My Mom Got Robbed In Our Hotel!

Filed Under: Hotels, Starwood Preferred Guest

As many of you know, my mom and I have been traveling together for almost two weeks. We spent most of it in the Middle East (Abu Dhabi, Muscat, and Dubai), and yesterday we flew the Emirates A380 from Dubai to Barcelona.

The flight was incredible, and it was a gorgeous day when we landed shortly after noon.


We took a taxi to the W Barcelona, where we’d be staying for one night. We got a suite upgrade, and the staff were top notch (or so we thought). At first this was definitely one of my favorite W properties, along with the ones in Taipei, Guangzhou, etc.


Unfortunately it all went downhill from there. Here’s a video my mom made this morning explaining the situation:

I realize not everyone likes videos, so I figured I’d share a bit more detailed description below.

To start, before coming to Barcelona I warned my mom a handful of times that the city is littered with pick pocketers. It’s a safe city (in the sense that you don’t have to fear for your life), but you do have to watch your pockets at all times. My mom is also a very trusting person that assumes the best in everyone.

Basically I had a bit of work to get done when we got to the hotel, so I worked on my laptop for about an hour, while my mom sat in front of the hotel (still on the hotel’s premises).

She was gone for a bit longer than I expected, and when she returned she explained that she met a guy in front of the hotel who she had a coffee with at the hotel bar. He claimed to have been a Singapore Airlines pilot, though was apparently now in the convention business with Starwood… or so he claimed. He also said he just flew Emirates from Dubai and was in seat 2A, which obviously wasn’t the case, since we were in row one (that being said, mom was seated on the other side of the cabin, so wouldn’t have necessarily known).

They had coffee, and he offered to show my mom around. She explained that she was here with me and that she was cold and didn’t have a jacket, so he offered to buy her one.

When she came back to the room and told me the situation, I immediately figured he was a creep. I didn’t necessarily assume he had bad intentions, but I figured he was hitting on her at a minimum, so suggested my mom stay away.

At 7:30PM I left the hotel to have dinner with my friends (for the record, I invited my mom, but she was too tired and preferred staying in).

Shortly after I left the same guy showed up at her door, apparently. My mom assumed it was turndown service, which is why she opened the door, and he was apparently there to pick her up for dinner, which she had never agreed to. He asked if he could use the restroom in our room. At this point my mom was totally creeped out, so she let him use the guest bathroom since the door was already open, and she held the hotel room door open as well. She then immediately suggested they go downstairs, because she wanted to get him out of the room.

From there he hopped in a taxi and said he’d be right back after he bought a jacket for her. He apparently called the room a handful of times, though she never answered. My mom felt so unsafe that she stayed locked in the room until I got back.

I got back to the hotel at around midnight, and tried to open the door to the room. It wouldn’t open, as the “red” light sensor went on. I figured I had my phone too close to my key, and assumed it was deactivated. I went down and had the front office associate make me a new one. I tried again with no luck. He tried one more time, with the same result.

They sent an associate up with me to use the master key, and that didn’t work either. Then I figured I’d try calling the room. So I called the room six times, and no one answered.

At this point I was freaked the f*ck out. since the previous texts I had received from mom read as follows (I didn’t have data on my phone, so I only got these texts upon returning to the room):

“The guy came to the room, is on his way to buy me a jacket.”

“Told me that he likes me very much and wants to go out with me to find out more about him!”

“Wants to live wherever I am!”

Not properly conveyed is that this was intended in an “I’m creeped the hell out” way and not in a “yay how exciting” way.

After that I was escorted to the room by a front office associate and security guard, and we rang the bell repeatedly. After a few minutes my mom answered.

I had the hardest time not yelling, not because I was angry at her, but because I was so worried. Given all the information I had up until that point, I assumed the worst.

In the middle of the night my mom woke me up and said “hmmm, I wonder where my purse is. I haven’t seen it in a while.”

And go figure after digging through the bag this morning, it was missing. It also had her Green Card in it.

I know this all sounds very stupid…

Of course in retrospect my mom feels incredibly stupid about the whole situation. That being said, I think if we’re honest, we’ve all been in situations where we’ve done something outrageously stupid and not realized it until after the fact. So it’s easy to say “how could she have fallen for it?” But I do genuinely think we all screw up and learn things the hard way. At least she wasn’t hurt…

Questions, questions, questions…

When I left to dinner last night I assumed the guy was just a creep that was maybe hitting on her or something. I didn’t rule out the possibility of him being a pick pocketer, but also didn’t necessarily assume it.

Once I got back to the room, though, it all made sense to me. Well, sort of. There are still a few things I can’t figure out:

  • How did he get our room number? He didn’t follow my mom into the elevator and I assume the hotel isn’t giving out guests’ room numbers (and I assume him claiming he works for/with Starwood was a lie)?
  • What was his motive to call my mom several times after he saw her for the last time (presumably he had already stolen whatever he planned on taking, so I don’t get why he’d want to draw any further attention to things — or maybe he was hoping to steal even more)?
  • At what point did he actually rob her?

There’s more…

I’m about to board a flight to get out of Spain so we can get to a consulate and back to the US, but suffice to say the story gets a whole lot weirder, so stay tuned for that. Not only did he rob my mom, but he charged stuff to our room in my name (mind you, my mom never gave him my name).

