Room Division Management Sample Case Study
The Safe Deposit Box That Wasn’t
Amanda stood behind the front desk of the Metropolitan, a 376-room upscale hotel, and tried to ignore the butterflies in her stomach. It was just her second day on the job, and there was so much to remember! She glanced over at Ron, standing at the other end of the counter.
It was comforting to have him working the shift with her—he had worked for the Metropolitan for two years and had been a big help yesterday whenever she got flustered or confused. Her first day was extremely busy because everybody was checking in for the annual Aluminum Siding Trade Show and Convention that started today. In a way, it was good that her first day was so busy because she hadn’t had time to be nervous. But today, most of the hotel’s guests were off attending the show at the convention center downtown and the Metropolitan was relatively quiet. Amanda gazed across the opulent lobby at the bank of house phones.
A middle-aged woman in a tight, leopard-print jumpsuit was speaking angrily into one of the telephones, her free arm, festooned with gold and black bracelets, waving in the air as she pounded home her points to the unfortunate soul on the other end of the line. At this distance, Amanda could faintly hear the clicking of the bracelets but could not make out what the woman was saying. Finally, the woman slammed the receiver down in its cradle and started looking frantically around the lobby. When her eyes settled on Amanda, the woman grabbed the gold vinyl suitcase at her feet and strode purposefully toward the front desk. Oh, please,” thought Amanda, “don’t come over here, go talk to Ron! ” But the woman stayed on course, and Amanda had plenty of time to take in the big hair, the heavy makeup, and the wounded, self-righteous expression before the woman stopped in front of her and said: “There’s something wrong with your phones! ” “Ma’am? ” “I can’t get through to my husband’s room. I kept dialing ‘326,’ but I couldn’t get through. ” Ron stepped in smoothly. “Our house phones no longer connect directly to the guestrooms. ” “Yeah, yeah, that’s what the operator said. That’s not very convenient, you know,” the woman responded. We changed our system in order to provide more privacy and security for our guests,” Ron continued. “Did the operator reach your husband for you? ” “No, she started explaining why dialing ‘326’ wasn’t working and I told her what I thought of her new system before I hung up on her. ” From her training, Amanda remembered that you were never to put callers through to guestrooms if they only asked to be put through to a certain room number. You always had to ask whom the person was calling, so you could confirm that the person knew the guest and was not simply calling rooms at random.
Thieves, for example, had been known to call room after room until they found one that was empty, then go ransack the room. “What’s your husband’s name? ” Amanda asked. “We can try to connect you here at the front desk. ” “Virgil Jones,” the woman responded. Amanda moved to the computer and called up Virgil’s reservations record. Yes, Virgil H. Jones was registered in Room 326. “Mr. Jones checked in to Room 326 yesterday—let me try and reach him for you. ” Amanda picked up the front desk telephone, dialed, and listened to the phone ring ten times. Sorry, there’s no answer. ” “That’s okay—just give me a key to the room then,” ordered the woman. Immediately a red flag went up for Amanda. New as she was, she was well aware that key control was an extremely important issue at the Metropolitan. “I’m sorry, ma’am, but it’s against our policy to give out keys to guests who are not registered. Mr. Jones is the only person registered for that room. ” “But I’m his wife! Look,” the woman rummaged through her handbag and came up with her driver’s license, “here’s my I. D. I’m Sheila Jones.
See? That’s me there. ” “I’m sorry, Ms. Jones,” Amanda said. “Had your husband told us you were coming, we would have noted it in the reservations record and there’d be no problem. But we’re not allowed to let unregistered guests into rooms. ” She glanced at Ron. “That’s right, Ms. Jones,” Ron said. “We’d do the same thing for you. It’s actually against the law to admit an unregistered guest to a room. ” “My husband doesn’t know I’m coming. I didn’t think I would get off work, but my boss finally gave in. ” Sheila Jones put on an ingratiating smile. “Can’t you break the rules just this once?
I really want to surprise Virgil. ” “I’m sorry,” Amanda said, “We really can’t. ” She looked at Ron again for the support, and he nodded in agreement. “Is your husband here for the big convention? ” Amanda asked. Sheila nodded sulkily. “Then he’s probably at the Grandthorpe right now—that’s the big convention hotel downtown. That’s where the trade show is. ” “I’ll never find him there,” Sheila fumed. “You’re welcome to look around in our restaurant and lounge to make sure he’s not still here. ” “It would be a lot easier if you’d just let me in the room,” Sheila grumbled. “I’m tired—it was a long drive. Amanda tried to give Sheila her best empathetic smile. “I’m sorry. I’ll tell you what—if you can’t find him, let us know and we’ll put you in another guestroom temporarily so you can freshen up. ” “I suppose that’ll have to do,” Sheila said wearily. “I’m not gonna bother looking for him. I’m tired, and if he’s not in his room he’s probably at the convention like you said. Just give me a room. ” After Sheila collected a key to Room 287 and left in a huff, Ron congratulated Amanda for a job well done. “You did the right thing. Her I. D. proves she’s Sheila Jones, but it doesn’t prove she’s Virgil’s wife.
