The W Barcelona General Manager Chimes In — You Won’t Believe This!

Filed Under: Hotels, Security/TSA

For those of you not up to date on the saga, see these posts:

Long story short my mom was robbed at the W Barcelona, and it got a lot more creepy than that — the guy made fraudulent charges to our room, and based on how much information he knew this wasn’t just a random pick pocketing.

Stuff fraudulently charged to our room

Was the theft itself the hotel’s fault? Nope. But in my opinion the hotel has a duty to take the situation seriously and to investigate when it happens on their premises, involves several security breaches, involves someone that claims to work for their brand (even if that was a lie), and they’re part of a major global hotel brand, presumably with global safety standards/procedures.

Unfortunately the way the hotel handled the situation was beyond disappointing:

  • It was several hours from when we informed the duty manager of the situation until when security was made aware of it, despite us checking out that day
  • The duty manager promised to follow up with us, which never happened, despite us following up with him several times — not only did he not follow up, but he incorrectly conveyed the situation to security
  • When we sat down with the director of rooms, she was dismissive and borderline confrontational, despite the fact that you’d think hotel security would be a shared goal for both parties

A good friend that’s a top travel advisor forwarded links to my blog post to the W Barcelona General Manager, Richard Brekelmans, suggesting he look into the situation personally. He CCed me on the email. We received the following reply at 8AM local time in Barcelona this morning:

Thank you for your message. We are fully aware of the incident which happened to Mr. Schlappig´s mother, and we thoroughly investigated the matter. Although we truly regret the incident, it was fully outside of the hotels influence.

Mr. Schlappig was at all times given all the attention and was offered full assistance from our Duty Manager and Director of Security.

I figured the general manager would be ashamed of the way his staff handled the situation, but instead he has decided that:

  • The incident has been “thoroughly investigated” (past tense), which directly contradicts what hotel security said, as they said they hadn’t yet been able to investigate everything and were still working on it (if the “thorough investigation” is done, I’d love to hear the findings!)
  • It was completely outside the “hotels influence” — again, I don’t think it was the hotel’s fault, but I do think more investigation needs to be done to figure out what can be done to prevent this in the future on their premises
  • Most insultingly of all, saying that we were given “all the attention” and were “offered full assistance” with the situation

Are you kidding me?! Taking several hours to convey a theft to hotel security, and then doing so incorrectly is offering us full assistance?

This is a really unfortunate situation. We’re over the theft as such — my mom lost a few hundred dollars, and she’ll have to get her credit cards, Green Card, etc., replaced. But the outright apathy from the entire staff and even the general manager is appalling.

One of the reasons I stay at chain hotels is because there are certain standards you can expect no matter where in the world you are. Yes, with Starwood I may have to occasionally beg for upgrades, but at a minimum I’ve always felt like as a brand standard my safety was a top priority at their hotels.

Starwood Corporate, this is something that needs to investigated further, because surely this isn’t what you stand for. Because if it were something you stood for, I wouldn’t spend half my life at your hotels.

I’m truly at a loss for words here…

  1. Ridiculous. Even though this has no effect on me whatsoever, I’m boycotting SPG. And Barthelona and their thtupid lithpth.

  2. I’m sorry this happened, but honestly you should have just called the police. Some hotel “mall cops” aren’t going to help you.

  3. Lucky,

    Very unfortunate event! I agree that Starwood Corp. should look into the issue. This can happen to anyone of else.

    Stay safe in future travels bud.

  4. Well that clears it up. The Manager is clearly aware of what went on and is involved in all of this. Seems like he can’t move fast enough to bury this. Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to keep screaming. Let’s see how many of your followers/readers will be willing to go to this hotel!

    A few years ago, my close friend’s elderly mother was scammed out of $5,000. Very bright woman, she was bereft – not over the money but at being a dupe. These predators know what they are doing and they are very good at it – without the trace of a conscience. But from your side of the story, it is doubtful they could have pulled all of this off without some help.

  5. Wow. That’s insane. I would be livid if I were your mother. Never been much of a Starwood status member, but I definitely think I’ll keep on chugging with Hyatt for the near future.


  6. While I agree that the incident was mostly outside the hotel’s influence, I don’t agree with the hotel’s response. The incident occured on their premises and the hotels should at the very least investigate how the guy got up to the floor you were staying in (and how he knew that in the first place). And they shouldn’t even lie about you being given “full attention” because their response was at best, listening to you and not giving a c*** about it.

    I also found this on Starwood’s website under ‘Company Values’:
    Do the Right Thing: by using good judgment, respecting our communities, associates, owners, partners and the environment

    So, my advice here is contact Starwood management and get the hotel in trouble. Since the hotel is owned and managed by Starwood and not a third party you can’t cause the hotel too much chaos by say, making Starwood end the contract or something, at the very least the people in charge of the hotel will get disciplinary action.

  7. I’m certainly not glad that this happened to you, but I am glad you have a platform to expose this environment of apathy that exists at the W. I guarantee you and your mother aren’t the first ones to be treated this way, but you may be the first that can expose the hotel’s lack of caring and professionalism to a large audience.
    Please don’t let this go.

  8. There should be video footage somewhere in the hotel. There should be a bartender who remembers something. There has to be some way to find out who did this.

  9. Clearly the GM sets the tone of Incompetence at the W Barcelona. Corporate should investigate what is going on. Appalling treatment of its guests and shocking to see such apparent indifference to security breaches.

