How safe do you feel in your hotel room? Safe enough to carry valuables? Safe enough to lock them in your room safe? Based on Vadim Oleinikov’s experience in the Dominican Republic, even the most impenetrable means of security can be penetrated.
Oleinikov and his wife were staying in the Grand Luxury Bahia Principe Cayo Levantado Hotel, which advertises itself as an “exclusive, adults-only, luxury island escape.” Oleinikov carried $5,500 in cash and locked it in his hotel room’s safe.
His troubles began when his room keycard failed to function twice in the same day. A few days later, the safe did not respond to his programmed code, so it could not be accessed. “We called for service, and they sent a master who opened the safe in our presence,” Oleinikov told us. “We checked the contents of the safe, and everything was intact. The next day, when we needed to go out, we checked the safe and found out that the envelope containing the cash was empty.”
Oleinikov filed a complaint with the hotel, which suspected him of fraud and searched his bags and room in his presence to see if he had hidden the money. “After this humiliating procedure,” Oleinikov said, “we asked the manager to call the police.” Inexplicably, the manager refused to make the call, and Oleinikov was forced to reach out to authorities on his own. He filed a police report with no assistance from the hotel.
The police then came to the hotel to verify his testimony. They found no traces of break-ins either to the room or to the safe.
The hotel complaint form was answered the day Oleinikov arrived home. The report read:
First of all we would like to thank you for contacting us. Allow me to point out that the safety of our guests as well as their belongings are one of the most important priorities of our hotel. As you know upon learning of your concern, the security agents proceeded with all investigations of the site.
According to the police report, interrogation of staff and their investigation in the hotel they did not find any guilty or proof of robbery. We understand what this loss and the inconvenience may have caused.
Once more we apologize for any inconvenience you may have encountered during your stay. We hope this does not prevent you from visiting us or any of the hotels of our chain Bahía Príncipe Hotels and Resorts, we remain at your service for any further information you may need.
This answer left Oleinikov unsatisfied because it came from the hotel customer service staff and not the main office, from which the hotel manager promised a reply.
Oleinikov also called his tour company the day the incident happened. It said that they would write something to the hotel, but he never heard back from them.
“As we researched after the trip, our case is the common practice of robbery in [the] Dominican Republic,” Oleinikov lamented. “Unfortunately for us, we’ve become another statistic.”
Oleinikov would like for us to advocate on his behalf. We suggested he post about the alleged theft to our forums. There, other posters suggested he request security videos from the hotel, to see who might have entered the room during the day in question. Also suggested was to obtain the logs of how and when the safe was opened. Oleinikov said he tried, but that the hotel refused to provide him with this information.
Other posters questioned Oleinikov’s motives in bringing such a large sum of cash to an international hotel, in a country that has a history of hotel theft. It was suggested that Oleinikov would have fared better by using credit cards or even traveler’s checks. I was wondering why, with such a large sum of money, Oleinikov didn’t use one of the safe boxes at the hotel’s front desk. That way the envelope would have been left with someone who would have been accountable.
Regardless, no matter how nice a hotel’s website looks, it’s always helpful to Google the property and read visitor ratings and reviews on a site like TripAdvisor. While the property had an excellent rating, the website also cited previous thefts there.
Meanwhile, the hotel does not want to cooperate any further and says the fault lies with Oleinikov, who is out $5,500 with no hope of getting it reimbursed.
This, unfortunately, has turned into a very valuable lesson in hotel research and safety. And with this becoming a he-said, she-said type of claim, we’re going to have to file this as a Case Dismissed.
Oleinikov says that even though he couldn’t get his money back, he would at least like to publicize this case so others won’t become victims.