Conclusion To W Hotel Barcelona Theft

Filed Under: Hotels, Starwood Preferred Guest

While it has been an exciting couple of weeks of travel for me, there’s no doubt the greatest excitement came earlier in the week, when my mom and I stayed at the W Barcelona. My mom had her purse stolen at the hotel with some really creepy circumstances.


For those of you not up to date on the saga, here are the previous installments:

As I mentioned on Wednesday, Starwood Corporate got involved in the investigation, after I got nowhere with the hotel directly. I spoke to someone in Starwood’s Consumer Affairs department again on Friday for a follow up call, so figured I’d share the results of that.

What did Starwood Corporate conclude?

The person I spoke with at Starwood was lovely, and I realize there’s only so much she could do since she’s not actually at the property, and since ultimately the hotel is still independently run.

Here are the “conclusions” they came to with their investigation:

  • How did the guy figure out our room number and my name? They have no clue. The hotel apparently interviewed many employees, and per their investigation, no one leaked that information.
  • How did the guy get up to the 25th floor without a key? He followed two other people into the elevator, which was caught on tape.
  • The hotel accepts no responsibility for what happened (which is correct, I never suggested they were responsible for the situation).
  • Starwood Corporate agreed that the way the hotel communicated with us was less than ideal, and not representative of the brand.
  • The phone calls received shortly after the guy showed up at our suite apparently weren’t from the guy. More on that below.

The most unbelievable part of this whole story

As I said above, perhaps the creepiest part of the story was that after the guy showed up at my mom’s door, there were repeated phone calls to the room, which my mom didn’t pick up. As it turns out it apparently wasn’t him.

Apparently it was the spa. Apparently they have a spa outreach program to try and drum up more business, whereby they basically cold call rooms to see if anyone wants to schedule a treatment.

I’ve had hotels do that before, but in my experience when they do they try to call once and then leave a message.

In this case they called four times in 20 minutes. After 8PM. And didn’t leave a message with any of the calls.

So the rest of the details of their investigation I can believe, but am I the only one that finds it really hard to believe that as a policy the spa cold calls guests after 8PM to try and schedule appointments, and when no one answers they just keep calling? Seriously?!?!?!

Is the hotel’s procedure really to try and get guests to book massages by harassing them repeatedly? I just can’t get over that, and it seems like too much of a coincidence, given the timing.

My takeway

I still don’t get what happened. The guy presumably stole my mom’s purse at the bar. But if that was the case, why did he later show up at my mom’s room? Thinking of the possibilities, it seems like we may have gotten off easy this time. My mom was shaken by the whole thing, but I think it was also a great learning experience for both of us.

I appreciate Starwood’s investigation. My feelings towards the chain haven’t changed, though you can bet I won’t be returning to any SPG property in Spain, since the general manager of the W Barcelona is also the SPG area manager for Spain, and I wouldn’t want to contribute a dime towards his bottom line.

But I really, truly can’t wrap my head around the spa supposedly calling my mom four times in 20 minutes to try and see if she wanted to make a spa appointment. That’s so unbelievably unprofessional… and I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I felt like that part of it smells like a cover up to me.

Bottom line

As I mentioned from the beginning, I wasn’t looking for any compensation/gesture of goodwill. Starwood asked if they could do something nice for my mom, which I rejected. Again, we genuinely just wanted to figure out what happened, and nothing more. Personally I’d like an apology email from the general manager for the way he and his staff communicated with us, but based on how dismissive and arrogant the team at the W Barcelona seems to be, I highly doubt that’s happening.


But I appreciate Starwood Corporate trying to step in and help.

Would be curious to hear what you guys make of this!

  1. Ben. Probably the best take away for you and all of us who travel a lot is do not be too comfortable / over confident / casual in the security of hotels. Even in the best it is still wise to remember they are – usually – large, public areas that attract all sorts of people and even your room is a space that people (employees) have some level of access to.

    I have many friends In the Hotel game who have told me stories like this and they happen with frightening regularity in most parts of the world,

    There will always be people out to scam people visiting foreign cities and you always need to have your guard up, however slightly, whilst trying to be as open as possible without becoming too cynical.