  10. you messed up. You should have known better as has should your mother if you’re going on these trips. What happened sucked but just stop now. You handled it like someone on their first international trip would have. You owe your mom dickweed.

  11. I’m seeing a trend of more bitter posts lately, and more using the blog to complain until you get what you want, rather than using it for actual reviews. While you do have an actual complaint, this is a new trend which takes away from the reviews which a lot of people look forward to.

  12. Unbelievable.

    The fact that the Duty Manager initially asked you not to report the incident to the police made me suspicious but could have been merely an attempt to protect the hotel’s reputation. The fact that he delayed reporting to in house security, and then when security did not follow up properly to get full details is concerning. It raised flags that this was either a known issue or an inside job. Now it appears the GM is either being mislead by his management team or lacks concern for the safety of his guests. Either way it is something corporate should investigate.

  13. It’s great to have a soap box that most don’t have. If things get resolved to your satisfaction, I’d argue it is because you are a travel blogger. ..not because security protocols were finally followed.

  14. Funny enough, I do believe it. You have my sympathy but I think we could all do without the clickbait.

  15. I followed all of your posts and have some thoughts. The hotel most likely has a security / operational guide here.

    I suspect when the guest opened the door and willing let someone in, this reduces their influence.

    This scam is quite popular in the developing world where con men trick trusting people. I was not there but I imagine your mom gave up some info in talking and an unsuspecting front desk gave the rest. U see these talking tricks in the movies all the time.

    File a police report and move on. I even think amex plat will facilitate getting new documents.

    I think spg could be a bit nicer but has done nothing out of line. If anything stay at Fairmont Barcelona next time.

  16. PainCorp – Disagree with you. We have all come across such indifferent or incompetent service at one time or another. What empowers Ben, compared to the regular traveler, is he has a platform which might actually influence real positive change.

  17. @Lucky – the real question becomes: Will your experience at the W Barcelona change where you decide to stay elsewhere? in other words, will this experience cause you to reconsider future stays at any Starwood property?

  18. Lucky you never said if you called the police, this should have been the first thing you should have done. You have to remember the hotel is worried about their liability not resolving the crime. Also hotel security’s main job is to protect the hotel not you. I probably spend as much time in hotels as you do and am on the road 60% of the year. My company has a large corporate security department to help if I ever need it, but if I was in this situation the first words out of their mouth would have been “did you contact local law enforcement”? You would be amazed at the resources law enforcement has that the hotel does not.

    This individual could have been targeting tourists for some time but if occurrences are not reported the cops don’t know about it and cant stop him.

  19. Ben- I agree the W should look into this further.

    As far as the bar charges it should be reversed immediately. I never had a problem getting incorrect room charges removed at any hotel.

    As far as the purse robbery it is very difficult to say where that occurred. Was it at the bar or the room or elsewhere?

    As others have said your mom should never have let this man/creep into the room. Whether the purse robbery occurred in the room is hard to say, though. Regardless, I sympathize with you and your mom. Good luck.

  20. When things like this happen, one should always file a police report. Biggest issue that I can see is that somehow the room number was given out. Things could have been much, much worse.

  21. Ben,

    Just a thought — I’m guessing these were two different incidents. I bet that the bar one was a staff member who pocketed another customer’s cash, then signed it to your room. Saw your slip in the pile, and that’s how he copied the signature so closely.

    Creepy guy perhaps not connected at all.

    FWIW the first time I arrived in BCN three guys tried to rob me on the subway. They were pretty pathetic — I’m a little guy and had bags, but I fought/scared them off. (I’ve liived in NY, they were outclassed). What really struck me is that about thirty people in the subway car all watched — not one said or did anything, during or after.

  22. Lucky, I’m sorry for the distress this has caused you and your mother (it certainly wasn’t your mother’s fault – these things happen).

    This is one thing I love about the Internet: if forces so much more accountability. Let’s see if Starwood realises what a PR disaster this is.

  23. @ Alpha — To clarify, they didn’t forge my signature closely. Both of those tickets are fraudulent. My legitimate receipt wasn’t pictured.

  24. I am so sorry you are going through this. Unfortunately, crimes against women are routinely treated this way. I wish I could believe that this was something we could avoid simply by avoiding Barcelona or the W hotel but I think a great many chain hotels, corporate campuses, and universities/colleges would act exactly the same way. There was never any intention of investigating and every intention of giving you the brush-off until you go away. It seems as if every single human being on this planet has to learn the hard way that you NEVER go through hotel, corporate, etc. security. If there is a crime, IMMEDIATELY file a police report. If the police won’t take the report, get a lawyer to file the report ASAP. If your mother was drugged, she should get medical attention as well. The assumption that this was only a property crime with no lasting harm done may not be well-founded based on the evidence of her apparent confusion. My heart goes out to you.

  25. It’s a W, what do you expect from a chain full of snotty jerks? I’ve never had good customer service at any of their hotels.

  26. Ben,

    I have to agree with some of the commentators here. When you are a victim of a crime, at least in a developed country like Spain, you call the police, whose job it is after all to investigate and resolve criminal activity. I think this is just common sense.

    I appreciate what you do with your blog, but you seem very naive about the world. Travel is supposed to be a set of experiences that increase your understanding of the world, its people, the good and the bad. But by cocooning yourself in the 1% world of first class travel and corporate hotels, you seem to be missing out on a lot. I understand your professional niche here, but don’t let life pass you by, kid. You have a lot to learn.