Perhaps the most offensive part of all this is how indifferent the hotel was about the whole situation. I absolutely loved the hotel at first and was already excited about returning, but based on the way they handled this situation I’m putting them on my “never again” list. But I’ll have more on that later…

Bottom line

Be careful out there, folks! While my mom is of course embarrassed to share this story, at the end of the day hopefully some others can learn from it. Always assume the worst in people when traveling, sad as it may be to have to take that approach. At least she wasn’t hurt, which is most important.

But the way the hotel handled this situation… wow!

More shortly!

  1. Lucky-I think you are being naĆÆve at best thinking your mom gave up so little information. I have a mother around the same age and it isn’t unusual for them to either not remember or leave out information fearing you are going to be more angry. I completely understand the fear you felt. Dealt with similar experience but that is another story. Just do all you can for her and make sure she gets you aren’t angry. She is going to feel really guilty over this whether she did anything wrong or not.

  2. @ Lucky — wow! I’m very happy to hear your mom is okay but what an awful thing to have happened. Replacing a green card is a rather expensive ordeal ($450) but, most of all, I hope she doesn’t have any trouble getting back into the country.

    P.S. Haven’t looked at your Twitter/Instagram/Facebook lately. Is it possible the thief got the room information from there? Or if he knew which hotel you were staying, he may have just asked the front desk – something like, “Hi! I need to go meet my friend Ben Schlappig but he forgot to tell me his room number. What was it?”

  3. Just going to throw it out there…..

    Is there a chance that the weird/creepy pilot and the missing purse are in no way/shape/form connected?

    Something to consider…

  4. Wouldn’t surprise me if he was in cahoots with someone at the hotel who provided information regarding names/room numbers.

  5. first thought came to mind – the culprit is one of your “readers.” You posted on social media where you were going and staying. Who else would know you love Singapore Airlines and that you flew Emirates First Class?

  6. Appreciate the reminder and the warning. Glad to hear your mom is okay. That would be a frightening thing for most people.

  7. I was falsely imprisoned for 15 minutes by a hotel employee at a room in Nairobi. Scariest moment of my life; the man forced his way into our room after knocking, and then made us sit on the bed while he ripped out the phone cords and told us to stay put or he would kill us. He then took all our money and cell phones. Luckily, no passports were taken.

    It was a terrifying ordeal, but we were there for a wedding, and as a consolation the hotel comped the second night of the wedding for the entire wedding party.

    I can sympathize with how creepy that must feel.

  8. Oh no! I feel sick to my stomach, but probably:

    1. He reads your blog
    2. He works for the hotel or knows someone who does – inside job

    I’m sorry for you and your mom.

  9. Hey Lucky,

    I’m sorry to hear about what happened. This doesn’t seem like a typical pick pocketer who targeted a random tourist. Is it just a coincidence he knew to bring up topics that your mom would know (seat/row #s, airline associations, etc.)? I also agree with your questions about how that person knew your mom’s room #? Maybe it’s an inside job with someone who works behind the front desk that is familiar with your blog or who you are?

  10. Wow that is very scary indeed – so glad your mom is okay. It’s so true that we all sometimes do some really stupid things from time to time even when we know better. Thank you for the reminder and to your mom for being brave enough to tell the story.

  11. I think it was you and your mom that got hustled, probably from the public information on the site and Social Media. The guy knows your name, your travel itinerary, probably what your mom looks like (assuming you posted her photo/video before”, knows your travel preferences, etc.

    You guys got hustled and I don’t think there is much the hotel can really do for you unless they did give out your room number

  12. Lucky – I am so glad that your mom is physically OK and that you are as well. As a woman that travels alone, I have learned to be keenly aware of everything and everyone around me and to be keenly in tune to my instincts about people and my surroundings – but that came with experience and constant solo travel over the years. I felt safe in many places, but you know, I loved the sights of Barcelona, but got an uneasy feeling from it and for as much beauty was there, I will probably not return because of that uneasy feeling I had walking those streets.

    My mother, who is of the age of yours, may have probably reacted similarly to your mother and I can understand completely. You mom probably feels foolish and will need some support in the coming days, but the green card and purse are just things that can be replaced. Choose to look back on this with the view that the important things – you and your mother, your health and safety – those things that are irreplaceable are all intact. For that we should all be grateful and be thankful.

  13. Ben,

    Thank you for the situation with us i feel so sorry for you guys but I am very thankful this story is an eye opener for traveler not only to Barcelona but worldwide. I was in Barcelona last October and I was careful but with your story now and i would be extremely careful especially I am taking my family to Barcelona this coming August.

  14. I don’t see that the hotel has any responsibility here. This was an acquaintance, not an unknown robber. The claim that he couldn’t have known the room number is therefore unverifiable. Incidentally, the reason it was so difficult to wake her up is that she was drugged.

  15. Alright when I first read this I was like ‘oh come the **** on.’ But then I just started feeling bad for your mom. Totally not her fault.

    The fault is yours buddy. And I completely agree with what Ven said. Even if that didn’t hurt the situation, that sure as hell didn’t help. Post your travel stuff after you’re done with it man. comeon. You have to be aware of where you are and what you’re doing. Esp online.

