Surprising Conclusion: Did The Child Bandits Steal Something From Our Hotel Room?

Yesterday I shared the bizarre experience I had at the Sheraton Grand London, where three kids essentially forced their way into our hotel room, claiming it was their mom’s room, and then after being in there for a short while alone, they ran. It was one of the most bizarre things I’ve experienced at a hotel, and I wasn’t sure what to make of it. Check out yesterday’s post for the full recap, as it’s quite a story.

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Hallway at the hotel

As I explained yesterday, I was very impressed by the hotel’s initial reaction. The front office manager, Roman, took the situation very seriously, and promised that the hotel would report back to me about what they found out after conducting an investigation. While this situation creeped me out, it wasn’t a huge deal, and I certainly don’t think the hotel bares any responsibility for the situation, as it could happen at any hotel.

Follow-up with the hotel’s general manager

This morning a note was slipped under my door from the general manager, Kieran, saying he wanted to meet and provide me with an update on their investigation. I met with him this afternoon, and he was a really nice guy. Here’s what he said they had discovered after their investigation:

  • While key access is required for the elevators, the kids had snuck into the staircase when someone else opened that door, which is how they accessed the floors with guest rooms
  • They asked one of the room attendants to open a door (claiming it was their room), and of course she refused
  • We were just further down the hallway, which is probably why they targeted us
  • Based on them reviewing the footage, the kids ran right out of the hotel after this incident, and weren’t otherwise seen on camera, so they didn’t seem to be hotel guests; they only spent a total of a few minutes in the hotel
  • The kids had stolen a wireless device in the room (apparently the hotel provides these for guests), and also took some things out of the minibar

sheraton-london-stairs
The door to the stairs is hidden in this wall

That makes me very happy that I reported them. Imagine if I just wrote it off as a prank, and then after the fact they charged me for the mobile device and minibar items, given that they were missing. I feel the explanation of “oh, you don’t understand, when we checked in these kids just walked into our room and we thought it was a prank” works better right away than days later.

Beyond sharing that full summary, the general manager also explained:

  • The hotel is working on installing key access for the staircase, though as he said, there’s no way to stop everyone (you can just get in the elevator behind another guest, after all)
  • They reported the kids and situation to the police, though said that the police likely won’t do anything (understandably they have bigger priorities)
  • They reported the situation to some sort of security network that exists between many hotels, so that other hotels can be on the lookout and aware of the situation

He also apologized profusely, and said he had comped the first night of the stay, and asked if there’s anything else he could do. While that was a very nice gesture, I insisted he undo that, because I don’t think I deserve any compensation in this situation; the hotel truly did everything in their power. He tried to offer something else (other comped charges, a free airport transfer, etc.), though I turned those down.

I just figured I’d mention that in the interest of transparency, since surely my resident peanut gallery will be along shortly to say I was trying to milk the hotel for compensation.

This incident made my impression of the hotel more favorable

I truly believe this incident could have happened at virtually any hotel. There are very few hotels where kids couldn’t get in through a side entrance and quickly make their way up a set of stairs, especially at a hotel frequented by families, where they could have very well been guests. Clearly these were savvy kids too, since they managed to find the wireless device and minibar while in the hotel room for such a short period.

Ultimately it comes down to how a hotel handles the situation. In this case the Sheraton Grand — and in particular Roman and Kieran — did a spectacular job. They took the situation extremely seriously, conducted a quick investigation, and were more apologetic than they had to be.

Roman was gracious, did a personal inspection of the room, and was proactive in getting us a taxi and pushing back our dinner reservation. Kieran followed up and was much more transparent than I would have expected from a hotel general manager, who has a lot of things to deal with.

For a bit of context, early last year my mom was robbed inside the W Barcelona, which was a legitimately horrible situation — her credit cards and Green Card were stolen, etc. While I don’t think it was the hotel’s fault, they couldn’t have been more indifferent. They treated us like crap, like we were inconveniencing them, and did nothing to try and help figure out what happened. The general manager there was even worse. While the hotel is beautiful, I’d never return on principle.

My experience at the Sheraton Grand London couldn’t have been more different.

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Sheraton Grand London exterior

Bottom line

Kudos to the hotel for how they handled the situation. This remains one of the strangest things that has happened to me at a hotel. Given that the kids actually stole some things from the room, I have to wonder if they were just bored kids playing a prank (that went way too far), or if this is some sort of organized thing where people have kids steal stuff, since they look less suspicious. For what it’s worth, the kids seemed like they were just posh brats, and were very well dressed.