  27. How big was the hotel bar? I mean — even if I’m a bartender or waiter I’d have enough smarts to notice there were 2 Benjamin Schlappigs at the hotel bar at the same time! 😉

  28. Ben,

    Why you would leave this to the hotel and not immediately call the police is beyond me.

    Leaving this to the hotel seems an odd choice.

  29. Ben, sorry to hear about the incident!

    My phone was stolen in the executive lounge of the Le Meridien in KL (it was early in the afternoon, and the lounge had no other guests), and when the ‘Find my Phone’ was activated, it started ringing off the hook in one of the employees belongings. That happened only after the security report was filed, my room was thoroughly searched by 2 security staff, the camera footage was closely examined – all to establish that I am indeed not trying to swindle myself out of my own phone!

    To receive an apology from the hotel, I had to call the corporate office and email the hotel – twice! After which, I was offered 3,500 points as a consolation prize.

    The hotels just don’t like to be held responsible – even when it is their own staff that’s at fault…

  30. This is insane; I am getting mad reading about your experience – can’t imagine what you are feeling. My biggest concern would be replacing the green card. These schmucks can alter green cards and sell them in the black market and travel into the US. Assuming you contacted the Embassy or State Department. How did your Mom get back into the country? Using her German passport?

  31. Like 20 years ago, I was traveling with my family in China. On the last night before returning to the US, we were eating at a small restaurant in Beijing. When we entered, we were seated at the second table from the door even though the table was not set and there were numerous open tables. While we were eating, two guys came in and were seated at the table by the door. They looked at the menu and left. After the meal, my mother realized her purse (with her passport in it) had been removed. We believed that the restaurant and the two men who came and left were in cahoots.

    We were staying at one of the Hyatts in Beijing. When we got there, we explained to the front desk that my mother’s purse had been taken. They sent a security team to our room who interviewed my parents. They said they would investigate.

    Of course the big concern was that my mother’s passport was gone and we were leaving for the states the next morning. To get a replacement could have taken some time. We had to leave without her while the hotel sent her in a car to the embassy.

    When she arrived at the embassy, the marine at the gate waived her in immediately and accompanied her to an office where one of the embassy employees explained that someone on a moped had thrown her passport at the marines at the gate. She got back in the hotel car and went to the airport where she was able to get the next flight out.

    To this day, I believe that the Hyatt security team is the reason that her passport was returned. My guess is that they put pressure on the restaurant to make it right, and this was the result.

    I was only 13 at the time. But it has made me a Hyatt customer for life (though I still spread around my stays).

    Your situation with the W sounds horrid. I’ve always believed hotels have a lot of power and abilities if they choose to exercise them (see above). That they refuse to and try to say they did everything they can is terrible.

  32. Hey there “Lucky”!

    Hmmm..well, maybe not so lucky this time. Anyway, I have been reading all the comments on your W fiasco and I couldn’t help chiming in. Just a few obvious observations and a possible suggestions for you and your mom.

    A. You can mess with Lucky and he might write a story about it.

    B. If you mess with Ben’s mom he will hunt you down and make you pay.

    C. The management and staff of the W Barcelona, at bare minimum, are incompetent, at worst complicit and only want this issue to disappear.

    D. SPG Will provide you with some relief in the end, but only to the extent that they are protecting their brand.

    With all that in mind, my suggestions to you are these. Find out who the actual owner of this W hotel is and address this situation with them publicly in this forum. Barcelona is known for pick pockets and those who cover for them. But I love that city as do millions of other people. It is the owner who stands to lose revenue here. Not the hotel management and not SPG particularly.

    Secondly, in contacting the ownership, be ready to reward their cooperation with true praise of a hotel that you thought of highly enough to treat your mother to a special holiday there.

    Long post,

    Sorry, done now.

  33. How W Barcelona (such an iconic hotel) is handling this situation is quite disappointing. Hope SPG reaches out to you and provide you with some useful information.

  34. From my experience reading these blogs, if you bitch loud and hard enough, they’ll come a knockin’ soon enough. Have no fear buddy. Make a few more posts about it and I’m sure it’ll all be resolved.

  35. I think the main thing the mom did wrong was let a stranger into her room. It’s just really hard for me to understand why she didn’t look through the peephole, why she let him in just because she had opened the door, and why she didn’t report it immediately. I think the main thing Bed did wrong was fail to call the tourist police. The folks who say the hotel security is there to protect the hotel above anyone else are absolutely correct. They are not going to risk putting their employer in a bad position because their paycheck depends on them siding with the hotel. Police aren’t going to recover your valuables but they can at least start a paper trail that helps track and eventually trap serial abuses. I think the main thing the hotel did wrong was treat a highly visible customer like a clueless nobody. It’s possible Ben’s mom really doesn’t know what she’s doing or that she’s not being entirely forthright about everything that happened. Ben seems plenty smart enough to avoid being seriously scammed himself and he’s usually very relaxed about surviving the minor scams he does encounter. Ben is also very trusting of large international brands. So naturally when the closest possible relative of his is left feeling foolish and violated Ben wants to help in any way he can. Ben also expects the chain to assist as much as possible. Unfortunately his trust appears to be largely misplaced and as a result he’s left feeling cheated as well. Or at least that’s how it looks to me.