  16. Auch, as one of those that recommended you stay at the W I feel kind of guilt. Knew that there was a lot of crime in BCN, but did not think 5* hotels was unsafe.

    Remember reading a while back that you had a stalker that canceled tickets etc? Could this be him or a similar nutcase?

  17. I had my wallet stolen the first night I was in Barcelona…. even after calling all the credit card company to cancel …. the theft still manage to re-activate and used the card for a few months …. (I travel 300-400k miles a year, 8 times in Brazil etc and never got anything stolen other than in Spain, Mexico, and Argentina),

    my brother had a passport stolen in Barcelona, my roommate had a passport stolen in Barcelona, my ex-roommate and so on ,,, all in Barcelona on separate trips. I know you can’t let a small percentage of people make you feel bad about the country… but I am human and have emotion… so I can’t say I don’t feel bad about the country.

  18. This sucks. No other way to look at it. Obviously it could be worse but that doesn’t make the empty, sick feeling any better. I’m terribly sorry that your mom and by extension you became victims. As some others have said, I wonder if the public nature of your travels played any role in being targeted by that asshole.

    I have done a boneheaded thing or two in my travels and in one case I was mugged by 5 Roma children on a crowded street in Bucharest. It was 2007 and they had seen me using a fancy PDA (remember those?) to make a Skype call outside of a Pizza Hut, stealing their WiFi signal. So in no way am I judging in the slightest. It sucks, we make mistakes, we know better (especially in hindsight), and we move on.

    Glad you’re both ok, most definitely.

    I am guessing you’re headed to Germany? There is a US consulate in BCN. Curious what your original plans were had this fiasco not derailed them.

  19. when your mom bought coffee, did she charge it to the room? would be easy to catch a glance at the room number.

  20. Mom should have alerted the front desk to this creepy guy. And should have called the police when he showed up at your door. Sounds like an inside job with this guy and the hotel. Very scary. Mom needs to be more alert and aware. You can’t let your guard down when traveling. But you have an awesome view!

  21. What a crappy situation. As a South American familiar with similar cases (or worst), I immediately fear inside job. Which would speak really, really badly of the W Barcelona.

    Another factor could be your fame, believe it or not. Your name is out there and what makes you a great blogger (frequent updates almost in real time) may have come back to bite you.

    Good luck with resolving this. Use your “connections” to make sure SPG Corporate goes all the way in with a police report and a legitimate investigation. If inside job, it should be clear.

  22. Very disturbing for sure. Personally, I don’t think the hotel’s indifference (not to condone it) would get to me as much as the stalker/creepy aspect of the whole thing. Kudos to you and your mother if you’re able to not let this ruin your whole trip; I doubt I could.

  23. wow that is crazy lucky.

    First of all I am glad your mom is okay. your mom seems shaken and obviously upset (I would too) by the ordeal, so just reassure some more that it’s not her fault. She has been targeted as a victim so it’s pretty awful all around.

    My guess is that the person is scoping out the place to see what else is valuable …which is why you don’t generally let strangers into your house (I had a scary incident once but luckily nothing happened as we had a lot of folks there)

    I am also a well traveled person (generally speaking) and while I enjoy each place I also am known to have put up a higher guard in places where there are traveler’s scams (Paris, Thailand – never been but heard) and places with high pick pocketing (particularly Athens and Geneva subway station). It is for those reasons that I prefer to use safes at hotel (not a foolproof method) and invested in clothing that would make pickpocketing a bit harder in those areas known for those petty crimes.

    It does make traveling just a little bit less fun in that you need to be on alert often but it’s also prudent and aware of surrounding regardless of whether you are home or traveling elsewhere.

    Sorry to hear about this situation for you Mom. I too am s trusting gal so I can relate to how she feels. Sorry to hear the hotel is not more responsive to the situation…it’s pretty serious IMHO.

  24. Was her room key in her purse in its holder with the room number written on it?

    I’m so glad she is ok, that must have been very scary.

  25. So far with the little information you have given us so far, this purse losing has nothing to do with this creepy stupid guy. There is more to this that your mom isn’t sharing with you.

  26. Maybe they can find security cam footage? Usually these people return to the same places (just because they are familiar with the area/hotel) and prey on more people.

  27. @lucky – Glad you guys are ok. I have to agree that something is missing or the purse incident is not related to this. Based on what you posted there was no real opportunity for this guy to steal your mom’s purse. Is there a possibility he stayed in the room longer after your mom let him inside to go to the bathroom? Any chance he drugged your mom and maybe she doesn’t remember everything that happened? Very, very scary for sure! Try to reassure your mom that everything is going to be fine. I’m sure she feels embarrassed and shaken up to say the least.

  28. I don’t know. In one regard I disagree with saying you shouldn’t post your itinerary because that is the point of the blog. But, I do think traveling can be a bit sexist, so if you’re traveling with a female, i.e. your mom, those posts may want to be delayed. Unfortunately I have had experiences in the past when people think that women are naive and take advantage of our personalities. Especially in other countries where that kind of behavior is more common.

