that. My sense is that it is better to lose your passport than the greencard. If had the choice I would return to US through one of the better airports (SFO over MIA or EWR) for tricky issues.

  8. Ps one day I’ll tell you what its like to travel back to US without a passport and only a greencard. Oh, my.

  9. So glad to hear you got a chance to file a police report. You don’t file a police report to recover pieces of paper which, of course, is not too likely but to have a clear record that a crime was committed. You don’t want the police or whoever coming back later and saying your mom loaned/sold the creep the travel documents as I’ve actually heard happen to other people. The police report makes everything easier, even simple things like being able to charge back the false charges on your credit card if the hotel tries to bill you for the creep’s drinks.

  10. Wow! What an awful experience for you and your mom. I am traveling to Barcelona this summer and though I considered booking this hotel, I definitely will not. You expect some level of security when staying in a hotel. Sounds like security is not a top priority for this hotel.

  11. I’m glad you got the chance to file a report. I hope Starwood corp does something and that you at least get an apology from the incompetent douche-managers from the hotel. In the meantime, this is a good chance for you to be a bullhorn because this is definitely how that hotel has handled every other crime that’s occurred on their property, and there’s probably been lots. Like I said before, if this is how they handle a crime committed to one of their preferred guests on their property, just imagine how they would treat a random tourist with no status. They’re trying to keep it quiet and hope you go away, but you should make it a point to be a thorn in their side for as long as humanly possible. I hope your mom is doing ok. I know this likely could have happened to my mom too. She’s sometimes too trusting. It’s part of her charm! Gotta love moms!

  12. The hotel should certainly be concerned about outsiders getting access to the guest floors, since key access is required. And it would be so easy for them to look at the security videos and see what happened.

    My bet is that Creep is a regular around the hotel, befriending attractive female tourists, with the intent to take as much from them as he can, one way or another. (Americans do tend to be easy to befriend, especially those of us who don’t live in big cities. We’re nice that way — and naive.)

    If your Mom had gone to dinner with you, your room would have been burgled while you were both out.

    Or, if he was able to connect with your Mom, he would have swindled whatever he could out of her. He probably assumed that she was single, since she was traveling with her son, and would be an easy target. And flying first class and staying in a suite, she must be wealthy.

    I suspect that if you went back to the W BCN today, Creep is in the bar talking to another attractive woman. (Well, maybe not today — he’s probably making himself scarce at the W right now.)

    Your Mom should not feel bad about what happened — it was reasonable for her to expect that she was safe at a major upscale hotel. She was victimized. And she was smart enough to use her wits to get him out of the room and keep herself physically safe.

    I hope this experience doesn’t put her off travel forever.

  13. Maybe if, as a result of the corporate investigation, the GM at that hotel lost his job, or had other severe sanctions imposed, it would wake other hotel GM’s up to the realities of servicing customers appropriately when these types of situations arise. (But of course I’m not holding my breath….)

  14. Thanks for sharing the incredible story. The *Wood Meridien was outstanding in BCN when I stayed a few years ago; I stayed away from the W because there were many bad reviews.

  15. Glad to hear this. I’m a fan of Starwood and have had great experiences at their properties, so this is reassuring (and expected). Still, would never want to stay at the BCN W. Hope your mom is feeling better now.

  16. I know what it is like to lose your property and all the stress that is involved. I lost my wallet on a Qantas flight and I found one Qantas employee who went the extra mile to locate my wallet and ensure it was properly returned to me. That was outstanding customer service by Qantas. Sorry Benny that you didn’t get that at this Starwood property. Shame on them.

  17. I have warned my co-worker about this hotel and sent her the link about your experience. She is going with a bunch of friends to Barcelona for a wedding. I will make sure she shares this info with all her friends so they can all avoid this hotel and remind everyone to be careful while travelling. I wont stay at this hotel when I return to Barcelona either. Thanks for informing us about your unfortunate experience. Main thing is no one got physically hurt. Although, if someone did that to my mom I would have been furious and probably would have gone ballistic.

  18. Hi Ben, my personal experience with issues at Starwood is that they really don’t care. Had Platinum services being rude to me and told “we have a million members, we can’t go the extra mile for everyone or even individuals, and staus doesn’t matter ever” I was astounded. Another time a staff member insisted kindly to mail a letter when I asked for a stamp when leaving a hotel and the U.S. The letter was never sent and cost me a huge hassle and money as it was a check for condo maintenance. They offered me 1000 points and refused to answer emails after that.

