The Unusual Reason Security Was Called To My Hotel Room

Filed Under: Hotels

I’ll be the first to admit that I have some weird quirks when it comes to hotel room safety. For example, every time I enter my room I check under the bed and in the closets.

But then there are other areas where I’m perhaps not worried enough. For example, as I’ve written about in the past, I generally don’t use hotel safes. There are some exceptions, like if it’s a city where theft is especially common. However, a vast majority of the time I’m happy just leaving my stuff lying around, even when I’m not there.


I’m not usually concerned about housekeeping taking anything. They do many rooms per day and I tend to think they’re pretty honest, because their jobs would be in jeopardy if there were theft claims that could be traced to them. To be clear, if I had real valuables like expensive jewelry or something, I’d absolutely put them in a safe. But for a hundred bucks in cash and some basic electronics, I’m not as worried.

Right now I’m in the UAE, where I feel especially comfortable not using a safe. The UAE is quite safe, especially since most of the workforce is from outside the country, so they wouldn’t want to do anything that gets them fired and deported. There’s very little petty crime in the UAE.

I’m staying at the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi, and earlier I left my room for a while so that housekeeping could service it.


I returned to my room and put on the “Do Not Disturb” sign, and to my surprise there was a knock at the door. Hmmm, that’s unusual. It was the butler. It’s even more unusual that they wouldn’t obey the sign.

“Sorry to disturb you Mr. Benjamin, but could you please make sure to use the in-room safe in the future? Earlier when your room was cleaned you left money lying around, so we had to call security and go through a process. This is a very big safety issue for us. Please make sure you use the safe in the future.”

Well, I can’t say I’ve ever had that happen before. I appreciate the general concern, though I didn’t realize some hotels actually call security if you leave money in the room.

Has anyone experienced something like this before?

  1. I hope you’ve had the camel burger and sweet potato fries there. They are SO good there.

  2. Very interesting… but actually I can see the justification for this, related to what you wrote about most staff members being from outside the UAE and how few worker protections there are there. Perhaps just having money or expensive items lying around when the room is serviced opens up the possibility that someone may accuse housekeeping of theft, so housekeeping may have immediately called security up to “supervise” them while they serviced the room, for their own protection, so that the guest could not make any claims about theft later.

  3. Ben-we had something similar to this happen at the Taj Cape Town. We went out and forgot to lock our safe-we were in Africa for three weeks and actually had a bunch of cash with us-and they locked the safe, left us a note and security had to come with some device and reopen it for us.

  4. I have discreetly been approached by the Front Desk manager if items like IPad, laptops etc. were left out in the room.
    However that is no guarantee – recently experienced that the hotel staff broke into my suitcase and stole suits and electronics for thousands of dollars.

  5. The Oberoi Mumbai, they don’t service your room when there’s something laying around & they come and look for you

  6. While I share the opinion that house keeping is generally honest people, and I do not feel the need to lock up things in the safe, I always do. Mostly for their comfort,.

  7. I’m always afraid I’ll end up leaving things in the safe before I check out.

    How much money was it?

  8. Yea I understand why they would do that. If I was cleaning a room and seeing some cash lying around, I would be extremely uncomfortable because if anything happens I would be the most obvious one to blame. And I’m sure some people may even use that as a strategy and claim that they had something stolen to get free stuff or whatever.

  9. I’m confused. Why would you leave money just lying around but yet check under a bed for stowaways or whatever. Seems a bit OCD in one area and way too lax in the other. They prob did it as much for them as for you. In case you say I left xyz dollars and they took x amount. Not a wise idea.

  10. I guess why not just hide it in luggage. Why the heck would you just leave money lying around.

  11. I think Clem is exactly right: the issue is both whether you can trust housekeeping, but equally whether housekeeping can trust you. A housekeeper might see a large amount of money as essentially a trap: the guest is going to claim the money was stolen and it must’ve been the housekeeper that did it. And the housekeeper probably assumes (safely so, IMO), that management is going to believe the guest over the housekeeper in such a circumstance. Best and fairest for everyone involved to use the safe.

  12. I laughed at the image of Ben being scolded by the butler! But this was laughter born out of empathy: I was once sternly lectured by a maid at the MO Hong Kong for tipping too much.

    Anyway, in thirty years of travel I have never had an issue with theft; probably because I utilize every security device at my disposal, including the old school safe deposit boxes found in the vaults of older, more traditional hotels.