    Sorry to hear about the situation, it is unfortunate, but the good news is no one’s physical safety was compromised and all that was lost can be replaced. Just next time, please don’t answer the door unless you know who’s on the other side. I don’t even let housekeeping in unless I’m not there.

  29. Ben,

    I am glad you and your mother are safe.
    I don’t think there is a European city I wish to visit less due to all of these stories, even with all of the wonderful things to see, do, or eat there.

    You’d think the city would make some changes to policing policies after such a bad reputation being developed..

  30. That really sucks! I, too, wonder when your mom’s purse may have been stolen. I don’t think the creepy guy did it but rather, one of his accomplices. The creepy guy was just a diversion. Who knows though. Either way, glad both of you are safe and I hope you guys can get to a US embassy soon to get the new green card.

  31. Thanks to very serious warnings from Rick Steves before my first International trip as an adult, I never ever, once I leave home, have any valuables in a wallet. Nor do I allow my wife to carry anything of value in a purse. I have a Travel Pouch inside my clothes, and all of our valuables, less some petty change for small purchases, are kept inside it.

    Once checked into a hotel with a in room safe, that pouch and anything I don’t need immediately are kept locked in that safe. I go out with a drivers license for ID, a no fee debit card for small amounts of atm cash, a small amount of local currency, and one credit card. Everything else, especially passports (or green card in your mom’s case) stay in the safe until we check out. Short of being robbed at gun or knife point, or being drugged into unconsciousness, I’m not going to lose anything of value. And in several decades of International travel, I never have.

  32. Like everyone else, I’m glad Mom is ok. Thanks for the text explanation, as videos aren’t exactly viewable in my office (I’m reading your blog on my lunch break, I swear!)

    Yes, we’ve all done stupid things, especially when someone acts so forward. We can be more afraid of appearing rude than being safe. Hopefully she’ll be a little more comfortable being skeptical/rude in the future!

    I’m sure you’re already figuring out a way she can be in contact if she needs help instead of sending cryptic texts…

  33. I’m not sure what there is to be perceived as stupid on your part, or your moms part. That’s the scary thing, is this crazy guy found her, and after you left. Weird as crap.

    But seriously tell her it’s not her fault. She was locked down like Y2K to avoid this guy, and she wasn’t answering the door because it was him. What can you do?
    Crazy. VERY glad you guys are okay!

  34. Wishing your Mother well. What a frightening experience. However, valuable lessons learned for her and all of us. I do hope they find out who is behind this.

  35. If you posted your itinerary in advance, he must’ve gotten the information from that. He’s probably reading this now! When did he charge the bills to your room? Was it before he encountered your Mom? Could he have followed y’all up to your room initially? Could he have impersonated you at the front desk and gotten a new key made? Would that explain why your key didn’t work?

  36. damn its 3am in Hong Kong and i was just about to sleep… and after reading your ordeal and all the other comments, a million questions are running through my head as I’m sure there are a million in yours. Be alert, keep your guard up everyone. Barcelona is crazy like that. Had a friend who was outside a bar having a cigarette and then 2-3 guys came up to him chatted him and were friendly and said he had a nice belt , had a tug at it and then next thing you know, his iphone in his pocket was gone and he didn’t even realize it until he came back into the bar.

    but to play captain obvious for a sec. Obviously take this up with upper management at Starwood. You’ve got a bit of clout in the travel world, use it to your advantage and get to the bottom of this. I’ve got a mom whose around your mothers age as well and she does seem a little aloof at times, so try to see if she has more information to offer and whether she’s missing out on some details. You’ll be alright, just get to the bottom of this ! godspeed

  37. Sorry to hear about this. What a terrible thing to happen.

    It’s unlikely your mom will get a new green card, the consulate will most probably stamp a re-entry permit in her passport which will allow her to re enter the US. However, it will not be a easy process and she will have trouble re entering the US in the future (i speak from experience) I hope the process is smooth and painless for you but red tape is never easy to cut through. Will the insurance cover the costs you incur to remedy this? A replacement card isn’t cheap in my memory and given the extra time you;ll need to sort this out should be worth contacting them to see what provisions they offer.

    Good luck!

  38. so sorry to hear about this! Thanks for sharing so others can learn from it. Send your mom your loyal readers’ good wishes.

  39. jesus. felt that same sick to my stomach feeling that someone else described above while reading this. i’m really glad that only theft occurred and nothing more serious.

    personally, i’ve never been very big on barcelona. it’s absolutely crawling with thieves and scammers and they range from clumsy to incredibly adept. it takes a lot of the relaxation out of a visit having to be on guard all the time. but at least you won’t get mugged at gunpoint like some places here in the states.

    i don’t know what else to say except valuable lesson learned and i hope this didn’t ruin what otherwise looked like a great trip!

