The one word everyone who works in hospitality hates to say to a guest isâ€¦â€Noâ€. We are all trained in fact to never say â€œnoâ€, and to try and accommodate our guests every request or need. But, in the real world there are those rare occasions that one should say â€œnoâ€, one must say â€œnoâ€, and one must absolutely positively scream â€œnoâ€, if the situation requires it.
Here is an actual case in point that hotel front desk personnel may likely experience:
A full service hotel in the greater Los Angeles area received a visit from the Los Angeles Police Departmentâ€™s (LAPD) Vice Division. A plainclothes male vice officer and an undercover female police officer came to the hotel to look for violations of California Law 316 PC:
â€œEvery person who keeps any disorderly house, or any house for the purpose of assignation or prostitution, or any house of public resort, by which the peace, comfort, or decency of the immediate neighborhood is habitually disturbed, or who keeps any inn in a disorderly manner; and every person who lets any apartment or tenement, knowing that it is to be used for the purpose of assignation or prostitution, is guilty of a misdemeanor.â€
Every state in America has a similar law, which makes it a crime to knowingly allow prostitution inside your establishment.
The two officers approached the front desk and asked to rent a room. The front desk clerk asked for a credit card, but the vice officer said he only had cash to pay for the room. The vice officer went on to say, â€œI donâ€™t want to use a credit card, because Iâ€™m here with a prostitute, and I donâ€™t want my wife to find out.â€ This was the â€œbaitâ€ of the police â€œstingâ€, and now it was up to the front desk clerk to say â€œnoâ€, and not allow prostitution inside the hotel.
The front desk clerk clearly heard what the vice officer said (that he was with a prostitute), and knew he wasnâ€™t going to rent him a room. But, the desk clerk did not directly say â€œnoâ€. Instead, the clerk tried to find a more â€œhospitableâ€ way to refuse to rent the room. The front desk clerk knew the vice officer did not want to use a credit card for the room, so he thought he could use this fact to politely deny him a room.
The desk clerk told the vice officer that a credit card was required to rent the room, but that he could pay cash at the end of the stay, if he chose to. The desk clerk said if he did not have a credit card, then he could not rent him a room.
Hereâ€™s what the LAPD vice officer heard: â€œIf you had a credit card, I would rent you a room.â€ Isnâ€™t that what the front desk clerk said? Instead of saying, â€œNo, Iâ€™m sorry, but we donâ€™t allow prostitution in this hotel, please leaveâ€, the vice officer heard, â€œIf you had a credit card, you could rent a room.â€ The vice officer issued the front desk clerk a citation for â€œkeeping a disorderly houseâ€, and left. The desk clerk now has to appear in court to defend his actions.
The desk clerk said later he was confident that demanding a credit card for the room would have foiled this manâ€™s attempt to use the hotel with a prostitute. The desk clerk said if the vice officer had produced a credit card to use, he would have still denied him a room, and would have summoned the General Manager to ask the man and prostitute to leave the hotel. The desk clerk knew NOT to rent the room to a prostitute.
As one can see from this incident, all of the legal proceedings, court appearances, and possible bad press from the sting, could have been avoided with one simple wordâ€¦â€œNoâ€.
Generally, Innkeeper Laws in all states allow hotels to refuse renting a room under these following conditions (amongst others):
- To preserve the innkeeperâ€™s property from potential damage
- To prevent a violation of the law
- To maintain the premises so as to preserve the peace and tranquility of the other guests
- To protect the guestsâ€™ physical safety
- Because of the hotelâ€™s previous bad history with the guest
Â Yes, front desk attendants can say â€œnoâ€ to a guest seeking accommodations if the guest falls under any of the above situations. These situations are very broad, so you can get creative with their interpretation and use them to keep bad guests from renting a room. Just make sure that the belief for denying registration is well-founded and defensible and that potential guests are not being excluded based upon protected class status (e.g., race, gender, religion, ethnicity, etc.)
Front desk managers must train their staff to say â€œnoâ€ when it is appropriate to do so, and tell them you will support their decision to refuse accommodations if they have â€œjust causeâ€. Discuss possible situations that may occur, and how to properly deny service or a room. Hotel managers may also want to contact their hotel brandâ€™s corporate loss prevention or security departments for outside training and help. Similarly, the hotelâ€™s insurance carrier or broker may also provide risk management staff that can help educate and train the front desk team on these matters.
Sometimes, you just HAVE to say â€œNOâ€.
(Todd Seiders, CLSD, is director of risk management for Petra Risk Solutions, which provides a full-range of risk management and insurance services for hospitality owners and operators. Their website is: www.petrarisksolutions.com. Todd can be reached at 800-466-8951 or via e-mail at: email@example.com.)