  2. Very suspicious! Is this cold calling a Spanish thing or W thing? I’ve stayed at luxury hotels and have never gotten any calls like this. I remembered once at the Park Hyatt Seoul the manager tried to reach me to see how my stay was going but he couldnt reach me by phone so left a note card with some fruits on the table.

  3. My husband and I are sitting home…running thru the possible scenarios.

    How ’bout the following:

    Your Mom’s wallet got stolen while you guys were in the bar.

    The room room number was probably gained via a hotel/bar/management employee…the same one who fraudulently charged the room for the extra drinks.

    You were probably overheard mentioning that you were leaving the hotel for dinner and it was assumed that your Mom would be joining you.

    A hotel employee…duty manager/security manager…provided a pass key to the dude who went up to the room to rob it while you were away at dinner.

    When he knocked to be sure, he was shocked to find your Mom in the room and made a quick story re: the bathroom & dinner date.

    Who is reporting that the video shows the dude tailgating other guests into the elevator? If it’s the same employee who’s in cahoots…duty/mgr, security mgr…it could be a cover story for the fact that the dude had a pass key and used it to access the elevator.

    The dude or employee called the room several times after the surprise visit to see if your Mom did finally leave the room. Maybe they got cold feet and didn’t feel like risking another encounter.

  4. While you say this post is the “Conclusion,” I highly doubt this is the last we’ll hear of this episode.

  5. Did you credit card cover a financial loss from stolen purse? I know Amex Plat, for example, supposedly covers such things if happened at a hotel booked with Amex Plat.

  6. It sure seems like the fix is in. I have to give you props. I’d be a lot less reasonable than you’ve been. Maybe to make some good come out of this, you could do a post on document replacement or good security procedures.

  7. I think what I take away from this regardless of who is at fault or responsible for your general safety and security at a hotel is the lack of compassion and guest respect
    While we all understand this is not to say that every Starwood hotel treats guests this way
    it’s simply good to know that this how this Starwood property does and the region under that same management
    What if a rape occurred? Yes it happened to my female family member at a hotel
    I wouldnt want to be around that horrendous

    Arrogance and contempt for guests are not part of the expected guest experience
    I am willing to pay for and support.Compassion kindness and and a caring polite team
    That is what is what i expect
    I had a marvelous and memorable stay at the Hotel Arts years ago and that’s exactly where I would return too when in the area
    If I had been the GM of the hotel I would have refunded your stay under the circumstances or put the appropriate amount of points in your account long before your case landed in Consumer Affairs out of heart and guest respect if proven the guest is a stand up customer of the brand and program
    Brand damaging to W IMHO and the region

    I won’t be staying in Starwood hotels within Europe period and have generally thought of the business culture there somewhat tainted/ evil compared to the Asia Pacific/Australia region where Starwood shines
    My 2 wonder cents 🙂

  8. Ben,

    In my experience each GM has his/her top priorities. For some, it’s corporate brand standards, Forbes standards, cleanliness, food service, personal service, just pure bottom line, etc. I get the impression that guest security just isn’t that high on this particular GMs list of priorities and the staff knows it.

  9. I wonder if anyone questioned the staff members in the spa who are tasked with cold calling? That explanation definitely does not pass the smell test.

  10. Cold call after 8pm in Spain? They were calling before you went out for dinner… I’d chalk that one up to cultural differences.

  11. This is a lot like the story when you lost your bag. Lotta drama, but really not much of a story.

    I don’t know what you expect the hotel to do, they can’t be held responsible for theft. I hate to say this, but your mom should’ve never let that person into the room. What was she thinking?

    Again, lot of drama for nothing. And not sure what you expect the hotel to do.

    Be aware of your surroundings. Lock your doors. Be done with it. And don’t leave your mom alone so you can have dinner with your friends.

  12. …forget assigning *blame* for the theft.

    I’d simply never stay at a property which was so indifferent to a plight of one of their guests, let alone one which held top-tier loyalty status. And then when addressed directly, they only compound the misstep by feigning indignation.