    No where near what you are going through, but personally Ive gone with Hyatt, Marriott and Hilton before I ever choose a Starwood hotel. All other things being equal of course.

    Re Marriott, have you ever considered that with Platinum status, and a Marriott visa you get 20 points per dollar spent which with their enhanced transfer ratio to United you basically get 9 miles per $ which is not bad IMO. I often get suites also but not always and tend to have to work at that by calling ahead etc. What do you think? A bit off topic I guess.

    Best of luck

  19. You realize that the US has a consulate in Barcelona. Did you cut your trip short, or were you planning on travelling somewhere else anyway?

  20. @Andrew (SJC), SPG can absolutely prevent people from coming into hotels. Hotels in many cities require an ID and room key or guest list invite to get on the premises. SPG CHOOSES not to do this in order to make more money.

    Hotels should put guest safety first before ANYTHING else and the W Barcelona is clearly failing at this.

  21. Given the number of La Compagnie posts, I’m sure we’ll hear every twist and turn of this drama for the next six months. Every. Single. One.

  22. Glad to hear Corporate is looking into this. Safety and guest security should be of prime importance. Serious security issues should be investigated to get to the bottom of what happened – for all their guests’ safety. The employees who initially handled your case, including the GM, should be taken to task for their apparent indifference and robotic response to a potentially very serious matter.

  23. @ Tom — I called and they didn’t have any availability even for an emergency, while the consulate in Frankfurt did. So we flew there.

  24. @ Levy Flight — Should be interesting! We were originally going to fly separately, but I rebooked so we enter the US together, in case there are any issues.

  25. @lucky I have to ask why your mother isn’t a U.S. citizen at this point? Since you were obviously born and raised here she has to have been here at least 24 years. I can’t help but think this would have made her re-entry easier had it been her passport that was stolen rather than a green card.

  26. @ Mike — Because she’d have to give up her EU citizenship (while I can have both since I was born in the US). She’d rather leave open the option to move back since that’s where all her family is, even though she has been in the US for almost 40 years.

  27. I agree with Paul that this event can help all future guests. The idea that corporate hotel chains might only want to help star bloggers is ridiculous. Lucky’s consistently down-to-earth and honest approach kind of represents what we might expect or feel in a given situation – he never claims to do this, but I suspect a lot of us read the blog in part because we identify with Lucky’s very human approach. A high-profile blog like this can alert businesses to where they need to improve. And we all benefit from that.

  28. Your mom unfortunately was suckered by a con artist. You don’t want to be too controlling, but I would have freaked out immediately if my mom told me she had coffee with a random stranger… Not sure why this passed the smell test when she initially told you.

    As for hotel security, hotels are open places and don’t check IDs of people who enter the premises. In some countries, they have metal detectors but to restrict access to hotel lobbies is like asking the London tube to ask for every traveler’s ID.

    Now the reaction of the hotel is wanting. They should have been reviewing the videos ASAP. Having strangers go up directly to a guest room is highly problematic, and there should be plenty of video stills of the perpetrator.

    Unfortunately, I think your mom gave this thief all the information he needed in the first 30 minutes of her meeting him. I don’t think it needs to be an inside job for him to have your name. Your mom’s room key or room key holder probably was in the purse.

  29. You should stop whining and acting like the W can do much to help. Maybe you shouldn’t blog so much about your whereabouts. You got conned – lesson learned. I hope SPG tells you to hit the road.

  30. Lucky, in regards to your explanation on your moms immigration status about the reasons for not becoming a naturalized US citizen. the US government does not require the beneficiary to revoke their prior citizenship. they just will not ‘recognize’ it.

    While some countries might strip an ex-pat of citizenship if discover the former citizen swore an oath to another nation, I do not believe Germany (assuming your mom is also German) is one of those nations.

  31. Hi keep in mind that the US government collects taxes from all their citizens (see London mayor Johnson) so in case of dual citizenship she would have to pay US taxes even in germany.