  36. I am happy you and your mom are ok. But frankly, it sounds like there might be more to this story, and that your mom’s naivety is partly responsible for what happened (as the criminal was looking for this kind of victim). Having said that, I do not feel that the hotel did not cope well with this situation (as this is clearly a police matter, and not one that the hotel can solve, except for providing video footage). What could they have done more? I understand the frustration, but besides publically questioning (and blaming) the hotel and its manager, it may be wise to also question your mom’s naive behavior as well as your own behavior (expressing your frustration by spreading all this negative things about the hotel is not the best way to deal with this). I have stayed a couple of times at the W Barcelona and all I can say is that it is one of the best and most unique hotels in Europe, not only because of its splendid location, views and design, but also because of its wonderful staff and management:

  37. The scary part is – Lucky has a decently-sized bully pulpit. Someone at Starwood Corporate is doing facepalms (probably Marketing). But what about the guests who don’t have this kind of bully pulpit – how many of those have gotten this kind of brushoff?

    The behavior of the W Barcelona is so odd. My tinfoil hat theory is that this is a problem that the hotel has had for a while, and for some reason they’re covering it up so Starwood HQ won’t come in and break some heads. Either that, or somehow a luxury hotel ended up in the hands of a staff that couldn’t run a filthy roadside motel.

  38. 1. Report to the police

    2. Report to SPG and actually use your fanship. You have 10K followers on Instagram and presumably much more than that on your blog!

  39. Ben,

    I do empathize with your mom’s experience, having had a few older relatives succumb to various scams, not only travel related. And your worry and concern are of course justified. Also, I have also traveled regularly and globally, in addition to having many family members involved in hotels, airlines, etc.

    IME, GMs at large branded hotels don’t blow off security incidents like this lightly, especially when they are aware of likely media scrutiny as in this case and the corporate review and career implications likely to follow. Nor are ‘inside jobs’ likely to involve the number of high and middle level managers that got involved here. This implies that the GM believes they are on solid ground. Combined with the comments about the scammer ‘could have been a friend’ and that he could have been in the elevator with your mom, it seems possible they have indeed reviewed security tapes and seen things that point in that direction.

    With regards to my experience with older relatives being scammed, they often leave out embarrassing information even when discussing the incident with their family. You have to consider that possibility here. Frankly, there are puzzling gaps in the story to date. How did the purse disappear without your mom noticing? Why would the guy keep calling after he had gotten the purse, risking himself if your mom noticed it gone at the latest after he left the room? The texts from your mom, how can you tell they were creeped out except in your mom’s hindsight (scared emojis?) How come all the calls and attempts to open the door only awoke your after quite a while?

    The bar charges and knowing your room number are pretty easy, he got the number when your mom signed some bill and she would of course be proud and open about her son’s work and great blog, which is easily googled. Same for the EK and SQ and SPG details when she answered the straightforward ‘first vacation in Barcelona?’ question. ‘Yes! My son is taking me on this great trip to the ME, great flights, etc’. ‘Great! What does he do?’ etc..

    I guess I am saying most of this doesnt seem very mysterious, she was the victim of an ordinary scam artist, she could potentially be hiding due to embarrassment the extent of information she shared and whether she was more receptive to further contact even after you suggested not. The hotel folks may have seen that reflected in videos or other observations, and feel comfortable that there was enough voluntary interaction for it to be their place to get involved, and are possibly being discreet in their response. I do fault them for not at least suggesting a call to local police.

    Of course, the darker version with inside jobs all the way to the GM, blog stalkers et al, is possible, but ask yourself whether that is more likely. There is a more benign version too, where the guy was no scammer and your mom just mislaid her purse, but the bar charges make that also unlikely.

    Hope your mom and you feel better soon, and add me to the list of folks glad that this did not involve physical harm.

  40. Horrible experience, shameful response from hotel. TripAdvisor reviews of the W Barcelona are almost without exception glowing, and manager responds to every one. Why not post a review there? They probably don’t allow links but you could mention the name of your blog. I realize that some reviews mysteriously never appear but it’s worth try.

    And if you haven’t yet filed a police report, do it!

  41. I usually have a really good gut instinct, and I have a strong feeling that someone who works at the hotel was in on the scam. There are just too many individual coincidences. The thief not only knew the room number but knew that it was in your name and not your mother’s, hence he signed your name on the bill. Didn’t the bartender notice that two different people were signing your name at the same time? Were there any other charges or just bar charges? If just bar charges I would suspect a worker at the bar. Yes, I feel very strongly that someone working at the hotel was an accomplice and therefore the hotel IS responsible. What a horrid response you got from them at every point along the way. I will never stay at this hotel. Have you considered depositing a tripadvisor review to let others know that the hotel is incompetent regarding theft and fraud investigations?

  42. sorry again for the hassle and pain you had to endure. You should consider writing a TripAdvisor review in the headline warning people to beware of pickpockets and strangers and link to your blog posts. Hit them where it hurts

  43. The hotel folks may have seen that reflected in videos or other observations, and feel comfortable that there was enough voluntary interaction for it to be their place to get involved, and are possibly being discreet in their response.

    A con man is working their hotel and stealing from their guests and because it’s a con vs. a snatch and grab that someone makes a difference? I don’t follow your logic at all.

  44. As unfortunate it is to hear about the misfortune your mother was involved in, these crimes are not atypical or significant in Barcelona. I’ve been robbed before in that city, along with a few others and the lack of care at all levels including the police is appalling. The police actually knows who are committing these types of crimes, they know where they hand out and yet they don’t care to do anything about it as they figure tourists are going to leave anyways and are rich enough to afford their losses. If the police doesn’t care, then you can see how little motivation or incentive that hotel management has to do anything about it.

    Hopefully if they can be all shamed by someone with a presence like you, that’ll change the way things are done!