    What a customer service embarrassment.


  13. And not sure what you expect the hotel to do.

    Do what they said they were going to do within the timeframe they said they were going to do it. Did you not read his post?

  14. Perhaps the thief was going up to the room to steal more valuables like jewelry/electronics.

    The hotel is responsible for the fake room charges. It’s hard to believe that some think the hotel is completely innocent here.

  15. The phone call explanation sounds believable to me. 8pm is not late at all by Spanish standards. It’s quite plausible someone might want a quick spa treatment before heading out to dinner at 9 or 10pm. If no one answered the person doing it probably just figured there was no one there and that they’d try again a bit later on. So I wouldn’t read too much into that.

  16. I don’t find the spa calling 4x in 20 minutes particularly strange, considering none of those calls were picked up. They assumed no one was in and tried a few more times hoping to catch you. I’m not commenting on whether it makes sense in the context of the whole story, but by itself I find it believable.

  17. I don’t agree with them when the W Barcelona say they claim they are not responsible. They are responsible for having security equipment and protocols in place for their guests. If security is easily breached due to negligence of some sort they would be responsible, at least partially.

    What I find suspicious; how can he tailgate to a specific floor so easily? He would have to hang around in the lift for a long time to get to the floor he specifically wanted. If someone is hanging around in lift for a while should that not arouse security?

    I think you should consider placing this information on Tripadvisor, since it is possible the W hotel Barcelona is a more dangerous place than one might think. Other travelers should be made aware of your experience. When the GM is apparently indifferent to guest safety it should be on Tripadvisor so other guest can take extra precaution.

  18. Sounds like maybe someone high up at Iberia may be moonlighting as the W Barcelona GM. I haven’t travelled nearly as extensively as many who read here, but if you made me play word association for “aggressive indifference in the hospitality industry,” I would say “Spain”. There are excellent pockets and exceptions especially as you get out of the big cities, but some of this seems to just be par for the course. We stayed at the Palace in Madrid, though, and it was very nice, although we didn’t really need very much, so maybe this GM’s reach isn’t too pervasive.

  19. “one thing is for sure. when visiting spain, i won’t be staying at any of starwood property.”

    What an asinine thing to say.

    As for calling after 8pm…a good hotel staff would realize that international guests might not always acclimate themselves to the local culture, 8pm might not be as early for foreign tourists as it is for Spaniards. But as we have seen, this is not a good hotel.

  20. I do think it’s a little premature to assume that all Starwood hotels in Spain are horrible based on one incident at the W property.

    I’ve never stayed at the W Barcelona, but I did stay at the Le Meridien Barcelona, and the staff there were outstanding. They provided a generous suite upgrade and were incredibly helpful in following up with the airlines to locate my luggage, which didn’t arrive on my inbound flight.

  21. So pretty much it was all your moms fault – from getting taken by him at the bar, to letting him into the room.

    And things get charged to the wrong room (either fraudulently or not) all the time. I’m sure the hotel didn’t make you pay for those charges.

    All in all, a lot about nothing.

  22. Ben, Hopefully you’ll reconsider your boycott of all Starwood properties in Spain, as they have some excellent Spanish hotels and, while I fully understand your frustration, it seems to me that is more related to their lack of appreciation for the urgency of the investigation than to holding the hotel responsible. I know when one’s own mother is involved, it is natural to be protective, so your skepticism of the hotel’s investigation’s results is normal. Your mom must feel awful about her lack of good judgment (and suggesting she make a video for the blog probably didn’t help, even if it was to warn others), but, looking at this objectively and from a distance, taking out the emotional factors, punishing Starwood’s hotels in Spain – including the W Barcelona – is not justified by the facts.

  23. Ugh… Typical cover-your-behind behavior from management. Very disappointing, especially since for this hotel it seems to not be a one-off but rather a disturbing pattern. SPG Plat/Hyatt Diamond so hopefully by the time I make it to Spain, Hyatt will open up some properties there (or, I guess, will have to stay at properties where I don’t have a top status).