  13. I’ve read on a pilot’s blog that he always put one of his uniform shoes in the safe along with valuables so he never forgets to check the safe before leaving for the airport.

  14. I once had to call FD to ask why the safe to my room wouldn’t open. I was then informed that housekeeping are instructed to check on unsecured safes before they can clean the room. The duty manager locked it and changed the number while someone from security oversee the process. When I came back the duty manager explained what happened and asked for my ID before she proceeded to open the safe with the new number.

  15. I was at a resort in Cabo San Lucas with my husband and daughter. I locked my iPad in my suitcase every day, but my husband left his Apple Laptop out. He always does, even though I ask if he wants to put it in my suitcase. The hotel left a flyer in our suite asking not to leave valuables out anymore.

  16. I don’t usually lock my mac in the safe, never had anyone say anything i stay at hyatts and hiltons

  17. When I travel I just leave the Do Not Disturb sign on the door for the duration of my stay, or choose the “green” option for extra points or food coupons. Then I don’t have to put anything away or worry about theft while my door is propped open for cleaning. I don’t make my bed every day at home, either!

  18. Daniel, I did that once – checked out and left everything in the safe. I just blanked. Two passports, cash in various currencies, even my keys

    Didn’t realize for 48 hours, then called the hotel. Security has entered the room and safe, and removed my stuff. They asked me a few basic questions about what were the contents, and then released the items.

    Felt pretty dumb but they (Hilton) handled it great

  19. I never use the safe either, precisely because I do not carry anything that is especially valuable, but I never leave money on a desk or visibly anywhere in the room either.

    One reason for security to be called when a guest leaves cash on a desk can be as a preemptive measure that ensures that the guest would not return and claim — mistakenly or for real — that some of the money that he’d left on the desk was missing. The implications of such a claim by a guest are clear enough…

  20. “For example, every time I enter my room I check under the bed and in the closets.” What are you looking for – dead bodies? Oop, I forgot – those have been found under hotel beds in recent years.

  21. On a road trip through Europe we left passports and cash in the Hilton in Lyon and did not remember it until crossing the border into Spain. Luckily we were not stopped and reached the Hilton in Barcelona. At that point they advised us that Hilton Lyon had recovered our stuff. The Barcelona Hilton needed the passport but were kind enough to realize it would be a couple of days before the courier arrived with everything. Very expensive way to learn a lesson.

    My current trick now on a road trip is to leave the car keys in the hotel safe so that I remember to open and retrieve before departure. Can’t drive without a key. When only flying I tend to leave the wallet in the safe which is not quite as fail safe. I like the idea of the shoe.

  22. I now lock my valuables in the safe; I just feel it’s better to remove any controllable temptation not knowing what someone else’s financial situation might be and how desperate they might be for extra cash. I had a friend who had a camera and other valuables taken from the dresser while on a cruise while the room was being cleaned. Seems that the door was left open during the housekeeping and anyone could have taken the items while the staff was distracted or in another part of the room.

  23. Calling security when valuables are not secured is definitely protection for the staff and the hotel. I applaud.

    The UAE is not as safe as it used to be. We once left a suitcase on the sidewalk outside the Dubai Airport (in 1991 when things were very small). We returned a day later and it had been delivered to the left luggage room inside the terminal. Great service and so honest.

    These days Dubai is as bad or worse than any large city. Had a quantity of cash stolen by our personal house maid in 2006 but could never prove it. Best to take the time to safeguard personal property and avoid the temptation for the staff.

  24. I had a summer job as a maid. Try it and see how you feel about guests leaving valuables lying around.

  25. azamaraal – This is the third time I’ve read someone being surprised about not being checked at European borders in the last couple of weeks.

    How can frequent travellers not know most borders within Europe don’t have controls and you’re free to enter/exit as you please? Is this really not well known?

  26. The only issue I had at Emirates Palace was the butler. I arrived around 11:30pm at AUH and ended up around 01:30am in my room. +1 was already in the shower when the bulter knocked. really friendly, but do you really want to show me the room this late? I’m sure that I won’t get lost in the room and that I won’t need instructions on sleeping. Other than that, everthing was pretty much perfect. Mind you, this was a couple of years ago and I rarely travel to AUH these days

  27. I have a rule I have been following for many years of extensive travel – to open the safe the night before departure and get my stuff out of there. It’s become a second nature almost.