  45. No sure why your mum was carrying her green card in BCN? It serves no purpose except when entering the US.

    I carry a copy of my passport first page in my wallet, the actual passport stays in the hotel in one of my bags. Not super secure but better than carrying it in my pocket around town. Room safe is probably a bit more secure, but not much. In a bag it’s out of site, out of mind.

  46. Totally agree with you, John, in your response to Jig’s comment. The hotel should be super concerned that a scammer is hitting people up on their property, roaming the halls, knocking on people’s doors, and entering rooms. Other guests are at risk, in particular female guests.

  47. Lucky, you should have called the police right away, not let the Hotel handle it. Of course hindsight is 20/20, and the hotel should have called the police, but the police would likely have reviewed the security tapes and cleared it up – especially since it may have been an inside job of some sort.

  48. This is the problem right here.

    “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).”

    You were so busy writing yet another article describing the virtues of yet another card that drives commission for you that you decided to leave your poor mom outside all by herself. If we are going to talk about accountability how about we start with you first?

  49. John,

    Of course con man vs simply lost purse vs something else is all theories at this point, but assuming the con man is most likely, I am personally aware through friends and family who work in hotels of many cases where the line between a scam victim and a new generous friend is blurry. In those cases, the hotels get slammed if they interfere with the friend phase, and as in this case, criticized for not protecting the scam victim. They are not the police to bring charges, and my friends and family’s experiences indicate the GM would not be responding this way if there was not a substantial gray area. There is obviously no direct evidence or witness to any crime, not even the presumed victim. As I said, it is still possible that this is a ongoing large inside job or a giant CYA, but in my view unlikely. Free to disagree, of course.

  50. You were so busy writing yet another article describing the virtues of yet another card that drives commission

    Because it’s, you know, his job.

    you decided to leave your poor mom outside all by herself.

    She’s a grown women.

  51. the line between a scam victim and a new generous friend is blurry

    Regardless of her generosity, it’s highly unlikely she would have given him her purse.

    There is obviously no direct evidence or witness to any crime, not even the presumed victim.

    Huh? The purse is gone.

  52. Since I mentioned friends and family in travel, I feel I should clarify that none of them are related to the W Barcelona. And Ben knows from my email and IP that the few prior comments I have made have not been related to SPG or that hotel, nor made from SPG or Spain.

  53. How did this guy get access in the first place to the floors? Inside job I reckon. Keep fighting Lucky and expose these vermon .

  54. some comments seem a bit off topic. SPG corporate needs to respond. How did this person get to your mom’s floor? Know her room number? The failure of the staff to immediately help sounds like at least one of them is involved.

  55. John,

    Indeed the purse is gone, but it is theoretically possible it was mislaid instead. Although my guess is the loss has something to do with the guy, Ben’s mom did not actually witness him taking it. Unless the inside job exists, neither did the hotel. It’s an unknown, and many folks much better traveled than her have forgotten their bags/purses/wallets without them having been directly stolen.

    My point is that the hotel has an ambiguous situation with no evidence or witness of a crime, and the possibility exists that his mom is leaving out some embarrassing information which the hotel observes in their review. Simplest and more likely in my view due to the elderly relative and hotel GM observations I shared earlier. In no way am I sure about that, just suggesting that Ben consider the possibility.

  56. Some great videos on Youtube of Barcelona pickpockets. They are smooth and many are women. Watch and learn their tricks.

  57. Indeed the purse is gone, but it is theoretically possible it was mislaid instead.

    Then, since she didn’t leave the hotel premises; where is it? If I leave my laptop bag in the bar and someone walks off with it, it’s still a theft that needs to be investigated.

  58. The blame on Ben and his mother is completely misplaced. They have already acknowledged her mistake, she was too nice. They are not blaming the hotel for the incident. They are complaining about the way the hotel handled the incident. Totally wiped their hands clean. As I wrote before, the hotel should be super concerned that a scammer is hitting up guests on their property, roaming the halls, knocking on doors, and entering rooms. And let me add charging things at the bar. The hotel should be super concerned because all guests are at risk. Are they waiting for a rape or worse? And why are they so quick to declare that it’s not their problem? How do they know that there isn’t some hotel worker conspiring with the scammer to take advantage of trusting guests? It’s really shameful for a hotel of that level of quality to respond the way they did. Starwood should be angry about it.

  59. My point is that the hotel has an ambiguous situation with no evidence or witness of a crime

    It’s not ambiguous when a guest describes the incident in detail and states emphatically that she did not know this person prior to him approaching her on the hotel property. Any reasonable person would conclude that the guy was a scammer, not a friend of Ben’s mother. Hotel security and management should come to the same conclusion. And they should be horrified that the scammer abused the trust of the guest and gained entry to her room. This could have been a nightmare situation for them (and Ben’s mother, and Ben).

    The hotel’s response is abominable. Seriously.

  60. Ben, sorry to hear about your mom, please tell her it is not her fault and hope she is feeling a bit better now, and I am so shocked at W Barcelona position on this.

    I was going to book W Barcelona for our cruise now we are changing our mind.

  61. Seems like an episode out of “Scam City”. I don’t think there is any part of your story that doesn’t fall under the gigolo scam.

    I feel bad for your mom because of what happened but more because you are shining a light on what is most probably a very embarrassing situation for her. I know you feel bad (and possibly guilty) that you were enjoying yourself that night and left your mother to get taken advantage of, but I don’t think it is fair for you to lash out at the hotel.