  40. Glad that you are and your mom are safe, that’s the important thing. As far as the incident itself goes, it’s scary and something the hotel should of course give attention to considering that guest valuables were stolen and it could put other guests at risk too. A part of me thinks that if you posted information such as where you were staying, what dates, etc. you should of course recognize that there is an elevated risk in such a situation. You don’t know who is reading your blog or tweets, and if you have plenty of photos of yourself or an individual who has traveled with you then it puts them at risk too. Have you tried to contact hotel management or someone at SPG? I have stayed at this hotel before and the management team has usually been very good with all other questions/issues. The W is a popular hotel and it’s a bit of an iconic structure in the city, very easily recognizable and I’m sure that the hotel does not want to be known for poor security or one that ignores these types of situations. If you have a few incidents like this show up on tripadvisor and other popular resources, then there is potential for lost revenue. I highly doubt hotel management would want to be responsible for that, so you’d like to think they’d give this a little more attention. I also doubt it was someone that is working closely with the hotel. If a visitor knows your name, they could go to the front desk and ask to give a call to the room even if they don’t know the room number. Maybe the creepy guy looked at the number pad on the phone and was able to catch the room number? It’s also possible the room number was visible on the keyholder, or on a cell phone, etc. or on a photo, or on a receipt as another member suggested. It’s also possible that the creepy guy knew someone who was a guest at the hotel, who had mentioned to them that you or your mom were in a room across from them or something like that. It sounds a bit far-fetched, but it seems like this guy really made an effort with this…it’s the W Barcelona, while you might have a good number of wealthier clientele staying there, it’s not easy to just walk up to any floor and roam around to find guests to target either. You need a key card to get up the elevator, and last time I was there I remember there were 1-2 employees at in the elevator lobby that were checking key cards or making sure that individuals going up were guests or were authorized to go up. So why go through all that just to get a purse and/or other valuables? There are plenty of other nice hotels that are in a busier part of town, don’t have as much security etc as the W. Do let us know the outcome of this, definitely hope that the individual is caught and punished.

    It’s easy to say that Barcelona has a reputation for crime like this and why would anyone go there? And why can’t the city adjust its policing policies etc, but pickpocketing is not stopped like this. Spain has high unemployment, inflation, other economic issues, and when you combine that with a high number of tourists it results in crime like this. And it can happen in any city in the world. You just need to be cautious when traveling anywhere, and be aware of your surroundings. I’ve traveled to cities in Latin America that people said were dangerous and tourists were being targeted, and there’s a good chance of having a negative experience. And nothing ever happened, I don’t carry a wallet, divide my notes up carefully and carry a limited amount of cash, don’t wear a watch, and am very careful about when and where I pull out my smartphone. I’ve traveled to Amsterdam where I’ve been to a half dozen times and know certain parts of the city, yet I’ve nearly been a victim of pickpocketing there (the good ole distract with the football move trick, that I caught in time). Locals can tell easily who is a tourist and who isn’t, but the more you look less like a tourist and don’t stand out, the bad guys are not going to want to try and pickpocket you. They usually attempt it with those tourists who make the mistake of pulling out their phone or wear something expensive etc. It gives them a reason to look at them as a target they can have success with. Barcelona is a beautiful city with much to offer, if you make the effort to be cautious and not stand out, there’s a very good chance that you’ll have a wonderful and memorable experience. Once again, glad you and your mom are safe!

  41. Thank you for sharing this story, Ben. its a lesson to all of us globetrotters. I still can’t figure out at what point he nicked you’re mom’s wallet. Since he never was alone with her purse. Had he stolen her wallet early in the day, before he came back to ask her out for dinner, then surely he wouldn’t have bothered to come back for her. Something’s fishy, but you may want to call local police of the W staff are so blaze about the incident. Also interesting to check the times that he charged the items in the hotel to your room. Good Luck sorting it out, hope your mom finds her wallet somewhere somehow, having misplaced it. And you guys can get back to enjoying whats left of your trip. Safe Travels.

  42. I also am wondering if he got the info from the blog. Pretty big coincidence that he said he was in Emirates 1st.

  43. This sucks. I’m glad both of you are ok – I don’t believe for a second that the hotel wasn’t in on it, and I want this guy caught and hung by his balls.

  44. Sorry, but the highly sceptical me cannot get over the fact that your mother got picked up at the bar and then let that complete stranger into her hotel room…..

    You don’t even need to have read the stories to know how that most likely will end. Either with a smoke or with something really bad.

    Be grateful, but also a little sad that the opportunity was provided. that’s a large part why these crimes keep occuring.

  45. By the narrative about the thief pretending to be an out of work Emirates pilot he sounds like someone following your blog waiting for you to come to a country he could rip you off from. He had to have gotten your information and itinerary from your blog and/or hacking your frequent flyer accounts. Then he set up on your mom after waiting for you to go out for the night. He is counting on you not pressing charges so you should definitely tell law enforcement you will return for the trial once he is arrested. Hopefully he will be caught asap and make sure you update your phone number with local Spanish law enforcement so they can keep you apprised when you and your mom need to return to testify against him.

  46. I hope I am wrong, but it sounds like YOU got a stalker who hates you. Possibly he has tracked you down through your blog.
    Still a really messed up story šŸ™

  47. That is very scary to read about. I was just in Barcelona two weeks ago with my husband (we stayed at Le Meridien on the Rambas- great location for sightseeing). I was actually telling friends that I felt fairly safe because it wasn’t high tourist season, so it seemed like there were fewer scammers/pickpockets around.

    I do wonder if it’s someone who reads your blog or just a thief who happened to see your mother alone. What a scary situation though for both you and your mom.

  48. Wow, just wow. Most importantly I’m so glad your mom is safe. I would have had a complete worried/mad meltdown at my mother!

