Scam or not, you decide

We’ve owned the hotel and restaurant for one year now. I have to say, the best part of owning this business is meeting and talking with all the guests. I really really enjoy meeting people and hearing about their lives back home: their stories. Some guests I click with so entirely that I know we would be friends if we lived in the same town. Sometimes, its the opposite, we are not cut from the same cloth, but I still learn a lot from a guest or just enjoy giving them a good vacation.  And then are there was our very unique guest, I’ll call Rick. I am not using his real name, because I do not want to use his real identity.

I cannot say I enjoyed meeting Rick but I am fascinated by the experience. And I feel fortunate to have this interesting story to tell. We will start with his room reservation. Most of our guests book their rooms by emailing us directly. We work out a package for them including meals, hotel room and tours. However, some guests book hotel rooms through 3rd party online booking engines. In these cases we are sent their cc info and charge the cost of the room before confirming their stay. Rick booked through an online booking engine and when we tried to run his card, it failed. So we notified Rick, via the booking engine, that we could not confirm his room. He had no reservation because his cc was invalid.

Rick showed up anyway. We knew this was a possibility because we did not get a reply about the invalid cc. On the arrival day, Rick called from the local airport asking to confirm his reservation. He was told by our office that he has no room reserved because of the invalid cc. He got very angry and verbally abusive over the phone. He then jumped in a taxi and showed up at our hotel. Once again he was told that he could not have a room. He then tried several tactics to get himself a hotel room. 1) He told us that he DID pay the online company. He believed that we were trying to charge him a second time. 2) He told us that his wife was joining him on vacation in 6 days and that she would pay when she got here. 3) He had us call his wife to try to get payment now. His wife told us that he had Parkinson’s and that is why his speech was hard to understand. She also said that they had a deposit of $25 thousand US dollars that was pending in their bank account. And they could pay us when that went through.

All of this took place while Ryan and I were not present. I’m not sure he would’ve gotten his foot in the door if we had been, but I understand why our staff let him stay. It was getting very late in the day, and to turn him away would mean he might have no where to go. If he was indeed sick, or simply confused about the cc payment, we could settle it all in the morning.

That night, when I heard about all of the drama of his arrival, I was sympathetic until I heard the part about the $25 thousand dollar deposit. I distinctly remember a movie I watched as a kid about a man trying to trick another person, and the movie character explained that you had to show your victim that you were a big time baller. That way you are giving the impression that something as small as a $200 hotel room is nothing but small change to you. Why would you try to trick your way into getting $200 when you have $25K in the bank?

The next day, Rick sat in the office taking up all of our time explaining his situation and pleading his case. He had us call his wife again. We explained to her that he would be kicked out if they did not pay for 3 nights minimum. She used an online gateway to pay us for just three nights. Hmmm, why didn’t she pay the day before?

Then Rick wanted to go on a fishing trip. We insisted he pay up front. He produced the same cc that was declined on line and he said to try to charge a small amount rather than the full cost of the trip. We were able to charge the card for the fishing trip by taking 3 small payments that added up to the fishing trip cost. When I heard about this, it smelled fishy, but I wasn’t sure what the limit could be about.

Rick had a knack for taking up everybody’s time. He exposed all our flaws and took advantage of kindness. On his second night, he asked to have dinner brought to his room and then fell asleep before he could pay or sign for the bill. During the day, he planted himself in the office and distracted our staff from work they were trying to get done. We were worried he would not pay his food bill so we instructed our staff to have him pay cash for meals, but he would talk his way through this and just have them put it on his room bill.

He befriended one of our cooks and asked him to take him out in the evenings to a bar. He told us that his phone lock code was not working and asked for help trouble shooting it. But then when I went to help, he could not find his phone. He said it must have been stolen. But he also said he thought it had been switched out the previous day and replaced by a phone with a different lock code. (ok, gotta work on that story — not believable)

When he tried to schedule a second fishing trip on the last day of his paid stay, I told him that we could not schedule it without clearing up his bill and figuring out his length of stay. He lied to me and told me that Ryan had ok’ed him to stay without paying until his wife arrived in 4 days and would pay then. So incredible. He was playing us against one another. Like “oh, you just aren’t up to date, Ryan is ok with this!” Not true. At this point, Ryan had Rick get his wife on the phone again. Ryan explained very clearly and firmly that Rick would need to leave if he or the wife did not pay for the extended stay. The wife changed her tune and said that they had no money and was not sure what Rick was talking about.

So, the next day, we told Rick he needed to leave and that we would call the police if he would not. We packed up his bags and had them ready for him and locked his room. Rick told us to go ahead and call the police. I think he wanted the ride into town. The police were very much delayed so we drove Rick to the police station where they took a full report. The police said something like, “Of if he cannot pay for his hotel room, we have a room here. No beds, but a great floor!”  We heard that he actually moved on to another hotel! Not sure if he paid up front or not. Maybe we were just push overs. In the end, he stuck us with the food bill (he never paid for anything but the 3 nights stay and the fishing trip. But he ate every meal with us),

About a month after Rick left we were sent a message that the 3 charges for the fishing trip were being contested. So now Rick wanted to stiff us on the small amount of money that we manged to collect. Just a little extra salt in the wound.

I wonder how many hotels you cold float around to, by just showing up and cursing, promising, taking advantage of kindness. I’m not mad in the end. Like I said, its fascinating to see something like this. To watch the attempts at maneuvering. To see where and how much he succeeded in getting things for free. And obviously we will tighten up our processes so that we don’t get taken advantage of in the future. But, it won’t harden us. There is always room for kindness in this world, especially in hospitality. Pretty sure Rick knew that angle.