  28. @lucky, The Beach Rotana hotel ( 5 stars ) to me – is the best part area to stay, it’s right next to Abu Dhabi mall, downtown, at the north end of the corniche. Etihad even has an off site luggage check facility next door so u don’t have to carry it to the airport. It’s a lively area. As much as I love the Emirates palace to visit. I found it’s location to be much too secluded for me.

  29. I’m as OCD as Lucky, but in the opposite way. I put absolutely everything of value that I don’t expect to need for the next few hours in the safe. And yes, I lock it before I go to sleep.

    But the really hilarious thing is when leaving the final morning. Over the last half hour I always check the safe to see nothing was left there. Not once, but over and over. Still nothing left in there, still nothing left in there, still nothing left in there. 🙂

  30. I always use the safe for my passport, any foreign currency, extra local currency, and my laptop computer if I don’t need it that day. Also an envelope for paper receipts, just for convenience.

  31. I don’t understand why you would leave money out in the open in your room- is it too much hassle to put it away or carry it in a pocket when you’re out? I would freak out if I were the maid and there was cash (other than loose change) lying about. I would think of entrapment first. In fact, I recall a situation where a former employer left a wallet in the ladies room (with video surveillance) and fired the employee who took the wallet.

  32. After having the entire safe and all its contents including our passport, money, credit cards, phones etc stolen from our hotel room, we always check to see how secure the safe actually is and you would be amazed how many safes are not actually fixed to the wall, therefore allowing anyone who wants to, to walk away with your safe and all its contents!

    The guy in the next room to us also had his things stolen but as he didn’t use the safe he didn’t lose his passport, just his electronics. Needless to say we tend to carry our valuables with us now.

  33. Lucky, thats a normal process followed by hotels when guests leave cash and or jewellery lying around the room, The issue with cash is that there is no good way of verifying if the 500 dirham note in the HK staffs possession is truly his, or the guests.
    Its ludicrous though that the butler sees fit to ignore your DND sign, and then tells you its too much work for the staff. Thats not good service, Thats just whining

  34. I agree with Tom C. Why have your bed made every day? Unless I’m in a hotel for > 5 days, I don’t need/want anyone in my room. I always sleep with 2 pillows under my feet, and housekeeping always removes them and tidily places them at the head of the bed. I’m not sure I trust in-room safes anyway. I’ve been in a number of rooms in which removal of the entire safe would be easy; in some cases, I’ve seen the safe in the closet not attached to anything. How safe is that? For probably unsound reasons, I “hide” my stuff in the lining of my bag.

  35. While you may prefer not to use the safe most times, hotels and hotel staff prefer that you do. The reason for this is to protect them against false bad faith claims from guests.

    As you mention Ben, an accusation against a guest worker in the UAE would likely result in dire consequences for them, whether it was true or not.

    So in countries like the UAE, do use the safe (not just for your protection, but so they don’t have to stress out). Cash and anything particularly portable and valuable. I know you think it’s unnecessary, but it’s just having some consideration for housekeeping staff (who bear the risk otherwise)

  36. Ben,
    Do listen to these people travelling. Many of them knew immediately it was the poor housekeeper there protecting themselves from getting falsely or even accidently accused. They would lose their whole well-being. That job is very valuable to them, their life, their reputation.

    How many times do all of us travelers overlook something then to find it later. Even accidently accusing someone can cause a lot of harm to them.

    You being a world traveler and leaving money open in the room? Not a criticism but still tsk tsk Ben.

    Use your safe (put a paper note on the floor so you won’t forget it) or lock up you suitcase.

    We travel to do things for ourselves. But also try to do good things for the world as well, make it a better place.

  37. “The Unusual Reason Security Was Called To My Hotel Room”

    They too were curious about click-bait titles?

  38. Radisson Blu Udaipur

    The staff refused to service my room unless I was there in person while they did it.

  39. I once called security because a woman was banging on my door all night long. But they told me I had to get up and let her out myself.

  40. Also consider how troubling it might be for someone very poor with little prospects for improvement to have overwhelming temptation left laying casually about .
    Show consideration for those people and don’t insult them carelessly with displays of affluence .

  41. In Las Vegas ..with do not disturb sign ..low and behold a guy dressed in a suit rang the doorbell and said he was doing a security check ..walked in ..did something on the phone and walked out. I googled what happened and ended up here. Btw, i usually lock up cash in the room safe. Not today though. The casino stole it.

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