  24. Ben,

    So just to clarify because it’s still overall mysterious what happened, your mom still isn’t sure when her purse was taken from her but it was likely during drinks with that guy at the bar? So she probably didn’t notice she didn’t have her purse with her when she left the bar to go back to the room? Or is there anyway guy stole purse while in room?

  25. Thank you for letting me know about the connection between the W and the other SPG properties in Spain. After reading all about the handling of your situation, I too will not stay at any of the SPG hotels as I have done in the past. I hope your mother will want to travel again with you in the future and continue to share her story with others.

  26. I know this blog is all about the miles & points game but sometimes – like in this case – considering hotels not accessible by miles or points can be worth it. In this sense, if in future you are looking for hotels to stay at in Barcelona I can highly recommend checking out the “H 1898”.

  27. This incident does not surprise me. I have been to Barcelona two times on cruises. Each time, at dinner, everyone of my shipmates at the dinner table described the robbery attempts (many successful) in Barcelona. In my opinion, Barcelona is the capital of the world in street robberies, pickpockets and con artistss. I, myself, was accosted each day by people trying to rob me. In the subway, on the streets, everywhere. If you visit Barcelona, expect to be a robbery victim. Keep all your valuables hidden and don’t fall for their robbery attempts.

  28. Many of us have fallen for scams or been robbed while traveling and felt foolish afterwards. The resulting frustration can escalate emotional interactions as we seek justice Take it as a lesson learned and move on. As someone else suggested, consider writing a post on tips for traveling safely. It might make you feel better.

  29. I recall that a female guest beat up in the lobby of the W South Beach in the last year or two. Seems that W’s manager allowed prostitutes to work the lobby, and the girls thought she was competition. The situation was so normal that hotel security didn’t intervene, or so she claims in her lawsuit.

  30. I think you should definitely post a review on TripAdvisor, it will get the hotel’s and their potential customers attention the most. I don’t see how this has anything to do with other Starwood hotels in Europe (besides the one other hotel this GM runs supposedly) as another poster mentioned, I’ve stayed at SPG hotels all throughout Western Europe and will continue to do so.

  31. almost three years ago, i was staying for business at a top rated hotel in phnom penh. They offer guests 30 minutes free massage. After two days, i still had not taken up the offer and i was sitting by the pool at the bar, the seniot spa therapist came over and asked if i would like the massage. Reluctantly i said yes. Thank goodness. In april 2015, we celebrate three years together! Thats really drumming up business.

  32. If I were you I would have inquired again with the police since Starwood appears to be in CYA mode. If even the area manager doesn’t care there’s probably nothing you can do to change their mind. I’d also add my experience to Trip Advisor in order to help warn future travelers who don’t read points blogs.

  33. So funny to see so many people here care. Shows what lemmings you are. It’s obvious how irresponsible lucky was. Letting his mom alone so he could hang with his homo friends. This is not a story. So funny how so many people care and actually spend time “analyzing ” Belive me, “lucky” doesn’t care that much about you. And won’t make any effort to meet you if he came to your city. So why do you care? He was irresponsible. And a brat. Too bad.

  34. @Brian… So funny to see that you read a blog by someone you clearly “hate” How do you know he is a brat? How do you know who he was hanging with in BCN and what’s it got to do with you anyway? Probably you read the blog for all the great info he provides, but are so negative and hateful you don’t care to mention that. I know I don’t speak for Ben, because apparently he is very used to pathetic trolls like you, but maybe I speak for others when I say why don’t you get a semblance of a life, or a friend, or something to keep you occupied and away from trolling? You do know people have serious consequences from trolling nowadays don’t you? A coward like you might fare well

  35. Still smells like an inside job.

    And this guy who was on the elevator? Same guy in the bar surveillance?

    The POS System ticket reports? I own a restaurant. Even without video the POS system will tell you more than you can believe. Who opened the ticket and when and at what terminal. Was that employee on duty and was that table part of their station that shift? Who closed the ticket and when and at what terminal? Noone could believe a guy this smart would eat and drink, close the ticket with a fake room charge, move to another server and repeat! For another J&B on the rocks? With Ben and Mom in the same room? Inconceivable!