  32. Glad Starwood is going to work with you on this and hope they catch the theif.

    The frustrating piece is, I’m sure your mother was not the first person scammed at the W. And i’m sure the other victims, (who’s stories arent being shared in popular travel blogs) were given the same original treatment by management.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad theyre trying to do right by you, but their actions before they knew who you were speaks a lot more highly about the company than any follow up actions they take going forward.

  33. Mike/Martina — I believe the issue is not with US recognition of dual citizenship, but that Germany automatically revokes citizenship upon naturalization in another country.

  34. To those enquiring about citizenship, Germany prohibits the acquisition of a foreign nationality unless one receives a Beibehaltungsgenehmigung(special permission), and there is no guarantee it will be granted. Further info on this is found at the Canadian German embassy web page.

    http://www.kanada.diplo.de/Vertretung/kanada/en/02/citizenship/dual__citizenship.html

    Since 2007, Germany allows for their nationals to acquire Swiss and EU citizenship while retaining their German nationality.

    Children born abroad to German parents whom were born in Germany acquire their parents German nationality and may also acquire a second nationality whether through lineage of the parents or due to the location of birth, such as in the United States.

    http://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/EN/EinreiseUndAufenthalt/Staatsangehoerigkeitsrecht_node.html

  35. Lucky I have no idea why some of your readers are negative assholes. Xavi how about you hit the road. If it happened to you or your mom you’d be furious also. SAfety and security is paramount at all times for guests. Inside job definitely . Hope it all works out and they catch this person / persons involved. CCTV is a great thing.

  36. @Those asking about the loss of a green Card vs a Passport

    Travel without a passport or emergency travel papers is not possible – you will not be able to leave any country (at least via air).

    Travel without a US Green Card to the US is tricky as the airline is tasked with ensuring you will be allowed entry into the US before they fly you there. Without a green card how do you prove that? If you can convince the airline to fly you to the US, I doubt there would be real problem with US immigration as they could “look up” your greed card.

    Having a photocopy or scan of your passport and green card on your phone is a good idea.

  37. Mike Palmer — There is a procedure for getting an emergency “transportation letter” from a US Embassy or consulate if a green card is lost/stolen abroad. That letter allows the airline to carry a passenger without liability.

  38. Lucky, while I am very sorry about this ordeal, I can imagine many hotels would not get too much more involved than the W Barcelona has — after all hotel room theft is much more common than people realize and the hotels manage to protect themselves from too much responsibility for it. But this property seems to just be doing an especially bad job of customer service in the process of disavowing all responsibility.

    The first rule of good customer service is that when the customer is emotional, you have to deal with the emotion before you can deal with the practicalities — so if the customer is upset, you need to acknowledge that before you try to tell them “but there’s still nothing I can do.” And this property has failed thoroughly in that regard.

    I don’t mean to downplay your distress, and I would be very rattled too (and I agree that it does seem you may have been targeted intentionally, which is just depressing). But I’m not sure what else the hotel could practically do.

  39. @Storm, I wonder if the airline would accept a photocopy of the GC. Visiting the embassy/consulate to get emergency papers could be a real pain.

    Also worth noting that in countries that require visas, like China. Getting a new passport from the US embassy is only half the problem. China requires a new Visa in that passport to allow you to leave. Apparently no way to expedite the process which can take a week or more.

    Moral: Keep travel documents very safe and don’t lose them.

  40. @Storm, I wonder if the airline would accept a photocopy of the GC. Visiting the embassy/consulate to get emergency papers could be a real pain.

    Moral: Keep travel documents very safe and don’t lose them.

  41. @Mike

    Thank You for your reply 🙂

    I have some personal experience in this regard since I am a UK citizen by birth, I then became a naturalized Canadian when my family moved there when I was a child and I am now a naturalized USC (my husband is a USC and I entered the US on CR-1 (marriage based) visa. )

    So I know I was not required or forced to renounce my other citizenships. I am required when traveling outside the US to use a United States Passport, especially for re-entry into the US. (although, in my situation I have yet to travel outside the US since becoming a citizen).

    I also don’t see myself as figuratively having to ‘give up’ anything, on the contrary, I feel like i won the lottery.

  42. @Marty

    Comments like the one Xavi made are part of the reason why it wouldn’t surprise me that Lucky would have a creepy stalker. I know the Internet is full of trolls but it’s hard for me to fathom why someone would visit a travel and loyal rewards website for the sole purpose to hurl insults and abuse at the blogger.