    I agree with the others who think the guy got your travel info off of the blog, Instagram, or Twitter. Honestly, I always post trip info and pics on FB or Twitter after I return home, never during the trip, but I’m fairly paranoid about security, even as an anonymous, non-blogger without a huge following.

    Hang in there and just focus on the fact that you’re both safe!

  49. A horrible story — the only saving grace is that your mother, as others have pointed out, was not hurt, although I’m sure she will carry the emotional scars from this episode for awhile.

    Scams happen everywhere. Someone close to me was in Hawaii and went swimming and had all their critical belongings stolen in a moment’s time. It ruined the trip and while local law enforcement was very sympathetic, they admitted to her that “it happens all the time.”

  50. There shouldn’t be any blame placed on Ben or Ben’s lovely mother. This kind of stuff happens to the best people! The best thing is that Ben and his mother are safe and healthy. Documents can be replaced. Fraudulent charges can be contested. Yes it sucks, but it’s the reality of our life these days.

  51. Nobody wants to come out and say it, but I will. “Barcelona sucks” because it has the most petty crime and the perpetrators are usually in cahoots the workers where you are robbed. Has happened too many times to friends and family. Last example, daughter had her phone stolen sitting in the lobby of a hostel. Mgmt didn’t really care and neither did the police. Visit at your own risk.

  52. Sorry you guys are having to deal with this. As soon as I read that your mom agreed to have coffee with him, I thought this wouldn’t end well.

  53. Perhaps the hotel can review some CCTV “tapes” with you both to get a pic of the guy for tracking him down. Hallway, bar, etc.

  54. Who knows what really happened and I wonder if there is anything else your Mom did not tell you about? Give her time to talk about it or have someone else talk to her. She got traumatized (possibly physically as well) and is scared to talk about it. Her mental state is at stake. She may need more help than you think of. Put everything else on the site and concentrate on her. Consider all possibilities. Abused women tend not to share their pain and it affects them in a long run. Wishing you all the best. Safe travels!

  55. Why does everyone think that this must be a reader of his blog? If he was a reader, then he’d know travel bloggers don’t make much money… šŸ™‚ The guy probably saw an Emirates luggage tag on their bags. Don’t know about Emirates, but some airlines place stickers on luggage denoting pax is in first/business class. A quick glance and he can narrow his target to someone with money (or at least the appearance of money). If your mom charged the coffee to the room, then he has the room number as well.

  56. Sorry your Mom had to go through that. Don’t blame her or be angry with her. She’s your mom! Personally though, if I took my elderly mom on a trip anywhere, I would never have her out of my sight. You shouldn’t have left her alone for a minute.

  57. It took me reading about 50 of the comments to interpret the stolen green card as an immigration card as opposed to an Amex card.

  58. I guess I’m not sure- but I thought your parents were still married.

    This is is just too weird, and doesn’t really add up.

    I agree with others. You shouldn’t have left Her alone while you went to dinner.

  59. This story doesnt make a lot of sense Ben. At what point was the purse stolen? When he was in the hotel room using the bathroom? If your Mother was watching him because she wanted to get rid of him, how was he able to steal it so easily? Was her handbag in the bathroom with him?

  60. Not to overlook the seriousness of this, but I was anticipating an article from Travis about how his son stole something out of the mini-bar and then went to a local drugstore and replaced it. That’s the hazard in failing to edit click-bait titles.

  61. Wow.

    First, good for your mom to get beyond the (unnecessary) embarrassment of being a victim and share the experience with us. And glad she is safe.

    I have the luxury of second guessing from the security of my own home, but when it becomes clear that your room number has been compromised to a stalker/creep/perv/unwanted suitor should one not request a different room immediately? I would hope your mom would not think it an imposition or too much of a request.

  62. Your Mother is an idiot if she lets random men into her room, let alone opening up doors without checking who it is…

  63. so sorry to hear that — when you get his picture from the hotel tapes can you post it on your site so all readers can look out for this creep.

  64. Ben, glad you shared this incident with us all and that both you AND your mom are OK, which is the most important thing here.

    It really blows how a situation like this can completely change one’s perception of a place being a city like BCN or a ‘good’ hotel like the W! Remind & re-assure your mom this was NOT her fault and remember that mistakes ARE opportunities for us to learn!

  65. Ben –
    Curious – what did your mom say to why she didn’t answer the phone calls or the door? What did the hotel say about why the keys didn’t work? What was that about? That would worry me further and I would certainly have moved to another room, even at midnight!!

    Having been mugged in the 70s in Rome (result was a broken arm), I have ever since been keenly aware that the US is one of the safest places in the world. We just don’t have these types of crimes in the US often. No, I don’t think most of us need to be worried about being shot in the US. Nor do we seem to have people who prey on travelers as you find in so many other places. One can never be cautioned enough about unscrupulous people, particularly when traveling. Americans seem to be really naive, probably because of the veil of safety we live under. We are bull’s eyes when out of the country.

    Sorry, it seems very dumb for your mom to agree to coffee with a stranger. Dumber yet to open a hotel room door for any reason, let the guy in and let him use the bathroom. Certainly the whole thing is not your mom’s fault. However, she was way too naive – probably to be left alone for a minute.