She probably really is his wife, and ninety-nine times out of a hundred probably nothing bad would happen if we let a wife or a husband or a brother or somebody into a room. But it’s not worth taking a chance on violating the privacy or compromising the safety of our guests. It’s that one time in a hundred that can lead to serious trouble. ” Thankfully, Sheila did not make another appearance and the rest of the morning passed uneventfully. Just after Amanda returned to the front desk after lunch, a short, balding fellow in a shiny blue suit approached the desk and gave her a big smile. “Hi, I’m Virgil Jones, Room 326. Any messages or mail for me? “
“No, Mr. Jones, but someone was asking about you. Ms. Sheila Jones was here. She said she was your wife and wanted to wait for you in your room, but we had to turn her down. ” Virgil looked startled rather than pleased. “Where is she now? ” “We put her in another room so she could freshen up. Let me call her and let her know you’re here. ” Amanda called Room 287 and in a few minutes, Sheila appeared in the lobby. “Hi, baby! ” Virgil called out when he saw her, rushing up and giving her a bear hug. Sheila looked at Amanda over Virgil’s shoulder and tried to pull away. That’s enough, honey. ” She extracted herself and approached the front desk. “Thanks for the room,” she said to Amanda. “I feel so much better after my shower. ” “You’re welcome. ” “I forgot to bring my room key down with me. Can I return it later, or do you want it right away? I’ll be moving over to Virgil’s room now. ” “Just leave it in the room, that’s fine,” Amanda said. “Do you need any help with moving your luggage? I can send a bellperson up. ” Virgil shook his head. “We can handle it. Thanks. “
The next day Amanda experienced her first time alone at the front desk.
Ron had an early dental appointment and wouldn’t be in until 11:00. Even though the front desk manager assured Amanda that he would be available in case things got busy, Amanda crossed her fingers and hoped for an uneventful morning. It was just before nine o’clock when Sheila appeared in the lobby again, dressed slightly more conservatively in a tight purple jumpsuit. She smiled at Amanda and held up a safe deposit box key. “Good morning. I’d like to get into our safe deposit box, please. ” Thank goodness I don’t have to say ‘no’ to her again, Amanda thought gratefully. “Yes, Ms. Jones, right this way, please. Quickly, Amanda mentally reviewed her training in how to handle safe deposit box requests as she led Sheila into the small safe deposit box room just to the right of the front desk. One side wall contained the bank of safe deposit boxes; the master key to all the boxes hung by a chain secured to the wall. Pushed against the opposite wall was a narrow table with a file box on it. Let’s see, Amanda mused, I’m supposed to ask for identification, pull the card, get the card signed, initial the card—okay, I can do this. “Can I see some identification, please? ” Sheila groaned. “Not this again,” she grumbled.
She opened her handbag and came up with her driver’s license again. “Thank you,” Amanda said and looked under the “J’s” in the file box for the right card. There it was: Box 116, signed out by Mr. Virgil H. Jones. “Will you sign the card, please? And I’ll initial your signature. ” Amanda gave Sheila the card and a pen and indicated the narrow table. Sheila signed the card and gave the pen to Amanda; Amanda initialed the card and recorded the date and time. “Thank you. ” Amanda put the card back in the file box. “Now I’ll put my key in the box and turn it. ” Amanda found Box 116 and turned the master key in the appropriate lock. And now your key. ” Sheila stepped forward and turned her key in the second lock. Amanda swung the box door open, pulled the long, narrow drawer from the box, and handed the drawer to Sheila. “I’ll be right outside—just let me know when you’re finished. ” “That won’t be necessary,” Sheila said—somewhat grimly, Amanda thought. “This will only take a second. ” Amanda turned her back discreetly while Sheila placed the drawer on the table. Amanda heard the metallic creak of the lid lifting, then a sharp intake of breath from Sheila, and then something like a sob. Amanda resisted the impulse to turn around.