  36. “And won’t make any effort to meet you if he came to your city.”

    It sounds like Lucky came to Brian’s town and didn’t visit him. Now he has a scorned troll on his hands.

  37. Andy, well I didn’t realize that trolls have serious consequences. Wow I really shaking in my boots. I’m not a troll, but perhaps, I take a look at this and say, Ben’s mom was wrong to talk to strangers, she was wrong to answer the door when someone knocked on it. I just don’t understand what all the drama is about this. What does he expect the hotel to do? If Ben’s mom answer the door, I don’t understand what he thinks they can do. And, believe me I’m not a coward. I would say this to you, or to Ben’s face. This is just all so much drama, for something that could’ve easily been prevented. Most people here, are so caught up in the drama. They need to realize, that this could’ve easily been prevented. So Andy, I say to you, you should get a life.

  38. Smells like an inside job to me… I think Joan above may be onto something. You’re lucky nothing happened to your mom. The guy was going back to steal more stuff out of your room while you were away at dinner, that’s for sure. It is scary to think about (and Ben has talked about this) how much access a rogue hotel employee could have to your room and its something I’ve always been concerned about.

    The morale of the story for all of us here is to be vigilant in any hotel or brand, no matter how safe you think you are that we stay in. Keep valuables on your person and not in the room whenever out if possible. Use the deadbolts, and extra locks on the door at night that can prevent a regular room key entry. Use the “do not disturb” sign on your door when your away, or even when your there when you don’t want the room to be cleaned, to give the impression you are inside.

    I don’t blame Ben for not wanting to stay at SPG in Spain. If others read, the indifferent GM he dealt with runs all the SPG hotels in Spain and he doesn’t want to contribute money to that guys bottom line. I couldn’t agree more; It’s not “asinine” as someone said above.

    All in all, this goes for everyone, be vigilant whenever your in a foreign or unfamiliar place, and thank goodness nothing happened to your mom Ben.

  39. The response from Starwood corporate seems lazy. They just relied the PR statements from Barcelona. There is video surveillance footage of a suspect tresspassing private property and your mother was not asked to identify the individual to start prosecution charges. Like Judge Judy says, if a story doesn’t seem logical it probably is not the truth.

    No explanation given how two waiters processed room charges without a valid key card or ID. No interest in speaking to your mom to ascertain more details. No corporate security officer contacting you to offer follow-up. No advice on how the Spanish embassy can assist. No offer to have Starwood’s legal team research what applicable international and Spanish laws apply to this case. Shortly, an elaborate feigned caring call offering no specific actions to prevent others from falling victim to elaborate ploys. Not much action for the room rate and luxury image.

  40. The story about 4 cold calls being from the spa is a white lie. out of principal, not giving business to SPG in Spain. Ridiculous. Who cares if they weren’t at fault…we all can spend our money where we want. Seems like they don’t give two craps about figuring out the truth.

  41. Funny that some here think its normal for a hotel to call 4 times in 30 minutes to drum up business for the spa. Did it not occur to you dimwits that some people just don’t care to answer the phone? Gee how nice 4 calls in 30 minutes while I’m trying to relax.

  42. I suspect a major priority for the GM and staff is to ensure the hotel cannot be held liable or responsible in any way. By acting indifferent they can make sure they don’t accidentally reveal anything that might be damaging to them. I’ve seen this attitude in other scenarios where guests suffer losses at hotels.

  43. Every business in Spain is obliged to have an official complaints book (‘Libro de reclamaciones’) available. This is a form which any customer can complete which puts the details of a complaint on record and each is followed up by the authorities.

    It is a legal obligation for businesses to have this book, and to display a notice – usually in Spanish and English – advising that it is available if required. The form is usually in both languages as well.

    Once completed, you keep two copies and the business keeps the third. The business then has 10 days in which to reply to your complaint. If none is forthcoming or the reply is unacceptable, you send or take one copy of the form to the local Consumers Office, usually located at the Town Hall. They will then investigate the matter, a process which obviously businesses do not like very much!

    Even requesting the complaints books usually snaps the establishment into action.