    The hotel’s complacency is typical in countries where there is so much petty crime. They are so used to it, they don’t even blink. The fact that they are part of a world-wide luxury chain should have moved the mark a bit, though, so I hope that Starwood and the W brand will hold them accountable. Their standards are not strong enough for me anymore.

  66. Sorry to hear about this Ben, hope your mum is doing ok!

    Unfortunately I have also experienced being pickpocketed in Barcelona – my friend and I had phone/wallets stolen during a 4 day trip in 2012, and I’d like to think we were pretty prepared for that kind of thing!

    Still a great city though, I hope this doesn’t ruin the trip for you or your mum.

  67. Ben, Sorry to hear this happened to you and your mom. Thank you for sharing your story. I’m disappointed to hear about the hotel’s response at checkout in your other blog post. May you have safe travels back to the U.S. Ultimately, glad to hear you and your mom are not physically hurt.

  68. My thoughts keep going back to your statement of not being able to open the door…. You had the electronic key redone twice, from my reading of your post. Each time should reset the code to a new & unique one, yes? And then the Associate couldn’t even get in with a Master Key. Master Key should open any room, no matter what the code. So it sounds to me like these people had somehow corrupted the electronics of your door. The good news is that it sounds like they meant your mum no physical harm. That’s got to make her feel a tiny bit less violated.

  69. So sorry your Mom was targeted by a creep. She shouldn’t blame herself. Too often we women try not to give offense and to see (or imagine) the best in people. When traveling, it’s enjoyable to make a human contact, even with another traveler. The creeps know how to ramp up their approach. If the victim doesn’t cut off the first approach, then it becomes increasingly awkward to cut off the contact at each further point. I’ve been sucked in and then had to cut it off quickly, awkwardly, and just high-tail it. No graceful way to escape. If the other person isn’t a creep, he’s left wondering “whaaaaat the heck!”. When I think back to some of my unguarded behavior, I could have easily been in your Mom’s shoes.
    Hang in there, Mom!

  70. My mom once got picked up on a ferry to the Greek Islands with our entire family and my dad an arms length away. She did t even realize her ‘nice’ chatter was a welcome mat for creeps. Don’t let this incident curtail your moms adventurous spirit, just need to modify the enthusiasm. Glad you are both safe and unharmed.

  71. I’m sure you already know this, but in case others do not: in addition to pick pockets, Barcelona’s airport of full of thieves. I know two different couples who had all their carry on stolen while they waited for their checked luggage at the carousel. They thought they were close enough to it, but there it went–with the passports, meds, and all that other “so important we carry it on” stuff. So, hold onto that carryon stuff!

  72. First, I’m so glad your Mom is ok. Shaken, but fine.

    Two things I want to address. I felt a CREEPY vibe in the first few comments… Mrs. S was a VICTIM. Some of the replies were almost BLAMING your Mom… Why would anyone blame a VICTIM of a crime?

    I feel like we are a small family, who read your blog every day/week/month.

    Some of the comments were rude and inappropriate… Drugged? Really? I seriously do not think a women in her 60’s(???) would even sip a drink from a stranger in a hotel bar…

    This person will be caught…

    Ron R

  73. horrible as the situation is and I read it again I feel that all this could be avoided if you follow a few rules and educate yourself and your mother/father:

    1. Refrain from speaking to people you do not know, be rude if you must.
    2. Always have a DND sign at your door, unless you want the room cleaned.
    3. Always double lock and latch the door.
    4. Always look at the peephole before opening the door.

    This situation could have been prevented if you guys had followed the 1st rule and the 4th rule.

  74. Hi Ben, sorry this happened to you & your mom. It really sounds like an inside job at the hotel. It sounds like the charming guy was a sophisticated con-artist, and he most likely had help of at least one other person. The hotel management’s lack of shock,and concern for your mom’s well-being is surprising. That is what makes it seem most likely it involves them/ their staff to a certain degree. I will never stay at that hotel based on their response and lack of commitment to resolving the violations.
    I think tomorrow will be a better day, and your mom will feel better about it, as it was not her fault in the least. Too bad about the hassle of getting a new greencard as well, but at least the damage is minimal compared to what his ill intentions may have been. Safe journey to you both on the rest of your travels Ben.

  75. At least mom is ok. Barcelona is dreadful for crime. I carry no valuables anymore and tell mom to leave the pearls in the bank safe near home.
    I was ripped over 5k in Quebec and despite police and court verdict, travel agent scammer never paid.
    Learn. Learn. Learn. That’s all we can do as well as stay away from the ever growing scum that think nothing of ripping people off.

  76. Forgive as I haven’t read all of the comments, but I have stayed at this W in Barcleona and you have to have a key card to get to a floor. Hell even to get to the Bliss Spa floor – which makes all of this more suspect.

  77. Benny, sorry to hear about your troubles. Don’t let your mom out of your sight in a foreign country. By the way, a robbery is when a personal item is taken from you by force or threat of force. This was a theft.

  78. @ Zippy Pam — She didn’t answer the phone calls because at that point she was scared and had the door locked and wanted to wait for me. The hotel claimed that because the door was locked from the inside no keys would work, though from the sensor there was nothing indicating that the door was locked from the inside.