Given that they actually stole things from the room, do you think this was just a prank, or…?

Comments

  1. This is good to know. Thanks for sharing this.

    I probably tend to let my guard down a bit once I’m in the hotel, but this is a good reminder to remain vigilant.

  2. Absolutely NOT a prank. They were practiced at this type of operation, and seized the opportunity you provided when their initial scheme (have the attendant let them in to a room) failed.

  3. Well handled by all IMO, very nice gesture of the hotel to offer to comp the night and similarly good for you in refusing. I’ve stayed at this property many times both before and after the remodel/branding and the staff have always been great. I do remember the last time I was there the mobile phone which while I didn’t need it as I have international data I did think it was a nice amenity for travelers that don’t otherwise have mobile data overseas – I also recall that there was a hefty price if they were lost so it’s VERY good they noticed that was taken.

  4. We had a negative experience (entirely not the doing of the Sheraton Park Lane) while visiting in August (also in the Park Suite, btw) and Kieran provided wonderful service in handling it. Very transparent, upfront, courteous and helpful. We generally liked the hotel, but his leadership really makes the property stand out to us.

  5. What did the kids look like (i.e. their ethnicity)? Doesn’t really matter, but I am curious if they were Romani.

  6. @Lucky. That was very nice of you not to have accepted compensations from the hotel, when you felt that they have done everything they could to address the problem. I also like your comment about your “resident peanut gallery”. Very true unfortunately……

  7. @ dr bongo go away you disgusting anti-Semite. Had you bothered to read what he indicated above he turned DOWN offers for gestures of goodwill from the property. Now go run along, David Duke needs you.

  8. @Josh G Romani aren’t Jewish, most have some variant Christian faith or other religious traditions. But yes, it’s completely irrelevant.

  9. What reason did the employee who first encountered the adorable kids provided not to call security immediately after seeing unaccompanied minors trolling the hallway?

  10. I guess they stole this stuff after you walked out and left them in there? I second a previous suggestion to call the front desk from the room. They likely would have run right out when you called their bluff and case closed, no blog posting required. Bring back the news we can use.
    This type of stuff does happen occasionally in the real world, basic watch your surroundings guidance relevant, especially when entering your room.

  11. @ Dr Bongo

    Go hide in your KKK gown. I do not know if Ben is Jewish (not relevant) but given that his dad is German I have my doubts (although Judaism is through the mother). It is an inappropriate smear in any event

  12. Interesting how it turned out. After reading your post yesterday, I commented to my spouse that I would have called the hotel operator/security from inside the room so as not to leave the kids alone in there. Guess I have good instincts (oldest child, former babysitter) or I suffer from having grown up in New York and thinking everything is a potential scam.

  13. Ben,

    Thanks for the post. It’s good for me to get shaken up a bit that real life lurks even if you’re on the vacation of a lifetime. I appreciate reading this type of post as much as your normal fare..

  14. @ Mitch Cumstain
    I disagree, that’s not your usual kids’ prank – confronting adults with such confidence, lying, stealing some staff with the guests right outside the room
    Lucky, your treatment of the hotel staff was quite gracious, good for you. I probably would have accepted some compensation.

  15. I think Ben’s instinct was right to leave the room to contact the front desk. It was the safest option. Better to be safe than sorry.

    He could have made the call from the room as well, but that is more risky given the uncertainty (whose room was it) at that point.

    As Ben alluded to, the last thing Ford and him needed was to be accused of molesting minors (at least I think that is what Ben was alluding to in his original post), and it should be a legitimate concern (sadly) for any adult in the presence of minors.

    For the record, I would have taken the comped night, but then again I can’t expense my travel!

  16. They were probably Gypsy kids. They’re well trained in stealing. This takes it to a whole new level though.

  17. Poor dr bongo. Just a bitter and twisted old queen. What a sad bastard you are.

    Good to know all worked out ok in the end Ben. I reckon these kids are professional thieves.

  18. @ryan @anna: Rom, not Romani. Romani is Italian for romans (citizen or native of Rome). Rom is an ethnicity, most commonly called gypsies, originally from Eastern Europe (including Romania, but not all romanians are roms) but they are nomads, they move from one place to another.