It’s none of our business, it’s rude, and it might get us into trouble, she remembered Ron telling her, so never watch guests get into their safe deposit boxes. Amanda was thinking of quietly leaving the room when she heard the lid close and Sheila said, “Okay, I’m done, thank you. ” Amanda turned around and took the box from Sheila. The lighting in the room made it hard to tell, but Amanda thought Sheila’s eyes were redder and puffier than before. Amanda returned the drawer to its box, swung the box door shut, and turned both keys in their locks. She let the master key hang by its chain and handed the guest key back to Sheila. Is there anything else I can do for you? ” “No, thanks,” Sheila sniffed with a sad smile. “You’ve done quite enough. “
The next day was Amanda’s day off. Ron was at the front desk with another guest service representative named Dennis when Virgil Jones approached just after 8 a. m. , looking puzzled. “This is going to sound like a strange question,” he said, “but—have you seen my wife? ” “No, sir, not this morning,” Ron replied. “I didn’t hear her get up, and her suitcase is gone. ” Virgil rubbed his chin for a moment, then shrugged. “I’m sure she’ll turn up,” he turned to go. Like a bad penny,” he said under his breath as he walked away. About 20 minutes later, Virgil was back at the front desk, looking considerably more anxious than before. “I can’t find my safe deposit box key,” he said to Ron. “Do you have a spare? I need to check on something right away. ” Ron shook his head. “I’m sorry, sir, but, for security reasons, we don’t have spare keys to any of our boxes. ” “What do we do now? I’ve got to get into that box! ” “Well, you have two options,” Ron said. “One, we can call a locksmith. The firm we use is good about coming out right away.
They’re usually here between a half-hour and an hour after we call—and I believe the last time they came out for this they charged around $80. Whatever the charge is, we will add it to your room bill. Or, two, I can call our maintenance department and have one of the staff ‘punch’ the lock for us. He can probably be up here in just a few minutes, but if you choose this option there’s a $100 charge because we’ll have to replace the lock. ” “Call the maintenance guy,” Virgil said grimly. “I’m not waiting for no hour. ” “Very well. ” Ron moved to the front desk phone and spoke a few words into it before returning to Virgil. “He’ll be up right away.
Do you remember your safe deposit box number? ” Virgil was churning his fingers through his hair, a worried expression on his face. “No,” he said. “Maybe 110, 218? I don’t know. ” “Well, we can look it up in our files. Excuse me for a moment. ” Dennis was busy with another guest, so Ron answered the front desk telephone. When Ron hung up, he smiled and waved to a young man just getting off one of the lobby elevators. “Ah, here’s Ted already. ” Ted was in a gray maintenance uniform and carrying a box of tools. “Come with me, please,” Ron said to Ted, and then, “Mr. Jones, right this way. ” The three men entered the safe deposit box room.
Ron opened the file box and turned to Virgil. “Can I see some I. D., please? ” Virgil pulled out a fat wallet and gave Ron his driver’s license. “Thank you. ” Ron put the license on the table and flipped quickly to the “J’s” in the file box. There was the card: Box 116, signed out by Virgil H. Jones. Ron compared the signature on the license to the signature on the card, nodded, and gave the license back to Virgil. Ron noticed that Virgil had not gotten into the box since he had first opened it up, but that Sheila Jones had signed for it yesterday. Ron looked at the initials alongside the signature: “A. M. —Amanda Muldinado—and shook his head. Rookies, he thought. “It looks like you reserved box 116, Mr. Jones,” Ron said. “Sign here, please, and we’ll get it open for you right away. ” Ron pushed the card over to Virgil before turning to put the master key in the master-key lock for box 116 and turning it. Virgil started to sign the card but stopped. “I see my wife’s signature here. Did she get into the box yesterday? ” “Looks like it,” Ron said. Behind them, Ted set down his box of tools. After a couple of sharp blows, Ted said, “All set. ” Ron pulled the long drawer out of box 116 and handed it to Virgil. “We’ll leave you alone now, Mr.
Jones,” Ron said quickly and motioned for Ted to exit. Ron was hardly back at the front desk before Virgil reappeared. “Is everything all right, Mr. Jones? ” “No, everything is not all right,” Virgil said in measured tones. “Something’s missing. ” Ron’s heart started to pound. “Oh, no! What’s missing? Can you describe it? ” “There was a solid gold I. D. bracelet in there with the name ‘Mitzy’ engraved on it,” Virgil said grimly. “Now it’s gone. ” “Oh, no,” Ron said again. “And now my wife is gone,” Virgil continued. “I hope this hotel makes a lot of money,” he said with quiet fury, “because the Metropolitan’s going to pay for my divorce.
Several issues are raised in this Case Study relating to class discussion on Security, Innkeeper’s Act, and the Privacy Act. Why does Virgil Jones think that he might have grounds to compel the Metropolitan to “pay for his divorce”? Or, to put it another way, did Amanda, Ron, or any other hotel staff member make any serious mistakes in dealing with Virgil or Sheila? If so, what were those mistakes? Point out in your discussion the things the hotel staff did right in relation to guest security.