    You guys were taken by a scam, plain and simple. You should have reported it to the police.

  62. I have seen your mothers record 3 times and I still feel sorry for her. Things like this happens, but they leave marks. The is so kind.

  63. It is clear that the GM does not have the experience nor the service minded attitude to be a GM that is truly effective. Furthermore, based on his response, it is clear how his poor treatment of guests has trickled down to his staff, which explains the poor service you received when the incident occurred. If a GM does not exemplify the proper values and training himself, is staff surely is not going to either. This is truly an unfortunate incident. Please do take this up with (1) Starwood corporate, (2) the Starwood Consumer Affairs Executive Division, and (3) Paul James, the Global Brand Leader for W (link below). In organizations such as theirs, they are unaware of these situations and appreciate when it is brought to their attention. Even if you and your mom are over the situation, this needs to be fixed so future guests do not encounter situations similar to this. These scripted responses truly get me mad and I feel your pain Ben!

  64. Don’t forget , he was insisting for her to go out for dinner with him… What if she had agreed? What would happen then..? what was his ploy… we’ll never know…

  65. I don’t think it is fair for you to lash out at the hotel.

    So, it’s fine that they don’t care that a thief/con man is operating out of their hotel? Personally, I wouldn’t want to stay at a hotel that had such little regard for the safety of its guests.

  66. WOW. So the general manager of the W Hotel doesn’t care that some creepy guy gets guest’s info, runs up charges to their bill, shows up at their room, calls their room, and steals a purse???? They don’t care about customer service or safety. Obviously. So sad and unfortunate. I still think it’s an inside job. So sorry.

  67. Was it the same guy who wanted to buy your sweater?

    Did you get the police involved at any point?

    I’m not sure “trust no one” is the only lesson here. I am always quite wary when I meet people during my travels. Sometimes to the point of being a bit rude. Over time I think you do build up some instincts about people and situations though. But I think it also depends where you are and the culture of the place. Some cultures are more friendly than others. Which can make it hard to discern motives. Generally I avoid talking to people, especially if they approach me on the street. I figure they are going to try to scam me. Maybe that’s one of the benefits of being an introvert.

  68. I’m on your side and think the hotel should have done/should do more, but did you really expect more in an email? It’s a legal issue for the hotel and/or he’s involved somehow.

    At this point, only Starwood corporate will be able to assist.

  69. Wow, what a story and what fascinating comments. The more that is written about this, the more it sounds like a targeted incident specific to Ben and his mother and not the W. Not to excuse very bad customer service follow-up but as someone else pointed out, if tripadvisor reviews are to be believed, the W is a great hotel and this is very much a one off. Ben, please don’t get me wrong as I think you are among the best travel bloggers out there and consistently produce an amazing service and I really do admire you and your work ethic but after three posts on this incident, I’m wondering if PainCorp may be giving you some constructive feedback.

  70. @John, no one wrote that it is “fine for a thief to be operating out of their hotel”. That’s a ridiculous statement on your part.
    But there is no reason to implicate the hotel unless there is some evidence of wrongdoing. Lucky did not involve the police and I still dont understand why not. If there is a crime, you report it. If not, you are relying on the 3rd party (the hotel) to help you, but they are not motivated to do so.

    Unless Lucky tries to shame them with this series of posts.

    John, if this happened to us, we don’t have the power to shame Starwood like Lucky does. I’m a bit jealous of that….

    Nonetheless, he should proceed to shame them to do better. Maybe contact their tourist board too, or local journalists. For sure, Barcelona would like to keep their crime problems away from view from prospective tourists so, in as much as Lucky is doing a public service, I wish him success in calling this problem out.

  71. Ben,

    I truly hope you and your mom are feeling better now. At this point in time it’s best to contact Starwood HQ to see if they can do anything for you. Don’t let the W Barcelona brush it off like it was no big deal. Good luck and mach’s gut.

  72. “My point is that the hotel has an ambiguous situation with no evidence or witness of a crime”

    The forged bills in the bar are not evidence of a crime? Are you kidding me? Without that, it could just be that the purse was stolen by someone other than the suspect. But adding in the forged bills to the missing purse and a non-hotel guest roaming supposedly secure floors, and we have a significant security problem that is being swept under the rug.

    I fully agree about putting this on Trip Advisor, and would do it myself if not for the fact that TA doesn’t allow third person reviews. Ben, you need to post the TA review yourself.

    ” if tripadvisor reviews are to be believed, the W is a great hotel and this is very much a one off”

    Having read this, I just looked up the T/A reviews for the W, and 88 of them rate it as “terrible”, and 133 more as “”poor”. Most interesting was this 1 star review from 2013:

    ” Property stolen, staff response disgusting”
    wasn’t staying at the hotel but went to the bar on the top floor. My bag was stolen with my laptop and ipad. In trying to get anyone to help I spent half an hour chasing around security and finally the hotel manager, who said it was not their problem and I would have to go to the police outside in the city centre. The deupty manager told me I probably never had the bag in the first place and just made the whole thing up. The only conclusion you can come to is that the staff are actually stealing as I could never imagine such a pathetic response from what is supposed to be a 5 star hotel. Simply awful and embarrasing, leaning on the criminal.

    And there are several reviews similar to this:

    ““Nice hotel, but they will try to RIP YOU OFF”
    The hotel is beautiful.
    The management is corrupt.