  79. @ Sam — Yep, he apparently needed to go to the bathroom both when they were at the bar and when he showed up at the room.

  80. @ Ben — The purse was stolen sometime between when they got drinks and when I got back. The purse was inside her handbag, and she hadn’t checked it during that time. If only I knew how he stole it!

  81. @ Brian — To clarify, I had made plans with friends for dinner, and my mom was going to join us. She was tired and wasn’t feeling well, so was going to stay in the room alone. As she did. You really think that’s irresponsible? Should I have flaked on dinner with friends, which I agreed to a long time ago?

  82. @ duquan — I agree 90%, and between my trips with my parents, I do spend about 90% of my time with them. But is it realistic to be with them 100% of the time? I have to work once in a while, shower, etc. Where do you draw the line? šŸ˜€

  83. Would be interested to hear what ends up happening with this. With your status, I would hope they do more of a detailed investigation compared to just brushing it off. I’ve spent a bit of time in Barcelona and found it to be a very safe city. Only had items stolen from me was in Colombia and South Africa! On another note, no data on your phone? Why don’t you have a T-mobile plan with unlimited data roaming? The 2G speed is more than adequate for FB, maps, messaging, casual browsing.

  84. This is creepy. Definitely want more on this. Glad your mother is ok. Did you see if previous visitors have had similar complaints?

  85. What’s with all the victim-blaming? I’m sure they are both feel bad enough as it is and don’t need random strangers to make them feel worse.

    Glad you’re both safe. Thank you for telling your story.

  86. Oh no, poor Mom! At least you guys are not hurt.. Probably inside job.. Lots of them in continental Europe.. Hope your Mom isn’t too freaked out

  87. Agreed – no need to victim blame. It is easy to sit back behind a keyboard and pass judgement – one never knows how they will react to any situation until it happens to them.

    I am too interested to how the hotel responds – especially since one has to have a key to access floors.
    So either the man was a guest or someone at the hotel gave him a key to access floors.

  88. Please think about taking the video of your mom down. You already did a good job of explaining the situation. She is clearly hurt and embarrassed. I don’t think having the video up for the world to see helps her, or adds anything to the narrative.

  89. Oh no, what a disappointing end to what was a trip of a lifetime. I am so sorry to read this happened. This seems to go beyond a pick pocket scenario, it’s like a conman selecting a mark and toying with them along the way. I am sure that has to feel more violating since there is stalker like quality to it.

    I hope you or your mom have had the opportunity to tell your dad and brother about this before they read it on the blog.

  90. Dear Lucky:

    Just read the report of the impossible situation at the W Barcelona – amazing and sad!

    My wife and I spent 4 nights at our favorite Barcelona Hotel (Hotel 1898) prior to leaving on a Crystal Trans-Atlantic Cruise in December 2012. Crystal uses the W – everyone we met on the cruise who had stayed at the W complained of the location – no one had a good word. I was surprised, although the location is guaranteed to disappoint people who love Barcelona. Next time you are in Barcelona, check out the Hotel 1898!

  91. So sorry to hear about what happened to your mom (incidentally, seems it was was a theft not a “robbery” — not to diminish her experience). Glad she’s okay. Sad that travelers have to be wary of strangers, but anyone who’s travelled extensively has probably had a similar experience — don’t ask me about the hostess bar in Athens :). Hope you figure out what really happened (a stalker sounds unlikely).

  92. Wow. What a story. I think by you adding the youtube video really explains things well. Very good idea. Others may learn from this situation.

  93. Lucky,

    I’m sorry to hear of the theft, fright and upset experienced by your mom in Barcelona. I hope her feelings of safety & security are restored soon with the help of her loving son.

    I would hope in your travels, for your safety, you would consider adding some randomness by having 3 or more hotels you use in repeated travel locations, and on occasion, move to different hotels during your stay.

  94. It’s against human nature for people to not be friendly, receptive, and ultimately trusting of people. Criminals know this and take advantage of it of course. In my opinion Europe is a hot spot for this scamming activity because of the heavy tourist trade and prominent government welfare system. It allows for more opportunistic criminal behavior and encourages all manner of untaxed illicit economic activity.

  95. Glad you and Mom are ok. Honestly not surprised that the thief got your mom’s room number…knew your name..etc.

    Could have seen room number on receipt that your mom signed at bar…she talked very highly of you I’m sure…so all he had to do was Google travel bloggers staying at the W Barcelona (you did live post) and get a bunch of personal information etc.

    We live in a screwed up world…but credit cards and green cards are replaceable…and I’m sure that you and mom had a wonderful trip otherwise. Could have been a LOT worse. Be safe!

  96. After reading the whole story, glad that your mom is ok.

    I had my purse cut from me in Madrid several years ago around Xmas on the way to dinner around 9pm. I was walking beside my husband and my children (teenagers) were behind us. I felt a tug and the leather Coach bag was cut from under my coat. I turned around thinking that it was my children only to see a guy running away and jumped on a waiting motor bike.

    The scary thing was that my children saw the thieves and ran after them on foot. It was an anxious 15 minutes not knowing whether my children were and if they would get hurt.

    We just have to be careful and be careful when in strange places.

    I enjoyed your blog tremendously.

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