If you’re staying at a hotel and are traveling with valuables, it’s generally a best practice to place those items in a safe, to prevent any sort of theft. However, even that isn’t a perfect solution. After all, there are staff at the hotel who can reset the safes in rooms, making inside jobs possible. Along those lines, here’s a story…
In this post:
A traveler’s New York hotel safe robbery story
Someone reached out to me with a very detailed account of what they claim happened at the Marriott Residence Inn Manhattan Midtown East in New York City. Let me emphasize that this is just an accusation, so obviously I can’t personally vouch for whether things happened exactly the way the traveler claims.
However, the traveler is being very transparent (like, wildly so), has filed a police report, and has contacted the Argentinian consulate, so he’s making very consistent claims. I think this is at least worth drawing some attention to, since the traveler says he’s getting nowhere with any Marriott channels.
For some background, this Argentinian man was traveling with his wife and two young children, and he claims to be a police officer and lawyer in Argentina. He was on a multi-week trip to the United States, starting in New York on December 28, 2023, and ending in Miami on January 17, 2024. He describes this as a special trip where they were using a significant portion of their savings.
The family was traveling with $19,000 in cash. While that might seem odd for us Americans, keep in mind that it’s common for many foreigners to pay with cash when traveling, especially those coming from countries with volatile currencies. He declared this amount with US Customs & Border Protection when entering the country, and even shared the receipt of that declaration with me.
So, here are the traveler’s version of events of what happened after the family checked into the hotel on December 28, 2023:
- On the morning of December 29, the man put $19,000 in cash, a watch, and passports, in the safe of room 827 at the hotel, and then the family went sightseeing for the day
- In the evening, the family returned to the room, but couldn’t open the safe; so he called the front desk and was told there weren’t any engineers available that night, which he found strange
- The following morning, an engineer opened the safe, but the cash was missing (while everything else was still there)
- The traveler requested that the hotel call the police, which they refused to do, so he called them himself; several cops showed up at the hotel, and then lifted fingerprints from the safe and the front door, questioned staff, and more
- The traveler shares a confirmation of a tour that they had booked well in advance for December 30, which they had to reschedule due to all of this, which the traveler describes as “further proof that this was an unexpected tragedy for us”
Here’s where it gets even more interesting. The traveler shares a picture he took of the money in the safe from the morning he placed it in there. Why would he do that? He claims to have taken it because he had a bad feeling.
The day of their arrival, they left all their bags with the front desk, since the room wasn’t yet ready. When they returned, the zip tie on one of the bags was open, and the zipper wasn’t closed correctly (though nothing was taken, since there were no valuables in the bag). The hotel had no explanation for that.
The next logical question is why the hotel would have suspected he had so much cash. The answer is because he tried to pay for the stay in cash at check-in (rather than using a credit card), but the hotel didn’t allow that. So at least some people at the hotel knew he had a significant amount of cash. The cost of the hotel stay over New Year’s Eve was over $3,000.
What do we make of this story?
As I said at the beginning of this post, I can’t personally vouch for the accuracy of any of this, which is to say that I didn’t see the traveler place the money in the safe, and I also didn’t see anyone from the hotel take the money.
That being said, this person provided an incredibly detailed account of what happened. The traveler declared the money when entering the United States, the traveler even took a picture of money in the safe, and we also have reason to believe that people at the hotel knew he had a lot of cash on him.
Now, let me of course also acknowledge that fraud happens in the world, and some might say that this traveler’s version of events are almost too perfect. He had proof of the cash, and he literally took a timestamped picture of the safe’s contents prior to leaving the room, and after that it was robbed.
This traveler also went to the Argentinian consulate about this and claims to be a police officer in the country, so making up something like this would seem like a very bad idea. He even said I could use his full name in this post (which I’m just not comfortable doing), so he’s not trying to hide behind anonymity. Perhaps it’s because he’s a cop that he’s actually taking the precautions that almost seem suspicious to the average person.
Lastly, if someone is going to commit fraud, it’s not usually going to be when their spouse and young children are there, as the traveler describes this as being incredibly traumatic for his young children, as they spent the entire day dealing with this police investigation.
I’m sharing this story in hopes that an actually thorough and transparent investigation is performed, because this person tells me that he’s just getting the silent treatment from the hotel, from Marriott corporate, etc.
The hotel presumably has cameras, so it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out whether there’s merit to this story, and whether people entered his room or not. Furthermore, presumably there would have been some level of coordination here between people — the front desk agents knew he had cash, while engineering (or someone else working in the rooms division) would have probably accessed the safe.
An Argentinian man taking a special family trip to New York claims to have had $19,000 in cash stolen from a hotel safe. The traveler had so much cash because the plan was to pay for everything during the trip with cash, and the hotel knew he had the money, since he tried to pay in cash at the beginning of the stay (rather than using a credit card).
At a minimum, hopefully Marriott takes this seriously and investigates. I’m inclined to believe this version of events, but of course you never know.
If nothing else, it’s a good reminder that a hotel safe isn’t quite as safe (no pun intended) as many people may assume. Yes, you’re protected from outside theft, but you’re not protected from an inside job, and most hotel robberies are the latter.
What do you make of this story?