  43. Dude,

    You are a seasoned traveller. You make quite a bit of money sharing your experiences in travel with the public. You give us lots of advice on the subject.

    Clearly, your mom is not as seasoned a traveller as you. Why on earth would you let her get into this situation? Why have you not advised her to not let strangers into her room in a strange city? Why are you leaving her alone to meet unsavory individuals? Why are you not advising her on the safe way to travel?

    While I agree with you that the hotel has some responsibility in this, I think you and your mom we share the larger portion of the blame.

    I think it’s time to stop playing the blame game and time to begin accepting responsibility for your own actions.

    Oh and as a elite SPG guest, you should know that Starwood’s customer service sucks…..most especially W. Try a prior luxury brand if you want to be treated well.

  44. I’m so sorry to hear about this episode! Hope everything goes back on track soon.

    What the hotel (a major reputable chain, at that) did was certainly unacceptable. But of all the weird and creepy things that you mentioned, one thing really caught my attention…

    It seems really easy, from my occasional experiences, to purchase things and services at a hotel without an actual form of payment. Just bill it to the room! But, (1) when does the hotel validate the info that you provided? If I stuff my belly with steak and liquor, write “John Smith in 1234” on the receipt, and take off immediately, how easy it is for me to get away with it? (2) how often, if at all, does the hotel validate your identity against what you provided?

    Given that you are such a frequent hotel guest and a security advocate, I’d be really interested to see a post on this topic. #1 above is mostly to understand the operation side of things, as it seems to be a big vulnerability, but #2 is something we all should worry about. It doesn’t seem that hard to get a name to match a room number, so what’s to stop people from putting a ton of shit on your tab?

  45. Peter has valid points and questions. I would like to know how the system works as well.

    But to me the bar charges scream “inside job”. I don’t think it was the con man. Why would he risk his ass over 2 drinks and a burger? He was after bigger fish.

    Two separate charges, two servers. The POS system will show the times the orders were opened and by who. It will also show the times they were closed and by who. The video will show the persons supposedly eating and drinking as well as the servers serving and using the POS.

  46. @Mark. Thinking that Lucky is his mother’s keeper is beyond ridiculous. His mother is a 60 year old woman who has raised children, works at a job, and has traveled at least to Germany and her round birthday trip with Lucky last year. She is not a moron or inexperienced. Blaming her or Lucky for this creep’s actions is beyond stupid, and you know it. You are also being a creep.

    I’ve traveled extensively and one of the things I love doing is meeting new people at the places I visit. Isn’t that part of the reason that people travel? Certainly one of mine. And I’ve had beers with strangers and I can remember a memorable meal with a Canadian girl living in Hong Kong with her Chinese husband and hearing about the cultural differences she had experienced. Fascinating!!

    The fact that Lucky’s mom met some guy and chatted with him and had a coffee in a public place is perfectly normal. It’s called being friendly. Yes, she met the wrong guy, I’ll grant that. He obviously weighed her up and decided she would be a great person to scam. And I’m sure she’s learned from this experience that not everyone is nice or to be trusted. Why, they could be someone horrid like you who picks on women and demeans them and tries to make them feel like shit after they have been terrorized.

    @Mark, you’re total lack of human kindness is shocking. I would bet that your only friend is yourself because you lack any kind of empathy.

  47. One thing for sure is that you shouldn’t be paying any of the fraudulent charges to the hotel. Do not let that hotel bill you for the thief’s room service amount. At least dispute it on your credit card and include a copy of the police report.

  48. Want to make a big impact? Write a negative review on TripAdvisor. Include an executive summary / synopsis of the situation. If that doesn’t make more waves, I don’t know what else will. 🙂

  49. @ Lucky – glad you were able to get your mom all the paperwork necessary for her re-entry into the US. FWIW, Germany requiring to give up citizenship when acquiring another one is stupid.

  50. Hi Ben, I have been travelling all over the world for around 25 years ( about 15 trips a year) and have only ever been robbed once. It was in Barcelona.
    I was particularly vigilant as I had been pre-warned it was a thieves paradise yet they still got me.
    Beware this city!

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