  44. I would think that he had an accomplice. Someone who may have gotten on elevator with your mom. Got to the floor and followed here to the room.

  45. JoeMart, you totally summed up the issued.

    Ben, I hope you have deposited a tripadvisor comment, or will be doing so soon. It’s important for people to know about your experience because in all likelihood it’s a systemic problem with that hotel. Con artists befriending and taking advantage of unsuspecting guests, tailgating to get to the upper floors, roaming the halls, knocking on doors, entering rooms, making fraudulent charges. It’s a shame Starwood corporate isn’t doing anything more about it. Very poor customer service.

  46. The theft is a matter for police not hotel security. Did your mother file a police report and report it to the US consulate? The police could view the security cam footage and possibly identify the perpetrator. This was not his first rodeo. My guess is security at any hotel is ill equipped to investigate a crime.

  47. Ben,
    I am so sorry to hear that your mom’s purse got stolen and the arrogant general manager. I will make sure we will never stay at W Barcelona from now on!!

  48. Starwood should not have asked you IF they could do something for your mom. They should have asked you where they could send something to your mom. Terrible response. Absolutely the worst case of customer relations.

  49. @ wwk5d — How so? To be clear, not because I don’t feel safe, but because I don’t want to contribute positively to the regional manager’s bottom line.

  50. Brian wrote: “It’s obvious how irresponsible lucky was. Letting his mom alone so he could hang with his homo friends.”

    I get that it’s important to Ben not to be perceived as deleting negative posts. Folks should feel free to express themselves in the comments section.

    But COME ON. “Hang with his homo friends”?! What is this, 1965? Sneering, bigoted garbage like this has no place on a travel blog. Comments like this have no value. They don’t add to the discourse, and they don’t illuminate anything. They only serve the troll’s intended, twisted purpose of making everyone else angry. They should be deleted.

    This is not a “free speech” issue. The troll can shout all he wants about “homos” from his own blog. But it’s absurd to let him do it here.

  51. I wonder……..Did the guy have an accomplice? If so, the accomplice could have followed his mother to the elevator, gotten off at the same floor, and followed her down the hall, noticed her room number, and continued on around the corner. If he held back she would likely never have noticed.

  52. I was going to stay at the Barcelona W hotel in June, but I have opted instead to stay at the Hotel Arts (Ritz Carlton) because of this situation.
    Thanks for information.

  53. Now hear this: We stayed at the “W” Barcelona, Spain. We stayed in room 2502 and had $100.00 stolen from the room. They were nice enough, they left a key in the room’s electrical box. I reported it to the desk when it happened, since we were leaving at noon the next day. I got the story 1. We will check hall footage and door lock info to see who may have entered the room. We will get back to you ASAP since we were leaving the next day. The next day I again went to to ask why no one had bothered to call me about the theft, where did the extra key come from, some times their where as many as 15 people in the hall, “which only has four rooms” trying to get to the Disco bar on the 26th floor. The hotel told me that it would better and faster to file a police report from the airport. I was not able to locate any Barcelona police at the airport. House keeping must have left the key. Etc… now I am going to repo further on this issue.
    Interesting that it all happens to the same room!. Which is also the same hotel. We got the same treatment as you did and the same results. Go tell!

  54. The W and the Hotel Arts are both great properties. But any regular traveller will tell you that Barcelona has long been one of the worst cities in Western Europe for pickpockets, muggings, and thieves. You go to Prague, you know to watch your pockets on the Charles Bridge; you go to Rome, you watch out for the gypsy kids and mama’s clutching a baby around the Vatican ; you go to Barcelona …. It’s everywhere. Not just Las Rambla , which is worst, but anywhere, both daytime and at night. Watched a guy that I thought was a homeless drunk stumbling around some people on a bench…..until they started to ignore him, at which point he swooped on a purse and made off like an Olympic sprinter. So the hotel has a complaints book? Good luck with that…

  55. I think he found your room nO and your flight seats by searching e.g. on instagram or on this blog

  56. Going to Barcelona in August. Glad I read this (albeit a little late). I’ll still consider avoiding SPG in Spain (even though I just got status).

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