    We caught them adding charges to our room when we ate at their restaurants:
    Items like:
    Complimentary Service – $24 Euros
    Cover Charge (even for children) – $8 Euros per person

    And the worst… we settled our bill in cash. When our credit card bill arrived, we saw they added another $270 Euros in unauthorized charges.

    I know the economy is bad… but this sneaky behaviour to RIP OFF guests is unbelievable for a Starwood hotel.

    Another post was about 600 Euros fraudulently charged to their card after they left the hotel. So what happened to you turns out not to be an isolated incident, nor something beyond the hotel’s control. Instead it seems to be an ongoing scam by the employees, involving both theft of belongings and large overcharges, over a period of years. Both at least ignored by top management, if they are not in fact participating in it. No wonder the GM was so unresponsive.

  73. It’s hard to believe that’s the W’s response. Totally unacceptable and rather shocking. How hard would it have been for them to apologize? I hope you stay on this until there is a proper resolution and written apology.

  74. “Even though this has no effect on me whatsoever, I’m boycotting SPG. And Barthelona and their thtupid lithpth.”

    What a stupid thing to say.

  75. I hate to keep coming back to this, but this is NOT a hotel problem. If what you reported was correct, then the police should have been called and this treated as a crime. Since it was downgraded to a hotel issue and the police excluded, it is being treated as such. Hotel security is there to protect hotel assets. Crimes need to be reported to local police that if they determine crime did occur, will demand the hotel comply with their investigation.

    Always…..ALWAYS..involve the local police….

  76. Lucky,

    Disinterested voice of PR reason here:

    Regardless of fault, if you are seeking compensation, might I *strongly* suggest you seek it in the form of a charitable donation to a suitable charity in Barcelona?

    Otherwise much of this appears as a conflict of interest or an abuse of your (limited) power.

  77. @ Steve — I’m not looking for any sort of compensation. I want to know what is being done to fix the problem. That’s all.

  78. I too will be boycotting the W Barcelona. (which I have stayed in a number of times, and was planning on staying there again this summer ) because the reason I stay in established hotels and shop in established stores and use credit cards, is so I have peace of mind knowing that if something goes wrong I am just a phone call away from resolving any problem I might have, not to mention that loyalty should be highly respected for someone that does a lot of business with an institution.

  79. Hotel staff are not cops. It’s not like an upgrade was denied. A CRIME was committed. You should have called the cops straight away, even before approaching hotel staff.

    If nothing else a police report may be required to expedite the issuance of new ICE documentation.

    Hopefully either I missed or you did not mention your interactions with the police.

  80. I can barely believe the response of Manager Richard Brekelmans, giving such an answer to an internationally well-known travel blogger. If I were a general manager of the Starwood group, I would so have a word with him about this kind of negative PR is creates.

  81. @lucky indeed, hence my preemptive comment! I hope that they tell you how they’ll improve, I hope they offer compensation, and I hope you tell them to divert such compensation elsewhere if offered.

    Otherwise I’m with you, f*** the W BCN. They deserve some bad publicity here.

    I stayed at the less aspirational 4pts diagonal a few years ago and loved it. Great staff. Residential version of las ramblas, and I got over 3p/point on the redemption. (~4.5cpp) for a lovely room. Highly recommended…

  82. I was planning an upcoming stay in Barcelona, and was seriously looking at the W. Now we won’t be staying there.

    I know that whenever we stay at upscale hotels, we expect impeccable service. The truth is that many managers are either incompetent, or don’t really care, especially at foreign countries. My last stay at a Westin, another SPG hotel, was less than satisfactory. I complained afterwards via an email, and all I got was basically “we will review and improve our procedures…”. There were no admissions of wrong doing, or any offer of compensation.

    I know you expected more from the managers, but I can’t say I’m surprised they didn’t do more.

  83. Lucky, time to move on. You haven’t fully explained what happened initially and you now seem to be devoting all your time and energy to something that really doesn’t matter that much. I had my phone stolen in Istanbul (due to my own stupidity) and instead of spending the rest of the trip baying for blood I quickly recognised that it would be easy to replace this when I got home, moved on and enjoyed the rest of my holiday.

    While you were ranting and raving about a single hotels security you failed to cover what will probably be the biggest mistake fare (and thus one of the biggest travel stories) of 2015. I am a huge fan of your blog but you are really showing your (young) age by obsessing about this. You need to decide what you want your blog to be – the things that are important to you, or things that are important to your readers. These are not always the same thing.

  84. whatever @ all those saying they’ll never stay there

    if there was pricing tomorrow at the W at a mistake of 5 euro/night everyone would be tripping over each other trying to book it

  85. Quoting another comment above:

    “I appreciate what you do with your blog, but you seem very naive about the world. Travel is supposed to be a set of experiences that increase your understanding of the world, its people, the good and the bad. But by cocooning yourself in the 1% world of first class travel and corporate hotels, you seem to be missing out on a lot. I understand your professional niche here, but don’t let life pass you by, kid. You have a lot to learn.”

    Understatement of the year.

  86. whatever2, maybe you don’t operate on principle but I do, and many people I know do as well. Based on Ben’s experience I will avoid this hotel in the future and will suggest to others that they too avoid it. Again, it’s not the incident itself, it’s the way the hotel handled it. Miserable fail there.

  87. @Lucky – could you plese specify at what time did you fill the police report of the theft? I understand that it’s a bit offtopic as it has nothing to do with the hotel, but I’m still interested. Internet ( says that police report is necessary. Did you have to go to the police station yourself? Were you able to have the police come to hotel? If so, how did hotel react? Did hotel call the police to come and fill the report? If so, how did hotel react about police on their premises?