  19. Gypsy kids. My dad managed a restaurant and when the gypsies arrived for dinner, silverware, plates, just about anything not nailed down left with them. I was in a supermarket in Buenos Aires and an older lady asked if I could grab something on the top shelf for her. I noticed a little girl grabbed an older woman next to her and was pulling/ positioning her in front of my shopping cart, and my backpack. I knew something was up, low and behold, my backpack was gone and another women was wheeling her way up the aisle. I caught up to her and grabbed my backpack out of her cart, containing over a grand in camera equipment. The women were pushing 60 old school eastern european, scarves on their heads, floor length dress, thick as tree trunks. I told the manager and we looked around, not a sign of them. They’re clever buggers.

  20. Further to my comment on yesterdays post, I would like to say that security on the whole is not taken very seriously at hotels in the west.

    At any Indian hotel, there is a single point of entry & exit which is enforced for all staff. Security is posted at the entryway on a 24/7 basis to ensure that only those who have authorised entry are allowed in.

    Random kids running around a lobby would also be immediately highlighted by a security officer or other staff, and someone would keep an eye on them.

    BTW, good on you for not taking the compensation!. Up the Peanuts!

  21. I didn’t read comments so perhaps redundant but glad you reported on this and shared it. Had a different read (not unfavorable of you but innocuous overall) from the prior story and this provides a very different picture. Glad we can all be aware of this issue in the future and very happy you had the instincts you did. I think the resolution was ideal given you weren’t charged or inconvenienced but that juveniles didn’t have their lives ruined. Should they get cought they definitely deserve punishment but hopefully they get scared straight so-to-speak.

  22. Your actions throughout the event were well executed. Keeping out of your hotel room could have been an important thing. If the kids claimed foul in the room, a forensics team would be able to refute their story because no DNA (fingerprints nor hair strands) of Ford or yours would have been evident in the room.
    I would put money on the kids being part of an organized gang. They were well dressed so they could blend in to their surroundings. If they LOOKED like street urchins, the first staff member to see them would have alerted security. However, because they looked like they belonged there, their presence was not questioned by the hotel cleaner.

  23. Excellent and very proactive handling by the hotel!!! This is how it should be. And also very reasonable that Lucky did not grab the comps offered.

  24. Surely not a prank. But as you said, good management from the hotel. The Brits are quite good at handling emergencies (start by putting the kettle on and have a cup of tea before doing anything rash 😉

    Have a drink at the Dickens Inn in St Katherine’s Dock to get into the mood ! 😀

  25. Kids looking for a rush. I’d be more concerned someone from ISIS paid some kids to drop off a package and slide it under a bed.

  26. As terrible as it sounds, these kids were professionals and this is a well known problem in major European cities. That is also probably why the hotel took this incident serious right away, because they are aware of it. Glad it all worked out for you. By the way, stayed at the Conrad in London that weekend. Great property.

  27. @Rye

    I knew it was Gypsie kids too, the moment I read this story. I would have known it the moment they barged in my room and I would have tossed them out by their ear. Having said that, being a woman and mother, I would feel less hindered by unaccompanied children, than a man..or in this case two men ( Lucky and Ford) . I could see why they would want to distance themselves and wish to avoid any false accusations of inappropriate behavior.

  28. @Marilyn They tried to get into another room pretending it was theirs and they were locked out. It didn’t work, so they spotted Luck and Ford in the hall and barged in their room after them, claiming it was theirs.

  29. As long as we are doing stereotypes

    They must have been part of the British Nobility. After all the prosperity of Britain and the family fortunes of most of its peerage has come through plundering other nations. Its in their genes to steal. Watch out for your watch if you ever shake hands with Elizabeth.

  30. @John

    ITA I can see why Lucky and Ford, or any man would be in a more difficult situation with strange young boys in their room than a woman, or a family traveling together.

  31. I am also curious about the ethnicity of the bandits. During the month of October when I was in London, multiple times children aggressively approached me with a pumpkin bag half full of money and asked me for money. They were extremely aggressive (even pushing on a young woman’s purse) and seemingly unsupervised. Some patrons did give them money, and those that didn’t were sometimes harassed by the children. (The children were small and cute but would yell “Give me money! I have none! You have; I don’t have!” This happened multiple times in early October, and the manager chased them out. He told me they do this every year in October and December and run to all the shops, hotels, and cafes. He said it is not uncommon for the mother to stand far away and send them to do this, as he tries to speak with the parents and they always watch from afar. These particular bandits I encountered were of Middle Eastern descent.

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