    I understand that it’s not related to luxury traveling, but ‘what to do when your documents are stolen abroad?’ might interest few people and imho should be read by not-yet-interested people as well.

  88. I hate to say it, but everyone is spot on about calling the police. This was NOT something that should be regulated to the hotel. They have no investigative or arrest powers. I can’t wrap my head around what the thinking was in regards to what they could do for you.

    If this was me, I’d use this as a wake up call and spend some time reflecting. I love your blog, but you’ve insulated yourself a little too far into the travel bubble. I’d also suggest sitting down with your mom and finding out exactly what was in her purse. I bet they have more info than you\she thinks.

  89. Terrance and The Travel Bug, I guess you missed the posts from Ben about the purpose of his blog. He is not providing comprehensive travel advice, he is focusing on a particular niche. And I totally get it. I love great airplane seats and posh hotel rooms. They actually make it easier for me to enjoy all that my destinations have to offer. Not sure why you presume otherwise. But if for whatever reason you are philosophically opposed to first class travel then this blog is not for you, and that’s OK. There are a thousand others you can explore. Better yet, start your own.

  90. Unfortunately it is more likely than not that your mom provided more information than she is telling you [whether she remembers doing so or not]. In my line of business [law] when a client tells you something it is often “interesting if true.” It is far more likely that the confidence man got more information from your mom than she recalls. She probably bragged about you [as many parents do] and advised that she was traveling with you and either mentioned the room number or provided enough info for the con man to get your room number from the front desk. That is much more likely than an inside job given what information you have revealed. The hotels response, pretty apathetic, but hotel guests probably get ripped off all the time and they probably have the idea that a fool and their money are soon parted [sorry about what happened though].

  91. Regardless of what happened, the management response here is awful. At best, they’re incompetent; at worst, they’re in on the whole thing. Sounds like they’re working hard to cover things up and send you on your way. I stay at a lot of SPG hotels when I travel and typically experience good service and management, but this place is definitely on the “avoid” list.

  92. The bar charge tags were printed at the same time as Lucky’s, but not necessarily cashed in at the same time.

    It’s unlikely that someone pretended to be Lucky during the time he was in the bar with his Mom. His name is too unique for the bartender not to notice.

    However, the bartender, or another employee, could easily print the extra tix after gaining his info, and then use them later himself or gift them to someone else later.

    “Drink up Friend…I’ve got this round covered.”

  93. @ Kira — We filed it at the airport police station. We began filing it shortly after 4PM, and were done after 6PM.

  94. I believe the hotel should have been much more pro-active. This person could be “working” this hotel on a regular basis, possibly with the complicity of someone on staff.

    Your mother could have been MUCH more street-savvy. What was she thinking? It took some guts to be recorded, I admire her for that.

    A salutory lesson for us all. Age has nothing to do with it, I was similarly scammed in London at age 20, many, many years ago.

  95. It’s tough when you’re a nice person and you want to live a peaceful happy life and not be paranoid and live in fear. And for women in particular it’s difficult because people, men and women alike, are highly critical if we’re not smiling and happy all of the time. I won’t write all of the insulting names assigned to us when we are not so accommodating, we all know them. And if you had a good upbringing and a safe life, especially a safe childhood, you become an adult who sees the good in people. It’s all very complex. I think we should spare Ben’s mother any further criticism. Everyone has done things that are dangerous, even if we didn’t realize it as such at the time. The topic here is how the hotel handled the incident. Does this hotel have any concern for the safety of the guests? Are they OK with con artists roaming the property, the bar, the hallways, knocking on doors and entering rooms? If I managed that hotel I would be alarmed.

  96. Ben: Sorry to hear this happened to your mother. I don’t agree with morons like Dan. It’s the lack of raising a stink that empowers people to continue bad behavior. You should scream as loud as possible until that hotel changes policies to prevent this happening to someone else. Letting it go means it may happen to someone else. Even kind hearted people don’t deserve this happening to them.

  97. I am appalled at all the sexist comments assuming a “mother” can not be a competent person in her own right – let’s see (beyond having lived in two countries with different languages, etc. adapted to a new country, raised children, and somehow successfully managed to navigate the world for many years)

    1. she had coffee in a public place with someone she met (who paid in cash she didn’t charge to room)
    2. She answered her door without checking assuming it was room servicing, then startled by the unexpected allowed someone to use her bathroom – and got him out of her room as soon as possible (then locked herself in)
    3. Started worrying about her purse (wallet), checked inside her handbag to see if it was missing.
    4. Recognized the weirdness early on and did everything she could to protect herself.

    The hotel:

    1 Seemed totally unconcerned about how a stranger knew the room number of a guest and was able to access “secure” floors

    2 Never provided information about why no keys worked (am I supposed to believe that in case of emergency when someone has locked the door they have no way to get in?)

    3 Discouraged guest from filing a police report rather than helping them do so (definitely a red flag in my opinion)

    4 clearly this hotel has a reputation for shady practices per tripadvisor and seems to have no interest in changing their reputation

    So all this condemning of leaving a perfectly competent adult alone for a few minutes is beyond absurd

    Assuming that there isn’t a serious security and safety problem at this hotel is only for the stupid.

    Blaming all SPG hotels for one bad apple…..well that’s self evident.

  98. Hello! Sorry about what happened to you. I am going through a similar experience at the moment, where the hotel is being shady. Did you ever get through to someone at Starwood?

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